By Matt Straub
I’m a huge fan of magic. One of the first things I booked when I took a trip to Las Vegas was Penn & Teller’s show. I don’t have the patience or hand-eye coordination to learn magic myself, but I’m going to try a simple trick you can do from home.
I’m going to try and make you care about tonight’s WWE TLC card.
Let’s start with this: Just by the nature of the show, there will be some violence. If you long for the days of the 1990s when ECW’s influence carried over into WWE and the shows became insane (remember the Hardcore title?), this is your kind of show. There will in fact be tables, ladders and chairs tonight. If you just like good, old-fashioned fights and violence, this could be a good show. There are plenty of chances for big spots off ladders and brutal spots with chairs and ladders.
What there isn’t, however, is interesting stroylines. Take the go-home Raw show, which featured a brawl between Sheamus and Roman Reigns designed to get you interested in their match tonight. Other than my shock of hearing a small pro-Roman chant, there was near silence during the fight. More important, there was no emotion from the crowd. Any wrestler will tell you he doesn’t care if he’s cheered or booed as long as there’s a reaction. What wrestlers can’t have is silence.
When your biggest match is eliciting silence, you might be in trouble. But can this show be saved? Will there be a show stealing match? Let’s break down TLC 2015 in Boston.
Ryback vs. Rusev
Matt's Breakdown: The kind of match Brad hates and Vince McMahon loves. Two big guys are going to strike each other for a while and one will pick the other up at the end. The match is upon us because Ryback broke up a makeout session between Rusev and Lana, who are back together because their engagement was publicized by TMZ, forcing WWE to change Rusev’s entire angle. In typical WWE fashion they didn’t even try to explain it, instead just putting the real-life couple back together on TV.
Ryback trying to turn the show back to wrestling is admirable, but not much of a reason for a PPV. This is especially true because, even for someone like me who likes big guys, Ryback can’t be seen as someone who is wrestling’s savior in some way.
Ryback picks up Rusev, but loses when Lana interferes.
Brad's Breakdown: I don't neccessarily hate this kind of match, as Matt said above, but I understand his reasoning for saying that. Two big guys in the ring doesn't have much chance of entertaining, especially in this day and age, where so many guys can do so many tremendous, athletic things in the ring. Back in the day, I wouild sit through a Hulk Hogan vs. Kamala match and be riveted, even though neither did much of anything in the ring. But athletes have taken over, and the big guys who can't do anything (Ryback) are just boring. Rusev is much better than Ryback and one of the big guys who can actually work in the ring, not high-flying stuff, but is believable as a guy who can beat anyone. He was great agianst John Cena, but of course, Cena destroyed Rusev's momentum because he protects his spot at the top of the card harder than Hogan did in WCW.
Anyway, Rusev wins because he has a future as a main-eventer. Ryback doesn't, no matter how sad that makes Matt.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day vs. The Usos vs. The Lucha Dragons (Triple Threat Ladder Match)
Matt's Breakdown: Speaking of saviors, the New Day’s act has become one of the few must-see parts of Raw. I never thought I’d say that a year ago, and I know I’m late to the party on this one, but they’ve become hysterical. If WWE can manage to keep them as a key part of the show without overexposing them, they should have another few months in them. They need to be on top of their game to make this feud interesting, The other two competitors are athletic, and could make this an exciting match, but they don’t offer anything to the story. This match will be fun by itself full of high spots, but that’s it.
The New Day cheats to win, but only after a lot of fun with the ladders.
Brad's Breakdown: The Lucha Dragons are here for the spots, where you're going to say wow more often than not, but they have no shot to win. The WWE likes the Usos and so do the fans, it seems, but they couldn't be more boring and lame. I get the Samoan chant and dance in the beginning, but man, it's just a boring way to start the intro. Get in the ring already. But they have a shot because the WWE might want to promote Total Divas on E! more, as one of the Usos is married or something to one of the divas. Riveting, I know. The New Day is tremendous, and while I was praising them months ago, I will admit I did want the trio to turn ultimatee heels, as in Nation of Domination style, not this goofy but great style of heels they are now. It works better than just about anything the WWE is doing right now.
So, somehow, someway, the New Day keeps the belts, although I could see the Usos winning with the hint of a New Day split, because the WWE destroys anything you or I love.
Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens
vs. Dean Ambrose
Matt's Breakdown: Another match which could be good. This also has some interesting storyline ramifications if WWE wants to push Ambrose. Owens needs some big wins over some important people, so he should go over here. As long as he doesn’t destroy Ambrose they can keep “the Lunatic fringe” strong, which is what should happen here. Ambrose’s character is such where he doesn’t even have to win to be over, he’s just fun. If WWE ever plans to make him a real title contender, however, they’ll have to give him a big win soon, but I don’t think this one is that match.
Owens wins a good fight which won’t be mistaken for a wrestling match.
Brad's Breakdown: First, "the Lunatic fringe" is the dumbest nickname or catchphrase in the history of wrestling, worse than "feed me more" and anything that comes out of John Cena's mouth. It makes no sense. And what really makes Ambrose a lunatic? Cause he wears stretchy jeans leggings and a tank top to the ring? Cause he makes crazy faces? Cause he doesn't get a regular haircut? I'm waiting for an explanation. Second, his bounce off the middle rope, which everyone seems to love, is the slowest, weirdest, lamest thing in wrestling that actually gets cheered. How in the world does the opponent not get ready for that move? It takes forever, it's easily seen and anyone who doesn't duck is just not paying attention. (Or is told to just stay there because, you know, it's wrestling, and doesn't have to make sense.) Needless to say, I'm not an Ambrose fan, for all those reasons, plus I don't really see anything special out of him in the ring either.
The opposite is true for Kevin Owens. He's actually great in the ring, because you can tell he cares to learn and grow as a wrestler. That's great in this day and age. He does an old-school villian role perfectly, although fans today are probably confused by it and don't understand what he's really doing. Owens should have won the WWE title tournament, as now we're stuck with Roman Reigns and Sheamus, who both stink, even though I hope Sheamus would be better received, Reigns is a lost cause at this point, no matter how much Matt fawns over him.
Owens should win this match because he's better in every single way. But this is the WWE, so Ambrose will win the title and Owens will hang around the mid card for the next several months, maybe years.
Divas Champion Charlotte w/ Ric Flair vs. Paige
Matt's Breakdown: Finally they are starting to use Charlotte properly, making her act like the daughter of Ric Flair. They’ve had to use Flair himself to get her there, but more Flair is never a bad thing, even if he even sounds old at this point. His days of mesmerizing promos are gone, but he can still command the room with his presence and will get Charlotte as over as possible. This might be one of those double-turn kind of things where, very subtly, the characthers shift so that by the end of the match, Paige is the face. It’s a shame the Divas revolution still doesn’t involve the new, more athletic women, but from a booking standpoint, I’m curious how they pull this off.
Charlotte cheats to win as a Flair should.
Brad's Breakdown: Why are they having this match again? Didn't these two wrestle on the last PPV and then the next night on Raw, with Charlotte winning both times cleanly? If my memory serves, then why the heck are we doing this again?
I also have no idea what Ric Flair is doing here, as he's so old and frail it's uncomfortable watching him in any kind of wrestling role. Just go away already, the spotlight doesn't want or need you. At least they will have to have this match near the early part of the card, as Flair has an early bed time. If Flair is in the picture for a double-switch, then why the heck did Paige just turn heel? Whatever, it's the second-tier divas in another title match. Joy. Charlotte wins ... again.
The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer & Rhyno vs. The Wyatt Family (8-Man Elimination Tables Match)
Matt's Breakdown: I’d love to have been in the room when someone said, “I know how to get the Wyatts over, let’s have them beat the Dudleys, killing their momentum, and two guys who haven’t mattered in 20 years!” WWE continues to mangle the Wyatts at every turn, having them lose big matches they need, then having them ruin people who don’t need more losses. I’m very glad to have the Dudleys back, but this feud is a disaster. Tommy Dreamer was a huge part of ECW 20 years ago. I get that they tried to keep things realistic by giving the Dudleys real friends to bring into the match, but the friends have been inactive for so long they feel useless. At least the Dudleys have been around. They still feel relevant. Tommy Dreamer is a backstage guy now. And Rhyno? I have no idea where he’s been. The good news about this match is it comes at TLC, meaning there’s a 1,000,000 percent chance weaponry becomes involved. It will be a good watch, even if it’s a totally random, messed up premise.
Not even WWE can mess this up. They can’t have the Wyatts lose this.
Brad's Breakdown: OK, this match is strange and weird and makes little sense, but it will be full of high spots, chair shots and a guaranteed gore through a table or garbage can, maybe both. That's going to make this one of the best matches on the card. Yes, I almost fell off my chair with the inclusion of Tommy Dreamer in the match, as he's probably 60 years old now. Rhyno, at last check anyway, was still working regulary in NXT, so bringing him up makes sense, maybe as a tryout to see how the crowd reacts and then giving him a full-time spot on the big stage. The Dudleys are the Dudleys and the Wyatts are the Wyatts.
No real need for a wrestling breakdown, because this is going to be a wild, crazy match that could steal the show. Wyatts win because there no reason for the other guys to win, even though they will get all the pops from the crowd.
United States Champion Alberto Del Rio
vs. Jack Swagger (Chairs Match)
Matt's Breakdown: Speaking of people who haven’t been relevant in years, hey, it’s Jack Swagger! These two are fighting over the honor of a former manager whose character is a racist. No, seriously. I’m not sure if they’ll have Zeb Colter go with the winner, but I’m sure it’s stunning to see him as the connection which sets up a match. The whole thing is stunning. Let’s just hope Del Rio gets something new after this match so we can forget this ever happened.
Del Rio wins after they hit each other with chairs for a while.
Brad's Breakdown: If it's a TLC PPV, then why is this match featuring just one of the letters represented in the title? Chairs are the least fun thing about it, and yet it's the stipulation of the match? OK. Matt's right, this is a weird match because it centers on a manager who I have no idea why is part of anything. He certainly isn't needed to get Del Rio over or Swagger for that matter.
Del Rio is on a huge roll and the WWE seems to love him, now especially, so his roll is going to continue. Contrary to what Matt said about Swagger being irrelevant, I take the opposite approach, as it's good to see new guys on the card as opposed to the same old boring characters the WWE pushes down our throats.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs.
Roman Reigns (Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match)
Matt's Breakdown: They tried to set this up, they really did. Sheamus cashes in his MITB briefcase and wins, screwing Reigns out of the belt he held for 5:15. Reigns, wanting revenge, gets put through all kinds of hoops by the Authority before getting the chance at the title tonight. It’s a fine build, and with the weapons available, these two big guys will have a pretty violent fight. But, as we talked about above, the match has no juice because the only thing the fans care about with either guy is how silly Sheamus looks these days. People are warming a little to Reigns, who will eventually have a Cena-type mixed reaction (though not as loud either way), but not nearly enough or a main even level match. It’s a disappointing end to what could be a solid show for a certain type of fan. There are no winners here, however.
Sheamus wins because Reigns is better as a chaser than he would be with the belt.
Brad's Breakdown: I mentioned it above, the fans don't care about either of these wrestlers. Sheamus, despite what I believe is a solid character and look, hasn't gotten over at all with the WWE crowd. Reigns, despite what the WWE believes and wants everyone else to believe, is terrible in the ring, on the mic and even his entrance is stupid. He's probably the worst main eventer I can remember. I'd rather see Kamala in this match than Reigns. As you can tell from reading above, Matt will continue to pray every night that the fans see what he sees, Reigns as a main event champion. Unfortunately, everyone other than Matt sees Reigns for what he is: a guy being handed something he doesn't deserve because of who his family is. Nobody with any kind of normal thought-process is going to get behind a guy like that. Steve Austin became so popular because he was the opposite of that.
I predicted in our last column that Reigns would win the championship tournament, against my will as you might be able to tell, but Sheamus would save the night and cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and win the title. Thank God that came true, because Reigns as world champion is a slap in the face to the fans.
Luckily, I believe the WWE is starting to see what the fans see, that Reigns is a pampered prima donna being handed the top prize without earning it. So, Sheamus will somehow get the victory and keep the championship. There will probably be a rematch that nobody will care about either.