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Cook’s WWE TLC 2018 Report Card

December 16, 2018 | Posted by Steve Cook
WWE Charlotte Asuka Becky Lynch WWE TLC

Hi, hello, welcome to the WWE TLC 2018 Report Card! I’m Steve Cook, and while I’m sure several thousand other people told you they were more qualified to review a wrestling show, you’re stuck with me.

The Kickoff Show panel consisted of Jonathan Coachman, Booker T, Sam Roberts & David Otunga. I’m not sure what we did to deserve such a thing.

I almost missed the beginning of this, as it started 20 minutes into the Kickoff Show. I figured I had time to get a drink & get things ready! Apparently not, as these guys are already moving faster than I can keep track of. Cedric gets the first near-fall with a dropkick, but it’s Murphy taking control just before the Rousey/Jax commercial. Afterwards, the Network decided to take a dump on me and I missed most of the match. Hopefully that means there were a lot of people watching it! From what I saw there were a few superkicks & big moves for nearfalls. Then Murphy wants to do a move on the apron, but Alexander reverses into a death valley driver on the apron. It’s like the Network wanted me to see the one spot that I hate most. He follows that up with a Lumbar Check for a near-fall. Now he’ll need a new finisher, or just to do that a few more times. Murphy smartly rolls outside, Alexander has to get him back in, and of course Murphy was playing possum. He yanks Alexander head first into the middle turnbuckle, then hits a running knee & Murphy’s Law for the three count.

From what I saw it was pretty solid. I’m sure there are fans who will bitch and moan about this being on the Kickoff, but it’s the right choice. It was back in 1996 when WCW’s cruiserweights opened every PPV, and it is in 2018. I won’t do the grading thing because I didn’t watch the full match & it doesn’t seem fair. Seemed good though.

Ladder Match: Elias vs. Bobby Lashley (Elias’ guitar hanging above the ring)

Good thing Elias has multiple guitars so he can play “Do You Know The Way To San Jose”. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to play the song and we have to listen to Lio Rush. Does Lashley really have enough of a booty for that to be his main pose? Either way, we get to watch Lashley try to play with ladders, which doesn’t go well for him. It’s pretty much a handicap match here, as Lio’s constantly trying to get involved, with varying levels of success. The distraction does allow Lashley to take control and run through his usual offense. Elias comes back during the Bryan/Styles commercial, but gets belly to belly thrown into the ladder soon after going back to full screen. Elias timed his offense poorly there. He doesn’t time his final comeback poorly though, as he manages a powerbomb on Lashley onto a ladder, then climbs up to get his guitar and win the match!

Winner: Elias

Lio saves Lashley from death via guitar, then Lashley spikes Elias into the canvas. Lio hits a frog splash, then it’s Lashley that hits the guitar to Elias’s spine. Play his music!

People used to get mad at me for saying “It was a match & it was there”, but I used that phrase for matches like this one. It wasn’t bad or anything, but it wasn’t memorable. Which isn’t great when it’s a ladder match. Elias is working better as a face than I would have expected though.

Grades
Elias: B-
LASHLEY LASHLEY LASHLEY: C

Aw shit, Coach closed the Kickoff Show with “Happy Holidays, enjoy TLC”. Vince strikes me as a “Merry Christmas” kinda guy, so he’s probably getting an earful right now.

I love Tables, Ladders & Chairs being presented by jewelry & action figures. If Kay really wanted to get their money’s worth, somebody would load their fist up with their diamonds & knock somebody out tonight.

Mixed Match Challenge Season 2 Finals: Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox vs. R-Truth & Carmella

I’m digging Mella’s contributions to Truth’s rap. Good combo here. I don’t think Jinder & Alicia go together as well, but it’s a thing that’s going on. A lot of people have the complaint about these matches that men aren’t allowed to wrestle women. Maybe they don’t want to watch Truth working Mahal, but it’s not like Truth vs. Alicia would go much better, or Carmella vs. Jinder for that matter. Double hip toss followed by a DANCE BREAK! The Singh Brothers join in, but get thrown out by R-Truth. That wasn’t nice, the fellas just wanted to get their groove on. Mella-Go-Round by Carmella, and a Northern Lights suplex by Alicia. She sure has mastered that move, if nothing else. R-Truth & Jinder tag in, and Truth is a house affire. Alicia makes the blind tag & tells Truth to get out. She puts her hat on and talks some smack. Truth dons the hat, dodges the axe kick, and Carmella hits a superkick for two. Jinder breaks it up. After some back & forth, Carmella locks in the Code of Silence & Alicia taps!

R-Truth & Carmella will be #30 in their respective Royal Rumble matches, and get to go on a vacation anywhere in the world. R-Truth chose the destination of WWE Headquarters in Stamford, CT. Carmella doesn’t seem pleased with the choice. Makes sense, it’s like a stone’s throw from Staten Island. Not much of a trip for her, though the traffic probably makes it take awhile.

This wasn’t exactly a technical masterpiece, but it was a fun enough time. Jinder probably got his best grade ever tonight!

Grades
Mahalica: B
Fab Truth: B

WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Bar vs. The New Day vs. The Usos

Some Christmas themed attire from New Day tonight, who are going with their SPEED LINEUP of Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods. David Otunga is replacing Byron Saxton on the SD Live matches tonight, as Saxton is recovering from Birdie Danielson kicking him in the groin. That speed from New Day leads to multiple tags & near falls. The Usos get tired of waiting & interject themselves. Cesaro blocks the first dive attempt from Jey Uso with an uppercut, then Sheamus blocks the second dive attempt from Xavier with the ol’ Irish Curse. The Bar spends the next few minutes working over Woods. Lots of Uso fans tonight, the Samoan-born wrestlers have always had a strong fan following in the Bay Area. I don’t think they’ll start a riot like the fans did back when Peter Miavia would drop a match in the San Francisco territory back in the day. The Usos do eventually get in the ring, and it’s time for a SUPERKICK PARTY! Cesaro breaks up the party as he usually does and almost gets a win out of it. He’s more of a swinger, you know. Cesaro shouts out his former partner Tyson Kidd with a Sharpshooter, but Woods breaks it up. Sheamus sets up the Brogue kick, but he may have telegraphed it. Lots of pop up moves in this match. Kofi with the ol’ trust fall to the floor. Xavier Woods shouldn’t have trusted Sheamus when he got back into the ring though, as Sheamus Brogue kicks his head into the third row to get the win.

Winners: The Bar

Good match from these three teams, which would be hard not to do. The tag team division sure isn’t as deep as it was back in the day, but you get the feeling that the Bar, Usos & New Day would have fit right in with some of WWE’s best tag divisions through the years.

Grades
Bar: B+
Day: B
Usos: B

TLC Match: Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin

Much on the line here. If Braun wins, he gets a Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble, and Baron is removed from power. If Baron wins, he becomes permanent general manager of Raw. Heath Slater is the referee & is in Baron’s back pocket. Yup, Baron with the microphone is exactly what this show needs. Heath’s count gets to seven before Braun’s music plays. The Monster has his arm in a sling, but he’s here. If Corbin was smart he would have had Slater keep counting while Strowman was walking around outside the ring. Braun takes the microphone and points out that there are no disqualifications, and if somebody tired of Corbin wanted to help him, it would be perfectly legal. Apollo Crews appears at ringside with a steel chair. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable appear on the other side of the ring with chairs. Finn Balor’s over in the other corner with a chair. Corbin asks Slater to get them out, and Slater opts to remove his referee shirt & land the first punch! The disgruntled employees land a series of chairshots, and Corbin retreats up the ramp…only to be met by Kurt Angle! Angle drives him back down to the ring with chairshots. Roode & Gable hit a finisher. Crews with a top rope splash. Angle Slam! Coup de grace from Balor! Slater re-dons the referee shirt so he can make the three count while Strowman places his boot on Corbin’s chest!

Winner: Braun Strowman
Loser: Baron Corbin

Bye, Baron! This was exactly how this needed to go. I’m surprised they didn’t play the Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye song, but maybe Vince is saving that chestnut for tomorrow night.

Grades
BRRRRRRRAAAAAAUUUUUUNNNN & Friends: A+
Corbin: C ya later

Tables Match: Natalya vs. Ruby Riott

The Anvil table is carried to the ring by Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan. I for one find the ol’ “put a dead relative’s image on a table” plan more cute than offensive, but I may be alone on that. Nattie’s plan early on is to suplex Ruby through a table. That doesn’t work, but Natalya’s attempted spear job on Ruby is intercepted by Liv Morgan. Liv might not be much more help the rest of the match, and that looked pretty brutal. Logan is still around though. Natalya calls Ruby a “bitch” before slapping her like she was Homicide giving Steve Corino hearing loss. Sure enough, Sarah Logan gets slammed through a table and now she’ll be useless. Ruby tells Natalya that Anvil is ashamed of her, which probably isn’t true at this moment. Natalya locks Ruby in the Sharpshooter, which won’t win the match but will wear the lady down. Ruby knocks the Anvil table over onto Natalya, breaking the move. One of the legs is not co-operating. Natalya hits an electric chair drop on Ruby. I was wondering if Natalya would go get another table, and sure enough she goes under the ring to retrieve a table with Ruby’s image on it! Let’s be honest, Ruby is as important to herself as anybody is to anybody, so this will be tough for her. Natalya hid the Hart Foundation jacket as well, and puts it on for the proceedings. That could limit her movement. Ruby sees the table with herself on it, and sees no problem with breaking it with Natalya on top of it. They go up top & Ruby goes for a rana, but Natalya blocks and hits the super bomb through the table!

Fun match with the story that needed to be told. The Ruby table was a nice touch. Also good news, the Anvil had another pair of sunglasses for Natalya to wear afterwards!

Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Balor

Apparently Balor earned the respect of the Raw locker room by standing up to Baron Corbin. Well it’s nice that he’s earned something this year. OH SHIT GRAVES SAID “HE” HE’S GONNA BE IN TROUBLE. PRONOUNS, PAL. Mcintyre stomps the non-Too Sweet hand, not very wise on his part. Now he’s stomping the knee, which will make Randy Orton mad since stomping random body parts is his gimmick. Balor stomps at Drew’s knee as well, which bothers Drew a bit the next couple of minutes. Doesn’t bother him too much though, as he keeps throwing Finn around & making the man’s life difficult. Renee really trying to get “The Whole Damn Package” over as a nickname for McIntyre. Dunno why I thought she meant Balor the first time she said it. Drew’s talking a lot of smack tonight, but Balor takes special exception when Dolph Ziggler’s name is included. Balor & Ziggler having a special kind of friendship would be some interesting booking. Drew stays on offense forever until Balor does the ol’ Finlay rope apron trick on him. That doesn’t last, because Balor needs to take an apron bump. Drew tosses Finn back into the ring, but turns right into a Dolph Ziggler superkick! Ziggler then gets a chair & runs into Drew’s boot. Whoops. The referee asks Drew not to come in with the chair, but Finn kicks it into Drew, and hits the coup de grace for the three count!

Winner: Finn Balor

I think that special friendship between Finn & Dolph is developing further, at the expense of Drew’s win/loss record. This, as they would say, is far from over. Decent match, if a bit too heavy on Drew heat segments for the crowd to take.

Grades
Drew: C+
Finn: B-

Chairs Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton

Time for one of my favorite parts of the show, the international announcing medley! Though it’s a little less enjoyable now that I know it’s Yamaguchi-San’s brother & not Yamaguchi-San himself. Funaki is solidly in Asuka’s corner. Orton interrupted the Mandarin team because…never mind, let’s not go down that road tonight. WE GOT CHAIRS AND WE GOT A COUPLE OF FUTURE HALL OF FAMERS BY GAWD. Wow, Rey does the headfirst slide under the bottom rope with a chair on top of Orton! Years of him taking that bump finally pay off! The attempted seated senton onto a seated Orton does not, as Rey lands ass first. I don’t know how you fake that one. Orton clears the English announce table, which is somewhat surprising as-ok, I need to stop. Anyway, Orton has gone on the offensive, and a brief Rey flurry with a couple of moves involving chairs is met with a powerslam. I don’t really care about feuds involving Rey or Randy anymore, but watching these guys work is superb. If I was a young wrestler I’d be watching these guys & taking notes, as they know how to work a crowd & make money at the highest level of the business. It’s not that this is the greatest match of all time, or a MOTYC or anything, but it’s a wonderfully worked match between two professionals doing what they do best. Rey as the never say die babyface & Orton as the deliberate soulless heel. It might be tough to replicate though, as both Mysterio & Orton were naturals in the ring from the moment they first stepped through the ropes. Rey gets the win in a flash, and like Finn vs. Drew you get the feeling this is far from over.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Grades
Rey: A
Randy: A

Now Finn & Dolph are fighting backstage. I’m telling you guys, this is going to be an interesting relationship.

RAW Women’s Championship Match: Nia Jax vs. Champion Ronda Rousey

I feel like JoJo may be biased towards Ronda, as she’s wearing her colors. Some of the crowd backing Nia, as they back everybody from the islands. Hold on. San Diego isn’t an island, right? Maybe it’s a home state thing? OK, I have no idea. I also need to point out that Ronda’s shorts remind me of Chris Benoit’s trunks, though they may also be a shoutout to the American Wolves. Not sure about all that. Nia’s attempts at punches are missing so far. Ronda wishes her UFC career went like that. Aw damn, I was hoping for a rolling armbar to end this early, but Nia turned it into a sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall. She dominates for awhile, including crushing Ronda’s arm and shoulder against the post. That won’t stop Ronda for going for that armbar, and it won’t stop Nia from slinging Ronda into the barricade. You know what? I got used to the outside barrier being called the guardrail forever, but barricade sounds so much better. I’m down with this instance of WWE-speak. Ronda reverses a power bomb attempt with the ol’ rana, then Nia falls out of the ring after hitting the post with her shoulder. Now Ronda’s going up top…crossbody to the floor! Rousey’s another one of those naturals. She hits some strikes in the ring. A crossbody in the ring doesn’t go well, as Nia kinda rolls through and hits a Samoan Drop for a two count. Now Nia wants to do the Super Samoan Drop she hit Alexa Bliss with, but Ronda fights out. A reversal into a power bomb gets two. Tamina distracts Ronda during an armbar attempt. “Hashtag Facebreaker” is one of the worst calls I’ve ever heard from Michael Cole, and that covers some ground. Ronda ends up kissing the fist & slamming Nia’s arm into a weird angle and that gets the tapout.

Winner: Ronda Rousey

Like I said there, Ronda is a natural in the ring & most of the stuff she does works. I know a lot of people don’t like her for viable reasons, but when she steps between the ropes she delivers. What we grade here takes place in the ring.

Grades
Jax: B
Rousey: A

Becky asks Nia backstage if she remembers when she broke her face. Becky kicks her down and tells her to keep her name out of her mouth. As Tom Phillips points out afterward, debts are to be paid when the man comes around.

Dasha Fuentes bringing it tonight.

WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. Champion The New Daniel Bryan

Graves tells us that Bryan had the leather in the WWE Championship belt replaced with a vegan-friendly alternative. I hope this is actually true, as otherwise he would be FICKLE! FICKLE! FICKLE! God bless Greg Hamilton for properly introducing The New Daniel Bryan. That’s why he’s the best ring announcer in the business. Bryan employs the Larry Zbyszko offense to start, the good old fashioned stall. Hey, it worked to an extent against Brock Lesnar! These guys have known each other as long as Rey Mysterio & Randy Orton have known each other, so the chemistry is right there. Even if Bryan is working a new character to the WWE Universe, it’s not that new to AJ. Bryan eventually does inform the referee he has five. He’s a step ahead of AJ tonight, which wasn’t the case in previous matches. When AJ does go on the offensive, he’s fierce. Bryan smartly rolls outside when Styles signals for the Clash. But then Styles dominates on the outside, as he learned from the feet of Ric Flair. The game of chess didn’t work out for Daniel there. Bryan reverses out of the Phenomenon with some knees and a cravate suplex like he’s Chris Hero or something. He then hits the No Kicks. He actually hit the last one since he’s a goddamn heel, motherfucker. Bryan blocks the Phenomenal Forearm, but Styles gets the advantage with a dragonscrew, then rams his leg against the post a few times. Bryan regains the advantage, and even hits a rana off the top, but Styles rolls through, and eventually locks in a single leg crab. Not quite the Calf Crusher that Styles has won many matches with, but it’s in deep. Bryan manuvers that into the LeBell Lock, which was the Yes Lock for a period of time. PELE! Some more back & forth as I wonder if Sting was the man that inspired Styles to wrestle wearing gloves. Probably. Springboard 450 gets two! Oh, and here’s the Calf Crusher! Bryan’s tapped to this before, and his leg has been under pressure tonight, but he does find his way to the ropes! We get a countout tease and they barely make it back in…aw shit, Styles tried to get Bryan into a small package. NOBODY SMALL PACKAGES MR. SMALL PACKAGE!

What, you expected Bryan & Styles to have a bad match? Child please. These two couldn’t have one of those if they tried. Actually, if they tried to have a bad match it would be awesome for that fact.

Grades
Styles: A
Bryan: A

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

Ambrose & Rollins’ themes are both heavy on extra sound effects these days. It’s like WWE decided Rock got over due to extra sound effects in his theme music, so if we give these guys more sound effects they’ll get more over. I’m not a fan. I thought IWC folks were being too kind to Renee not explaining Dean’s nonsense until I heard Graves’ comment before JoJo’s intro, and now I’m on her side 100%. Dude sounded like a dick. Though, let’s be honest, WWE put Renee in a bad spot when they put her in the color role on Raw not long before her husband turned heel, and it’s not like people didn’t know they were married. Good ol’ Total Divas. Damn, Graves really laying the heavy lumber on the commentary. Cole’s trying to rein the guy in but he’s going full bore. Seth having the chest hair & Dean shaving is the opposite of what people tell me about face/heel chest hair. Renee calls Dean a marshall of the ring, which I suppose makes him better than a ring general. He’s certainly kicked some ass so far. It’s weird. These guys are trying, but they are in that slot right before the main event that we’ve all become used to taking as a popcorn/bathroom match. The fans have been remarkably quiet so far, considering this should be one of the most important feuds in WWE. Then again, it’s a TLC PPV, and this is a straight up singles match, so yeah. Rollins’ knee gave out, then he did a buckle bomb & Ambrose kicked out at two. It’s one of those interesting selljobs. And it’s like the crowd realizes they’ve slept on it, and you see the people in the front row politely clapping along. What a weird deal. Well, now the fans have turned on it and declared it boring, which isn’t wrong. The fans want Becky, and I don’t disagree. Rollins did the deal, and the deal didn’t finish it. And now Ambrose is trying to do a fist bump, and nobody has any time for this. If Gorilla Monsoon was alive he would have already been down to the ring and yelling GO HOME. Finally, Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds and ends the match.

I kept lowering the grade the longer this went. Dean Douglas might have given it the MF. There’s just a point in the night where you need to respect the audience and the main event, and these guys had no respect for either. Hopefully Roman Reigns comes back and smacks some sense into both of them.

Grades
Dean: F
Seth: F

Smackdown Women’s Championship TLC Match: Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Champion Becky Lynch

Charlotte is very happy heading in, and I assume that’s because her dad will be on TV full time very soon. At least that’s what I’m hoping for. Every participant gets a babyface reaction because that’s what they deserve, but Becky gets the chants. Becky & Charlotte talk, and Asuka is ready to fight. They keep teasing the table & ladder bumps, which is smart. They’ll mean more later. Like there, when Asuka snap mared Becky off the top rope onto the ladder. Charlotte tries to steal Asuka’s thunder like she stole Becky’s, but Asuka powerbombs her through the table instead! Becky & Asuka going back & forth now, and Charlotte interjects with a chair to Asuka’s back. She’ll always get those woos, and she does the moonsault off the top to the floor! Like Ric, she’s getting a little too excited, and she’s setting up a table. Becky breaks that up with some chairshots to both of her opponents. Charlotte sends her into some assorted chairs, then goes after the German announce table. The Flairs are still upset over both World Wars, as Ric was a young boy during World War I. I should probably stop. Becky found one of those Hardy ladders and is setting up Charlotte & Asuka on that table. I’m sure this will end well. It didn’t. At best it was 50/50, as Asuka got the hell out of the way and Becky landed right on Charlotte. Honestly, I think Asuka would have faced the same amount of impact if she laid on the table. Becky & Asuka climb the ladder, and eventually Charlotte comes back and canes both of them. I’m guessing she has a better cane shot than Sandman in 2018. Sandman would have less force but hit you right between the eyes. Asuka is wearing Becky out at the moment, and then Charlotte spears her through the barricade. Jesus. She got all of Ric’s good genes. Becky’s trying to go up top, but now we’ve got a faceoff. Oh, they’re going at it and it’s awesome. It’s freaking Ric Flair & Ricky Steamboat here. Go at it! I love it. Charlotte swanton bombs Becky through the table! Goddamn. Charlotte climbs the ladder, and all of a sudden here is Asuka. Becky’s back, and she’s got a ladder of her own.

Ronda Rousey has strolled out here, and she pushes the ladder with Charlotte & Becky off? Well, wait a minute, that leaves Asuka all alone, and she’s the Smackdown Women’s Champion! There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that Asuka is a deserving champion. We’re all fine with that. But both Becky & Charlotte got screwed out of the title by Ronda Rousey, and by god they’re gonna get their payback somehow. That’s some fantastic booking from where I sit, and I didn’t even predict it that way!

Winner: Asuka, & the WWE Universe

Grades
Asuka: A
Flair: A
Lynch: A

Final Thought

Certainly some ups & downs with this show. I feel like Rollins vs. Ambrose should have been booked earlier in the night, as they had no clue of what their role was on the show and did way too much that the people didn’t care about. I would not have crapped on them so much if I didn’t notice everybody else doing the same. And it’s not like they were going balls out either, in that case I might have eased off. It was a bad read of the scene, and might speak poorly of Rollins going forward, which would piss off some folks.

The people that needed to deliver did.