SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Happy Holidays, all! Between wrapping up Thanksgiving, feverishly putting up Christmas lights, shopping for Christmas trees, remembering to move the elf on the shelf, and purchasing presents for family and friends, wrestling falls a bit under the radar during this time of year.
Knowing this, and looking forward to the busy start of the new year with Royal Rumble and the start of WrestleMania season, WWE goes through the motions to mitigate big effort and important angles playing out when the audience is distracted in other directions. Alas, December’s TLC is the PPV event that suffers most. TLC is also the PPV event that takes place this Sunday on the WWE Network. Uh oh.
The year is 2020 though and everything is different. TLC included. On paper, this PPV stands out as one of the more loaded lineups in terms of match quality that we’ve seen in months. The build to these quality matches? Not so much, but the quality on Sunday should be there nonetheless. A hot Roman Reigns heel character, the underdog babyface in Kevin Owens, a semi-dream match between Drew McIntyre and A.J. Styles, and an inferno match? I’ll take that this time of year.
Call this a preview, a calm look into the distant future, or a gaze into a wondrous crystal ball; just don’t hold me to anything, ok?
Drew McIntyre vs. A.J. Styles – WWE Championship TLC Match
My match of the night pick. This counts as a dream match, right? Fine. As I said earlier – semi-dream match it is. Either way, I’m expecting big things on Sunday. This is a fresh matchup as these guys haven’t locked up officially for a wrestling match. With the title on the line and the TLC stipulation available, we should see some fireworks. WWE’s attempt at goofy comedy stunted the build to this feud. The Miz and John Morrison’s involvement cast a shadow on the value of the championship as well as the danger of the TLC match itself. Drew and A.J. salvaged some momentum with the ascension ceremony on Raw, but couldn’t overcome from starting 5 feet behind the starting line. Regardless, Drew McIntyre will win this match. Styles will serve as another top star he can notch on his belt, but that notch will mean less as Styles wasn’t presented as top legacy competitor Styles. He was comedy Styles and looked uncomfortable in that role. This should have been bigger, but Drew will ultimately get what he needs which is a strong “W” heading into the WrestleMania season.
Hurt Business vs. New Day – WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
I feel like we’ve seen this match 100 times. That’s not a good thing. Sure, it could be worse. No question. These days, if there was a match to watch 100 times, this would be it, but it still left a scenario in which the stars and story floundered for weeks on end. What we have here is WWE realizing they missed out on an opportunity to capitalize on the Hurt Business momentum. That group should have the tag titles right now due to what they’ve done on Raw and what they can do for the championships as warm acts holding the belts. WWE is righting their wrong on Sunday and Hurt Business will walk out with the win. It helps the credibility of their group and capitalizes on their enhanced “cool” factor opposite New Day.
Sasha Banks vs. Carmella – WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
As I said on this week’s PPV preview episode of the PWTorch VIP Podcast, On The Canvas, the Banks and Carmella gimmicks are way too close to one another for them to clearly define babyface and heel roles. The result is both acts being unable to shine as characters, yet forcing their acts to force a reaction. As the babyface, Banks has really suffered as it’s hard to be a babyface boss when the heel version is essentially right alongside you every inch of the way for fans to compare you to in the form of Carmella. For that reason, Banks needs the victory and she’ll get it. She needs to show she can overcome and do it in an admirable way to fully draw a line in the sand between her act and Carmella’s. Banks needs to show babyface strength and a clean, definitive win is just the ticket.
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs. Asuka & a mystery partner – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Face to palm. Over and over and over. Not only is this silly match rooted in a story revolving around a person who isn’t in the match anymore, it’s eating up all the talent the Raw women’s division has to offer to do it. Eye roll. Asuka needs stronger opponents to be a factor on the show and two key people she can face are Jax and Baszler. So, why this then? Charlotte Flair. This mystery opponent and Charlotte’s leading content on social media tell me she’s finally coming back. Raw needs her, but this match didn’t. I don’t get the feeling that Charlotte and Asuka are headed for a tag team title run so I’m firmly taking Jax and Baszler. What does that mean for Asuka and Charlotte? A feud and a big-time title match in the near future.
The Fiend vs. Randy Orton – Firefly Inferno Match
Remember, Randy Orton attempted to murder Bray Wyatt by lighting him on fire and is coming off as the babyface in this story. That puts a bow on the issue with this entire match and that is neither Fiend of Orton are likable. Who is the audience rooting for? I’ve enjoyed the appearances of Firefly Bray Wyatt as Wyatt always delivers facial expressions and body language that sells. He comes off as a charismatic star in the process. Now, we’ve seen Orton and Wyatt have matches before. Do we really want that again? I say, no, which is why I say, yes, to the inferno match stipulation. Why the heck not? The Fiend will get the win, but Orton will stay protected as I can only assume audiences will forgive a loss with fire surrounding the ring.
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens – WWE Universal Championship TLC Match
Roman Reigns makes the Smackdown wheel go round. His character is clicking on all cylinders so effectively that it truly doesn’t matter who is opposite him in the match. This month’s challenger of choice? Kevin Owens. Reigns has come across strong in his effort to deepen the heel reactions for him. The benefactor has been Owens in that he gains loads of sympathy. Owens as an everyman character helps deepen the heel reactions for Reigns, too. He’s doing his part and the result is a solid story with emotional baggage. In the end, this is all still about Reigns and his run as the head of the table. To serve that end, Reigns will get the win and WWE will once again leave Kevin Owens wherever this leaves him.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S TAKE: HEYDORN’S TAKE: Tony Khan shows off McMahon-like grapefruits with Kenny Omega moves
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