SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
TLC has the potential to be Smackdown’s best brand-exclusive pay-per-view event since the recent roster split. There are many rivalries on the Blue Brand that look to be coming to a blow-off in preparation for a shake up as the Road to WrestleMania looms and fresh rivalries need to be developed. With so many implications surrounding each bout, let’s take a closer look at what different results may mean on Sunday.
No Disqualifications Match: Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
While Carmella got off to a shaky, and often times cringe-worthy, start to her main roster run, there have been some encouraging improvements to Carmella’s character over the last few weeks. Yes, there have probably been too many attacks from behind and John Cena jokes during her feud with Nikki Bella, but each week we have started to wonder more and more if Nikki can still compete in a division that has gotten much younger, and much hungrier.
For me, there can only be one outcome here. Nikki Bella is a bonafide star in and out of the ring. There is no way WWE can afford to have the biggest and most mainstream female superstar lose in her biggest singles match since she has returned. In a match where there are no rules, there will be no excuses for Carmella to make and Nikki’s victory will bring her legitimacy back as a title contender. A loss like this won’t hurt Carmella. She can explain it away in the weeks that follow and move on, while Nikki could turn heel and make a run at Becky in the lead up to WrestleMania. That is where Nikki is at her best.
The only conceivable way Carmella can pick up a victory here is with the help from someone else. She has gone over on television more times than almost anyone against Nikki Bella, and the smart booking says that has to spell defeat. On the flip side, a win in any fashion tells a whole different story about the way WWE feels regarding Carmella. Either way, the winner of this match is almost guaranteed to be next in line for the SmackDown Woman’s Championship.
Chairs Match: Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin has been delivering some of the best promos of anyone on the roster during his Talking Smack segments. It has helped that Corbin hasn’t been thrown directly into the deep end and has had time to develop his Lone Wolf persona before feuding with a star such as A.J. Styles or John Cena. The program featuring he and Kalisto has been a puzzling one. I think the best way to look at this is simply for what it is worth – a bully picking on someone smaller to prove dominance.
The logical outcome here is a Corbin victory. Smackdown has not done a tremendous amount of work building equity in Kalisto, while Corbin has been featured each week challenging Daniel Bryan and winning matches. A brutal, dominating win by Corbin will further cement his violent nature and help him take one more step towards the top of the card. There is a ton of potential in Corbin. If booked correctly, he could be a main event player onSmackdown. He is one of few heels that gets true heat from the fans and people would most certainly pay to see him get beat, especially if he has a title.
With the involvement of chairs in the matchup there is absolutely a possibility for Kalisto to injure Corbin to pick up a victory. They played this card prior to Survivor Series, and could possibly save Corbin from looking terrible in defeat. There have been subtle teases from both GMs about trades and, if Kalisto picks up a win, Corbin could be asking for the first ticket out to Monday Night Raw.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: Rhyno & Heath Slater (c) vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
Who would have thought that within two weeks Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt would be challenging for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles? We have gotten to a place where the unusual combination of Heath Slater & Rhyno have become more of a novelty act than a team fans are truly behind. With all due respect to American Alpha and The Usos, no other team has been booked strong enough to take the titles and run with them. Enter – The new Wyatt Family.
While all signs point to Beauty & the Man Beast dropping the belts at TLC, keep in mind that this all could still be a part of Randy Orton’s master plan to seek revenge on Wyatt. There was a reason behind highlighting Orton taking the proverbial bullet for Bray at Survivor Series. Was it to solidify their bond or further deceive Bray into thinking Randy is his loyal follower. A win for Slater & Rhyno only seem possible if their opponents implode, leading them into a program with either Alpha or The Usos. While it may not be a popular decision, if they retain because Bray & Randy split, it would garner the most heat for all involved.
If Bray and Randy do stay on the same page, it not only spells trouble for the WWE Tag Team Champions, but the rest of the Smackdown tag division. A victory for them should look dominating, with only a hope spot or two for their opponents to get minimal offense in. The last two episodes of Smackdown teased Jason Jordan & Chad Gable claiming their spot as no. 1 contenders, and with a extended period of time before their next brand exclusive pay-per-view expect them to enter the hunt following a Wyatt Family win.
Smackdown Woman’s Championship Tables Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
There are two varying opinions on Alexa Bliss. There are those who believe she is someone who lacks character depth and isn’t ready for the main roster, and those who believe she is one of the most believable heels on the roster. I side with the latter because I have seen Alexa transform from a valet for a mid-card tag team in NXT to a cocky, confident, and downright irritating competitor that has the athletic background and move set to be a believable title contender. Standing on the opposite side of the ring will be Becky Lynch, who is really coming into her own on the top of the card.
The best case scenario for this match is victory in defeat for Alexa Bliss. She has built a strong case to challenge for the title, but taking that belt away from the Irish Lass Kicker would be foolish at this stage in the game. Becky is the perfect choice to establish prestige in the new Smackdown Woman’s Title and she appeals to all types of fans. In the event of Alexa pulling out an upset, look for some sort of cheating to pick up the victory and furthering this storyline through at least Royal Rumble.
The most likely outcome here is Becky coming out on top, picking up another victory, and building more momentum in her title reign. She will prove everything she told Alexa during an excellent contract signing segment and move onto someone like Nikki or Natalya who would pose an even bigger threat.
Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Has this feud gone on a little too long? Yes. But have the matches been solid and the wrestlers built more of a foundation for themselves? Absolutely. The Miz has been undoubtedly the comeback performer of the year in 2016 and his rise should not stop at the Intercontinental Title. Ziggler would be a good candidate to hold this belt until WrestleMania where he could put over someone like Baron Corbin if ready, while The Miz has primed himself for a run in the main event.
Dolph may have won the match when his career was on the line, but after losing the title so quickly thereafter a loss here would still validate everything he said about not belonging in WWE any longer. If Miz goes over, whether he has help or not, it is hard to see where the Show Off goes from there. Meanwhile, Miz will continue to be the Intercontinental Champion but not move up in the card. Seems a bit “more of the same” doesn’t it?
An ideal booking decision here would be to execute a 50/50 match with Dolph barely pulling it out in the end. If Ziggler is going to stay relevant on Tuesday nights, the Intercontinental Title needs to be around his waist (even if he wears it backwards sometimes). He is capable of defending the title in matches worthy of the this storied belt and Miz will have no problem making excuses and telling the WWE Universe that this just means he is on to bigger and better things. What that might be? We may soon find out… After the rematch, of course.
WWE World Championship: A.J. Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
My sentiment about rivalries coming to a blow-off couldn’t be more true in the main event of TLC. While the tandem of Dean Ambrose and James Ellsworth tormenting A.J. Styles has provided some humor, the program has run its course. Sure, Styles has brought the best out of Dean, but the champ needs to get a signature win here and move on to the Road to WrestleMania. The comedy aspect needs to be removed from the World Title picture for a while. A focussed and more determined Styles is much more believable and marketable than the version of him we have gotten in the past month or so.
With how much momentum he has, it is hard to see Styles dropping the title before the build to a massive Royal Rumble PPV. Styles has suffered three losses to James Ellsworth recently. A loss to Dean will put a damper on the magnificent run The Phenomenal One has been on. Unless we see a major swerve with The Undertaker and John Cena being in the mix for the World Title come spring time, a Styles victory would almost guarantee that he is the guy rolling into WrestleMania as World Champion. While this outcome could hurt Dean Ambrose a bit, he could overcome that by showing a more aggressive and reckless side and prove he is as unstable as his shirts say he is.
Like many of the other matches on TLC, there are so many variables in this match that could favor Dean to win. Does Ellsworth return to distract Styles? Do they run an injury angle? There are certainly ways to book a finish that saves some of the egg that will be on Styles’s face in defeat, but have we even been given a reason as to why Dean is a legitimate title contender? If Ambrose does walk out of Pittsburgh with the title, it would most likely be a short reign ending in dropping it back to Styles, but you never know what WWE could have planned.
Given the track record of these two and the type of match it is we are in for a strong match regardless of the outcome. Also keep in mind that The Undertaker looms large and is ready to dig holes and take souls. Enjoy TLC!
NOW CHECK OUT THIS COMPANION PREVIEW TO SUNDAY’S EVENT: PPV PREVIEW – WWE Tables, Ladders, Chairs: Styles vs. Ambrose, Lynch vs. Bliss, Rhyno & Slater vs. Orton & Wyatt, and more
(Michael Souza is a new PWTorch Specialist who will contribute “Outcomes & Implications” before WWE PPV events looking at the pros and cons of each potential outcome.)
To me it makes sense for Ellsworth to turn on Dean and align with A.J.