WWE TLC 2018
December 16, 2018
SAP Center
San Jose, California

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers:

  • Jeff Hawkins: Half of Shake Them Ropes, occasionally on Fightful.  Not invited to the VoW Christmas party, @Crapgame13
  • Lee Malone: I occasionally write OTT show reviews, @Malone_713 on Twitter
  • Suit Williams: You’ll usually see me on one of these preview/review deals, usually for WWE. You can see more of my reviews on PWPonderings. You can also hear me every week on the Smark Sports podcast, where I will convince my co-host to watch 205 Live at some point.

Mixed Match Challenge Finals
Fabulous Truth vs. Mahalicia

Jeff Hawkins: Makes the Royal Rumble that much more exciting to know #30 in both will either be Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox or R-Truth and Carmella.  Fuck this (Note: my tickets are paid for). For the amount of “fun” that happens in an entire season, the Mixed Match Challenge is obviously a waste of the performers’ time and the company’s resources.  The number of lineup changes so as not to screw up plans makes this obvious. Let there be no season three for all of our sakes. That said, it’s easier to put over Jinder as a threat to win than R-Truth, so I’m going heel. Prediction: Mahalicia

Lee Malone: Did these two teams survive the whole mix match challenge without any injury replacements? Are they the last teams standing and are in the final by default? Who knows, what I do know is the winners get the coveted #30 spots in both Royal Rumbles. So our options are crazy Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal attempting to calm opponents in the final spots or we can have a dance break and R-Truth showing up with a ladder. I’m taking the dance break Prediction: Fabulous Truth

Suit Williams: The Mixed Match Challenge may seem like a harmless mixed tag tournament only made to shake down Facebook for a few bucks (like they need it), but if you look closer, you’ll see that it really encapsulates two of this company’s biggest problems. One, these people are constantly getting hurt. I know we here at VOW joke about WWE being #TheSafeCompany, but it is a problem. There were six injury replacements over the fourteen weeks of this thing. Team Mahalicia (uggh, douche chills) are the only Raw team to make it through unscathed. The second problem is that nothing matters. The winners of this tournament get the #30 spots in both men’s and women’s rumbles. Yes, that was announced halfway through the tournament, but if don’t renege on that, it’s a big deal. And who is fighting for it? R-Truth, Carmella, Jinder Mahal, and Alicia Fox. People who don’t matter, fighting for something that should theoretically be important. And WWE will ask us to care anyway. The dance team will win, and they will dance because they won. Prediction: Fabulous Truth

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Seth Rollins © vs. Dean Ambrose

Jeff Hawkins: “Burn it Down” vs. “The fire rises.”  Bane jokes aside, Dean’s being repackaged and needs to win here to remain interesting.  It also frees up Seth to possibly get a promotion to the main event for next year’s Mania if Roman can’t come back or if Strowman isn’t the guy.   Prediction: Dean Ambrose

Lee Malone: The Shield have broken up again and WWE won’t let us forget that Roman Reigns has leukemia. Lunatic Dean is showing up wearing a gas mask and getting tetanus shots because the fans are dirty while Seth thinks Monday Night Raw sucks. This should have been an easy story to tell but nothing is easy in WWE anymore. Logically Dean should win to help get his new character over while freeing up Seth to move past this horrible feud and concentrate on getting the Universal Title back on Raw every week. Prediction: Dean Ambrose

Suit Williams: Dean Ambrose is a shit-magnet, as nearly everything this guy does ends up gets overbooked to hell. He turns on Seth Rollins after they win the tag team titles, the same night Roman Reigns announces that his cancer came back. He then intimates that God struck Reigns down with cancer for being a bad person. Have fun with those nightmares, Make A Wish parents. Then he goes down the cheap heat route by getting his immunization shots and calling the fans dirty while dressing like Bane stole the Psycho Mantis mask. This was a lay-up of a feud before Vince got his grubby little hands on it, and now it stinks. Ambrose wins, Rollins theoretically moves up to challenge Brock. Prediction: Dean Ambrose

Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin

Jeff Hawkins: Alexa Bliss is going to be the next “evil corporate puppet who lets power go to her head and then gets dressed down by Stephanie” but the question is when.  Now? I’m honestly not sure. As bad as the Corbin reign is, it’s heat. Also Strowman’s health is iffy and you can hide him better in something like a Royal Rumble rather than a championship match.  I think there’s a sick perverse pleasure the powers that be get in our hatred for this era, so I think Corbin gets killed as does referee Heath Slater, but Corbin gets the win somehow.  Prediction: Baron Corbin

Lee Malone: Braun is injured so it makes perfect sense then that he be put in a TLC match with the guy who is so bad that he was made a GM. This also seems to be another case of WWE booking themselves into a corner as they have been building to Corbin getting his ass kicked for all his evil deeds as GM-elect but if Braun wins he gets a title shot against Lesnar which I think nobody has any interest in any longer. I’m guessing Corbin gets destroyed by Braun only for Drew McIntyre to screw Braun and help Corbin win. Prediction: Baron Corbin

Suit Williams: I was watching Monday Night Football a few weeks ago (the NFC East is the worst division in football, come at me), and I decided to turn on Raw to see what was going on. The first thing I hear is a promo guy saying the name, “Baron Corbin.” I couldn’t turn that channel fast enough. Raw has been centered around this oaf for almost a month, and unsurprising to anyone with a clue, the ratings have tanked. No one knows if Strowman is healthy enough to even compete, leaving this company in a conundrum where they may be out of a Rumble title match for Brock and be stuck with Corbin as the lead heel. I would like for the MIA Kurt Angle to show up and cost Corbin, but they’ll probably have Strowman do a quick squash and quickly pivot from GM Corbin. Prediction: Braun Strowman

Chairs Match
Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton

Jeff Hawkins: What was the last fresh feud Randy Orton was in?  Bray Wyatt? No wonder. Randy still has heft as a “main event level” player, Rey is a great nostalgia act, does a 619, and people boo when he loses.  He can lose.  Prediction: Randy Orton

Lee Malone: Remember when Rey Mysterio showed up in New Japan and everyone was like “wow this is so cool and fresh and think of all the amazing dream match possibilities” and then he signed for WWE and now he’s in a feud with Randy Orton. Could anything possibly make Randy Orton interesting at this point? Beating Mysterio certainly won’t. Prediction: Rey Mysterio

Suit Williams: I don’t know why this match feels so tired, considering that before this year, these two last wrestled in 2011. But Randy Orton is human Nyquil. He’s more tired than Sleepy Brown, and at least he produced some stuff for Outkast. If Rey can try some Sabu spots, that would be appreciated. I have no clue who could win, but I also don’t care, so I’ll flip a coin. Prediction: Tails, I mean, Rey Mysterio

WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Buddy Murphy © vs. Cedric Alexander

Jeff Hawkins: the reaction to the Cruiserweight Championship match at Staples Center was disappointing live, with entire sections getting laugh pops for yelling “who are these guys.”  Lack of main roster casual fandom penetration aside, this story needs to move on, and hopefully, this is where it starts. Cedric needs to lose to turn heel then snap on his “best friend.”  That said, I could see them having Cedric win and become covetous but I think Buddy Murphy is a hell of a top heel for this division and deserves another month before Mustapha Ali wins it.  Prediction: Buddy Murphy

Lee Malone: 205Live needs to be built around Mustapha Ali and as Jeff pointed out above the two options for crowning Ali as champ are to be the one to finally topple the awesome Buddy Murphy or to overcome his jealous former best friend in Cedric who turned his back on Ali through jealousy. Both are good logical stories but my preference would be to continue to build Murphy as champ and have Ali overcome a jealous Ced on his way to taking the title at WrestleMania  Prediction: Buddy Murphy

Suit Williams: I’m glad to see the Cruiserweight title on two real PPVs in a row. However, we need some new blood in the title picture. It’s been Murphy, Alexander, and Mustafa Ali for a while now, and I feel like it’s gonna start feeling stagnant. Throw Akira Tozawa a bone, will you? Anyway, I like the idea of Alexander turning, as it would be a breath of fresh air for him. Either way, Murphy retains. Like I always say with a 205 Live match, I only hope they give it time. Prediction: Buddy Murphy

Tables Match
Natalya vs. Ruby Riott

Jeff Hawkins: Ruby Riott’s doing what she can with bad material.  This is a feud over sunglasses that had a lifespan of 15 minutes in actuality but for Natalya represent “her father’s legacy.”  The new literary device of Checkov’s Table with a Jim Neidhart Fathead will be Ruby’s undoing. Prediction: Natalya Neidhart

Lee Malone: In 1995 Jean-Pierre LaFitte stole Bret Hart’s leather jacket in an angle that is still talked about as one of the worst in what was a historically bad year for WWE. This feud is worse. Natalya has been around forever and has been in some horrible storylines before but Ruby is new and boy do I feel bad for her having to work with this garbage. Please just let this be the end of this awfulness.  Prediction: Natalya

Suit Williams: Nattie’s still around, huh? Ruby Riott’s been making fun of her dead father, huh? They make Jim Neidhart Fatheads, huh? Cool. I want Ruby to win so she could get a Ronda title match, so I’ll pick her against my better judgment. Prediction: Ruby Riott

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Bar © vs. The New Day vs. The Usos

Jeff Hawkins: It will be a great match, it has to be with these three teams.  But, it’s a movie we’ve seen. That said, it’s still a good movie. Like when TBS ran The Blues Brothers ad nauseum.  I think the Usos deserve to win, that it is too soon for another New Day run, but the Smackdown this past Friday tips that there might be a story with Miz and Shane winning the tag titles, so I think the Bar retains.  Prediction: The Bar

Lee Malone: Hey, this should be great. Yes, we have seen all these teams face off dozens of times but at least this *should* be a great match. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else tag team wise on the Smackdown roster right now so we will probably be seeing a rematch on Smackdown two weeks from now rendering this match and its result meaningless. Prediction: The Usos

Suit Williams: I want The Usos to win. I want The Bar to break up to get more Cesaro singles matches. I want the New Day to break up so I don’t have to watch them toss pancakes around anymore. Prediction: The Usos

Ladder Match
Elias vs. Bobby Lashley

Jeff Hawkins: Elias should lose for rhyming “the Earth” with “the Earth.”  I’m going contrarian against the strong heel faction in favor of elevation of only Drew.  Elias got destroyed on Monday, I think he finds a banana peel on which Lashley can slip. Prediction: Elias

Lee Malone: WWE have gone full Russo with this match and you never go full Russo. A ladder match with a guitar as the object to be retrieved would not be out of place in 1999 WCW or 2003 TNA. With Lio Rush buzzing around and getting involved this has a chance to be at least entertaining because it won’t be good. Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Suit Williams: Jeff Jarrett should sue for gimmick infringement. My prediction is that Elias gets the guitar, then immediately gets speared and pinned by Lashley. Just go full Russo with this one. In all seriousness, I think this is pretty much the ceiling for Elias. He’s not a super worker of any regard, so he’ll come out and sing funny songs and lose on PPV. Meanwhile, Lashley will probably be pushed as a favorite to win the Royal Rumble, which says more about the state of the company than the prospects of Bobby Lashley. Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre

Jeff Hawkins: Anything other than a decent 3 star RAW main event where Drew wins would surprise me.  Finn’s not winning this. Prediction: Drew McIntyre

Lee Malone: Poor Finn, he’s never getting a serious push ever again. Drew on the other hand is getting the mega push right now and will easily despatch of the first ever Universal Champion. Prediction: Drew McIntyre

Suit Williams: Add Finn Balor to the pile of guys whose stars were squandered by the Star Maker Vince McMahon. Now he’s the babyface gatekeeper on Raw, the guy who loses to the actual top guys but is still over to a reasonable degree. McIntyre is clearly on the way up, and I wouldn’t mind if he gets a chance to run with the ball as top guy on Raw. It would be nice to see a relatively new face in that role. McIntyre wins a match that hopefully overdelivers. Prediction: Drew McIntyre

WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey © vs. Nia Jax

Jeff Hawkins: The dumbest thing they can do right now is have Rousey get screwed out of the title to make her “more interesting.”  I’ve thought hard about that prospect, but they’re not that obtuse. Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Lee Malone: I don’t think there any chance of Nia being the one to beat Ronda. Ronda is marching on to a massive WrestleMania “main event” it’s just a matter of who will be her opponent. Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Suit Williams: I have the worst feeling that they belt up Nia Jax here to “build off of her momentum” after bashing Becky Lynch’s face in last month. That would be stupid on so many levels, the lowest of which being that she’s terrible at every aspect of pro wrestling. She stinks in the ring, she can’t talk, and she can’t even project being a mean person. I say all that, yet her and Ronda shocked me by having an above-average match back at Money in the Bank. I’m hopeful they can catch lightning in a bottle again with this one. I’ll put the bad thoughts aside and say Ronda retains. Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match – WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch © vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka

Jeff Hawkins: The interesting choice to me here is Asuka with a short title run and maybe dropping it at the Rumble or Elimination Chamber.  Her standing tall at the end of Smackdown makes me have doubts. I think Charlotte wins and we get the more easily told story of Becky winning the Rumble and needing to pick between Ronda and Charlotte.  The problem is the pick people want is Becky/Ronda but a Charlotte/Asuka rematch is a hard sell. Unfortunately, these are the only hot female acts on the roster, despite anyone wanting to say “Alexa” or “Nia” and people like me wanting Sasha and Bayley in this mix of hot characters.  Switching dance partners among the top 4 is a bit easier but you gamble with blowback of not paying off Ronda/Becky. Asuka is a hot act right now, people want her to be a badass, so it makes for an interesting problem. I’ve talked myself out of an Asuka win, but I think it’s the best idea. Prediction: Charlotte

Lee Malone: This is without a doubt the most interesting match on the show. The result and the potential directions WWE can go with all three women after this have me genuinely invested in the match. Asuka despite her awful booking since WrestleMania is still massively popular and a title run to get her back on track heading into the new year is a realistic option and could lead to Charlotte vs Asuka II at WrestleMania. Charlotte meanwhile despite the nonsensical turn has been refreshed as a heel and the fans seem happy to be able to boo the woo once again. A Charlotte win while not totally eliminating the possibility of Charlotte/Rousey at Mania would point to the likely hood that the much anticipated Becky vs Ronda is the direction we are headed. Becky retaining makes the least sense but WWE do not have a great recent record of striking while the iron is hot with over acts (see Strowman, Braun) so it’s not impossible. Prediction: Asuka

Suit Williams: Hooray, Asuka in a featured match! Everyone and their mothers seem convinced that Becky is losing this match to open up the possibility of Becky/Ronda at Wrestlemania. I’ll buy a ticket on that train of thought. Asuka winning and having a run would allow for both Becky and Charlotte to enter the Rumble, making them instant favorites to win and challenge Ronda for the Raw belt. It would also be easy to pivot the one who doesn’t win right into a feud with Asuka for the Smackdown title. Becky losing will probably piss a lot of people off, but it would make the most sense to have Asuka as champ up to Wrestlemania. Plus, it wouldn’t be to Charlotte, so it wouldn’t sting as much. Prediction: Asuka

WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan © vs. AJ Styles

Jeff Hawkins: How many AJ Styles title matches will end in Styles getting kicked or punched in the balls?  Get ready for another one. The great Nakamura-Styles match never happened in WWE. The great Bryan-Styles match isn’t happening now.  One of these days, Styles will wear a cup.  Prediction: AJ Styles (by DQ)

Lee Malone:  WWE have been doing a good job of getting Bryan’s heel hook over as a match ender and I would love for this to be a classic match with a clean finish. Unfortunately this is 2018 WWE and as Jeff pointed out above this will end with Styles getting kicked in the balls again. Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Suit Williams: Daniel Bryan is the King Midas of sports entertainment. He will take any mediocre character and nonsensical idea this company has and weave it into gold. I’m not even sure what his new character is supposed to be (scumbag? militant vegan? liar?), but I’m enjoying it. He’s getting the heel hook over as a finisher as well, which is something I think I saw him work on in an episode of Total Divas back when that show was good. If AJ Styles doesn’t come into this match wearing a cup, he’s an idiot that deserves to lose. If he does wear a cup, he’s a smart guy that will lose anyway. I don’t know who would be next for Bryan if this is the end of this feud, but since AJ is my pick to win the Royal Rumble, I doubt this is the end just yet. Prediction: Daniel Bryan