By Travis Woolum, Special Contributor
Grading out WWE TLC 2017:
Preshow Match: Sasha Banks vs Alicia Fox
Banks picks up the win in what I thought was an overall weak Preshow match. WWE continues to misuse Banks by giving her these weak title reigns & then dropping her down to the preshow. This comes a year after making history by main-eventing and participating in the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match. Now, she’s down to going to a competitive match with Alicia Fox, who hasn’t been relevant in about 7 years. Not a very good match overall.
Opener: Asuka vs Emma
Asuka makes her main roster debut in impressive fashion as this was exactly what the debut should’ve been. Asuka dominates but at the same time the match was far from a squash, and told a good story of Emma throwing her best at Asuka, but unable to keep her down. Very good work from both women here & the crowd was into Asuka’s entrance in a big way. Good things for Asuka on Raw.
2nd Match: Brian Kendrick & Jack Gallagher vs Rich Swann & Cedric Alexander
The faces win in a decent outing, the crowd seemed dead for this match but that’s to be expected when 3/4 of this match lacks a special character. Average Raw match or 205 Live main event but the work was there, although I would’ve had the heels win as you need Gallagher to get some big wins or there’s no reason to care about his new character unless he wins something of note which will hopefully happen in the near future.
3rd Match: Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs Mickie James
Bliss wins & retains in a good match, the first half was boring but the work picked up & the booking was simple but perfect as you give Bliss credibility beating an established name & we all know sooner or later, we’re going to get Bliss vs Asuka which will be a big time showdown when the time comes, but like Asuka earlier, you’ll want to give Bliss what credibility you can before that happens & make them both look as strong as you can to make the match all the more special, decent match, excellent booking.
4th Match: WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Kalisto vs Enzo Amore
Enzo becomes a 2x champion which was as predictable as you could get. Kalisto tried to carry things out there, but Enzo’s nowhere near Kalisto in the ring. Hopefully, the door opens for the other cruiserweights to get a title shot- or maybe a new addition from NXT like a Hideo Itami or Tyler Bate, but this match was the typical Enzo match… as in nothing great.
5th Match: Demon Finn Balor vs SmackDown’s AJ Styles
Balor wins in what was in my mind a match of the year candidate, at least for WWE. These two know each other so well & absolutely tore the house down, given the circumstances & short notice. That speaks volumes to the skills of both Styles & Balor to put on a masterpiece that’s going to be remembered for years down the line. This was the one match I wanted to see all night – besides the main event – and my expectations were exceeded. That said, I was assuming Jinder Mahal would interfere to cost Styles the match to build their feud. But I’m thrilled that was not the case as Balor getting a clean, decisive win made the match better. Balor needed a big win, honestly he’s been wasted since his return & he’s long overdue for a rematch for the WWE Universal Championship- one that Balor never lost.
6th Match: Jason Jordan vs Elias
Jordan wins an uneventful filler. A bonus match is never a complaint, but I would’ve preferred the Matt Hardy & Jason Jordan vs Club match that was rumored as a bonus match. The botched ending did no favors to this match, and neither did the two pointless segments earlier in the night. Here’s to hoping these two don’t trade wins back & forth for the next few weeks. (then WWE wonders why neither one is getting anywhere as a result as is so often the case with the directionless mid-carders in the past few years).
Main Event: Raw Tag Team Champions: Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins & The Returning Kurt Angle vs Intercontinental Champion: The Miz, Cesaro, Sheamus, Kane, & Braun Strowman in a 5 on 3 TLC Match.
Angle Ambrose & Rollins win in an outstanding Tables Ladders & Chairs match. This felt like a war, it was all over the place & violent like it should’ve been. But it felt a tad too long as about 10 minutes were just doing nothing. That said, great job protecting Angle here, though the Olympic Champion still did very well against the younger talent as he seemed like he hasn’t lost a step. Also, I have a feeling we’re getting The Shield vs Miz Sheamus & Cesaro when Reigns returns, as well as Kane vs Strowman (which will probably be just to elevate Brawn, as Big Show did recently.)
Anyways, great main event here.
Overall: I thought this was the definition of a 2 match show.
Styles vs Balor & the TLC match saved it from being one of the worst in recent memory, also the additions of Styles & Angle made this far more memorable than itwould’ve been otherwise. We would’ve had The Shield reunion, but instead a match of the year candidate. Wyatt vs Balor would’ve just been a decent, but unspectacular, match. Overall, Styles vs Balor & the main event are must see, but skip the rest of the show.