WWE TLC – December 4th 2016
American Airlines Centre: Dallas, TX.
In fairness, some of the PPVs since the brand extension have been much better than expected. TLC 2016 was not one of these shows. All the issues that were brought up before the rosters split were on full display during the show: A laughably thin roster, talent pushed as losers and geeks for years expected to be taken seriously in high profile matches, pointless rematches in feuds that are well past their expiration date and a completely disinterested crowd that were given little reason to care about anything they were watching. It is hard to argue against SmackDown being a better television product that RAW, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable when they put on a bad show. Virtually all of the matches on the under-card were sub-par, with one surprising exception in Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin, and until the main event the show was drudging along at a tedious pace.
Luckily for WWE they have one of the best in-ring performers in the world right now with AJ Styles and no matter how poor the rest of the card turned out to be everybody intrinsically knew that AJ would come out and salvage the wreckage of this show. And boy did he. The TLC match for the WWE World title between AJ Styles & Dean Ambrose was light-years ahead of everything else, mostly due to Styles bumping and flying around like a crash-test dummy. Ambrose had a good performance too, but Styles was on another level and almost single-handedly pulled the show out of the nose-spin it had been in. AJ retained after James Ellsworth shoved Ambrose off the ladder through two tables on the floor to continue the utterly baffling Ellsworth/Styles program going on TV. The finish wasn’t ideal considering AJ was killing himself to have a great match, but at least it actually played into the story and built towards the TV on Tuesday.
Rest of the show, as noted, was utterly forgettable. We’ll go match-by-match, and see if I can find something to say other than, “it was boring.”
Renee & Booker were joined by Daniel Bryan & Peter Rosenberg (I had no idea who this guy was or why he was there) on the panel; Bryan quickly left and left us with this Rosenberg guy. Alexa Bliss did the Social Media lounge deal with Tom Phillips; she was decent. American Alpha, The Hype Bros & Apollo Crews beat The Vaudevillains, The Ascension & Curt Hawkins in 11:55. Match was good enough, although just look at the state of that heel team. Gable sold for the heat; crowd didn’t really care because American Alpha have been killed already. Finish saw Gable & Jordan hit Grand Amplitude on English, (**¾).
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Heath Slater & Rhyno (C) vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton w/Luke Harper. – Orton & Wyatt became the new champions at 5:55. This was basically a squash for the Wyatts. Rhyno gave Harper a Gore on the floor. Finish saw Rhyno get distracted by Bray’s crab walk and Orton gave him an RKO to get the pin. – The Slater & Rhyno comedy deal had run its course and the switch was the right call. Randy Wyatt is still a strange storyline, but at least they are going full-on with it. Believe it or not this was Bray Wyatt’s first championship win in the WWE, (**¾).
No DQ Match: Nikki Bella vs. Carmella. – Nikki over in 8:00. Horrible match. Carmella worked over Nikki’s knee early and targeted the knee with a kendo stick. Nikki completely no-sold this and hit a Cody Rhodes Disaster Kick off the barricade. Nikki sprayed Carmella with a fire extinguisher for an absurd amount of time. The crowd, who were on life support as it was, completely died for this spot. Nikki won with the Rack attack 2.0. Post-match, Carmella revealed that it was Natalya who attacked Nikki at Survivor Series. – Awful, ( ¼*).
How did they follow up the revelation that Nattie took out Nikki? Well, they had Natalya in a Kay’s Jewelers commercial helping a guy propose to his girlfriend. Dasha interviewed Daniel Bryan in the back and he said he wanted Miz to lose the IC title. Miz showed up and told Bryan he wished he was facing him in the ladder match so he could push him off a ladder.
WWE IC Championship Ladder Match: The Miz (C) w/Maryse vs. Dolph Ziggler. – Miz retained in 25:05. To be fair this match has received mixed reviews; some liked it, others hated it. I found it to be very plodding, dull and unimaginative, but that’s just me. They obviously didn’t do any really crazy spots as there was another ladder match later on, not to mention Miz isn’t exactly going to have a car-crash bump-fest. Match was very slow in-between the big spots, which weren’t all that impressive. Dolph hit a Tornado DDT on the ladder on the floor then dropped an elbow off a ladder bridge on the second rope. Miz worked the leg and applied a Figure Four with Ziggler’s legs wrapped around the ladder. He followed up with a Skull Crushing Finale on the ladder. Biggest Spot saw Miz hanging from the cable holding the belt and he took the Jim Cornette bump to the mat. He sold the spot really well and yelled, “Motherf*cker!” Miz came back and Powerbombed Ziggler onto a ladder in the corner. Finish saw them fighting on top of two ladders, Miz kicked Ziggler in the nuts and knocked him off to take down his belt. Afterwards, Miz cut a promo on Daniel Bryan and called him a loser. – As noted, this match divided opinion. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but you can make up your own mind if you have a spare 25 minutes; it definitely didn’t need to go that long either. They are still running with the Miz/Bryan storyline, so they must have a pay-off in mind. I suspect Bryan will put Miz in the Yes-Lock at some point, but that hardly feels like a big enough blow-off considering the nature of the feud. Bryan could always bring in a surrogate to wrestle Miz I suppose, which is probably the most likely scenario, (** ½).
Chairs Match: Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin. – Corbin over in 13:00. A surprisingly fun match and easily the best chairs match in history, although that isn’t saying much. Kalisto did a dive early; Corbin cut him off with a Powerbomb. A really cool spot saw Kalisto hit a Seated Senton off the top onto six chairs set up in a seated position. Kalisto went for a Tope and Corbin turned it into a huge Deep Six on the floor. Kalisto came back with a Rana off the barricade then landed a Moonsault onto a chair for a near-fall. Finish saw Corbin hit the End of Days onto a pile of chairs to get the pin. – On paper this match looked horrible, but both guys worked hard and had a really creative match despite the hugely detrimental chairs stipulation, (***½).
Backstage, Nattie denied that she attacked Nikki and said Carmella was a liar.
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship Tables Match: Becky Lynch (C) vs. Alexa Bliss – Bliss became the new champion at 15:10. This went twice as long as it should have and was a total struggle. Unlike the chairs match, the women were unable to overcome the obstacle of the table gimmick. They teased putting each other through tables for 15 minutes then Alexa Powerbombed Becky off the apron through a table to win the title. Dasha tried to interview Becky afterwards but she said she didn’t want a microphone shoved in her face, (*½).
WWE World Championship TLC Match: AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose. – Styles retained in 31:05. Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Styles ripped his tights and his bare ass was on display for a good portion of the match. It appeared to happen when Ambrose tossed him into a table that had its legs sticking up. To make things worse, AJ was bleeding through the tear which made for a very distressing visual. The crowd did chuckle at AJ’s ass, however he carried on like a pro and managed to have the best match on the show even with his bloodied behind hanging out. They brawled through the crowd early and Styles took a hard Suplex on a steel ramp. After some shots with chairs and ladders, Ambrose landed a wicked Orange Crush-type move onto four seated chairs which the crowd went nuts for. Styles came back with a Snap Suplex through a table in the corner. Big spot saw Ambrose drop an elbow off a ladder that was set up on one announce table through AJ on another announce table. AJ knocked Ambrose off the ladder with the Phenomenal Forearm then later hit his Moonsault Reverse DDT off the apron. Styles did the Springboard 450 through a table on the floor that he did with Kurt Angle at Bound for Glory, luckily this time he didn’t completely miss the table although he did nearly over-rotate and land on his face. James Ellsworth showed up in his comedy neckbrace and AJ went after him on the floor. They ended up fighting on top of a ladder and Ambrose knocked AJ to the outside. Ambrose looked like he was going to win but Ellsworth pushed him off the ladder through two tables on the floor. AJ climbed back in the ring and up the ladder to take the title as Ellsworth cheered him on. – Excellent match. In 2016 it is hard for me to care or get into WWE-style gimmick matches, however Styles is so damn good he managed to have one of the best TLC matches in years. Everybody should watch this match. It is going to be hard to choose between AJ Styles and Chris Hero for Most Outstanding this year, (**** ½).
On Talking Smack, Ellsworth said he shoved Ambrose off the ladder because he had already beaten Styles three times and he wanted to face him for the WWE title. He said he would be happy to give Ambrose the first title shot when he beats AJ again on Tuesday.