Kurt Angle tried to open the show this week but was quickly cut off by the familiar strands of Roman Reigns’ music…err, I mean, the Shield, back in their riot vests, coming through the crowd and entering the ring. Rightfully so, Kurt backed down a bit and allowed them the time to talk (Reigns got booed a bit because WWE audiences can’t get over themselves); basically, they’re pretty high on being back together and getting the chance to take the fight to the Miz and his cronies. Although this brings out the Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Braun Strowman, Kurt forces them to wait until Sunday and books a cage match for tonight’s main event between Reigns and Strowman.
So, apparently, the slapped-together team of Matt Hardy and Jason Jordan is over with as Angle’s “son” teamed up with, of all people, Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews to take on (again, of all pairings) Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Elias. Surprisingly enough, this was the boost that Titus Worldwide needed as, after a blind tag, Crews came in and hit that awesome-looking spin-out powerbomb to get the win for his team. Apparently there is literally no team that the WWE will not job the Club out to, even perennial nobodies like Titus and Apollo. This wasn’t even a Jason Jordan showcase as he didn’t even get the win and I shudder at the thought of him wasting time feuding with Titus Worldwide as that’s not really going to help anybody.
The cruiserweights returned to their traditional mid-card slot this week as the match between Jack Gallagher and Cedric Alexander descended into anarchy when The Brian Kendrick and Rich Swann got involved. Cedric got the win after hitting the Lumbar Check…good for him, I guess, but, as always, it’s hard to care when the only storylines involving cruiserweights involve the belt.
Sasha Banks then beat Alicia Fox, because she isn’t facing Asuka at TLC and isn’t the number one contender so we have to make sure she’s kept strong and at the forefront! Enzo Amore and Kalisto then got into a verbal exchange to hype up their Cruiserweight Championship match at TLC; Kalisto immediately lost a load of credibility by proclaiming that he will be the next Cruiserweight Champion…even though he already has the belt. Anyway, Enzo apparently has more friends than he did the other week as resident cruiserweight heels Noam Dar, Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, and Ariya Daivari blindsided Kalisto and they all joined in in beating him up a bit. So, now that Neville has apparently gone, is Enzo being positioned as the lead heel in the cruiserweight division? If so, is this the WWE’s lacklustre way of giving him some cronies because, come on guys, not all heels have to get along and, as I mentioned, they didn’t the other week when every member of the 205 Live roster stood against Enzo.
Whatever. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins then took on Sheamus and Cesaro…again…this time without knocking any of Cesaro’s teeth out and again securing the victory. I guess this win was necessary to help sell the idea that, even though the Shield are against the odds on Sunday, then can still win matches and have a lot of momentum behind them. On the other hand, I think I would’ve preferred this match to have descended into chaos with the Miz and the Miz-tourage coming out and all five guys just kicking the shit out of Ambrose and Rollins; that would make sense, surely, to beat the opponents up before facing them at TLC, and also to make the stakes even higher?
Finn Balor promises to bring the Demon to TLC to show Bray Wyatt’s Sister Abigail what a real demon is…even though he already showed him this? Then Bayley and Mickie James sucked all of the momentum out of Emma by winning a tag team match against her and Alexa Bliss. Okay, but that’s an exaggeration; Emma didn’t get pinned, so she doesn’t look too bad, and it shows that Mickie can beat the Raw Women’s Champion (in a tag team match) but still…you could at least try to put some credibility behind Emma before she gets destroyed by Asuka!
Reigns and Strowman then revisit their feud from earlier in the year with a big time cage match to cap off raw; the stakes are that, if Reigns wins, the Shield/Miz match at TLC becomes a three-on-three but, if he loses, the Miz gains a mystery fifth partner (talk about overkill!) Anyway, the sight of these two massive guys just pounding the hell out of each other never gets old (wait…did I just say that?); Ambrose and Rollins came out to even the odds when Sheamus and Cesaro tried to interfere, leading to some awesome spots like Strowman suplexing Reigns into the ring from the top of the cage and Reigns and Strowman fighting on the cage walls. Reigns lands three Superman Punches (remember what I said about overkill) and the Spear and looks to win when…
KANE tears his way out from under the ring and kills Reigns with a Chokeslam, and another, then Strowman plants him with the Running Powerslam, then KANE hits the Tombstone Piledriver and, with the straps down (so you know it’s real!) Strowman hits another Running Powerslam and finally, finally manages to pin Reigns. Afterwards, in case you couldn’t guess, the Miz announces that KANE will be the fifth member of his team at TLC. Honestly, Kane’s return was genuinely shocking; the last time I saw him, he was losing to Bray Wyatt on SmackDown! Live so I guess this means that the blue brand is down another superstar? Also, I honestly thought Kane was done, considering his mayoral campaign and that he is obviously nearing the end of his career; I kind of hope that this is the start of his last run, leading to a passing of the torch match at WrestleMania between him and Strowman. More to the point, did we really need to see Reigns get hit with so many finishers before he was pinned? We get it, he’s “the chosen one”, but I think a simple Chokeslam, pin fall, and Running Powerslam after the match for emphasis would’ve been more…you know, subtle.
Now with 100% less Kane.
Not to be outdone, SmackDown! Live opened with Daniel Bryan coming out to chat. Unlike his Raw counterpart, he’s not really interrupted though; after he says he is disappointed in Sami Zayn for his genuinely shocking heel turn at Hell in a Cell, Zayn comes out to the same music, still dancing and happy-go-lucky, and cuts one of the best promos ever. He talks about how he’s still the same person but, now, he’s taken control of his career so that, unlike Bryan, he doesn’t give his all for the fans and get nothing in return. He criticises Bryan for being the authority that he once so strongly rallied against and says that Kevin Owens saved him from ending up a hollow shell like Bryan, so Bryan leaves to find some guys to punch Owens and Zayn in the face. The cliché is that great heels feel they are completely justified in their actions; Zayn pulled that off spectacularly here. Everything he said about being held down and not featured enough is true; I only hope that this actually leads to a significant push for him.
Naomi, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch then beat Natalya, Tamina, and Lana when Charlotte made Lana tap out. This was purely to continue to animosity between Charlotte and Natalya and did that quite well, I guess, but beating Lana is hardly sending much of a message.
Baron Corbin then officially cancelled the United States Open Challenge so that his opponent, Sin Cara (remember him?), was denied a title shot. In retaliation, Sin Cara won the fucking match by count out! The plus side was that Sin Cara actually looked motivated; the down side is that Corbin lost to Sin Cara by count out and he wasn’t even really hit with anything that substantial to justify being counted out! This reminds me of a long time ago when Wade Barrett was the Intercontinental Champion and he randomly lost a match to Sin Cara, leading to a really shitty mini feud between the two. You can’t, you just cannot, forget about Sin Cara and then suddenly have him beat mid-card champions for no reason at all! Especially a guy like Corbin, who should be regaining his momentum and squashing guys like this in seconds. Even if he does do that next week, who cares? Sin fucking Cara still beat him and made him look like a complete chump.
Jinder Mahal come out to brag about still being the WWE Champion and about being a hero in his home country; he then, inexplicably, challenges Brock Lesnar to a no-title, champion vs. champion match at Survivor Series because, apparently, he wants to die! This brings out AJ Styles, who lies (I think?) and says that Mahal ahs never beaten him; however, Mahal fires back by saying that, as AJ lost last week, he doesn’t deserve the face him for the belt, so AJ attacks him and the Singh Brothers. I actually disagree a bit here; AJ Styles was the United States Champion, which should really mean he is a serious contender for the WWE Championship even though he lost the belt and lost the rematch. As there is no other number one contender, it makes sense that the former United States Champion automatically becomes the next challenger for the WWE Championship, though it probably would’ve been better if AJ had won a fatal four-way match as it makes more sense for him to be in that kind of match as he is the former United States Champion. As for Mahal vs. Lesnar…who is that, in any frame of mind, a marquee match? Mahal, despite being the WWE Champion, isn’t even SmackDown! Live’s top superstar much less a credible challenger for Brock Lesnar to face. If Brock wins, SmackDown! Live and the WWE Championship is completely screwed; they will forever be seen as the B-show, more so than they are now despite the lies that the WWE fed us about the brand split. Yet, Mahal winning completely destroys Lesnar’s mystique. I’ve never wanted a disqualification or no contents finish more in my life.
Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler than had another one-on-one match, this time with Ziggler winning with a roll-up and tight pull. Hooray for 50/50 booking! Now they’re both a couple of losers!
Luckily, the main event made up for that debacle with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn establishing themselves as a credible heel team by taking on, and defeating, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamua, who are quickly becoming a regular little super-team. The finish came when Zayn hit a low blow on Orton and the Helluva Kick to pin him, which was a big win for Zayn and really great way to show that he’s not a nice guy any more. Honestly, I’d like to see these four guys transition towards the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship scene; pull the plug on Roode and Ziggler and team them up, as I’ve mentioned before, or Nakamura and AJ, and have a new SmackDown! Six thing going on where former/future World Champions compete in a variety of matches for the Tag Team Championships. Obviously, that would mean there’s not really anyone left to challenge Mahal though…either way, Owens and Zayn got the win and had a big ol’ hug to close the show.
Just a quick thing before I start; am I the only one a bit disappointed that a pay-per-view named TLC and known for featuring tables, ladders, and chairs has only one match booked to feature those objects? Kind of defeats the point of this event, really.
Kickoff Match: Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox
Didn’t we just see this match on Raw? Ugh, well, as I said, Sasha isn’t facing Asuka and isn’t the number one contender and yet still makes it onto the card so she’s obviously winning.
Asuka vs. Emma
The WWE have done a pretty good job of hyping up Asuka’s main roster debut as a big deal; I don’t recall a time when they’ve ever had superstars compete for the right to face a debuting opponent rather than a champion, so right off the bat you know that they’re telling you that this is a marquee match. Putting Emma in there allows Asuka to have someone to destroy without ruining their golden girl, Sasha Banks, or jobbing out Bayley or the Raw Women’s Champion. Therefore, Asuka is clearly winning but whether she can continue that momentum to anything meaningful is debatable given how the WWE tends to handle NXT call-ups.
Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann vs. Jack Gallagher and The Brian Kendrick
How about that? There’s two cruiserweight matches on the card and neither of them are on the kick-off show! It’s too bad that I don’t give two shits about any of these guys; neither does the WWE and, generally, neither do the audience. Who won on Raw? Cedric? Okay, then Gallagher and Kendrick will win here.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Kalisto (c) vs. Enzo Amore
Don’t be fooled by Kalisto’s lies; he is walking into this as the champion. This is a tough one to call; it seems obvious to me that this should have been the big dethroning match of the obnoxious, domineering Neville but, instead, Neville appears to have gone and, now, the belt has been hot-shotted onto Kalisto and the big question appears to be can he retain the championship here? Enzo apparently has all this heat backstage and stuff but I don’t see that reflected onscreen; Baron Corbin was denied a successful Money in the Bank cash-in because of his heat but Enzo got a title run because of his…and the merchandise sales and the crowd loving his shtick. I’m going to say that it’s been a long time since a face got a length or significant Cruiserweight Championship run so Kalisto will retain.
“The Demon” Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles
Yep, you read that right. Apparently, Bray Wyatt is out with a viral infection so, in a fantastic example of the WWE scrambling to salvage their pay-per-view, they’ve inexplicably slapped together this once-in-a-lifetime, WrestleMania-worthy match with no build, no hype, and nothing but online announcements. I am not unhappy that this match is taking place; I fully expect it to be the match of the night as far as work-rate and in-ring performance goes, as long as the WWE gives them time and doesn’t fuck them over with stupid referee bumps and nonsense like the AJ Styles/Kevin Owens matches. No, I’m more disappointed that it’s happening at TL-fuckin’-C without any build or anything; save it for next year’s WrestleMania and plug Jason Jordan in AJ’s place or, better yet, simply have Finn cut a spooky promo or get mysteriously laid out backstage and replace the match entire with Jason Jordan and Matt Hardy against the Club or something! I think I was going to pick Bray Wyatt to win this match, if only to not make the Sister Abigail thing a complete joke, but now it’s harder to predict as AJ is challenging Jinder Mahal. I think, because of that and because Brock Lesnar will probably murder Jinder at Survivor Series, SmackDown! Live will get a nod here and that AJ Styles will be the victor.
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James
I like Alexa too much to bet against here but, maybe, the WWE will award Mickie for all of the crap they’ve put her through in the past with a short run, kind of like they’re doing with Natalya? More likely, though, they’re going to want the smarmy, weasely heel champion to get her comeuppance against the no-nonsense, kick-ass ace challenger Asuka so I’m going to go with my gut…or something a bit lower than that…and say Alexa Bliss will retain.
Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Handicap Match: Kurt Angle, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz, Cesaro, Sheamus, Braun Strowman, and Kane
Remember what I said about Bray being ill? Apparently, Roman Reigns is also out of action and, out of the blue, again with no build or hype or anything, his replacement is Kurt-freakin’-Angle! Kurt Angle is returning to the ring with very little justification in one of the most dangerous matches ever conceived without any build. This is a monumental announcement and, if I were Kurt, I’d be more than a little nervous about this; Kurt’s not wrestled in the WWE for years and was very, very well protected in his matches in TNA/Impact Wrestling. Has he even trained for an in-ring return, much less a TLC match? As I mentioned before, surely Jason Jordan could have bee plugged in as his replacement? Or even John Cena? It just seems so crazy, even by the WWE’s standards, especially as there’s been a lot of speculation about whether Kurt would ever be deemed healthy enough to get back into the ring; I always assumed he would, at WrestleMania, against Triple H maybe this year or next year before officially retiring. I had a bad feeling about Kurt’s chances here. As with the Finn/AJ match, I think I was going to bet on the Shield to win this, despite the odds and how stupid that would have been. Now, though, I think we’ll see Team Miz take the win and that they’ll do the match proper at Survivor Series (where it always should’ve been, in my opinion) and, hopefully, see Kane and Strowman snap and begin that build to Kane’s retirement match at WrestleMania. Oh, also, I’d like to see the Miz score the winning pin.