WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2018 Review

wwe tlc 2018

WWE Tables, Ladders and Chairs was the last WWE pay-per-view of 2018. It was the 10th TLC event built around stipulation matches and several titles on the line.

I wrote this on the Monday morning after the show.

Kickoff Show results:

Buddy Murphy defeated Cedric Alexander to retain the Cruiserweight Title.

Elias defeated Bobby Lashley in a Ladder Match where the winner had to grab a guitar above the ring.

WWE Tables Ladders & Chairs (TLC)
From the SAP Center in San Jose, California
December 16, 2018

The show earned the TV-PG and “V” for Violence rating on WWE Network. That’s standard in this era.

There was an opening video package hyping up the big matches on the show. It lasted for about three minutes.

The arena was filled with tables, ladders and chairs all around the ringside area, the aisle and the stage. The crowd in San Jose was vocal as Michael Cole welcomed us to the show.

The team of R-Truth and Carmella entered with some San Jose Sharks gear to suck up to the crowd. They did their “What’s Up” rap to hype up the crowd. Their opponents in the Mixed Match Challenge finals are Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox, who entered along with the Singh Brothers.

The announcers for this match are Michael Cole, Vic Joseph and Renee Young since they were the announce team for MMC for the entire season.

Mixed Match Challenge Finals: R-Truth and Carmella vs. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox (w/Samir and Sunil Singh)

Truth with a cross body block on Mahal followed by a backslide for a two count. Truth got a rollup for two. Fox tagged in meaning Carmella had to go in. Truth and Carmella hit a double hip toss leading to the heels bailing to the floor. Truth and Carmella had their “dance break” spot with the crowd cheering. The Singh Brothers went into the ring for a dance break of their own. Truth dumped Samir and Sunil out of the ring. Fox got back into it with a swinging neckbreaker for two. Carmella hit a headscissors to take down Fox, but Fox came back with a hair whip followed by the Northern Lights Suplex that she does very well. The women did a double clothesline spot. Truth got the tag against Mahal with Truth hitting a flying headscissors, a spinning heel kick, Sunil with a distraction, Truth with an elbow to the face and Fox did a blind tag. Fox put on her captain’s hat. Truth put the captain’s hat on his head, so she kicked him, she went for a superkick and Carmella went in with a superkick for two as Mahal pulled Carmella off. Truth sent Mahal over the top to the floor and Carmella kicked Samir out of the ring. Fox with a sloppy pin attempt, Carmella got out of it and slapped on the Code of Silence leg submission around the head. Fox quickly tapped out at 5:50.

Winners by pinfall: R-Truth and Carmella

The win means that R-Truth will enter the men’s Royal Rumble at #30 and Carmella will enter the women’s Royal Rumble at #30.

Analysis: *1/4 The match was sloppy at times, especially with the girls at the finish, but they got through it. It was a decisive victory for the faces. I think the match time was fine because it went longer it would have been bad, so going around six minutes is fine. I expected the face team of Truth and Carmella to get the win. I think the right team went over as the faces that the crowd is strongly behind.

After the match, Kayla Braxton went into the ring to interview the winners. Carmella said it feels FABULOUS that they won. Carmella said that not only are they the last entrants in their Royal Rumble matches, they get to go on a trip. Truth said he submitted the submission for where the team is going. She thought Barcelona, Rome, Rio de Janeiro or Paris. Truth said that they are going to WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut! He was really excited about it, while she was not.

Analysis: That led to some comedy segments where they go on a trip to WWE’s headquarters. What a payoff to this Mixed Match Challenge show. Now that’s sarcasm!

There was a commercial for the Royal Rumble on January 27. It’s in Chase Field in Phoenix, which is a baseball stadium, so it will be a big crowd.

The New Day trio entered for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. The Smackdown announce team took over with Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and David Otunga, who was filling in for Byron Saxton, who was sick. Phillips said he’ll be back during the week, so I assume that means he’ll be back on Tuesday. I doubt I’ll even notice the difference aside from Graves arguing less with Otunga than he does with Saxton. The Usos were up next with the crowd giving both face teams good ovations. The Bar duo of Sheamus and Cesaro were up last as the Smackdown Tag Team Champions.

The Spanish and German announce teams were shown at ringside. Good luck to their tables surviving the show.

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) vs. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston of The New Day (w/Big E) vs. The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso)

Two wrestlers start the match while the others must stand on the apron to wait to be tagged in.

Sheamus and Kingston started with Kingston hitting a dropkick early in the match. Woods with a sliding clothesline, Kingston with a splash and Woods hit an elbow drop for two as the others broke up the pin. The Usos sent Cesaro and Kingston out of the ring leading to Jey wanting to do a dive, but Cesaro hit an uppercut to block it. Woods tried an attack, but Sheamus caught him with a backbreaker for two. The heels took control with quick tags as Sheamus and Cesaro hit a double team elbow drop on Woods for a two count. Cesaro grabbed a headlock. Woods with an elbow on Sheamus followed by the Honor Roll clothesline. Sheamus tagged in, knocked both Usos off the apron and Sheamus drove Woods into the turnbuckle. Woods set up Sheamus on the top rope leading to a dropkick from Woods. Kingston tagged in against Cesaro with a dropkick, jumping clothesline, Boom Drop legdrop and Jimmy tagged Kingston to become a legal man in the match. Kingston dove onto Cesaro, who held him up for a suplex and Jimmy hit a cross body block on Kingston for a two count. That was a mistake by the referee because Kingston was no longer legal. Kingston rolled up Jimmy for two. Jey tagged in, double kick by the Usos and Jey decked Kingston and Woods with superkicks. Jimmy hit Sheamus with a superkick. Cesaro jumped off the top and Jey hit him with a superkick. That was a great sequence. Samoan Drop got two on Kingston. Jey up top, Cesaro tagged himself in, Jey with a splash on Kingston and Cesaro whipped Jey into the ring post. Cesaro covered Kingston for two. Cesaro picked up Kingston leading to the Cesaro Swing that went more than ten revolutions. Cesaro slapped on the Sharpshooter submission on Kingston leading to Woods jumping in with a DDT on Cesaro. Sheamus tagged in, punched one of the Usos off the apron and Sheamus set up for the Brogue Kick. Sheamus went for the Brogue Kick, Kingston avoided it and got a rollup for two. Kingston with a double foot stomp to the chest. Woods tagged in. Kingston hit a Trouble in Paradise kick on Sheamus and Woods jumped off the top with an elbow drop, but Jey and Cesaro broke up the pin at two. Cesaro with uppercuts to take out both Usos. Kingston with a dropkick that sent Cesaro out of the ring. Kingston up top and hit one of his trust fall dives onto both Usos and Cesaro on the floor. Woods with punches on Sheamus, plus a jumping kick to the head, but Cesaro held Woods’ leg, so Woods kicked him. That allowed Sheamus to recover leading to a Brogue Kick from Sheamus to Woods for the pinfall win at 12:15.

Winners by pinfall: The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro)

Analysis: ***1/2 It was a very good match as expected from the three best teams on the main roster and guys that have worked together a lot in the last couple of years. They have a lot of chemistry together. I liked the spot with the Usos finally getting into the match leading to a superkick fest. My pick was The Usos, but I have no problem with the champs retaining. The Bar do well as heel champs and either of these face teams could win the titles back at any time. I think The Usos will be the next challengers since Woods of the New Day is the one that got pinned. A rematch between these three teams doing a Ladder Match would be cool. If WWE were to move some talent to different shows with Vince McMahon’s shake up, I can see The Usos or New Day going to Raw to help that tag team division immediately.

A commercial aired for WWE Shop shilling WWE merchandise on sale ahead of Christmas.

A video aired promoting this Monday’s Raw and the return of Vince McMahon with the idea that Vince is going to “shake things up” on Raw.

The Raw announce team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Renee Young were at ringside to call some Raw action.

The announcers went over highlights of the Baron Corbin storyline with Braun Strowman with Corbin and friends destroying the right elbow of Strowman. That led to Strowman missing TV for the last month or so.

Baron Corbin made his entrance in his TGI Friday’s gear. The referee in the ring for this TLC match is Heath Slater. Corbin had a big smile on his face because he thought that Strowman wasn’t going to show up for the match due to his injuries.

Corbin did a promo saying he understands there have been complaints about his performance as General Manager-elect. Corbin said that he listens to us and respects what we think, so he said “too bad” and “get used to it.” Corbin said that after this referee counts to ten, Strowman loses by forfeit and Corbin is the new permanent General Manager. Slater called for the bell.

Slater started the slow count with Graves claiming this was the best thing that happened to Slater. Slater reached a count of seven when Braun Strowman’s music started up and the Monster Among Men made his entrance to a huge ovation. Strowman had his right arm in a sling.

Tables Ladders & Chairs Match: Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin

Strowman made his way down to ringside and grabbed a microphone. Strowman stood on the apron as fans chanted “get these hands” for him. Strowman said that while Corbin was out here flapping his gums, Corbin forgot that in a TLC match there are no disqualifications. Strowman said therefore, if somebody wanted to help him, like somebody that’s sick and tired of dealing with a crappy General Manager…it would be perfectly legal.

That led to Raw wrestlers showing up around ringside including Apollo Crews with a steel chair. Chad Gable and Bobby Roode had steel chairs with Graves wondering what they were mad about since Corbin gave them a title shot that they won while Cole noted they got beat down by AOP several times. Finn Balor was there with a chair as well. Those four guys all stood on the apron. Slater took off his referee shirt and the fans cheered as Slater threw the shirt at Corbin and decked Corbin with a punch.

The four men with chairs hit Corbin the back with a chair shots. Corbin tried to walk up the ramp to get away, but Kurt Angle showed up to stop him. Angle received a HUGE pop from the fans. Angle was wearing one of his shirts and he grabbed a chair. Angle hit Corbin in the back multiple times, so Corbin went into the ring. Roode and Gable hit a neckbreaker into a moonsault on Corbin. Crews went up top and hit a Frog Splash on Corbin. Angle joined the fun with an Angle Slam on Corbin. Balor went up top and hit a Coup de Grace double foot stomp. Slater put the referee shirt back on. Strowman put one foot on Corbin and Slater counted the pin to end the match.

Winner by pinfall: Braun Strowman

Analysis: I’m not going to rate it as a match because it was just an angle to put an end to this boring Corbin reign of terror. I thought it was well done because it was everything it needed to be with Corbin getting his ass kicked by the faces of Raw that have had to deal with him. I liked the way it was done with Angle being brought back to keep Corbin from leaving and getting his revenge. The fans loved it, so it was a fitting end to this storyline.

After the match, Jojo announced that Corbin was the loser and that he’s no longer the GM of Raw. Strowman was announced as the winner. The win for Strowman means he gets to challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 27. The wrestlers celebrated the win with the fans cheering. The fans were very happy about that outcome, which is no surprise.

Analysis: This was exactly what it should have been. I thought that maybe Strowman would win in quick fashion, but the way they did it worked perfectly with others getting involved. The reaction from the crowd showed that they liked it as well.

A commercial aired for the movie Aquaman that premieres this Thursday.

There was a brief recap of the Natalya storyline with Ruby Riott to set up their Tables Match. The only way to win is to put your opponent through a table.

Natalya was up first as the face. There was a sign in support of her late father Jim Neidhart. Ruby Riott had her buddies Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan carry out a table that had the image of Jim Neidhart on it, which we saw on Raw. That table was displayed in the aisle outside the ring.

Tables Match: Natalya vs. Ruby Riott (w/Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan)

Riott took control early as she slammed Natalya down face first into the mat. Natalya with a German Suplex. They left the ring with Natalya sending Riott into the table a few times, but not hard enough to break it. The women battled on the apron with Natalya trying a suplex. Liv Morgan went on the apron, so Natalya hit a Spear that led to Morgan bumping off the apron and through the table. The referee called for other refs to take care of Morgan. Back in the ring, Natalya hit another German Suplex on Riott and she hit a dropkick into a table that took out Logan on the floor. Natalya sent Riott into the side of the apron and the barricade. Natalya: “You don’t want to mess with my family, bitch” and hit Riott with a hard slap. Natalya set up for a Powerbomb through a table on the floor, but Riott fought back and Natalya sent Riott into the barricade. Logan tried an attack, Natalya was ready and Natalya gave Logan a body slam through the table. Riott capitalized on that by sending Natalya into the side of the apron. Riott went over to the Anvil table and said that he was ashamed of her. Riott whipped Natalya into the steel steps at ringside. Riott brought the Anvil table into the ring. Riott put the table up against the turnbuckle. Natalya managed to put Riott into a Sharpshooter to weaken her even though there are no submissions in this match. Riott managed to flip the table and the table hit the back of Natalya. Riott took about 30 seconds to get back up to set up the table in the ring. Natalya managed to put Riott on her shoulders and delivered an Electric Chair Drop slam into the ring after the table was tipped over. Natalya grabbed a table from under the ring that had Ruby’s image on it. The fans cheered when they saw it as Natalya smiled about it. Natalya also put on her dad’s Hart Foundation jacket and pointed up to the heavens to salute her dad. Natalya set up the Riott table by the turnbuckle. When Riott tried a Riott Kick, Natalya caught her and Riott came back with a kick to the face. Riott put Natalya on the Riott table. Riott went up top, Natalya tripped her up and Natalya sent Riott face first into the table. Natalya climbed the ropes, Riott with another kick, Riott teased a hurricanrana, Natalya caught her and a Powerbomb by Natalya connected for the victory at 12:40.

Winner: Natalya

Analysis: **1/4 It was a solid match with a creative finish. I thought it dragged a bit in the middle and maybe went a few minutes too long, but they worked hard enough to make it work. I liked the way they had Natalya take out Morgan and Logan leading to Natalya being able to focus on Riott. The right woman got the win with Natalya getting revenge after Riott tormented her for the last month or two.

Post match, Natalya celebrated the win and put on her dad’s sunglasses. The fans cheered the win.

Analysis: That was probably the end of this storyline, at least for now with Natalya getting her revenge.

A commercial aired for the WWE 2K19 video game.

A video was shown featuring Lars Sullivan, who is “lurking” and coming to the main roster soon. He let us know that we have never seen a freak like him.

Drew McIntyre made his entrance. A clip aired from two weeks ago with Dolph Ziggler beating McIntyre due to Finn Balor. McIntyre got his win back over Ziggler last week on Raw. Finn Balor entered to a big ovation. No “demon” gear in case you are wondering. Renee claimed that Balor has become a “rebel” on Raw. I don’t think that’s going to work as a nickname if they try it.

Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre

McIntyre took control with a clothesline followed by a chop to the chest. Balor came back with a dropkick to the left knee. McIntyre set up Balor against the turnbuckle, but Balor came back with a kick to the leg. McIntyre got a hold of Balor and hit an overhead suplex throw all the way across the ring. McIntyre with a hard whip into the turnbuckle leading to trash talk from McIntyre telling Balor to fight. McIntyre with another throw across the ring. McIntyre slapped on an armbar on the left arm. McIntyre powered Balor back up into a suplex for two leading to McIntyre grounding Balor again by grabbing the left arm. Balor with a running forearm followed by a double foot stomp to the chest. Chop to the chest by Balor and a satellite DDT by Balor that was impressive. Balor with a clothesline that sent McIntyre out of the ring followed by a somersault dive over the top. Back in the ring, McIntyre hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a two count. Balor countered a slam attempt into a rollup for two. Balor with a jumping kick to the head. Balor went up for the Coup de Grace, but McIntyre stopped him with more chops. Balor’s chest was all red from the chops he took. McIntyre put Balor on his back, hooked him with his arms and Drew jumped off with a slam off the middle ropes for a two count. Good spot. Balor pulled the apron to trip up McIntyre, but McIntyre tripped up Balor to send him face first into the apron. McIntyre with a headbutt. Dolph Ziggler showed up at ringside and he nailed McIntyre with a superkick. Ziggler had a steel chair and McIntyre kicked it into Ziggler’s face. The referee never saw the superkick, so there was no DQ for it. McIntyre rolled Ziggler into the ring. McIntyre had the chair, so Balor kicked the chair into McIntyre’s face and Balor went up top with a Coup de Grace double foot stomp for the pinfall win at 12:20.

Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor

Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid match with a result that surprised me because McIntyre has been booked strongly. It’s not like it was a clean loss, though. There was a lack of excitement because there wasn’t much offense from Balor. Ziggler’s involvement is why McIntyre lost, so it gives McIntyre something to complain about. If you want to be picky, you could complain about Balor kicking a chair into Drew’s face leading to the pin because that should be a disqualification. Since there are always rematches in WWE, they’ll probably do this match again on Raw in the near future with McIntyre getting his win back.

A video aired of WWE fans Coleco and Lily getting engaged three years ago and they are still married today. They have a son now. It was a segment sponsored by Kay Jewelers.

There were videos shown of Randy Orton’s attacks on Rey Mysterio with a steel chair over the last month while Mysterio got revenge with a chair this past week on Smackdown.

Rey Mysterio entered first for the Chairs Match with the crowd giving him a good ovation, but they were not a loud crowd. The international row of announce teams were shown: Portuguese, Russian, Japanese (hey Funaki), Hindi, French (hey Ray Rougeau) and Mandarin. Graves did his usual comment about seeing one of the guys at the bar. Randy Orton made his entrance.

Chairs Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton

The action quickly went to the floor with Mysterio hit a chair shot to the back. The attack continued in the ring with Mysterio hitting chair shots to the ribs and another chair to the back. Mysterio went for a corner attack, Orton moved and Orton hit Mysterio in the back with a chair. Mysterio kicked Orton out of the ring. Mysterio grabbed a chair and did a sliding splash with the chair onto Orton on the floor. That was very creative. They battled outside the ring with Mysterio going for the seated senton on Orton a chair, but Mysterio moved and Mysterio took the chair right to the groin. Ouch. Orton slammed Mysterio face first onto the announce table that had a chair on it. Back in the ring, Orton got a two count. Orton wedged the steel chair between the top and middle rope against the turnbuckle. Mysterio with a headscissors that sent Orton into the chair, but Orton came back with a powerslam for two. Mysterio tripped up Orton by the ropes, Mysterio to the apron with a jumping kick and Mysterio went up top, but Orton blocked his attack with a chair to the legs leading to a two count. Orton wedged a chair between the middle and bottom turnbuckle. Mysterio with a kick to the face, chair to the back and the 619 kick connected. Mysterio up top, Orton tripped him up and Mysterio was crotched on the top rope. Orton swung Mysterio face first into the chair, so apparently those kinds of chair shots are allowed. Orton did it again. You could see Mysterio using his hand to take the blow. Orton set up four chairs in the ring and opened them up in a seated position. Orton wanted a RKO on the chairs, but Mysterio came back with a kick, Mysterio kicked Orton onto the chairs and Mysterio jumped onto the shoulders leading to a rollup pin in a seated position for the victory at 11:30.

Winner by pinfall: Rey Mysterio

Analysis: **1/4 The match was disappointing because a Chairs Match is tough to do. In a regular match given the same amount of time, they would have hit three stars at least. Instead, we got this. There are limitations to what they can do, so that hurt the match. The best moment was the sliding chair attack that Mysterio did onto Orton on the floor. The way the finish was done means that Mysterio barely won, so it protects Orton to not have him lose to a finisher. I picked Mysterio to win because it made sense in the story to have him get revenge. As I mentioned with Drew/Finn earlier, I can see them doing a rematch of this match with the heel Orton getting the win.

Finn Balor was interviewed by Charly Caruso in the backstage area. Balor said he was happy with the win, but he didn’t know what Dolph Ziggler was doing there. Ziggler showed up and said he was lucky he was there. Balor told him to stay out of his business. They got into a brief fight with Ziggler tossing Balor into a container and leaving.

Analysis: It was announced later that Balor and Ziggler will have a match on Raw.

A commercial aired promoting Vince McMahon on Raw again. A commercial also aired for the Edge and Christian Show on WWE Network.

The video package aired for Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax.

Nia Jax made her entrance first as the challenger with Tamina by her side. Ronda Rousey was up next to a good ovation. There was a “Go Home Ronda” sign facing the camera, so somebody didn’t like her. Most of the fans liked her, though.

Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax (w/Tamina)

The first few minutes featured Rousey using her speed to try to get away, then she got a hold of Jax with an armbar, but Jax rolled over and hit a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. Jax with a running splash against the turnbuckle followed by an elbow drop for two. Jax whipped Rousey shoulder first into the ring post and Jax hit a running attack onto the left arm of Rousey. Jax went for a suplex and Rousey transitioned into an armbar, which was impressive. Jax managed to roll to the floor where she whipped Rousey into the barricade. Jax with a weak looking armbar rest hold. Rousey came back with a headscissors to counter out of a slam, Jax charged, Rousey moved and Jax hit the ring post. Rousey went to the top rope and hit a cross body block off the top onto Jax on the floor. That was impressive with Rousey connecting perfectly. Back in the ring, Rousey with a step up knee followed by a step up forearm strike to the face. Rousey up top, she went for a cross body block, Jax caught her and Jax hit a Samoan Drop for a two count. Good nearfall because that’s a move that Jax has used a lot of times to win matches. Jax with a running splash against the turnbuckle. Jax put Rousey on her shoulders, she walked to the middle rope by the turnbuckle and Rousey flipped out of that with a Powerbomb out of the corner for a two count. Jax went for the armbar on the right arm, Tamina with a distraction, Jax hit Rousey in the back and Jax wanted the punch. Rousey blocked the punch, took down Jax, told Tamina this is for her, Rousey kissed the fist of Jax and Rousey slapped on the armbar on the right arm. Jax quickly tapped out to give Rousey the win at 10:50.

Winner by submission: Ronda Rousey

Analysis: ***1/4 That was pretty good. It was better than I thought it would be. Ronda Rousey continues to impress in big matches. Rousey is impressive in terms of how she sells moves while her offense continues to improve. Jax deserves credit for her work as well because she busted her ass selling for Rousey while also utilizing her power. The power of Jax helped to tell the story of Rousey making those impressive comebacks. The cross body block by Rousey on Jax on the floor was a big spot that the match needed. I thought the finish was clever with Rousey kissing the fist of Jax before the armbar submission. The result of the match was no surprise because I think most of us expected Rousey to win. If she loses that title before WrestleMania I would be very surprised.

Post match, Rousey celebrated with the Raw Women’s Title. The announcers put her over for how impressive she was as replays aired of the key spots.

A commercial aired for some WWE action figures called Sound Slammers. There was another WWE Shop commercial.

Nia Jax was shown walking backstage with Charly Caruso walking up to her. Jax shrugged her off as she grabbed her arm selling the pain. Becky Lynch walked up to her: “Remember when you broke my face?” Lynch kicked Jax in the ribs and hit her with a punch to the face. Lynch told Jax to keep her name out of her mouth. Lynch left while Tamina went running up to Jax to check on her.

Analysis: There’s a bit of a follow up to the Jax/Lynch story from a few months ago. There will be more to come between them, I’m sure.

The video package aired for the WWE Championship match with Daniel Bryan defending against AJ Styles. It focused on the title win by Bryan leading to his heel turn, so this is the rematch for Styles.

AJ Styles was interviewed behind the curtain by Kayla Braxton. Styles said that there’s no difference between the new Daniel Bryan and the old because they are both beatable. Styles said he’s let Bryan push his buttons long enough, he’s played his game and tonight, Bryan plays AJ’s game.

AJ Styles made his entrance to a big ovation from the crowd. That’s normal for him as one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE. Daniel Bryan made his entrance to boos. Bryan had dragons on his knee pads, which is pretty cool since he was known as the “American Dragon” before his WWE days. The men stood in the ring as ring announcer Greg Hamilton introduced Styles and Bryan with Bryan being introduced as the “New Daniel Bryan,” so that’s a nice touch.

WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles

The match began with Bryan bailing to the floor as Graves called them two of the best in-ring performers of our generation. I agree with that. Bryan teased going back in the ring, but then he backed out like a heel again. Bryan finally got in the ring, Styles with a headscissors followed by a kick to the chest. Styles went for a dropkick, Bryan held onto the ropes, Styles connected with a dropkick and hit a clothesline that sent Bryan over the top to the floor. Styles went for a forearm over the top to the floor, but Bryan countered with a kick to the ribs. Bryan whipped Styles into the barricade. Bryan worked over Styles with kicks to the ribs followed by a running knee to the ribs. Bryan drove a knee to the back of Styles leading to Bryan bending the torso of Styles. Bryan with hard chops to the chest, Styles came back with punches of his own and Bryan punched Styles in the ribs. Bryan set up Styles upside down against the turnbuckle and wrenched back on the neck of Styles. Bryan worked over Styles with a kick to the ribs followed by a forearm to the face. Bryan kicked Styles out of the ring. Styles went back in the ring with punches, Bryan with a kick to the gut and they each got rollups for two. Bryan with a drop toe hold into the middle turnbuckle. Bryan hit two running corner dropkicks and Styles countered a third one with a running clothesline that led to a flip bump by Bryan. Styles came back with strikes followed by a clothesline along with stomps to the side of the face. Bryan bailed to the floor, Styles punched him and sent him into the steel ring post. Styles rolled Bryan into the ring leading to Bryan doing the heel tactic of begging off. Styles hit the Ushigoroshi knee to the back of the neck for a two count. Bryan countered a suplex with a knee, Styles went for his reverse DDT, but Bryan blocked that leading to knees to the face and a neckbreaker across the ring. That was great. Bryan worked over Styles with the Yes kicks and he connected with the roundhouse kick to the head for two. Styles avoided a suplex attempt leading to a jumping kick to the head. Styles with a forearm smash followed by a leg whip to the left knee and Styles drove Bryan’s left knee into the ring post three times. Styles with a chop block to the back of the left leg. Bryan with a kick to the face. Styles went for a Styles Clash, Bryan slipped out of it and Styles transitioned to a single leg half crab submission. Bryan managed to transition into the LeBell Lock submission since it’s not called the Yes Lock anymore. Styles got out of that leading to two counts for both guys. Bryan with a kick to the head and Styles with a jumping Pele Kick to knock the champ down. Fans chanted “this is awesome” for them.

Styles and Bryan got into a slugfest with the fans cheering for Styles while booing Bryan. Spin kick by Bryan, who was limping to sell the left leg injury. Bryan charged for an attack, but he was met with a dropkick from Styles. Styles hid a springboard 450 Splash into the ring for a two count. That looked great and was a believable nearfall for the challenger. When Bryan got back to his feet, Styles slapped on the Calf Crusher on the injured left leg with the fans screaming for Bryan to tap out. Bryan managed to roll over to the bottom rope to break the hold, which led to Bryan rolling to the floor. The fans chanted “this is awesome” again. Bryan sent Styles towards the barricade at ringside, Styles jumped over it and hit a forearm off the barricade to put Bryan down. Back in the ring, Styles jumped off the top with a Phenomenal Forearm attempt, Bryan moved, Bryan went for the knee, Styles moved, Styles grabbed an inside cradle and Bryan countered with an inside cradle of his own for the pinfall win at 23:55. Mr. Small Package does it!

Winner by pinfall: Daniel Bryan

Analysis: ****1/4 Great match as expected by them. I think going 24 minutes this deep into a long show may have hurt them a bit because the crowd wasn’t into it early, but they were vocal towards the end of it. There was a bit of a slow, methodical pace to the match because that’s the style of the new Bryan. Each guy worked over body parts, which helped to tell the story of the match leading to several near submissions. It could even be explained in the story that Styles couldn’t kick out of the small package because Bryan worked over the ribs so much. Since it was booked like such an even match, it tells the fans that if they have another match, it can end at any time, even on a small package. I expected Bryan to win, so that result didn’t surprise me. In the preview, I noted that I wanted it to be a submission win to really put Bryan, but doing it this way is fine. This could lead to a rematch or it could be the end of the rivalry for now since Bryan won clean.

Ronda Rousey was backstage with Natalya looking happy about their wins. Charly Caruso showed up for an interview saying that after Survivor Series, Rousey said that after she gets past Nia Jax, the next chapter with Charlotte Flair is still to come. Rousey said that payback is a bitch and she’s the baddest one on the planet. Rousey left.

Analysis: It was foreshadowing what was coming later.

A video aired promoting Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 27.

It’s official for the Royal Rumble: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman for the Universal Title. This week on Raw, Finn Balor faces Dolph Ziggler. Plus, Vince McMahon is back.

The video package aired for Seth Rollins defending the Intercontinental Championship against Dean Ambrose. It showed the Raw Tag Team Title win from two months ago on the night Roman Reigns announced his leukemia and later that night, Ambrose turned on Rollins. This is their first televised match since the turn of Ambrose.

Dean Ambrose made his entrance in a blue/brown jacket and grey pants. The sirens are a part of his entrance music now. No gas mask for the entrance. Seth Rollins got a big ovation for his entrance with the “Burn it Down” chant right on cue. The crowd popped big for Rollins as he posed in the ring. They stood in the ring as Jojo the ring announcer introduced them in the ring since it’s a title match.

Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

The match began with the announcers bickering with Graves making smart ass comments about Dean being married to Renee with her trying to avoid talking about it. After a few minutes, Rollins hit a clothesline off the top rope, two forearms against the turnbuckle and Ambrose bailed to the floor. Rollins charged at Ambrose on the floor, Ambrose caught him and sent Rollins face first into the announce table at ringside. Ambrose with an elbow to the back of the neck and sent Rollins into the ring. Renee was fired up talking about Dean having arm surgery and a staph infection with Graves joking that he’s sure Dean was a lot of fun. Renee said he went through some tough times, but he got through it. Cole told them to call the match. Ambrose jumped off the middle turnbuckle and hit an elbow to the face of Rollins. Ambrose slapped on a headlock. Ambrose with a hard whip into the turnbuckle followed by a clothesline. Ambrose to the middle ropes with an elbow to the head. Rollins charged, Ambrose avoided it and hit a neckbreaker for a two count. They got into an exchange of rollups, Rollins sent Ambrose face first into the turnbuckle and Ambrose hit a dropkick into the left knee. Ambrose slapped on the Texas Cloverleaf submission for about thirty seconds with Rollins crawling to the bottom rope to break free. Rollins hit a neckbreaker using the ropes for an assist followed by a leg drop to the back of the neck as they battled by the ropes. Ambrose blocked a suicide dive with a punch to the face. Back in the ring, Rollins with a Slingblade followed by a Blockbuster off the ropes. Rollins with a clothesline that sent Ambrose over the top to the floor. Rollins hit two suicide dives out of the ring. Rollins went up top, Ambrose with a punch and Ambrose went for a superplex. Rollins went for a sunset flip Powerbomb off the top, but Rollins collapsed to sell the knee. Rollins came back with a Buckle Bomb into the turnbuckle for two. Rollins with a kick to the gut, Ambrose with a knee to the ribs, they exchanged strikes and that led to a cross body block collision in the center of the ring.

Rollins went for kicks to the body, Ambrose avoided a head kick and hit a sitout double chickenwing facebuster for a two count. Ambrose was on the top rope, Rollins went after him, Ambrose tripped him up on the top rope and Ambrose hit a clothesline for a two count. It sounded like the fans were chanting “this is boring” which the announcers didn’t mention, of course. Rollins with an enziguri kick to the head and a ripcord knee strike to the face. Rollins up top, he jumped off with a Frog Splash and Ambrose got the knees up to block. Ambrose got a two count out of that. Ambrose up top, Rollins countered with a superplex into a Falcon Arrow slam for two. Rollins was selling the knee injury after the nearfall, which did wake up the crowd a bit. Rollins told Ambrose “this was the fight you wanted you son of a bitch” and he hit Ambrose with punches. The fans were booing because they were bored. Ambrose stuck out his fist for a Shield fist bump, so Rollins stomped momentarily and hit a spinning forearm followed by a kick to the face. The action spilled out of the ring with Rollins hitting a Powerbomb into the barricade, which was the move that injured Finn Balor’s shoulder over two years ago. They went back into the ring with Rollins saying he didn’t want it to come to this. Rollins said this is for all of us and for Roman Reigns followed by a slap to the face. I think he called Dean a “son of a bitch” although the end of it was edited. Rollins charged in and Ambrose hit a Dirty Deeds DDT for the pinfall win at 23:01.

Winner by pinfall and New Intercontinental Champion: Dean Ambrose

Analysis: ** It was below average. This should have been a wild brawl with weapons. Instead, they just had a regular match that should have been shorter. This is an example of a match going too long when it really didn’t have to. It didn’t live up to the hype, nor did it match the quality of PPV matches they had in 2014 when the roles were reversed. I am genuinely surprised that they didn’t have a better match. The guys worked hard, so I’m not going to criticize Dean or Seth too much. This just didn’t feel like the epic match they should have had. They have been wrestling eachother at live events for the last two months, so I’m surprised this wasn’t better. Ambrose winning the title is what I thought would happen because Rollins has been in the IC Title picture for long enough. It’s time to elevate Rollins to that Universal Title level perhaps with a Royal Rumble win. The crowd chanting “boring” probably didn’t help, though.

Analysis x2: After the show, I was listening to Wrestling Observer Radio and Dave Meltzer said Vince was “furious” about Rollins vs. Ambrose match. I’m not that surprised. It was poor and did not live up to the expectations. They needed to have a brawl, not a regular match.

After the match was over, Ambrose clutched the Intercontinental Title in his hands while Rollins was down in the ring looking sad about what happened. Ambrose said that the title is in good hands now.

A commercial aired for WWE Holiday Week on USA Network this coming week.

The video package aired to set up the Smackdown Women’s Championship TLC match. Becky Lynch is the champion, Charlotte Flair was put in the match after her impressive showing against Ronda Rousey and Asuka won a battle royal to make it a triple threat match. On the last Smackdown before TLC, Asuka stood tall with a kendo stick attack on both women.

Asuka was up first to a good ovation. Charlotte Flair was up next to mostly cheers and some “woo” chants. She was looking pretty in pink in her peacock robe and she looked ready to go. She’s a 7-time Women’s Champion going into this match and was my pick to win it.

Becky Lynch was up last as the Smackdown Women’s Champion and she got an ovation that was as loud as anybody on the show. It was good to see “The Man” back in action after being sidelined due to a broken nose and concussion. Lynch posed with the championship.

The women stood in the ring as announcer Greg Hamilton introduced the three women. Lynch handed the championship to the referee, who put it on a contraption that was used to hang the title above the ring. The winner of the match is the first woman to climb the ladder and retrieve the title.

Smackdown Women’s Championship TLC Match: Becky Lynch vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair

The match began with Lynch shoving Flair, Asuka hit a dropkick on Lynch, Asuka worked over both women with kicks and punches. Asuka with running hip attacks on both women against the turnbuckle. Lynch with knees to the back of Asuka and she sent her to the mat. Lynch with a Bexploder suplex across the ring. Lynch worked over Flair with forearms, but Flair came back with an overhead suplex that sent Lynch out of the ring. Flair brought a ladder into the ring, Lynch brought a table and Flair set up the table against the turnbuckle. Flair kicked the ladder into Lynch’s face. Flair went for a charge at Asuka, who met Flair with a Codebreaker double knees to the face. Lynch and Asuka battled by the ropes. Asuka slammed Lynch off the ropes and sent her hard onto the ladder that was in the ring. Asuka set up a big ladder under the title, she took way too long, Flair showed up, knocked Asuka off and Flair sent Asuka to the apron. Flair tried to climb up, Asuka grabbed her and sent Flair into the table that was against the turnbuckle. That was a rough landing for Flair with the back of her head hitting the table hard. Most of the bump was on the head/neck instead of the lower body where it would be safer. Lynch got back into it with a missile dropkick that knocked Asuka off the ladder. The fans chanted “Becky” for Lynch. When Lynch tried a climb, Asuka pulled her off and Asuka hit a hip attack to knock Asuka out of the ring to the floor. Flair with a chair to the back of Asuka. Flair up top and she hit a moonsault onto both women with Flair’s arms connecting on the move rather than her body. Flair set up a table on the floor. Lynch got back into it with chair shots to the back of both women. Flair kicked the chair out of Lynch’s hand and sent Lynch into the barricade. Flair cleared off the German announce table. Lynch got back into it with a chair to the ribs of Flair and a chair to the back as well. Lynch set up a huge ladder by the announce table. Lynch put both women on the announce table. Lynch climbed up the huge ladder and jumped off with a leg drop onto the announce table. Asuka rolled out of the way while Flair took the brunt of the move. Something was muted, so I think Flair said a swear word that was edited out. Flair was rolling around in pain selling her ribs as the fans chanted “this is awesome” for them.

Asuka went back into the ring for a climb on the big ladder that was set up in the ring. Lynch got back in the ring to stop Asuka. As they battled on the ladder, Flair entered the ring with a kendo stick as she attacked Lynch and Asuka with the kendo stick. When Asuka was moving on the apron, Flair hit her in the back two times with a kendo stick. Lynch got back into it with a Bexploder against a table that was beside the barricade. Asuka took control when she got the kendo stick and destroyed Lynch with it. When Asuka posed by the barricade, Flair charged in and hit a Spear into the barricade, but the barricade didn’t break. That drew a huge reaction from the crowd and another “this is awesome” chant. Lynch went for a climb again, but Flair managed to stop her just in time. Flair and Lynch battled with each woman connecting with strikes. Lynch sent Flair face first into the ladder followed by a Thesz Press leading to punches. They left the ring again with Flair taking over with chops to Lynch. Flair put Lynch on a table at ringside. Flair climbed to the top rope and hit a Swanton Bomb off the top through Lynch and the table. That was impressive. Wow.

Flair went back into the ring and set up the ladder under the title. When Flair got near the top of the ladder, Asuka stopped Flair. That led to punches from Flair and Asuka. Lynch set up a second ladder and made a climb of her own as Flair knocked Asuka off the ladder. As Flair and Lynch were battling on top of the ladder, Ronda Rousey showed up and Rousey shoved the ladder over. The fans booed Rousey as she got her payback on both women and Rousey left up the ramp. Flair and Lynch were both down out of the ring. Asuka climbed the ladder in the middle of the ring, she reached up and Asuka grabbed the Smackdown Women’s Championship to win the match at 21:45.

Winner and New Smackdown Women’s Champion: Asuka

Analysis: ****1/2 That was an incredible match. They busted their asses to come up with some creative spots, all three women took some huge bumps and if I had to pick one of them that “stole the show” I’d go with Charlotte because she was all over the place putting over the others while still looking strong herself. There were a few moments in there where I thought Charlotte was doing a bit too much to the point where she might get hurt, but it looks like they all got through it unscathed. Rousey getting involved isn’t that surprising and it also gives Becky an out for losing since she can say she only lost because of Ronda. This also sets up the Royal Rumble match well because Becky and Charlotte can compete in that match while setting up a big spot with Nia Jax, so that should be interesting. I think I gave the same rating to Becky/Charlotte at Evolution and if I had to rank the two matches, I’d put that one slightly ahead of this match.

Asuka held up the title on the ladder as the fans cheered her. Lynch and Flair were shown looking frustrated at ringside. Replays aired of Rousey shoving over the ladder to knock over Lynch and Flair.

Asuka continued to celebrate while Lynch and Flair were upset about what happened. That’s how TLC ended after nearly four hours of content.

Analysis: I’m happy with the Asuka win. The reason I didn’t pick her to win is because she stood tall on Smackdown, which typically sets up the loss at the PPV. Nope. Not this time. Asuka hasn’t been booked that well on the main roster, so putting her over here in the main event of the show was huge for her.

This show had a run time of 3:56:39 on WWE Network.

Final Thoughts

It gets a 7 out of 10 from me.

The Smackdown matches carried the show with the women’s TLC match, Bryan/Styles and the Smackdown Tag Team Title match were the best matches. I think the women’s TLC match lived up to the hype while delivering a memorable ending that was controversial, which will also lead to some good stuff down the road. The Bryan/Styles match wasn’t the kind of match that every type of fan is going to like because of all the technical wrestling, but I really enjoyed it. The best Raw match was probably Rousey/Jax, which is another example of how impressive Rousey has been in her WWE career so far.

There were title changes with Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins losing their titles, but I don’t think anybody should be that sad about either loss since they are both favorites in the Royal Rumble. I hope the disappointing Rollins match with Ambrose doesn’t hurt his chances of a bigger push going into 2019.

In terms of the booking, I thought a lot of it made sense. I don’t know what Vince McMahon’s plan is to “shake things up” on Raw (they plugged it MANY times), but I think some things are set up for the future while other stories ended at TLC.

Five Stars of the Show

  1. Asuka
  2. Charlotte Flair
  3. Becky Lynch
  4. Daniel Bryan
  5. AJ Styles

That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.

My contact info is below.

John Canton


Twitter @johnreport