By Jason Powell
Prowrestling.net Live is on the air today at 3:00 CT/4:00 ET. Guest host Jonny Fairplay is filling in for Will Pruett this week and will join me in taking your phone calls coming out of WWE TLC at PWAudio.net.
WWE TLC Hits
Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles: The show saving match. WWE TLC looked downright lousy on paper before the lineup changes triggered by the viral infections that sidelined Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt. It was set up to be a one match show with an undercard that consisted mostly of matches one would expect to see on Raw. And while I sympathize with the sidelined wrestlers, this match was so much better than the campiness that was naturally expected from the Demon vs. Sister Abigail match. The crowd was red hot for Balor vs. Styles from the entrances through the “too sweet” exchange from the former Bullet Club leaders that occurred afterward. This match looked great on paper and lived up to high expectations. It makes you wonder why WWE doesn’t deliver more of the type of matches that their diehard fanbase wants to see. WWE officials showed that they knew the demand was there by going to it when they were in a pinch, yet for some reason we are more likely to see these diehard fan dream matches at the NXT level rather than on the main roster. I’m all for saving certain matches for bigger shows, but this company has an incredible roster and they are capable of delivering these types of matches more often than they do.
Kurt Angle, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose vs. Braun Strowman, Kane, Sheamus, Cesaro, and The Miz in a TLC match: An entertaining brawl that was given ten more minutes and one more garbage truck than needed. It was fun to see Angle back wrestling in a WWE ring for the first time in over a decade. It’s a shame that they couldn’t save his return for another show and deliver the type of build that it deserved. That said, WWE deserves credit for scrambling to save the show by making lineup changes and for sending Triple H to the Smackdown live event in Chile on Sunday to make up for the absence of Styles and Kevin Owens. They were wise to write out Angle to get him out of the match for a stretch and to build in the easy pop for his return. However, everything involving the garbage truck was ridiculous. Strowman being put chokeslammed through the stage and then having chairs dropped on him by Kane would have been a sufficient way to take him out of the match. Instead, they got campy by putting him in the back of a garbage truck and flipping the compactor switch. Still, everyone worked hard despite the awkward nature of the handicap match, and they had the crowd reengaged once the action returned to the ring.
Asuka vs. Emma: The match went longer than expected and did bring back some memories of Shinsuke Nakamura’s main roster debut match against Dolph Ziggler at WWE Backlash. The Nakamura vs. Ziggler match was far more competitive than it needed to be and didn’t get Nakamura’s main roster run off to the hot start that it should have. In this case, the match was more competitive than expected, yet I still came away feeling like Asuka shined. Emma is talented and gained something in defeat, but her social media obsessed gimmick is dreadful.
Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James for the Raw Women’s Championship: A nice match with the expected outcome. This was better than their previous outings even though there was nothing particularly memorable about it. James benefitted from the post match interview. Her comments were simple and effective and sent a positive message coming out of her title match loss. Here’s hoping the company intends to showcase her beyond this match and it’s not a return to the nothing she was doing before her latest run with Bliss.
Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher vs. Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander: A minor Hit for a decent undercard tag team match. The fans were up for the flashy offense of the babyfaces even if I didn’t get the sense that they were particularly engaged in the actual feud between the four wrestlers. Despite the Hit, I couldn’t help but feel like the wrestlers are capable of more than the Raw or 205 Live match they delivered.
Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox: A minor Hit for the Kickoff match. The outcome was never in doubt, but the live crowd liked Banks and was up for the first match of the night.
WWE TLC Misses
Kalisto vs. Enzo Amore for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: The live crowd was hot for nearly everything other than the matches in the Miss category. Enzo regaining the title and being the face of the cruiserweights does nothing to make me feel like the division is in a good place. His promos and charisma bring some added attention, but what else in the division is worth drawing attention to? Insert the usual comment about how the wrestlers in the division are talented, but creative doesn’t do them any favors. So much damage has been done to the wrestlers that they desperately need some fresh faces from NXT or even outside the company to freshen things up. Placing two guys who fans perceive as heavyweight failures at the top of the division just isn’t enough.
Jason Jordan vs. Elias: Elias continues to draw good heat for his musical insult routine and has been a pleasant surprise since being called up. The crowd seemed fairly into Jordan throwing produce at Elias to stop his musical performances. And then the bell rang. The match was a Simon & Garfunkel classic in that it played to the sound of silence. Jordan is a hell of an in-ring talent, but he’s shown very little on the mic and has yet to connect with the fans. Creative doesn’t give him great material to work with, but he just hasn’t clicked yet as the ultra nice guy babyface. I keep waiting for them to move toward the Angle’s son storyline being a ruse. Even if they do, there’s no telling whether Jordan will be able to hold up his end on the mic as a heel, but it’s still a chance I’d take since what they are doing with him now just isn’t working. I can’t help but wonder where things would be if Chad Gable had been pegged for the Angle son role rather than Jordan.