Drew McIntyre (C) def. AJ Styles and The Miz – WWE Championship (Triple Threat TLC Match)
So, there’s a lot to unpack here. First, it’s that with The Miz cashing in, Drew McIntyre and AJ Styles have still never officially faced each other one on one. My early hunch is that AJ will claim he had the title won before Miz screwed everything up, so I do believe we will see more McIntyre/AJ going forward.
Anyways, I loved the match when all of the elements of the TLC match were implemented. At first, I thought they were just padding for time with all of the in-ring stuff. But it picked up in a huge way when they started to use all of the weapons. AJ’s targeting of Drew’s leg was also great, although I believed Drew was a bit inconsistent in selling the damage. Now let’s talk about the cash-in. I both liked it and hated it.
First, I hated it because WWE essentially made the briefcase pointless this year. They had Otis lolly gag around with the briefcase for about five months. Then you give the briefcase to someone with credibility, and you have him lose to? Can’t help but feel this was a wasted opportunity. You would also think that Miz and Morrison would have a contingency plan in place to deal with AJ’s bodyguard. Morrison did distract him and bring him away from the ring, but that probably should have been done before Miz started climbing.
That being said, I also loved it for the moment because it created a lot of extra drama. We’ve seen cash-ins turn into triple threat matches like with Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 31. But we never saw a Money In Bank cash-in during a TLC match. This created an every man for himself scenario where literally anyone could have won it. The drama of who would bring the title down was well done. There was so many teases, and moments where I could have sworn any man would have won. In the end, I wanted Miz to win just to not make the briefcase get wasted, but you can’t complain with the year Drew has had. A very entertaining beginning for me. ****1/4
Sasha Banks (C) def. Carmella – SmackDown Women’s Championship
Firstly, I’m digging the entire makeover on Carmella’s gimmick. This just seems more like her and who she was always supposed to be. Seductive, sassy and arrogant. She was some of that before, but it was always seemed more implicit than explicit.
As for the match itself, I actually thought it was pretty solid. And that’s saying something for me, because I’ve never been a fan of Carmella’s ring work. Of course that can also be a product of working with someone as talented as Sasha, but Carmella looked very comfortable here, matching Sasha’s offense to an extent.
I’m not sure I like Carmella tapping out clean in her first match returning, though. I would have preferred her to lose by some fluke through miscommunication with her little caddy, but I don’t entirely hate it. Solid stuff coming out of the TLC match that came before it. ***
The Hurt Business def. The New Day (C) – RAW Tag Team Championships
I think we all knew if there was any title changing hands tonight, it was going to be this one. The match was under 10 minutes, but this was still a rapid fire, hard hitting match that I enjoyed. It’s like they skipped the Heat segment and just got right to the good stuff and near-falls.
Ive seen a lot of these two teams the past two months so a part of me is numb to what they’re doing, but the work here was very well done for the time given. The right team won, and as WWE loves to do, the faction has all the gold. Guess all that’s missing is MVP to go for the WWE Championship. But a very, very solid match. ***1/2
Asuka and Charlotte Flair def. Nia Jax (C) and Shayna Baszler (C) – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
At this point, when Flair inevitably turns on Asuka, they have to retire the titles. How many tag teams in the women’s division are actual tag teams and not just a makeshift team of two singles competitors? It’s really just a mess at this point, and all I know is that no one is paying attention to the title scene going on there.
Besides, we all know Asuka and Charlotte will feud over the championship. The championships aren’t even secondary in this dynamic. It’s maybe the fifth most important thing. Charlotte Flair, I believe, has now won every title available for the women’s division going back to his NXT days, so there’s that? The match itself was okay, I guess. Nia Jax didn’t hurt anyone from what I saw, so that alone saves it from being a dud. **1/4
Roman Reigns (C) def. Kevin Owens – Universal Championship (Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match)
Imagine showing this match to someone four years ago. Kevin Owens is a great sympathetic baby face with all the odds stacked against him and Roman Reigns is a sadistic, narcissist heel who needs every shortcut and heel tactic in the book to retain his titles.
It’s almost like an alternate universe when you consider what both men were like. In fact, this is exactly what both men were like when they feuded over the same Universal Championship four years ago.
This match had many of the same qualities as the first TLC match, meaning it was very good. Kevin Owens was perfect in his role here, overcoming everything Roman and Jey threw at him. But you’d think Owens would go into this match with some kind of plan to deal with Jey.
Surely he knew that he’d have to contend with him as well. Also, Owens said he’s going to take the title or die trying. That’s usually a sign a face is winning. But the thing is, he didn’t win and he’s still alive. Kind of awkward.
We all knew Roman was retaining, but WWE did a great job in teasing a title switch a couple of times with Owens. Roman’s just on another level character wise right now, but Owens fought a great match and all involved worked extremely hard. I probably liked the first TLC marginally better just because of the dynamic of the cash-in at play, but the two matches were virtually the same quality wise. On this night, that’s a good thing. ****
Randy Orton def. The Fiend – Firefly Inferno Match
So I never heard the bell rang, but I’m assuming since Orton turned The Fiend into deep fried zombie, he won the match. I was actually surprised at the amount of people predicting The Fiend to win. Cinematic wise, there is far more to do with The Fiend being lit ablaze. It’s all a setup for WWE to do more video packages and have exorcist-like behavior from The Fiend.
I’ve never been the biggest Inferno Match guy, truth be told. A part of me wanted this match to be a cinematic special, because Orton and Wyatt never seem to have great chemistry in the ring together. But this match did work for me….to an extent, anyways. This match was more about the theatrics, jump cuts and visuals as opposed to the actual action, because truth be told I can’t remember any of it. That being said, Orton and The Fiend sold the match well, and I will admit Orton hitting his pose with flames around him was a cool visual.
Orton and Wyatt have had some clunkers in year’s past (I never want to hear the phrase “House of Horrors” again), but this one is something I could rock with. While I’m sure The Fiend wasn’t actually incinerated (because then Orton would have to be arrested and then who would Edge face at WrestleMania), and it was probably just a dummy. The Fiend will probably be resurrected and come after Randy even more. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes, but it was a solid main event, considering my disastrous expectations. ***
Both TLC matches delivered, the undercard was solid for the most part and the main event (or at least the main event in fragments) was cool to look at. I have no problem recommending this show if you have a couple of hours to burn. Really no actively bad things on the card, nor was there any booking decision that made you scratch your head too hard. Of course, that can be debated on as well.