In the first step towards the unification of every single belt in the wrestling universe, Sunday night’s TLC PPV featured Kofi-Miz using the pre-show experts panel the way God intended, two separate 1-on-3 handicap matches and a titular title match for the new created WWEWHC 2.0 Super Belt that will eventually become sentient and choose the champions who it will hug (the WWEWHC 2.0 Super Belt is notoriously clingy.)
For those who missed the Survivor Series review, the criteria for these reviews is simple: “Did I get my money’s worth?” in terms of the individual matches and the PPV as a whole, using the tried and true “what was this trying to do, and how well did it succeed” test of “quality”.
Each match is rated plus or minus on a sliding scale between 1 and -1, with matches worth multiple rewatches being +1, a just-quite-PPV quality match +/- 0, and things that make me reevaluate being a fan earning up to a -1 score. The scale is arbitrary, of course, but it’s based around the idea that a match will be fundamentally good, and give me things I wouldn’t see for free: major heel turns, definitive conclusions (which are different from clean finishes) and moves that don’t make their way to Raw.
The more of that in a match/show, the better Bang For Your Buck on the PPV. We’ll (eventually) keep a running tally for each PPV, and a handy list of PPVs we review to give you (and us) a better idea of what we thought was worth the time to check out in terms of matches and PPVs. As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match basis):
As always, we’re going to be using what I said during the What’s the Worst That Could Happen preview to see how close I was to “predicting” what unfolded, how that stacked up to my beliefs of what they were “trying” to do and whether or not I got what I wanted out of the show. Enjoy!
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. FANDANGO
What Will Happen: A lot of selling, a lot of commercials and at least one incoherent babbling statement about Dolph Ziggler needing to prove himself for the 18th consecutive WWE PPV pre-show by one of the “experts” on the panel.
Obviously JR was wrong, because Dolph Ziggler losing to Fandango has to be the equivalent of the time he was sent to OVW with the rest of the Spirit Squad. This was an okay match — not nearly as good as the Miz-Kofi confrontations from last month’s pre show, during the expert on this month’s pre-show or later during the main card — which is all one can really expect from one of these free shows.
1-on-3 Handicap Match
CM PUNK vs. THE SHIELD
Worst Case Scenario: The Shield hotshots the break-up angle, allowing Punk to get a less than clean victory, while spelling certain doom for Daniel Bryan’s chances for later in the evening.
What Will Happen: A Roman Reigns spear… on Ambrose.
Sometimes, a totally predictable worst case scenario isn’t as bad as you think it’s going to be. Like MR. Brandon Stroud pointed out, the level of thought that went into this match from Punk was a special type of brilliant we rarely get to see in a WWE ring. He single-handedly beat a team who have been the best kill/kill/destroy unit since the nWo and did so without making any of them look bad. That it happened to be the biggest nod yet towards a break up that literally no one is looking forward to was a bit of a bummer, but even that was done with the right amount of attention to detail and logic. In terms of in-ring action, this may not have been the best 1-on-3 handicap match of the night, but given the importance to story line, the work of the participants and the sheer fact that they had one man beat three guys and have all of them coming out of it looking good is a match that more than justifies having to pay for a 1-on-3 handicap, at least once (or twice) a year.
Divas Title Match
AJ LEE vs. NATALYA
What Nick Wants to Happen: AJ winning, by any means necessary.
THIS is the match the Divas division should be having. Was it a great match? No. Was it even a particularly good match relative to what we see every week on NXT? Probably not. But it told a story, and, most importantly for this viewer, ended this seemingly never ending feud cleanly. I wouldn’t have paid for this match beforehand, but having seen it, it’s hard to say I didn’t get my money’s worth.
Match +.2 | PPV 1.1
Intercontinental Title Match
BIG E. LANGSTON vs. DAMIEN SANDOW
Best Case Scenario: A fast paced match closer to what Big E. and Dean did before they busted their faces open on each other’s heads than after, with Damien Sandow looking like “aggressive” Damien Sandow and not “leather briefcase holding pansy/uncrowned World’s Champion” Damien Sandow.
The crowd — which wasn’t good or bad, just kind of there — really loved Big E. They also absolutely did not care about Sandow. There’s really not that much else to say about this match other than the quicker they get Big E. to start 5-counting people, the better.
Match +.3 | PPV 1.4
WWE Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way Match
GOLDUST & CODY RHODES VS. REY MYSTERIO & BIG SHOW VS. RYBACK & CURTIS AXEL VS. THE REAL AMERICANS
Best Case Scenario: This match is half as good as the matches half the participants in this match have been having for the last two months, with the new teams — RYBAXEL and BIG REY SHOWSTERIO — either not getting in the way or making themselves useful in limited contexts.
While this match was definitely better than “half as good as the matches half the participants in this match have been having”, it was oddly structured and definitely didn’t have the hard-to-pin-down “pop” of the other matches. HAVING SAID THAT, the match featured a capital-G Great performance by Goldust, Cody being his babyface best, a lot of fun with the best possible version of the Road Warriors (the Real Americans) and a serviceable performance by Rybaxel — which featured an act of hurdling by Curtis Axel that brought internet to its knees (I’m assuming), so it’s hard to complain about this just because it isn’t a Match of the Year candidate.
Match +.7 | PPV 2.1
R. TRUTH vs. BRODUS CLAY
A storyline match that made Brodus Clay look like a monster who thinks he’s a main eventer? I’m not happy paying for it, but it certainly didn’t make me angry.
Match .0 | PPV 2.1
KOFI KINGSTON vs. THE MIZ
I love this feud, and it’s mostly because I don’t have any weird problem with either of these guys, and find Heel Miz highly enjoyable. The crowd chanting “boring” during this match was the height of obnoxiousness, but to each their own, I suppose. This is perhaps the great Your Mileage May Vary match of our life times, but I was a HUGE Fan of this.
Match: +.5 | PPV: 2.6
1-on-3 Handicap Match
DANIEL BRYAN vs. THE WYATT FAMILY
Best Case Scenario: Daniel Bryan ascends to Rey Mysterio “Ultimate Underdog” status by defeating all three members of The Family with a single Running Knee Strike, like so much 619.
Worst Case Scenario: The Wyatts winning, if only because it means that Daniel Bryan’s run as the Little Engine (Filled with Goats) That Could would likely be over, or turned down to a trickle of Awesome as opposed to the deluge we’ve seen the past 5 months.
What Nick Wants to Happen: Daniel dispatches Bray’s Dueling Banjo Band in a grueling 15-minute 2-on-1 affair before Wyatt wrestles him one-on-one in a separate ten-minute match.
Being all things to all people is hard, but between the Wyatts and Daniel Bryan this was pretty much the Platonic ideal of a WWE match: a storyline-based match where the most over guy in the company turns the workrate up to 11.5, nearly overcomes insurmountable odds, and because of it, manages to look better after losing than nearly anyone else that night looked winning. That it was all the first signature “Bray Wyatt” match in what will likely be a lengthy career filled with them is the icing on one of the more delicious cakes I’ve eaten in years.
I understand that the Worst Case Scenario came true, and I should therefore give this a lower rating, but this match is perhaps the best example of the problems with reviewing things, even on a sliding scale with pre-set expectations: feelings change and evolve, sometimes quickly. That match was everything it should have been, everything it needed to be, and most importantly, a thing that I should be getting when I pay for things. I watch WWE with more passion than almost any other single thing on earth (outside of Wimbledon and the NBA) for moments like Bray Wyatt screaming at Daniel Bryan “WE COULD HAVE BEEN FRIENDS” while trying to beat him to a pulp, so needless to say, this is definitely a match I’ll be watching over and over again.
Match +1.0 | PPV 3.6
Tables, Ladders, and Chairs World Championship Unification Match
JOHN CENA vs. RANDY ORTON
Best Case Scenario: A definitive finish, with one champion.
What Nick Wants to Happen: John Cena and Randy Orton to wrestle like they are wrestling Daniel Bryan, with the crowd caring as much as they would for the Daniel Bryan match they actually wanted to see. Also, seriously, A DEFINITIVE FINISH WITH ONE CHAMPION.
While this match never quite got to the level of the match before it, it certainly lived up the hype (or at least the expectations), and definitely gave people what they paid for, at least in terms of the finish. This was a WWE PPV main event, in every sense of the term, and while that may not be the best possible main event for a wrestling show, it’s definitely the type of thing they should be given credit for doing in the first place. That they let the victory stand as a legitimate one without shenanigans, tomfoolery or other polite words for “swerve” even more.
Match + .8
This was much closer to the Money in the Bank and SummerSlam PPV than anything since August, with only one match that probably shouldn’t have been on a PPV. But there are worst things than being underwhelmed by an R. Truth-Brodus Clay match that is at the very least trying to tell an actual story. The two 1-on-3 handicap matches on the card lived up to — and in the case of Daniel Bryan vs. the Wyatts, even exceeded — expectations. In fact, it was our highest rated ever, although that comes with the extreme caveat that I really enjoyed the Miz-Kofi match and the use of the pre-show experts panel to set it up. If you hate The Miz and Kofi or think using the pre-show is stupid to set up a match, this PPV overall will just simply at the level of MitB and SummerSlam, with its matches behind those two on average. Which is to say, while still definitely worth the money, not the second best PPV of the year that I thought it was.
Overall PPV 4.4 | Match Avg. .55