By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE TLC 2018
San Jose, California at SAP Center
Aired live December 16, 2018 on WWE Network and pay-per-view
WWE TLC opened with a video package that played on unfinished business before the new year… Michael Cole welcomed viewers to the show. Cole called TLC “our version of human demolition derby” and said there were 13,108 people in attendance…
1. R-Truth and Carmella vs. Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal (w/The Singh Brothers) in the Mixed Match Challenge Finals. The winning team earns the 30th spots in the Royal Rumble matches (and a free trip anywhere in the world). Cole noted that the match was also being broadcast on Facebook Watch. Cole was joined on commentary by Renee Young and Vic Joseph.
It was all Truth and Carmella early. They called for a dance break at 2:00. The Singh Brothers entered the ring and danced with them, but Truth ended up throwing them both over the top rope. The heels came back and Fox kept her streak alive of performing the northern lights suplex for a two count.
Fox made a blind tag and put her hat on for some reason. Truth took it off her and wore it. Carmella returned to the match and had Fox pinned, but Mahal broke it up. Moments later Carmella applied her Code of Silence finisher for the win.
R-Truth and Carmella defeated Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal in 5:50 to win the Mixed Match Challenge.
After the match, Kayla Braxton entered the ring and interviewed the winners about being the 30th entrants in the Rumble match and questioned where they would go on vacation. Braxton informed Carmella that both teams submitted their vacation destination before the match. This was news to Carmella. Truth picked the location for them and announced they are going to WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Truth celebrated like he won the Super Bowl, while Carmella wasn’t so pleased.
Powell’s POV: The crowd had fun with Truth and Carmella. It was quick and mostly painless. You didn’t really think Vince McMahon was going to pay for two wrestlers to go on vacation, did you?
A Royal Rumble ad aired…
2. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. “New Day” Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods (w/Big E) for the Smackdown Tag Titles. The broadcast team was Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and David Otunga. Phillips said Byron Saxton was under the weather. Phillips explained that only two men could be in the ring at once.
The Usos got the live crowd fired up around 7:45 by throwing superkicks at each of their opponents. At 10:30, Kingston hit Trouble in Paradise on Sheamus, and Woods performed a long distance elbow drop. Woods had the pin, but one of the Usos and Cesaro broke it up. At 11:45, Kingston did the trust fall dive onto both Usos and Cesaro at ringside. Sheamus and Woods were left in the ring. Cesaro pawed at Woods from ringside and distracted him long enough for Sheamus to perform a Brogue Kick and score the pin…
Sheamus and Cesaro defeated The Usos and New Day in 12:15 to retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: A good match that just had a “been there, done that” feel to it. These are the three most showcased teams in the company, but part of the problem is that they’ve all had multiple title reigns and thus the idea of the Usos or New Day potentially regaining the tag titles just didn’t feel like anything buzz worthy.
An ad aired for Vince McMahon appearing on Raw to shake things up. Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young addressed it at ringside. Young played up Vince being there to can Baron Corbin, while Graves asked how she knew Vince wasn’t coming to tell him he was doing a good job…
3. Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin. If Strowman wins, he gets a WWE Championship match and Corbin is out of power, while a Corbin win would make him the permanent general manager. Heath Slater was the referee. Cole vented about how Corbin made Raw a joke. Graves defended Corbin, while Young said numbers don’t lie.
Corbin took the mic and said he knows there’s been complaints about his performance as the general manager. “Too bad, get used to it,” Corbin said. He called for the bell to ring. Slater began counting. Corbin clapped while assuming he’d win by forfeit. Strowman’s music played and he came out with his arm bandaged and in a sling.
Strowman took the mic and said Corbin forgot to mention that there are no disqualifications in a TLC match. He said therefore if someone wanted to help him who is sick and tired of Corbin as general manager then it would be perfectly legal. Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, and Bobby Roode came out and stood at ringside with chairs. Corbin teased leaving, but Finn Balor stood at ringside with a chair and blocked his path. The babyfaces all stood on the apron. Slater punched Corbin and the babyface extras all entered the ring and took turns hitting Corbin with a chair while Strowman remained on the apron.
Corbin escaped the ring and backed up the stage. Kurt Angle came out and got a big pop. Angle picked up a chair from the stage set and hit Corbin with it several times. Corbin ended up back in the ring and took a neckbreaker and moonsault combo from Roode and Gable Crews performed a frogsplash,Angle performed an Angle Slam, and Balor performed the Coup de Grace. Strowman placed his foot over Corbin and then Slater counted the pin…
Braun Strowman defeated Baron Corbin in a TLC match.
Cole hyped Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. Graves questioned if Vince McMahon would reverse the decision on Raw. Young said there was no way he would do that. Graves said he wouldn’t let the inmates run the asylum…
Powell’s POV: The segment was well received by the live crowd. I’m not the least bit surprised to see Corbin lose. Once they blamed him for the show sucking and the ratings reaching all-time lows, there was no way he was going to get through Raw still in power.
4. Natalya vs. Ruby Riott (w/Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan) in a tables match. The Riott Squad brought the Jim Neidhart table to the ring with them. Natalya went on the offensive and they went to ringside where she slammed Riott’s head onto a table. Natalya returned to the ring and set up for a move on Riott, who was on the apron. Morgan shoved Riott out of the way and then Natalya speared Morgan off the apron and through a table on the floor. A short time later, Natalya put Logan through a table as well.
It was one on one with Riott’s sidekicks down. Riott brought Natalya over to the table with Neidhart’s image and forced her to look at it. Riott brought the Neidhart table to the ring and set it up in the corner. She tried to run Natalya through it, but Natalya stopped short. Natalya put Riott in a Sharpshooter. Riott reached up and tilted the Neidhart table over so that it fell on Natalya to break the hold in a creative spot.
Natalya caught Riott in electric chair position and dropped her at 8:35. Natalya pulled a table out from under the ring that had Ruby Riott’s image on it. Natalya slid the table into the ring and then pulled out her father’s jacket and put it on. Natalya pointed to the sky and fans applauded. Natalya set up the table in the ring, looked at the Riott image, and said “bitch.”
Riott caught Natalya with a kick and laid her on the Riott table. Riott went up top and Natalya cut her off. Natalya placed Riott on the table and jawed at her. Natalya went to the ropes. Riott cut her off and went for a huracanrana. Natalya stuffed it and performed a powerbomb from the ropes and through the Riott table for the win…
Natalya defeated Ruby Riott in a tables match in 12:40.
Powell’s POV: Obviously, the big flaw was holding the Strowman vs. Corbin match before this one, as it made Riott Squad members look like dopes for not just cheating in the same way the babyfaces did just minutes earlier. Here’s hoping the exploitation of Neidhart’s death ended with this match. I don’t care who approved of it, the storyline was a turnoff.
A Lars Sullivan video aired. He’s still lurking. Cole, Graves, and Young spoke about him at ringside briefly, then Cole shifted the focus to questioning how Corbin losing his job would affect Drew McIntyre…
5. Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Balor. McIntyre threw some chops that left welts on Balor’s chest. Balor targeted the left knee of McIntyre with kicks. There was a brief yet loud “let’s go Balor” chant around 3:00. McIntyre worked over Balor and then held out Balor’s arm by the bottom rope and told him to reach. McIntyre pulled it back and worked over the arm of Balor at 5:00.
Balor bounced back and performed a flip dive onto McIntyre at ringside. Back in the ring, McIntyre shoved him into the ropes and Balor came right back with a sling blade clothesline. Balor set up for a running dropkick, but McIntyre caught him with a nice tilt a whirl backbreaker. McIntyre barked that Balor and Dolph Ziggler mean nothing to him.
At 8:15, Balor went up top for his finisher only to be cut off. McIntyre put Balor on his back and then fell backward off the ropes and got a two count. At 9:50, Balor pulled the ring apron out and McIntyre ended up falling into it. Balor kicked him repeatedly. McIntyre freed himself and tripped up Balor on the apron. McIntyre performed a headbutt on Balor at ringside.
McIntyre dumped Balor back inside the ring. As the referee was tending to Balor, Dolph Ziggler showed up and superkicked McIntyre. Ziggler grabbed a chair, then McIntyre kicked the chair into his face. McIntyre threw Ziggler inside the ring and picked up the chair. Balor dropkicked the chair into McIntyre, then performed a Coup de Grace and pinned him…
Finn Balor pinned Drew McIntyre in 12:20.
Powell’s POV: A good match. Balor winning would have meant so much more if McIntyre had still not been pinned or submitted since his return to Raw and they actually played it up in advance. Instead, they had Ziggler beat him on Raw and then mentioned that McIntyre’s unbeaten streak. It’s ass backwards booking.
A sponsored wedding proposal in a WWE ring ad aired…
6. Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio in a chairs match. There were a bunch of chairs set up at ringside. There was a fun spot early. With Orton lying on the ringside mat, Mysterio used a chair as a sled by sliding on it from the ring and onto Orton. Back in the ring, Mysterio used a huracanrana to drive Orton into a chair wedged in the corner. Orton performed a great powerslam on Mysterio to regain offensive control.
At 9:10, Mysterio performed a 619. Mysterio went up top and was cut off by Orton, who then swung Rey’s head into a chair wedged in the corner. Orton set up four chairs next to one another in the ring. Mysterio was able to drive Orton into one of the chairs and then perform a victory roll for the win…
Rey Mysterio defeated Randy Orton in 11:30.
Powell’s POV: Gimmick match fatigue is kicking in. The live crowd is reacting to creative moments (Rey’s slide was great) and the big spots, but they seem to be growing a bit numb to all of these gimmick matches. It’s overkill and WWE would be better off having one or two gimmick matches on TLC next year. Of course, they would be even better off scrapping the format and simply going to TLC matches when it makes sense, but they seem set in their ways with these theme pay-per-views.
Finn Balor was interviewed by Charly Caruso backstage. He said it was a big win over McIntyre, but he had no idea what the hell Ziggler was doing out there. Ziggler showed up and ended up superkicking Balor and tossing him over a production crate…
Powell’s POV: So Ziggler’s not a babyface. It looks like they are setting up a Triple Threat feud between Ziggler, Balor, and McIntyre.
A video package set up the Raw Women’s Championship match…
7. Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax (w/Tamina) for the Raw Women’s Championship. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. A fan held up a “Go Home Ronda” sign opposite the hard camera. Jax picked up Rousey and tossed her to start. Rousey ducked Jax’s early punches and connected with some of her own. Jax caught her left hand and whipped her in the conrer, but Rousey escaped and threw kicks at Jax.
Jax caught Rousey’s leg. Rousey rolled her into a play for an armbar, but Jax powered her up and slammed her down in powerbomb position for a two count at 1:25. Jax went on the offensive or the next couple minutes. Rousey went for a choke. Jax countered into a suplex position, but Rousey slipped behind her and had her in a choke and ended up applying an armbar. Jax rolled to the ropes and ended up flinging Rousey into the barricade.
At 5:15, Jax went for a powerbomb, which Rousey countered into a huracanrana. Jax charged in the corner. Rousey moved and Jax crashed into the post and tumbled to the floor. Rousey went up top and performed a cross body block onto Jax at ringside. Rousey rolled Jax back inside the ring and got a near fall at 6:35. Rousey threw punches and a step-up knee at Jax. Rousey followed up with a step-up punch for another two count. Rousey went for a cross body block. Jax rolled through it and powered Rousey into a Samoan Drop for a near fall at 7:55.
Jax hoisted Rousey onto her shoulders and climbed to the middle rope. Rousey slipped away and powerbombed Jax from the ropes for another near fall at 9:20. Rousey teased the armbar. Tamina stuck her head into the ring and Rousey went after her. Jax grabbed Rousey from behind, but Rousey rolled her into an armbar. Rousey looked at Tamina, kissed the hand of Jax, and then wrenched on the armbar. Jax quickly tapped out…
Ronda Rousey defeated Nia Jax in 10:50 to retain the Raw Women’s Championship.
Powell’s POV: Another entertaining Rousey match. It’s a shame the company didn’t do a better job of making Jax seem like an unintimidated monster coming into the match. Still, Rousey and Jax did a really good job, and this California crowd liked Rousey a lot more than the LA crowd did at Survivor Series.
After some advertising, Jax was shown walking backstage and blowing off Caruso’s attempt to interview her. As Jax sold her arm pain, Becky Lynch showed up and asked if she remembered breaking her face. Lynch punched and kicked Jax and told her to keep her name out of her mouth. Tamina could be seen running into the picture after the damage was done…
A video package set up the WWE Championship match… Backstage, AJ Styles told Kayla Braxton that people seem to be underestimating him because the new Bryan will do whatever it takes to win. Styles said the new Bryan is just as beatable as the old Bryan. He said he’s played Bryan’s game and now Bryan would play his game…
8. Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Greg Hamilton delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. The bell rang and Bryan rolled to ringside to stall. Bryan returned and then rolled out again. Styles showed frustration while Bryan laughed. Once they got going, Styles threw a dropkick and clotheslined Bryan to ringside.
Bryan went on the offensive for several minutes until he ran into a big clothesline from Styles. Bryan came back and threw several knee strikes and followed up with a suplex around 13:00. Bryan threw a series of kicks, which the fans greeted with “no” chants. Bryan connected with the last kick and covered Styles for two.
Styles caught Bryan with a kick to the head. Styles wrapped Bryan’s leg around the post and slammed his left knee into it twice. Styles returned to the ring and chop blocked Styles, which Phillips pointed out was Styles returning the favor for what Bryan has been doing to him in recent weeks. Bryan fought back and went for a top rope huracanrana, but Styles rolled him from the ropes and went for a Styles Clash, which Bryan avoided.
Styles applied a half crab and stumbled a bit before standing up. Bryan teased tapping out, but eventually slipped out of the hold and applied the LeBell Lock. Styles escaped and they traded pin attempts. Bryan connected with a kick, but Styles performed a Pele Kick. A “this is awesome” chant broke out.
At 20:50, Styles performed a springboard 450 for a near fall. A short time later, Styles applied the Calf Crusher. Bryan teased tapping before rolling over to reach the ropes. Once Styles released the hold, Bryan rolled to ringside and sold leg pain. Styles followed Bryan while fans picked up the “this is awesome” chant again.
Bryan punched Styles and tried to run him into the barricade, but Styles leapt into the timekeepers area, turned around, and performed a Phenomenal Forearm from the barricade. Styles went for a springboard move. Bryan avoided it. Moments later, Styles caught Bryan in an inside cradle, but Bryan rolled it over and scored the clean pin…
Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles in 23:55 to retain the WWE Championship.
Powell’s POV: A terrific match. It was refreshing to see the heel simply win clean rather than by some awful nut shot finish or whatever weirdness they could come up with to avoid having the babyface pinned. Styles lost clean, but they can go back to this match whenever they feel like it and the fans will be invested. In other words, Styles didn’t lose anything despite being pinned clean.
Backstage, Rousey and Natalya were all smiles as Caruso approached them and asked for a word with Rousey. Natalya left the picture. Caruso asked about Rousey previously stating that she would renew her rivalry with Charlotte Flair once she finished with Jax. Rousey said payback is a bitch and she’s the baddest one on the planet…
The Royal Rumble ad aired… The broadcast team hyped Lesnar vs. Strowman for the Royal Rumble, then announced Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler for Raw, and also hyped Vince McMahon’s appearance… A video package set up the Intercontinental Championship match…
9. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship. The sirens are here to stay as part of Ambrose’s entrance music. Cole noted that The Shield had their first WWE match in the same venue six years earlier. Ambrose wore a necklace during the match. They went to ringside and Ambrose dropped Rollins face first onto one of the broadcast tables at 2:40.
Ambrose controlled the next several minutes of offense and applied a cloverleaf at 8:45. Rollins crawled and reached the ropes to break the hold, then rolled to the floor and sold left knee pain. Ambrose grabbed Rollins on the apron and said, “I am not a joke.” Rollins clotheslined him over the top rope and went on the offensive while selling knee pain. Rollins went for a suicide dive and ran into a punch from Ambrose.
Back in the ring, Rollins performed a sling blade clothesline and a blockbuster, then went back to selling his knee. Ambrose backdropped Rollins, who landed on his feet and yelled out to sell his knee. Rollins sent Ambrose to ringside and ended up performing a pair of suicide dives before clutching his knee again at 11:40.
Rollins went up top and Ambrose cut him off from inside the ring. Ambrose went for a superplex. Rollins punched his way out of it and headbutted Ambrose. Rollins went for a sunset bomb either slipped or sold knee pain. Rollins got up and powerbombed Ambrose from the ropes and went back to selling his knee.
At 17:20, fans chanted “this is boring.” Rollins performed a ripcord knee to the head of Ambrose and covered him for two. Rollins went up top and performed a frogsplash, but Ambrose put his knees up and rolled Rollins into a pin for a two count. Rollins came back with a superplex and a falcon arrow for a near fall at 19:25.
Ambrose set up for a superkick on a kneeling Ambrose, who stuck out his first for a Shield fist bump. Ambrose looked at his own fist and seethed. Rollins pushed Ambrose’s hand aside and then punched and kicked him. They went to ringside and Rollins performed a buckle bomb into the barricade.
Rollins rolled Ambrose backed into the ring and started jawing at him and said it was for all the fans and for Roman Reigns. Rollins slapped Ambrose. Rollins set up for a stomp, but Ambrose kicked him, gave him Dirty Deeds, and pinned him…
Dean Ambrose defeated Seth Rollins in 23:00 to win the Intercontinental Championship.
Powell’s POV: A deliberately paced match that just didn’t click. It felt longer than it needed to be, though I can’t say I would have said it was a bad idea if you had told me prior to the show that they’d get this much time. It’s the only disappointing televised match that Rollins has had in recent memory, so I came away feeling like Ambrose didn’t fill his time in offensive control in an entertaining manner.
San Francisco 49ers players were shown in the crowd holding up Connor’s Cure cleats as part of an NFL campaign to spotlight the favorite charities of the players. Cole said the cleats would be auctioned off to benefit the charity… A video package set up the TLC main event…
10. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka in a TLC match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. There was a loud “Becky” chant before she made her entrance. She was cheered loudly again when Greg Hamilton delivered the in-ring introductions. Charlotte slid a ladder inside the ring. Asuka tried to do the same, but Charlotte kicked it into her. Lynch slid a table in the ring. Charlotte stomped it to knock Lynch away, then set up the table in the corner.
Charlotte slammed Asuka’s head into the table a few times. Lynch returned to the ring and went to set up a ladder. Charlotte kicked the ladder into Lynch and went back to fighting Asuka, who ended up catching her with a Codebreaker at 4:10. Asuka caught Lynch on the ropes and tossed her onto a ladder that was lying in the ring. Asuka set up a ladder and made the first play for the belt that was hanging above the ring. Charlotte cut her off and made her own play, which was thwarted by Asuka, who powerbombed Flair through the table set up in the corner of the ring at 6:15.
Asuka knocked Lynch off the apron and then posed between the ropes. Charlotte hit Asuka with a chair and then performed a moonsault onto both opponents on the floor. Charlotte set up a table at ringside. Lynch hit Charlotte and then Asuka with a chair several times. Charlotte kicked the chair out of Lynch’s hands and ran her into the barricade. Flair stripped one of the broadcast tables. Lynch set up a huge ladder and then put Charlotte next to Asuka on the broadcast table.
At 11:20, Lynch leapt from the second rung of the ladder and performed a leg drop that drove Charlotte through the table while Asuka rolled out of the way. It looked rough for Flair, who held her ribs. Asuka returned to the ring and made a play for the title belt. Lynch returned to the ring and climbed the other side of the ladder. The women met at the top and traded punches. Flair returned to the ring and hit both women with a kendo stick repeatedly at 13:30.
Charlotte continued to work over Asuka with a kendo stick at ringside. Lynch recovered and performed a blue thunder bomb into the barricade on Charlotte. Asuka ended up with a kendo stick and hit both women. Asuka posed for the crowd and then Charlotte came out of nowhere to spear her into the barricade in front of the timekeeper’s area. A “this is awesome” chant broke out. Lynch made a play for the belt, but Flair returned to the ring and stopped her.
Lynch and Flair jawed at one another and then traded strikes. Lynch slammed Flair’s face into a ladder and then threw punches at her. They rolled to ringside where Flair chopped Lynch several times and drove her back first into one of the broadcast tables. Flair placed Lynch on a table on the floor and then went to the top rope. Flair performed a swanton that drove Lynch through the table.
Flair returned to the ring and set up the ladder and made a play for the belt. Asuka returned and cut her off. Flair and Asuka exchanged strikes on top of the ladder. Lynch set up a second title right next to them. Flair knocked Asuka off the first ladder, then Lynch climbed up and fought with Flair.
At 21:35, Ronda Rousey walked to the ring to a mixed reaction and pushed over the ladder that Lynch and Flair were on. Rousey was booed for tipping over the ladder. Rousey walked backstage. Asuka climbed the ladder while Lynch and Flair were down at ringside and she pulled the belt down to win the match…
Asuka defeated Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair in 21:45 in a TLC match to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
Powell’s POV: A terrific performance. All three women were terrific, but Charlotte Flair was the standout of the bunch. She took the crazy leg drop from Lynch and performed some really big spots. She has the old man’s cardio, as she just kept going and never looked winded. I could have done without Rousey getting involved, but obviously the finish means they are working toward Rousey facing Lynch and Charlotte. The question is whether they will be meeting in singles matches or a Triple Threat at WrestleMania. I just hope they have something good in mind for Asuka, who was cheered when she won (all three women probably would have been), yet she didn’t exactly win in a clean or definitive manner.
Overall, the show definitely had it’s moments and it closed on a high note with my favorite match of the night. The show did feel longer than it needed to be and the undercard gimmick matches felt like overkill. Still, there was a lot to like about this show and it was nice that creative mostly stayed out of the way and let the wrestlers shine. I will have more to say when Jake Barnett and I get together for our members’ exclusive audio review tonight.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Konnan, who discusses his return to the ring for MLW and shares the crazy story of how he started in pro wrestling.