WWE TLC Review: Return of the (American) Dragon

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WWE’s annual TLC event took place Sunday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the main event, we saw the Kabuki Warriors put their WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships on the line against the best frenemies of Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. Elsewhere, King Corbin and Roman Reigns brought their simmering feud to a boiling point in a TLC match, and the host of the Firefly Funhouse, Bray Wyatt, defended his Universal Championship against the Miz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxTsBTo1vMk

The New Day (C) vs. The Revival

I’ve lost track of how many times these two teams have fought each other this year, but I really enjoyed this match. Scott Dawson was nursing his right knee early on, especially after Kofi connected with a ladder Dawson and Wilder were carrying to the ring. Speaking of knees, Big E tweaked his left knee on an awkward fall from the ladder twisting between the rungs. I thought all four men did a great job making use of the ladder as a weapon, such as the Revival pulling the ladder up to avoid a baseball slide before ultimately dropping the ladder on Kingston’s midsection like a portcullis. Minneapolis came alive after Kofi nailed a springboard DDT on Dawson after being pushed off the ladder and then hit a Trouble in Paradise on Wilder that was on the money. Big E nailed an explosion of a spear to Wilder through the ropes that was as exciting as it was terrifying. Throw in a few more splashes and suplexes off of the ladder, followed by a monstrous Big Ending off the ladder on Wilder and you have a hot start to the night. Very fun match.

Winner: The New Day            Time: 19:20     Rating: 3.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLVXcOqvfnY

Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy

I really like how WWE has built up the Black Mass since Black’s debut in the sense that it’s the equivalent of a shotgun blast to the face. To my knowledge, I think fewer than a handful of superstars have kicked out of the deadly kick. I just wish they put half of that forethought into Black’s push. Anyway, Black tried to nail one on Murphy right after the opening ring bell, which led to an excellent sequence of chain wrestling between the two men with mid-section kicks and arm drags. Murphy was able to take control of the match and slow down the momentum after slamming Black’s head on the ring steps, giving the former NXT Champion a broken nose. This reminded me a lot of Murphy’s previous matches with Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns on SmackDown over the summer where he looked like a valiant contender while taking a beating from his opponent. I really hope there are big things in store for him in 2020, as well as Black. This very stiff and very brutal match ended with an out-of-nowhere Black Mass kick that left me hungry for a few more minutes of actions. A very good match from two incredibly tough men.

Winner: Aleister Black           Time: 13:45     Rating: 3.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gG_PwtDExs

Viking Raiders (C) vs. The O.C. 

The Viking Raiders got a big reaction from the Minnesota Vikings fans in the Target Center. (Notice how they were wearing purple and gray paint and trunks)? Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about this match. It was an uneventful, meant-for-RAW tag match that ended with a double-countout that went over with the crowd like a fart in church. I enjoyed the KFC table spot (even though they left a lot of “food fight” possibilities literally on the table), but let’s try this again later on with a little more “oomph.” 

Winner: No Contest    Time: 8:30       Rating: 1.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJMvgB_AIgE

Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin

Roman came right out of the entrance way and took down every guard that came at him. King Corbin then ran at Reigns with a chair until Roman threw him into the stage. The two eventually worked their way through the crowd before returning to the ring, with Corbin taking control and slowing down the pace. This was a very non-violent TLC match overall, especially when WWE tried to compare it alongside clips of the Hardy’s and Edge and Christian. Yeah, there was a big Samoan drop on the German announce table and lots of stiff kendo stick shots, but this was just a fine match and a worse TLC match, which prides itself on being “extreme” and “unhinged.” I will admit, I enjoyed the interference by Dolph Ziggler and the Revival as well as the callbacks to the on-going Reigns-Corbin storyline with the reintroduction of handcuffs and dog food. I understand what they’re doing here with building a new “mini-faction” to give Roman greater odds to go against in an effort to make him more sympathetic to a crowd that’s already halfway decently behind him, but this was just fine.

Winner: King Corbin   Time: 22:20     Rating: 2.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDdU94ducZY

Bray Wyatt (C) vs. The Miz 

I loved the decision to give the Fiend a break and add some more depth to the Firefly Funhouse alter ego by having Bray wrestle here. Miz did a fantastic job as the strong family man staring daggers at the happy-go-lucky Wyatt taking in the ovations from the crowd. He made sure to get to his breaking-and-entering adversary first by flying at the champion with a kick and driving Wyatt into the corner. Bray offered little to no offense and took most of Miz’s chops with a huge, laughing smile on his face. Miz even “dislocated” Bray’s shoulder in the middle of the match, to which Bray rolled out of the ring and rammed his shoulder into the barricade to pop it back into place like this was all a fun game to him. After two Sister Abigail’s (one elevated outside the ring and one back inside the ring), Bray walked away with the victory; but not before he threatened to smash in Miz with a mallet to please the Fiend. I absolutely loved the in-ring storytelling of this match with Miz trying to exact revenge for Bray messing with the former’s wife and kids while Wyatt laughed all the way around the ring like a psychopathic lunatic. I want to see more of this version of Bray Wyatt. Add in the return of a clean-shaven Daniel Bryan and we have one of my favorite segments on the show. 

Winner: Bray Wyatt   Time: 6:40       Rating: 3.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcIglz3mU-Q

Rusev vs. Bobby Lashley

I don’t have a lot to say about this match, mostly because I loathe this storyline entirely. Lashley and Rusev are fine wrestlers, but this was just a paint-by-numbers tables match we’ve seen dozens of times in the past. There was a little bit of drama with counters near tables and both men’s bodies awkwardly falling away from falling into nearby tables. The match ended with Lana jumping on Rusev’s back and blinding him from a raging Lashley spear that almost sent Rusev crashing through a table (which would have been a halfway decently exciting ending). One more exploder suplex in the opposite corner by the former ECW Champion was all Lashley needed to take the victory along with Rusev’s (soon to be) wife. An okay match, but I pray this storyline is done after tonight.

Winner: Bobby Lashley          Time: 13:30     Rating: 2 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R23v-pMg5o

Kabuki Warriors vs. Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair

Before I say anything, I’m going to announce that I’m grading this match on a slight curve because Kairi Sane appeared to have suffered some form of a head injury during the match. Stuff happens, it’s not ballet, blah blah blah. Point being, we didn’t see a fully functional Sane during this match, so I’m not going to judge this match too harshly.

Charlotte and Becky ran right at the champions after the bell sounded off to exact revenge after weeks of torment, culminating with throwing Sane back-and-forth on top of the announce tables. I was a huge fan of the spot where Kairi was trying to run away from the challengers under the ring before ultimately spraying them with a fire extinguisher when they pulled her out. On top of that, Asuka wailing her opponents with a bull-rope was unexpected and exciting to see in a TLC match of all places. I loved the idea of putting Charlotte in an announcer’s chair and locking her in with kendo sticks before being pelted with a fury of kicks from the Empress of Tomorrow. With Charlotte tied up and put away, the Warriors used the bull-rope to tie up Lynch to a ladder and cut down their opposition in half so it would be easier to climb the ladder and win the match. Except…they didn’t do that. Charlotte came back up with a kendo stick to gain back some momentum and help un-tie her former friend. With momentum back on their side, the babyfaces made a final push to take down the belts and win the match. Unfortunately for them, a well-tied bull-rope around an upright ladder pulled the ladder out from under the Man, giving Asuka the opportunity to reset it and reclaim her half of her championships.

I enjoyed many of the creative spots in this match, but it was far too sloppy and incongruent to earn a higher rating. Lots of good spots, not a lot of coherent psychology. 

Winner: Kabuki Warriors       Time: 26:00     Rating: 2.5 Stars

Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this show overall from fireworks to fade-to-black. There were some obvious lulls and botches, but this was a very watchable show, in my opinion. Match of the night honors go to Buddy Murphy and Aleister Black, who barely edge out the New Day-Revival’s tag match as well as the Universal Championship match. My least favorite match was the “KFC presents the RAW Tag Team Championships” debacle.

Final TLC Rating: 2.5 Stars