The SmarK Rant for WWE TLC 2016 – 12.04.16
Live from Dallas, TX
Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo, JBL, Tom Phillips & David Otunga. Really, FOUR announcers? We’re getting dangerously close to the Naked Gun gag of the endless parade of baseball announcers. (At least we’re back to a more manageable three now, as it turned out that sticking ol’ face-fucker in there was seemingly a passive-aggressive way to get rid of Mauro.)
Smackdown tag title match: Rhyno & Heath Slater v. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
JBL talking over the Wyatt intro is immediately irritating. The Wyatts work Rhyno over in the corner to start, and then cut off Slater’s comeback pretty much immediately. Garvin Stomp and Bray comes in to pound him down for two. Is it me, or is it weird that they worship at the altar of nostalgia 99% of the time, but can’t mention that the heel team is comprised of the sons of Mike Rotunda and Bob Orton? Heath makes another brief comeback, but tries a slingshot and lands in the Orton powerslam for two. Slater fights off Bray and makes the hot tag to Rhyno, who quickly runs wild on Bray, but he spears Luke Harper on the floor instead of Orton, and walks into the RKO at 5:52 to make the Wyatts the new tag champions. Well that was a whole lot of nothing and pretty much a complete squash. *1/2 And is anyone ever going to bring up a reason for Orton turning heel at some point? (Man, that whole thing was just a big waste of everyone and everything.)
Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose welcomes us to Flavor Country.
Nikki Bella v. Carmella
They immediately start brawling and Carmella counters a powerbomb with a headscissors to the floor. Back in, Carmella goes to the leg after beating the count, as JBL clarifies that although it’s no-DQ, countouts still apply. Well that’s not quite the “no rules” that they were hyping at the start of the match. Sounds like a RULE to me. Carmella hangs her in the Tree of Woe and Otunga tells us about the tremendous pressure that hanging upside down puts on the knees. Truly devastating. Carmella grabs a kendo stick and works her over with that, but stupidly leaves it on the mat while trying her headscissor submission. Back to the floor and Nikki makes a comeback out there, hitting a springboard kick off the railing and then immediately ignoring all previous pain in her leg. Carmella clips the leg again to cut that off, but Nikki grabs a fire extinguisher and uses that to spray Carmella a whole bunch, and the Rack Attack finishes at 7:55. This was fine, just a TV match. ** JBL and Otunga having to give us personal stories about every spot in the match because they, too, were wrestlers got a bit tiresome. Afterwards, Carmella reveals that in fact it was NATALYA that attacked Nikki at Survivor Series. I guess this is supposed to be a shocking revelation. Wasn’t she already a heel?
And then we get a jewelry commercial featuring Natalya as a total babyface.
Intercontinental title, ladder match: The Miz v. Dolph Ziggler
They immediately fight to the floor and run each other into the variety of ladders while JBL and Otunga squabble in a manner so phony that I want to drill my eardrums out. Dolph is unable to slam a ladder on Miz’s head, so Miz takes him down with a drop toehold into the ladder. “Golly!” Otunga notes. Well said, really earning your pay there, David. Another announcing irritation: They keep selling this as Dolph’s LAST chance at the title. But we already HAD that, when he put his career on the line and won! Dolph comes back with a DDT onto the ladder as they still haven’t made it into the ring yet in any significant fashion. Finally we get into the ring at 8:00, with Dolph trying the first climb, but Miz dropkicks the ladder to cut him off. Otunga’s deep thoughts on the match: In order to win, you have to literally climb the ladder to success. I’m pretty sure the Arnold Schwarzenegger soundboard from the internet would make more coherent points than this guy. A ladder gets laid in the corner and Ziggler drops an elbow off it, which they sell as this devastating highspot even though it’s a lot lower and closer than the top rope would be. But one guy in the background tries to start a “That was awesome” chant, so good for him. Dolph climbs again and gets close, but Miz yanks him down, and then tips over the ladder. The announcing is swinging wildly between Otunga & JBL making stupid pithy comments and joking about the Miz, and Mauro completely overselling every spot. It’s really hard to get into the matches when you’re constantly being distracted by this shit. They battle to the top of the ladder and Dolph slugs him off, but Miz saves again and works on the leg to stop him. Dolph gets his knee dropped onto the ladder while Mauro yells with every impact. Look, I love Mauro, but he really needs to tone it down here. If EVERY spot is the highlight of the show, then none of them are. Miz gets a unique spot, hooking Ziggler in a figure-four around the ladder rungs, which is kind of a cool twist on the usual ladder spots. Ziggler can’t hit the superkick because his knee is hurt, and Miz gives him a Skull Crushing Finale on the EDGE of the ladder in a sick spot. In any other era Dolph would have (and should have) come up with a crimson mask off that, but not here. Miz climbs and grabs the belt, but Dolph knocks him off and leaves him hanging from the hook, then slams the ladder into him to knock him off and to the floor. That looked incredibly dangerous as well. Miz has some decidedly un-PG language about that one, so that might not have gone as planned. Miz is out on the floor, so Dolph climbs again on one leg, but Miz saves on one leg, and hits the slingshot powerbomb into that ladder in the corner. Miz sets up a second ladder and they each race up their own ladder as that poor belt is still swinging wildly. They slug it out on top and Miz goes down first, but then he pops up yet again and kicks Ziggler in the nuts to knock him off and retain the title at 24:25. Kind of a cheap finish, but the match was good once they finally got it going. Felt like they didn’t have much of a storyline beyond “Dolph knocks Miz off, but he miraculously pops up and saves” over and over, though. ***1/2 (And that was pretty much it for Ziggler. Dude should have got out when he had a chance.)
Chairs match: Kalisto v. Baron Corbin
This is an odd use of both guys, to say the least. Kalisto attacks with a chair right away, but Corbin swats him away, so Kalisto dropkicks him out of the ring and follows with a dive. Corbin chokes him down with his shirt, however, and throws him into some chairs to take over. Back in, that gets two. Kalisto fights back, but Corbin cuts him off with a chokeslam for two as they cut randomly to a shot of two people in the crowd looking bored. Corbin sets up six chairs in the middle, but Kalisto takes him down into another chair and then hits a top rope senton onto Corbin and through the chairs. That only gets two, however. Corbin bails and catches him on a dive, turning it into the Deep Six on the floor. Back in, that gets two. Corbin chases him around with a chair, unable to make contact with a chair in a ring stocked with 25 of them, but Kalisto comes back with a dropkick into the railing. Back in, Kalisto goes up and moonsaults him for two. That was a weird spot, as he moonsaulted onto a chair that was laying on Corbin, but landed on his knees, so it wasn’t really clear who was supposed to be hurt by that. Kalisto sets up a pile of chairs and goes up, but Corbin finally hits him with a chair and finishes with End of Days on the chairs at 12:50. It’s WWE, so Goliath always wins. This was literally all Corbin basically standing in place while Kalisto bounced all over the ring and took bumps. **1/2
Smackdown Women’s title, Tables match: Becky Lynch v. Alexa Bliss
Becky attacks Alexa and tries a powerbomb off the apron, but Alexa escapes and they head back into the ring. Becky grabs the first table, but she takes forever to set it up and Alexa attacks her to take over. Bliss chokes away on the ropes and then brings out her own table after running Becky into the post. The announcers get bored and start doing their fake squabbling to fill dead air, as Alexa clubs her down. They fight on the top rope and that goes nowhere, and Bliss puts the table in the corner now. Becky makes the comeback after 10:00 of nothing, but Alexa cuts her off and hits the double knee standing moonsault. So now Alexa changes her mind and puts the table back in the middle of the ring, then flips it over and DDTs Becky onto the upside down table. Not sure why smashing your own back into the table would be preferable to just doing the move on the mat. Becky with the disarmer, but that’s pointless. So now this poor table gets put into the corner with Alexa on top of it, as apparently, they only had the budget for one table and they’re just recycling it over and over. Alexa escapes that predicament, but Becky takes her down into the table as the replays keep showing random shots of the crowd. They fight on the apron, but Alexa powerbombs her off the apron out of nowhere and through the table to win the title at 15:04. Pretty clear they’re just setting up someone for Nikki Bella to beat for the title. They put this in the death slot and it died. *1/2 (Hey, on the bright side, Alexa did damn good for herself once she got the title.)
TLC match, WWE World title: AJ Styles v. Dean Ambrose
AJ beats on him and tosses him right away, and they fight over a ladder until Dean runs him into it. Back to the floor and they fight up to the entrance, where Ambrose climbs a giant ladder before AJ crawls away. We get some wacky spots with Ambrose putting a garbage bin on AJ’s head as they go through the crowd and back to the ringside area. Ambrose crotches him on the railing and runs into him with a chair. Back in, AJ runs a ladder into Ambrose and slams him on it to take over, but Ambrose comes back with a catapult into the ladder that sends AJ flying over the top. I have no idea how he takes those bumps at his age, unless he’s just completely insane. And then Dean chucks a ladder to the floor, right at AJ’s head, as if to prove my point. Back in, Styles waffles Ambrose with a chair and then slams him on the chair for good measure. AJ grabs some more chairs, which brings to mind the problem with this PPV concept: It’s not nearly as effective when you’ve already had guys doing a bunch of tables/ladders/chairs spots earlier in the show. Case in point, AJ sets up the chairs like Corbin did, and Ambrose puts him through his own chairs just like Kalisto did. Ambrose goes up with a chair and slams it onto AJ. The outside referee yells “AJ, are you OK?” and then satisfied that he’s done his due diligence, goes off to have a coffee or something. No wonder they’re getting sued for concussions. AJ comes back with a suplex through the table in the corner, and if it was a tables match, it would be OVER. But it’s not. So it’s not. Dean fires up, but AJ hits him with the dropkick, so Dean hits the rebound lariat and we get another annoying fan reaction shot on the replay. Hopefully the Fine Bros don’t sue. AJ tries the flying forearm, but Dean counters and backdrops Styles to the floor and follows with a suicide dive. Dean tears up all three announce tables, then sets up a ladder onto one of them and drops the flying elbow from the top of the ladder and through the second table. Well that was a memorable spot. Back in the ring, Ambrose climbs for the title, but AJ revives and hits the forearm to knock Dean off the ladder. They both climb again, and both fall off again. So AJ tries the Styles Clash, but Ambrose reverses and spins him into the ladder and they head to the floor. AJ hits the moonsault DDT off the apron and sets up another table…then hits a 450 off the top rope and through the table on the floor. Dean is dead, so AJ climbs…but now James Ellsworth heads down in a neck brace. AJ pauses to teach him another lesson, and that allows Dean to make the comeback, hitting a Dirty Deeds on the stairs. He makes what looks to be the winning climb, but AJ revives again and makes the save. Dean punches him all the way out of the ring…but now Ellsworth turns on him and pushes the ladder over, sending Dean through the table outside. And that allows AJ to retain the WWE title at 31:00. They definitely left it all in the ring on that one and saved the show. ****1/2
I guess the overall rating depends on your love of the Miz-Ziggler ladder match. For me the show was a thumbs in the middle, leaning up thanks to the main event, but if you were really into the ladder match it’s a pretty easy thumbs up. The rest of the show was complete filler, however, and it was a pretty forgettable show overall, feeling more like an episode of Smackdown than a PPV. (Much like everything else from this era, I pretty much immediately forgot about the show afterwards.)