Monday, December 15, 2014

TV Kills: WWE TLC '14 Review

Jesus, really?
Photo Credit:
In TH style. If you want to watch the replay, check The Network, but I wouldn't recommend it outside of the first couple of matches.

  • Dolph Ziggler reclaimed the Intercontinental Championship after superkicking Luke Harper on top of a dueling-ladder set up.
  • The Usos defeated Damien Sandow and The Miz via disqualification when Miz hit Jimmy Uso with a Slammy Award.
  • Big Show defeated Erick Rowan in the infamous Stairs match with a chokeslam on the stairs, a donkey punch, and by pinning him with the 275 lbs. *snicker* steps.
  • In a match that featured a finish not seen by the ref, a draw finish where the match was restarted, and the return of Jim Brown Roman Reigns, John Cena defeated Seth Rollins in a Tables match with an Attitude Adjustment.
  • Nikki Bella blinded AJ Lee with some kind of atomized liquid and finished her off with the Rack Attack to retain the Divas Championship.
  • Ryback bested Kane in a Chairs match with the Shellshocked.
  • Rusev retained the United States Championship over Jack Swagger with the Accolade.
  • Thanks to a television that somehow sparked and blinded Dean Ambrose when he yanked it from its wiring, Bray Wyatt was able to get the pin with Sister Abigail's Kiss in their TLC match.
General Observation:
  • The voice-over guy in the intro mentioned the words "demolition derby" so much I thought Ax and Smash were going to make a guest appearance. Then again, maybe it was for the best Demolition didn't appear. Leave the memories of their King of Trios '12 Tag Gauntlet shot alone.
  • Dolph Ziggler came out repping the Kent State wrestling team by wearing its hoodie. Always good to see a man showing love to his alma mater.
  • While he was being introduced, Luke Harper did the Money Manziel finger taunt to the Cleveland crowd. Poor Johnny Manziel. First he threw for 80 yards and looked generally like dogshit against intrastate rivals the Bengals, and then WWE's resident hillfolk trolled him.
  • The first really big bump of the match didn't come with a ladder, but with Harper just tossing Ziggler over the timekeeper's barrier with the kind of reckless abandon that one might toss a sack of potatoes into a walk-in fridge.
  • This match alternated between ladder shots and ladder climbing spots. No one can accuse Ziggler or Harper of not making full use of the gimmick, although their doctors might not have advised going FULL ZIGGLER on the reg here.
  • Ziggler was at one point staggering outside with a ladder on top of him, and Harper dove onto both, getting his FUCKING ARM TRAPPED IN THE FUCKING LADDER HOLY CHRIST. He was lucky not to have broken that arm and only got a laceration, to be honest.
  • And of course, Harper couldn't bleed without Ziggler doing the same. Harper set up a ladder on top of Ziggler in the ring while he was in the ropes and did one of those stun-gun catapults. On one hand, I applaud Ziggler for making his big bumps count, but on the other, I kinda want him to be able to walk when he's 50.
  • Most appropriate visual of the night came when Ziggler was posing on the top of the ladder with his belt and behind him, a fan held up a sign that said "MILLENNIALS, AMIRITE?"
  • The Usos came out do to their siva tau entrance and had their Slammy Awards sitting right in front of them. You know who carries Slammy Awards around with them? Heels, that's who.
  • Jimmy Uso had Miz in one corner and Damien Sandow in the other, and he did a protracted spot where he pointed at each guy to let the crowd react. It would have been a dumb spot, but after Miz ate the Rikishi Memorial Ass to the Face, Sandow moved out of the way.
  • Sandow actually broke his stunt double shtick to break up a pin. NO doubt his pantomime is incredible and has gotten him over, but he's got to evolve if that tag team has a chance. I'm not sure I like the prospect of the Tag Title scene being "Miz works handicap matches" as the main thrust.
  • You know, Jimmy Uso totally deserved that Slammy to the dome for the way he's been acting towards Naomi. Miz hasn't shown that he wants to boink her. Basically, if Miz's idea of getting in his opponent's head is to give his wife a business opportunity, then it pretty much shows how broken WWE's story dynamics are, doesn't it?
  • From the company that brought you The Demon Kane™, it's... THE VIGILANTE STING™. Then again, having Seth Rollins and JBL and other heel types brand Sting as a vigilante may be more in line with the Crow motif he's been rocking since 1997 than anything WCW did with him. I'm not saying Crow Sting in WCW was a bad character though.
  • "These stairs weigh 275 lbs.!" If you take that statement at face value and somehow think that a man selling for a woman is unbelievable, then I hate you.
  • No one can accuse Erick Rowan of not going all-in on a gimmick, both internally and for the match. Building a fort with the steel steps is something an idiot savant would totally do.
  • Big Show sent Rowan over the timekeeper's barricade, because every match that features a former member of the Wyatt Family has to have that kind of spot in it, apparently.
  • Yeah, Show totally gave Rowan a donkey punch before pinning him, just without the anal intercourse beforehand. WWE is STILL nominally a family show.
  • Oh, hey, Paul Heyman came out for the John Cena/Seth Rollins match. Incidentally, the Cena/Rollins match going on that early definitely foreshadowed some shenanigans.
  • The announce team also brought up the Sheamus Tables match from 2009 and that R-Truth RAW match from '11, which again was foreshadowing that Cena wasn't losing this one. Gee, I wonder if anything else happened that night when Cena lost to R-Truth on that RAW in Las Vegas. I'm drawing a blank over here...
  • I honestly don't care too much that Joey Mercury or Jamie Noble looked like idiots despite being accomplished in-ring dudes. I loved every instance of them trying to help Rollins win the match.
  • Cena sent Rollins into the timekeeper's barricade, which finally got the announce team to notice the trend of people using that area as a bump repository.
  • Okay, so the refs who came out to dispute which wrestler actually went through the double table setup first could make the decision as to who won or not on that instance of confusion, but no one could come out and declare Cena the winner after he put Rollins through the table when the ref was knocked out? I know WWE is "not for us" (whatever that means) but internal consistency in storytelling is something that should probably be in any medium, no matter what the target age is, right?
  • Roman Reigns coming back was the most foregone of foregone conclusions after he won his TOTALLY LEGIT Superstar of the Year Slammy, but man, having him take out both an interfering Big Show AND Seth Rollins felt like overkill.
  • Oh, so Heyman came out just so Cena could stare daggers at him for the Brock Lesnar match at the Royal Rumble, eh?
  • Nikki Bella was backstage for a promo where she claimed she'd beat AJ Lee because she has things that Lee doesn't have. Good thing she specified the Divas Championship right after, or else I'd think some lech in Creative (of which 56 people are employed according to a current rumor going around Twitter... let that sink in) got in a scripted line about boobie implants.
  • I spent a good portion of the Divas Championship match waiting for Brie Bella to turn on her sister. Has the narrative given any good reason why Brie is back with Nikki again other than *insert shrug emoticon here*? I would think saying "I WISH YOU DIED IN THE WOMB" would need more remediation than "being forced to be a personal assistant for 30 days" to resolve.
  • The reaction to Bella spraying Lee with the atomized liquid (perfume, hairspray, whatever) on Twitter was pretty negative, but I bet if it was a dude busting out the green mist or what have you, most of those critics would've loved the shit out of it. Point being, spraying stuff in people's eyes is awesome, regardless of whether it's mouth mist or some kind of hygienic product.
  • Making fun of someone for not being able to say words is cheap, but then again, most people aren't named Superstar of the Year or are being positioned as the next unbearably pushed WWE superhero or had their acting classes publicized like it's something that everyone in that person's field should be doing. Maybe WWE should pump the brakes on that big Reigns super-push...
  • I understand not wanting to have unprotected chair shots to the head, so maybe it's for that reason that WWE shouldn't really have Chairs matches. It's the same thing with Triple H and his sledgehammer. If you have to go to great lengths to gimmick a weapon so that you're not looking like you're murdering someone, then maybe that weapon shouldn't be part of the narrative anymore.
  • That being said, Ryback and Kane actually had a solid if unspectacular HOSS brawl. Take away the chairs, especially if Ryback's not going to finish Kane on one, and that match might get a better reaction.
  • Jack Swagger's theme song interrupted Lana, which I'm surprised hasn't happened more since Rusev started his ascent.
  • Rusev and Swagger in 4:50 of run-time fit in more match than every other contest that wasn't the opener or the main event. Rusev sold the ankle early, they did the submission peril trade thing, teased a count-out, and then got to the Accolade finish with the efficiency. This match was better than every single one during their original feud run.
  • Of course Dean Ambrose started off the TLC match by throwing a ladder at Bray Wyatt from the ring. I have to wonder if any current wrestler in WWE is more in tune with his character than Ambrose right now, or if it's just that his character is so unique.
  • The two brawled into the crowd early in the match, and when they got to the kickoff desk, Alex Riley was shown scampering off camera. Between that appearance and his seconding of The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII, Riley has been close to two PPV main events that he had no business being near.
  • Ambrose broke out some kendo sticks, which thankfully he waited for the actual match to do, or else the show would've been called Tables, Ladders, Chairs, Stairs, and Singapore Canes.
  • WHITE RUSSIAN LEG SWEEP. Somewhere, Sandman shed a solitary tear of joy.
  • Ambrose has to be legitimately crazy, because no way would I agree to being whipped into a corner with the prospect of having a kendo stick jab me in the face.
  • The entire sequence of Ambrose going through the Spanish announce table on Wyatt was brilliant. First, Ambrose apologized to the Spanish announcers, who let's face it, deserve hazard pay with how much their table is wrecked. Then he went through the table and as he and Wyatt were there writhing on the floor, Ambrose kissed his forehead, to which Wyatt replied with headbutts. Wrestling can be absurdly beautiful sometimes.
  • Televisions don't explode like that. No, really, I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of things in pro wrestling, like the Irish whip or that Shawn Michaels was a sex symbol in 1996, but you don't book a TLC match to be as brutal as that with a fucking gimmicked magic TV doing Ambrose in. It's almost like 56 people writing a main narrative with a finicky, out-of-touch asshole as the final say on the script can't write a decent story...

Match of the Night: Luke Harper (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler, WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match - At first, this match seemed to fall in the same traps that Triple H and Undertaker did at WrestleMania XXVII. They started out from jump throwing bombs and then having layabout spots, but for whatever reason, the dynamic of the match made sense. When they started out by using the ladders for upped violence, the increased recovery time and selling made sense. This match truly felt like some of the hardcore-style matches of old. The shots were stiff and the bumps were hard. I'm not sure how much of an extra toll it put on their bodies, but at least the visual came off looking spot on.

Of course, anyone can take a huge bump, and lord knows Ziggler didn't have a scale named after him because of his lack of recklessness, but timing is a huge part of these things. Anyone can topple off a ladder, but knowing when and how to time toppling said ladder speaks volumes. Of course, this match wasn't perfectly timed all the way through, but this show was imperfect. Still, the times when Harper or Ziggler came bounding into the scene to cut a belt-grab off at the pass that did work were timed just right. Hell, even as the match started to unwind towards the end, Ziggler kicking Harper from one ladder off another was a stunning way to finish the contest.

But something does have to be said for an inherently brutal match that actually shows brutality. Both Ziggler and Harper got busted open hardway, Harper on his friggin' arm after getting it caught in between the legs of a ladder. Normally, the unintentional spilling of blood shouldn't be lauded, especially in today's WWE, but in this instance, it worked. WWE has been lacking on delivering steak behind the weak sizzle its announcers put behind promoting shows. Guys like Ziggler and Harper going out there and working a little bit loose maybe shouldn't be condemned completely, huh?

Overall Thoughts: Well, I didn't expect WWE to deliver on all 12 of its pay-per-views in 2014, so Tables, Ladders, Chairs, and, ugh, Stairs was due for a letdown, but then again, I didn't expect it to fall this flat. To be completely fair, the good stuff in here was good. The opener was hot (maybe too hot?), the Tag Title match was fun until the finish, which actually made some sense if that feud was to continue. The Divas Championship match had some good work in it, the Ryback/Kane Chairs match actually was a solid brawl, and Jack Swagger and Rusev packed in a full story into fewer than five minutes of run time. Hell, the main event was fun until the nonsensical finish.

But that finish was emblematic of how hollow Vince McMahon's "we tell stories" talking point from his Steve Austin show appearance rings, especially in the shadow of how complete a show Tak3over was. Sure, TLC is an intermediary show in the grand scheme of things, and the latest NXT special was one of four big show. But look at the way NXT finished its show and look at the way WWE finished its big shows from the year. Look at how the stars were made. Daniel Bryan beat the entirety of Evolution and ended WrestleMania XXX with the biggest YES! chant in history. The Shield ended two straight pay-per-views clobbering the shit out of that same stable reformed. Brock Lesnar was a big deal at SummerSlam not because he used to do MMA, but because he mollywhomped Cena.

Going over strong doesn't necessarily have to be the only path to a good ending, but at the same time, having Ambrose kick the ever-loving shit out of Bray Wyatt during the whole match only to have him lose because of a magic exploding television is the same kind of weaksauce Attitude Era storytelling that submarined WWE after The Rock, Steve Austin, and Mick Foley all had to leave. If the magic, defying-physics TV bomb was the first instance of shit booking, maybe TLC could have been forgiven, but the whole clusterfuck in the John Cena/Seth Rollins table match. Again, putting Cena over strong as he heads into a main event match with Brock Lesnar may not be the worst idea, but WWE did so in a way that annihilated Rollins.

TLC is a show that has to be judged on its own merits, but it's hard to do so when the NXT special aired three days prior, when so many "rumblings" flooded Twitter that the main roster wanted to upstage developmental, when a show under the WWE banner was able to provide such good vibes and hugely positive critical buzz. The number of good matches can't really outweigh the weight of bad booking decisions unless those matches are on the same level as Bryan/Triple H from Mania or Shield/Wyatt Family from Elimination Chamber. Sadly, that just wasn't the case.