There were a lot of smoke and mirrors, but given the circumstances in front of WWE last night, the company pulled off a really fun and memorable TLC pay-per-view on WWE Network.
The mountain of adversity ahead of this show was almost insurmountable. Chunks of the roster — including members of two main matches — were off the card due to concerns of a viral outbreak on the Raw roster. AJ Styles comes over from SmackDown Live to take on Finn Balor in what might be a contender for Match of the Year (in WWE), and Kurt Angle makes his WWE return after 11 years to join the Shield in their fight against Miz’s team of misfits.
I was really concerned going into this match that Kurt Angle would do something dangerous. Angle has a history of taking insanely dangerous bumps for the sake of entertaining the fans. This match was the biggest crowd he had wrestled in front of in North America since 2006. He wrestled some big matches in Japan, but this was a huge stage for Angle. This was his WWE return. And on top of that, this was all arranged just two days before the event when it was determined that Reigns would be off the card.
I’m not sure which agent put together this match, but they should be given a medal. There were a lot of gimmicks and nonsense — Braun Strowman was murdered in the back of a trash truck — but WWE kept Angle safe, writing him out of the match at a certain point, but then making it so that he returned and was heavily involved in the finish. It was smart. It was safe, and it was all pulled together on a second’s notice.
It was a spectacle with a lot of twists and turns. But in the end, it was Kurt Angle standing tall in his return, which he should have been. This was one of those moments that you won’t forget.
According to Dave Meltzer, Roman Reigns has the mumps. Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas are home due to concerns over viral meningitis. So, none of them will even be on Raw tonight. Reportedly they could all be back next week, pending tests, while the rest of the roster has been vaccinated.
Also, did Braun Strowman turn babyface? We’ll see, I guess. They’ve teased this before with Strowman, but he did beat up all of the heels last night before the heels stuffed him and supposedly crushed him in a garbage truck. This angle should (again) turn Strowman babyface, but we’ll see how WWE plays it out on Raw tonight.
Sasha Banks beat Alicia Fox
I’m honestly not sure why this match happened or had to happen. They’ve wrestled on Raw for what seems like the last month (in reality it’s been two weeks).
Asuka beat Emma
I really didn’t like this match. I’m glad Asuka got the win, and she should have, but the even-steven booking in the sense that Emma looked so good for so long, defined Asuka down. Emma hasn’t been booked as a top star in the division. Asuka is undefeated and she looked too even with someone of the caliber of Emma.
This should have been a quick 1-2 minute destruction by Asuka. Then, allow her to move up the card slowly. Instead, it was a throwaway.
Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann beat Jack Gallagher & Brian Kendrick
Standard cruiserweight match with some good action and athletics. The crowd was surprisingly behind the babyface team, considering most crowds don’t seem to care.
Alexa Bliss beat Mickie James to retain the Raw Women’s Title
An OK match with an expected result. They will get to Asuka-Bliss too quickly, I fear, instead of building Asuka up the way they did with Strowman.
Enzo Amore beat Kalisto to win the WWE Cruiserweight Title
At the end of the day, this result makes a lot of sense. Enzo, for all of his flaws, has ignited the cruiserweight division and he has people talking about it. The match wasn’t very good, and that’s no fault of Kalisto, but getting the title back on Enzo makes sense from a buzzworthy standpoint. I still wish they would invest in cruiserweights who could really go, and make that a title that really means something. If only they had someone like Pac on the roster …
Finn Balor beat AJ Styles
Without question, this was the biggest win for Balor in some time and it was a really great match to boot. Despite no real backstory and the match being two babyfaces against each other, they had the crowd in the palm of their hands. This also felt like a starting point to something bigger, rather than just a one-off. I could see them captaining teams for Survivor Series in a Raw vs. SmackDown match. Then they could have more interaction at the Royal Rumble and then set up a rematch at WrestleMania?
Jason Jordan beat Elias Samson
Elias Samson is officially an afterthought.
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Kurt Angle beat Miz, Braun Strowman, Kane, Cesaro and Sheamus
Again, it was a really fun match. They managed to keep it safe without any crazy ladder spots, but there were still plenty of big moments to remember and spots that felt like they were turning points in the match.