The last WWE pay-per-view took place last night in San Jose, California. It was called Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, and was an event that reminded us that just because a match has a stipulation, that doesn’t mean the stipulation is going to make the match better. In some cases, the matches were better because of the stipulation, but some of the matches were disappointing too.It was a big night for Asuka, who won the first ever women’s Royal Rumble in January and then failed to beat Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Title at WrestleMania. Since then, Asuka wasn’t doing a whole lot in terms of interesting feuds, but today she stands tall as the new Smackdown Women’s Champion. The reason Asuka is the champion is because Ronda Rousey got revenge on rivals Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair by pushing them off a ladder, which allowed Asuka to win the title in the main event.TLC took place one month after Survivor Series, which featured Raw superstars dominating Smackdown, yet when you watched this show, it was clear that Smackdown was the superior brand in terms of putting on better matches.
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
This week on Raw, WWE is promoting the return of Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, who is there to “shake things up” for the future. We have no idea what it means, but it is something WWE promoted several times throughout the broadcast.The event had a run time of just under four hours, so it went too long for my liking. I don’t think doing four hour PPVs is a great idea, but that’s what we got.Here are the results of the twelve matches that took place:
- Buddy Murphy defeated Cedric Alexander to retain the Cruiserweight Championship (Kickoff Show)
- Elias defeated Bobby Lashley in a Ladder Match where he retrieved a guitar to win (Kickoff Show)
- R-Truth and Carmella defeated Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox to win the Mixed Match Challenge
- The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) defeated The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) and The Usos to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles
- Braun Strowman defeated Baron Corbin in a TLC Match thanks to help from other Raw superstars
- Natalya defeated Ruby Riott in a Tables Match
- Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre
- Rey Mysterio defeated Randy Orton in a Chairs Match
- Ronda Rousey defeated Nia Jax to retain the Raw Women’s Championship
- Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles to retain the WWE Championship
- Dean Ambrose defeated Seth Rollins to win the Intercontinental Championship
- Asuka defeated Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Here are my ten takeaways from TLC going in order of when the matches took place and I won’t include the Kickoff Show matches.
10. The duo of R-Truth and Carmella were the right choice to win the Mixed Match Challenge
The opening match on the pay-per-view portion of TLC was the Mixed Match Challenge. It wasn’t that exciting as R-Truth and Carmella got the win over Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox after about six minutes of action. Despite the lack of excitement, I credit Truth and Carmella for doing a good job of getting the crowd involved because the fans like them a lot.As a result of the win, Truth and Carmella get to enter their respective Royal Rumble matches at #30, which means the last spot in each Rumble match. That gives them a distinct advantage. Will either of them win a Royal Rumble match? Of course not, but at least it gives WWE something to talk about over the next month.The other reward for winning is a vacation anywhere in the world, which led to Truth picking their location as…WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. That should probably lead to some comedy bits in the coming weeks. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to that, but R-Truth is entertaining, so I won’t dismiss it right away.
9. Smackdown’s Tag Team division reminded us why they are so much better than Raw
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
I enjoyed the Smackdown tag team triple threat match with The Bar keeping their titles over New Day and The Usos. This match was 12 minutes full of action. There weren’t any parts of the match where I was bored for a few minutes because a guy grabbed a headlock for three minutes. This was all about building to the big spots even when guys weren’t legally in the match.The finish was creative with everybody hitting big moves. I loved the sequence where The Usos hit superkicks on everybody to really pick up the pace in the action. When it looked like Sheamus was going to fall victim to a move from Xavier Woods, Cesaro was there to grab Woods’ foot, which slowed him down and Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick on Woods to retain the titles.My prediction for this match was The Usos for the win, but it was hardly a lock. I think any of these three teams can hold the titles and have a lot of credibility. They are clearly superior to the tag team wrestling that exists on Raw right now. It wouldn’t surprise me to see another multi-team match between these three teams either at the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania. The action is always great, so it’s a nice way to get a quality matchup on any show they are on.
8. The end of Baron Corbin’s reign of terror went exactly as it should have with Corbin getting his ass kicked
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaCMtqm2cvgThe advertised match saw Baron Corbin face Braun Strowman in a TLC match. Corbin made referee Heath Slater count Strowman out leading to a ten count and a win for Corbin, but just when Sheamus reached seven, Strowman made his entrance. Strowman still had his right arm in a sling after elbow surgery, so he was unable to do anything. Instead of Strowman wrestling, he brought out some friends to beat up Corbin for him.That led to several Raw wrestlers making their way down to the ring to beat up Corbin. Guys like Finn Balor, Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode, and Chad Gable had fun getting revenge on Corbin while referee Slater got some shots in too. After a few minutes of that fun, Strowman walked over to Corbin, put a foot on his chest and “won” this great match.The result of the match was no surprise. I think WWE should be happy with the crowd reaction as well because it showed how much the fans hated this Corbin storyline. Corbin is okay as a heel on his own, but there was no need to put him all over Raw to put us to sleep because of how boring he is.
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
Strowman’s next big test is another match against Braun Strowman, this time for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble. Can Strowman finally get by Lesnar? I have my doubts about that. If you’re wondering, Strowman should be cleared to wrestle again by the time of the Royal Rumble.
7. Natalya got her revenge by beating Ruby Riott in a Tables Match
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
This match went exactly as I expected it to go with Natalya getting the win. I thought it was clever how they also had Natalya knock Liv Morgan off the apron and through a table on the floor. Later, Natalya gave Sarah Logan a body slam through the table. That meant Ruby Riott was left alone, which played into the finish.The finish saw Natalya get some payback when she put Riott through a table with a Powerbomb. It wasn’t just any table, though, because Natalya put her through a table that had Ruby’s image on it. That was a counter to Riott’s table that had Natalya’s late father Jim Neidhart. After putting on her dad’s jacket and sunglasses, I think this feud was done to give Natalya some closure, so it’s probably the end of this rivalry.I think Tables Matches are challenging because there’s less excitement when you are trying to throw somebody through a table. With no pinfalls or submissions, it’s just not as fun to get into a match. They did the best they could. My main critique is that I thought it went too long at around 13 minutes and if they shaved off about three minutes it would have been better.6. Finn Balor got his revenge on Drew McIntyre thanks to an unlikely assist from Dolph Ziggler https://twitter.com/WWE/status/1074476661280694273I was surprised by the outcome of this match because of how Drew McIntyre is usually booked on Raw. McIntyre has only been pinned on television once this year and that happened two weeks ago when Finn Balor helped Dolph Ziggler beat him. This time, Ziggler helped Balor. Why have McIntyre lose? That didn’t make sense to me.The match was just average and felt like I was watching an episode of Raw without the commercial in the middle of the match. McIntyre dominated most of it, Ziggler showed up at ringside with a superkick (the referee never saw it), a chair got involved and Balor ended up dropkicking the chair into Drew leading to the Coup de Grace for the win.The obvious question is, if the referee saw a guy dropkick a chair into the other guy, how come that isn’t a disqualification? I don’t expect WWE to answer that for us.It was a tainted win for Balor, who benefited from the title change and perhaps could be the next Intercontinental Champion. Balor faces Ziggler on Raw this week.5. Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton reminded us that a Chairs Match is a bad ideahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqGlXw_MPQIOne of the worst matches of the night belonged to Mysterio and Orton in a Chairs Match. The best part of it when Rey did a slide out of the ring with a chair where he landed on top of Orton with a chair. Other than that, I was bored by this from start to finish.Mysterio was on the defensive for most of the match, so it was fitting that he got the win on a counter. With Orton ready to put Mysterio through multiple chairs, Mysterio hit a headscissors takedown into a rollup pin into a seated position for the victory.If these two had a regular match for 12 minutes it would be pretty good like they’ve had so many times before. Since they incorporated chairs into the match, it made things worse.4. Ronda Rousey continues to impress in big matcheshttps://twitter.com/WWE/status/1074486830009970689The result of this match was never in doubt from the moment it was announced. Ronda Rousey getting the win was a lock and that’s what happened in about 11 minutes of surprisingly good action.The reason I said “surprisingly good” is because Nia Jax isn’t known for being a particularly good in-ring performer, but she proved her worth by being a badass heel that kept Rousey down for most of the match. Rousey is very good at selling moves and her comebacks are solid as well.Give them credit for planting a few seeds of doubt in the match when it looked like Jax might win. Rousey managed to come back every time she needed to, then she kissed the fist of Nia Jax and slapped on the armbar to win. The crowd was firmly behind Rousey and she looked as good as ever in this match.https://twitter.com/WWE/status/1074488179883794432After the match, Becky Lynch went up to Jax and told her to keep Becky’s name out of her mouth. Lynch kicked Jax and decked her with a punch to the face. That was payback for happened prior to Survivor Series when Jax broke Lynch’s nose and gave her a concussion.3. Daniel Bryan barely beat AJ Styles in a classic WWE Championship matchhttps://twitter.com/WWE/status/1074496187909042176Going into the show, this was the match I was most interested in because of the fact that I’ve been a huge fan of these guys for nearly 20 years. They know each other so well, and with the story in place with Bryan as the selfish heel champion, I knew they could deliver a good match and that’s what they did.This felt like the kind of match you might see in New Japan. If you watch NJPW then you know, but if not, you would see a lot of similarities in this match. There was a lot of mat wrestling, they countered holds a lot, there were multiple submission attempts by both guys, and some believable nearfalls along the way. Some fans watching this match may not have liked it because it was slow at times. Not me, though. This is the kind of match that I love.Daniel Bryan retaining the WWE Title was the right call and the obvious one too. What I didn’t know was how it would happen. In my predictions article, I thought that Bryan would win via submission. It didn’t happen that way as Bryan got the win with an inside cradle or small package, which is a nice nod to his former nickname pre-WWE when they called him “Mr. Small Package.” There’s a joke there. Anyway, that finish likely sets up future matches since it wasn’t a decisive win for Bryan, so Styles may get another shot at the champ.2. Dean Ambrose regained the Intercontinental Title in a match that didn’t live up to the hypehttps://twitter.com/WWE/status/1074504625280045056It seemed like a no brainer. As soon as Ambrose faced off with Rollins, they should have had a wild, chaotic brawl all around the arena where they used weapons. After all, this is a personal rivalry where Rollins is pissed off that Ambrose turned on Rollins on the same day that their Shield buddy Roman Reigns announced that he had leukemia two months ago. Instead of that wild brawl, they had a regular match for over 20 minutes that was incredibly boring.I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard a crowd chanting “this is boring” during a Seth Rollins match. Rollins is one of the best in-ring performers of this era, so for the fans to crap on one of his matches that much, it’s a big surprise.Any time you have a rivalry that felt intense like this one, you need to capitalize on that with the style of match you have. I don’t know if it is Seth’s fault, Dean’s fault or whoever the producer was, but this match felt off the entire time.The right guy went over because Dean Ambrose won clean with a Dirty Deeds DDT after a frustrated Rollins did a lot of trash talk, which seemed to distract himself and that allowed Ambrose to win. That a part of it was fine, but nearly everything else was disappointing. They had several great matches against eachother in 2014 and 2015. For whatever reason, this was an off night by them.Rollins losing the Intercontinental Title isn’t a bad thing for him because he’s a favorite to win the Royal Rumble match next month.
1. Asuka won the Smackdown Women’s Title in a thrilling ladder match thanks to an unlikely assist from Ronda Rousey seeking revenge, and it was the match of the night
This is YOUR moment!!!
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
The match of the night was the main event, which saw Asuka become the new Smackdown Women’s Champion. Before I get to some of the key spots in the match, I just had to say good job to WWE for picking the right match to go on last. That’s important. It made the show better to have this match close out TLC. Plus, Becky Lynch’s popularity is through the roof right now, so she’s the one that fans wanted to see at the end of the night.As soon as this match was announced, Asuka was going to be my pick to win. However, on Smackdown last week, Asuka was the woman that stood tall to end the show, so that made me overthink my choice and I went with Charlotte Flair winning. Normally, when somebody stands tall on the last TV before a PPV, that person is going to lose. Nope. Not in this case. Thanks for the swerve, WWE.Asuka, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch all deserve a lot of praise of the innovative moves they did in the match as well as their willingness to put their bodies on the line to entertain us. When guys do TLC matches, remember that these are 250 to 300-pound men that are sometimes going through a table. It’s different when it’s a 120pound woman. I’m not saying that to disrespect women. Believe me, I’m a huge supporter of WWE’s women’s evolution. I’m just saying it’s going to hurt Asuka going through a table a lot more than it would hurt Sheamus. That’s all I mean.
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
The craziest spot in the match was similar to what Becky and Charlotte did at Evolution in October. Becky put Asuka and Charlotte side by side on an announce table. Becky climbed a ladder and jumped off with a leg drop. Asuka moved while Charlotte took the brunt of the leg drop right in the chest. The move likely knocked the wind out of Flair for a few moments, but she’s a badass and to me, Charlotte was the star of the match. I was really impressed with her offense throughout the match as well as her willingness to put her body on the line.The finish gave us an ending that some people likely saw coming. I’ll admit that I didn’t predict it to happen like this, but when it did, it made a lot of sense. As Charlotte and Becky battled on top of a ladder, Ronda Rousey walked down to the ring. Instead of simply going down the ladder, the women stayed on top and Rousey shoved the ladder over, which led to the women bumping to the floor. Rousey left after getting her revenge, so Asuka climbed another ladder and retrieved the championship for the win. The match went around 22 minutes.
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
What happens next? I don’t know exactly, but I think Lynch losing the title is fine because it will set her up to win the Royal Rumble and challenge Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. If it was me, I’d also do Charlotte vs. Ronda in a rematch at the Royal Rumble. If they don’t do that then maybe Charlotte will be in the Rumble with Lynch. As for the Smackdown Women’s Championship, perhaps we’ll get a rematch of this year by doing Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair again although this time, Asuka goes into the match as the champion. I would be fine with that.Some people might float around the idea of Rousey vs. Lynch vs. Flair at WrestleMania. I like all three women a lot, but I wouldn’t do that. I don’t think triple threat matches are as good as singles matches, so for WrestleMania, keep it one on one. Keep it simple. That’s the best thing they can do.This match was outstanding. It was one of the best WWE main roster matches of the year. I liked Lynch vs. Flair at Evolution in October a little bit better, but both of them were fantastic. I think both matches are a nice reminder of how impressive the WWE women’s division has been this year, especially the performances of Lynch and Flair. Asuka is right there with them too.
Final ThoughtsI thought that TLC was an above average show thanks to the women’s TLC match, the Bryan/Styles match and the Smackdown Tag Team Titles match. Ronda Rousey was pretty good too. It was also nice to look back on the whole thing and realize that there wasn’t anything in terms of booking that pissed me off. A lot of the decisions of winners made sense, so for that, I credit WWE for some smart booking moves. Going into 2019 should be interesting in terms of what WWE does with the Rousey/Lynch/Flair situation because that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. The women’s division is hotter than ever.The next WWE pay-per-view event available on WWE Network is the Royal Rumble on January 27th. It’s a big one. That’s the first WWE PPV of the new year. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back later in the week with the start of some columns looking back at the year that was in WWE.