Monday, October 23, 2017

WWE TLC Review

October 22nd, 2017 | Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota | Attendance: 13,381

Kickoff Match: Alicia Fox vs. Sasha Banks
Fox is in the midst of one of her random short pushes that get her on PPVs here and there. She was completely in character here, throwing tantrums throughout the match. Some were lame, but I did get an audible chuckle out of her shouting for the fans to do the referee’s job and count Sasha out. Her disdain when Sasha beat the count was pretty good, as well. She also did a nice northern lights suplex. Sasha didn’t do much of note, mostly bumping and allowing Alicia to do her character work. She won with the Bank Statement in 10:13. It was better than I expected and had the crowd engaged. Alicia’s character can be annoying, so I didn’t need to see as much of it as I did. [**]

Asuka vs. Emma
As a match, this was good. It featured some quality wrestling and Emma was fantastic. It really makes you wonder why she’s not better positioned on Raw. Could she not work as a feud for Bayley or Sasha when they’re out of the title picture? Or maybe move her to Smackdown, since their division isn’t deep. Anyway, the issue was that this was Asuka’s debut. She was hyped as something special, and then had a basic match where she fought from behind. That’s not good. Remember when Nakamura went 50/50 with Dolph Ziggler in his debut match? That didn’t turn out so well. I love Emma, but in kayfabe terms, she’s played the loser heel who mostly cares about social media. She should’ve lost in about half the time, getting overwhelmed by Asuka. The finish was strange, as Asuka was knocked to the floor, only to hit a kick and put on the Asuka Lock from out of nowhere. She got the win at 9:26. Like I said, other than the finish, the match is good. It’s just not what it needed to be. [**¾]

The Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher vs. Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann
Jack Gallagher debuted a new heel theme. He and Brian Kendrick played a great sneaky team here, while Alexander and Swann were an awesome face duo. They flew around the ring and showcased some great chemistry. Surprisingly, the crowd was quite invested in this, showing that these are some of the more over cruiserweights. The heat was worked on Swann and Alexander’s hot tag run was a blast. Kendrick applied the Captain’s Hook on Cedric, but Swann broke it up with a Phoenix Splash, which was rad. Swann went after Gallagher, leaving Kendrick free to take the Lumbar Check to end this in 7:54. Lots of action crammed into that timeframe. I’m glad the crowd was into this, as it was four of the best in the division. I wish Swann and Cedric weren’t stuck in the division, because they’d make a great team competing for titles. [***]

WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss [c] vs. Mickie James
This was another prime example Alexa fans should show people when they discredit her in-ring work. She reminds me a lot of the Miz a few years ago. She’s not blowing anyone away with her moveset, but she’s brilliant at working the crowd and being a damn good heel. She played off everything Mickie did so well. And Mickie brought it more than she has since the Asuka match last year. They told a story of a cocky heel underestimating their veteran opponent and getting in trouble for it. Mickie frustrated the champion throughout, always being one step ahead. Considering the things Alexa has said about Mickie lately, and Mickie dedicating the match to her son, seeing it get personal was fitting. They traded strikes like you rarely see in a women’s match. The crowd kind of died when Mickie hit a weak looking jumping kick off the top. Luckily, they didn’t go much longer after, as Alexa retained with a DDT in 11:19. Exactly what it needed to be. The wily vet fought valiantly, but just didn’t have enough in the tank. Alexa gets a clean victory in a very good match. It told a great story and the work was crisp. [***¼]

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Kalisto [c] vs. Enzo Amore
Enzo lost his voice, so his promo was kept rather short before the match. I’m not complaining. He’s great in this current role, but it doesn’t lend itself to great matches. He did a lot of running and avoiding Kalisto, knowing that he was outmatched. Unfortunately, not enough people seemed to be behind Kalisto and the crowd was dead for this. I don’t think it helped that they were salivating for Styles/Balor and this felt like filler. Kalisto had the advantage throughout, so Enzo use da thumb to the eye and Eat Defeat to regain the title in 8:31. Acceptable match, but not the best execution they could’ve gone with. The story made sense, it just wasn’t very interesting or entertaining. [*½]

AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor
We got “Demon” Finn here, though it didn’t make much sense in the context. Anyway, this was a dream match for a lot of people. The first two leaders of the Bullet Club had never wrestled in the past and this was only announced 48 hours earlier after Bray Wyatt got sick. They worked this like an NJPW main event in some ways. It started slowly, with the guys feeling each other out, before building to bigger and bigger spots. The fans were into everything they did, making for a great atmosphere. I was concerned that AJ wouldn’t be in top form, as he spent most of the day traveling, but he delivered his best work since WrestleMania (he’s been lackluster over the summer and was bogged down by Smackdown’s awful, awful booking). They both got in all their signature stuff, but worked it in a way that it made sense. It never felt like moves for the sake of moves. They both hit Pele kicks, which was kind of fun. I was hoping they’d both do Bloody Sundays. After hitting a super rana for a good near fall, AJ missed the springboard 450. Balor hit a huge lariat and shotgun dropkick, before winning with one of his best Coup de Grace stomps ever in 18:16. Despite things working against them, they had a great match. The atmosphere was wild and they had a great, clean match that felt like two guys trying to prove who was better. See, some matches don’t need long builds. While this was great, it felt like they could do better. Maybe when AJ’s not potentially jetlagged. [****¼]

Post-match, Finn and AJ “too sweeted” one another. FUCK THE YOUNG BUCKS!

Elias vs. Jason Jordan
On the Kickoff Show, Elias asked Kurt Angle for time to sing on the main show. Angle agreed, which was bullshit since they cut Drew Gulak’s PowerPoint presentation for time. Anyway, Elias sung twice, but kept getting interrupted by Jason Jordan (who Elias dissed on the Kickoff show) throwing random vegetables at him. Yea, I don’t get it either. Anyway, they had a match. It was there, though nobody will remember it. Jordan won via small package in 8:33, but replays showed Elias’ shoulder was up, so I’m sure they’ll rematch it on Raw. [**]

TLC Match: Braun Strowman, Cesaro, Kane, The Miz and Sheamus vs. Dean Ambrose, Kurt Angle and Seth Rollins
Kurt Angle came out in Shield gear and it was the greatest thing ever. Him smiling behind Seth and Dean, who were trying to look menacing, was my favorite part. Okay, so this was a hard match to rate. On one hand, it featured weird tropes and made little sense at points. On the other, it was a fucking blast and some of the most fun I’ve had watching wrestling in some time. It was smart to have the Shield start hot, because it was a good way to get past the numbers game. Kane and Braun were taken out with elbows through tables, allowing for an even 3-on-3 situation. Braun awoke and put Angle through a table, giving us the medics spot. That left us with a LONG 5-on-2 beat down of Ambrose and Rollins. With the heels in control, Kane accidentally hit Braun with a chair, leading Braun to shove him on his ass. Peace was kept until they reached the top of the stage, when Kane attacked Braun again. He chokeslammed him through the stage and buried him under chairs like his name was Wade Barrett. There was a very weird idea to bring a garbage truck into play, that made no sense. Anyway, Braun woke up like a villain in a horror movie, and kicked Kane’s ass. He hit everything moving, until his teammates overwhelmed him. Then, Braun was thrown in the trash compactor and they turned it on. I hate spots like that in wrestling. Like, he should technically be dead, but I’m sure he’ll be on Raw like it was no biggie. It just feels dumb. Angle returned for the big, heroic save, and went wild. Miz ended up left alone with his three opponents and took all their finishers. They finished him with the Triple Powerbomb (complete with Angle doing the Reigns yell) at about 35:09. Like I said, this was bonkers. It was like Vince provided a list of his favorite wacky spot ideas and dared the producers to put them all in one match. The stuff I didn’t like kept this from being truly great, but it’s an insanely fun ride at times. [***¾]

Overall: 7/10. Outside of the Cruiserweight Title match and Elias/Jordan, this was a very fun show. I expected a lot of nothing coming in, but the card over delivered. Alicia/Sasha was solid and though the Asuka debut was underwhelming, it was a good match. Bliss/Mickie will get unfortunately get forgotten, but it’s probably the second best Raw Women’s Title match this year. The cruiserweight tag was fun and worth checking out. The main event is pure insanity and I can’t stress that enough. Styles/Balor gave me exactly what I wanted and was probably the second best match on a Raw PPV since the brand split. All in all, I had fun watching the PPV, which is the most important thing.