Following his brutal beatdown of James Ellsworth, A.J. Styles goes into WWE TLC looking to finally end his other problem: Dean Ambrose. Alexa Bliss has the opportunity to prove that she is better than Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, as they face off in a championship rematch following the controversy at the end of their match in Scotland, United Kingdom.
Heath Slater & Rhyno (C)
The Wyatt Family (Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt)
(WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
Fans have always been into Bray Wyatt because he is a dynamic and inventive character, but he’s always been on the side of the heel. With the addition of Orton, a major babyface, it’s hard to see Wyatt as anything other than a face too, regardless of his actions on tv.
This opening match was a good opener, and kept things simple. The only real big spot came when Luke Harper pushed Orton out of the way of an incoming Gore from Rhyno, taking the hard spear himself. Orion followed up with an RKO to Rhyno shortly after, leading to a three count, and brand new WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champions.
Slater and Rhyno were competitive, and got in some offence. It was a shame to see them lose their titles, especially after the great material we had from them during August and September 2016, but they were always going to be short-term champions. If anything, a near three month title run has been a pleasant surprise! I would’ve liked to see them lose a slightly longer match though, with a few good near falls thrown in, just to make their eventual loss of the titles seem that much greater a moment.
This is Bray Wyatt’s first title run in WWE.
Both women headed into this match riding the wave of their three month feud. It’s a credit to them both that they’ve managed to keep things interesting for this long, given its a non-title feud. Carmella deserves props for her heel work too, after bombing as a babyface on her debut.
The ‘no disqualification’ stipulation gave Nikki Bella a chance to compete in the kind of match that would simply have not been possible for her or any of her fellow female wrestlers a year or more ago. I expected her to try and prove a point, and show that she still belongs in this new era of women’s wrestling in WWE.
Fair play to both women, who tried hard to give us a good match in what is presumably the final match of their feud. It didn’t reach the level of Sasha Banks vs Charlotte Flair (28th November 2016), but then it was never going to, and they rightfully didn’t try to outdo that match.
Carmella had control of the battle, after a hurricarana into the steel steps left Bella dazed. Out came the kendo stick, and Carmella went to town, all whilst mocking John Cena, Bella’s off-screen boyfriend. I do like that they’ve finally acknowledged her relationship with Cena on wrestling TV now, after it seemed to be exclusive to Total Divas, Total Bellas and social media.
Bella climbed up onto the barricades, and delivered a sweet roundhouse kick to the head of Carmella. She soon found a fire extinguisher, and sprayed almost all it’s contents in Carmella’s direction. This was followed up with a Rack Attack 2.0, and the win for Nikki Bella. The right call.
Decent bout, but I do struggle to buy into Carmella in her matches sometimes. She just looks too small to really be doing any damage to her opponents, but then she brings such an aggressive style to what she’s doing now, that I’m starting to be able to look past her size. Nikki Bella continues her ascent back to the level she was at prior to her serious injury in 2015.
The Miz (C)
(Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship)
This started a lot like their match at WWE No Mercy 2016, where it started out as your traditional wrestling match, before eventually earning the right to do big spot after big spot. One such spot, a Satellite DDT from Ziggler, burying The Miz’s head into the step of a ladder, was brutal. There’d be a much more barbaric head-to-ladder moment later on, when Miz would hit a Skull Crushing Finale on Ziggler right onto the ladder.
After the early spots, and Ziggler delivering an elbow drop from a ladder sitting on the second rope in the corner, there were dual chants for both men. That just goes to show how good The Miz’s work has been these past several months, and is very similar to when he got himself over with the audience back in 2010 prior to his WWE Championship win.
The match soon became centred around the action in the centre of the ring, with Ziggler spending a lot of time on the ladder, but unable to reach the belt. The Miz eventually got him down, and did some great work on Ziggler’s legs, which JBL sold well on commentary. The Figure Four on Ziggler, through the ladder, was an incredible visual and was a great spot.
Miz took damage to his own leg, and I have to commend both men for continuing to sell the leg injuries throughout the rest of the match. Hopping up the ladder was a nice touch by both, and neither man miraculously recovered from those injuries during the rest of their match.
It was only right that The Miz got the win, which came after he delivered what looked to be a low blow to Ziggler whilst he was on the ladder. Commentary sold it as a kick to Ziggler’s injured leg, but it looked like a low blow to me, and Ziggler acted as though it was too.
This wasn’t as good as their WWE No Mercy match, but it was still good, and The Miz came out of it looking really strong after many months of having outside interference lead to his victories.
Heading into this show, social media chatter suggested that viewers weren’t too keen on this match. Clearly those particularly viewers don’t know the importance of non-title mid-card feuds, particularly when it’s obvious that one of the competitors is being built towards something bigger down the road (Corbin). Great video package prior to the match, reminding us just how long this feud has been running.
Chair matches are always a difficult sell, and are probably the hardest matches to put on at this annual PPV event, so this was a pleasant surprise. Every spot worked, and both men went all in. They got given time too, which is exactly why I’m glad we have the brand split, as this would’ve had 3-6 minutes pre-brand split, if it had even gotten on the card at all.
The chairs were the great equaliser here, with the much smaller Kalisto looking competitive throughout. Just as it looked like he may get the win, Corbin took him out with a steel chair, smashing it into the Mexican talent as he was flying in from the top turnbuckle. He followed it with an End Of Days onto a pile of chairs, and Kalisto was out cold. Corbin won, and this was arguably one of his best 1-on-1 matches in a long time.
Becky Lynch (C)
(Tables Match for the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship)
Alexa Bliss has been a revelation since joining the WWE Smackdown Live roster, and whilst I would’ve liked to see her get a run in the women’s main event scene on WWE NXT, there’s no question that she has been the top woman on the blue brand since she debuted in the summer.
Both these women had a good match in Glasgow, Scotland, back in November 2016. It says a lot about both of them that they’ve managed to keep this feud hot, given Lynch’s medical issues caused an unexpected last minute postponement to their scheduled match at No Mercy. The decision to make this a tables match was a wise one, although I did have my fears that it wouldn’t happen after Banks and Flair had issues putting the former through a table at WWE Hell in a Cell 2016.
Bliss is a future babyface star, much like Hall of Famer Trish Stratus was, but her heel work is just superb. In the early stages of the match, she quickly slid a table back under the ring after Lynch had tried to bring it into play, and the crowd rightfully boo’d her for it. Simple things like that are just golden.
There was a feeling at the start of this match that the crowd didn’t see Bliss as a legitimate threat to Lynch’s title reign, perhaps due to her having only been on the main roster a few short months, and also likely due to Lynch being billed as one of the Four Horsewomen who have dominated the women’s division in 2016. By the halfway point of this match, the crowd were getting vocal, trying to motivate Lynch into action, as Bliss absolutely dominated proceedings. Bliss having so much control was a surprise.
Great DDT from Bliss onto the underside of the table, Lynch’s head hitting the steel base hard. Lynch was able to lock in an arm bar through the legs of the upside down table, which looked great too.
The were lots of tense moments, with both women poised to go through a table. Say what you will about table matches, they do have you holding your breath each time someone is near a table. The women played on those moments perfectly.
In what was the biggest moment of Alexa Bliss’ wrestling career to date, she was able to put Becky Lynch through a table on the outside of the ring, and become the second ever WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion, her first run with a title in WWE. Clean as a whistle, Lynch lost her championship, and whilst it makes her run as champion a short-lived one, it opens up a lot of possibilities for her moving forward.
This was the best women’s match from the Smackdown Live female roster since the brand split in July 2015.
A.J. Styles (C)
(Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Anyone who has complained that the James Ellsworth angle has hurt AJ Styles’ credibility as champion needs to watch the video package that preceded this championship match. Each defeat was an attempt by Ambrose to play mind games with the world champion, and it’s worked, leading us into this Tables, Ladders & Chairs match for WWE‘s most prestigious championship.
Ambrose was a man on a mission here, dominating for large parts of the contest. In fact, Styles barely got a move in, as Ambrose dragged him around the arena and delivered a beating. The whole match was very much like that, with Styles having little moments where it looked like he was going to take control, only for Ambrose to go in hard on him yet again.
There were some great moments that utilised the gimmick of the match. The first came when Ambrose threw Styles down onto six chairs he had set up, somehow flipping and contorting Styles’ body shape midair. It genuinely was a moment that made you stop anything else you might be doing, and look at the TV with your mouth hanging open.
Another memorable moment was when Ambrose put Styles’ head into the edge of an announce table, which looked nasty. Quite a few head bumps on this show, which were all obviously done safely, but left me scrunching up my face at the time. Ambrose would eventually leap off a ladder onto Styles, who was laid out on one of these announce tables. Both men went straight through it.
There were some fully deserved “Holy Shit,” and “This is awesome,” chants when Styles jumped up onto the top rope, and delivered a 450 splash to Ambrose at ringside. The crowd weren’t wrong with their chants, this was awesome.
Styles eventually retained following interference from James Ellsworth, who turned on Ambrose by pushing him off a ladder and through a set of tables at ringside. The recently signed Ellsworth, wearing a neck brace because of a brutal attack carried out on him by Styles earlier in the week, cheered Styles on as he took advantage of the situation to climb the ladder and retrieve his championship belt.
A great TLC match, helped so much by the fact that both men rarely went anywhere near the belt during the match. This was a fight, and both men wanted to incapacitate their opponent before making an attempt for the gold. Vastly different story to that told in the Ziggler/Miz match earlier in the night.
The only negative was the Ellsworth interference, as both men had put on such a good match that you almost wished the finish would come down to just them too, but the interference and turn on Ambrose did make complete sense from Ellsworth’s perspective (which he explained on Talking Smack following the airing of this show), so I can’t really disagree with the decision to use him. It certainly didn’t take away from the match, anyway!
Match of the Night:
Dean Ambrose vs. A.J. Styles
WWE TLC 2016 Overall Rating: