WWE TLC 2011
December 18th, 2011
1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore, Maryland
1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore, Maryland
So after not reviewing Survivor Series due to working around Thanksgiving and the flu, I've returned for another WWE PPV review. Tonight's show is the annual TLC event, so odds are we're in for atleast one or two good to great car-crash matches that we all love, so pop some popcorn, make yourself a drink, grab a beer, pack the bong, do whatever, just get yourself ready for the carnage that will most likely ensue tonight. We open with a Christmas-themed hype package this year. Simple and classy, I dig it. Here we go...
Your hosts are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler
WWE US Title Match
Dolph Ziggler © vs. Zack Ryder
Vickie is out first to get the crowd fired up to start the show right. I can't help but compare Ryder's push to that of Daniel Byran's if only because they both used "the internet" (in all of it's vague and esoteric glory) to get over. Hot crowd tonight as both men lock up. They trade basic hold exchanges in the ring to start off and Ryder clotheslines Dolph out of the ring. Ryder wipes him out with a crazy somersault tope outside of the ring moments later and gets a chance to hand out bro-fists at ringside. Back in the ring Ziggler goes to work on Ryder with a DDT on the ring apron followed by a neckbreaker and a barrage of elbow drops onto Ryder as Ziggler just keeps dropping elbows until the crowd starts giving him some of the best genuine heat I've seen in the WWE in a long time. Ziggler slaps a chinlock onto Ryder and goes to work for a bit until he's able to deliver an Angle slam for a two count. Ryder responds with a missile dropkick for two. Ryder slams Dolph's face into the mat and then delivers the Broski boot, but Vickie makes sure to put Dolph's leg on the bottom rope at the count of two. The ref sees this and bars her from ringside for the rest of the match while Dolph attempts his version of the Fameasser on Ryder once and then hits it on the second try for a hot two count. Ziggler looks for the Zig-Zag, but settles for a chin-shattering sick kick for another two count. Ryder hits a top rope hurricanrana, but now it's Dolph's turn to kick out. Zack looks for the Rough Ryder but Ziggler blocks it and rolls him up again for two. Ziggler runs into the corner, but winds up eating a pair of knees from Ryder. Ryder turns around and delivers the Rough Ryder, and yes indeed he pins Ziggler clean to become your new United States champion at 10:24! Ryder's dad is in the front row and he's going crazy! These two can flat out go in the ring and the crowd was hot as all hell. Ryder has really come into his own as a mainstream babyface wrestler and Ziggler is probably the best young heel in the game today, so this was 10 minutes of highly athletic, top-notch action. ***
After a bit of celebrating by Zack Ryder and his dad, we cut to Booker T talking with Alicia Fox backstage. He's quickly interrupted by Cody Rhodes, who lays a beat-down on him and then has the gall to shout "Merry Christmas!" on his way out while Booker does his trademark googly eyes vacant look on the floor.
WWE Tag Team Title Match
Air Boom (Kofi Kingston/Evan Bourne) © vs. Primo & Epico
While this is probably just a throwaway/filler match in the eyes of most, it has the potential to be something awesome if they give these kids some time. Epico and Bourne start us off, trading a few cradle and arm lock attempts. Bourne delivers a hurricanrana on Epico and then tags Kofi in for a cute double leapfrog double-team moves. Primo tags in and he and Kofi wind up trading huge monkey-flips. Bourne tags back in but is promptly thrown out of the ring by the Colon clan. Back in the ring the Colons continue the whole Double Trouble evil twin magic thing, isolating Bourne in their corner and delivering a devastating tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a two count. Primo hits a back suplex, rolls through into another one, and then rolls through into a third suplex, this time a German, but it only nets him a two count. Bourne is put into the Gory special briefly but he manages to fight back with a pair of shotgun knees and get the hot tag to Kofi. Kingston hops in the ring and he's in a dropkick giving kind of mood as he cleans house on the Colon boys again and then hits the Boom Drop. Epico hops in to start some trouble but Bourne neutralizes him on the outside floor with a soaring cross-body off the top rope. Primo turns around and gets nailed with the Trouble in Paradise from Kofi and the champs retain at 7:32. Really good stuff for the time they were allotted, but yet again I find myself thinking about what kind of good matches these guys could probably put together if they only had another five or ten minutes. Still fun while it lasted though. **3/4
We take a moment to check backstage with Josh Matthews for an update on Booker T, whose being evaluated by EMTs. Josh says that Cody was walking around with a big grin on his face, so the rumor is that the match is off tonight. Hmmm, somehow I doubt that.
Elsewbere backstage a possibly drunk Teddy Long is dressed up as Santa Claus, alongside Hornswoggle as his elf of course. Except now that Hornswoggle can talk, he's apparently keen on cracking wise and in our first "WTF did that midget just say?" moment of the night, he asks Teddy Long when Santa Claus became black. Long responds by saying that no white jolly men ever came down his chimney. Oh Vince your Reagan-era pseudo-racism is alive and well isn't it? As if the point wasn't already hammered home, Long gives Hornswoggle a Rosetta Stone book on how to learn Ebonics as a Christmas present. If that is a real product and actually exists, that might quite literally be the dumbest thing someone could purchase. He goes to hug Teddy but instead attacks him and runs off, leaving our skinny black Santa Claus by his lonesome. This was a glaring reminder of how bad the "comedy" writing is with this company sometimes.
Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett
No real point to this being a tables match other than "Hey, we need to have a tables match". Luckily these two have had a decent feud brewing over on Smackdown so the gimmick should only benefit them. Orton quickly hits his signature backbreaker on Wade and then exits the ring and grabs a table, only to have Wade kick it right back into his face. Randy returns the favor by smashing Wade's face into the steel steps at ringside. There are tables set up everywhere up and down the aisle and rampway, so you could end this match at any moment really. Wade tries for a pumphandle slam through a table, but Randy counters and the table is knocked aside. Randy tries for a suplex through another table at ringside from the steps, but Wade counters that and smashes Orton's face into the steel post. Wade has a cut above his eye, but he boots Orton in the face anyways and then slides one table into the ring and sets up another one next to the apron. He tries placing Orton on the table but he just slides right off of it, so Wade slams him into the apron a few times and then rolls him back into the ring and hits a huge elbow drop from the top rope right to Orton's heart. They tease Orton getting booted from the apron through a table, but he hangs onto the ropes to save himself. Wade sets a table up in the corner but turns around only to find himself in the midst of Orton's finishing sequence of moves. Damn, 5 moves of doom time already? Barrett misses another boot and both men trade shots on the ring apron. Orton escapes a Waste Land attempt and then delivers the second-rope DDT to Barrett. Randy looks for the RKO but walks into a spinning sidewalk-slam instead. Barett tries setting Orton up on the table again and goes to the top rope, but when he jumps off Orton slides off and winds up RKOing Wade through the table in mid-air! That gives Randall the win at 10:16. Fun little match here with some good wrestling underneath the table gimmick, which worked into a cool finish. Solid stuff. ***
Backstage Teddy Long somehow manages to get even CREEPIER in his haggard Santa Claus get-up by having both of the Bella Twins sitting on his lap, arguing. Teddy says they've both been bad, and he's got presents for the both of them: his phone number. That didn't work out so well for Herman Cain, but I'm sure Teddy will be fine. The Bellas storm off in disgust while Jack Swagger approaches our "bad Santa" and asks him if he's going to let Mark Henry get away with hitting him with a steel chair on Smackdown this week. Teddy's solution? Sit on my lap son! Swagger refuses just as Sheamus interrupts them to wish Teddy a Merry Christmas. Sheamus throws out another Irish quip where someone's head inevitably ends up their own ass, and Teddy books Sheamus vs. Swagger as a special bonus match tonight.
WWE Divas Title Match
Beth Phoenix © vs. Kelly Kelly
No disrespect to the ladies, but who actually gives a shit about this match? Kelly is all fired up to start this match, slamming Beth's head into the mat and then locking in her tarantula like hold. She follows up with the flying headscissors and tries for a monkey flip, but Beth counters and then begins laying in huge elbow shots to Kelly's mid-section. She pulls Kelly's hair a bit and then locks her into a camel clutch. Kelly manages to counter a slam attempt into a bulldog, but she leaps off the ropes only for Beth to catch her and send her crashing to the mat. Beth misses a top-rope legdrop, so she tries for the Glam Slam, but Kelly counters that into a two count. Kelly tries for a hurricanrana, but Beth lifts her up into the power-bomb position and then just drops Kelly backwards onto her face, which is enough for Beth to retain the title at 4:36. Not too shabby thanks to Phoenix here, but just slightly above your usual pedestrian divas match. **
Backstage The Miz and Alberto Del Rio come to a mutual agreement for their brief partnership to end tonight. Miz asks Del Rio what he's done in 2011, and Del Rio responds by calling him weak and pathetic. Ricardo approaches with some sort of Mexican dish in his hand and The Miz shoves it in his face. Del Rio shoves Ricardo as well. Hey, what did Ricardo do?
We get a bit of video footage from the Maryland National Guard wishing their families a happy holiday season in a nice bit. Afterwards Booker T starts to make his entrance, but Cody Rhodes jumps him again here and their match is put-off again in favor of the Battle of the Geezers.
Sledgehammer Ladder Match
Triple H vs. Kevin Nash
The rules here are pretty simple; there's Hunter's ubiquitous sledgehammer hung up at the top of the ring and you can use the ladder to get it and use it, but you still have to pin your opponent. This starts off just as you'd expect with some basic brawling from Trips and Nash getting his big knees in on the Game in the corner. Hunter sends Nash out of the ring with a forearm and Trips slams him into the announcer's table. Triple H goes off to grab a ladder and Nash wipes him out with a nasty big boot. He grabs the ladder from Trips and then slams it into Triple H's neck and face, sending the Game flying over the guardrail into the front row. When Triple H recovers he leaps off of the announcer's table onto Nash with a Lou Thesz press. He clotheslines Nash over the guardrail, but he returns the favor with a slam of his own onto the barricade. Nash gets sent head-first into the steel post and then tossed back into the ring alongside two ladders from the Game. Hunter attacks Nash's knee with one of the ladders, slamming it repeatedly into the big man's ligaments. Triple H ties one of Nash's legs around one of the ladder rungs and then applies a modified figure four leglock with the ladder still on Nash's leg! Hunter suplexes one of the ladders onto Nash. Finally Nash gets some offense of his own, sending Hunter crashing into a ladder in the corner and tumbling all the way out of the ring and onto the floor. Nash delivers a sidewalk slam to Hunter onto another steel ladder and you can actually see little cuts and scrapes all over Hunter's back from the bumps he's taken in this match already. Nash catapults Hunter face-first into another ladder propped up on the second rope and then starts stripping the announcer's table at ringside, looking to give Triple H the jackknife powerbomb. Hunter blocks it though and sets up a ladder back in the ring, but Nash knocks him down before he can climb it for the hammer. Nash slams Hunter into the ladder again and then choke-slams him, and Trips is hurting now. Nash pulls out a table from underneath the ring and throws it inside. Hunter has his second wind though and knocks Nash out of the ring with the ladder before setting it up and climbing it to the top, where Kevin Nash meets him. Triple H hits Nash with the hammer once, and the second time he hits him Nash flies off the ladder through a nearby table in the ring! Hunter takes down the sledge-hammer with him and goes to town on Nash with it now. He gives Nash the pedigree and then grabs the hammer again for another blow, but Nash wants to make nice now as he throws up the old Wolfpac/Kliq hand signal feebly only for Triple H to respond with a prompt "Suck it", and a sledge-hammer shot, which is enough to put Nash away at 18:13. I can already hear the sounds of the smarks wailing over these two guys being given 18 minutes in the year 2011, but I'll be damned if the match wasn't actually pretty damn good. They told a simple story and worked a few nice spots into the mix and were able to wrap-up this admittedly stale feud in a proper way. If you can actually put aside your raging, biased hatred for Trips and Nash for a minute, this was pretty well worked all things considered and I enjoyed this quite a bit. ***1/4
Backstage Matt Striker is with the real people's champion, CM Punk. They watch the beatdown from the end of RAW this past week by the hands of Miz and Del Rio but Punk is more inclined to talk about his ongoing problems with Johnny Ace. Speak of the devil, John Laurinaitis approaches Punk and tells him that he's having Punk's Slammy mailed to him. They argue a bit more and then Punk takes off.
Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger
Super special bonus match time! Not really, I'm not sure why they didn't book guys like these into some kind of big ladder/tables/chair match, but oh well. Sheamus starts off with his brute power, beating his way out of every wrestling hold Swagger tries on him. He tees off on Swagger's chest with the ten shots and then tosses Swagger out of the ring. Vickie distracts Sheamus briefly and Swagger knocks him into the turnbuckle and then subsequently the barricade. Back inside the ring a Swagger bomb gets only one. Sheamus responds with a body slam but winds up getting knocked out of the ring by Swags. No problem, Sheamus just knocks him around the steel post and turnbuckle a bit like a pinball. He hits a diving shoulder block from the top rope for a two count back in the ring on Swagger. Sheamus misses the Brogue Kick and Swagger goes after his ankle with chop blocks and another Swagger bomb. He applies the ankle lock, but Sheamus is Irish, he won't tap! Swagger tries again for a chop block but Sheamus sees it coming this time, side steps it, and then delivers the Brogue Kick to put Swagger away easily at 5:58. Decent enough, but really a rather pointless throwaway match. **
World Heavyweight Title Chairs Match
Mark Henry © vs. Big Show
Ah the "chairs" match, the red-headed stepson of the TLC-themed matches. Henry has a walking cast on his left ankle, so this might not last too long. As soon as the bell rings Show exits the ring to toss a dozen or so chairs into the ring. He grabs one and enters the ring, only for Henry to exit, grab his title and say "This ain't happenin'" as he starts to head for the rampway. Show cuts him off with a chair though, slamming it over Henry several times. Henry fights back with some chair shots of his own, slamming Show's right hand with one against the steel steps. Back in the ring Henry gets some more shots in on Show with the chair. Henry places Show's hand inside of another chair and then stomps on it. Henry prepares for another chair shot, but Show connects with the injured right hand anyways and somehow that's enough to put Henry away and give Show the World title at a measly 5:28. Well, that was certainly quick. This was nothing more than couple of chair shots and a punch, so not much of a match obviously. Almost as if they have other plans though, hmmmm. *
After the match is over, while the Big Show is celebrating with his new title, Mark Henry awakes from his brief slumber to attack Show once again with a chair before giving him a sloppy DDT onto a pile of several chairs. Suddenly Daniel Bryan's music hits and the Money in the Bank champion hits the ring! He's got a referee with him and he's cashing in his Money in the Bank FOR REAL this time!
World Heavyweight Title Match
Big Show © vs. Daniel Bryan
The ref quickly calls for the bell in the ring while Bryan leaps onto the laid out Big Show. The ref goes for the count, 1...2...3! Daniel Bryan is your NEW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION at 0:08! Way too short to rate but who cares, Bryan fuckin' Danielson is a WWE World champion. If you had told me this would happen even 2 years ago, I would have called you crazy, the world would have. The crowd is going crazy here as Bryan celebrates like he just won the Super Bowl. He gets right into Michael Cole's face at ringside and then looks directly into the camera and says "For everyone who supported me for the last 12 years....THIS IS FOR YOU!" As one of those people, let me just say, right on Bryan, right on! It's a beautiful thing to see that hard work and dedication still mean something in this business, and that even the little guy can have his day in the sun if he just works hard enough and never gives up. I'm almost getting misty-eyed here, this has got to be the feel-good moment of the year for every longtime hardcore wrestling fan out there. Enjoy it everyone, because for tonight at the very least, Daniel Bryan is the World Heavyweight champion.
WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Cody Rhodes © vs. Booker T
After all the hubbub from DB's title win has died down, we're onto our next match as it appears Booker T will in fact wrestle Cody Rhodes tonight for the IC title, even after several backstage beatdowns. This is Booker's first official match back in the WWE since the fall of 2007, and he's fired up to start against Rhodes here, brawling and slamming his younger opponent at the opening bell. Booker hits a nice superkick for the first near fall of the match, then he just tosses Cody out of the ring with ease. They brawl around ringside a bit and on their way back in the ring Cody is able to get the upper hand on Book and slam him into the guard barricade. Back inside Cody keeps the heat on with a full-nelson hold, but Booker breaks it up with an elbow. Both men lariat each other at the same time and are wiped out on the mat for the ref's count. Back on their feet they trade blows again and Booker hits a sidewalk slam for a two count. Book hits a big spinebuster and caught up in the heat of the moment, he gives the crowd an old-fashioned Spinarooni for a big pop. Booker goes for the scissors kick, but Cody evades and nails him with the Beautiful Disaster jumping knee for a very close two count. Cody can't believe it so he nails him with a second Beautiful Disaster to retain the title at 7:16. Not much of a match because of the kayfabe beatdowns Booker suffered through-out the night, but this certainly made Cody look good and really that's all this match needed to do. *3/4
WWE Title TLC Match
CM Punk © vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. The Miz
I believe this is the first time we've had a triple threat TLC match in the WWE, so that adds a bit of luster to the mix. The crowd is completely behind Punk, of course, so the heels gang up on him to start despite their earlier agreement to end their alliance. They double suplex Punk and put the boots to him. While Punk is down the heels exit the ring to head for the ladders and Del Rio sneak attacks Miz from behind with a steel chair. He grabs a clearly too-small ladder and turns around only for Punk to dive out of the ring and knock the ladder back into Del Rio's face! Back in the ring Miz knocks a chair into Punk's midsection and tries to leap off the chair at him in the corner, but Punk moves out of the way and nails him with a Muay Thai knee. He looks to bulldog Miz onto the chair, but Miz counters into a sick back suplex, crumpling half of the chair up against Punk's neck in the process! Miz heads out of the ring again to fend off Del Rio but Alberto just back-drops him onto a ladder set-up against the apron. Punk exits the ring and knees that same ladder into Del Rio before tossing him into the guard barricade and pulling a set up table closer. Both men tease suplexing the other through the table until Punk counters into a neckbreaker on the floor. Miz approaches with a chair...bad idea Mike, as Punk snatches the chair out of his hands and proceeds to waffle him with it repeatedly before setting Miz up on the guard rail and hitting a unique running Muay Thai knee to knock him back into the crowd moments later. Well that was creative. Punk sets up the ladder in the middle of the ring and looks to climb to the top and grab his title when Ricardo Rodriguez enters the ring to knock Punk down and then hand-cuff him to the ladder! Who gave that man handcuffs?! Del Rio stomps away leisurely at Punk and then tries to climb the ladder, but Punk rips the middle bar of the ladder off with the handcuffs, knocks Del Rio off, and then nails Del Rio with the hand-cuffs! He pancakes Del Rio onto the ladder against the ropes and then takes his exit, leaving Miz to enter the ring and take his turn using the ladder as a weapon against CM Punk. Punk tries for the Go 2 Sleep but Miz blocks it. Punk tries to superplex Miz out of the ring now through a table at ringside, but Del Rio breaks it up with his signature running step-up enziguri to the back of Punk's head, which Punk sells like a champion, taking just enough time before slowly falling backwards and plummeting out of the ring and through the table at ringside! That whole sequence was great. While Punk is out, Del Rio drags Miz up the aisleway and puts him into his lethal armbar with a ladder around his shoulder for added pressure, which causes the Miz to tap immediately. Del Rio returns his attention to Punk afterwards, whose still laying on a broken table, slamming two chairs into him repeatedly. Del Rio wraps the chair around Punk's shoulder and puts the armbar on Punk as well now, though Punk doesn't tap. Del Rio tries setting up a ladder back in the ring and climbing it, but Miz and Punk both are able to hit the ring and knock the ladder over, sending Del Rio crotch-first onto the top rope with force. That'll ruin your Saturday night. Punk fires off a few kicks but both men wind up lariating each other and being wiped out. So naturally, Ricardo Rodriguez hits the ring again to climb the ladder in Del Rio's place, but again Punk and Miz knock the ladder over, this time sending Ricardo flying out of the ring and through another table at ringside! Ricardo Rodriguez is DEAD! Punk and Miz each tease going for their finishers back in the ring, but Miz decides to try and outsmart Punk by handcuffing him to the corner turnbuckle, but while he's celebrating this cunning move Punk nails him in the back of the head with a kick regardless. Del Rio returns to the ring and he and Miz each set up a ladder while Punk starts twisting and turning the turnbuckle rod connected to the second rope. Punk is able to fully twist it off and the second rope drops limp, allowing Punk to join the fracas at the top of the ladders. Punk knocks Miz off and then knocks Del Rio off with a kick, but Miz yanks him down before he can grab the belt. Punk returns the favor, yanking Miz down and giving him the Go 2 Sleep for good measure! Punk climbs to the top of the ladder and grabs his title to retain at 18:25! Great little TLC match here with some inventive spots and creative twists and turns with the use of the handcuffs and the second rope. Not quite as good as some of the TLC matches at last year's show, but still extraordinarily fun and creative. ***3/4
We close out the show with CM Punk celebrating at the top of the ladder with the WWE title, a fitting way to close out the last PPV of 2011, the year in which Punk has truly taken off as a main event main-stay in the company. And don't forget, Daniel Bryan is your World Heavyweight champion as well. Two indy schmucks didn't do so bad, eh?
Bottom Line: This was just a flat out fun show, while it doesn't exactly look like the greatest show star-wise or anything, the whole show just had a nice gel to it that made everything fly by in no time. We got several solid undercard matches to go along with a momentous Money in the Bank cash-in and title win for Daniel Bryan, and to cap it all off a great main event. True, some of these matches could have been much more, but what we got was more than enough to put a big smile on my face, though that might just be because of the DB title win. All in all a pretty good way to close out the 2011 PPV calender for the company though, and an easy Thumbs Up from me.
*-Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter via WrestleView.com