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After being quickly put together, WWE aired its annual TLC PPV tonight. Unlike its predecessors, this year's installment did not feature any Ladder, Table or Chair matches. All those stipulation matches were discarded in favor of having just one major, TLC match, and hoping that the lone match would feel like more of a special attraction.
Randy Orton vs John Cena (Unified WWE World Heavyweight Championship): *** (3 stars)
The only Tables, Ladders and Chairs match on the card was for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which is what it is apparently going to be called despite fans electing to call it the Unified Championship last week on Raw. Because the match was rapidly built and put together many fans (including myself) felt that there would not be a clear winner of this match. Surprisingly, Randy Orton defeated John Cena cleanly, or as cleanly as you can win a TLC match, to become the first WWE-WHC Champion in history.
As the PPV was happening, it became clearer to me that they would crown a champion tonight. WWE put way too much effort into pushing this match, having multiple video packages talking about the history of the titles, and the competitors. The amount of build-up for the match was extraordinary for just a PPV main-event, so that began to change my mind on the finish of the match.
The match itself was fairly mediocre, especially for a match with such high standards as a TLC match. It followed the normal WWE pattern, with Orton punishing Cena for most of the match, cutting off any chance Cena had at making a comeback. The hand-cuffs that came out which was somewhat surprising, and Cena unlocking the turnbuckle to free himself was a nice touch. Orton going over was the big shocker of the night, since most fans tend to assume (correctly) that Cena is going to win every match he is in. The feud is likely not over, so a probable coronation for Orton tomorrow night on Raw will give more details.
The match suffered from some basic lapses in logic. Wrestling is always going to have some holes in its philosophy, but tonight's main event was filled with them; Cena dropping the five-knuckle shuffle off of the ladder when the belts were easily within his reach, Orton grabbing a larger ladder from the outside, even though it was clear that a regular ladder would suffice, Orton grabbing a coat hanger instead of the titles, etc. It is a collection of those little failures in execution that can sink a match.
CM Punk vs The Shield: *** 3/4 (3.75 stars)
The first match on the show was a good one, as Punk beat the odds and defeated The Shield in a 3-on-1 handicapped match. Punk was at his best tonight, hitting all of his moves and doing a wonderful job of selling the exhaustion that comes with taking on three men by yourself. The Shield, as always, was very good in their role that they have perfected; taking advantage of the numbers game.
Normally, one man defeating three would be viewed as a burial for those three men, by tonight that wasn't the case. The Shield had been mildly teasing dissention amongst the ranks, and tonight they flashed that in a big way. The future is likely Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins turning on Roman Reigns, launching Reigns' prospective face-push.
Daniel Bryan vs The Wyatt Family: *** (3 stars)
Bryan is far and away the most universally beloved figure in WWE right now, so having him work an undercard match seems like somewhat of a waste. Nevertheless, Bryan put on a memorable performance against the Wyatt Family.
The match started somewhat slow, with Harper and Rowan putting on the usual pounding on Bryan, while Bray Wyatt cackled from his rocking chair. Business started to pick up when Wyatt entered the ring. Wyatt is one of the very best when it comes to in-ring psychology, and he really comes across as a great movie villain. His obsession with Bryan is intriguing, and after claiming victory over Bryan, the next step in Wyatt's mysterious endgame is bound to unfold.
Going into the PPV, this match seemed like just a typical throw-away match to get some more names on the card. Even if it was a throw-away match, WWE did a damn good job at putting on an entertaining showcase.
The match came down to The Rhodes Brothers and Show and Mysterio. WWE did a very good job of actually portraying Big Show as a giant. Show came across as an unstoppable force and manhandled all of his opponents. WWE sometimes gets lost when it comes to booking Show, even though it seems like a pretty simple operation. It was nice to see Show decimate his opponents for once instead of crying in the ring about his poor fiscal responsibility. Rey Mysterio looked the best he has looked since he returned, and Cody Rhodes has very few equals when it comes to in-ring ability. Hopefully we will get to see more from these two teams soon.
Easily the best Diva's match WWE has had this year, AJ finally got to work with an opponent that she didn't have to carry the entire time. I dare say that there has not been a better technical wrestling match by women in WWE since the days of Alundra Blayze and Bull Nakano. Despite it short running time, the match had plenty of action, high impact moves and near-falls. Their previous match-ups had been somewhat disappointing leading up to TLC, so it was great to see both women have a match that matched its potential.
AJ has been the most important Diva in WWE for a while, and she has yet to have the proper billing. It seems like AJ is always playing second-fiddle to the women of Total Divas. That thinking made it seem likely that AJ would lose the title to Natalya, and that created a good sense of drama for the match. AJ winning with a sneaky inside cradle indicates that these women have another match in store, and hopefully they will get more time to work with.
A simple match that was only used to move Langston along as champion. WWE was smart and let Sandow speak before his match to get some needed heat, they worked a short match with Langston going over. Sandow is a nice step up for Langston, and hopefully he will move on to a bigger opponent for the Royal Rumble. With the titles unified, the IC Title becomes the second biggest title in the company again, so Langston should not have a shortage of worthy challengers.
This was a potential show stealer, but ended up being a wasted opportunity. Kingston has been showing a little more attitude, which is good to see, but WWE wasted a great chance to elevate this feud. They made the match No Disqualification, but outside of an exposed turnbuckle spot, they didn't really break many rules. This feud has been going on for a little while, and they had a real good street fight, then the fans might accept it as being a bigger deal than they were anticipating. Use various weapons, have both men come out in jeans, do something different. Instead, they had basically the same match that they have been having for the past month or so. Not a good decision.
Brodus Clay vs R-Truth: DUD
The match served no purpose except to make Clay a full-fledged heel. Clay has great size and ring presence, and a heel turn could work. However, this was something that could have easily been done on Raw or Smackdown, and that time could have been spent better elsewhere.
Fandango vs Doph Ziggler: * 1/2 (1.5 stars)
Fandango gets the win because WWE cares more about Summer Rae than they do about either Fandago or Ziggler. A giant waste for Ziggler, and ever since Swagger kicked him in the face back in May it has been downhill for him.
Overall, TLC was a decent show that got a lot of help from a very strong undercard. It wasn't perfect, but it was WWE's best show since Summerslam, and it snapped a streak of very underwhelming PPVs, which is exactly what they need going into the Royal Rumble.