By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE TLC Hits
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka in a TLC match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: The appropriate main event and it delivered in a big way. We’ll see what they do tonight, but it was refreshing that the company just presented this as the rightful main event and didn’t fall all over themselves while putting this over as yet another historic achievement for the women. Charlotte was the MVP of the match. She had the biggest spots and she worked at a great pace. The Ronda Rousey interference sets her up for possible singles matches with Charlotte and Lynch or one big Triple Threat at WrestleMania. Asuka didn’t earn the win the right way, but she continues to be a popular figure despite how poorly she’s been booked since WrestleMania. I don’t know if I’m more amazed by Charlotte getting up from taking Lynch’s leg drop on the table or Matt Taven getting up from his big dive over the top rope and landing chest first on the barricade at Friday’s ROH Final Battle event.
Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship: A terrific match. It says a lot about WWE booking that I spent the majority of the time waiting for the other shoe to drop in the form of a cheap finish. But they didn’t go with a nut shot finish or a double disqualification or any shenanigans. It was a rare clean win for the heel and the match was strong enough that the babyface was not hurt in the process. I’m curious to see where they go next and whether they take the approach that Jake Barnett laid out in last night’s members’ exclusive audio review of WWE TLC. Jake’s hope is that if Vince McMahon announces some type of shakeup and it results in Styles and Seth Rollins essentially changing places. It’s a logical move that frees up Rollins from an Intercontinental Championship feud to move into a main event position, while Styles could use a change of scenery and fresh opponents following his successful run as the face of Smackdown.
Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship: Rousey delivered again. She has yet to have a bad performance in a pay-per-view match and she shows signs increased confidence and in-ring improvement with each outing. It’s just a shame that WWE failed to make Jax feel like a bigger threat going into the match. She’s the monster of the women’s division and yet she’s booked like just another heel far too often. In this case, it was hard to view her as a serious threat to Rousey and thus the outcome felt predictable.
Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Another quality cruiserweight championship match. But the cycle continues in that while the cruiserweights deliver good matches on pay-per-view Sundays, there’s no indication that their hard work is leading to more people watching 205 Live. The brand was severely damaged under Vince McMahon’s booking run and I’d prefer to see the company pull the plug on the show and simply spread the talent out amongst their various brands.
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin: A minor Hit. It was nice to see the babyface outsmart the heel for a change by taking advantage of the no disqualification rules. An argument could be made that Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre should have made a play to help Corbin since they benefited from his heel authority figure run. Nonetheless, the heel authority figure blamed for Raw’s poor quality and all-time low ratings was beaten up in a crowd pleasing sequence that led to his dismissal.
Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Balor: A minor Hit for match quality. The Dolph Ziggler interference and the backstage promo sets the stage for a potential three-way feud. The in-ring action should be good, but I hope they find a way to make people actually care since it’s a low stakes feud that seems more about finding something to do with all three men rather than actually serving a real purpose.
R-Truth and Carmella vs. Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal in the Mixed Match Challenge Finals: A crowd pleasing opening segment. Fans still love R-Truth after all these years, and Carmella has been a fun addition to his act. I am not a fan of giving away the identities of the thirtieth entrants of the Royal Rumble match in advance, but this match was quick and got the main show off to a solid start.
WWE TLC Misses
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship: Rollins and Ambrose had some terrific matches when the heel and babyface roles were reversed. This time around, it felt like Ambrose’s heel in-ring style was too slow and deliberate and the match just never kicked into another gear. The match lacked intensity given the nature of the feud, and they instead opted to tell the story that Ambrose knew Rollins’s emotions would eventually get the best of him and then he would capitalize. It didn’t work for the live crowd, which actually chanted “this is boring” at one point. I never would have anticipated that happening, but the fans were absolutely right.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. The Usos vs. New Day for the Smackdown Tag Titles: More of an in the middle than a true Hit or Miss. It was a well worked match that just lacked any sense of importance. Each of these teams has had title reigns and will presumably have title reigns again. It’s not that the tag titles don’t matter, it’s that there was no reason to feel excited by the possibility of either pair of challengers regaining the titles because we’ve been there and done that. The longer the heels hold the titles the more it will feel like a meaningful accomplishment if one of these teams eventually dethrones them. That said, the company still needs to come up with a reason why fans should be excited about another title reign for either team if one of them ends up winning the tag titles again.
Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio in a chairs match: Gimmick match fatigue really set in for me during this match and it seemed like the fans felt the same way. Less is more. The build to this match was uninspired and the company would have been better off having them work a regular match rather than having a chairs match just for the sake of having a chairs match.
Natalya vs. Ruby Riott in a tables match: Let me explain this one more time for the defenders of WWE’s exploitation. It’s not all about you and it doesn’t matter who gave their blessing. So just because you are not turned off by things such as Jim Neidhart’s death being used to make his daughter seem sympathetic or Roman Reigns’ leukemia battle being used to put heat on Dean Ambrose, there are viewers who are turned off by one or both of these moves. The turned off viewers don’t care who approved or didn’t approve, so it’s really a moot point because the damage is done with those viewers. And with WWE’s ratings slumping to record lows, is it really worth it from a business standpoint to turn off these fans even if you personally don’t object?
Elias vs. Bobby Lashley in a ladder match: Another pointless gimmick match just for the sake of having a gimmick match. If there was one positive about the match it’s that Lashley and Lio Rush seemed to have more heat than usual.
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.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features ODB discussing the fire that destroyed her food truck, the fundraising drive to help her buy a new truck, her appearance on the latest Impact Wrestling television show, Triple H telling her to go to TNA, and much more...