WWE TLC 2016
December 4, 2016
American Airlines Center – Dallas, Texas

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviewers:

  • Kelly Harrass: Kelly is changing up his nightly routine by watching and reviewing this show instead of playing Pokémon. He’s put just about 50 hours into Sun so far and wants to know how many of those hours he has spent petting his Pokémon. Find him on Twitter @comicgeekelly.
  • Garrett Kidney: In order to show he has layers Garrett reviewed the debut episode of 205 Live for Voices of Wrestling. But that (accompanied by him reviewing this WWE PPV) simply cannot hide the fact that he’s the TNA guy around here. The weekly Impact review is usually the give away. Garrett is also playing Pokemon Sun but has since been distracted by driving around in a car listening to old Final Fantasy music in Final Fantasy 15. If you’re still reading Garrett’s author blurb at this stage you can follow him on Twitter @garrettkidney
  • JR Goldberg: JR Goldberg likes board games, punk music and pro wrestling. You can follow him on twitter @wrestlingbubble. He literally just bought a PS4 last week so he could tweet through his inevitably disappointment regarding The Last Guardian, and hasn’t played a pokemon game since Red and Blue.

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton def. Heath Slater & Rhyno ©

Kelly Harrass: This is the kind of match that we’ll look back on in five years and wonder how these Fire Pro random teams were put together. Or maybe we’ll look back on this as the match that began the legendary tag title run of Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. It didn’t feel like there was much to this match outside of the ending. The Rhyno/Slater story has run its course and instead of letting it go too long, they actually ended their title reign at an appropriate time. I really enjoyed moment where Harper took the spear for Orton to prove that they can work together. The RKO outta nowhere was pretty good and was easily the highlight of the match. While I wouldn’t call this a hot opener, it was a solid enough match. **1/2

Garrett Kidney: Not exactly the blazing hot opening match you hope for on a WWE PPV – bar the nifty set up for the RKO finish this was a fairly bland formulaic tag, sending Rhyno and Slater’s reign out on a bit of a whimper (this bordered on a competitive squash). The Rhyno and Slater dynamic, while amusing during its inception, had run its course and the belts should now serve as a vehicle for further Wyatt Family strife as Orton and Harper subtly fight for daddy Bray’s love. **1/4

JR Goldberg: The early parts of this are standard, but the structure is sound and it shows the roles well: Slater as sympathetic but overmatched face, Rhyno as a the powerhouse the heels know they should avoid, Orton as the true weapon, and Wyatt as a mastermind, picking his spots. The timing and idea for the hot tag was a little off and it took some of the tension out, but that is an unfortunate recurring theme in Bray Wyatt matches. The finish was well thought out, and again reinforced the roles that each person had within the narrative, even with people like Harper on the outside. A good match that served its purpose well and had the “right team” win, but the match itself was merely perfunctory. ***

Nikki Bella def. Carmella

Kelly Harrass: Am I crazy for really enjoying this match? When it began, this felt like a fight. Judging from the shiner that Carmella was sporting it seems like these two don’t really have a problem working stiff with each other. Nikki came off great here. This was her biggest opportunity yet to show up Carmella. Even though Nikki is on the side of the angels now, she showed Carmella that she is a better bully than her any day. Nikki’s crotch based attack with the fire extinguisher proves that quite well. Carmella was beaten decisively here, but she put up a good fight. It was a WWE No DQ match, so it goes without saying that a kendo stick was introduced, but they didn’t go too over the top with the weapons. This was a fun little match and it probably would have been the match that I would have opened the show with instead of the tag title match. ***1/2

Garrett Kidney: You know what are usually fun? Wacky midcard plunder matches. You know what this was? A fun wacky midcard plunder match. They didn’t go overboard on the plunder, limiting things to a handful of weapons all of which were smartly used. Also that kick off the barricade was sweet. The Bella’s special traditionally has been the competently executed, entirely forgettable PPV match. This was a step above that! ***

JR Goldberg: Is using the X Factor as a finisher the Diva equivalent of being given the overdrive? Nikki reminds me of Kevin Von Erich, where you aren’t entirely sure if anyone has ever told them not to hit people for real. I like matches that have a freak injury and a heel attack it after relentlessly. It makes the heel look smart and is a very realistic way for a match to transpire. The kick off the barricade was a very cool transition on the outside. This reminded me of that fun WrestleMania match with JBL and Finlay just killing each other with plunder. I enjoyed this. I like that the women are starting excel and find space in all different parts of the card, beyond just Sasha and Charlotte on Raw. ***

WWE Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match
The Miz © def. Dolph Ziggler

Kelly Harrass: Going into this match, I really wanted Miz to win because he and Maryse were easily the best part of Total Divas this week. I was even farther into Miz’s camp once I saw Ziggler’s awful pants. He looks like he’s got popcorn tins for legs. I’m glad that the Miz won because I didn’t much care for this one. I don’t exactly know what it was that didn’t click for me, but as far as his recent performances go, this was probably my least favorite Miz match in a while. This match should have felt more urgent and hate filled than it did. In all honesty, I felt like the Carmella/Nikki Bella match did a better job of feeling like a grudge match than this did. The Miz’s post-match promo had way more fire than the entire match did. I did enjoy the end of the match with Miz kicking Ziggler in the dong twice. His title meant more to him than an honorable win, just like keeping the belt from Ziggler might mean more to Miz than being champion does right now. There wasn’t anything that was outright wrong with this match, but I feel like it wasn’t as good as the story they were telling deserved to have. ***1/4

Garrett Kidney: For me a singles ladder match works in one of two styles. Either go for sheer spectacle. Or work it as a bitter, angry grudge match. This match straddled both those fences, perfecting neither. Miz fell into the logic shattering slow climb/fast climb trap that so many matches of this type fall prey to. The speed that the wrestlers climb the ladder is dictated less by what the narrative of the match should suggest but rather whatever is simply convenient for the particular spot. I actually don’t care how wrestlers approach selling in matches like this – but once they establish something it should remain a consistent part of the match. After the emotional heights of this programme so far, this felt like one match too far – continuing a feud after the story had been told. Elements of this really worked and certain facets really dragged. ***1/4

JR Goldberg: Full disclosure, I think Dolph Ziggler is awful and that will probably color some of my commentary on this. Granted, I think Miz is really great, so maybe it will even out. In a weird way, I think the Miz and Maryse are such an endearing act. They clearly adore each other. How can you hate two people who would so clearly do anything for each other? I will say this match does play toward Ziggler’s strength as a worker: falling off things. Ziggler’s offense would be better if it just consisted of him trying out new standup material on his opponent. I have enjoyed the early parts of this match veering from the normal strategy of “try to climb at every opportunity”. These are two veterans who have been in matches like this before, and have a clear idea of their own strengths and a begrudging respect for the resilience of their opponent. Maryse is great, alternating between shock and righteous indignation that someone would dare hit her husband. I don’t think it’s a problem necessarily, but it seems strange to switch from all the ladder based attacks to a body part focus at such a late stage in the match. I suppose it shows that Miz is an opportunist, which is good. Dolph Ziggler tried to die on the skull crushing finale. Miz using a ladder not as a weapon but as a makeshift crutch is a nice touch, but setting it up seems a little arbitrary. Miz selling on the way up the ladder and kicking Dolph low and then in the knee is a great finish. This had a lot of good parts. If this isn’t the best match on the show, it will be a good card all told. ***3/4

Chairs Match
Baron Corbin def. Kalisto

Kelly Harrass: Here I was ready to bury what a stupid concept the chairs match is and then we got a pretty damn good match. I feel comfortable saying that this is Corbin’s best match of his career and Kalisto’s best singles match in WWE. Instead of going the plodding route and whacking each other in the back with chairs for fifteen minutes, these two actually had some fresh feeling offense. This is everything I could have wanted out of a chairs match outside of a giant chair and LA Park’s spear into a bunch of chairs spot. Corbin looked like a dominating force and Kalisto put up a strong fight. Maybe it was because I went in not expecting much, but these two really blew me away. ****

Garrett Kidney: I enjoy how Corbin is still announced as the winner of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, as if to remind us that he hasn’t achieved anything of note since. All credit to Kalisto for dragging the soulless empty husk that is Baron Corbin to a really enjoyable match, in fact (probably) the best Chairs match ever (I don’t actually remember the other Chairs matches so that probably says it all, well except that time Big Show used a giant chair). Kalisto continues to outperform his push so of course he lost here and he’s short so of course he can’t be pushed. And it doesn’t help that Mauro refers to Kalisto as the Diminutive Dynamo because he has to be defined by how tall he is at all times, not how talented he is. The second PPV in a row Kalisto carried an opponent to a superior match only to lose. The match was great at least, full of big spots and novel use of the chairs. ***1/2

JR Goldberg: Is that actually a Baron Corbin shirt, or did he just find a sweet wolf shirt ata  truck stop and thought it would make for good rasslin attire? Corbin is this generation’s Nathan Jones, in that there isn’t a concrete reason as to why he isn’t a bigger deal, other than he isn’t really good and no one likes him all that much. That is overly harsh. Corbin is very good at finding interesting and well timed ways to hit his big moves. In some ways he’s the logical conclusion on the WWE’s focus on creating moments, in that every match of his has eight or ten seconds that are breathtaking and perfect professional wrestling. The rest of it has yet to come together. I will give Corbin credit in the this match for being a very good base, athletic and strong and in position. Corbin’s timing paid off in the chair to Kalisto’s face, which looked great. Other than that, this didn’t do much for me. I didn’t like how the whole match was based around people thinking Kalisto would be outmatched, when we have been shown that Kalisto is surprisingly equal to bigger opponents, including Corbin. I think I’ll end up liking this less than most of you, as the story didn’t really click for me. The work was good, but that isn’t as important to me. **1/2

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship – Tables Match
Alexa Bliss def. Becky Lynch ©

Kelly Harrass: These two women came into this match at a disadvantage. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most tables matches are junk. They’re built around a single spot that most often does not live up to the amount of suspense we felt for it. Couple that with the fact that most tables match finishes are built around accidental victories and it’s really hard to have a good tables match. That all being said, Bliss and Lynch had a good tables match. One of the best decisions they made was not having someone accidentally go through a table early on and not counting that as the end of the match. That always bothers me when it happens in matches. The conclusion with Alexa powerbombing Becky through the table on the outside felt organic and gave Bliss a clean title win. This match could have easily been very bad, but they rose above the stipulation and put together something pretty solid. Well done! ***¼

Garrett Kidney: Tables matches are hard. They are all build and suspense toward a single moment: putting your opponent through a table. Something we’ve seen literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of times before in every possible way. So you build an entire match around something the audience has seen countless previous instances. They are even worse for title matches. Rather than bettering your opponent in honourable combat you can win a title because you happen to put your opponent through a piece of furniture first. And while you could argue that’s fine for a heel, I really think the era of heels without credibility should be left in the past. Bliss and Becky tried to work around the inherent limitations of the stipulation by incorporating the table in interesting ways but there is no world where this isn’t better as a straight singles match. **1/2

JR Goldberg: I think it’s interesting that the announcers are talking about how you have to balance the time of setting up the tables and staying on top of your opponent. I also think it’s smart and logical that Lynch set up a table on the outside, which would maximize the impact on Bliss and increase the chance that the table would break. It shows Lynch has thought about the match and has a game plan. Two tables matches on pay per view stand out to me as memorable, and both had sort of “accidental” finishes. I think there is a good chance that this match might have something similar, with so much time devoted to setting up tables outside the ring. The middle of this match has had some really creative offensive spots incorporating the tables, which is a nice surprise, rather than just having near miss after near miss, like the opening minutes of a death match. The finish was sudden but clean, which was a nice surprise. Alexa using the eye rake directly before winning was good as well, as though it just dawned on her that she could cheat a little bit. ***1/4

WWE World Championship – Tables, Ladders and Chairs
AJ Styles © def. Dean Ambrose

Kelly Harrass: We all spent the match waiting to see if AJ’s pants would completely split open, right? In all seriousness, this was a very good match that was marred by a lame finish involving James Ellsworth. AJ Styles was truly the star of this match, taking some crazy bumps and adding another awesome performance to his wrestler of the year resume. Ambrose felt like he was just there and AJ worked the match around him. I’m normally a fan of Ambrose and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him carried like this before. With the crazy bump through the chairs and the 450 to the outside, Styles had the two best spots of the night. The ending was what it was and I’m sure we’ll get some kind of stupid reasoning behind it. It hurt this match, simple as that. AJ Styles put a five star effort into a four star match. ****

Garrett Kidney: I feel like a broken record every single time AJ Styles performs like he did in a match like this. Showing ass both figuratively and literally here, Styles bumped all over the place like an absolute madman to make this a memorable TLC match. Ambrose was certainly not a passenger by any means but this was the AJ Styles show. He was the engine behind the match, pushing it forward constantly by sheer force of will (and willingness to murder himself for the sake of getting the match over). It’s performances like this that cement him as one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time – phenomenal doesn’t even begin to describe him. A few niggles – the opening portion of the match was needlessly slow, especially given the face/heel dynamic collapsed as WWE would have liked it before the match even started. And the swerve – where Ellsworth interfered while AJ was about to win only to help AJ win – wasn’t the most logical. But when you have a performance as dynamic as AJ Styles’ was here you can’t help but sit back and admire it. This match succeeded in delivering sheer spectacle in spades where the ladder match failed. AJ Styles is the best wrestler in the world. ****1/4

JR Goldberg: For a guy whose whole gimmick is based around being unpredictable, Ambrose sure does a lot of punching, kicking and walking. The first part of this match was interesting, where Ambrose would build momentum and Styles would be able to stem the tide a little bit with a well timed high impact move, but I’m glad it found a second gear once the roles reversed a little bit. As Styles gained more control and Ambrose would find moments to fight from underneath, the match really came together. The elbow on the announcer’s table was a really great moment to reset everything and build tension for the finishing stretch. Ambrose is almost a tragic figure, as he seems totally incapable of knowing when to go for the win, and instead always chooses to deal more punishment, but he overcomes himself, which is nice storytelling. Granted, it’s all for naught because AJ is amazing. He is always right there, he always has just enough to keep Dean from becoming champion. I love the moment of realization that AJ has to become a monster like Ambrose, and does the springboard 450 through the table. It’s a great mirror of the earlier stretch, as Styles’ fatal flaw is revealed as well when Ellsworth comes out, and AJ can’t help but be a bully. That is, until Ellsworth turns. I can’t think of a good reason why. I’m sure it will be explained why, but right now this seems like a swerve purely for the sake of shock value, and it undermined what had become a really good main event.  ****