TLC recap & reactions: Payback

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So uh…the main event of TLC rocked.

I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone, though. Asuka, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte were phenomenal in the build up to their first ever TLC match and WWE allowed them to close the show.

My goodness, did they ever. The crowd was hyped for Lynch, of course, but I thought that Charlotte in particular shined throughout the match. Charlotte took a leg drop off a ladder straight to the ribs and it seemed like there was enough force to really hurt her; and yet she kept going, kept running, and kept bringing the violence and urgency in this match to really send it over the top.

Everyone had moments to shine. I mentioned the leg drop from Lynch, but Asuka got to rampage with a kendo stick and Charlotte…oh man. Charlotte had a moment where she lectured Lynch before putting her on a table, slapped the hell out of her, and then hit a damn senton from the top turnbuckle. These women are insane.

And in the end, the booking was fantastic as well. Lynch talked to much trash to Ronda Rousey in the build to Survivor Series and once Charlotte had to take her place, Charlotte brutalized the Raw champion with a kendo stick. Rousey used the no disqualification stipulation to cost them both, knocking over a ladder and allowing Asuka to become SmackDown Women’s Champion.

It’s brilliant, honestly. The finish gives WWE a way to gear up for a Rousey vs. Lynch match without making the latter take a clean loss. Rousey’s interference also allows people to cheer Asuka in peace.

I can’t think of a single thing to complain about. This was one of those matches you happily sit there and watch with a smile on your face.


Corbin’s Comeuppance

You know, as far as ends to underwhelming stories go…this was pretty great. Baron Corbin screwed over so many people in his climb to power. He created plenty of enemies, and those enemies had a hand in putting him down for good.

Braun Strowman showed up at the count of 7 with a taped elbow and wearing a sling. He clearly wasn’t ready for a fight but thanks to Corbin’s hubris, he didn’t have to. TLC is a no disqualification match, after all, and several friends were clearly delighted to help put Corbin away for good.

First it was Apollo Crews, showing up at ringside with a chair in hand. The camera panned to reveal the Raw Tag Team Champions Chad Gable and Bobby Roode on another side of the ring, each with a chair as well. And finally, the man who Corbin picked on first: Finn Balor. Corbin stared in shock and said, “I didn’t even do anything to you!” Sure, Corbin. Sure.

Corbin’s only hope was his chosen referee Heath Slater, but Slater ditched his officiating jersey and threw the first punch. Kurt Angle would show up as well, and the group had fun taking turns hitting moves on Corbin. Strowman never had to lift a finger.

So! Hopefully his story’s over. Everyone involved is talented and deserving of better than this story gave us. Getting to this moment was torture, but at least the end was fun. I guess?


Bryan vs. Styles II

Ahhh Daniel Bryan. I see those dragons on your knee pads.

I really don’t know what to say about this match. It’s Daniel Freaking Bryan vs. AJ Freaking Styles. What is there to say?

Bryan spent the entire match being a slimy little scumbag, smirking any time he did something clever and focusing heavily on Style’s ribs. He kept kicking Styles in his tattoo that lists his children’s birthdays as well. I’m not sure that was intentional, but it definitely stuck in my mind.

Styles, however, finally got a chance to pay Bryan back for his shenanigans. Styles softened up Bryan’s leg, hit a few retaliatory chop blocks of his own, and got the champ in an awesome Calf Crusher. The crowd was going nuts and Styles did a fantastic job wrenching on that thing to make it seem like Bryan could tap out.

Bryan had been in control early but that momentum flipped as the match continued on. In fact, he escaped this match by flipping a roll up attempt on Styles and crawling away with the victory. It was a pretty soft win on Bryan’s part, but perhaps that’s the end of this for now with the Royal Rumble coming up.


The Rest

TLC’s Biggest Disappointment – This was a very good PPV from my perspective, but we did have one bad match – the Intercontinental Championship match between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.

And I’m not even sure it was objectively bad. It was just…boring. A letdown from expectations. The match was slowly worked and had none of the fire or passion that I was hoping for. The story wasn’t bad in theory. Ambrose manipulated Rollins’ feelings, caused him to make a mistake, and capitalized to win the title. It’s just…ehhhh.

Let me put it this way. When you compare this to the drive and fire in the women’s TLC match, it just comes up lacking.

Rey Mysterio def. Randy Orton – Slow match. Slow, slow match. That’s not a bad thing, by the way, but it really stood out considering the sorts of matches we see these days. Orton is so methodical and cruel with his machinations, and that’s what took up a lot of the time here. I did chuckle when he started adjusting the chair on the commentary table, though.

Cool spots were the name of the game here. The finish had Mysterio launching off a line of chairs to roll up Orton.

Ronda Rousey def. Nia Jax – …Can Ronda Rousey just work PPVs?

Hear me out: Ronda’s so fantastic when the lights are the brightest. That’s part of the problem, actually. When she works on Raw, she’s bogged down with storylines and talking and all that jazz; just kick ass. It isn’t hard.

Anyway, this match was better than it had any business being. And maaaan, that moment where Rousey stared down Tamina and kissed Jax’s “Facebreaker” fist before hitting her with the armbar to end the match? That’s badass as hell.

Now if only Cole could have refrained from screaming, “HASHTAG FACEBREAKER!” in the climactic moment of the fight.

Buddy Murphy def. Cedric Alexander – This match was far too good for the pre-show. It won’t change anything in the long run but damn are these two too good for a pre-show.

Finn Balor def. Drew McIntyre – One good deed begets another…or does it? A few weeks ago, Finn Balor provided a distraction that allowed Dolph Ziggler to defeat Drew Mcintyre. At TLC, that role was reversed.

As for the match itself, McIntyre’s a different sort of villain, man. He made this feel like Balor was running for his life all match. If anything, McIntyre’s to blame for his own defeat – he gets too focused on making a brutal statement. That allowed Balor to sneak in and finish him off.

After the match though, Balor had an interview that Ziggler interrupted. Ziggler taunted Balor, saying he hadn’t a prayer of winning if he had not interfered. Balor took offense, of course, but wasn’t prepared for Ziggler to assault him.

Nattie def. Ruby Riott – Oh, you’re gonna put my late father on a table? Well I’m gonna put YOU on one, too!

Take that!

…That weirdness aside, this match was solid and had some really great moments. Every Riott Squad member went through a table; Liv Morgan’s table bump in particular was incredible. In the end, Natalya powerbombed Ruby Riott through a table and stood over her, proudly wearing her father’s jacket. That was an awesome visual.

Elias def. Bobby Lashley – Best part of this was probably Renee Young claiming that there are better poses than “butt first.” Ladies and gents, I expect an earnest debate on this claim in the comments.

The match was fine I guess. Elias overcame the odds disadvantage to get his guitar and win the match, but then they beat him up.

Carmella and R-Truth def. Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal – Silly match to open the show and clumsy in spots, but it was fine for what it was.

The Bar def. New Day, The Usos – Whenever I see Xavier Woods wrestle, I assume he’s going to be the fall guy. That proved to be the the case at TLC when Sheamus hit him with a Brogue Kick to retain the titles.

But with that said, this match rocked. It was the first match of the main card that delivered some serious wrestling. All three of these teams can kill it, but you probably already knew that.


This was a good show! Raw’s basically got a clean slate to work with after it and all the SmackDown matches delivered. The only truly disappointing moment of the show was Rollins vs. Ambrose, and some of that might have simply been their position on the card.

Grade: A-

The elephant in the room is still the direction of Raw, though. This show didn’t really give us any clue of what will happen on that front. I guess we’ll wait to hear from ol’ Vince on Monday Night. What’d you think of the show, Cageside?




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