Say what you will about 2020–and there is SO MUCH TO SAY; I started the year off with appendicitis and then everything somehow got WORSE–but the WWE Pay-Per-View year has been pretty dynamite. I’ve praised it at virtually every turn, and I have meant it. Offhand, I can’t recall a single show I came out of feeling entirely displeased.
Well it all ends here. TLC 2020 is the wrap-up to a year we never saw coming (of crap, it’s SummerSlam’s slogan again). Did anyone think back in March, back when live crowds first went away, that we would STILL be in empty arenas by Christmas? It’s crazy! I just remember a lot of “when everything is back to normal in June or so…”. Ha! How little we knew.
But hey… vaccines are being distributed! There’s going to be a new President of the United States! Things are, at least, going to be different. They are going to be [adjective]. Fill in your own thoughts on vaccines and Bidens; I’m not the boss of you.
Tonight’s question is… did TLC send us off on a high note?
MATCH 1: Drew McIntyre vs AJ Styles (*vs The Miz)
I had initially wanted to take a moment here to mourn the loss of relevancy of the men’s Money In The Bank contract–because, seriously, it’s been a solid four or five years since it has been useful–but you know what? For whatever reason, WWE lost faith in Otis and his storyline with Mandy Rose (hey, remember when that was the best story WWE had going? God, was 2020 thirteen years long?), and at that point, using the briefcase to further get over Drew’s title reign is as acceptable as anything else.
Drew’s 2020 was unimpeachable, and all credit to WWE to keep him looking like a permanent and dominant main eventer. There was that odd Randy Orton hiccup because I think sometimes WWE does things just to do them (like, you know, Otis having won the MitB to begin with), but aside from that, he’s looked great ever since the Rumble. I did complain at the Rumble that his win there felt sudden and forced, but the follow-up? Up to and including his odds-defying win at this show? Imagine your favorite GIF of a chef’s kiss.
Great start to the show.
I have no earthly idea what they kept saying Styles’ bodyguard’s name is now. Almost? Almas? Is that why they took it from Andrade? Elmos? I thought his name was Jordan. But sure, I’ll call him Almost now.
MATCH 2: Sasha Banks vs Carmella
Did you happen to make a prop bet that we would see Carmella’s best match ever tonight? Probably her best match by a mile? If so, congratulations on your newfound wealth!
It’s interesting to ponder if Carmella has just improved that much, or if Sasha Banks is just so damn good, but I thought this was a spirited little affair.
I will attest to WWE constantly keeping me in a perplexed state as to what counts as a disqualification or not any more. I mean, I remember The Attitude Era where DQs and count outs seemed to come and go with the wind, but… if Carmella’s valet physically pulls his boss out of a submission hold… that should be a DQ, right? And earlier in the match when he caught ‘Mella and assisted her in a move against Sasha… even though Carmella made the impact, still… that should be a disqualifica–nope. You understand my confusion, right?
The match was fun, though. No complaints about the actual contest.
Afterwards, we see Billie Kay presenting Asuka with a resume, but Asuka informs her the position is filled. So it won’t end up being a surprise to the Empress? Hmm!
MATCH 3: The New Day vs The Hurt Business
I am shocked–SHOCKED!–that after these two teams fought a half dozen times and the New Day won every time, the contenders won tonight.
This was the easiest call of the night. How did The Hurt Business keep getting opportunities? *Checks notes* Oh, because Raw literally has only two tag teams. Right right. My bad.
For a match with zero drama, this was fine… it was a bit of a letdown after the opening two bouts, but maybe that is because we went from two toss-ups to one definitive lock.
Again… no other tag teams on Raw. So I guess these two will keep fighting for a few more…. weeks? Months? Evers? That’s a thing to… look forward to?
Time to consolidate the tag divisions like you’ve done with the Women’s version of these titles, WWE.
Between matches, we get a recap of the Sami Awards, and they added in an audio leak of Sami Zayn ranting at people to cash in on that red-hot Tom Cruise meme. Keeping that finger on the pulse as always, WWE. My favorite part was commentary verbally letting us know “this is just like Tom Cruise did!”. Because subtext can be hard, I guess.
MATCH 4: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs Asuka & Charlotte Flair
Minutes before this match, I typed “Asuka and Charlotte Flair” in the header here because… OBVIOUSLY. But then I pondered, “I mean, who else could it be? Maybe Rhea Ripley? Ohhhhh… I hope it’s Rhea! Maybe it will be Rhea…”
Narrator: It was not Rhea.
At least I didn’t have to backspace anything. And wait… did we just do between three and four MONTHS of building a story between Lana and Nia Jax for the payoff to be… Charlotte returns and Lana has nothing to do with anything? Yeah, that feels right.
Thank god Charlotte won a title within TEN MINUTES of her return to the ring. I’d hate to have to imagine a world where she wasn’t in a title picture.
(I kid… mostly. I’m just happy she didn’t take Asuka’s title)
MATCH 5: Roman Reigns vs Kevin Owens
Roman Reigns as a heel is quickly becoming the master of the Slow-In-A-Good-Way match. When he brings a match into his methodical pace, it doesn’t feel like Randy Orton rest holds or HHH stalling to make a match seem more important. Reigns is drawing the crowd in and soaking in his despicable character and his ability to torture his foes.
No doubt about it; this match was a BANGER. I loved this from start to finish. KO brought the intensity and fire. Roman brought the aforementioned methodical malice. And Jey Uso brought the heel heat to let KO look great but still lose. This was undoubtedly the match of the evening. Everyone involved was impeccable. I really have to see where this falls on my Match of the Year list in a few weeks…
Commentary moment of the night! Roman Reigns hits a POWERBOMB ONTO A LADDER at one point, which Michael Cole tells us was a SPINEBUSTER THROUGH A TABLE. That’s… I mean, he got the names of the men involved right! So that’s a 40%. This is what happens when they aren’t allowed to call moves anymore.
Except Uranage. They do call that one an awful lot. Which is good, because I used to see that word written out and think “urine-age”.
MATCH 6: Randy Orton vs The Fiend
Ha! I totally forgot this match. When the PPV didn’t go off the air with Roman holding the title, I was confused.
My first instinct to review this was just to type “HAHAHA” over and over for, honestly? About three whole paragraphs.
But I will refrain.
This was actually fine. As far as some of WWE’s pandemic-inspired cinematic matches have gone, this was interesting since they were still claiming it was “live” and happening in-ring instead of in a swamp or a bone yard or Titan Tower. It had the presentation of a match that could actually have been happening in real time.
Until we got to the end–until we got to Orton setting The Fiend’s entire prone body ablaze–this was entertaining and about the best possible thing you could hope for from Bray and Randy. But that ending? Man, that is jumping the shark, turning around, shooting the shark, and sending the shark’s family a picture of you posing over it. It went from humorous to silly in that instance. Is this what we can expect if the USA Network wants more mature Raw? Just… murder by arson? That’s weird. I am not sure that’s what I want.
What a show, though. Reigns/KO was terrific. Drew/AJ/Miz was damn good. Sasha and Carmella far exceeded what I had thought it possible of. And the rest was a weird mixture of predictable results, burning people alive, and Charlotte winning a title. That’s a mixed bag. But hey! We’ll always have that Universal Title match, right?
All right, that puts the nail in WWE’s PPV year, and soon we will all be shifting over to 2021. 2020 was not ideal for pretty much anyone; I think we all know that. And for all we know, it may get a little worse before it gets any better. Just do your best to stay safe and healthy this holiday season and the rest of the winter! I want to see you giving me crap for my wrestling thoughts for years to come, chums! Happy Every Single Big Event That Happens In December And January!
Speaking of wrestling thoughts, check out my site, SWO Productions, where my partners and I just started a new series where we rank wrestlers against the unofficial Bret Hart Scale! Check in weekly to see what we score the legends of yesterday and today!
Until next time–until next YEAR–take care!