WWE’s continuing experiment with brand-exclusive PPVs moves into December (although, if rumors are true, might already be getting dropped or at least reduced in 2017), with the Smackdown-branded show TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs! This is actually the first gimmick-specific PPV for the blue brand, while Raw got Hell in a Cell back in October. Also, it’s only been two weeks since Survivor Series, so there’s been a bit of a scramble to put a show together! As for the PPV itself, here’s some of the things we want to discuss headed into the final Smackdown PPV of 2016!
How To Build A PPV In Two Weeks
Smackdown once again gets the short end of the stick, being forced to have their brand-exclusive PPV only two weeks after a massive cross-brand show in Survivor Series, while Raw gets to wait until later in the month. And yet, they seem like they might have pulled it off once again. Sure, there are a bunch of rematches here, but they’ve been built relatively well, as Smackdown continues to make the best use of their relatively limited time when compared to Raw, making sure to put storylines in motion before Survivor Series, many of which will almost certainly pay off here. It’s still insane that we’re getting PPVs every other week, but Smackdown has continued to make their offering seems like they might be worth watching, something we haven’t been able to say for their supposed competition.
Man, It’s A Shame We Didn’t Win An Entire Division At Survivor Series
Perhaps it’s a blessing, coming off a PPV that stretched a great twenty minute match into an hour-long exercise in time-wasting out of some obscure belief that the show needed to be longer in order to be considered “epic”, but here we are looking at another Smackdown PPV that probably won’t make it to three hours long unless all six matches get half an hour to strut their stuff (which seems unlikely). The good news is, we also won’t see any 86-second main events, but at a certain point, the fact that Smackdown barely has enough Superstars (and as we mentioned, much less time to build feuds) to mostly fill a 3-hour PPV is going to become a problem. It’s a credit to those writing for the blue brand that they’ve made it half a year without any feuds feeling particularly stale, but some long-running feuds are about to wrap up, and in more than a few cases, we’re a little stumped on where the next challengers will come from. Meanwhile, Raw leaves part of its roster off TV every week, when Smackdown could desperately use some of those extra bodies. What was the reason for WWE not taking the opportunity to move the Cruiserweights to Smackdown again? Because whatever it was, it wasn’t a good one.
That Reminds Us…
Not that we really believed he’d be working a regular schedule in any sense of the word, but didn’t The Undertaker cut a promo two weeks ago, where he claimed to be “back”, that his annual appearance WrestleMania would no longer define his career, and everyone was at least moderately interested to see if he’d become a recurring character on Smackdown for at least a few months, until WrestleMania hit and he went back to waffling on retirement again? Have they even mentioned his existence since Survivor Series? Did he see that Smackdown’s men’s team won, ignore the fact that Smackdown lost four out of six matches that night, decide “Ehhh, good enough”, and retreat back into hiding until WrestleMania? We didn’t want to be cynical about his promo, but what was the point of it, in the end? At least if Smackdown had lost, they could have set him up for a match with whomever he blamed. For a show that we just praised for using all their limited resources, failing to capitalize on Taker’s promo is somewhat baffling.
At any rate, on to some actual predictions for the show!
Heath Keeps His Job, Right?
Heath Slater’s rise from undrafted free agent to lovable redneck with seven kids and a desire to own an above-ground pool was one of the best stories in WWE this year, and we will fight anyone who says otherwise. That said, the reign had to come to an end someday, and the new Wyatt Family is probably the right team to do the deed. The Smackdown tag division may be deep, but it’s full up with bumbling comedy acts on both sides, other than American Alpha, so making Bray and Randy a transitional team who will eventually move the belts over to Jordan and Gable makes sense, since they’re a reasonably credible team who is destined to break up in the near future anyway. Come on, you don’t really believe that Orton is brainwashed, do you? Even Luke Harper hasn’t been fooled, and he hasn’t figured out how laundry works yet. It will be a little sad to see Slater and Rhyno’s reign come to an end, but we did get a whole lot of good memories out of it, and that’s really what matters.
Chairs Matches Always Suck
Now, some people are probably going to think that we’re calling for a return to unprotected chair shots to the head, and that simply isn’t true. Although let’s all be honest, if there were no actual consequences (and let’s be clear, there absolutely are), of course we would want that. Removing the ability to bash your opponent repeatedly in the skull and forcing them to use the flat of the back isn’t the reason why Chairs Matches are terrible, though. The problem is the inherent lack of suspension of disbelief that always drags down this sort of match, especially on a PPV full of dangerous gimmick matches like TLC. In a Chairs Match, you have literally two options to incorporate a chair into the match: repeated chair shots throughout the match, or one big one (or one flurry of frustration) leading to the decision. The second one involves having a regular match with a single use of the chair, hardly a reason to label something a “Chairs Match” in the first place. But the first one breaks the script, as you’re asking two guys to have a match where multiple chair shots aren’t enough to put them down for a 3-count, but a single chair shot in any other match is usually enough to score a pin, or at least a long two count after a delayed cover. And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that Baron Corbin smolders with generic rage, and was used to deny Smackdown the Cruiserweight division, which many people actually wanted, for reasons why this particular Chairs Match has a shot at being the worst match of the night.
Split Up Your Stars
Someone explained to us once why WWE had resisted doing an Undertaker vs John Cena match at WrestleMania for so long (although that time may have finally come now that there may not be another opportunity). Simply put, Cena and Undertaker are both huge stars, so rather than put them together, you book them in separate matches and have twice as many “main event” matches on the card. We’re not going to say that Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella are Cena and Taker, but they are the Smackdown Women’s Champion and a big reality star, respectively, and thus the two biggest stars of Smackdown’s Women’s Division. And unlike Raw, which gives us endless Sasha-Charlotte matches to the point that we’re like “These are all awesome, really, but can they fight anyone else now?” Smackdown is testing the full depth of its division, as Becky fights Alexa and Nikki fights Carmella, which has the added side benefit of allowing two NXT graduates who have only existed on the main roster since the brand split some actual face time to develop as characters and wrestlers.
Something That Will Never Happen
For all that Carmella has made her feud with Nikki about John Cena, you’d think he’s actually going to be at TLC, which he probably won’t. But the idea of Cena hanging out at ringside during this match, taking over Brie’s old role of clapping and yelling “C’mon Nikki”, just tickles us for some reason. Maybe he could wear one of his five thousand suits that he shows off on Total Bellas. But for even more fun, if it were anyone else but John Cena, this just screams for him to show up, cost Nikki the match, and reveal that he’s dumping her for Carmella (not in real life, before anyone asks). A pairing between a Bostonian and a New Yorker, can you think of a couple that the general public would hate more? It would be a molten hot heel turn that absolutely will not happen, first of all, because WWE isn’t going to turn John Cena heel on a barely-watched brand-exclusive December PPV, and also because the odds of Cena even being in the building this Sunday are minimal. But we can dream, can’t we?
Get The Tables
Sadly, Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss won’t be the first Tables Match between women in WWE history, so the announce team can’t remind us every five seconds how history-making each moment of their match will be, but it is nice to see the Smackdown women getting a chance to run wild in a crazy gimmick match before Raw does them all. We could use this opportunity to complain about how yet another WWE gimmick PPV results in a lazy build, as they needed a Tables Match on the card (because it somehow wouldn’t be a TLC PPV without one of each gimmick match, clearly), so Alexa put Becky through a table and now they have one. Alexa’s still learning in the ring, but she’s definitely someone who hold up her end when wrestling someone talented, and her character is already a winner, so she’s quickly established herself as someone to watch going forward. If you’re looking for an upset win, it could very well happen here, so they can do at least one more rematch with Becky as the challenger while they figure out who’s next in line.
It’s Over. Now What?
While everyone lies in wrestling, we’d like to believe Daniel Bryan when he says the Ladder Match between Dolph Ziggler and The Miz will be the final one of their feud, and there will be no more rematches. The problem, which we brought up when there was a chance that the Intercontinental Title could switch brands, is that who will they even feud with after this? More importantly, now that they basically sped through Ziggler wagering his career and had him lost the title back almost instantly in order to preserve face-heel alignments at Survivor Series, we’re pretty sure that puts long odds on him winning it back again, and really, there’s no reason for him to do so. Either way, we sense a large number of Baron Corbin matches in Ziggler’s future. Actually, as we were writing this, one name did pop into our heads for the next opponent for Miz. Someone he could endlessly talk down to and overestimate, and maybe get caught with a surprise pin and end up losing his precious title. Someone who actually said he’d love to work with Miz after his current program. Could we see a future where James Ellsworth is the Intercontinental Champion, even for only a few days? Somehow, the pieces seem to be falling into place.
Padding His Resume
Ending the year with a TLC match against a guy who should excel in a hardcore environment should pretty much put a cherry on AJ Styles’ Greatest Year Ever tour, where he basically proved that he is probably the best full-time active wrestler in the world right now. Styles has spent the year blowing people away with his wrestling ability and character work, and now he’ll get a chance to show off the guy who spent years in TNA wrestling insane gimmick matches (anyone else remember Elevation X?) and somehow making even the dumbest ones worth watching. As good as he’s been, WWE really hasn’t let Styles cut loose in a crazy gimmick match yet, and TLC is definitely one of the craziest they’ve got. Oh, and he also basically murdered James Ellsworth on Smackdown, so don’t be surprised to see the Man With Two Hands in a neck brace when he makes his inevitable run-in during this match. Don’t finish filling out those “Match of the Year” ballots quite yet, because we’ve got that traditional end of the year sleeper pick right here!