12/13/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Sheamus def. Roman Reigns in a TLC Match to Remain WWE Champion
Neither Sheamus nor Reigns is a traditional grappler, so it made sense for them to err on the side of physicality in this gimmick main event. It didn’t take long for Reigns to start dishing out the punishment. He brought Sheamus around the ring and up the ramp, hitting him with weapons all the way. In response, Sheamus used a table to compound the impact of a suplex, which forced Reigns to deal with back problems for the rest of the match. Short after, he used another table to hit White Noise to do even more damage.
Reigns eventually got on track with a deadlift powerbomb onto a ladder. He followed that with a chair-aided Superman Punch. The Boston fans voiced their displeasure with the main event matchup with chants for Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and NXT. Undeterred, Reigns kept the punishment going with a crazy Samoan Drop off of the apron and through a ladder.
Both wrestlers started to climb the ladder and Reigns hit a Superman Punch to knock Sheamus off of the ladder. It looked like Reigns had an unobstructed path to the top, but Rusev and Alberto Del Rio intervened and pulled Reigns from the top. Rusev put him in an Accolade outside the ring while Sheamus recovered. It was not enough, though, because Reigns recovered and fought off the two League of Nations members. Reigns continued to fight back, but Sheamus hit him with a Brogue Kick and got to the top of the ladder to retrieve his belt.
Sheamus did not get much time to celebrate. Reigns speared Rusev and Del Rio while they held Sheamus high. He abused all three of them mercilessly with chairs. The Authority brought a cadre of referees to the ring to slow the Reigns rampage, but he assaulted HHH with a Superman Punch and several more chair shots. He had a crazed look in his eyes when he powerbombed HHH onto the Spanish announce table and elbow dropped him through it.
By the end of the attack, even the stubborn fans were behind Reigns. His underdog character has never resonated because he has always been an obvious golden boy for the company. WWE continues to work to change that perception and make fans want to embrace him as their own. I’m not sure whether HHH is hated enough for this attack to mean that much for most fans, but it was clear that it achieved its purpose in the building. It also changed the focus for Wrestlemania, as it now seems more likely that Reigns and HHH are destined for a match, which takes Reigns out of the title picture.
New Day def. Lucha Dragons and The Usos in a Ladder Match to Remain Tag Team Champions
Last year, Dolph Ziggler and Luke Harper stole the show at TLC with an amazing Ladder Match to open the show. This year, New Day, the Lucha Dragons, and the Usos did the same with the best match of the show off the top. The Lucha Dragons hit double planchas almost immediately and the Usos one-upped them with double planchas into a ladder on the floor. Sin Cara followed that with a suicide dive into a ladder that took out himself as well as both Usos.
The Lucha Dragons pinned Big E under a ladder and started to climb, but he bench pressed the ladder up and knocked both Sin Cara and Kalisto to the floor. Kalisto recovered and climbed to the top of the ladder where he hit Jey Uso with an amazing, memorable SDS from atop the ladder and onto another ladder perched alongside. Jimmy Uso got in on the insanity with a splash from the top rope to Big E on the floor with a ladder on top of him. Kalisto climbed the ladder, but Xavier Woods left the announce table and used his trombone to knock him down. He helped Kofi Kingston get to the ladder and he climbed to allow the champiosn to retain.
The thing that made this match stand out was that it was more than just a spot fest. The wrestlers came up with creative ways to use the stipulation that fit their characters and furthered the story (Big E’s bench press, Xavier’s interference). Moreover, the outrageous SDS will go on highlight reels for years and serves as a great exclamation point on the match.
Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens to Become Intercontinental Champion
Ambrose used his unconventional movements to keep Owens off balance early and Owens could not put together much offense. Eventually, the match went outside, where Owens hit a cannonball and a fallaway slam into the barricade. Back in the ring, Ambrose hit a rebound clothesline and an elbow dorp for a near fall. Owens responded with a rolling senton from the top rope that only got him a two count. They each countered the other’s finishing move before Ambrose successfully hit Dirty Deeds. Owens got a finger on the bottom rope to barely break the count. He followed that with a superkick to set up the Pop-Up Powerbomb, but Ambrose countered it with a hurricanrana that he held for a three count to get the win.
Despite his earlier run as US Champion, this win felt like an important step for Ambrose. He is already probably the most popular babyface wrestler on the active roster and has routinely risen to the occasion when given a more important place on the card. For Owens, there have been rumors of a possible Wrestlemania feud with Brock Lesnar and dropping the title seems to reinforce that notion. My only problem was that this match deserved much more time. In a three hour show, two very good workers in a semi-main event match should have had at least 15 minutes.
Wyatt Family def. Dudley Boys, Rhyno, and Tommy Dreamer in a Tables Match
Even though the match was messy and hard to follow at times, the table and elimination stipulations made it stand out in the show. Braun Strowman came out on fire and took out the entire ECW team. They finally threw him to the floor and hit a 3D on Erick Rowan to eliminate him first. Rhyno put together a hot run until Harper booted him through a table to even the sides. Bray Wyatt gave his team the advantage when he slammed Devon through another table. Bubba and Tommy Dreamer teamed up on Strowman and Dreamer took a cheese grater to his groin. They piled several tables on top of him to neutralize him momentarily. Harper then hit a suicide dive on Dreamer through a table to eliminate him. Left by himself, Bubba tried to get creative by preparing to light a table on fire. Before he could take out Wyatt, Harper and Strowman intervened and put him through the table to get the win. After the decisive loss to the Brothers of Destruction, it was good for the Wyatts to look so impressive here. Harper stood out, in particular.
Charlotte def. Paige to Remain Divas Champion
In the middle of her first main foster title reign, Charlotte inexplicably debuted an entirely new wrestling style and personality in the ring. She mimicked her dad’s heelish style and even aped his moves from the flop to the strut and the exposed knee drop. It felt very strange because Charlotte has been a babyface or tweener to date and this match pitted her against the purely heelish Paige.
Even Paige got in on the action with a Figure Four on Charlotte that Charlotte was able to reverse. Charlotte then hit a spinning cross body from the top rope for a near fall. They traded big moves- a fisherman’s suplex by Paige and a DDT by Charlotte that ended in a couple of near falls. Paige used her knee to block an attempted spear and Paige hit the Rampage, but Ric Flair pulled his daughter’s foot under the ropes. Charlotte then removed a turnbuckle cover that her dad had previously loosened. She smashed Paige into it and got the pin. The match was reasonably well worked, but Charlotte’s homage to her dad was far too thick. She has her own character and plenty of skill. She does not have to get by as an Axelmania-style legend impersonator.
Rusev def. Ryback
This match was a late addition to the PPV and probably didn’t need to happen. The primary reason to keep it on the card was to help reestablish Rusev and Lana and it served that purpose well enough. Ryback dominated the early part of the match and won an inventive test of strength in which each big man tried to suplex the other. He got a near fall off of a cross body from the top rope. The match went to the outside, where Lana pretended that Ryback hurt her and collapsed screaming. The distraction allowed Rusev to hit a superkick on Ryback. In the ring, he avoided Shell-Shocked and hit a side kick to set up The Accolade. As has happened far too often, Ryback passed out in the hold to avoid the submission. Lana being more of a competitive asset for Rusev will help get him more heat. It won’t matter much until he’s involved in a more meaningful rivalry.
Alberto Del Rio def. Jack Swagger in a Chairs Match to Remain US Champion
Although the rivalry with Swagger has felt confusing at times, Del Rio was able to wrestle one of his better matches since his return to WWE. He controlled the match until Swagger met a superkick attempt with a chair shot. Del Rio used the chairs to his advantage as he hit Swagger and piled them on top of him outside. Del Rio dove into the post, which allowed Swagger to lock in a chair-aided Patriot Lock. On his second attempt, Swagger succeeded with the Swagger Bomb and came close with a near fall. Del Rio blocked a superplex and put Swagger in a Cross-Armbreaker in the ropes. Swagger remained stuck in the ropes while Del Rio hit him with several chair shots and hit his double-foot stomp to get the win. It’s difficult to say what happens next for Swagger (and Zeb Colter), but it was a good return to relevance that reminded everyone that he can always work.