“Card subject to change” is the caveat we’re all used to seeing for pay-per-views. But rarely does the card change as much as last night’s TLC event. It didn’t just get changed, it got flipped-turned upside down.
Only one week ago, we were expecting to see Bray Wyatt in drag and The Shield reunited in the two main event matches of TLC. Due to a viral infection, though, Wyatt and Roman Reigns were both out and AJ Styles and Kurt Angle were in. Yes, AJ would wrestle in a dream match against Finn Bálor. And for the first time in 11 years, Angle would wrestle again in a WWE ring. Oh it’s not false, it’s very much not false.
How would such a dramatic switch-up just days before the show affect TLC? Here’s our take on the event.
Asuka vs. Emma
One thing that wouldn’t change on the card, was the much-anticipated debut of Asuka. The “Empress of Tomorrow” made the leap up from NXT last night in predictably winning fashion. We’re not saying that the result of this match was easy to guess, but Emma’s chances of winning were as low as her chances of ever getting the Emmalina character over.
Perhaps because of a thin lower card, this wasn’t the squash match we’d expected. Emma was given some credibility which is good for her, but this also validated Asuka, too. No-one should move up to the main roster and be given squash matches, no matter how long you reigned supreme in NXT.
There’s serious potential for Asuka now to shake-up the women’s division on Raw, and this match was a decent precursor to her killing Monday nights.
Elias vs. Produce/Jason Jordan
We like Elias. We’ve liked him ever since NXT, and we like him even more now he does his Honky Tonk heel-singer routine every week. Last night, he was cruelly interrupted in his routine by Jason Jordan raining vegetables and fruit on him. This happened twice, in fact, and resulted in a match between the two which Jordan won (albeit in a slightly dubious fashion).
Still, Elias is getting all kinds of good heat and that means a push can’t be too far away for him. We’re walking with you, Elias – all the way to the top.
Great by @IAmEliasWWE, of course…
How many of you feel alive?
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— STEELCHAIR Magazine (@SteelChairMag) October 23, 2017
Jack Gallagher & Brian Kendrick vs. Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann
The heel turn of Gallagher, and his alliance with Kendrick, has been a great move for the ginger Englishman. And it’s a decent lift for 205 Live, too, which was always in danger of going stale with some of its rivalries. Despite all this, though, you couldn’t help but be surprised to see this tag match on the main card of TLC. But what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be.
For most wrestlers, all you can ask for is a chance to wrestle in front of a hot crowd. And these four talented guys got their chance last night, as they put on a great match to make everyone sit up and take notice. It was Alexander and Swann that picked up the victory, but the strong response from the crowd might ensure these rivalries continue on 205 Live. Which is certainly no bad thing.
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James – Raw Women’s Title Match
Kalisto (c) vs. Enzo Amore – Crusierweight Title Match
The odd thing about TLC was its title matches. Normally, championship contests are the highlights of any PPV. Yet there were only two of these last night, and we couldn’t get excited about either of them.
The first saw Alexa Bliss successfully defend her title against the “veteran” (she’s 37 – even for wrestling, that’s not old), Mickie James. There was nothing all that wrong in the match, it just felt overshadowed by the arrival of Asuka and everything else happening on the card.
— Bryce | Glorious (@GIoriousOne) October 23, 2017
We were even less enthused about Kalisto defending his crusierweight title against Enzo Amore. The feud has felt forced and suffers because everyone would rather see Neville involved in this match. Enzo would win the title back, but there’s no doubting that WWE dropped a ball here.
Why didn’t they keep the belt on Enzo in the first place? Why have him drop the title, and then win it back so quickly from Kalisto? It’s done nothing but lessened the impact and interest in these title matches. And worse too, it’s damaged both characters.
AJ Styles vs. Finn Bálor
Sometimes things just work out. We could’ve had a Halloween costume match, but instead we were treated to a dream wrestling contest between AJ Styles and Finn Bálor.
The hot crowd was predictably all over this bout from the start, and both Styles and Bálor performed like this was their WrestleMania match. It was a stunning affair, one that ended with The Demon pulling out some old New Japan moves to emerge victorious.
Could this be the match of the year? It’s possible, although we would be surprised if the WWE didn’t setup a rematch this year which could top it. Maybe even at Survivor Series? That’d be too sweet…
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) October 23, 2017
This was also proof that the WWE can get sidelined in a story and forget what’s really important: the matches. Because in all the build-up of Bálor versus Wyatt, you could sense the interest in seeing that match was waning. But in two days, and with no real story, everyone was pumped up to see the two former Bullet Club leaders finally fight each other in a WWE ring.
Despite that, we still want to see Bray as Sister Abigail. It won’t be great wrestling, but it’ll definitely be great entertainment.
Angle, Ambrose & Reigns vs. Miz, Strowman, Kane & The Bar – TLC Match
If you’d have told us a month ago, that this was going to be the main event of TLC we’d have laughed at you. But here we are, in the realm of the unexpected. For one night only, Kurt Angle joined The Shield in scenes that you could only describe as: incredible. They even put him in a Shield flak jacket and everything; this really was one of the weirdest things we’ve seen in wrestling. And that includes the hatching of the Gobbledy Gooker.
— WWE (@WWE) October 23, 2017
The craziest thing though was just how crazy it didn’t end up feeling. Within minutes, it stopped looking strange and it felt normal that Angle was in The Shield. Kurt has clearly been keeping himself match-fit, we suspect he was going to return to the ring at some point anyway for the WWE. But for him to seamlessly insert himself into a crazy, spot-filled match like this and for him to not feel out of place, is a true testament to his immense talent.
As you’d expect, Angle didn’t feature too much in this bonkers match, but he would help Ambrose and Rollins gain the win with some nostalgic Angle Slams. Perhaps the real story though, was a Strowman face turn and his subsequent killing at the hands of Miz’s team.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) October 23, 2017
who had "Braun Strowman dies in a trash compactor" in their predictions
— Brandon Shroud (@MrBrandonStroud) October 23, 2017
Because if you thought TLC wasn’t going to be surprising enough, WWE made us witness an actual murder when Strowman was seemingly crushed to death in the back of a garbage truck. Yes, that really did happen.
Just another bizarre moment in a surreal, but highly watchable PPV.
- Wyatt and Reigns weren’t the only absentees from the show, Drew Gulak’s PowerPoint presentation was also cut. We were genuinely upset about this.
- Announcers on WWE seem to think that the word ‘bullet’ is pronounced ‘the’. How else can you explain them saying The Club, instead of Bullet Club?
- There’s something endearing hearing Braun Strowman say the word ‘snuffing’. It’s just… cute.
- Cesaro eyeballing a small kid who tapped him on the back was a thing of beauty.