12/7/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and the Usos Win Elimination Match
For all the talk about a new direction for Raw, it was fairly familiar to see the show start with the champion in the ring and on the mic to open the show. Sheamus reintroduced his League of Nations stable and welcomed the fans to the International Era. Between their accessories and their smarminess, they got some serious heat and USA chants from the crowd quickly.
As Sheamus continued to run down the American wrestlers on the roster, the lights went out and the Wyatt Family appeared. While a face turn to make Wyatt a title challenger would be one of the most exciting and unforeseen developments in recent memory, it quickly converged with the preexisting storyline. The Dudleys joined next with Tommy Dreamer alongside, and they brought out Rhyno as the fourth member of their ECW-themed team. Finally, the Reigns group joined to close the show’s opening segment.
The convergence turned into a 16-man, 4-team elimination match. The Wyatts and Dudleys were the first to go. The League of Nations started to wear down the Usos until Reigns got the hot tag. Dean Ambrose hit a suicide dive and Jimmy Uso splashed to the outside. Alberto Del Rio took control of Reigns with a superkick and put him in the Cross-Armbreaker. Jey Uso saved his cousin with another splash, but Sheamus tagged himself in. Before he could hit the Brogue Kick, Reigns hit a spear to get the pin. After the match, Sheamus said there was no chance in hell that he would lose to Reigns at TLC and vowed to get retribution later in the night.
Even though they occupied the first half hour of the show, Sheamus and Reigns returned for a war of words in the main event slot. Reigns recounted his first TLC three years ago with The Shield, but the solid start gave way to a very stilted verbal exchange with Sheamus that simply didn’t sound natural. Even worse, he challenged his “sufferin’ succotash” line with a lame joke about Sheamus’s “tater tots.”
After Reigns systematically removed every table, ladder, and chair from the ring, Sheamus mercifully made his way into the ring to turn the discussion into a fight. They fought into the stands and Sheamus got the upper hand. He tried to powerbomb Reigns through the announce table, but Reigns recovered with a Superman Punch. He tried a spear, only for Sheamus to side step it, leaving Reigns to careen to the floor. Nonetheless, Reigns regrouped and leapt over the table with a spear to Sheamus through three tables propped up at ringside.
The problem with Reigns is the same as it ever was. He simply doesn’t speak naturally enough to carry long promos in the ring and WWE treats that skills as a prerequisite for a babyface champion. I would be more interested in Reigns as a silent assassin or a heel with a mouthpiece. Likewise, I am more interested in the League of Nations, but as long as Reigns is half of the main event equation, it hardly matters whether he’s the champion or challenger.
Kevin Owens def. Dolph Ziggler
Owens started the match with what he called the, “best headlock in the world” and proceeded with a reverse chinlock. Ziggler did not shy away from the grappling and overtook Owens with his own amateur wrestling skills. Owens dialed up the intensity with a series of chops and forearms that elicited a very clever Vader comparison and WWE Network promo from JBL. Owens continued to use his high-impact arsenal for several minutes while Ziggler took the beating.
After Ziggler dove into the ring post, Owens started to target Ziggler’s shoulder. Moments later, Owens hit the post himself and Ziggler put together a rally. When he went for a leaping DDT, Owens tossed him to the floor to do more damage to the shoulder. Owens missed a cannonball in the corner and Ziggler hit a famouser for a near fall. They traded superkicks and Ziggler again got a two count. Ziggler hit a headbutt, but when he went for a second, Owens threw him off the ropes for a Pop-Up Powerbomb. Rather than a celebration, Owens got a confrontation from Dean Ambrose, his Intercontinental Title challenger. Ambrose threw popcorn and a soda in Owens’s face and walked away.
This match was extremely fun. Ziggler is at his best when he takes a beating and finds a way to stay alive. Owens is a great heel to play the role of punisher for Ziggler because he has such a wide array of offense at his disposal. Even the post-match interaction helped set up the Owens-Ambrose PPV match. I like that their rivalry has developed slowly because it appears that they will be at odds for quite a while.
Lucha Dragons def. New Day
The New Day improv troupe play acted how they could save cats from trees without a ladder. The skit was meant to show the uselessness of ladders before the triple threat ladder match at TLC. From there, they faced the Lucha Dragons in a tag match. They traded roles and Sin Cara got to put together a nice comeback with a splash and springboard moonsault. The match deteriorated when Xavier Woods antagonized the Usos on commentary with his trombone and they ganged up to stomp him on the floor. Meanwhile, Sin Cara pinned Kofi Kingston with a roll-up and the Usos left with the trombone. I get the impulse to book the underdogs to look strong before the PPV, but I think New Day is simply on another level and their booking should be done with development to the main event in mind.
Charlotte and Ric Flair Visit Miz TV
After Flair and his daughter praised one another, Miz soured the conversation by accusing Charlotte of changing as a person since winning the Divas Title. He provoked both of them until he finally baited Charlotte into calling out Paige. She said that Paige would be lucky if she ever makes it back into the ring due to the things she has said about Charlotte’s family. Paige immediately joined them in the ring. Charlotte started to walk away and Paige slapped Flair in the face. Charlotte went after her, but Paige escaped before she could land any big shots. Both Paige and Charlotte currently have more layers to their characters than most women in WWE history, which is a very good thing. My only confusion is why Charlotte teased a heel turn last week and came across as such a strong babyface this week.
Team BAD def. Team Bella
The “Keeping Sasha Warm World Tour” placed her in a tag team match with Naomi against Alicia Fox and Brie Bella. The Bellas rolled until Tamina interfered and pulled Alicia to the mat by her hair. Naomi inadvertently kicked Sasha in the corner when they tried to use her foot for a double team move. The miscommunication continued when it looked like Sasha held Naomi back rather than allow her to block a tag to Brie. Nonetheless, another distraction allowed Naomi to hit the Rear View for a Team BAD win. As with the Ambrose-Owens rivalry, I like that there are hints of dissension within Team BAD without a full-blown civil war exploding. After the match, New Day joined Team BAD and gifted them unicorn headbands. All six joined together for a “Unity” fist bump and some dancing.
Rusev and Ryback Wrestle to a Double Count-Out
Lana forgave Ryback for knocking her over last week in a very strange pre-match promo. Rusev rolled out of the ring and took a nine count before starting the match. Ryback used his power offense, but Rusev worked on Ryback’s left arm and neutralized some of his moves. In spite of his struggles, Ryback put together a belly-to-belly and shoulder block. Rusev again rolled to the outside. When Ryback gave chase, Lana threw herself in front of him and faked a leg injury. Rusev put Ryback in the Accolade while Lana cheered on her fiancé. This series of matches feels a bit awkward because Ryback is only there as filler- the story is about Rusev and Lana in every meaningful sense.
-Miz once again tried to recruit Neville to be managed by the Miz brand. He introduced Donny Deutsch as a friend who he could offer as an opportunity, but Neville merely shook his head at Miz.
-Two very strange storylines converged in a Jack Swagger-Stardust match. Titus O’Neil sat in on commentary and Alberto Del Rio came to ringside with Zeb Colter. As usual, Swagger looked good in the ring and even made Stardust tap out to the Patriot Lock before an attack from Del Rio. They had a MexAmerican standoff with a pair of chairs until Del Rio ran and Colter wheeled himself away. Del Rio then turned on Colter and fired him because he is too much of a joke.
-Adam Rose returned with another forgettable Rosebush. I’m not sure whether these vignettes are preferable to more replays, but I know they’re worse than wrestling. The biggest problem with Rose’s jokes is that WWE is unlikely to hit on the nose with their own wrestlers because it would make them look bad (for example, if making fun of Tommy Dreamer, wouldn’t the natural joke be about his age or weight?)
-Speaking of Dreamer, Braun Strowman annihilated him in a short match that he won with another bear hug-style choke.