Wednesday, 18 December 2013

WWE TLC on Sky Sports - TV Review

It was the last WWE pay-per-view of the year, and they promised to give us the biggest match in professional wrestling history. But did they deliver? That's what I'm hoping to find out by viewing TLC, shown live in the early hours of this past Monday morning on Sky Sports here in Britain.

The broadcast began with the first handicap match as C.M. Punk faced United States Champion Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of The Shield.

This was a pretty good way to kick off the action. It began with some nice sequences in which Punk out-wrestled both Ambrose and Rollins. Then Reigns came into the ring, and the tide promptly turned in the favour of the Shield as Punk became their punching bag for the next few minutes before Reigns threw him out to ringside.

As odd as it may sound things actually got better for Punk on the outside. When Reigns charged forward, looking to put him away with a spear, Punk moved out of the way and dived right over the announcer's table, hitting his head on one of their chairs. The big man complained of an eye injury, and after being quickly checked over by the ringside doctor he got back into the ring. Punk made a brief attempt to take advantage of the injury before Reigns re-took control and tagged himself out.

With Reigns slumped at ringside being checked over by the doctor Punk began to slowly work his way back into the match. Both Ambrose and Rollins tried and failed to put the former champion away, and Punk came closest to the win when he connected with the Macho Man elbow and the anaconda vice on Ambrose.

Punk then decided it was time for his foe to go to sleep, and when Ambrose initially avoided the move Rollins found himself in la la land instead. Ambrose then avoided the bullet for the second time, only for a half-blinded Reigns to inadvertently take him out with a spear when Punk stepped out of the way. Punk then sent Reigns packing before pinning Ambrose for the win.

The first title match of the evening saw Natalya challenging A.J. Lee, accompanied by Tamina Snuka, for the Divas title.

This was probably the best Divas match on pay-per-view this year. It may not have lasted that long but they certainly put in a load of great action.

Both women put in great performances, with Natalya controlling the early going until the inevitable distraction from Tamina at ringside. From there A.J. took control as she showed just why she's been champion for so long.

At one point it looked like Natalya was going to get the submission win when she locked in the sharpshooter, but when A.J. managed to escape from that particular hold she applied her own submission, the black widow, a few moments later, and like her opponent before her Natalya managed to survive.

Natalya then went for the hold again, but this time around A.J. rolled her up with the help of a handful of hair for the title retaining pin.

The title action continued with Damien Sandow challenging Big E. Langston for the Intercontinental title.

Short and sweet is probably the best way to describe this encounter. It began with Langston simply overpowering Sandow before our intellectual saviour worked his way back into the match when he pushed the big man into the ring post.

The action went along at a nice tempo as both men gave a good account of themselves, and Sandow in particular looked quite impressive. Langston soon made his comeback though, and after a few nice back and forth exchanges Langston bulldozed Sandow down before taking him out with the big ending for the three count.

The penultimate title match saw the Real Americans team of Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro, accompanied by Zeb Colter, Rey Mysterio & the Big Show, and Ryback and Curtis Axel challenging Goldust and Cody Rhodes for the Tag Team titles in a four-way elimination match.

If it's true that WWE are putting more emphasis on tag team wrestling then this was a great example of this policy, because for over twenty minutes these eight men put on a great match.

There were great moments throughout this encounter. While Ryback and Axel had their moments things didn't really get going until the Real Americans showed how much they've grown as a unit, while the new team of Show & Mysterio put in a good effort, particularly towards the end. As for the eliminations.....

Ryback and Axel were the first time to go. After they'd doubled up on Mysterio for a while Goldust got the blind tag. Some nice back and forth moments followed before it looked like Ryback was going to put his man away with a powerbomb. Goldust managed to counter with a roll-up for the three count.

The Real Americans were next. Goldust soon found himself on the receiving end of a ton of punishment from Swagger and Cesaro, but when it finally looked like he was going to get the hot tag to his brother they knocked Rhodes off the ring apron. Eventually Goldust managed to tag the Big Show into the ring. Show began to throw Cesaro around the ring like a stuffed toy, but when he went for a chokeslam Swagger tried to stop him. Show then connected with his big KO blow on Swagger before connecting with a second blow to Cesaro as the Swiss came off the top rope. A three count later and he was history.

This left the Rhodes boys against Show and Mysterio. Plenty of near falls followed as the pace picked up, with the exchanges between Rhodes and Mysterio looking particularly good, and with Goldust and Show taken out of commission at ringside Rhodes managed to block Mysteries’ 619, and a few moments later he finally took the masked man down with the cross-Rhodes for the winning pin.

The dancing boys were up next as Brodus Clay, accompanied by Tensai and their dancing girls, took on R-Truth, accompanied by Xavier Woods.

Well, I guess this means the end of one of the most annoying gimmicks in recent memory. This proved to be an interesting match, mainly because of Clay's change in attitude.

Truth looked good early on, but as soon as Clay took control of the action his more sadistic side began to come to the fore, and it was something that his entourage didn't take too kindly to. As the big man tried to take Truth apart Tensai and the girls screamed at him from ringside, and it got to the point where Tensai stopped Clay from throwing Truth into the ring steps.

The arguing didn't stop there. When Clay hanged Truth upside down in the corner Tensai tried to reason with him again. The words of his partner meant nothing as Clay stated that he was a main event player and better than Tensai. That was enough for Tensai as he left Clay to it, with the dancing girls following him a few moments later.

All of this meant that Truth had had time to recover, and after connecting with a kick to the big man's jaw Truth rolled him up for the winning pin.

The bonus match of the evening followed as Kofi Kingston faced the Miz in a no disqualification match.

This all came about when the Miz, who was meant to be on the experts panel on the pre-show, began to bad mouth Kingston. This didn't sit too well with the man from Ghana, and after a brief scuffle this match was made.

Now this was a pretty enjoyable match. It was well executed, and the performances of both men can't be faulted. But for a match featuring a rivalry that's meant to be quite heated it didn't actually feature much heat.

The exchanges were pretty good, beginning when Kingston took control early on. There was a brief brawl at ringside, but when Miz dodged Kingston's trouble in paradise kick and Kingston's leg slammed into the ring post the former reality star took control and dominated the action.

Miz did a good job of trying to put his man away, but instead of using the no DQ stipulation to his advantage all he did was remove one of the turnbuckle pads. This move ended up backfiring on him though when he failed to use it for his skull crushing finale, and when Kingston rammed him into it moments later.

That was the beginning of the end for Miz, because it gave Kingston the chance to finally connect with his trouble in paradise kick for the winning pin.

The penultimate match of the evening was the second handicap match as Daniel Bryan faced the entire Wyatt family, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.

What we had here, for the most part, was a mauling, and it was one of the best things I've seen in a WWE ring this year.

Bryan began strongly, but it wasn't long before the inevitable happened and the creepy guys took control, and with Rowan and Harper beating the proverbial out of Bryan you'd be forgiven if you forgot that Wyatt, in his rocking chair at ringside, was actually a part of this match as well.

Well, he was, and when he tagged in he pulled off some highly impressive moves. He then creeped everyone out with his upside-down walking thing. Whether it was meant to be an impression of a crab or a spider I don't know, but it looked as creepy as hell. Or should that be #thisiscreepy?

Bryan's comebacks were somewhat fleeting until he turned things up a notch and began to deal with all three of the weird dudes, and like Punk before him it looked like he was going to overcome the odds. It wasn't to be though. Eventually the numbers game was too much, and when Wyatt got his hands on him and took him down with his sister Abigail move it was all over for him. A three count later and the creepy guys had the win.

The main event saw Randy Orton facing John Cena, with both the WWE and World titles on the line in a TLC match.

When these two feuded a while back I wasn't exactly impressed with the matches they gave us. This one was okay, but it didn't really have that big fight feeling we'd heard so much about.

The toys came into play early in this one, and as the action progressed we saw numerous chair shots, ladders used as weapons, and Orton going through a couple of tables.

But as the events played out this match just seemed to lack that certain spark that makes matches great, and while I'm not faulting the performances of the two protagonists I couldn't help but feel that this match may have come about three and half months early.

Things didn't really get that dramatic until Orton went rooting around under the ringside mats looking for the handcuffs he'd obviously secreted there earlier. He then cuffed Cena to the bottom rope and taunted him before he went for the big ladder.

But as Orton made his ascent to the gold Cena improvised and began to take apart the ring, and when he'd finally succeeded in taking apart the bottom rope he climbed the ladder and stopped the Viper from grabbing the gold. The only problem was that Cena was still attached to the bottom rope, making it difficult for him to grab the belts.

A quickly-recovered Orton then came back and used the ropes to halt Cena's progress, pulling him off the ladder, with Cena landing head first on a chair in the corner. Orton then reached up and grabbed both belts to become the champion of champions. A few moments later Orton was joined in his in-ring celebrations by the McMahons.

In conclusion - WWE's pay-per-view of the year proved to be an enjoyable three hours, for the most part anyway.

The undercard gave us some very entertaining encounters, and there were quite a few good performances here, although the addition of the Kingston/Miz match did kind of feel like an afterthought, like it didn't really belong here.

As for the main event, it felt like the match had come too soon. After all, if it was meant to be so historic then why not hold it at the most historic pay-per-view in wrestling history, if you know what I mean.

As for my match of the night no-prize there were quite a few candidates for this prestigious award until Daniel Bryan faced off against the crazy Wyatt clan, which is why that particular encounter gets the award this time around. It also gets the award for most facial hair I've ever seen in a wrestling match.

So with all of that out of the way there's just one more thing left to do, and that's to give TLC the thumbs up.

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