8. RYBACK vs RUSEV
I was stunned by just how quickly the action began, with the ‘feed me more’ chants beginning within less than a minute, and subsequently the most furious that we have seen Rusev in a long time. This was a brawl that functioned as the polar opposite of the mad moments of the opener. And still, what’s not to love about Lana’s presence (aside from commentary finding her marriage to be more important than the match itself)?
I had very little faith in this match, having been set up just to give the League of Nations a token loss so not to dominate the night, but it appears that weakness was instead caused by the third intervention win out of three matches tonight, dragging the score down substantially. The right man won, but by the wrong method. Rusev looks weak in needing Lana’s help, and leaving the match, and Ryback looks terrible due to Lana’s help actually working on him.
7. PAIGE vs CHARLOTTE
The majority of this match was entertaining, but it demonstrated everything wrong with the booking in the Diva Division at the moment. For example, the match was a heel vs heel match (or at least, that’s how it seems) leading to very little care from the crowd. Worst of all though, it demonstrated better than anything the compromise of giving women so much attention – that the whole Paige/Charlotte feud is shaped around someone else – Ric Flair.
Paige delivered a figure-four lock. Charlotte gave a ridiculously forced Flair style sell as she wobbled on her feet. Ric Flair helped his daughter to cheat by tugging her towards the ropes during a pin, during which commentary discussed this dirtiness as though it were a good thing. It has become worse than the mention of ‘Daddy Rikishi’ in most Usos matches.
The right woman won, and most of the match was good, but the heel win again happened due to being the cause of an unsatisfactory ending, rather than the loss itself.
6. ALBERTO DEL RIO vs JACK SWAGGER
This was another match where the action began incredibly quickly (was there a hurry tonight? Had The New Day’s opening overran?) as they left the ring instantly to grab a chair each. As to be expected of this match, there was little in the way of personality, aside from a few spots, such as Del Rio increasingly angrily piling the chairs on Swagger. The ‘Si! Si! Si!’ chants seemed just as loud as the ‘We the People’ chants at certain points. The result was the most predictable as of yet tonight, under the assumption that John Cena will be instrumental in Del Rio’s loss of the title.
As infuriating as the call always is, Cole was right on noting “Vintage Del Rio”, with a Flying Nothing and a careless no sell of an ankle. However, being the first clean win tonight, his visible irritation shall be given the benefit of the doubt, being about ass interesting as chair matches generally get.
5. THE WYATT FAMILY vs THE ECW ORIGINALS
This was certainly one of the most intriguing and eagerly anticipated matches of the night, as well known figures of ECW tonight had a very important duty. For the time being, the torch is not being passed to Bray Wyatt from The Undertaker. However, their style means that the Dudley/Dreamer/Rhyno approach might instead be where The Wyatt Family belongs. At least as much as WWE will allow for them though, as there were a few diluted spots (with special mention going to Bubba Ray Dudley having a bin above his head, only to notice that he was in the WWE, and sneakily brought it down before trying to hit Strowman). It was a total mess, and it’s pretty obvious that that was the point all along, but it did not quite have the energy of opening ladder match.
Also upsetting was the lack of a Gore from Rhyno (as he clearly won’t deliver one for as long as Roman Reigns is around with his inferior spear), and the lack of a fire to close the match (which the commentary didn’t seem to care about what so ever). It is a massive pity that The Wyatt Family’s heel quality is now preventing the audience from seeing what they want to see, rather than just being nasty people. Still the right men won (though I still feel sorry for Erick Rowan being their jobber). It is also a pity that Wyatt wasn’t involved as much as he should have been, with his most memorable (and hilarious) spot being whacked with a kendo stick as he set up for Sister Abigail.
4. KEVIN OWENS vs DEAN AMBROSE
This was a result that nobody was expecting, and in spite of Owens’ reign being far too short (we can only hope that either an Ambrose/Owens feud begins for a reason more than throwing soda and popcorn, or Owens heads for the main title now that Reigns has his eyes on Triple H), the closure of this match was great, with a forgivable roll up by Ambrose. This match wasn’t especially brilliant, at less than ten minutes long (something quite irritating considering that they have everything needed for a massively furious match three times the length), yet everybody still cared a lot, and hopefully the cheer for Ambrose will resonate in upcoming bookings, also for Owens as he gets increasingly hacked off.
Speaking of people getting hacked off…
3. SHEAMUS vs ROMAN REIGNS
This match was plain odd, as the TLC main event match itself wasn’t much to write home about. Well, it was – just for all the wrong reasons. The crowd didn’t care. There were chants of “We want Cena!” and “Daniel Bryan!”. They were one “CM Punk!” away from completing WWE Creative’s nightmare unholy trinity of chants. As with The Wyatts vs Team ECW, the commentary was excruciating, though in this instance, one could tell that they were a bit stuck in battle with Boston.
This was the fifth match tonight to have its result shaped by interruption, meaning that I felt very ready to call this the worst match of the night. After all, if League of Nations are allowed in to help Sheamus, why was no one there for Reigns? But then, the “Thank you Roman” chants arrived. Who’d have thought it?
Were it anybody except Reigns in the ‘face’ spot, this match would have been received as far better than the groaning crowd gave the match itself credit for (it was a very long twenty-five minutes). However, the closure was both brilliant and diabolical at once. This was the fifth match tonight that a heel won due to the intervention of somebody else. And if the League of Nations weren’t being punished, then surely Reigns’ buddies are the biggest villains for not being there to do the same thing back at Sheamus. Yet this Reigns is the Reigns that fans have wanted since ever, as they’ve known forever that smiling babyface Reigns just does not work. In the space of one RAW, this could be wasted with an apology and terrible promo as WWE hope for everyone to be grinning about the fall of Triple H, or the turn to being the ideal, stern face of the company could be complete. Fingers crossed…
2. SASHA BANKS vs BECKY LYNCH
I’m due to be crucified for putting this pre-show match here. While the opening New Day-in-training promo section leaves a smear, this was the best match that either Banks or Lynch have had in the main roster, and was everything that the sadly (as of yet) fictitious diva mid-card should be.
There was a lot of online groaning when reflecting upon NXT history, as now marks one year since the breakthrough event NXT Takeover: R Evolution. In the time since Sasha Banks vs Charlotte, grabbed attention in spite of being on the same bill as the match-of-the-year candidate Sami Zayn vs Adrian Neville, and sparked the formation of The Four Horsewomen, this preshow booking comes across as a demotion. This is especially the case after these two’s incredible match at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable. So did this live up to it?
Not quite, as with no title at stake, and the majority of personality being based on their OTT characters, there wasn’t quite as much urgency. Still, it was good. Highlight: After a big entanglement of counters, Jerry Lawler amd Michael Cole not knowing how to call Becky Lynch sending Sasha face first into the canvas, by swatting Banks out of the air by a face to her crotch. “Ooh… her nose.” “Sasha going face first, erm…”.
The result was as good as one has come to expect. Becky Lynch has not been booked especially strongly, but this match did the best job yet of showing her off on the main roster. While Lynch entering to Charlotte’s music in Dublin was unforgivable, this hometown win for Banks worked out alright.
1. THE NEW DAY vs THE USOS vs THE LUCHA DRAGONS
It was inevitable, and some might argue that this main show opener should have been its grand finale, as nothing came close to living up to it all night.
I made a rather bold prediction that The Usos would win in a spectacular ladder match finale to The New Day’s reign, primarily as I refused to believe that The Reigns Family of Reigns, Ambrose and The Usos would not leave empty handed. However, it was quite the opposite, with both Usos knocked out, with Kalisto the man due to get the belts until Xavier Woods (who was fantastic on the mic, upstaging everyone else at the table, especially after JBL called Sin Cara, ‘Kalisto’) interfered. “Almost won, until defeated by a trombone” doesn’t look great on anyone’s resume, but it sadly belongs on Kalisto’s tonight.
Even though this closure meant that two out of two matches to this point had ended through cheating, this ridiculous display of mad spots (it took only two minutes for the Usos to wipe out everyone at once with a suicide dive), with special mention going to Kalisto’s Sadina Del Sol to Jey Uso, from atop a ladder (although there was an excruciatingly long wait by Usos for Kalisto to get to the top of the ladder). But that’s what TLC is all about, and it felt already as though this should end the show. Brilliant start to the night. After all, it takes one seriously special match for everyone to be happy with an ending that involved a guest commentator throwing a trombone into the ring.