John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Tables, Ladders & Chairs (TLC) preview featuring the WWE Raw brand. The show takes place this Sunday, October 22 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This show won’t have a Universal Championship match because Brock Lesnar is not a part of it while the Intercontinental and Raw Tag Team Titles aren’t on the line either since the guys holding them are in the main event tag match.

This was originally going to be posted on Friday around 6pmET. As I was editing at around 3:45pmET, I saw a tweet from @WWE that said this:

Kurt Angle is wrestling in the main event replacing Roman Reigns and AJ Styles is going to face Finn Balor. What? Huh? Really? It’s true. It’s damn true. We covered it all here.

The short version of the story is that it is believed that Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns (along with Bo Dallas) are dealing with an illness believed to be viral meningitis that is keeping them off the road and they can’t take part in TLC. As a result, Kurt Angle is wrestling in WWE for the first time in 11 years in the main event of TLC and Styles is being flown in from Smackdown’s tour of South America to face Balor for the first time.

Due to the changes to the card, I asked the guys in our preview team to re-write what they wrote for those two matches because we can’t use what we wrote about Reigns or Wyatt now. That’s why this preview was delayed until a Saturday AM posting as opposed to Friday. Got it? Good. Let’s roll.

Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Mike Holland and Matthew Phillips.

Kurt: I’ve been criticized for being too critical of the Raw brand this year. I’ve been told I give Smackdown a pass when I wouldn’t do the same for Raw. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, but I would like to think we can all agree that this show is worthy of being criticized. Even with Angle’s return and Balor vs. AJ, those decisions are so illogical, that I can’t even get excited for them. The product has gotten so stale and when members of the roster are just walking out, it says a lot of where WWE is at right now. I could write a whole column on this, but for now I will just apologize in advance for the lack of positivity you’re about to read from me.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)

Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox (Kickoff Show)

Kurt: Be sure to go and support Alicia by buying her new shirt that took a decade to get. You won’t regret it. Also be sure and show the world that you’re not like most girls and will not hesitate to walk out of the company when it’s churning out shows like this.

Prediction: Alicia Fox (we gotta move some shirts pal)

Mike: It’s telling that this feels like pure, grade-D filler even for a kickoff show. I’ve spent plenty of space running down the various reasons why Sasha Banks getting the short end of the stick in WWE is a ridiculous business decision, particularly if it’s to be believed that this is being done due to her apparent unpopularity among some of the backstage types. Only in pro wrestling do you put the brakes on a talented performer’s run because she’s not the human equivalent of a team-building exercise. I really don’t care what kind of tree you would be as long as that tree, you know, totally kicks ass.

Alicia Fox’s crazy and completely random tantrums and interactions those many moons ago were a high spot for me in her arc, but given that storyline has been abandoned for a year and change, I’m not sure how effective it is to get into that again. It is astonishing that Fox has been on the roster for as long as she has and there’s not really a single thing anyone can recall about her as a performer during that time. Congrats on making the big card. Prepare to lose.

Winner: Sasha Banks

Matthew: Is there anything to really preview here of any consequence? If the WWE isn’t going to take the time to write a story, I sure as hell won’t waste my time writing a thoughtful preview of it. Instead I will pitch a better use of both these women’s time.

We all know Sasha should be a heel. She excels in the role. I still fondly remember her stomping Bayley’s injured had as Bayley reached for the ropes from the Bank Statement. I still remember her making Izzy cry. To borrow Bobby Roode’s catchphrase, it was Glorious. I know the WWE is flirting with heading back in that direction for her, but they need to straight up start driving that way. Step on the gas y’all.

As for Alicia, I’ve long maintained she should be part of Breezango. She could fit in with the gimmick in several versatile ways. She could be the villain. She could be the femme fatale, she could be the African American Police Chief, she could be all damn three at the same damn time!

Winner: Sasha Banks (because… yeah)

John: It’s nice that there are three women’s matches on a PPV card even though this one is on the Kickoff Show, which I will probably skip. Three women’s matches also happened at Elimination Chamber back in February when Smackdown’s booking was great. Banks should win because she’s the bigger star and Fox is just there because they got tired of having Banks beat Nia Jax. There just aren’t that many other heels for Banks to work with.

Winner: Sasha Banks

 

Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann vs. Jack Gallagher & Brian Kendrick

Kurt: Will this match make the DVD? I feel like this is the first PPV since the cruiserweight division was brought in, that they found a way to have two matches for the division. I don’t know whether to applaud the writers or cry in frustration. Cedric Alexander should’ve been who the built the division around in terms of babyfaces. I know he got injured, but he is sooooo much better than they’ve allowed him to be. I could say the same thing about Neville, and look what he did.

Prediction: Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann

Mike: Considering the Chinese water torture that is trying to get eyeballs on 205 Live after already sitting through three hours of television taping, it’s a wonder that WWE is suddenly trying to push the brand hardcore by having more than one cruiserweight match on their big event. It’s perhaps less of a sea change when you consider how paper-thin this card is courtesy of talent walkouts, banding together the biggest names for one match, and a part-time Universal champion. This is less finally getting behind the cruiser revolution than it is grudgingly tossing in the towel before going to get nachos. (Incidentally, 205 Live is one of the worst names ever for a WWE program. And this is a company that produced something called Jakked.)

The match itself? It’s bloody odd and bloody wonderful that Jack Gallagher, the least likely candidate to be a heel in the history of cinema verite, is doing such a fantastic job as one. That really only matters if you’ve actually been watching 205 Life Support, though, and there’s the proverbial rub. If not, just go with the tried and true formula: Faces won Monday, faces lose Sunday. Bring on the Survivor Cruiseries match!

Winners: Jack Gallagher & Brian Kendrick

Matthew: I have not watched a single second of 205 Live so forgive me for my ignorance, but is this like a thing? Are these like legit pairs on that show? Is this truly the best use of guys as talented as all four of these guys are?

Cedric might be one of the most talented guys on the roster and could be having great matches with anybody. Brian Kendrick still has some juice. Rich Swann is good despite the fact that all they want us to care about with him is that he dances. Jack Gallagher new wrestling look is actually kind of cool, but I think there should be more of a story around it (again if there is on 205 Live, I don’t know and don’t care)

Winners: Gallagher and Kendrick (because I’m guessing as I have no reference point here)

John: Every time I see Gallagher forced to wear dress shoes to have a wrestling match I feel sorry for the guy because that can’t feel good. I’m thoughtful like that. Anyway, it’s odd that this is a PPV match when there are bigger names on the Raw brand like Matt Hardy, Jason Jordan and Elias doing nothing on this show. Since Alexander beat Gallagher on Raw thanks to Swann hitting Kendrick with a DDT on the floor, I’ll go with the Kendrick/Gallagher heel team for the win.

Winner: Jack Gallagher & Brian Kendrick

 

Asuka vs. Emma

Kurt: I should be excited for this match. We all should be excited for this match. You know why it’s not possible though? Shinsuke Nakamura. Vince McMahon has made it quite clear what he feels about Nakamura, and he speaks way better English than Asuka does. Anyone expecting her to continue her NXT domination is in for a world of disappointment. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her doing comedy angles in less than six months. There’s a reason why Triple H publicly stated he didn’t want Asuka to leave NXT during the last shake up.

Prediction: Asuka

Mike: Finally there is something reasonable to talk about here, and I hope you enjoy it. The countdown clock has no sooner started on Asuka’s next reign of fantastic dominance than we get to worry about when it goes off the rails. For now, though, yay! If you saw any of Asuka in NXT, I don’t have to tell you how excellent it came across. To have her eclipse the reign of Goldberg without making it look typically revisionist was boss enough, but Asuka was presented as a bona fide star and it’s a role she nailed completely. The opportunity for her to do the same with a much bigger viewing audience is great because it’s already been done before very successfully. Even WWE proper can’t screw up that blueprint. Right?

I have always had a soft spot for Emma. Maybe it’s because I associate her with fellow famous shoplifter Winona Ryder, and love the movie Beetlejuice. Day-O! Maybe it’s because she’s Australian with that accent like a softcore Outback Steakhouse commercial. Or maybe it’s the bubbles. Probably not the bubbles.

In any case, it made perfect sense for her to actually win a big match in order to Feed Asuka More. So it goes.

Winner: Asuka

Matthew: They’ll remind us that Asuka is undefeated a lot here (one of the few times they’ll hammer home the work they’ve done in NXT) and she’ll be awesome because she’s awesome. This is her first showing but what they’ll come to find is that the limited number of women on the main rosters will be a problem when it comes to prolonging Asuka’s dominance. This is just the start though and I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Winner: Asuka (because duh)

John: Asuka should win in five minutes or even three minutes. If it takes longer than that it’s the wrong move. I know that this show won’t have a lot of long matches and there’s time to fill, but this needs an impressive win by Asuka that leads to fans seeing her as a huge star right away. Emma’s a solid worker and she’s nice to look at, but she’s there to do the job. That’s what she’ll do.

Winner: Asuka

 

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Kalisto vs. Enzo Amore

Kurt: I went to a Raw live event a couple weeks ago and Enzo was taking on Mustafa Ali. Before the match, he does his opening spiel and the crowd chants along with him as always. He’s super over. Then he proceeds to rip our town for the next five or so minutes, doing everything he can to let us know without a doubt that he’s a heel. When he’s done, he goes right into the SAWFT routine to which the crowd joins him again and it’s as if the last five minutes didn’t happen. It was one of the most confusing promos I’ve ever seen and really is the epitome of WWE right now. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to get them through another three hours. Kalisto becoming the new champion is another perfect example of this. WWE loves title changes these days and really Enzo is doing what was expected of him with the division, so he should have the belt back.

Prediction: New Cruiserweight Champion, Enzo Amore

Mike: It doesn’t matter what color you purchased at Home Depot when you’ve painted yourself into a corner. Against all odds, the Enzo Amore Era in the cruiser division has made for main event level segments and some stable footing. Naturally, the trigger-happy sadists in Titan Tower shot themselves in the foot almost immediately when they first pissed off the ultra-capable Neville one time too many by brushing his hard work aside for Enzie Love, and followed that up by supposedly honoring the late Eddie Guerrero by having Rey Mysterio Lite Kalisto randomly win the belt from him. Um, yeah.

Normally I’d fight the good fight about not switching titles around like a 3 Stooges Pie fight, but that ship has sailed so much the bottom has rotted and it’s plywood in a cove somewhere. So let’s just deal with the frustrating reality that this happened just to allow Enzo to get the belt back again and (one would imagine) start some semi-compelling television in which all his cruiser rivals get a crack at his braggadocio. Which would be fantastic if he could wrestle. Are you missing Neville already? You will be. Especially during this fifteen minutes.

Winner (and NEW WWE Cruiserweight Champion): Enzo Amore

Matthew: I truly don’t care much about this match or this division. I’ll just say that I hope that Enzo wins the belt back, because with him as Champion, it felt like there was something really going on with the division. I’m unsure of where anything goes if Kalisto is still Champion come Monday. Brief Aside: When Cass is ready to come back, let Enzo and Cass be heels together. Not as a tag team, just as a pair.

Winner and New WWE Cruiserweight Champion: Enzo Amore (because it’s more interesting that way)

John: This feels like a title change match. I used to write things like “it’s too soon to do a title change after the champion just won it a few weeks ago,” but lately in WWE it seems like they would prefer title changes rather than having a champion retain. They love booking title changes these days. Plus, Enzo is more annoying as a heel if he’s carrying around the title, so he might as well hold it again. Good luck to Kalisto trying to get a great match out of Enzo.

The Lumberjack Match that led to the title change was actually better than I thought, but that was helped by having a bunch of other guys there to do spots too. I think Enzo wins back the title in some cheap fashion with an eye poke or groin kick leading to the finish. Long term, I think Cedric Alexander should be built up as a the next babyface Cruiserweight Champion. He’s got so much potential and is somebody that could thrive even with Enzo as the opponent.

Winner and New Cruiserweight Champion: Enzo Amore

 

WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James

Kurt: This has been the most interesting match/storyline on the show. I don’t know how much of a complement that is, but I have enjoyed both women’s work to build this angle. I’m sure this is a throwaway match in terms of Bliss moving on to something else for Survivor Series, but it’s still been nice to see Mickie used properly. I see what Smackdown does with Natalya and there is no reason why Raw shouldn’t be able to use Mickie in the same fashion. Those veteran presences are vital, especially in this division.

A great match here would do wonder for Alexa, so I really hope they give them some time. I think a title change would actually make a lot of sense, but like I said, I don’t think this is a long-term angle so I don’t see that happening.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss retains

Mike: The outcome of this championship match is painfully obvious, so I’ll use the time and space to make it known that this feud is a disgrace. I can only assume that when Mickie James made the choice to return to the WWE (having significantly added to her hardware haul during her time away), she desperately hoped that in this age of female empowerment and revolutions and being a star she wouldn’t suffer the same ignominious fate as the first time around, reduced to playing the straight lady through drek like “Piggie James” that would have made the Mad Magazine writers hold their nose.

Fortunately, she was correct. WWE has indeed moved on from those dark days, and now we fight about much more civilized items like…age. Because Mickie is frickin’ old, so old she needs protective undergarments and denture cream. This is the best we can do, the physical manifestation of Jerry Lawler patter trotted out against Mae Young in the Attitude Era? At least that was rude but accurate. This is just mean-spirited and ridiculous. Girl can wrestle. Get a clue.

Mickie could win to justify even bothering to give it another go. But she’s napping now. Hardy har.

Winner (and STILL Raw Women’s Champion): Alexa Bliss

Matthew: I want to be kind to this match, but this feels like a transitional rivalry. Something to hold stuff over while we head into an important direction soon afterward… I just don’t really know what else is left for Alexa. Are we biding time until Asuka kills her? Is she going to drop the title before then? Who is her most interesting challenger?

Let’s entertain that Mickie does win here… where does that put the division? It’s weird, the best stories in the division are Sasha vs Bayley and Asuka’s Ascent. Other than that, everything feels not quite as well thought out, exciting, or promising. Not the fault of any of the talent. It’s the writing. Needs to be better and work for more than just a few women. Set up interesting stories, characters and directions. It should be a web of stories and there are basically only two or three strings.

Winner and Still Raw Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss (because I truly enjoy her presence as a character despite her not having much to do story-wise)

John: They have wrestled several times before and the match was just okay. Mickie’s a great worker with plenty of experience while Bliss can sometimes get lost out there or simply looks out of place because her offense looks so weak. I think the fact that they have a story with Bliss as a heel champion that trashes James because she’s older makes it easy to hate Bliss while James is likable as the veteran trying to prove she can still go, which she can.

This is one of those times where I’ll go with my heart over my head. I want Mickie to win because she’s my favorite of course, so I’m going to pick her. The problem with the pick is that Mickie pinned Alexa clean on Raw in a tag match, which usually means the person that was pinned will get the win in the PPV match. I just think it makes sense to put the title on Mickie if WWE wants to eventually put it on Nia Jax towards the end of the year or perhaps around the Royal Rumble. Jax vs. Bliss wouldn’t be a good match or feud, so they would need a face to win the title. That’s why it makes sense to me.

Winner and New Raw Women’s Champion: Mickie James

 

Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles

Kurt: Three. That’s how many times it took for WWE to jump the shark with The Demon personal. Remember how excited we were two months ago when Balor brought back The Demon? It’s such a super cool persona and extension of Balor. Now they were going to waste it in a match that looks like something Lucha Underground would come up with when they were drunk. They’re still advertising Finn as “The Demon” against AJ, which would just be asinine. The Demon is for special occasions. This is not a special occasion. He has no animosity towards AJ so why would The Demon come out? It’s ridiculous they’re giving away this match with no buildup, even though I’m sure they’ll tear the house down with 20+ minutes given to them.

As good as this will be, and there’s no way they won’t have a match of the year candidate, it doesn’t erase all the damage they’re doing to Finn.

Prediction: Finn Balor (Strictly because it’s a Raw show, so you can’t have a SD Live guy win)

Mike: One of the most dreadful matches on the card became a dream match for many, as out of the ashes of Bray Wyatt’s odd Victor/Victoria crossdressing Abby Normal angle comes the big news that replacing him on Sunday for a date with Balor will be none other than WWE’s reigning MVP, Smackdown’s own AJ Styles. This is a great decision on many levels, not the least of which is that Finn can put his Demon costume back in mothballs for now and just focus on wrestling. Somehow he’s gotten less interesting since putting on makeup, and this is a great chance to right the ship.

Styles can go with anyone, obviously, and I have to assume he’s next in line to dethrone Jinder after the India tour and perhaps get that other match we’ve been collectively salivating for against Shinsuke Nakamura. I fully expected Sister Abby to get the nod here, but AJ’s presence in the match truly means it could go either way. Balor’s in a bit of a holding pattern for now, but with this being a Raw branded show you’d assume they want to protect him. Styles could never win again and be a stud.

Winner: Finn Balor

Matthew: I’m not a fan of this for multiple reasons. Firstly, this is a potentially huge match that could have been saved for somewhere better. A place where there’s a rivalry. A match with something on the line. Maybe even real emotion or storytelling? Instead we get it on two days notice at a nothing PPV. If that wasn’t bad enough, Michael Cole just got done on Smackdown saying that Survivor Series is the only show where Smackdown Superstars and Raw Superstars can face one another. Yeah I know it’s all BS, but if you demonstrate that the brand split and the rules that you state don’t mean anything literally right after you set the parameters, then why the hell am I watching?

I get it, it’s business and they need to give the fans in attendance something big because they can’t deliver The Shield and Bray Wyatt now. But as far as continuity, storytelling, world building and following their own structural framework goes, this is a slap in the face. Again, I get the business interests involved, but frankly, as a fan/consumer of the television product, and a storytelling enthusiast, the business concerns don’t mean much to me. You’re breaking the construct that these shows are built on for no narrative reason, and will likely ignore it afterward because all this is for is to get out of a jam.

The match will also be really good and I’ll have to check it out eventually, but I’m just super annoyed it’s happening here.

Winner: Finn Balor (because all I can do is guess with no narrative or consequence surrounding this bout)

John: This match is going to be too sweet. It’s going to get 20-30 minutes probably and could be one of the best WWE matches of the year.

To the haters and complainers, I know it would have been better if they promoted it for a month and made it a big deal. I agree. I’m also giving WWE some credit for making the best of a bad situation with wrestlers dealing with an illness and trying to make good with the fans. They’re saying, “here’s a great match” so try to enjoy it. I sure will.

Plus, we don’t have to see The Demon vs. Sister Abigail, which is a boring feud that should have ended after Balor beat him at the last two PPVs anyway. Sounds good to me, but I do hope Bray Wyatt feels better from his illness.

It will be interesting to see if Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson are involved in a backstage segment with these guys in some way. The history is that Balor was the leader of the Bullet Club in New Japan earlier this decade, which Gallows and Anderson were a part of. When Balor left for WWE, Styles signed with New Japan and he was the leader for a couple of years until signing with WWE in early 2016. Perhaps Gallows and Anderson will be a part of the festivities somehow.

I think Balor should wrestle without “The Demon” look, but since WWE advertised him in that gear it appears as though he’s still going to appear that way. Do they to it too often? Yep. Kids like it, I guess.

I’ll go with Balor getting the win because I think they want to give him momentum heading into a match against Brock Lesnar possibly at the Royal Rumble. If Styles wins, that’s fine too. I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure they both are as well.

Winner: Finn Balor

 

Tables, Ladders & Chairs 3 on 5 Match: Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose & Kurt Angle vs. Braun Strowman, The Miz, Kane, Cesaro & Sheamus 

Kurt: I know what you were gonna say. “Kurt, you’re a hypocrite. You’ve been yelling for The Shield to reunite since SummerSlam and now that they have, you’re against it.” I get it, and you’d be right. Here’s the problem though, this isn’t The Shield. This is Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, & Roman Reigns teaming up. There’s a HUGE difference. Look at this past Monday’s tag title match. The Shield in their original incarnation came down through the crowd, no matter what combination was in the match. On Monday though, Seth and Dean still came out to their own individual entrances. How am I supposed to buy in that this a long-term reuniting (we all know it’s not, but you can still make me believe it is because it’s not hard) when everyone is still themselves individually? The Shield was a bond, a family, that was together in EVERYTHING. WWE brought them back together just to sell some tickets, and it couldn’t be more apparent with how they’re presented. Their new shirt even has their individual logos on it. It’s not something to make the product more interesting, it’s just a money grab. For that, I can’t get behind it as much as I would love to be able to. It’s ironic though, because even though it was a money grab, ticket sales are clearly not going up and last week’s Raw DROPPED by 200,000 viewers in the ratings. It’s even more ironic that poor sales for this event is what prompted WWE to bring The Shield together and now they won’t even get that.

I have so many issues with Kurt Angle being in this match. First off, the most logical substitution would be Matt Hardy. It’s a TLC match and we just celebrated the 18th anniversary of the ladder match that put The Hardys on the map (No Mercy 1999). Plus, he’s not doing a damn thing now. Did that just make too much sense for WWE? Also, Angle’s first match in 11 freaking years and it’s in a match that HE made 5 on 3. Is the story going to be that he feels guilty for putting The Shield at such bad odds? Without Roman, it also makes Kane irrelevant now.

It seems like a much easier solution would be Dean and Seth vs. The Bar in a TLC match for the tag titles, then have Miz issue an open challenge and have Angle accept it. It’d be a really nice surprise and also be a match that makes way more sense. You can just leave Kane off the show and Braun unfortunately does become the odd man out. However, he just took a crippling loss to Brock Lesnar and he really can’t afford another one, so not having a match wouldn’t be the worst thing. Hopefully he’s nowhere near the decision. They’re teetering on blowing it with Braun.

Prediction: Rollins, Ambrose, Angle

Mike: At least we know now why this event is called TLC. I thought it’s because they don’t go chasing waterfalls and don’t want no scrubs. RIP to Philly’s own Left Eye. We could start with the good if you’d like, because up to this point that’s been pretty challenging to do: With Roman Reigns sidelined, we are getting a ginormous gift in Kurt Angle returning to active competition. It’s damn true! In addition, this will be a fun match due to the stipulation and the overstuffed nature of it. This is clearly the reason to watch this show. You wanted the Shield reformed, you (sorta) got it. Consider it your spoonful of sugar while the arsenic goes down. You get what you now pay $9.99 for.

A handicap match on its face is pretty awful anytime, but a necessary evil in wrestling where the bad guys have to get their advantages to keep things interesting. A handicap match with two extra participants is a difficult thing to nail as far as tempo goes, and this one perhaps even harder since Miz also brings at least two other wrestlers to the ring to help him in a match with basically no rules. Add in preggers Maryse just for laughs and this could potentially be an eight and a half to three advantage. And I’m not even counting the Cesaro Section.

The main problem here is that you can’t possibly bring Angle out of mothballs to have them lose, particularly since they are now incredible underdogs in the same sense that the biggest guy wins the Royal Rumble. As for the heel side, it’s no big thing to have Miz and friends get the deck stacked in their favor and come up short. That’s basically their whole gimmick. I promised myself I wouldn’t call them The Bar, but given that I’ve had to retreat to it several times to run down this card, here we are. They likewise can be sacrificed. Even the returning Kane, who hasn’t been a compelling character for a decade plus, can be jettisoned easily enough. (Gotta wonder how this gig helps his chances of getting elected, but it worked for the Donald.)

Braun Strowman, however, should be in this kind of match in reverse. His presence makes the match quite literally bigger, but it also makes him look really lame when even with all this help his side fails to get the duke. I could envision him walking out on Team Miz, and maybe some Survivor Series implications, but wow this main event will struggle to hold my attention. Throwing random stuff into a bowl doesn’t make it a salad. And heaven knows I hate salad.

Winners: Team Angle

Matthew: That was unexpected. The news today about Roman threw everybody for a loop, and the addition of Kurt Angle to Seth and Dean’s team sent everybody into a frenzy. Here’s the thing: I get why they decided to do what they are doing. They lost selling point of The Shield. I would guess that given recent attendance, tickets weren’t exactly flying off the shelves either. They wanted to do something to draw an audience, and Kurt Angle wrestling his first WWE match since his return certainly does that. With that being said, I’m all the way out on this match.

I thought they were wasting The Shield reunion by having them come together to face a random assortment of heels from Raw. This hodgepodge of dubious dudes wasn’t quite worthy of The Shield reuniting, but it was happening. Now they’ve doubled down on the foolishness and are giving away Kurt’s return to the ring in literally the most useless, unimportant and uninspired ways possible. Kurt’s first wrestling match should be part of a story. It should have weight and depth and consequence. This right here, is nothing and I hate it.

I get that they have to sell more tickets, but as a viewer that is literally none of my concern. Just like it really isn’t my concern if a movie makes a lot of money at the box office. It may be interesting to talk about, but as a viewer/consumer, I literally only care about the quality of the product, not how much money the company can make off of it. There’s no story here. There’s nothing that can come of this that will make sense or be interesting on a story level. As a creative presentation the match quality may be the same, but the story is even dumber than it already was. I’ll also say that a TLC on a couple days notice, probably isn’t the safest environment for a Kurt Angle return either. It’s hard to put into words my level of displeasure.

I wish they’d just have changed it to a TLC to decide the #1 Contender for Brock. The Miz, Braun Strowman, Kane, Finn Balor and the winners of Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (in the opener) would compete for the honour to face Brock next for the Universal Championship in a 6-way TLC match that Finn would win to set up that program for after Survivor Series.

Winners: The Shield and Kurt Angle (but what does it matter at this point?)

John: The whole point of this show was built around the return of The Shield, so now that the plan is out the window it left WWE in a major hole. If I had to guess the replacement I wouldn’t have guessed Kurt Angle even though I am a huge fan of the man and am very much looking forward to seeing him in the ring. It would have been nice to have some sort of build up to it, but this illness going around in WWE prevented that, so this is WWE’s way of trying to make the best of the situation with a big name replacement.

Would I have put Angle in this match, which would be his first WWE match in over 11 years? Probably not because they have only had two days to let people know about it. That’s the kind of thing that should have been built up over time. I see WWE’s side of it too, though. They have a show to do, they need to keep people interested even with Reigns out of the match and word of Angle’s return to the ring should help in that regard.

Regarding Angle’s health going into the match, I’m think he’ll be okay and WWE wouldn’t have put him in this spot unless they were sure. Maybe he was coming back for Survivor Series or the Royal Rumble or some other match in the near future, so perhaps that led to this decision. Angle wrestled plenty of times last year when he stopped working for TNA regularly and had some matches earlier this year too. It was simply WWE choosing not to use him. Angle will turn 49 years old in December, so he’s actually one year younger than Kane. I am concerned a bit about Kurt going full blast in a match that could see him go through a table or try something off a ladder, but I would hope that with all of his experience that he’s smart about it.

This is one of those PPVs where I would actually be okay with an in-ring promo early in the night because they need to tell the story of Angle wanting to prove himself in the main event. Have the heels led by Miz talk about how much they want to beat him up, which leads to a big brawl and teases the main event. Since WWE is in a tough spot where they had to advertise this match without any build, they need to try to figure out some storyline for it that involves more than just wrestlers using Twitter to say how excited they are.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the match changes again because they can add guys like Jason Jordan and Matt Hardy to the face team to make it 5 on 5 although WWE may be hesitant to do that because that’s what Survivor Series is for. I just think with Angle in there, it means there is less reason to do a 3 on 5 match. It made some sense with Reigns. I’m just throwing it out there that they may decide to change things up again.

If this was The Shield against five guys I would have picked them to win for sure, but with Angle replacing Reigns I think the better story is having the heel side win. That can lead to Reigns coming back whenever he’s healthy to help his Shield buddies beat the bad guys. Having the faces lose won’t hurt them because it’s 3 on 5. I think Strowman is most likely to get the win for the heel team, but it’s possible it may be The Miz too since he’s very good about bragging about things like that.

Winners: Braun Strowman, The Miz, Kane, Cesaro & Sheamus 

 

BONUS TOPICS!

Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: I’m sure they’re going to go balls to the wall despite all the issues, so it’s still the TLC match.

Mike: I look forward to handicap matches like I look forward to dental surgery. Styles/Balor all the way.

Matthew: Balor vs. Styles by a wide margin.

John: It’s definitely Balor vs. Styles. I’m also looking forward to Angle’s return just because I’m a huge fan of the man.

 

Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: It originally was Demon/Abigail, but now I’ll say the kickoff match.

Mike: Clearly Banks/Fox, because I’m not sure you could locate a person on this orb who would care about that.

Matthew: Tie between all the matches that aren’t Balor/Styles and maybe the Women’s Title Match.

John: Banks/Fox because they had a boring match last week that I don’t want to see again.

 

Longest Match

Kurt: The TLC Match. There’s 8 guys in the match for a reason.

Mike: Certainly the TLC main event. Lots of people and lots of crash spots equals lots of time. Styles/Balor will also get a while, and every moment of it will be fantastic.

Matthew: Shield Reunion vs. Hodgepodge Gang!

John: I think Balor vs. Styles is going to get close to 30 minutes and I would put TLC at around 25, so going Balor/Styles there.

 

Shortest Match

Kurt: The Cruiserweight tag match.

Mike: Not sure if Asuka will obliterate Emma since they had a competitive battle at TakeOver and there’s lots of dead air here. So I’ll say Banks/Fox takes less time than Gulak’s PowerPoint presentation.

Matthew: Kalisto vs. Amore.

John: Asuka vs. Emma should be a quick win for Asuka.

 

Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Kurt: It was a 1 with the original card. Now, despite my issues with logic, there’s no denying Balor/AJ and Angle’s return has to increase my excitement so I’ll say 2.5 now.

Mike: Originally, I had this card labeled a 1. Finn/AJ brings that number higher as a matter of rote, and Angle’s first-in ring action since returning to WWE is a big moment no matter what. I’m not going all in by any means, but my outlook is now a much rosier 5.

Matthew: 1. I was at a two but these changes have irked me as a serialized viewer.

John: I was at a 3 with the regular card, so I’ll bump it up to a 5 thanks to the Balor/Styles match and Angle being in the main event.

 

Final Thoughts

Mike: You will likely remember this show for being the debut of the excellent Asuka, the return of the fantastically gifted performer Kurt Angle, or the day the music died. Possibly all three. It’s a bit confounding how thin this is, and I personally think it’s less an indictment of no Brock (who’d be biding his time in a cameo here anyway) than an utter illustration of WWE to make compelling feuds for its midcard stars. This feels like one of those Monday Nitros Eric Bischoff rewrote an hour before airtime. There’s always a chance it goes better than expected, but color me doubtful. Three hours of programming each and every week and this is the best Monday Night Raw can do? Ouch.

As a final postscript due to the adjustments, I’m giving the early hero of the show award to viral meningitis. It did what WWE creative could not do and made this card better with a couple of additions. Well done. I’m also interested to see how this alliance with the two Shieldsters affects Kurt’s day job as GM, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. In the meantime, here’s to you, viral meningitis! You may cause vomiting and nausea, but this PPV would have done a much better job of that without ya.

John: Is the card better after replacing Reigns with Angle and Wyatt with Styles? Yes. We can poke holes in the logic all we want, but in terms of match quality and anticipation for the show, it’s better right now than it was a few days ago.

That’s all for us. Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. My review will be posted on TJRWrestling.net on Monday morning because I won’t see it live.

Kurt – @KTankTMB

Mike – @DharmanRockwell

Matthew – @MJDP_GSE

John – @johnreport

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.