WWE TLC 2020
December 20, 2020
Tropicana Field / ThunderDome
St. Petersburg, Florida
Watch: WWE Network
It’s been a while since I had anything to say about wrestling, but sometimes the itch just strikes at the oddest moments. So after a very long hiatus from being one of the many Voices of Wrestling, I’m back in the saddle for one night only.
The show opens with a montage of tables, ladders, and chairs being used on shows that were most definitely not the official Tables, Ladders, and Chairs event. Already this feels far less special now that I know that these things can be used any old night of the year. Also, fire is not listed in the title of the show, and I don’t really see how this can be allowed. If WWE is consistent with anything it is the titles of their shows make clear what can and cannot happen. At Money in the Bank, there are Money in the Bank briefcases. As WrestleMania there is a mania of wrestling. At Summerfest Jeremy Piven wanders around Milwaukee eating bratwurst while wrestling happens somewhere in an entirely different city. But then, I haven’t watched much lately, so I suppose change is inevitable.
Tables, Ladders & Chairs – WWE Championship
Drew McIntyre (C) def. AJ Styles & The Miz
AJ Styles has an absolutely enormous bodyguard and an utterly ludicrous haircut. Drew Mcintyre has an absolutely enormous sword and a kilt. This seems like a push to me. Drew listed the legendary opponents he has felled during his reign including Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and…the Miz. I like Drew, but even he had trouble sounding serious about that statement. Given Drew’s new prop I am stunned that WWE has not yet had a Sword in the Stone title match. I’m going to just mention once how weird I find the video wall of fans and then try to forget about it.
Solid start with McIntyre using his power advantage to grind Styles down. As always with a match like this, it makes absolutely no sense that the gigantic man that AJ brings down to the ring with him is just standing and watching instead of getting involved in a no DQ match. Since I like explanations for things I’m going to assume that AJ purchases Omos’s services like buying a budget cell phone plan. AJ gets three physical interactions per match, anything more than that and there’s an onerous overage charge.
Sloppy sequence in the corner leads to Drew climbing the ladder, but then AJ does my favorite move in a match like this, launching a chair right into McIntyre. So much is forgiven in a match like this because the spectacle is so large, but sometimes you really just need the simple joy of one man throwing a chair like a fastball at his opponent. Drew’s counter of dropping a giant ladder on AJ also worked in that regard.
There are some smart usages of the plunder happening in this match. The way AJ is using the chairs to enhance the calf crusher, hoping to take out the wheels of the big man, keeping focus on the knee to ground the champion gives Drew a huge obstacle to overcome. Kudos to the match for avoiding one of my least favorite tropes, enforcing a rope break in a no DQ match, with McIntyre getting out of a Calf Crusher by dragging his body close enough to a ladder to slam AJ’s head into the metal. Drew firing a chair from the outside into the challenger’s face while AJ was perched on the top rope made quite the sickening thud, and I almost expected AJ to come up with a full crimson mask.
Speaking of obnoxious tropes, we get a visit from another of my least favorites, the very slow ladder setup followed by even slower climb. The match until this point has been worked with a fairly brisk pace, both guys moving with a sense of urgency that makes sense given the stakes. But then AJ decides to take forever to set up his ladder.
Holy crap, Jeff Hawkins called it! Miz appears and cashes in his briefcase. And NOW Omos gets involved, plucking Miz off the ladder, dropping Miz out of the ring through a table, and in sharp contrast to the earlier statement from the announcers that “in the battle of steel and flesh, steel always wins,” Morrison’s attempt to take out Omos with a steel chair ends in a busted chair and a very angry Omos. I’m going to guess that the stalking of Morrison is being done pro bono in this case. Styles and McIntyre battle very slowly at the top of the ladder for what feels like an hour as Miz sets up an adjacent ladder. He climbs so fast that for a moment I think the show has gone into fast forward. AJ springing from the ropes back onto the ladder is one of those moves AJ does that he makes look so commonplace but really is just ridiculous. At least Drew climbing the ladder slowly made sense since he was selling the knee throughout the last half of the match. After dumping both Miz and Styles off of their ladder by pushing another ladder into them Drew finally hops his way up to the title and grabs it for the win. I have to give credit to WWE here. They burned off the MitB briefcase and ended the last vestiges of the Otis experiment, they gave an excuse for why Omos was not there at the end to help Styles win the title, and they can now run a feud between AJ/Omos and Miz/Morrison. I enjoyed this. Nothing that hasn’t been seen in a million other ladder matches, but it was worked mostly at a good pace, didn’t give into the temptation to do tons of slow climbs, and kept things fairly simple. ***3/4
Paul Heyman interview where he tries to convince us that he has ever watched a NASCAR race in his life. I believe that there will be violence in the WWE Universal Championship match. I believe that Roman Reigns is the Tribal Chief of WWE. I do not believe, even if he is just hoping for crashes, that Paul has ever spent four hours watching dudes turning left unless it is a traffic jam on the L.I.E.
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WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Sasha Banks (C) def. Carmella
I’m a bougie bitch, as the kids on the internet would say. Hell, the only reason I’m doing this review is because FedEx messed up my fancy cheese delivery this weekend and I’m in such a bad mood about it that I didn’t want to subject the Mrs. to my grouchiness. Much better to share with all of you. I digress, the point is that any wrestler who brings their own sommelier to ringside with them is a face in my eyes. Hell, while everyone else was waiting for their CM Punk Ice Cream bars, I was waiting for my Erick Rowan label wine. That said, the leopard print gear for Carmella doesn’t exactly make me think I’m getting a Screaming Eagle or Opus if I’m having a tasting with the Princess of Staten Island. Just going off what I’ve seen in Vegas over the years. I’m told Sasha Banks is in some Disney show or something. I hope she’s playing a Klingon or an Elf or something like that.
Carmella is never going to be a great wrestler, but she’s throwing herself around in this match with reckless abandon. Reginald T. Sommelier just barely caught her as she went flying through the ropes and the wine expert assisted headscissor takedown was good looking. Things got kind of rough outside of the ring, but the Three Amigos looked smooth, and the announcers wreak havoc on the livers of every fan who takes a shot each time Eddy Guerrero gets mentioned in a Banks match. Sasha somehow taking the X-Factor almost vertically shows off her deep hatred of her own spinal cord, a grudge that makes her matches both more interesting and terrifying all at once.
The last few minutes of the match had a lot of pinfall exchanges and submission reversal sequences. The sort of things that can turn into an absolute cluster if both people aren’t on the same page. I thought it was smart that they took things at a slightly slower pace to try and keep everything from looking wonky. Smartly designed ending with Carmella’s temper and relative championship inexperience giving Sasha the opening needed to lock in the Bank Statement for the finish. Carmella threw a tantrum when she couldn’t put Banks away, stopped concentrating on doing what she needed to do, and that one error was enough. Match did a solid job of making Carmella seem like a viable contender for the title, and only a couple moments that got sloppy. I had zero expectations going into this match, but found myself sucked in and really enjoying it. ***1/2
WWE RAW Tag Team Championships
The Hurt Business def. The New Day (c)
A quick check of Wikipedia tells me that Kofi Kingston was a World Champion for somewhere around half a year. I steadfastly refuse to believe this. Surely he wouldn’t have been in that position and then gone back to doing the same shtick he’s been doing for years and years. That’s ludicrous. Points to MVP for coordinating the suit and tie with the team colors. That’s the kind of teamwork that makes the dream work. Cedric Alexander has a BLM wrap on his arm, and all joking aside I’m really hoping that it is for Black Lives Matter and not some stupid WWE thing like Bad Little Man.
Everyone in this match is a perfectly good professional wrestler. Things are happening in these first few minutes and there’s jumping about and throwing people but the only thing that really stuck with me was MVP giving Cedric Alexander some water on the outside. It’s good to see someone who understands the value of hydration during strenuous physical activity.
Maybe I’m crazy, but there are moments where Samoa Joe sounds a lot like Bobby Heenan. There’s a certain raspiness and cadence that, when Joe gets excited, makes me think of The Brain. I have time to think about this sort of thing because this match just has no urgency or juice to it. The wrestling itself is good, but there is just nothing here. Surprisingly clean victory for the Hurt Business, despite the dissension tease with Alexander blind tagging in to steal the finish from Shelton Benjamin. I mean, what do you want me to say? It’s the tag titles. It’s the New Day and the Hurt Business. There’s a pandemic happening, it’s the holiday season. There’s only so much bandwidth available in the human mind, and I’ve spared all that seems appropriate for this match. **1/2
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Asuka & Charlotte def. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (c)
The only way there could be a greater disparity in my like/dislike of a pair of partners would be if CM Punk came back and teamed up with Jimmy Jacobs. If Jax and the mystery partner would just decide to go get a snack during the match and give me Shayna vs. Asuka I would take back every mean thing I’ve said about WWE in the past month. Instead, WWE decides to challenge my thought about the Jax/Bayzler team by having Charlotte Flair as Asuka’s partner. To steal an idea from the old RSPW days, Shoot, Shayna, Shoot. Charlotte totally no-sells Asuka’s high five attempt, because Charlotte is, whether heel or face, always a terrible person.
Bayzler and Asuka start and give a glimpse of what could have been. Nice striking sequence leading into groundwork by Asuka before Flair makes her in-ring return. Unfortunately, Nia Jax enters the match. At least she didn’t injure anyone during her first entry into the match. I could watch Shayna do wrist manipulation work all night. No one is as good at giving off the air of both knowing how to most efficiently hurt someone and of really enjoying every second of it. There is always a place for a really sadistic sick minded person who just loves to hear someone scream. The irony that the person who actually does hurt people the most is not Bayzler but her partner Nia Jax is not lost on me.
Ric Flair is backstage. I’ve seen people say that a man his age shouldn’t be out during a pandemic, but really, Flair’s insides are so pickled that no germ, virus, bacterium, amoeba, spore, or debt collector could possibly live inside of that man’s body. I’m sorry to continue thrashing the unresponsive equine, but the pace and flow of the match just get so much better when Jax is out of the ring. In the end Charlotte wins almost singlehandedly, disposing of Jax before ending the match with Natural Selection on Bayzler. This match was really just about the return of Flair, but the parts of the match with Bayzler in the ring were solid, and the parts with Jax were kept short. Not a great night for tag title matches, but nothing offensive overall. **1/2
Sami Zayn’s beard and hat have been named honorary members of Godspeed You Black Emperor. I do hope we get a true Big E push before we all die of the new mutant form of COVID.
Tables, Ladders & Chairs – WWE Universal Championship
Roman Reigns (C) vs. Kevin Owens
I wonder if we had to go through years and years of Roman Reigns being such a terrible character in order for him to become such a great one. I mean, a 365 day aged steak is an amazing thing, but a 45 day aged steak can be pretty damn good too, and you don’t have to spend 320 more days eating Spam while you wait. But on the other hand…that super-aged steak tastes like something you can’t truly put into words. I just know that having lived through the “sufferin’ succotash” phase of Roman’s career, this is a definite improvement. Meanwhile, Kevin Owens is trying to channel Steve Austin with the Stunner, but his promo work is pure, uncut Mick Foley. Not sure when Roman picked up the Infinity Gauntlet, but it goes well with his look.
Holy crap! That was awesome! Owens attacking from out of nowhere! No bullshit entrance theme and staredown. Just a guy who wants to fight and kick some ass. Frog splash from the apron to the outside by Owens! Owens is smart! Jey Uso is out to attack since there’s no DQ’s! That makes Uso, Reigns, and Heyman smart! This is like the wrestling version of a MENSA meeting! Goddamn, I wish Sami Zayn wasn’t an evil heel right now because if he came out to help Owens here I would turn into a pure beam of light and ascend into space to explore distant nebulae! Exclamation points!
Reigns goes back on the offensive beating the hell out of Owens with the steps, and looking like a man who wants to murder someone. Heyman is so great at selling fear of his own clients when they go over the edge. Where the hell has this been for all these sad, lost years? Owens flailing with a chair trying to keep Reigns off of him is so valiant and so futile. Reigns is so disgusted that this fat lumpy jerk is daring to challenge him, the disdain and disgust is oozing from every one of Roman’s pores. How dare someone challenge the Tribal Chief?
When Roman stops thinking about destroying Owens and focuses on the belt, and the acclaim, and the honor of holding the title, that is the moment when Owens is able to get back into the match. Normally I would say it makes no sense for a wrestler in a title match to not think first about the belt, but this is different. This is about destroying the other man, and holding the belt up over the ruined carcass of your adversary. Jey Uso coming out again because everything that is happening in this match makes so much sense I have to assume Vince McMahon is dead somewhere and everyone backstage is just not mentioning it until after the show. I’m currently reading the wonderful Tim Hornbaker biography of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, and all I can think after reading about the many riots that Buddy caused is that if there was a crowd at this match some lady would be aiming a sharp hatpin at Roman’s ass right now.
I’m generally in favor of selling but this match would be elevated even more if everything was happening at a faster pace. I just want these two attacking each other without a single breath being taken between shots. Pretty sure the announce team just called Reigns power bombing Owens on a ladder as “Spinebuster through a table.” Yep, they did it again. Given there’s only three things in the title of the show, I feel like flashcards or some sort of cheat sheet could have been used to remind the commentators what each thing is. Kind of like Homer’s note to remind him which one is Lenny and which one is Carl.
This is gloriously over the top. Reigns is putting Owens through so many tables that I can only assume he had a terrible time in a forest once and is now spending the rest of his life working through a vendetta against wood. This arrogant prick just strolling into the ring after destroying Owens would be such money if WWE hadn’t spent a decade driving away 80% of their fans. Owens going full HBK vs. Undertaker, doing everything but the throat slash gesture, goading Reigns into spearing him through the 394th table of the night was everything that NXT has been going for the last few years. I want Reigns to spear him into the earth’s mantle and then have Owens crawl out of the hole with magma and diamonds dripping off of him and a brontosaurus bone in his mouth. But I also want Owens to win and I am physically angry when Reigns stops Kevin’s last-ditch attempt at getting the belt. I literally yelped when Owens somehow gets a pop-up powerbomb through a table on Reigns. If I wasn’t typing I would be pacing around my basement like a taller, less handsome Joe Lanza. Finally Roman does the only thing that can get him the belt. He hits his opponent in the nuts with the Infinity Gauntlet and then chokes Owens unconscious. As long as Owens was awake he was never going to stop fighting. Only by taking KO to a temporary death could Reigns get the moment of standing tall over this impertinent challenger. I absolutely loved this. A few less slow climbs and this could have been a MOTY contender. ****1/2
Well, that was a hell of finish to the show. I went in with low expectations and am stunned how much I enjoyed this event. Not a stinker among the matches, a legit high-level fight, and everyone worked hard. Thanks for having me back for the evening.
Aw crap. I’m being told that I have to review the entire show.
Firefly Inferno Match
Randy Orton def. The Fiend
There was a prematch video package. The only thing I really learned from it is that I’ve been lucky to be spending my Mondays not watching Raw. And that Randy Orton really likes setting things on fire. That seems like a problem. Someone should go to the papers. I do like that Randy has the look of someone who is trying to commit a crime unseen while wearing all black but also has his logo and nickname all over the outfit.
A “seemingly impenetrable wall of horror” seems like a fairly accurate description of how I feel getting ready for this match. I’m already angry that the stipulation is just to set any part of your opponent on fire. I will however reverse that opinion if the match is won by someone setting a hotfoot like in an old timey baseball dugout or Bugs Bunny cartoon. I was really hoping though that the only way to win would be to actually burn the other person alive. Hopefully one of the cinema fans reading this can help me. Trying to figure out which Gang of New York the Fiend and his pants were a part of. I’m thinking maybe the Bowery Boys, but possibly the Plug Uglies. And where the hell is Mayor Glenn? You can’t have a show with people being lit on fire without Corporate Kane.
Orton should have brought a flamethrower with him. For his sake and for ours. Instead after attempting to murder the man previously, Randy now is going with punches and dropkicks. I would have expected better planning from a 74 year veteran like Randall. Seriously, even a super shooter filled with gasoline would have made sense.
“We have entered another circle of hell.” The announce team is telling on themselves even if they don’t mean to. The building is ablaze and everytime Bray hits a move the fire shoots up. For all the laughing people have done at cinematic matches this might actually have been better that way. Note that I am not saying “good.” Just that it could be better. This is just a weird mixture of the Bray Wyatt horror show and a plunder match, and the whole thing just seems ludicrous. I would guess this was pre-taped, but it is not nearly over the top enough to become fun bad. We should have had Randy Orton shooting flaming arrows at the Fiend, and the murder clown shooting fireballs from his eyes or something like that. Instead we just have a match that Terry Funk would slap around for being so weak.
The announcer voices are just the worst during this. Seriously though, why doesn’t Randy have a freaking book of matches in his pocket? A Zippo just filled up? And now the Fiend is on fire AND getting RKOed out of nowhere. The match should be over, unless the fact that only Bray’s jacket went up means that it doesn’t count. Which it really shouldn’t, since only a fiery death is a fitting way to end all this. I hope Randy sets him on fire again, and Husky Harris comes crawling out of the ashes all set to reform the Nexus. Michael Tarver needs the work and it is the holiday season.
And now Randy finds matches?! The Fiend is covered in gasoline and has been out for an hour due to a single RKO and now a dummy that doesn’t in anyway look like Bray Wyatt has been lit on fire and what the hell are we even doing anymore? DUD
An absolute shitshow and a waste of everyone’s time. show with