Sometimes even an industry leader like the WWE can only play the cards it’s dealt.
It was fitting that the site for the company’s final pay-per-view card of the year, TLC, was Boston, because it was the same city basketball coach Rick Pitino once gave a famous speech about how none of his team’s legends were coming to save the day. Even with the crowd chanting for him loudly during the main event on Sunday night, John Cena wasn’t coming down the ramp. Nor were the injured Seth Rollins or even Randy Orton.
Thus, we were left with a championship main event featuring the least inspiring pairing since the promotion’s two top titles were combined into one, with Sheamus defending against Roman Reigns in a TLC Match. That it won’t go down as anyone’s favorite was hardly surprising, though it wasn’t for a lack of effort on the part of the wrestlers.
That the actual match was overshadowed by what followed it could have been a symptom of WWE storytelling in 2015, or simply an acknowledgement on the part of the people who put the show together that the main eventers they were left with at the end of this particular year simply weren’t capable of carrying a show on their own yet. It was what it was, an acceptable though uninspiring affair that at least seemed to get some new fans cheering for Reigns before the show faded to black.
When the opening bell sounded, Sheamus sprinted across the ring and ran directly into a big right hand. The champ came right back with a leg whip and a high running knee, though the fans were already well into dueling Cena chants. It won’t be easy to edit those out down the road.
Outside the ring they went, with Sheamus throwing a ladder into Reigns’ face but getting back dropped over the barricade. The champ responded with a running forearm before a clothesline took him down.
Reigns cleared the cover off the announce table and set a ladder up to bridge the gap to the apron. Sheamus ran over and used a chair on his challenger, followed by a tilt-a-whirl slam in the ring.
The champ set a table up along the ropes, though he was sent over the top rope to the floor before he could use it. Things really picked up as Reigns hurled Sheamus through a pyramid of tables and ladders over near the set. They battled back down the ramp, and a table finally came into play as Reigns went through one, then another.
Sheamus had a nasty cut/burn on his left tricep, but he set a ladder up in the ring and began to climb. Reigns was feeling chipper enough to put a halt to that, though he was soon sent sprawling by a thrown ladder. He escaped a chair and steel steps sandwich with his head as the meat, though he couldn’’t avoid a clothesline or the chair shots that followed.
The coolest spot of the match to that point occurred when Sheamus hit White Noise off the steps and through an adjacent table, and the champ responded in amazement when Reigns kept coming. Ladder shots and kicks followed in the ring, though the challenger was able to lift him off the mat and slam him back down on a ladder.
Reigns’ next move was to leap of the steps to deliver a chair shot. He tried to hit the Superman punch but got caught with the Irish Curse and the Beats of the Bodhran — yet Reigns managed to hoist Sheamus for a Samoan drop that broke a waiting ladder in half. The challenger got up first, climbing for the belt, but the champ yanked him down before suffering the same fate in return.
The fans sounded like they were keen on booing any man who got close to the belt, and both men experienced that reaction in short order. Reigns managed to Superman punch Sheamus off the top of the ladder, but the champ’s League of Nations teammates Alberto Del Rio and Rusev intervened. Reigns made a heroic surge toward the ladder only to eat a Brogue Kick.
Sheamus climbed again, a look of disbelief crossing his face as he saw Reigns still trying to stop him, but he was able to grab the belt and remain WWE World Heavyweight Champion. His celebration with Del Rio and Rusev was cut short by a spear that toppled them all, and Reigns returned to the ring with a chair to take out frustration on all three men. The Authority ran to the ring to stop him, but even Triple H had to back off in the face of the chair-wielding grappler.
The Game was finally able to calm down, but after checking on Sheamus, he took a Superman punch and some chair shots. With the Spanish announce table still standing, Reigns cleared it off, but it doesn’t break after he tried to powerbomb HHH through it. That was followed by Reigns leaping off the regular announce table and dropping an elbow on the COO to finally smash the Spanish table. Referees tried to escort Triple H to the back, but Reigns wasn’t quite done, leveling him with a spear and making comments on his walk back up the ramp that at least he made a statement.
The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on January 24, 2016.
Kofi Kingston asks why Xavier Woods hasn’t done anything crazy with his hair for tonight, but he responds that he wouldn’t waste a good hair day on Boston. Burn, I guess.
The New Day (champions) vs. Lucha Dragons (challengers) vs. The Usos (challengers) – World Tag Team Championship Ladder Match
This match should be all about whether the Dragons or Kofi end up doing the craziest ladder spot. I will say I don’t ever think I’ve seen a tag team title match where one member of the reigning champs is over with the announcers, and I’ve definitely never seen one playing a trombone while doing so. Sin Cara falls straight down from the top rope, smashing a ladder down on Kingston. The Boston fans liked that spot. Both Dragons climb the ladder together, but Big E is underneath it and manages to knock them down. Kofi ends up in the tree of woe in one corner, becoming a sitting duck for the Usos to smash a ladder into him. The Dragons and Usos end up fighting over the ladder with both E and Kingston on the floor. Sin Cara launches Kalisto into a somersault splash onto a ladder, and Kofi returns just in time to get flipped face-first into a ladder set up horizontally. Ouch. And I think we have our winner: Kalisto hits the Salida del Sol on one of the Usos off the main ladder through the horizontal ladder. Kalisto ends up on the ladder by himself, so Woods chucks his trombone at him, delaying him long enough for Kofi to recover and knock him down. Kingston manages to climb alone and grab the belts to keep them in the hands of the New Day.
Winners … and still WWE Tag Team Champions … the New Day at 17 minutes and 45 seconds
Match Rating: 8.5/10
Rusev vs. Ryback
So I’ve heard a lot about the problems people sometimes have with the WWE Network during PPVs, but I’ve never truly experienced them until this match. Nevertheless, I’m a professional, so I went back and watched it for you once the Network came back up. I’m not 100 percent sure what this match is doing on this card, but I guess you can do worse than two powerhouses colliding. Perhaps the most interesting part is when the wrestlers spend time trying to suplex each other, a battle eventually won by Ryback. He also hits a dropkick, which isn’t too shabby. The fans finally get into it when Ryback tries to rev up for the Meat Hook, but you know where this one is headed. Lana gets involved, Rusev uses the distraction to hit a superkick, and … wait, that doesn’t finish Ryback. After a bit more punishment, the Accoalde does, though it appears Ryback may have been out before he was even placed in the hold. The expressionless face emoji sign in the crowd says it all.
Winner … Rusev at 7 minutes and 56 seconds
Match Rating: 5/10
Alberto Del Rio (champion) vs. Jack Swagger (challenger) – United States Championship Chairs Match
What exactly is a Chairs Match? Just all out chaos with chairs, it seems. No one on the current roster does agonized yelling quite like Swagger, so that’s something. He beats his chest after running Del Rio from corner to corner, but he’s soon kicking out after a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Del Rio covers him with thrown chairs on the outside, but he recovers to get the Patriot Lock on with a chair to help increase the pain. The champ tries coming off the top rope with a chair, but a Swagger Bomb greets him for a two count. Swagger piles chairs in the middle of the rope and tries taking Del Rio to the top, but he slips off and administers the cross armbreaker over the ropes. He moves the pile to the corner, where he hits the double foot stomp and keeps his title.
Winner … and still United States Champion … Alberto Del Rio at 11 minutes 11 seconds
Match Rating: 6/10
Team Extreme does a backstage segment where Bubba Ray Dudley reminisces about the good old days and Tommy Dreamer gives an inspirational speech about taking punishment and how age is just a number. Testify!
The Wyatt Family vs. Rhyno, Tommy Dreamer and the Dudley Boyz – Elimination Tables Match
Dreamer wastes no time tossing trash cans in the ring. A baseball bat, a nightstick and some kendo sticks all make appearances, but Braun Strowman fears no weapons. He does, however, get stuck in one corner after he misses a running kick. Erick Rowan is the first man out, but Rhyno follows in short order without getting to Gore anyone through a table. The Dudleys hit Luke Harper with the Doomsday Device, but Bray Wyatt manages to put Devon through a table shortly thereafter, and the good guys are now down three men to two. A twin kendo stick assault staggers Strowman, and he ends up buried under about a half dozen tables. Harper’s suicide dive smashes Dreamer through a table on the floor, and all of a sudden, Bubba Ray fights alone. He grabs a lighter and some lighter fluid but never gets to use them together as Strowman slams him through a table before any fire can start. Funny, because we had decided a flaming table being used would have given this match an automatic 10/10. So close. Darn you PG era!
Winners … the Wyatt Family at 12 minutes and 34 seconds
Match Rating: 7/10
A promo is shown for the Royal Rumble, reminding me that the silver lining to any TLC is that the Rumble is the next pay-per-view.
Kevin Owens needs to get some mic time so he can run down the Boston sports teams and call Dean Ambrose a cockroach. He also calls the fans delusional and declares this event the Kevin Owens show. Got it.
Kevin Owens (champion) vs. Dean Ambrose (challenger) – Intercontinental Championship Match
It’s kind of surprising that this match has no stipulations. Weird. Owens owns the early going, and he presses his advantage with a fallaway slam into the barricade and a running senton on the floor. “Who’s crazy now?” he screams. Uh, you are, if that’s the answer you wanted. Another shot at the senton goes awry when Ambrose gets his legs up, and Dean quickly gets a near fall. Owens responds with a rolling senton off the top rope but is incredulous when his opponent kicks out. Ambrose manages to leapfrog a Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt and hit Dirty Deeds, but it’s not enough as KO barely stretches to get his finger to the bottom rope. Dean gets another chance a minute or so later by countering the Pop-Up Powerbomb with a Frankensteiner of sorts, and this time Owens can’t escape. A title finally changes hands, much to Owens’ dismay.
Winner … and NEW Intercontinental Champion … Dean Ambrose at 9 minutes and 52 seconds
Match Rating: 7.5/10
A promo video is shown for new programming coming up on WWE Network, and if Edge and Christian do indeed have an ongoing show of their own, I’ll totally watch it.
Paige (challenger) vs. Charlotte (champion) – Divas Championship Match
Paige slaps away a pre-match handshake offered by the champ, but Charlotte quickly smashes her with a forearm and mocks her catchphrase. A kick to the head gets Charlotte to emulate her dad’s famous face-first fall, but she’s soon up and controlling the action. There’s some father and son stylin’ and profilin’ before Paige jumps on her back for a sleeperhold. Team BAD is shown watching backstage. A Figure Four gets reversed, but Charlotte is able to use a big boot to the face to get a near fall. Paige responds with her own near fall after a fisherman’s suplex, though she’s soon forced to kick out after a nasty low DDT. Charlotte gets caught with a knee rushing in, and Paige hits the Ram-Paige only to see Ric put his daughter’s foot on the ropes. A livid Paige screams at the ref and Ric while Charlotte exposes the middle turnbuckle. You know what’s happening next: Paige gets dropped into the exposed metal, and Charlotte retains.
Winner … and still Divas Champion … Charlotte at 10 minutes and 38 seconds
Match Rating: 5.5/ 0
Ready for some Kay Jewelers product placement? Jimmy Uso and Naomi help some dude pick out an engagement ring, and he gets to propose in the WWE ring prior to Raw. The woman starts crying, and we’ll assume those are tears of joy since she says yes. The guy’s name is Coleco, for what it’s worth. That takes me back to my first video game system.
Ric and Charlotte whoop it up backstage, though Becky Lynch seems a little taken aback by both her friend’s tactics and celebrating the victory with the Nature Boy.
Sheamus (champion) vs. Roman Reigns (challenger) – World Heavyweight Championship TLC Match
Winner … and still WWE World Heavyweight Champion … Sheamus at 23 minutes and 59 seconds
Match Rating: 6.5/10
Total Event Time: 2 hours and 59 minutes
Event Rating: 6.5/10
Nick Tylwalk has been with SLAM! Wrestling since the dawn of time, or at least since before the turn of the century. He spends his days running Bam Smack Pow and overseeing FanSided’s Entertainment efforts, but he’ll always make time to sneak away for some wrestling.