I’m not a fan of “themed” PPV’s. The problem with them is that gimmick matches should be feud enders, or at the very least have some logical storyline reason for happening.
They should not be thrown together because it’s December and TLC and that’s when we have these matches. However, as ever in the WWE, some workers were able to work around this and deliver the goods. Others weren’t.
The Main Event TLC Match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship in one sense was a little bit of overkill. Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair had already met in gimmick matches in the months previous, but least that meant that there was some logic in them going the whole TLC hog here and the addition of Asuka made for a fresh match up with lots of potential. It certainly lived up to the main event spot it was given and deftly managed to advance everyone involved along. It started with a bang and took it from there; most of the big moves hit the spot, everything was well-timed and even the run-in ending involving Ronda Rousey made some kind of sense (even if a babyface knocking off a babyface allowing a babyface to win the title sounds daft written down in black and white). It had the crowd from start to finsh and did a great job of keeping everyone guessing; it was certainly a top notch way of ending the WWE’s year on PPV.
The other gimmicked matches on the card were largely less successful.
The Kickoff Show Ladder Match between Elias and Lashley was pedestrian and made worse by the fact that whilst Elias won the post match attack by Lashley and Lio Rush made that fact largely irrelevant. The TLC match between Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin wasn’t really a match at all; an “injured” Strowman reminded the world that as this was a no-DQ match anyone could help him and the likes of Apollo Crews, Roode and Gable, Finn Balor and Kurt Angle all choose to do so. A fun enough angle, but hardly must-see.
The Tables match between Natalya and Ruby Riott had been set up when Ruby dastardly broke the late Jim Neidhart’s sunglasses on Raw; that kind of telegraphed that Natalya would get her feel-good moment of victory here and sure enough that was the result. It was a decent enough match but perhaps had too little going on for the length of time it was given. In 2018 I’ve no interest in Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio wrestling each other (admittedly largely down to my dislike of the former) and making their clash a Chairs match made no difference to that. Again I may be biased but the match wasn’t very good and not one I’d ever want to see again.
Luckily, for all of the above gimmick matches that didn’t work, some of the non-gimmicked matches on the show did deliver. Best of those was the WWE Championship match between Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles. Everything they did made sense, some of it harking back to previous clashes, and everything built in a way that a lot of WWE matches never even attempt to. This should definitely be near the top of anyone’s matches of the year in WWE list. The Smackdown Tag Title match couldn’t match that of course, but The Bar, The New Day and The Uso’s put on another good show (even if these are combinations of matches we’ve seen ad nauseam). Finn Balor and Drew McIntyre was good too, until Dolph Ziggler stuck his nose in.
The Raw Women’s Title match between Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax was better than I had any expectation of it being, again largely due to my lack of interest in seeing Nia Jax “wrestle” or Tamina Snuka, who accompanied her at ringside, at all. Whilst I would distinctly argue against the idea that Rousey is up there with the likes of a Kurt Angle in terms of “conquering” the business in such a short time, for someone with so little experience she is a wonderful performer and that she carried Jax to a good match says it all; and credit where Credit is due, Jax hung with her. It was certainly better than the Intercontinental Title match between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose; technically sound as it was, that one showed very little of the fire and aggression that an all out grudge match should have given us. Two men of their talents should have done a lot better.
The Mixed Match Challenge 2 Final between R-Truth & Carmella and Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox was as largely inconsequential as the whole muddle tournament, but it would have been churlish not to enjoy the win on Truth and Mella’s behalf. Much better, naturally, was the kick off match for the Cruiserweight Championship between Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander. Of course if you don’t watch 205 Live and don’t know that it contains some of the best action on a weekly basis in the WWE you really are missing out.
So overall a mixed show; that when it was good it was EXCELLENT means that it’s very much in thumbs up territory. A thrilling three-way TLC from the women, an exceptional Bryan/Styles encounter and the Cruiserweight title match were the highlights, with able back up from the Raw Women’s Title and the Smackdown tag team titles. Most of the rest was pretty bang average though, so it’s perhaps not a show to watch from start to finish.
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of WWE TLC 2018 which is out on DVD now. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here.