Pruett's Pause: WWE TLC 2015 - Roman Reigns finds an identity after a year of searching, the tag division steals the show, Ambrose wins some gold, and more!
By Will Pruett
For the last year, I have wondered one thing about WWE programming; who is Roman Reigns? He was reintroduced at TLC 2014 in an odd backstage segment where he promised to win the Royal Rumble. This was the beginning of what would be one of the more interesting years in any career in wrestling history. This was also the beginning of a rough time for the Roman character. Over the next six months, Roman would attempt every trick in the book of WWE tropes. He would be over confident. He would be over patriotic. He would be the comedian. He would be undersized. He would be outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, out-planned [(and have to make an all out stand, where he'd need his right hand man) Shout out to anyone getting this reference]. Roman tried everything, but found nothing while doing so. In the process, he became a very one dimensional character. At the end of TLC, Roman seemed to finally find himself after a year of searching.
You see Roman Reigns shouldn't be a comedian. Roman Reigns shouldn't take losing in a light manner. Roman Reigns shouldn't shrug and move on. WWE seemed to be taking the worst moves from the John Cena playbook and having Roman execute them. The fans noticed and rebelled. At the end of TLC, Roman sought vengeance for having his dream ripped away from him once again. He got angry. This is the Roman Reigns fans actually want to see.
In the main event, Roman Reigns and Sheamus had a great TLC match (seriously, one of the top TLC matches since the inception of the TLC show in 2009). They took risks they probably shouldn't have. They worked their signature offense into some fun ladder and table moments. They even seemed to key into their characters during the match (a highlight for me was Roman nonchalantly tossing chairs at a downed Sheamus on the ramp). Roman and Sheamus had the great match I expected. The fans, up until the end, didn't react like it was great. This was the story WWE was telling letting the wrestlers down. This was the biggest story of the first half of this match.
The fans showed true fire once Roman hit a spectacular Superman Punch while climbing the ladder onto Sheamus at the top. Once this happened, fans forgot about the poor four weeks of television they sat through and invested in the moment. The fans who were ardent in rebelling against Roman Reigns from his entrance to the aforementioned punch were suddenly screaming for him to get the belt at the top of the ladder. It's almost a shame that he didn't. They were ready to roar in approval of Roman.
Even the interference from The League of Nations helped Roman Reigns' case. There was a logic gap with Ambrose and The Usos not running down to help him, but it didn't hinder the performance of Reigns. In the end, Sheamus retrieved the title right as Reigns made it to the base of the ladder. Superman came up short one more time.
The next few moments were the most interesting of the night. Instead of sulking away like the beaten puppy Roman has been in the past, Roman did something about his unfair loss. He released his frustration through a barrage of chair shots to Del Rio, Sheamus, and Rusev, bringing Triple H and a referee battalion out to stop things.
Roman seemed to back down, but then smiled and went after Triple H. This is where I got confused. The crowd loved to pummeling Roman dealt. This was a major release of frustration. The announcers played this up like a major mistake for Roman. The beating continued to the point of Triple H refusing medical attention, trying to walk out, and being beat again. Roman went from a sympathetic release of frustrations to being the true aggressor in the situation. Why?
At the moment, a Roman Reigns vs. Triple H feud is the obvious direction, likely culminating at WrestleMania. One has to wonder who the good guy in this feud actually is. Is it the often-screwed young tough guy who went a few steps too far while beating down his boss? Is it the man who tried to calm down a rampaging wrestler, was beat half to death for his efforts, and was tended to by his wife and paramedics? I'm honestly not sure.
WWE has a very sensitive situation going in Raw tonight. Does Roman Reigns stay angry and passionate? Did he finally unlock this long-dormant part of himself? If yes, does WWE allow fans to cheer him, or did the sympathy train for Triple H already leave the station? Raw, and the build to the Royal Rumble in general, should be very interesting.
Who is Roman Reigns? We're about to find out.
And now for some random thoughts:
- My biggest issue going into this show was the lack of quality storyline support for the major dangerous matches. I knew The New Day, The Usos, and The Lucha Dragons would produce an entertaining Ladder Match. I also didn't even know why they were having a Ladder Match. The match, watched in a vacuum was spectacular. We'll be seeing Kalisto's Solida del Sol off the ladder through another ladder for a very long time. It was frenetic, entertaining, dynamic, and fun. It ruled.
The story, when looked at with a little more context, was poor. This was a Ladder Match for the sake of having a Ladder Match because December in the month where Ladder Matches happen. There was no sense of an organic setup between any of the seven men involved in this match. It was on the show for pure action with no consequences. A good match doesn't hide a bad story. WWE's storytelling effort going into this match did the seven men involved a disservice and made the match worse.
- The short commercial for NXT Takeover: London did a great job making NXT look cool. It's amazing to see how changing the appearance and presentation of a show can help the entire show.
- Rusev and Lana are a winning combination once again. The Ryback story for Rusev hasn't quite clicked with me. I'd love to see Rusev continue returning to form, as the WWE roster could use the strong antagonist he was a year ago.
- Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger had the best "Chairs Match" I have ever seen. The bar wasn't high, but they did a nice job working metal objects into their match.
- The Wyatt Family vs. Team ECW was a clumsy match meant to help Bray and company. It might have even done so. Hopefully this is the last ECW reunion angle was ever see on a national stage. It was cool once in 2005. There is no reason to continue bringing it back.
- The fire tease felt so out of place in modern WWE.
- Kevin Owens' cries of "Sports! Yeah!" were alright, but the lack of any real promo time between Owens and Ambrose made his focus on Boston-area sports seem odd.
- Owens vs. Ambrose was enjoyable, but not as enjoyable as their Survivor Series effort. Perhaps I was exhausted at this point.
- Ambrose winning the Intercontinental Championship creates some interesting stories for WWE. Does Kevin Owens continue to be a prominent player or does he fade away? Without an obvious WrestleMania opponent for Brock Lesnar, Owens' has been speculated about. What about Ambrose? Does he continue defending this title to avoid being in competition with Roman? This is very much dependent on where the WWE Championship picture goes as well.
- Charlotte is now doing a full-on Ric Flair impression in the ring with her father at ringside. She's playing the arrogant heel. This isn't a bad fit for her, although the Flair spots feel contrived. It's better than her previous story, which was basically nonexistent.
- Charlotte vs. Paige for the sexist butterfly Divas Championship was a weird heel vs. heel matchup. It was also not a well-wrestled contest. Charlotte doesn't appear to be good at wrestling. Does WWE know they don't have a single protagonist in their women's division?
- Becky Lynch being propelled as the top female protagonist in WWE would be delightful. They need to tell us who she is at this point. Let the fans personally connect to and emotionally invest in Becky Lynch.
If you only watched the WWE Network specials and avoided WWE's weekly TV, you'd be in good shape. This was a really good live special with two standout matches bookending it. They even went off the air with a hot angle. WWE delivered with this show. If you watch even one of the weekly shows (even just the 90 minute Hulu edit), you know WWE isn't on steady footing creatively. I'll take one good night like this though. We all needed it. I'd give this show a B-. The grade was hurt by the storytelling going in and some of the middling-to-bad matches.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren't super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter twitter.com/itswilltime or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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