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WWE limps into its final PPV of the year, TLC on Sunday. Limping is the perfect word to describe their state right now, as the roster has been decimated by injuries. Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and Cesaro are all on the shelf with injuries, not to mention other top stars from recent shows such as John Cena, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar will not be appearing as well due to various personal reasons. The December PPV has never been very strong for WWE, often it is just really killing time for the Royal Rumble and people are so busy during the holiday season that wrestling isn't as much of a priority.
The main event will be Roman Reigns vs Sheamus in the traditional Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Sheamus and Roman Reigns have been carrying Raw over the last several weeks, mainly because WWE has very few options at this point. The segments have been mostly bad, concluding on Monday's Raw in a horrible segment where Roman Reign's accused Sheamus of smuggling "tater tots" in a line that HAD to be written by someone under the age of seven.
The last few weeks of Raw have been nearly unwatchable, but I don't think it is necessarily indicative of how bad WWE is right now. All of their top stars for the most part are not available for the show, so they have to make do with what they have. What WWE is really paying the price for is how bad they have been over the last several years, where they seriously pushed only a select few wrestlers at the expense of everyone else on the roster. When those wrestlers go down, you are left with having to push a bunch of wrestlers in the main event that shouldn't be there.
The main heel stable right now of Sheamus, Rusev, King Barrett and Alberto Del Rio is a perfect example of that. All of those guys (with the exception of Sheamus) are notable to me for having lost long feuds with John Cena, after which they were way less relevant. Now that Cena is gone, they are thrust into the spotlight, but it is hard for fans to take them seriously because fans have been told to treat them like losers for a long time. And you know what? When the rest of the roster gets back and Wrestlemania season begins, those guys will undoubtedly go back to being losers. The fans know this of course, which is why nobody cares about the stable, even if they have the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Roman Reigns differs from his rivals because he would likely be in this position regardless of the injuries to the other top stars in the company. WWE is fully committed to making Reigns their top babyface for the next decade to come, those plans have been in place for a long time. Reigns is standing alone as the top babyface of the company, and predictably he is struggling. For all the flak that Reigns gets for being a subpar worker in the ring, that has been the least of his problems. His matches have for the most part been pretty acceptable in 2015. What Reigns is really struggling at is connecting with the crowd. He probably shouldn't be cutting long promos in front of a live audience, but that didn't stop WWE from rolling him out during the main event of Monday's Raw, and the result was predictably underwhelming. The crowd doesn't even openly dislike him they have done previously, they don't make a ton of noise either way. It is almost as if WWE has beaten their audience into submission, pushing Reigns regardless of crowd reaction and now the only thing they can do is sit there and take it. On a related note, Raw has generated some of its worst ratings in history during this stretch.
As for the match on Sunday, in a vacuum it could be very good. Both guys wrestle a physical style and will probably beat the heck out of each other. I don't see a good scenario where Reigns walks out with the title, but honestly what couldn't WWE potentially do at this point? I think the worst thing that can be said about WWE's product is that no potential decision is outside the realm of possibility, no matter how awful it sounds.
As is to be expected for a show like TLC, the rest of the card is gimmick heavy. The second most hyped match is Dean Ambrose challenging Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship. I liked what we briefly saw during their match at Survivor Series, so they could easily have the best match on the card on Sunday. The key is for Owens to get Ambrose to wrestle his style and work more of a basic wrestling match, and not the mindless wild-style that Ambrose does way too often. The wild brawling can be entertaining, but it has to be done in moderation. When Ambrose does it during every single match, it loses all of its context.
The Triple Threat Ladder match for the WWE Tag Team Championships is probably going to open the show. This has real potential because the three teams, The New Day, The Usos and The Lucha Dragons all have good athletes that are willing to take big bumps, which is the most important aspect of a ladder match. It should be a good match to get the show going and give the audience a more positive attitude towards the rest of the show.
There is also going to be a Tables match between The Dudley Boyz with Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno and The Wyatt Family. I have to imagine this is just a match for The Wyatt Family to actually win something. WWE is going off of ECW nostalgia because nostalgia is WWE's go-to when they are out of real ideas.
The Diva's Championship picture has been extremely confusing. A couple weeks ago, Paige was such a heel that she insulted Charlotte's recently deceased brother. Now it looks like Charlotte has somehow become the heel and Paige the babyface. I really was starting to enjoy Paige as a heel, and the terrible Reid Flair line aside, I thought this was shaping up to be a good feud. The problem is that Charlotte isn't really up to the task of being the top babyface and WWE seems disinterested in helping her reach that level, so they are turning her heel and turning Paige face. This, along with Brie Bella recently working as a babyface, just shows that while WWE is giving more time to the women on their roster, they still don't have any real ideas for the division as a whole.
WWE at the last moment added Ryback vs Rusev to the card, which is going to be a really tough match to watch. Rusev seemed to be rebuilding his character a bit after getting steamrolled by Cena, and he was beginning to find the mark as a terrible ex-boyfriend. However, WWE decided that they couldn't possibly continue going with the storyline after TMZ announced the engagement of Lana and Rusev, and now his character is working backwards, which you know, is the opposite way you want to go.
The last match on the card is Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger in a Chairs match. Everything about this match is stupid. The concept of MexAmerica and the teaming up of Del Rio with Zeb Colter that has never been successfully explained is dumb, Swagger still having a job after never showing the ability to get over is dumb, WWE essentially abandoning the US Championship after Cena brought it back into relevance is dumb, and the idea of a Chairs match is ridiculous. This is easily the most unexciting match on the card, and that is REALLY saying something.
Looking at the card from top to bottom, it doesn't look that terrible on paper. There is some potential for some solid wrestling and at the very least we will get to see some guys fall off ladders and get slammed through tables. The problem with the show is that will only really exist in a vacuum. Are the results of this show really going to be relevant four months from now during Wrestlemania season? Probably not, WWE is just treading water until their stars get back. WWE has put in very little effort with the last few episodes of Raw, telling fans that they don't really care all that much about TLC. And neither should you.