Written by: Matt Peddycord
WWE: TLC 2011
December 18, 2011
First Mariner Arena
The current WWE champs were as follows:
WWE Champion: CM Punk (11/20/2011)
WWE U.S. Champion: Dolph Ziggler (6/19/2011)
World Heavyweight Champion: Mark Henry (9/18/2011)
WWE Intercontinental Champion: Cody Rhodes (8/12/2011)
WWE Tag Team Champions: Air Boom (8/22/2011)
WWE Divas Champion: Beth Phoenix (10/2/2011)
Your hosts are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler.
- WWE U.S. Champion Dolph Ziggler (w/Vickie Guerrero) vs. Zack Ryder
Could tonight be the night for Ryder? Quick start as Ryder floors Ziggler and drills him with a somersault plancha. WOO! WOO! WOO! Ziggler cools him off with an apron DDT. He tries for a countout victory, but Ryder rolls back in at nine. Elbow drop after elbow drop after elbow drop gets two. Ryder tries to escape a chinlock, but Ziggler slams his head down to the mat and shows off his sit-up skills. Angle Slam gets two. Ryder avoids a superplex of any kind with a missile dropkick for 1-2-NO! HERE COMES RYDER! Broski Boot gets 1-2-NO! Vickie puts his foot on the bottom rope and gets caught by the ref to be ejected. They trade rollups with Ziggler ending up in the ropes looking for the cheap win. Famouser fails once, but not for the second time. Cover, 1-2-NO! The SLEEPERHOLD gets avoided. Ryder still eats a dropkick though. Ziggler gets stopped up top for a hurracanrana for 1-2-NO! ROUGH RYDER gets tossed over into the corner as Ziggler rolls Ryder up with a handful of tights for 1-2-NO! Ziggler tries the Stinger Splash, but takes a pair of knees to the chest. ROUGH RYDER! Cover, 1-2-3! (10:24) Everything gets elevated out of this match. Whether or not I love Zack Ryder as much as WWE’s target audience does and apparently his dad who was in attendance wearing nothing but Zack Ryder merch, Ryder gets the push he deserves and worked hard to achieve. Seeing hard work actually pay off in wrestling is always a beautiful thing to witness. Also, the U.S. championship finally looks like a coveted prize for the first time in what feels like forever. Most importantly of all, Dolph Ziggler can dump Vickie blaming her for the loss and hopefully move forward up the WWE ladder into an upper card-main event spot. ***¼
In the back, Cody Rhodes gives Booker T an early Christmas present – a short but effective beatdown.
- WWE Tag Team Champions Air Boom vs. Primo & Epico (w/Rosa Mendes)
It’s essentially the Colons v2.0. Epico is a nephew to the Puerto Rican wrestling patriarch Carlos Colon. Rosa Mendes is here to make up for the lack of interest these two are sure to inspire. Just to make mention of it, it’s good to see Evan Bourne back off that suspension. The champs may have 99 problems like passing the wellness policy for example, but the Colons are not one of them to start. Like a dummy, Bourne tries to crossbody them both. He gets caught and dumped on the floor. That makes Bourne *your* face-in-peril. Epico dishes out of a couple nice suplexes on the guy. Gory Special gets countered to a rollup for two. That leads to your SYNTHETIC BLAZED TAG TO KINGSTON! Boom Drop hits, but as per usual the TROUBLE IN PARADISE does not. Super high Kingston gets all super high with the flying bodypress for two. Bourne wipes out Epico on the floor while Kingston finally delivers TROUBLE IN PARADISE on Primo for the win. (7:32) Felt like a Superstars main event. *½
Backstage, Josh Mathews has nothing to report on the condition of Booker T. Cody Rhodes is walking around smiling though, so it’s safe to ASSUME their match has canceled. Josh, for all you know he could have just left Kelly Kelly’s dressing room. We all know she’s good for a poke. This entire segment is the equivalent to a 24-hour news channel report. Nothing new, just hearsay to keep you thinking about what may or may not be fact.
Elsewhere, Teddy Long is dressed up as Santa Claus with Hornswoggle as his little elf – WHO NOW TALKS. There’s a black Santa joke (we’re still in the 8PM hour), a Hornswoggle testes yuk (again, we’re still in the 8PM hour), and Rosetta Stone Ebonics (that’s just bad writing). This is what passes for comedy in WWE, folks.
- Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett – Tables Match
Tables EVERYWHERE! There’s some fisticuffs to start. Neither one can use the table and Barrett gets a cut on his temple area. They brawl up the aisleway where Barrett looks to pumphandle slam Orton through the table and fails. Back to ringside, Barrett avoids a suplex off the steps that would put him through a table and bounces Orton’s face off the ringpost. He can’t elbow drop Orton off the apron through the table, but he can drop the elbow inside the ring. Barrett tries to boot him off the apron through the table, but Orton hooks the ropes and doesn’t fall through. Back inside, Orton makes his VINTAGE comeback. Draping DDT doesn’t happen and Orton nearly takes a backdrop through the table. WASTELAND off the apron doesn’t work out, but the draping DDT does. RKO fails, but Barrett hits the Black Hole Slam. Barrett wants to elbow drop Orton through the table, but Orton slides off and catches Barrett in mid-air with the RKO THROUGH THE TABLE for the victory. (10:16)Barrett about overshot that landing. After a year of putting other people over in spots with more jobs than he’s done in a single year since 2007, looks like WWE is starting to rebuild Randy Orton as we start up the Road to WrestleMania. He’s my pick to win the Royal Rumble as his reward. I’m calling it right now, ladies and gents. **½
Over in Santa Teddy’s office, he gives the Bella twins his number in case they want to play any reindeer games. What does Santa mean by reindeer games, daddy? He gets a slap across the face. Jack Swagger wants retribution for Mark Henry hitting him with a chair on Smackdown last week. He tells Swagger he can sit on his lap to see if they can work something out. Uhh. Sheamus interrupts and gets called a goof by Swagger. Well, he doesn’t like that very much. Long story short, a match is signed between the two for tonight.
- WWE Divas Champion Beth Phoenix vs. Kelly Kelly
This all came about because Kelly slapped Beth Phoenix at the Slammy Awards. At the bell, KK slaps Beth again. BAD IDEA JEANS! Well, maybe not. KK ducks a charge and Phoenix falls to the floor only to get her face slammed on the floor. On the apron, KK chokes Phoenix with her legs and headscissors her into the corner. Monkey flip doesn’t work as Phoenix grabs KK and hotshots her on the top rope. Let the Barbie violence ensue! Oh man, Beth is having to walk Kelly through all of this. If you listen close, you can hear all the match calls. KK’s comeback gets extinguished with a spinebuster. Missionary pin gets 1-2-NO! Phoenix misses a flying legdrop. They trade finisher attempts and then KK tries a hurracanrana, but fails and receives the ALLEY-OOP for the 1-2-3. (5:14) No more Kelly Kelly, please. At least not in a PPV Divas title match. I really hope Kharma comes back in time for WrestleMania. ¾*
Meanwhile, Alberto Del Rio blesses out Ricardo Rodriquez for not bringing a fancy car for his ring entrance. YOU EEDIOT. After Ricardo is sent away to get ADR some food, the Miz walks by and explains that their “alliance” was strictly business. Del Rio never admits to any actual alliance, he was just using Miz for his own benefit. Really? REALLY? Really? Cue ten year-old Baltimore Ravens references to make the crowd react! Oh Miz, you’re so mean. To counter Del Rio’s insult of making Miz sound useless, Miz mentions how he beat John Cena at WrestleMania last year while Del Rio couldn’t even beat Edge who had a neck that was hanging on by a thread. Even so, Del Rio still calls him a poser. To show how he’s just as TOUGH as anybody, Miz pie-faces Del Rio’s plate of food back at Ricardo. Then Del Rio shoves him down. Ricardo Rodriquez = VIRGIL 2012! Just wait and see.
Back out to ringside, Cody Rhodes thwarts another try at his match with Booker T as he attacks Booker during his entrance.
- Triple H vs. Kevin Nash – Sledgehammer Ladder Match
The rules are simple. If you can pull down the sledgehammer, you can hit your opponent with it. Nash is all elbows and knees, HHH is all fists. To the floor, Nash runs Triple H over the barricade with a ladder. Now HHH fights back and clotheslines Nash over the barricade. HHH runs into an elbow and takes the Snake Eyes on the barricade. More ringside violence as Nash takes an ugly whip into the ringpost. Back inside, Triple H disables a knee with the ladder – including a figure-four wrapped in a ladder. Looks cool, but does really no more damage to the leg if you think about it. Nash fights back and heaves HHH into a ladder in the corner for the Harley Race bump to the floor. Back in the ring, Nash delivers a Side Slam on the ladder. On the outside, Nash wants to JACKKNIFE HHH through the announce table. HHH backdrops that away and crawls back inside to reach the sledgehammer. Just as he gets within reach, Nash appears and beats him down. After a whip into a ladder in the corner, HHH staggers into a Chokeslam. Finally, a new move from Nash! He sets a table in the ring and clearly wants a JACKKNIFE. HHH backs Nash into the ladder in the corner and knocks Nash to the floor. Time to grab the sledgehammer. Nash meets him at the top, but takes the hammer to the head a few times and falls off the ladder and goes through a table taking the biggest bump of his career. Triple H pulls down the sledgehammer and works the knee over a bunch. No need for the ladder anymore. HHH clears the ring and tries the PEDIGREE. Whoops. Nash screwed up. One more try. There’s the PEDIGREE. HHH asks the crowd if they want one more when Nash looks up at him and gives him the Kliq hand signal. HHH responds with the crotch chop and jabs the sledgehammer in his face for the 1-2-3. (18:14) Afterwards, Nash does the stretcher job out of WWE hopefully for good. Kevin Nash would never have been capable of being involved in a GOOD ladder match, much less now that he’s 52 years old. Safe these type of matches for the younger guys. Few neat moments, but overall just two guys wanking each other’s egos and wasting time. In Nash’s mind though, he probably thinks he stole the show. If nothing else, I’m glad this feud is now officially over and we can move on. **¼
Onto better things, Matt Striker is standing by with WWE champ CM Punk. They play back the ladder beatdown he received on Raw from Alberto Del Rio and the Miz. He calls out Miz on being a phony bad guy. Hmm, so I’m not the only one who thinks he sucks as a heel. John Laurinaitis comes by to wish CM Punk in his match tonight. Punk says that luck is for losers. I LOVE IT! As Punk walks away, Johnny Ace gets on the cell phone and starts a-texting.
- Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger (w/Vickie Guerrero)
Cole reflects back to when Sheamus won the WWE title over John Cena two years ago at this very event. Sheamus starts pounding on Swagger, but Vickie helps with a distraction as Swagger drives Sheamus into the ringpost. Back in, there’s a pump splash from Swagger. Quick comeback from Sheamus as he starts up with the Polish hammers. Swagger knocks him off the top rope though, but can’t capitalize. Flying shoulderblock gets 1-2-NO! BROGUE KICK misses and Swagger delivers a chopblock to the knee. Pump splash to the knee leads to the ANKLELOCK. Sheamus flips Swagger off into the corner and avoids a second chopblock. BROGUE KICK! That’ll do. (4:57) Another time-filler that felt like it belonged on Raw. *
Elsewhere, Josh Mathews speaks with the Big Show. He’s feeling like his nine-year draught from being the world champ is over.
- World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs. Big Show – Chairs Match
There is an exorbitant amount of chairs around ringside. Show tosses a bunch of them into the ring, so Henry decides to bail and takes his belt with him. Show goes after him and beats Henry with a chair. Now Henry gets his turn and tries to break Show’s punching hand. Back inside, chairs clash and that does not feel good on Show’s hurt hand. Henry beats him down with a chair and then STOMPS Show’s hand in the chair. They trade finisher attempts, but then Show stops another swing of the chair by KNOCKING MARK HENRY THE F OUT with his bad hand. Still hurts, but the prize will be worth it as Show covers Henry for the 1-2-3. (5:30) The Mark Henry reign of terror has come to end for the time being as he suffered a groin injury heading into this match. It’s disappointing and not at all ideal, but here’s to Big Show winning another world title. Oh wait, afterwards Henry jabs Show in the back of the knee with a chair and then DDTs him on said chair to leave him lying. ¾*
Wait a second. Is that Daniel Bryan I see running down with ref Scott Armstrong and the Money in the Bank briefcase in hand? Is he cashing his title shot in right now? Yes he is! I don’t know why I’m feigning surprise like that. This show is already a week old.
- World Heavyweight Champion Big Show vs. Daniel Bryan
With Show knocked out, all Bryan has to do is jump on top of him for the 1-2-3! NEW CHAMP. Daniel Bryan really knows how to make you FEEL a title celebration. After raising his arm in victory, he jumps on the announce table and yells at him real good. I love it. During Bryan’s ringside celebrating, Show looks on from inside the ring with disgust.
- WWE Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes vs. Booker T
After TWO pre-match beatdowns, the match goes finally onward. Hey Lilian Garcia is back! Booker controls to start with slaps, chops, and slams. Superkick gets two. Cody draws Booker around the ring and back inside to snap his neck on the top rope. Cody tries for the countout victory, but he’s too impatient. He tries stretching Booker on the mat, but he fights up into a double-KO. After they trade shots, Booker takes the offense up a notch with a Side Slam for two. Spinebuster by Booker and Cody rolls out so he can do the SPINAROONIE. Just like old times. Rhodes shoots back in, but gets kicked in the gut for the AXE KICK. Cody moves out of the way at the last possible second and hits the Beautiful Disaster for 1-2-NO! One more Beautiful Disaster and he gets the 1-2-3. (7:15) Kind of an odd finish, but good to see Booker putting Cody over. While not producing classics, he’s my pick for the most improved wrestler of the year. *½
- WWE Champion CM Punk vs. The Miz vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriquez) – TLC Match
Punk pulls a Razor Ramon and walks under the ladder during his entrance. Of course, not with as much MACHISMO as Razor did at WrestleMania 10, but nonetheless. HUGE amount of CM Punk chants to start. Del Rio and Miz gang up on the champ to start. ADR is the first to turn on Miz though with a couple chair shots. As Del Rio grabs a ladder to take into the ring, Punk comes back with an elbow suicida. In the ring, Punk hits the running knee in the corner and tries to bulldog Miz on a chair, but Miz puts on the brakes and drops him back first on the chair instead. Now Miz goes after Del Rio and looks for a SKULL CRUSHING FINALE onto a ladder, but ADR elbows out and backdrops Miz on the ladder. Once again Del Rio has a ladder in his hands and once again Punk makes him pay with kicks and knees. They fight over a table spot, but Punk ends up settling for a swinging neckbreaker on the floor. Miz comes over and fails with a chair swing. He pays dearly with SIX chairs shots to the back. Next, Punk sets Miz up on the barricade and delivers a high knee that sends Miz into the crowd. Time for Punk to grab the gold. He climbs the ladder and reaches the belt, but in comes Ricardo to stop him by HANDCUFFING Punk to the spreader! That gives ADR the opportunity to easily beat him down. Once that’s over, he starts up the ladder when Punk kicks out the spreader to break loose and eventually kick the ladder down. Miz brings in a working ladder and jabs Punk. He makes the climb, but Punk pulls him down for GTS. Miz elbows out, but Punk tries to superplex Miz through a table on the floor. Oh, but here comes Del Rio to connect with the step-up enziguri and Punk goes crashing through the table. Now Del Rio gets violent with Miz by applying the CROSS ARMBREAKER INSIDE THE LADDER! That’s a MUCH more effective use of the ladder than the figure-four HHH tried.
Del Rio takes a couple of chairs over to Punk who is laid out on the debris of that table. He tosses a chair on Punk’s chest and proceeds to beat the heck out of Punk with the other chair. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen him do. Now he applies the CROSS ARMBREAKER to Punk inside the chair! Again, that’s SUPER effective! The WWE title should be easy pickings now for Del Rio. Somehow, Punk and Miz make it back inside just in the nick of time as they turn the ladder over and Del Rio crotches himself on the top rope. After a slugfest, Punk and Miz run into a double-KO. In comes Ricardo to try and bring home the gold for his man. Neither Punk nor Miz want that, so they tip the ladder back as Rodriquez gets dumped through a table for the BIGGEST spot of the night. Back inside, finisher attempts are traded. Punk runs shoulder-first into the ringpost though and Miz now handcuffs Punk to the turnbuckle connector! Like a boss, Miz stands right out of the reach of Punk and acts like a complete douche. However, he forgets that legs are longer than arms and the MUAY THAI KICK sends him straight down onto his face. Now Punk has to untie the turnbuckle pad and unscrew the connector in order to break free! Neither Del Rio nor Miz are working very fast at climbing a ladder and getting that WWE title. They do end up brawling at the top just as Punk gets the connector loose from the ringpost. Punk gets Miz off the ladder and kicks down Del Rio. He still can’t get the belt. Miz pulls him down and hurries up the ladder, but Punk is there to pull him down and gives Miz the GTS. Now he can get the belt. Punk retains the WWE title. (18:24) Just an excellent way to close the show. Never a dull moment and the idea of the handcuffs was just plain brilliant. Whoever came up with it, kudos. Punk and Del Rio both looked like they belonged and the match might have worked even better without Miz. He felt like a third wheel in there and just didn’t seem to fit as well as the other two. All the same, still a great match with tons of drama and violence and I’m sure will be an early 2012 MOTYC for many lists next November. ****
Final Thoughts: Did you notice anything missing from this show? In a PPV comparable to SummerSlam 1992, this is the first PPV in three years that John Cena did not appear. The magnitude is of course not the same, but the idea that PPV can survive without what the office perceives as the top guy is a huge step in WWE potentially moving forward as this is the first PPV he wasn’t booked to appear on since Survivor Series 2008. Of course, there were enough stars underneath to pad the show and not put all the responsibility of the amount of PPV buys on the main event, but it’s quite interesting that they left him off the show. Then again, who knows. That might have been quite a Chokeslam that he received from Kane.
Besides all that, the PPV is overrated. People are excited for their favorites now holding all the belts, which does wonders for the fans and the belts I suppose, but ultimately does nothing to elevate the show. Memorable moments and satisfying decisions, sure. However, there’s only two matches that I would even consider rewatching out of ten total matches – and that’s not a good figure. The main event doesn’t turn TLC 2011 into a recommended PPV, but the match brings it up from out of the mud into a slight “thumbs in the middle” from me. I really do enjoy the direction they are heading into right now though. It should be a fun Road to WrestleMania, for sure.