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    Tuesday, December 18, 2018

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: TLC 2018

    It doesn't matter who you are; you can be the biggest wrestling company in the world, but there's no way you can consistently book a four-hour PPV that tries to culminate around 21 hours' worth of television in one night.

    It just isn't possible, and you can see the strains at the seams. The same problems that bog down WWE main roster pay-per-views are present in this year's TLC, yet another exercise by the company in lacking restraint. WWE puts everything on these shows and pretends they're WrestleMania, mostly because they know we'll watch anyway. And we'll watch because some of us, like your humble scribe, have to write treatises like this.

    At the very least, there's some forward motion on this show. The women are put front and center for WrestleMania, and a lot of them have been elevated. The Intercontinental Championship gets to switch hands and open up new possibilities. Baron Corbin as RAW GM is no more, leaving the status quo open to reshuffling. Daniel Bryan is likely moving on to a new contender.

    But of course, not everything will be a dud; there are great moments on this show, but they're all hidden behind what seems to be a wall of other things we have to go through. What makes it all better is that this time, it's the women having their day as pretty much the sole reason to watch TLC.

    TLC and the way it's built may be a sign that the WWE is slowly starting to overrely on the women whose ways they've stayed out of. Yes, it's great to see Becky Lynch, Asuka, Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey assume the top of the card like they should, and putting them in situations previously only inhabited by the men is a winning formula, but this shouldn't be at the expense of everyone else's development. A story like Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose shouldn't be a lame duck sitting on the water, getting shot at with boos. Everyone on the card needs full support.

    And if you can't give everyone support, then it goes to show that the business model they're trying to push is simply unsustainable.

    Here it is again, because it's always worth trumpeting: the four-hour non-Mania card does not work. It doesn't work when we have to tell you that the only matches that are absolutely must-see are the two women's championship bouts. It doesn't work when you have to pick and choose matches during a non-live viewing. It doesn't work when you're exhausted by the time you're getting to the exciting parts.

    Only by facing the truth will the company solve its woes, and it's not looking like that'll happen anytime soon.

    TLC 2018 Final Grade: B

    Match of the Night

    A lot of factors went into match quality, especially in a long show like this, so whatever I'll call match of the night can very well be different for a lot of people. For being a sleeper that breathed life for the first time into a show that was just there up until this point, Ronda Rousey versus Nia Jax gets the nod. It seemed to be the only outlier on a show where almost every match felt like they were running at the same speed. More importantly, however, Ronda keeps proving that she belongs here. I'm a fan.

    Other observations

    • Once again, a WWE PPV is loaded with matches that should've been better off on TV. Elias versus Lashley? The Mixed Match Challenge finals? Ruby Riott versus Natalya? Come on, man. Beef up your RAWs with these things every now and then. The biggest lesson I've learned by mainly following Network-exclusive shows like 205 Live and NXT UK is that you don't really need a PPV to culminate storylines. Make PPVs special again.
    • I'll tell you this, though, at least they didn't force a US Championship match with a storyline that just wasn't there. But that had more to do with the title being an afterthought now than it was about streamlining the show. I hope Rey Mysterio beating Randy Orton means we move on to better midcard feuds on SmackDown.
    • Drew McIntyre versus Finn Balor had the wrong winner. I get that they were trying to pencil Dolph Ziggler in to push the logical triple threat feud, but you could have accomplished the same thing by having Balor lose thanks to Ziggler's interference. Drew McIntyre is obviously the Next Big Thing following Braun Strowman. Don't give him the 50-50 losses and just push him if that's what you want.
    • That said, Baron Corbin vs. Braun Strowman was a perfect way to cap the GM-elect storyline without having to resort to yet another match. Segments like that go a long way in breaking up monotony, so they should probably look into doing more of that.
    • I feel like the WWE Championship match would have stood out more on a different card. While great, it just felt lost in the shuffle here.
    • The less said about Seth vs. Dean, the better. Just not the right kind of match for this point in their story.
    • It's definitely worth mentioning how WWE tied all the loose threads from the Ronda/Becky/Charlotte story, and to some extent Nia Jax as well, with literally one fell swoop. Look at all the hubris addressed by that single tip-over. It probably wasn't the direction they were going to go, but it only shows that if you let the story take you where it wants to go, you'll get nothing but the best. At least WWE can say this for their top women.

    Photo from Portrait of a Wrestler


    Romeo Moran (@roiswar) is the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: TLC 2018 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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