WWE Weekly: December 13-19, 2015
by Scrooge Mc Suck
TLC 2015 RUNDOWN...
For as long as I could remember, there always seemed to be an obvious lack of effort when putting together the PPV that closes out the year. Whether you want to call it Armageddon, TLC, or any other names they’ve adopted over the last couple of decades (cough:DecemberToDismember), the effort seems to be lacking and regardless of the in-ring quality, each show comes and goes with little fanfare and hardly any reasons to remember. The 2015 edition of the TLC concept carried on that tradition, with a weak lineup of only seven matches (eight if you count a Kickoff Match most people probably didn’t bother to watch), most of them shoe-horned into the lineup within the last week, and almost all of them with little direction or sustained interest. Even though the work of most of the wrestlers tonight was above average, the crowd was mostly quiet for everything they saw with the exception of the opener, and only for some of the more needlessly dangerous spots, and even those reactions wouldn’t last beyond a few seconds. The only true highlight, from a story telling perspective, was Roman Reigns, having been screwed over in his quest for the WWE Championship for what feels like the 20th time, went crazy beating the hell out of Sheamus, and immediately following that, an extensive beat down on COO Triple H, which actually got the crowd to rally behind Reigns, the same crowd who for most of the match greeted him with indifference and chants for John Cena and Seth Rollins. In case you skipped my review of TLC (which was a few days late, due to a combination of disinterest, an unusually inconvenient work schedule, and holiday nonsense), here is the breakdown...
A. Sasha Banks defeated Becky Lynch at 11:40 with a little bit of help from Naomi and Tamina. I didn’t watch the Kickoff Show, so the only thing I can add is "I’m surprised Sasha didn’t do the job since WWE has always had a weird fascination with jobbing people in their home towns."
1. The New Day (Big E. & Kofi Kingston) retained their Tag Team Titles at 17:47 in a Triple-Threat Ladder Match against Jimmy and Jey Uso and the Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto). There were a lot of great spots, a few of them gratuitously dangerous, especially when Kalisto did the Salida de Sol over the top of a ladder and through another. The New Day continues to be the top face acts in the Tag Team division, despite being heels, and Xavier Woods’ commentary was exceptional. Even with the hard work, it’s hard to ignore the lazy effort in just throwing this match on PPV and going "poof, it’s a ladder match." ***1/2
2. Rusev defeated Ryback at 7:56 when Ryback passed out to the Accolade. Slow Heavyweight-style match. Lana faked being hit during the action on the floor, and again, Ryback fell for it, allowing Rusev to cheap shot him en route to victory. This match more than any other is what is wrong with the character development of the WWE roster. Rusev has been neutered into someone who can’t beat Ryback without distractions from Lana, and Ryback keeps falling for it because "duh, faces are dumb." Nobody wins when the writing is that bad. *1/2
3. Alberto Del Rio defeated Jack Swagger at 11:11 in a Chairs Match to retain the YOU-Knighted States Championshp. It was downright laughable for Swagger to credit Zeb Colter in banding the WWE Universe together for a great cause. Yeah, Xenophobia and racial profiling. They did their best to incorporate the chairs into a good match, but it just felt like they took two matches and threw it into a blender. Del Rio won with the Double Stomp onto a stack of chairs. **1/2
4. The Wyatt Family defeated The ECW Originals in an 8-Man Elimination Tables Match at 12:30. An ugly mess most of the time, especially everything involving Strowman and a couple of tables breaking without much force. Erick Rowan was eliminated first, because he’s a total geek, via a 3D at 4:00. Harper put Rhyno through a table with a big boot at 6:28, Bray Wyatt put D’Von through a table an urinage at 8:29, Tommy Dreamer got put through one at ringside with a suicide dive by Harper at 10:41, and Bubba Ray, while attempting to set a Rated-PG fire, was Choke-Slammed through a table by Strowman. Worst match on the show, hands down. *
5. Dean Ambrose pinned Kevin Owens at 9:52 to win the Intercontinental Championship. Yep, this got less time than everything else on the show, with the exception of the snoozer between Ryback and Rusev. More headache inducing writing: The only aspect of this "feud" acknowledged was Ambrose throwing popcorn and pop in Owens’ face. BECAUSE HE’S FAT. They worked hard to get over a 9-minute match as something epic, but they continue to disappoint with limited time allotted every time they face off. Ambrose won with Dirty Deeds after a long series of counters. ***
6. Charlotte pinned Paige at 10:39 to retain the Divas Championship. Another match where the constant rewrites and direction changes have created an atmosphere where nobody cares. Paige is somehow doing a slow-burn face-turn despite at one time ridiculing Charlotte’s dead brother. Paige got decent reactions, but that would happen regardless since she tries to show some personality. Charlotte looked good doing her father’s spots (the flop, the shin-across the throat choke, etc. etc.). Paige had the match won with the Rampaige but Flair put Charlotte’s foot on the rope. Charlotte used the distraction to undo a turnbuckle and rammed Paige into the exposed steel. **1/2
7. Sheamus defeated Roman Reigns at 23:59 in a TLC Match to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They worked hard and took a lot of big bumps, but the crowd, for the most part, didn’t (or wouldn’t) care. At one point, Sheamus lead Reigns down the aisle and put him through table after table, and only finally after a 3rd off the steps with White Noise, did the crowd react. Sheamus took an incredibly dangerous bump through a elevated ladder, a spot similar to a sequence from TLC ’14 that put him on the shelf for about 6-months. Reigns had the match won, but Rusev and Del Rio interrupted (Wade Barrett is nursing a stinger, so he was MIA). Reigns fought them off, but a Brogue Kick knocked him silly and Sheamus grabbed the belt to retain. Post-match, Reigns gave Sheamus a solid beat-down, but what followed with Triple H was probably the hottest reacted to sequence of the entire show. ***
NXT TAKEOVER: LONDON RUNDOWN...
As much as the product of the weekly WWE programming has become a chore to sit through and frustrated fans with inconsistent development of characters and storylines, NXT continues to fire on all cylinders, delivering a show that easily blew away TLC, even with the crowd trying their best to ruin a couple of the matches. I don’t want to sound like an NXT fanboy, because I’m not, but the comparisons to the NXT product and the WWE product are like night and day. As I watched NXT Takeover with my girlfriend (hurray for randomly referencing I have a significant other), I pointed out each match that characteristics of each wrestler, their motivation, and what makes them baby-face and heel, creating a product that draws my interest and manages to keep me invested in the product. The best part about this edition of TakeOver was a lineup that featured almost every match having a questionable outcome. Honestly, the only match that I didn’t think had a chance in having a debated outcome was the Tag Title Match, and even that, through some well-worked near falls, had me convinced that I was wrong about that. I’m not going to call it the best of the TakeOver Specials, but with only one match falling below the 3-star range, and two matches hitting 4-stars or more, it was easily two-hours of entertainment that all wrestling fans should check out. Here are the results, and no, I didn’t do a full recap because of limited personal time this week...
1. Asuka pinned Emma at 14:49 after a standing spinning heel kick. Came off like a Japanese-style Junior Heavyweight Match, with lots of believable wrestling and emphasis on submissions. Emma worked a clean match early, but Asuka always proved to have the edge no matter the situation, gradually pushing Emma into using dirtier tactics. Twice she tried using a belt given to her by Dana Brooke, but Asuka fought it off each time. I think a lot of people were expecting a bit of a challenge but nothing like this, as they really pushed Emma as someone who could hang at a level of someone like Asuka, and even in defeat, could be propelled into a higher spot on the card with proper handling. A win-win situation for all involved and a hell of an opener. ****
2. Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson defeated Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady at 14:57 to retain the NXT Titles. Simple and to the point build-up: Dash and Dawson (I refuse to acknowledge the goofy name given to them by other members of the IWC) beat the piss out of Amore and Big Cass, and now the latter duo wants revenge. We get the extended cut of the challengers entrance, complete with British currency. Standard formula tag match, with both challengers taking good beatings and the Champions targeting Cass’ previously injured leg. They did the Rocket Launcher spot which seemed like it was the finish, but Dawson pulled Enzo out of the ring. They took Cass out, and hit Enzo with a super-sized flapjack into a Code Breaker. ***
3. Baron Corbin pinned Apollo Crews at 11:10 with the End of Days. Clean finish to a so-so match. Crews took his first televised loss here, and it’s for the better. Keeping an extended winning streak usually doesn’t do much for that person moving forward, so getting a loss now takes away that issue. Corbin has steadily improved over the last year, but he’s still just a WWE formula Heavyweight, and Crews’ style of sometimes high-flyer sometimes heavyweight felt a little off here. **1/2
4. Bayley forced Nia Jax to tap-out at 13:17 to retain the NXT Women’s Championship. The crowd really bothered me here, as they seemed more interested in serenading Bayley than focusing on the match. Nia Jax looked green, which is understandable since she’s only been wrestling for 6-months, but Bayley carried the match so well you wouldn’t have thought about it. This came across as a throwback to the Sting/Vader wars, with Bayley valiantly trying anything she could and Jax pummeling her with impact offense. The finish with Bayley constantly going for a Dragon Sleeper and Jax falling prey to it played off her inexperience, and even in defeat, leaves the door open for a rematch with a more focused and more experienced Jax looking for revenge. ***1/2
5. Finn Balor pinned Samoa Joe at 18:22 to retain the NXT Championship. Balor did his demon entrance, but with a Jack the Ripper-style twist, and it looked awesome. Hard hitting match from bell-to-bell, with tons of hard chops and kicks mixed in with high impact offense. It still amazes me to see someone of Joe’s size jumping around like he does and flying through the ropes for a tope’. He kept going for the Muscle Buster, but Balor kept finding ways to escape it. They fought for position on the top rope, with Joe teasing a top rope Fisherman Suplex, but Balor fought Joe down and hit the Coup de Grace seemingly in the blink of an eye for the victory. Of all the matches scheduled, I was sure that Joe was either winning the Title, or they’d do a finish where Balor gets DQ’ed for being too aggressive, building to a rematch with the "if the Champion loses by DQ, he also loses the Title" stipulation. ****1/4
LIGHTS, CAMERA, WWE ACTION...
TLC ended on a high note, but would that translate into a worthwhile episode of Monday Night Raw? The immediate reaction would be "No", but again, the show built momentum (sorry for pulling a Michael Cole by using that line, but it would accurately describe this week's episode) and ended with a satisfactory moment for what feels like the first time in years. We opened with Stephanie McMahon, on behalf of her husband, chewing out Roman Reigns for his actions at TLC, which resulted in Triple H missing Raw (but no-selling it all and making the trip to England to open the TakeOver special). Reigns had the AUDACITY to recognize the day as his daughter's birthday, leading to more heated exchanging of words and finally Stephanie unloading with a flurry of hard slaps, leaving quite an impressive mark on Roman's face. Despite Roman's lashing out, his fate would lay in the hands of another person... Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
Yes, Vince McMahon would make his first appearance in about a year on WWE television, and the hype must've worked, because Raw maintained its viewing audience throughout the show. Vince made his arrival at the close of the first hour, interrupting a geek match between R-Truth and Bo Dallas and ordering them out of the ring because they're a couple of losers that nobody gives a crap about. He called out Roman for another verbal exchange, including a LAME line about Vince's grapefruits being 70 year old prunes, resulting in Roman getting a kick to the nuts, because EVERY MCMAHON MUST HUMILIATE ROMAN TONIGHT. Where's Shane McMahon to come out of exile and kick his ass, too? Despite Roman's behavior, Sheamus proves himself to be a stupid heel by offering up a rematch, with Vince making it official for tonight's Main Event: Reigns will either become WWE Champion or be fired. DUM-DUM-DUMMMMMMMMMM!
With only two possible outcomes, you really hope that the creative team doesn't screw Reigns over for what feels like a weekly scenario. We did get a bit of over-booking straight out of the Attitude Era, but toned down enough to not be a total train wreck. Roman had the match won several times, but McMahon made sure that wasn't going to happen with himself at ringside. The odds seemed stacked too high, with Vince distracting the referee and the League of Nations' gratuitous interference, but Roman fought off Rusev and Del Rio, hit Vince with the Superman Punch, and finished off Sheamus with a Spear to FINALLY win (and keep) the WWE World Title, to an overwhelming baby-face reaction in the same city that took a dump all over him in January at the Royal Rumble. All the good will towards the previous two nights came into question on Smackdown, when Roman Reigns was informed of an "official investigation", which means Reigns isn't even allowed to be in the building. What about the WWE Title? I guess they don't make creative decisions about that on Tuesday.
Kevin Owens is still very much interested in being the Intercontinental Champion. After losing the title to Dean Ambrose at TLC, he made his intentions very clear on Raw, interrupting a non-Title Match between Ambrose and perennial contender Dolph Ziggler, laying out Ambrose with a pair of Pop-Up Powerbombs, then dropping Ziggler across Ambrose's body with a standard Powerbomb. Owens' goal? To drive Ambrose into an institution until he once again is the Intercontinental Champion. Ambrose's response? Bring it. No matter how bad the beating is, he will scrape himself off the canvas, mail himself in an envelope to Owens' house, and give it another shot. That sounds pretty crazy to me, to be honest. It looks like they will shoe-horn Ziggler into this feud, because the Tyler Breeze angle has already died a terrible death and has done nothing but hurt both wrestlers.
On the topic of wrapping up an angle that didn't seemed destined to go anywhere or be anything worth remembering, we received the finale of the "shouldn't have happened in the first place" story arch with the Wyatt Family and "Team Extreme" (Note to WWE writers: That was the nickname of the Hardy Boyz, but I guess they got tired of calling them ECW Originals). After winning rather convincingly at TLC, I didn't see the point of the Wyatt's accepting a rematch. Especially an EXTREME RULES Match. Standard garbage brawling straight out of another era, only in PG-form. You know that there's nothing left when Erick Rowan, the token chump of the Wyatt Family", gets the winning pinfall on Rhyno. Who knows where the Wyatt Family goes from here, and ditto the Dudleys. It's very safe to assume this was it for Rhyno and Tommy Dreamer on WWE TV, unless both take visits to NXT.
The Tag Title situation continues to baffle and confuse. The New Day are heels, but they are significantly more popular than any other team in the company. In an effort to sell how good the Ladder Match was at TLC (it was intense, but hardly a all-time classic), they had the New Day call out the Lucha Dragons and the New Day for a "all thing aside, that match rocked" promo that DIED. Then they had the New Day actually celebrate, which caused the Usos and Lucha Dragons to attack them to over-whelming negative reactions. Yes, they booked a segment that gave the heels sympathy heat because they were attacked by what was basically two teams of sore losers. Later in the week on Smackdown, the Dragons defeated the New Day for the third time in two weeks, so now they'll get a standard match in an effort to take the titles off the New Day.
I mentioned Tyler Breeze a few paragraphs back, but didn't follow up because it appears he's been pushed down the card into a program with Goldust, judging by what we saw on Smackdown where Summer Rae tried to get Goldust to leave them alone by assaulting him with hair spray, and Goldust responded by costing Breeze a match to TITUS O'NEIL. Elsewhere in the (very) undercard, they continued to tease something with Neville and the Miz. Where's Damien Mizdow when you need him? As for Titus O'Neil, it appears that they've given up on the nonsense between him and Stardust, but who knows, it might make a return next week, depending on the whims of filling TV time. Oh, and Becky Lynch is still being portrayed as a gullible ditz. Hurray Divas Revolution!
Other notable moments and results from Monday Night Raw and Smackdown not worth going into details about... RAW: Rusev and Alberto Del Rio defeated Ryback and Jack Swagger to kill what was left of their angles... Adam Rose's RoseBush segment lives on for a third week, and it still sucks... Neville pinned Tyler Breeze... Becky Lynch and Charlotte defeated Brie Bella and Alicia Fox with a little help from Ric Flair... SMACKDOWN: Alberto Del Rio defeated Ryback by submission thanks to a distraction from the League of Nations... Becky Lynch defeated Brie Bella with a little help from Charlotte.
C-YOU LATER, HEATH SLATER...
As usual, there’s not much happening on Superstars or Main Event really worth going into detail about, so here’s what I do for my own personal amusement: we keep track of the results, including win-loss records, and basically keep tabs on how often certain people appear on these shows, who wins the most, and who, besides Heath Slater, loses the most. It’s one of those things I’ve done with the C-level shows as far back as Velocity and Sunday Night Heat. Last week, Main Event was simply a recap show to hype TLC, with the Tribute to the Troops special taped in its place, and Superstars featured Darren Young in action for the first time in quite a few weeks.
From WWE Main Event, taped on December 15th from Newark, NJ... Rusev (2-0) defeated Neville (2-1) by submission with the Accolade. No smart-ass remarks needed... Jack Swagger (3-0) defeated Bo Dallas (2-5) with the Patriot Lock. Weird to see Swagger not making a Main Event or Superstars appearance in over a month. Welcome back home, Jack... Jimmy & Jey Uso (2-0) defeated the Ascension (0-2) because they have nothing better to do with the Lucha Dragons getting a shot at the titles. From WWE Superstars, taped on December 14th from Philadelphia, PA but technically featured after Main Event... Goldust (1-0) pinned Adam Rose (1-5)and Fandango (2-1) pinned Heath Slater (0-7). Damn, if Slater had any hopes of winning a match, it was against Fandango.
Final Thoughts: A busy week for the WWE this week, with TLC, NXT TakeOver, and a big episode of Monday Night Raw featuring a WWE World Title switch. I'm honestly not feeling too great and apologize for the rushed conclusion, but I'll hopefully be feeling better next week as we approach the Slammy Awards and the 2015 Tribute to the Troops. Until then...
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