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    Tuesday, December 15, 2015

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review (12/13/15): TLC 2015

    The last WWE PPV event of 2015 has come and gone, and we’re left with the aftermath of what was a very messy TLC. So how about we jump right in?

    Kickoff: Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch

    This match was nowhere near as great as their match at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable. Nonetheless, Sasha and Becky got a good 15-minute match in Sasha’s hometown of Boston, MA and they were able to tell a good story within that time.

    I liked the recurring theme of one-upmanship during the match. It was a case of “anything you can do, I can do better” or “you were this close to getting beaten,” and it was enough to get me hooked. Having Naomi and Tamina’s presence come into play added value because it built off Team B.A.D.’s “unity” mantra, which is so fun to sing, by the way.

    Of course, it helped that the match was between two of the best wrestlers in the world right now.

    While it was sad that a Sasha-Becky match got relegated to the Kickoff, I’m glad they were able to get the time they needed to put on a good show for all of us. I just hope that we’ll get to see them on the main card of a future PPV with a deeper story.

    The New Day (c) def. the Usos and the Lucha Dragons in a Triple Threat Ladder Match to retain the WWE Tag Team Championships

    Over the last two years, TLC has kicked off with a Ladder Match, most probably with the intention of spacing it out before the TLC match in the main event. The problem with this setup is you run the risk of the Ladder Match stealing the show—and with that, the thunder—from the main event. And that’s exactly what happened both last year and this year.

    All three teams put on one glorious trainwreck of a Ladder Match, one that was highlighted by Kalisto’s Salida del Sol to Jey Uso off the top of the ladder. Honestly, did we even expect anything less from all seven men? And yes, I said seven because Xavier Woods was a big a part of this match as the other six guys.

    From the moment Xavier sat in to do commentary with Cole, Lawler, and JBL, it was obvious his presence would pay dividends for the New Day in this match. After all, how often does someone even provide guest commentary for a PPV match? What is this? RAW? Anyway, I thought Xavier’s involvement in the match was just the right amount of annoying with him leaving the booth to direct traffic at some point, and eventually getting up to throw his trombone at Kalisto so the latter would fall off the ladder.

    Watching Kofi retrieve the Tag Team Championships was a great moment, mostly because he never really wins these multi-man ladder matches even though he’s been a staple in them over the last half-decade or so. As for watching the New Day celebrate their victory? It was fitting for the Rolling Stone Superstars of the Year.

    Rusev def. Ryback via submission

    When both men came out for this match, I was surprised that we were having it again, despite seeing it all week on television. At the same time, I wasn’t surprised because they did have a score to settle. WWE, this is what happens when you fail to promote a match on your PPV card. Why do you keep trotting out impromptu matches in the first place?

    The match was what you would expect out of a hoss fight, which would have been good had this feud had any steam heading into the show. But it didn’t. What we did get out of it, though, was the return of Rusev and Lana’s original M.O. in WWE. Rusev shoved Ryback into Lana, which appeared to hurt the Ravishing Russian. Ryback checked on her, allowing Rusev to get a cheap shot in. It’s one of the oldest plays in the book, but it works every time. 

    Apir tayo, sumakit ang ulo ko!
    At this point, all we need is for Lana to start saying, “RUSEV CRUSH!” again, which leads me to this question: are they trying to erase everything that happened before Rusev lost his U.S. Championship to John Cena at WrestleMania Play Button?

    Alberto Del Rio (c) def. Jack Swagger in a Chairs Match to retain the United States Championship

    Here's a chair shot for your archaic views on immigration!
    The sad reality about this match is that Swagger will go back to Main Event and Superstars once this feud is over.

    Now that MexAmerica is over, Swagger dedicated the match to Zeb Colter, who tweeted out that ADR would get his ass handed to him, while still advocating for a #hatefreezone. I understand that ADR’s still a heel for (1) being Sheamus’ friend and a part of the League of Nations and (2) bullying a defenseless old man for unintentionally getting in his way. What I still don’t understand is why I’m supposed to cheer for a right-wing extremist who’s convincing the old dude to embrace his xenophobic tendencies again. They didn’t give us any reason other than the sentimentality of may pinagsamahan sila.

    That being said, the match wasn’t anything to get excited about beyond the opening sequence. Watching the match again, it was fun seeing two angry guys trying to bash each other with chairs. But going back to the earlier argument about having a good story to tell, there wasn’t much to get attached to. The match itself felt soulless, as if El Patron was just doing it for the sake of doing it, while Swagger was just doing it for the PPV payday. I really hope I’m wrong, but I just wasn’t into this match at all.

    The Wyatt Family def. the Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer, and Rhyno in a Tag Team Tables Elimination Match

    I’m a fan of Tables Matches just because it’s always fun to see guys go through a table. I’m also a fan of elimination tag matches because you get to build the drama up when it becomes a handicap match. Needless to say, I was perked up when this match finally came on.

    And then I remembered how messy this match would be because it would be tornado style, which leads me to how rules should be enforced in a Tables Match. The general understanding of the match is that somebody loses—or in this case, gets eliminated—when they go through the table. There was a point in the match when Luke Harper missed a boot to one of the ECW Originals and had his foot go through the table instead. I thought that was intentional, and that that would cause his elimination, but it didn’t. Props to the commentary team for clarifying that to get eliminated, you have to be put through the table by someone else. 

    Stop right now, thank you very much.
    I’m glad the Wyatt Family finally got a convincing win over somebody. They needed this win, and it would have been a travesty for them to have lost to a bunch of old dudes again. I just wonder if it matters that Erick Rowan has been taking the fall for the Wyatt Family for the last two weeks. Rowan took the pinfall during the clusterfuck of clusterfucks last week on RAW, and at TLC, he was the one Wyatt who got eliminated. I get that they did it to (a) show that the Wyatts can be vulnerable and (b) protect Bray, Harper, and Strowman. But does Rowan have to be the sacrificial lamb all the time?

    Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens (c) to win the Intercontinental Championship

    Match. Of. The. Night.

    Ambrose and Owens put on one hell of a match last night, and it was better than their match at Survivor Series because it was a lot more fun to watch. When the match started and went 50-50, I didn’t think Deano would have a shot at beating Kevin Owens. But the longer this match went, the more I thought that he could actually pull this off.

    What was great about this match was they allowed Dean to win without making the Pop-Up Powerbomb look weak by having him kick out of it. I’ll give it extra points, too, for having Owens reach for the bottom rope with two fingers after taking a Dirty Deeds for Ambrose. I thought, for sure, the match would have ended there.

    The finish was just the right touch because it reminded us of the old adage that “anything can happen in a WWE ring” while allowing Ambrose to finally get momentum in his singles career. Kevin Owens’ facial expressions after losing, and trying to get a grip on what just happened, added to how brilliantly this all played out.

    Charlotte (c) def. Paige to retain the Divas Championship

    This match could very well have been WWE’s attempt at a double turn, but there was just one problem: Paige wasn’t anything more than a victim of cheating. Normally, this would be enough to gain the audience’s sympathy. But throughout Charlotte’s feud with Paige, we haven’t seen enough from Paige to give us a reason to eventually empathize with her, especially after the things she did like speaking irreverently about the late Reid Flair—something which should have already made her character irredeemable. Then again, this is the WWE, where anyone is apparently redeemable.

    Charlotte definitely had a little extra pep in her step in this match, because playing the heel is just much more comfortable and fun. These two actually work well together, and they made me hate them during the match because of how smug and arrogant they were, and how blatantly they used their dirty tactics. Good on Boston for not cheering this shit the way Pittsburgh did.

    The family that cheats together, eats together (at the victory party after the match).
    If there was any question about Charlotte’s alignment before TLC, it was answered by the end of the show. Charlotte and Ric’s backstage segment with Becky Lynch further drove the point home, and I’m hoping to see Becky stand up to Charlotte as the true babyface in this story.

    Side note: I haven’t seen Ric Flair smile in a demonic way since his heel days with Evolution, when I legitimately hated him. I can’t believe I’m seeing it again after more than a decade. The smark in me loves how well he plays his role. The mark in me hates that this old fart is up to no good again. I love it, Maggle!

    Sheamus (c) def. Roman Reigns in a TLC Match to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

    I have to hand it to Sheamus and Roman for trying. They knew that they had to give us a reason to care about their match and feud, and they did what they could given what they had. Unfortunately, the odds are just stacked against them because it was just too hard to be totally invested in a story that seems too contrived. Add to that the fact that the Ladder Match earlier in the night already stole their thunder, and there wasn’t much that either man could really do to top it.

    I give them points for setting up one of the ladders between the announce table and the ring, which was a great callback to the spot that injured Sheamus’ labrum last year and cost him six months of his career. When Sheamus and Roman landed on that very ladder, I legitimately feared for their safety because it’s never fun to see a guy get a real injury.

    While it made sense for both guys to take the fight to the stage, I didn’t see the point of Roman burying Sheamus underneath a sea of tables and chairs if the goal was to eventually have Sheamus come out of it. That’s a spot that should be reserved for tying down a strong opponent and rendering him unable to escape so the hero could win.

    Having the League of Nations come in to help Sheamus retain the title was an expected but welcome finish. I just wonder where King Barrett was when all of this was going down. More importantly, where the fuck were Ambrose and the Usos? I understand that the 3-on-1 beatdown was supposed to set up the “one versus all” angle where Roman eventually takes Trips out. But it just didn’t make sense to leave Roman’s buddies out of this when just last week, they were standing by his side and feuding with the League of Nations as well. Way to be a family, guys.

    Through it all, Roman’s post-match assault may have given me hope about the Roman Reigns character. The guy just went nuts, laying into Sheamus with a chair repeatedly, and then when Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and the referees came in to subdue him, Roman pretended to calm down and then proceeded to turn his attention to Trips. This is the Roman Reigns I wanted to see: batshit angry IDGAF Roman Reigns.

    While the whole hero-versus-boss trope is tried and tested, it doesn’t work for everyone. And through Roman’s shortcomings on the mic and as an underdog character, the one thing he does well is get angry and just lay waste to his opponent. That maximizes his strengths, particularly his physical force, athletic ability, and facial expressions.

    I’m sure they’ll give Roman some crappy promo again to start or end RAW this week. But for now, I’m just enjoying the fact that they gave me a reason to care about Roman Reigns. He showed us that he has a boiling point, and when he does reach it, he becomes so fun to watch. And that’s what he—and the rest of us—have been missing all along.


    TLC fell flat as a whole because it didn’t organically build up to an awesome, climactic main event. Its best parts came at the start (the Ladder Match) and at the middle (IC title match), with the show trying to salvage itself with big moments like Roman Reigns’ meltdown and the numerous high spots throughout the show. All of the huge spots could get people to talk, but it doesn’t hide the fact that the storytelling still leaves a lot to be desired. As a result, I’m giving the show a B-.

    What did you think of TLC? Are you finally convinced that Charlotte’s a heel? How do you feel about Dean Ambrose as Intercontinental Champion? Do you want to see more of batshit angry IDGAF Roman? Let us know in the comments section below!

    Photos from WWE.


    Stan Sy is a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, and Smark Henry's official PPV reviewer. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date. Follow him on Twitter: @_stansy
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review (12/13/15): TLC 2015 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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