Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose & Kurt Angle vs. Braun Strowman, The Miz, Kane, Cesaro & Sheamus
October 22, 2017
WWE TLC 2017

Ah, my love-hate relationship with Voices of Wrestling’s Secret Santa continues. In the first year I agreed to participate, I got distracted by my contributions to the VOW NJPW eBook, so I never reviewed my match. Last year, I was gifted a goofy and seemingly meaningless match from DDT, and I reviewed it a day late. This year, I received the only “Network Era” WWE match among the 30+ matches in the pool. Sigh. I deserve this. At least I’m on time this year.

Here’s the thing, though: I was still an active WWE watcher at this point in 2017, so this can’t be that bad. Most weeks, I’d throw Raw or Smackdown on when they aired and at least try to keep up with what was happening, and I was watching the Pay-Per-Views regularly, and they were usually entertaining enough. So, I remember this match happening. I also remember Finn Balor and AJ Styles having a last-minute match on this same card, which was appointment viewing for this NJPW & Bullet Club fan. But that’s not the match that we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about a five-on-three handicap match between The Shield (minus Roman Reigns, plus Kurt Angle) and The Miz, Cesaro, Sheamus, Braun Strowman, and Kane. At first glance, none of this makes any sense.

I remember the news cycle leading up to this match. It was pretty clear that Kurt Angle would eventually wrestle again in WWE, but I don’t think anyone saw his return coming in quite this form. Roman Reigns ended up with a viral infection, so the big return of The Shield was delayed, and instead of making the handicap match a more handicapped match, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were allowed to bring in Kurt Angle to start his WWE farewell tour. I don’t have a read on why this match was five-on-three or why Kane is here at all, but I guess we’ll get there.

I was gifted the YouTube version of this match, which doesn’t have any entrances or one of WWE’s video packages to tell me, in excruciating detail, why this match is happening. So I’m going to fire up our old pal, the WWE Network … I mean, Peacock … to take in the full WWE Experience™. Okay, we have a video package celebrating Kurt Angle’s return to a WWE ring. They’ve clearly pivoted to that being the story here, which actually seems wise. The heel team entered first, all with their own themes… Is the Miz the last person in WWE with theme music that still sounds like an actual song? I guess Cody qualifies for that now, too. The same band, too… hm.

Then we heard the thump of Roman Reigns’ music. At this time, that first chug of Roman’s music was typically met with an almost instant groan from the crowd, but not this time. This time, it meant The Shield was coming through the crowd, and wrestlers entering through the crowd will never not be terrific. Ambrose and Rollins appeared first. The crowd was excited because they were in their old SHIELD tactical gear. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Kurt Angle appeared, also in SHIELD tactical gear. The crowd pop was pretty great here, and Kurt couldn’t help but light up with a smile.

They made their way to the ring, and then the plunder began. I’m not going to go blow-by-blow here, but for thirty-five minutes and twenty-five seconds, this was your prototypical WWE weapons match with a bunch of extensive and well-planned spots, some melodrama, and some story advancement. Of course, this match also included Dean Ambrose getting thrown into two tables that didn’t break, with the second such event looking like Ambrose’s neck could have been snapped in half. The more things change, the more they stay the same..

Of note, the heel team ended up in a “can they coexist” story when Kane turned on Braun Strowman, which eventually led to Braun Strowman turning on the whole team, which of course, led to Kane throwing him through the stage. While Braun was situating himself in the stage, Kane awkwardly stood over him for far too long with his very apparent wig-attached-to mask looking awful, and then Braun melodramatically grabbed Kane’s foot. Of course, this prompted The Big Red Machine ™, Kane, to pull down a hanging stack of folding chairs onto Braun Strowman. Braun somehow reappeared shortly after that, only to be thrown into a back of a garbage truck. Then the garbage truck driver committed a literal murder by activating the trash compactor while a live human was in the truck. Nobody seemed to care much about The Monster Among Men ™ being compacted in the back of a garbage truck as they continued to wrestle.

Somewhere around the middle of the match, Kurt Angle got “injured” and had to go to the back, only to return for the match’s finale. We should have seen this coming since the most crucial thing any wrestler in WWE does is nail their entrance. Kurt just needed the crowd to have a chance to sing “You Suck” at him, and he got it with all of the drama of a WWE plunder match. Angle’s return led to a SHIELD-style triple powerbomb on The Miz, complete with Angle mimicking Roman Reigns’ guttural grunt before it in what was quite the comedic yet heartwarming moment.

There’s not much left to say here. For a 35-minute WWE match, this went by relatively quickly, and it was a nice trip down memory lane, even if this match was pretty close to the pivot point of my active WWE consumption. I will say that this was a step up from my Secret Santa gift from last year, so I guess I’m on the upswing here.