Good lord, today has been stressful for journalists like myself, but it has to be even crazier for the folks over at WWE.
In case you haven’t been following the big news, an outbreak of the mumps has caused major changes to the TLC card for this Sunday, since Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had to be pulled from the show.
As a response to this, WWE opted to go with the replacement options of AJ Styles randomly being paired up with Finn Balor while Kurt Angle of all people will fill in for Roman Reigns.
There are so many things to unpack when it comes to this, and to be honest, part of me is in total panic mode not just for TLC itself, but for many other things going forward.
Allow me to indulge my overly stimulated mind for a moment to just lay out everything that I’m trying to analyze as a potential problem that could arise from this situation. Also, apologize for what is going to amount to a wall of text, and I fully anticipate a “You worry too much daddy” comment to be posted below, Harley.
Time to spitball.
First things first, if you’ve followed my previous posts here and elsewhere on the net regarding the pay-per-view, you know by now that I had very little faith in this event. It was abundantly clear that WWE hinged the show’s success on it being super cool that The Shield reunited along with Asuka’s main roster debut squash match.
I’ll give them credit that they at least had Braun Strowman fighting Ambrose and Rollins ahead of time to piggyback off his feud with Reigns as a means to include him into the match, and I’ll also fully admit that Kane’s appearance was a total surprise and I like that there’s potential to have him feud with Reigns over The Undertaker’s retirement.
The Miz’s direction has been kind of crazy, The Bar’s replacement of The Miztourage makes some sense, but really, this was kind of nuts.
It also made no sense that this is a TLC match because there’s nothing to climb the ladder to retrieve, which in itself is an entirely other argument because TLC matches are just ladder matches to begin with and shouldn’t exist at all—but without something to climb to get, this is literally just a generic No Disqualification match, meaning why is this even called TLC?
Anyway, deep breath. Let’s move on.
Now that we aren’t getting Roman Reigns in the match, this means The Shield reunion has been put on hold. When that is going to happen is an entirely unknown entity to not just us, but WWE’s officials, too.
Somewhere down the line, we’ll see it happen, and that’s okay, but there’s no denying that it won’t have the same impact unless they get lucky. We very well may be looking at a scenario where by the time we see them team up, it’s not going to feel as special or cool because it will have had a random stop on the momentum train.
In the best case scenario, the crowd still loves it, the WWE Universe eats it up, and we all feel happy inside like originally planned. Let’s hope that’s the case.
Even in that scenario, though, it still pushes WWE’s plans further back than originally intended. We can guarantee that WWE didn’t start booking TLC a few months ago with the intention to have everything fall apart like this, so how is this going to affect the plans for the build to Survivor Series, which in turn will affect the Royal Rumble and so forth?
Remember, there isn’t a Raw pay-per-view scheduled for December—just Clash of Champions for SmackDown. If this match doesn’t take place at TLC, then whatever they wanted to do in the meantime has to happen on a regular episode of Raw or at Survivor Series, while not getting in the way of other ideas.
For instance, if the plan was to set something up here so Roman Reigns and Kane could have a singles match at Survivor Series, then we could definitely still see that happen at that show if Reigns is healthy enough to return to action by then. The match with The Shield teaming up will just have to happen on Raw and be built up as a big television episode instead. WWE is flexible. It can work.
Now, Kane is just going to have to look like he’s targeting Reigns’ friends since he can’t get his hands on Reigns. That’s your excuse, WWE. Run with it and hope that it just doesn’t feel too awkward.
What about Kurt Angle, though??
This is huge, in so, so many ways.
One of the big problems we have here is that Kurt Angle’s in-ring return is going to have happened just completely out of the blue with zero build whatsoever to indicate that.
At best, we can argue that he and The Miz have been argumentative as of late, and that he could get so pissed with the way things are that he just wants to step in to put the ankle lock on the intercontinental champion to shut him up.
However, Angle against The Bar, Kane and Braun Strowman? How is that going to work going forward? There should be tension on Raw episodes to come, and I hope WWE doesn’t just sweep that under the rug. They’ll need to address that.
With Angle returning to the ring, this means we now have to speculate that he’s been cleared the whole time, and that there’s definitely potential for a match at WrestleMania. If that’s the case, who is he going to face? This isn’t the time to write up a full article about that, but my guess is Triple H. We’ll get more into this at another date, but I’m just putting it out there for now.
Angle’s presence in this match changes so much of the dynamic that it will be exciting to see what happens, because this could be a total mess or it could be a lot of fun purely because WWE won’t have a plan to follow.
You’d have to imagine WWE had some ideas for spots that they can’t do anymore, since Angle isn’t the same person as Reigns. He doesn’t have the youth, the size, the power, or the gimmick of being the third man in The Shield to do the powerbomb on his side.
I’m worried about Angle’s health, though, since this is a TLC match. Reigns could have—and most likely would have—taken some decent bumps here and there, and I don’t want to see Angle do the same thing and risk his potential future matches just to try to bring some pops into one match on the card.