It’s the end of December. But instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the gifts for wrestling fans on Sunday night were Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. And while the two matches on WWE’s TLC that featured those titular weapons were great, and the other undercard matches were also really good, the main event match was the wrestling equivalent of chestnuts roasting on an open dumpster fire.
That main event saw Randy Orton take on The Fiend in a Firefly Inferno match. The rules for this one – as with every other Inferno match – is that the winner is the person who can set any part of their opponent’s body on fire. Unlike other matches, though, this one started off in a normal ring, with no flames at ringside, and the ropes not on fire.
That changed early on, though, when the Fiend – after laughing off some shots by Orton, and shrugging off an RKO attempt – hit Orton with Sister Abigail. Then, in a tremendous visual, the Fiend raised his arms, and the entire Thunderdome lit up in flames.
— WWE (@WWE) December 21, 2020
After that, there were walls of flames behind the ringside barriers, and a flaming stake set up in the center of each side of the ring.
The action in this one saw each opponent trying to set the other on fire, either by shoving them into the walls of flames, or using weapons to do the job, such as when the Fiend lit a strap on fire and tried to whip Randy with it. At one point, the Fiend found his magical rocking chair, doused it with gasoline, and poured a trail of gas to it. He then punched Randy into the chair, and lit the trail on fire with a lighter. Luckily for Orton, he was able to jump out of the chair before it – and he – got engulfed.
The action moved in and out of the ring, and in one such transition, Orton hit his elevated DDT off the apron and drove the Fiend’s head onto the floor. Orton called for the RKO, but the Fiend stopped the attempt with the Mandible Claw. He tried to shove Orton into the flames, but Orton spun him around, and the Fiend got backed into the flames and caught on fire. This should have sounded the bell to end the match, but for some reason, it didn’t sound (it didn’t help that there was no referee for the match).
Orton rushed back into the ring, and the Fiend – still on fire – followed. Orton hit him with the RKO, and the heretofore invulnerable Fiend lay there motionless and still on fire. After the flames died out, Orton approached the Fiend’s lifeless body, and nudged him with a boot, to no reaction. With the Fiend not moving, Orton got a smug look on his face. He went outside and got a gas can, and then emptied it all over the Fiend from head to toe. He then got a box of matches, lit one, and dropped it on the Fiend. The Fiend’s body went up in a fireball, and he lay there lifeless and burning as Randy posed on the outside within the burning Thunderdome to end the show.
— WWE (@WWE) December 21, 2020
The visuals of this match were amazing, but the match was lacklustre in terms of wrestling, and over-the-top cartoonish at times with the various flaming weapons, and especially with that ending.
The bigger problem, though, is in the implications of where they go with this.
The Fiend, by all rights, should be written off TV forever after what happened. But the horror movie elements will likely see him come back unscathed on/ Monday – in which case, what was the point of having him lose at all, much less so convincingly? Worse still is that Randy Orton is now seemingly unconquerable, and that likely means he’s going to continue to be featured in a prominent spot on the show. And nobody wants to see that.
TLC Full Results
Charly Caruso, Peter Rosenberg, Booker T, and Jeff Jarrett. Between running down the matches for the night, they also got paid visits by the Miz and John Morrison, who teased cashing in Miz’ Money in the Bank briefcase, and by R-Truth, who offered to be Asuka’s mystery tag team partner tonight. The rest of it was pretty standard.
Kickoff Match: Chad Gable, Otis, Daniel Bryan, and Big E vs. Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, and King Corbin (w/ the Knights of the Lone Wolf)
The story here is that Sami Zayn would only tag in when his team was in control and an opponent had been weakened. For much of the match, it was Daniel Bryan in peril. Unfortunately, he had limited interaction with both Cesaro and Nakamura – a singles program with either of those guys could be amazing. Bryan eventually was able to break loose and get the tag to Otis. Otis flattened Nakamura with the Caterpillar, but then his coach Chad Gable instructed Otis to tag him in. He did, but Gable’s plan fell apart and he couldn’t get the pin. Everyone came in and there was a parade of finishing moves, pretty much taking everyone out of it except Sami Zayn and Big E. With nobody to save him, Zayn quickly fell to the Big Ending.
This was fine, with the end result being to continue the buildup towards Big E getting a run at Sami’s Intercontinental Championship. That said, how this company can’t find a way to put Daniel Bryan in a prominent program is incomprehensible.
Winners: Chad Gable, Otis, Daniel Bryan, and Big E
To close the Kickoff show, they showed a Firefly Funhouse hype video. Bray Wyatt read a Holiday poem that recapped his lengthy history with Randy Orton. This was good.
The opening video for the PPV was pretty heavy on the Orton-Fiend match, so it’s possible that match will end the show. How bad is it that Randy Orton is considered higher on the card than either of the company’s main champions?
Some cool digital effects had a bunch of tables, ladders, and chairs flying around the Thunderdome – that was neat visual.
Match 1: AJ Styles (w/ Omos) vs. Drew McIntyre (c) – for the WWE Championship
This started off with a really fast pace, with Drew throwing AJ around, heaving him across the ring, and then whipping him into the turnbuckles, which looked wicked. AJ was able to escape, and climbed up top for an aerial assault, but Drew chopped him down and AJ tumbled hard to the floor. Drew threw him around some more, ramming into tables and the ringside barrier. But when Drew got back in the ring to climb the ladder, AJ rushed in, and hit Drew in the knee hard with a chair. AJ set up a chair in the corner, but he was the one who got thrown into it.
Drew went up the ladder again, but AJ threw a chair at him, and then went back to attacking the knee. AJ whipped Drew into the ladder, and then pushed the ladder hard on top of him. AJ tried for a Styles Clash on the ladder, but Drew broke out of it and dropped AJ with a Future Shock DDT. But his leg was still in pain, and AJ capitalized, sandwiching Drew’s leg in the ladder, and wrenching it hard, following that up with a few chair-smashes to the leg, and using the chair to assist in a Calf Crusher.
Drew finally broke loose and went to the floor, but AJ followed him and drove a ladder into his face. AJ lay Drew on top of a table on the floor, and was going to hit a move off the top, but this time, it was him that ate a flying chair. Drew threw a table into the ring, but didn’t get a chance to use it before AJ leg-swept him face-first onto a ladder. But Drew was fired up, and he hit AJ with an overhead suplex onto a ladder that was propped up in the corner. Drew wasn’t still fully mobile, though, and as he tried to get feeling in his leg, AJ scrambled out, and then hit Drew with a Phenomenal Forearm.
With Drew down, AJ went back up the ladder, but Drew grabbed him, and then Gorilla-pressed him from the ring over the top and through a table on the floor – that was awesome.
As Drew went to the top, the Miz and John Morrison hit the ring. Miz powerbombed Drew off the ladder and through a table. He formally cashed in his briefcase, and this became a 3-way match. Miz went up to grab the title, but Omos came into the ring. He picked up Miz and threw him out of the ring through a table on the floor.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) December 21, 2020
Morrison hit Omos with a chair in response, but the only effect was to anger Omos, who stalked him as Morrison ran to the back in fear. Meanwhile, McIntyre and AJ recovered, and raced on either side of the ladder to the top. As they fought, Miz climbed a second ladder beside the first one. The three of them fought, with all three alternating between who had their hands on the title, and who would get pushed off. Finally, AJ was on the ground after Drew tipped the ladder over, and he hit the floor hard. In the ring, McIntyre hit a Claymore on the Miz, taking him out for good. After that, it was smooth sailing for McIntyre who climbed the belt unopposed and grabbed the title to retain.
This was an excellent TLC match with just enough spots to keep this fun. The surprise factor of Miz cashing in and losing was an interesting twist, so it will be interesting to see what happens with him and Morrison.
Winner, and still WWE Champion: Drew McIntyre
Backstage, Paul Heyman told Kayla Braxton that Roman Reigns was going to hurt Kevin Owens in their Universal Championship match.
Match 2: Carmella (w/ Reginald the Sommelier) vs. Sasha Banks (c) – for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Sasha was aggressive early on, but Carmella played some mind games by leaving the ring. Sasha was relentless, though, and went after Carmella, using the announce table for a springboard arm drag, channeling Gail Kim. In a scary moment, Sasha threw Carmella through the ropes to the floor, and luckily Reginald was in the right place to catch her before Carmella landed on her head; it appeared she may have caught her foot on the rope on the way out, so she was lucky he had good reflexes, as that could have gone very badly. He completed the assist by boosting Carmella to give Sasha a hurancarana on the floor. Carmella then took control, but only briefly, as Sasha fired up, hitting a short Meteora. But when Sasha tried for a move on the apron, Carmella turned the tables, and drove Sasha back-first onto the apron.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) December 21, 2020
Carmella tried to press her advantage, but Sasha kept fighting back, nailing the challenger with a big kick, and then hitting Three Amigos. She followed that up with a Frog Splash, but Carmella kicked out! Surprising, but not as much as when Sasha kicked out after a beautiful Facebuster by Carmella that looked like it impaled Sasha’s head into the mat.
Carmella nearly got the pin again after a big kick to the side of Sasha’s face, but Sasha grabbed the rope to break the count. They exchanged a number of pinfall attempts in a nice sequence. After that, Sasha locked on the Banks Statement, but Reginald reached under the ropes and pulled Carmella outside. He paid for that with a Meteora by Sasha off the apron to the floor. But she’d turned her back on Carmella who clocked her with some big kicks to the face. She tried for another Facebuster, but Sasha blocked it, and clamped on the Banks Statement, forcing Carmella to tap out.
This was a good, fast-paced match. Carmella really can play the heel effectively, and Sasha can always deliver in the ring.
Winner, and still Smackdown Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks
Backstage, Billie Kay approached Asuka and petitioned to be Asuka’s partner in her upcoming Tag Team Championship match. Asuka politely but pointedly declined the offer.
Match 3: The Hurt Business (Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander) (w/ MVP) vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (c) – for the RAW Tag Team Championship
Before their entrance, the New Day told Charly Caruso that they were going out there as “Big Match” New Day, so wouldn’t fall to the Hurt Business tonight.
Apropos of nothing, there’s a guy in the Thunderdome wearing a tall blue toque, but his face is cut off in the shot, so all you can see is the hat, and it looks like Marge Simpson is in the crowd.
Alexander charged right at the bell, but ate a boot to the face, and nearly got pinned after a Legdrop off the top by Woods and a High Cross Body by Kofi. The New Day hit him with a flurry of moves, and only a save by Benjamin prevented a quick loss for the Hurt Business. Benjamin’s save allowed Cedric to get to the corner and tag in Benjamin, who didn’t fare much better at the start, but his power game finally slowed down the pace of the match and turned the tide towards the Hurt Business. They beat up Woods for a while, but he escaped when he countered a Flippy-Doo move by Cedric, and tagged in Kofi. Kofi-mania ran wild for a minute, and he nearly got the pin on Cedric after an SOS. But Cedric hit Kofi with a vicious knee to the face, and Shelton hit Paydirt on both champs to flatten them. Shelton took Kofi up top, and then whipped him down hard. Shelton was just about to end things, but Cedric hit a blind tag. Shelton was surprised, but things worked out when Cedric hit Kofi with a Lumbar Check and got the pin to give the Hurt Business the gold. After the match, Bobby Lashley came out on the entrance ramp to join in on the celebration.
This was another good match. It’s refreshing to see someone hit the blind tag when their partner isn’t expecting it, and then actually follow through and get the win. The Hurt Business has been a strong act for the full year, so it’s fitting that they all end up with championship gold to close out the year. It begs the question of whether the New Day will fully break up now.
Winners, and new RAW Tag Team Champions: The Hurt Business
They recapped the Sami Award celebration from Friday, and then played the “leaked” audio of Sami blasting one of the production crew members for allowing Big E to interfere with the awards. Kayla Braxton was backstage with an unnamed woman when Sami barged in. He berated Kayla for leaking the audio on her Instagram, and demanded to know her source, but she refused to give a name.
Match 4: Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Asuka and Charlotte Flair – Women’s Tag Team Championship match
The champs came out first, then Asuka, and then Charlotte’s music simply hit for the reveal of who Asuka’s partner would be. Charlotte’s face looks more natural than when she left, so possibly she got some work done while she was gone – or perhaps some old work was reversed? Either way, it looks better.
After a brief stalemate between Asuka and Baszler, Charlotte and Nia squared off. That only lasted a short while, and when Asuka got back in, she couldn’t handle Jax’s size and strength game. Baszler and Jax took turns working over Asuka, going after her arm and shoulder. Asuka was able to kick her way free, and she tagged in Charlotte, who went to town on both opponents with chops and kicks. Her father, Ric Flair, was shown watching the match on a screen backstage. So he saw Charlotte hit both opponents with a moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the floor – vintage Charlotte.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) December 21, 2020
Back in the ring, Baszler was still in it enough to try to put Charlotte away with a Kirafuta Klutch, but Charlotte got out, and locked Shayna in a Figure 8. Nia made the save before Shayna tapped, and then paid for it with a Asuka Hip Attack. With Jax out of the picture, Shayna was prone for Natural Selection, and a pinfall was just a formality.
This was a good match that got better as it went on. It will be interesting to see what they do now with Asuka, since she once again has two titles. A singles feud with Baszler could be good, if they revert to booking her like a destruction machine like they did previously. Meanwhile, Jax could probably do with finally getting her comeuppance by Lana, and then taking some time away from the ring until they can find something to make her interesting.
Winners, and new Women’s Tag Team Champions: Asuka and Charlotte Flair
They aired the Happy New Year video where the WWE superstars all beat up 2020. I assume kids think this is funny?
Backstage, Sami Zayn accused Big E of leaking the audio footage of Sami’s tantrum. Big E laughed and joked with R-Truth, who he was hanging out with, and denied being the leak. Sami trash-talked Big E, and Big E looked meanly at him until Sami backed away.
Match 5: Roman Reigns (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Kevin Owens – Universal Championship match
The story throughout this one was that Owens would not quit fighting, despite overwhelming odds.
He attacked Reigns before the bell, flattening him with a big Cannonball in the corner, and then doing the same against the ringside barrier when Roman dropped to the floor. He threw Roman into the ring steps, and then hit a Frog Splash from the apron – ouch. Owens went to set up a ladder, and this brought Jey Uso to the ring, leading to a 2-on-1 situation.
Owens fared well early on, stopping Uso with a Superkick, then smashing his leg with a chair and Pillmanizing it, which was enough for Uso to be helped to the back by refs and officials.
But in attacking Uso, Owens lost track of Reigns and paid for it with a Drive By, and then Roman him several times with the ring steps. He threw Owens in the ring and bashed him with ladders and chairs, including at one point, setting up two chairs and dropping Owens onto them. Reigns started going up the ladder, but Owens whacked him like a pinata with a chair, and then hit an ugly Fisherman’s Suplex onto a chair that was set up in the ring – that looked gross.
Owens had his fingertips on the title, but Jey Uso hobbled back to the ring and stopped him, and it became a 2-on-1 beating again. Jey brought a table into the ring, but before they could do anything, a desperate Owens fought his way free with a series of kicks, and hit a Stunner on Reigns. He then dispatched Uso with a Pop-up Powerbomb through the announce table, and then buried Uso under the remnants of the table, punctuating that by throwing a chair on top. The time let Reigns recover, and he caught Owens heading up the ladder. He picked up Owens and powerbombed him onto a ladder that was bridged in the corner, and then dropped Owens on a ladder that was propped up on its side. He followed that up by chokeslamming Owens through a table on the floor – a neat visual saw a chair that was sitting on a table then fall into Owens’ face.
Reigns then threw a commentator’s chair onto Owens, and followed that up with a Samoan Drop through another table. A cocky Roman climbed the ladder, but Owens dragged himself into the ring and grabbed his ankle. This amused Reigns, who climbed back down and trash-talked Owens. A defiant Owens slapped him, so Reigns erupted and Speared Owens through a table that was propped up in the corner.
Owens rolled to the floor, pulled himself up and told Roman that he’d have to kill Owens before Owens would stop fighting. Reigns went outside and looked to Spear Owens dead, but Owens moved, and Reigns crashed headfirst through the ringside barrier.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) December 21, 2020
He was down, so Owens ran into the ring and climbed the ladder, getting his hands on it. Roman rushed in and pulled Owens down by his face, then rammed his head into the ladder. Reigns stalked his prey, but took too long, and ate a pair of Superkicks. Owens went for a Pop-up Powerbomb, but Reigns pushed away and hit a Superman Punch. But Owens got a second chance when Roman went for another, and this time, he powerbombed Reigns through a table.
Owens had a clear path to the top and it looked like he was going to win – but Jey Uso reappeared and stopped him. Owens headbutted Uso off the ladder, but went down with him. He ended Uso’s night with a Stunner, and then went back up. He again had his fingers on the titles, but Reigns sneaked up and hit him with a low blow. He then put a paralyzed Owens in a Guillotine choke atop the ladder, and Owens passed out. Reigns released the hold, sending an unconscious Owens dropping to the mat, and simply reached out to unhook the title and remain the head of the table.
This was a great TLC match, with the right amount of intensity and emotion throughout. At any time it looked like we would get a new champ, and Owens shone in never giving up the fight. Expect this one to continue – though Owens had better find someone to back him up at some point, because repeatedly losing in the face of 2-on-1 odds risks making him look like a sucker.
Winner, and still Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
They announced that Big E will face Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship on Friday’s episode of Smackdown.
Match 6: Randy Orton vs. The Fiend – Firefly Inferno match
Winner: Randy Orton
WWE TLC - December 20th, 2020
The last big show of the year was highlighted by three big gimmick matches. Two of them worked well – both TLC matches were excellent. Unfortunately, the one that ended the show wasn’t good. And, being so much of a spectacle, may be the one that people remember when they think of this show. Which would be a shame.