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Kevin’s WWE TLC 2018 Review

December 17, 2018 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Dean Ambrose WWE TLC
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Kevin’s WWE TLC 2018 Review  

December 16th, 2018 | SAP Center in San Jose, California

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy [c] vs. Cedric Alexander
This went on early. It was 3:17 in the afternoon in San Jose when the entrances began. These are two of the best wrestlers of 2018 and putting them together is always magical. Here, they knew they didn’t have a ton of time, similar to their Super Show Down match. Again, they packed a lot into the time but it never felt rushed. It’s a beautiful thing to get it right. While I wouldn’t put this on the level of their previous two encounters, it was still very good. Cedric hit the Lumbar Check for a great near fall. Murphy only survived because he got his foot on the rope, not by kicking out of a finisher. I appreciate that. I also liked Cedric desperately moving him from the ropes and grabbing his leg, but not getting enough to prevent that result. Buddy retained in 10:26 with Murphy’s Law. One hell of a way to start the show. They had the crowd engaged and loud, even if the arena was half empty this early. [***¾]

Ladder Match: Bobby Lashley w/ Lio Rush vs. Elias
A guitar hung above the ring. All I wanted from this match was to not bore me and for Lio Rush to take some kind of big bump. They failed on both ends. Somehow, a ladder match that only goes 6:16 felt like it went about 20 minutes. It plodded along and nothing of interest happened. Even the one bump Lio took didn’t get me excited. Lashley looked upset during his entrance, probably pissed that he was on Kickoff Show duty. Elias retrieved the guitar, but had it used on him. Lio’s post-match frog splash was the only good thing. [DUD]

Mixed Match Challenge Finals: The Fabulous Truth vs. Mahalicia w/ The Singh Brothers
The Fabulous Truth sported some San Jose Sharks inspired attire. I love their colors, so I was all in. While this season of the Mixed Match Challenge has been a mess, these two teams were consistently entertaining. Their personalities made this work. From the Singh Brothers getting involved in the Fabulous Truth dance break to Alicia arguing with Truth about being the captain, there were enough fun moments to go around. In the end, Carmella blocked a rollup and won with the Code of Silence in 5:46. They botched some of the ending, but I found myself enjoying the wackiness of the match. [**]

In a funny post-match moment, Truth said he submitted their all-expenses paid vacation request for WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. This duo is so much fun.

WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Bar [c] vs. The New Day w/ Big E vs. The Usos
Serious MOTN potential from these teams. It was surprising to see Big E left as the odd man out for New Day. His power matches up well with the champs. The Bar had a great strategy. They isolated Xavier Woods, the smallest man in the match, while also freezing out The Usos. More than five minutes into the match and The Usos had yet to enter the ring legally. When The Usos finally got in, they threw a barrage of superkicks. It got a standing ovation as it was just the right amount of them without going overboard. From that point forward, the match had a wild pace to it and featured some of the best tag team action you’ll find anywhere. The finish kind of came out of nowhere in a good way. When things were at their peak, Woods walked right into a Brogue Kick and The Bar retained in 12:20. The first half was great, strategic tag team wrestling, and the back half was all out excitement. A banger. [****]

TLC Match: Baron Corbin vs. Braun Strowman
A Corbin win makes him permanent GM. A Braun win kicks Corbin out of power and gives him a shot at Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Anyway, Baron and his buddies injured Braun last month so he wasn’t supposed to be here. Of course, Braun showed up, but had his arm in a sling. He reminded us that TLC matches have no disqualifications and that anyone sick of Baron could legally help him. Out came Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, and Finn Balor with chairs. Heath Slater, the referee for this match, removed his shirt and threw it at Corbin before leveling him. Everyone then beat on Corbin. He tried leaving but Kurt Angle arrived and fought him back to the ring. Corbin took every finisher and Braun covered to win in about 7:25. Hard to call it a match, but it worked as a segment.[NR]

Tables Match: Natalya vs. Ruby Riott w/ Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan
The Riott Squad brought out their weird Jim Neidhart decal table. The story of the match, besides Natalya’s obvious desire for revenge, was the numbers of the Riott Squad. Liv Morgan took a BRUTAL looking table bump to save Ruby. Natalya also took out Logan with one, leaving it down to herself against Ruby. That’s when the Anvil table came into play. They did some creative stuff, like Nattie putting the Sharpshooter on in front of the Anvil table, only for Ruby to crawl to it and knock it over, hitting Nattie and breaking the hold. Eventually, Natalya brought out a table with Ruby’s picture on it. She wasted time putting on her dad’s jacket and it nearly cost her. However, she managed to powerbomb Ruby off the top through a table to win at 12:38. That was a really good match with some smart spots set up around a storyline that was weird. They took something that probably shouldn’t have worked and did wonders with it. Ruby is a star and needs to be a Women’s Champion in 2019. [***½]

Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Balor
HANDSOME BATTLE! This is one of those matches that suffers from being built on Raw. I really like both wrestlers involved, but the stuff on Monday nights has done nothing to get me interested or invested. The match ultimately followed the story I expected. Drew dominated almost as soon as the bell rang. His size advantage was clear and he’s just a vicious brute. Finn refused to die, surviving a lot of what was thrown at him, including an avalanche Air Raid Crash. Balor made his babyface comeback but ran into more trouble. Dolph Ziggler appeared and hit Drew, but had a steel chair booted into his face. Drew brought it in the ring and Finn was prepared, catching him with a dropkick. A Coup de Grace later and Finn pulled out the upset at 12:07. For a guy who is “buried,” Finn’s only PPV losses this year were in multi-man matches. The match was good, told the right story, and both men came away protected. [***¼]

Chairs Match: Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio
A Chairs Match can certainly be hit or miss. For the good, look at Corbin/Kalisto in 2016. Now, I didn’t care about this feud in 2006 and I don’t care much for either guy in 2018. However, they’ve done some cool stuff in the build and Rey is usually a safe bet for something good. Randy looked like he was having a blast in this match. Like the Jeff Hardy Hell in a Cell, he seemed energized at the thought of getting to be violent. Though Randy gave us his usual few moments of slow, plodding stuff, they managed to bring out a handful of cool spots. I liked the baseball dive with the chair, Rey landing brutally on the chair on an apron dive, and the tree of woe spot. Randy’s sadistic nature got the best of him in the end. As he set up something big, Rey found an opening to smash his head on a chair and roll him up in 11:35. That was fun, creative, and smooth. [***¼]

WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey [c] vs. Nia Jax w/ Tamina
I don’t like anything about Nia Jax. Still, I can’t lie. Her vs. Ronda at MITB was way better than it had any right to be. Like that match, this was worked in the smartest possible way. It played to their strengths. Nia attempted to be the monster she’s known for, while Ronda used her wits and submission skills to combat her. I thought the layout to the match worked so well. The atmosphere played a major part, too. The fans wanted Nia as far away from the title as possible. That meant that her close calls late got top notch reactions and added to the drama down the stretch. Ronda blocked the “face breaker” punch and applied the armbar to keep the title in 10:52. Again, like the MITB math, this was really good. Ronda is frighteningly good for someone in her first year. Especially someone who isn’t working consistent live events. [***½]

Backstage, Becky Lynch came up to Nia and punked her for all the trash she’s been talking. Becky laid her out and warned her, “Keep my name out your mouth.”

WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan [c] vs. AJ Styles
The match where Bryan captured the title from Styles was great (****). They bested it in the rematch. Styles was dying to get his hands on Bryan, but the champion stalled and played mind games early. There was a lot to love about this. They played well off their previous match with callbacks, yet also threw in some stuff to remind you of matches they had with others. AJ is at his best as the fiery babyface and even though he’s the bigger guy here, Bryan’s persona was a perfect foil. Bryan was ruthless, precise, and the right amount of aggressive. It’s like I’m watching bits of his ROH heel run. Often, AJ’s slow build matches this year have missed the mark, but this worked expertly from start to finish. Everything they did mattered and felt like it had a purpose. That needs to happen more often in matches. Not just doing stuff for the sake of it. Styles would hit big blows, like the springboard 450 splash, but had so much damage done that he couldn’t capitalize and Bryan remained alive. The Calf Crusher close call was outstanding. Then, the most perfect moment of all came in the finish. AJ missed the Phenomenal Forearm but went for the small package. However, Mr. Small Package countered into one of his own to retain in an outstanding 23:54. It’s a finish from a favorite match of mine (Bret/Perfect at KOTR 93) and also made sense given how Bryan won the title. The best WWE Championship match in 2016. [****½]

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins [c] vs. Dean Ambrose
Like McIntyre/Balor, this was a match that should’ve been more excited in the build, but Raw let it down. Unfortunately, this was the one match on the card that I could truly consider a disappointment. Considering the Bryan/AJ match was a slow building match, having another right after was a bad decision. Also, this needed to be a fight. Not one with weapons (considering the main event), but one filled with aggression. Instead, they had a traditional wrestling match that bored the crowd to tears. It was tough to get through at points. The actual stuff in the ring was largely fine, it just never felt like it mattered. We just got a hollow match between two guys who should be in the midst of a bitter feud. Dean continually cut off Seth’s comeback attempts. That’s typically a good way to go, but it happened so often that the match never truly hit that next level. Anyway, Dean won the title with Dirty Deeds in 22:53. [**½]

WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship TLC Match: Becky Lynch [c] vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte
There was absolutely a big fight feel here, giving this a unique atmosphere. The women were not only put into their first TLC match, but given a PPV main event and delivered big time. At no point did this slow down or feel boring. They went all out for the entire duration. All three women took MAJOR bumps. Charlotte nearly had her ribs crushed by a Becky senton off a ladder through a table. I thought she was legitimately hurt, but she was up shortly after and wrecking everything. She hit a somersault through a table on Becky and speared Asuka through the guardrail. On that note, I loved the barricade spot in this one as it felt more realistic than usual. The “C” in this TLC seemed to stand for canes, as the women used kendo sticks often. It made sense since that was part of their build more than chairs. The match was brutal, laid out brilliantly, kept escalating, and had a MOLTEN crowd throughout. After a handful of teases for each winner, Becky and Charlotte battled atop a ladder. Out came Ronda Rousey to tip their ladder over and send them crashing to the floor. I love that Ronda didn’t do anything else. Short and simple. Asuka climbed and won the title at 22:31. One of my favorite matches all year. Also, a top five TLC and top five women’s match I can recall. From a booking standpoint, it was phenomenal as well, with Asuka getting the big win, while her opponents stay strong and keep their feud with Ronda going. [****¾]

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
What a wrestling show. Coming in, I knew it had a great card, but they still managed to exceed expectations. Dean/Seth was the clear disappointment, while Elias/Lashley was trash. Other than that, everything was good to great. Even the Mixed Match Finals was fun and the Corbin segment did what it needed to. Ruby/Nattie, Ronda/Nia, Drew/Finn, Rey/Randy, and the CW Title were all very good. The SD Tag was great, while AJ/Bryan was a classic. Add a main event that is an all timer and you’ve got the main roster show of the year.

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WWE, WWE TLC, Kevin Pantoja