WWE TLC went down last night (Sun., Dec. 18, 2011) from the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland, and featured a show that was much, much better than expected.
In fact, there was no way to be disappointed with this one.
If you want to read complete results and the running love blog with all the blow-by-blow commentary of the action click here. Never any time to waste, so let's get right to the reactions from the show:
- Dolph Ziggler did exactly what he was supposed to do by going out and making his opponent, and the guy he was putting over, look every bit like the champion he was set to become. Zack Ryder won't always have a worker like Ziggler across from him but he should hold up just fine as U.S. champ. Speaking of which, while I still believe he should have gotten the title sooner, this felt truly special. Like it was a really big deal. Ryder's dad marking out in the audience and the cameras panning to it without regard was amazing. When was the last time a lower tier belt like the U.S. title felt like it meant anything? Now it does, and it's great.
- The action on this show was great. A lot of high spots, a few low spots but generally, the card delivered top to bottom. I can't express enough how pleasantly surprised I was. Definitely worth the coin. It's a bit off putting that this is worth mentioning but I think we can all agree expectations were laughably low.
- The biggest surprise of the night, perhaps, was the Triple H vs. Kevin Nash match. It ran just a tad longer than it probably should have but it was obvious they very carefully crafted that match to look as good as it did. The only issue was with the botched Pedigree at the end. Other than that, I thought this was extremely well done. It was a glorified squash match, no doubt about that, but we knew Trips was going to run right through him. The story they came up with, to have Nash plead for mercy right at the end with his last gasp flash of the Kliq sign, to which "The Game" responded with a crotch chop and another blow from the sledgehammer, was phenomenal. Nash taking a bump through a table off the ladder? None of us saw that coming. Awesome stuff. All that said, I'm glad this was the blowoff to the feud because I'm not interested in another match. If Triple H wants to keep working, fine, but it's painfully obvious Nash needs to hang 'em up.
- CM Punk is a fuggin' bonafide superstar. The triple threat TLC stipulation had the potential to make the main event a modified clusterf*ck, but Punk held it together with ease. He was a seasoned vet out there, moving the pawns around accordingly to set up the big finish. Throwing in the added wrinkle of the handcuffs and having Punk tied up to the buckle while The Miz and Alberto Del Rio fought over the belt on the ladder was the perfect way to both create the illusion that Punk might actually lose his title and give him a chance to look like a total badass by literally unscrewing the turnbuckle to get himself out ... with his bare hands. I imagine it was gimmicked but that had to be ridiculously difficult to do. I hated the first spot with the handcuffs, when Ricardo Rodriguez hooked him to the ladder, but it was a necessary evil to set up the great finish. So, in hindsight, even that was good. I can't remember the last time I came away from a WWE show and thought the main event was this good.
- I turned a corner on The Miz last night. I went from being mildly annoyed that he's on my TV and taking up main event space while looking utterly ridiculous with his comically bad facial expressions to downright wanting to see him get shoot punched straight in his duckface. Worst main event heel in the history of the WWE. Dead serious with that statement.
- DAN-IEL BRY-AN, DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN! DAN-IEL BRY-AN, DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN!
- Seriously, I really dig it that Bryan won the world heavyweight championship last night. In fact, after the way the Mark Henry vs. Big Show match was booked, anything less would have been completely unacceptable. As it stands now, the booking of that match feels odd. I'm hearing rumblings that Henry is legitimately hurt, hence the short and simple match and his dropping the title but either way, he did not come away from this looking good. Remember when I said the Invincible monster Henry is no more? I took a lot of flak for that but guess what? I was right. He can't lose like that and maintain his aura. That said, I'm looking forward to seeing how they book him coming off his title loss. That will tell us everything we need to know about how serious this company is about keeping him at the top of the card. My guess is they aren't and by this time next year, his title reign will be a distant memory.
A few more thoughts on the show after the jump.
- Too many videos, promos and backstage intercuts. You want segments on your pay-per-view, fine, but that's not what folks are paying money for because that's not what you're building to. Though I guess they didn't really do much building to the actual wrestling matches.
- I still can't believe that John Cena wasn't at the event last night. I still maintain my belief that Triple H did a LOT of posturing to make this card look the way it eventually did. There were two separate championship matches that weren't ever advertised beforehand. How does that happen? Not that Air Boom or the Diva's would move the needle necessarily but that's the perfect argument one would need to do some easy convincing to protect himself for later. Kane has drawn huge buzz since making his return and if they advertised him on the show, even with just a weeks worth of build up, it would have made a difference. Instead, he's at house shows getting chumped by Cena. Maybe I'm reaching here but a lot of signs pointed to something like what I'm describing.
- This big Sheamus push? It should have been paid off by now. The fans are tired of him. His gimmick is the same as Randy Orton's "Viper" except he's lacking the necessary attributes to properly pull it off. Plus, who wants another one of that? Beating up on
JobJack Swagger in unadvertised squashes on low ceiling pay-per-view shows means little. I'm just hoping this isn't building to his winning the Rumble next month.
- Kelly Kelly is terrible.
- Beth Phoenix is not.
- I'm not entirely sure why they felt the need to overbook the crap out of the Booker T vs. Cody Rhodes match. The multiple attacks before the actual match were done as if they wanted to protect Booker, which makes me think this feud is going to continue on into next year. Rhodes got the win, yeah, but it was against a clearly beat down Booker, who wasn't at 100-percent. He may have called this his "last hurrah" but it looks like he was referring to the feud more than just this match.
- Randy Orton once again came up with a cool way to hit the RKO for a victory, this time playing possum on a table and leading Barrett to fly off the top ropes and right into it for the loss. Orton has done that before, I'm sure, but it was a great finish to a fairly fun match that didn't ever need to happen in the first place. After weeks of being booked to look like a dork, Orton came out of this looking damn good. Barrett, on the other hand, doesn't get much of a rub here. If the feud continues, they'll have to clean it up between matches or it's going to go stale in a hurry.
- Michael Cole was annoying again tonight, mostly because he can't help but be anything but that but he did a surprisingly good job of calling out certain aspects of matches that were necessary to get them over. For example, while Nash was getting his knee worked over by Triple H, Cole made mention that it was a good strategy for "The Game" because he would make it harder for the big man to climb the ladder. Small things like that make a world of difference. Especially because it means he's not mouthing off about Twitter or Jim Ross or how much he despises Daniel Bryan. He also nailed it in the Henry vs. Show match, when he lauded Henry for going after Show's right hand, the one he uses to deliver the WMD. He ended up winning with it anyway, which was one of the other problems with the booking of this match, but we'll hold off on judgement for this one because bigger things seem to be afoot.
This show easily gets a B grade from me because I expected it to be the biggest dud of the year and it came through with an entertaining show throughout.
But that's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts and reactions from the event last night.