Before we begin, we want to send our condolences to those that lost their loved ones during the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. It's one of the most devastating things I've read about or seen on television. It breaks my heart. Writing about something I love like the wrestling business helps me cope because I enjoy what I do so much and in the interest of moving on that's what we're here to do today. The victims in Newtown are in our thoughts and prayers.
John: Welcome to the WWE TLC Preview. There are six announced matches on the show plus a match on the pre-show for a total of seven.
It's the last WWE PPV of the year with no WWE Title match on the card. That's because CM Punk had arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month. As a result of that, we're not really sure what match may end the show. It could be Cena vs. Ziggler, Sheamus vs. Show or The Shield vs. Ryback, Bryan & Kane, which is what we'll list last. I think the order of the matches adds to the unpredictability of the show.
Joining me for this preview is TJRWrestling's Christian Michael. Christian covers Main Event for the site and I write the Raw Deal every week as I'm sure most reading this are aware. We normally have Andrew Johnson with us, but he didn't have time this week. He has assured me he'll have his weekly Smacking of Smackdown column posted this weekend. Without further Apu, let's get to it.
Pre-show: "Santa’s Helper" No. 1 Contender’s Diva Battle Royal - Alicia Fox, Layla, Natalya, Kaitlyn, Tamina Snuka, Rosa Mendes, Aksana, Cameron and Naomi
Christian: Chicks wearing sexy Santa outfits? Awesome. The fact that this match is going to determine the number one contender for the Divas Championship? Not as awesome. Why you ask? Because outside of AJ Lee and Vickie WWE doesn’t give a damn about their women. It’s gotten to the point that I’m apathetic to the whole thing. I’ll pick a babyface to win since the champion is a heel. Prediction- Layla
John: There's no AJ Lee in this match. She was on the graphic that they showed on Raw, but then she was taken out of the match. I'd imagine that was the case to keep her strong because they'll likely have her as the number one contender heading into WrestleMania against Eve. For the story they can say that Vickie Guerrero is the one that took her out of the match because AJ lost to Vickie last week on Raw.
As for this match, we don't know when the winner gets the title match and I doubt that winner is going to beat Eve for the Divas Championship. I love how some of these women are one match away from winning a title when they never have matches on television. I've heard really good things about Naomi in the ring, though, so it will be interesting to see if she gets a spot or two to show what she can do. I think the contenders to win the match are Layla, Kaitlyn and Natalya. Since Eve has already beaten Layla and Kaitlyn multiple times it would make the most sense to give Natalya the victory. However, making sense has never been a regular thing for the way the divas are booked, so I'll pick Kaitlyn to win this one. Winner: Kaitlyn
(Hey WWE.com banner making nerds, where is the mustache on Rhodes? Come on!)
Tables Match for #1 Contender's to Tag Team Titles: Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow)
Christian: The winner of this match is the number one contenders for the Tag Team Titles. It really came out of the blue. We learned that Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio had a free pass into this match but Team Rhodes Scholars had to win a Fatal 4 Way on RAW. I found it really odd that Sin Cara and Mysterio weren’t even on RAW to try and build some heat to this match. I like Team Rhodes Scholars to win since they are keeping up with their feud against Team Hell No with Cody taking on Kane on Main Event and it just makes a whole lot of sense. Whoever said WWE makes sense though. Prediction- Team Rhodes Scholars
John: It would have been nice if there was more build to the match since there was nothing on Raw or Smackdown involving these teams, but I'm pretty sure this was thrown together in the last week. The original tables match was going to be The Shield vs. Bryan, Kane & Miz (or Orton) I believe. They obviously had to change that, so that's why we got this.
We've seen these teams have multiple matches over the past few months and they've been very good. This time with the tables stipulation thrown in it will have a different feel for the match because they won't have to tag in and out. The tornado rules (meaning all four guys going at it at once) will mean the action will be fast paced from the beginning.
I'd expect them to get between 10-13 minutes and for Mysterio & Sin Cara to get a lot of spots that look like near victories, but ultimately I like Team Rhodes Scholars to get the win. It just makes more sense for them to win because they're the heel team and the champs are babyfaces. Plus, I think a lot of us expect Rhodes & Sandow to win the tag titles in the near future, so a win here puts them in that position. Winners: Team Rhodes Scholars
United States Championship: Antonio Cesaro vs. R-Truth
Christian: It’s not really a secret that I’m not a fan of R-Truth. I don’t mind him in a tag team but he does nothing for me as a singles wrestler and he is certainly no threat to Antonio Cesaro. It’s also not a secret that I’m a huge fan of Cesaro. His gimmick is awesome and it is only out-awesomed by his ring skill. Just like at Survivor Series, Cesaro gets a nice, clean PPV win. Hopefully he can move on to a more entertaining feud next. Prediction- Antonio Cesaro
John: They're doing this match again? R-Truth as a babyface is boring. Cesaro beat him at Survivor Series in a clean manner. There's no reason to do the match again except to get Cesaro on the pin and to give him another win. While I have nothing against giving Cesaro wins, can't they find somebody else for him to feud with?
As a Cesaro supporter, it's great that he's getting a dominant US Title run. However, I'd love for him to be in a feud that is better than your typical "good guy vs. bad guy" and actually has a story behind it. Is that too much to ask? It probably is. Much like last month, Cesaro will likely win a seven minute match with the Neutralizer once again. Winner: Antonio Cesaro
Intercontinental Championship: Kofi Kingston vs. Wade Barrett
Christian: This match is a real toss up to me and it is because it’s hard for me to figure who needs the title more. Kofi is going to have a hard time finding a spot without a title. His act is getting old. It hasn’t changed since he debuted in 2009. Barrett was on his way to the top before that elbow injury besieged him. The Intercontinental Championship could be the spring board to his way back to that spot. A title change might serve both guys better. It might lead to Kofi changing things up and it could give Wade more of the spotlight. He’s a talented performer and deserves it. Prediction- Wade Barrett
John: I think it's time for a title change. Kingston's had a decent run as the IC Champion and based on commentary they're trying to push him hard, but I don't think holding the title does a lot for him. They had Barrett beat Kingston clean in a non-title match on Raw to earn this match, so that makes me a bit hesitant to pick him. Still, with the way things have been booked the last couple of weeks I think it's likely that Barrett will leave victorious.
Their chemistry is pretty good. If they get more than 10 minutes of in-ring time I'd expect a very solid matchup. Hopefully they come up with something exciting for the finish because I think if they have Barrett duck the Trouble in Paradise and then comes back with a hard Bull Hammer elbow it would be a memorable finish. With Barrett's finisher I don't like that he has to hold the guy, spin them around like a dance move and then hit it. It would be better if it came out of nowhere. Winner: Wade Barrett
Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank contract: John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler
Christian: Let me start by saying anything other than Dolph Ziggler winning is a huge mistake. John Cena is John Cena and doesn’t need a briefcase to legitimize his. That briefcase is Dolph’s ticket to the World Heavyweight Championship. If they take it away from him it just tells me that they never plan on giving him a run with the title and he should just put his two week notice in.
Ziggler going over on Cena in a PPV match is the perfect way to get him ready to be World Heavyweight Champion. The problem is that the feud came about because of this whole nonsensical AJ/Cena/Vickie thing. The story has more holes in it than an old pair of socks. And just like an old pair of socks, it stinks. I could see a scenario where AJ actually costs Cena the match because she crazy. A Dolph/AJ pairing could be fun. He really needs to break away Vickie Guerrero and having AJ by his side allows that. No matter what you think, if Cena wins Brooklyn better riot. Prediction- Dolph Ziggler
John: I've seen interviews with Ziggler in recent weeks where he talked about how this match is the biggest of his career. I think that's a valid statement. Cena's the top guy in WWE whether he has the title or not. You may not like it, but it's the truth. He's the measuring stick. If they put you in a match with him you need to step up and deliver because there's more attention on you than ever before. I don't think Ziggler will disappoint us. He's reached the peak of his career and he's performing at such a high level. My biggest worry is that he takes some ridiculous bumps that put him at risk for injury and I think in a big ladder match setting he may over do it. Remember that bump at Money in the Bank over the announce table when he landed hard? There were other scary bumps in that match too. He needs to be smart about what he does because we don't want to see him on the shelf.
I'm disappointed that they have shied away from the John Cena knee injury angle. They did that the night this feud was set up, then Ziggler tackled him in the locker room and Cena was favoring the knee. Within a week the injury was gone. I thought they could have used that worked injury as a way to build up how smart Ziggler is because he should have attacked Cena's knee for weeks leading up to this match. It's not necessarily a way to handicap Cena. It would be more about how Ziggler has a matured as a performer and has become vicious with the way he attacked the knee. That was an opportunity lost.
How do you book the match? I think the finish will see Vickie Guerrero make her way down to ringside when Ziggler is close to losing. Then AJ Lee could come down to the ring. A brawl between the women could happen, AJ could get hurt, Cena could change his focus to her and that could allow Ziggler to win this match. I don't expect a Cena win and I don't expect Ziggler to win in a clean manner, so they'll have to come up with some kind of creative finish for this match.
I'd be shocked if this got less than 15 minutes of in-ring time. It will probably hit the 20 minute mark. I thought that maybe they would go on last, but because of what I think will happen in the World Title match it's better for this one to happen before that. Plus, like Ziggler said on Raw he was going to beat Cena in this match and then he was going to win the World Title later in the evening. I believe him. Winner: Dolph Ziggler
World Heavyweight Championship Chairs Match: Big Show vs. Sheamus
Christian: I’m going to keep this short and simple. The match at Hell in a Cell was awesome. The match at Survivor Series would have been awesome if they went to a finish. This match is going to be brutally awesome. Give these two animals 15 minutes to wallop each other with chairs and I’ll be happy. Big Show will win but I don’t think he leaves Brooklyn with the title, if you know what I mean. Prediction - Big Show
John: I'm perfectly fine with this feud getting three PPV matches. Unlike the Sheamus vs. Del Rio feud, which was boring, this one has kept my interest. I think the Chairs gimmick may hurt the match quality a bit because it's hard stipulation to work with, but I think both guys are experienced enough to build the match up the right away. That's what impresses me the most about heel Big Show - his matches really make a lot of sense. If you haven't done so already, listen to Big Show's Wrestling with Rosenberg interview. After hearing Show talk about some "inside" things in the business it really made me respect him a lot more.
I'm predicting a title change here. I know it's rare for somebody to win a title and then lose it back to the guy he beat two months later, but it's only because of what I think will happen after the match. Doing the match again with Big Show winning once more seems like a waste of time to me. It's not like WWE to have a top babyface lose twice on PPV in a title match situation. Sheamus is one of the most heavily protected talents on the roster. I doubt he has more than five losses on television and pay-per-view this year. That's why I think he'll win this match, which should be a very physical 15-20 minute battle. I'm looking forward to it. Winner: Sheamus
After the match, I think Dolph Ziggler will come out and cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Sheamus to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. I know it's similar to last year when Daniel Bryan did it in the same fashion at TLC, but there's nothing wrong with that. I think TLC needs to be remembered for something special and for Ziggler it can be his night to go up to that next level. A victory over Cena plus the World Title would be huge for him. Keep in mind I'm rarely right on these Money in the Bank cash-in's, so don't get your hopes up haha!
Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match: Ryback, Kane & Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield
Christian: Putting this match together was the best thing WWE could do given Punk’s injury. WWE has to be weary not to fall into the Nexus trap here. What I mean by that is The Shield can’t lose their first match. Nexus was never a real threat because they rarely won big matches. If Ryback and Team Hell No just dispose of them it takes all the steam out of their sails very early into their run.
On the other hand, is Ryback going to lose his third straight PPV match? I know he didn’t get pinned at Survivor Series and he doesn’t have to be pinned here but it’s setting a bad precedent that your unstoppable beast is well, stoppable. It’ll be interesting to see how the match plays since we’ve never seen a six man tag TLC match in which the winner is declared via pin or submission. I’m looking forward to this as I think it’ll be one of those car crash spectacle matches.
I always believe title should go on last, but the way Michael Cole was talking on Monday makes me thinks this will. It’s replacing the previous main event and is really still the focal point of RAW. Prediction- The Shield
John: It's surprising to see a match like this in the main event position of a pay-per-view, but you can make the argument that this is the best story in WWE right now. The Shield has brought a lot of excitement to television because you just don't know what they're going to do and that has created a buzz in WWE. I've seen enough of Rollins and Ambrose in the indies and FCW/NXT (Youtube has plenty of matches if you're curious) to know how good they are in the ring. Reigns is pretty solid from what I've seen although he's more of a power wrestler while the other two can work a number of different styles. I think Rollins' athleticism will really allow him to stand out from the pack when he gets to show that especially as a babyface.
The way the match has been set up is pretty basic with The Shield costing Ryback the WWE Title at Survivor Series and then attacking Bryan & Kane randomly. As mentioned earlier, the Bryan & Kane attacks were done to set up a tag match also involving Miz or Randy Orton on their team. Then CM Punk had knee surgery and they had to put Ryback into the match. I don't think it would be wise to have The Shield lose this match. They need to go over even if it's in a cheap manner. Starting off the group with a loss in their "first match" would be a bad way to get things going. Learn from jobbing The Nexus in the Summerslam 2010 main event. Don't make that mistake again.
Just like the last two Ryback PPV matches, the finish will be hard to predict. I doubt many people predicted an evil ref would cost him the WWE Title at Hell in a Cell. We just knew Punk would keep the title. I doubt many people knew that The Shield would do a run-in to end Survivor Series and cost Ryback the title there either. Again, we just figured Punk would leave with the WWE Title.
I credit WWE for being two for two in terms of coming up with creative finishes that we weren't expecting. What will they do this time? It wouldn't shock me if we see a fourth member of The Shield debut (Kassius Ohno? Bray Wyatt? Richie Steamboat?) or we find out somebody is the leader of the group. Perhaps this is the night when we find out that Punk and Heyman are really affiliated with them. Heels lie, after all. They could have Punk sitting at ringside for the match, then somebody gets throw into him and he limps over to crush them with a chair. During a promo The Shield made on Smackdown two weeks ago they mentioned a "sword." That immediately made myself and many others think about Brock Lesnar, who has that sword tattoo on his chest. If you had Lesnar show up here you could set up a potentially huge WrestleMania match against Ryback if that's the direction they want to go in. I'm not sure how they can do it, but the possibilities are endless.
I don't know how it's going to happen, but I think The Shield will win. They'll probably pin Daniel Bryan because Ryback is very protected obviously. Kane could lose too, but Bryan is more likely. I don't think a loss hurts Bryan or Kane too much anyway. They're so over that they are fine. With pinfalls or submissions allowed in a TLC match setting it will be quite the challenge to build an interesting match. I have my faith in all six guys putting on an entertaining match, though, so I am looking forward to it. Winners: The Shield
John: It has the potential to be a very good PPV. I don't think there's one match on the card that is going to blow us away as a match of the year contender or anything like that. However, I expect a lot of very good to great matches up and down the lineup, minus the pre-show battle royal. I think it's a predictable show, which you can tell by the fact that Christian and I agree on everything on the main show except for the Sheamus/Show match. If everything goes right we could remember this night as a major breakthrough for Dolph Ziggler and for something big happening in the main event. In that sense the PPV could be considered a major success. If nothing big happens I'd be surprised.
I won't be watching TLC live on Sunday. I'll catch the replay of the event late Sunday or early Monday. On Monday afternoon I'll post my PPV recap on this site.
There's a long break before the next PPV, which is the highly anticipated Royal Rumble. Very excited about that one. Also on Monday I'll have a live Raw Deal covering the WWE Slammy Awards, then on Tuesday there's TJR Radio and then on Wednesday I'll be posting the 4th annual WWE Johnny Awards. Busy week!
Thanks for reading. Enjoy WWE TLC.
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