John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE TLC (Tables, Ladders & Chairs) preview. The Smackdown Live branded show is taking place this Sunday, December 4 in Dallas, Texas.
It should be a pretty good show because most of the matches are based on feuds that have been going on for several months. There are also stipulations on five of the six matches, so it feels like a lot of the rivalries are going to end at this show with most performers moving onto new storylines heading into 2017.
Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora and Mike Holland. No Matty J. Douglas this time because of work commitments. He should be back for Roadblock in two weeks.
Kurt: If I sound more biased than usual about this Smackdown show, it has to do with the fact that I’ll be attending this show in person. I’m really looking forward to it as well, as all six matches at the very least have reason to take place and weren’t just thrown together for no reason. The Smackdown group always works hard and I think will strive to end their year strongly. With only six matches, none of these matches should be rushed and all should then be able to tell a great story to probably wrap up the majority of these angles. I think this could be a truly great show.
Mike: With all the reports about WWE realizing they may have gone a little hog wild on the number of PPVs they are packing into the Network schedule, you might be forgiven for thinking that Smackdown hasn't exactly had a plethora of time on their hands to get this TLC gig together coming out of Survivor Series just a couple of weeks ago. (And hey, which brand gets Hog Wild on their schedule?) Should WWE be looking for suggestions on what particular fat to trim, allow me to suggest the Tables, Ladders & Chairs event itself. It's no offense to the announced matches, as most of them should be pretty good given the time they should get. It's more the cumbersome way these weapons have to be shoehorned into matches to make the event feel more special. As opposed to Raw's Elimination Chamber, the TLC stipulations have the danger of taking away from the action just as much as making it better.
While the blue brand has unequivocally won week after week of television programming since the brand split, their smaller roster means we're getting a lot more of the same matchups Sunday. One thing is for sure: Expect the harbingers of foreign objects to allow for more than one feud to finally come to its close. TLC to me is all about setting the table for what's to come.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
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Chairs Match: Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin
Kurt: I don’t understand why WWE continues to have the chairs match, but hey, at least it’s not a stairs match! At the very least, with the size difference and creative ability of Kalisto, they may actually be able to do some unique spots with the chair and make this match entertaining. This has been an odd storyline as it was originally started months ago, but Kalisto had an injury that stopped this before it could get going. Then he came back and ended up taking out Corbin himself, who was not healthy enough to participate in the 5 on 5 Survivor Series match, but was healthy enough to cost Kalisto his shot at the Cruiserweight Title. Kalisto grabbed a chair a couple weeks ago and poof, you get a Chairs Match.
Just from a logical standpoint, I don’t see how it’s a punishment putting a guy in a match where you give him the ability to use a steel chair freely against a guy half his size, but I digress. For that reason alone, and the fact that Vince’s love for big men has to kick in for Corbin at some point, I pick The Lone Wolf to win.
Prediction: Baron Corbin
Mike: This likely opener reminds me of everything that irritates me about WWE creative at this point. It's like they have two random wrestlers interact for a bit, drop the feud like a bad habit, and then resurrect it whenever it's convenient or they've got a few moments to kill. Remember when Corbin getting drafted to Smackdown seemed like a really big deal? He's had underwhelming encounters with Kalisto and Jack Swagger and now we're mining the same area we've panned for gold unsuccessfully numerous times before.
It was storyline smart to have Corbin cost Smackdown its chances of gaining Raw's cruiserweight division, and that at least adds another dimension to this battle. Much has already been made of the high flyer's chances against a brutish opponent swinging a seat, and that's classic misdirection in my book. The prospect of a chairs match isn't very appealing to me anyway, but even less so when you're mixing in a masked cruiserweight and a plodding ogre. I can't imagine Kalisto will be relying on the chair too much, so in the end it will be Corbin blundering his way into another shocking loss. He badly needs a change of scenery and a fresh start.
John: It would be a major surprise if Corbin didn’t win this match. We know WWE management thinks highly of him because he’s a bigger wrestler with main event potential. Corbin should be featured in matches more, have him rack up wins and give him an impressive showing in the Royal Rumble. If they don’t push Corbin stronger they will have a tough time getting him to the main event level that management wants him to be at.
Winner: Baron Corbin
No Disqualification Match: Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
Kurt: I thought some of the shine of this match was taken off by the fact that Raw had the Falls Count Anywhere match just six days before this was to take place. Hopefully though, that gives these women motivation to stand out and be different/better. That being said, I really love this program, especially from Carmella’s perspective. She’s gained more confidence each week. This week’s Smackdown is a perfect example as I thought she had a tremendous promo and handled the crowd well.
Nikki won at No Mercy and I thought it was a mistake since I didn’t feel this program would last until December. Now that it has, Carmella even more needs this win now. She needs to move on to be Becky’s next challenger and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Natalya get involved to cost Nikki the match and be revealed as the one that took her out at Survivor Series. That way, the brand continues to have two strong women’s programs going.
Mike: Despite the much-discussed fact that Charlotte and Sasha Banks have been tearing the house down on a regular basis over on Raw, Smackdown has consistently featured the female side of the roster in a much better way. Part of that success has been establishing solid secondary feuds such as this one. Carmella's surprise attack on Nikki Bella and subsequent beatdowns at every opportunity are like catnip to me as a wrestling fan: take a boring babyface character similar to everything we've seen a thousand times before them and get them instant nuclear heat by taking out a fan fave. It's simple, it's super effective, and it allows even a raw rookie like Carmella to bask in the glow at least temporarily.
The no disqualification stipulation is obviously the most important part of this match, and it's no surprise that such an angle favors the heel in a major way. This feud should be closing, as both have done all they can with it, so what's left is to reveal Nikki Bella's mystery Series attacker and in so doing start off the next fracas. I fully expect Natalya to renew hostilities with NB (to be played out on Total Divas, natch) and cost her here.
Winner: Carmella (with an assist from Natalya)
John: It’s been a long rivalry going back to Carmella’s surprising heel turn after SummerSlam. They have made the feud feel personal by having Carmella suggest that Nikki is only considered a top woman in WWE because her boyfriend is John Cena. While I think there are some fans that think that is true, Nikki has improved in all areas and did come back from a broken freakin’ neck (hey Kurt Angle), so I do have a lot of respect for Nikki as well. It’s an example of how Smackdown booking is more realistic than Raw because they let the performers bring up the personal things as part of a story.
For the past few weeks I’ve said Carmella should win because she needs it more. When I mentioned it in my Smackdown reviews in the last few week as well as the podcast, I thought I would be unique in thinking Natalya might cost Nikki. Nope. Both of my friends mentioned it above, so we’re all on the same page. As long as WWE remembers that Nikki was taken out at Survivor Series, the payoff should be here with Natalya helping Carmella win. It wouldn’t shock me if Nikki does go over, but I think it’s a better story for Carmella to get what would be the biggest win of her career.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: Heath Slater & Rhyno (c) vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
Kurt: How many title shots of any kind has Bray actually had? It’s got to be under 10 right? So this is actually kind of a big deal. As much as I’m sure the Orton interjection into the Family was supposed to be a short term deal, I really think they have lightning in a bottle here and should keep this going for a while. He and Bray just work well together. There’s a magnetism between the two of them that is undeniable.
The champs have honestly become back burner material as Heath has really cooled off lately, I think Ellsworth has stolen a lot of his thunder, and no one really expected he and Rhyno to be a long term pairing. This is a perfect opportunity to have a title switch and after what we saw this past week with the Wyatts and American Alpha, who wouldn’t want more of that? The dichotomy of Luke Harper being jealous of Orton will be really appealing as well. Really though, it should not have taken this long to get a belt on Bray.
Prediction: New Tag Team Champions, Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
Mike: I'm still a bit shocked that we've gotten to this point with these four guys, but it illustrates why depth is an issue on the blue side of the ledger. Randy Orton's decision to join the Wyatt Family made about as much sense as anything else they've done together, and anyone who's not counting the moments until Orton tires of the charade and lays out the charismatic leader of the pack with an RKO Out of Somewhere has lost the plot entirely. The only question then, really, is whether the WWE picks here to do it.
I've never viewed Heath Slater and Rhyno as long-term tag champions. It was a vehicle to get the one man rock band onto the roster, and it worked exceptionally well. They have an odd chemistry and good comic chops, but the tag belts aren't attached to a laugh track. This division seems like it's on autopilot until American Alpha is ready to go, and that means an interim heel team is needed to unseat the current pair. Who better than a duo guaranteed to be broken up and battling by WrestleMania? Absolutely no one. Orton steers Bray to victory just to set things up for an epic showdown between them later on.
Winner (and NEW Tag Team Champions): Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
John: I would be shocked if Wyatt and Orton didn’t win the titles. I think it’s great that WWE built up the Slater/Rhyno team so well over the last few months, but they have played a lesser role in the last month. They didn’t do much at Survivor Series and they have barely been on television in the last month aside from watching matches on a television backstage. Slater winning the titles along with a SD Live contract was a fun story, but they really aren’t important players on Smackdown now.
I think Orton and Wyatt will win the titles because there’s something cool about them being a team. Every time I watch them I wonder when Orton is going to drop him with a RKO. I think it’s most likely going to happen in February or March leading to an Orton vs. Wyatt match at WrestleMania match. There’s plenty of time to go until then, though, so let’s see them hold the titles for a few months. Congratulations Bray Wyatt on your first title in WWE. It only took three years on the main roster.
Winners and New Tag Team Champions: Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
Tables Match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Kurt: I made a case ever since Hell in a Cell ended that Smackdown needed to follow that up by having the first ever Women’s Ladder Match. They have to stay pace with Raw and not look inferior, so I think they missed an opportunity there. I am glad that they did get some sort of gimmick match so they can do something different and stand out in their own way.
I’ve been critical of Alexa Bliss before, but she has grown on me leaps and bounds lately. She’s comfortable on the mic and her actions and body language are fantastic for the character she’s trying to portray. I’d love to see a tie-in to their match in Scotland where Alexa had her foot under the rope but the ref just saw the tap out, to where maybe Alexa goes through a table but the ref takes a bump and doesn’t see it. Then Becky goes through a table and we have a new champion. However, I don’t foresee them taking the title off Becky any time soon, so I’m sure it’ll be a fun brawl where the champ will retain.
Prediction: Becky Lynch retains
Mike: If you're looking for a title change, this match would be an excellent place to check. Becky Lynch has carried the title since its inception, and Alexa Bliss has proven to be much more than a colorful thorn in the side as she's gone after Becky's personality, career and ability in ways that have been as entertaining as they are hostile. This feud has elevated both women in my view, and Bliss could certainly walk away as the new champion, particularly since putting Lynch through a table protects her from getting pinned and conceivably allows the tale to continue.
They've booked Lynch as fairly beatable heading into this tilt, though, and that's cause for a second look. Bliss will be a player on this stage for some time to come, but I'm not convinced she's ready to start sporting the gold quite yet. The blue brand also lacks a second credible heel challenger to Becky's throne at the moment, so there's no rush. I predict this to be the most underrated match on the card, with the champion coming close to defeat several times but ultimately prevailing. Should be a statement for both ladies.
Winner (and STILL Smackdown Women's Champion): Becky Lynch
John: I’m not a huge fan of the Tables Match because there’s a lack of drama of whether somebody is going to take a bump through a table. When you have a near submission or a nearfall it’s much more interesting. Teasing table bumps just isn’t as interesting because some of the teases are unrealistic moves that you know the superstars aren’t going to take through a table. With that said, I think both women are smart enough to know what’s going to work and the match should be pretty good.
I’m cool with either woman winning because it would give Bliss a lot of momentum to hold a title this early in her main roster career. I just think it’s more important for Lynch to help establish that Smackdown Women’s Title as an important commodity. In order to do that, she should hold onto the title at least a few more months.
Winner: Becky Lynch
Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Kurt: The feud of the year for me will culminate in what should be a match of the year candidate. I predicted at Survivor Series that we would have a triple threat match that included Sami Zayn, so I was clearly off on that, but this is a nice consolation gift.
I’m glad that Daniel Bryan made sure to state that this is the last match, no matter the result, because once you get done with this match, there’s nothing more for these guys and you run the risk of overkill. This will be the perfect send off.
This is actually the hardest match for me to predict. Ziggler obviously never got the opportunity to show he could take the title to new heights as this generation’s working champion, whereas Miz is phenomenal in his role and I don’t think needs the title to continue to ascend to the next level. So that’s reason enough to pick Ziggler to win the title. However, I think there’s something about having the title that makes Miz just that much more of a big deal, and I think there’s big possibilities and potential for him as champion heading into WrestleMania.
Prediction: The Miz retains
Mike: The feud between Dolph Ziggler and The Miz has been the best one on either brand, and the prospect of adding ladders into the potent mix is exciting beyond belief. I wasn't a big fan of having Dolph finally defeat Miz just to move it back to the former champ, but I can understand why if the goal is moving both men to other things. Daniel Bryan has said it's over between them after this, and a ladder match is sure to provide the type of moment in time that can go a long way toward providing an indelible image commemorating their excellent battle of wills. Both step it up under the hot lights in a major way.
With all of that said, I don't see a viable scenario where Dolph becomes champion again. They've already worked the "last chance" angle for all its worth. Miz will certainly utilize every outside interference opportunity he can, and it adds up to making Mr. Ziggles an unfortunate victim this weekend. The better and more interesting question is whether we get a Sami Zayn sighting after that drama with Mick Foley last Monday night. He would make the perfect foil for Miz's self-absorbed ego tripping. A guy can dream.
Winner (and STILL Intercontinental Champion): The Miz
John: This has been one of the best feuds of the year and I think both guys deserve a lot of credit for that. The promos were awesome, the matches were some of the best of either man’s career and I’m glad that it’s coming to an end with this Ladder Match.
While I will fully admit that it’s difficult to pick a winner because they really could go either way, I’m leaning towards Ziggler. It just feels like they took the title away from him prior to Survivor Series in order to have him win it back in what is essentially his last chance as a way to make the fans happy. It’s just like winning the retirement match at No Mercy. Ending the feud on a happy note is what I’d do. Plus, it would allow Miz to complain about not getting a rematch to SD GM Daniel Bryan, which is usually a lot of fun.
Give them 20 minutes, let them try to steal the show like they’ve done before and end the match with Ziggler leaving as the Intercontinental Champion once again.
Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Dolph Ziggler
TLC Match for the WWE World Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
Kurt: I have three big questions for this match. First, will James Ellsworth really decide who wins this match, or will they just have him get involved but ultimately let it be decided between Dean and AJ? Second, will we see a turn of any type in this match? Lastly, at the conclusion of the show, will the last person seen be The Undertaker?
For the first question, as much as I’m on the James Ellsworth bandwagon, he cannot affect the outcome of this match. It needs to come down to Dean and AJ at the end. A guy in his role should barely be standing after the beating he’s taken the last two weeks, let alone being able to dictate the outcome of a World Title match. I think they should let him stumble out midway through the match, but have AJ promptly take him out again.
Secondly, I really do think someone has to turn in this match. The boos for Dean were more noticeable than ever this past week. I don’t know if that is due to indifference for him now from the crowd, or just the victim of unfortunate circumstances due to the swell of support for AJ these days. I would love to see some sort of double turn if it was possible, but I think ultimately only Dean will turn, and it will be a slow turn as he slowly gets tired of Ellsworth hitching his wagon to him.
Lastly, if you’re going to have The Undertaker come out and say that WrestleMania won’t define him anymore and he’ll be around more often, then you need to put your money where your mouth is and start the build for Royal Rumble. A match you never ever never thought would happen, AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker for the WWE World Title, yeah I think that’ll sell some tickets in The Alamodome. I just gave away my prediction, but even though I feel Dean has been fantastic ever since dropping the title, it’s nowhere near time to slow down the rocket that’s attached to AJ right now. He’s on fire and you keep rolling with that. These two can’t have a bad match so I absolutely expect this to tear the house down.
Prediction: AJ Styles retains
Mike: This particular matchup more than any other feels like it's dragged a bit at times as we've seen this all before. That said, any excuse to see AJ Styles continue to cement his legacy as the best wrestler of 2016 is good enough for me.
While I would like to tell you that Ambrose has a chance to come away with the gold, unfortunately it's just not going to happen. I fear that the only thing that might save the leader of the asylum is a switch over to the dark side. Fortunately, there's ample opportunity for that with James Ellsworth scoring an invite to ringside. Ellsworth no doubt plays a part in this affair, and likely not the one you'd think. Let's hope this upcoming year is a bit kinder to Monsieur Ambrose.
Winner (and STILL WWE World Champion): AJ Styles
John: The match was announced one month ago and you would think they would spend the month giving both guys wins in matches. Instead, Styles put over James Ellsworth three times in comedy matches while Ambrose has barely had any televised matches. I think the build has been a bit off because of that. It leads me to think that they have to factor Ellsworth into the finish somehow because he’s been involved so much.
The last Smackdown saw Styles crush Ellsworth with a Styles Clash on the floor. That’s probably going mean that Ellsworth will be back in a neckbrace wanting to help Ambrose and Ambrose telling him it’s too dangerous. Since a TLC match allows for interference, I think they’ll do a finish where Ellsworth accidentally costs Ambrose the win by accidentally knocking him off a ladder and sending him through a table. I’d prefer a dominant win by Styles, but I think they’re going to factor Ellsworth into it too much. It gets the same result. I just wish Styles was booked as more of a serious wrestler.
I think Styles will win whether it’s clean (unlikely) or from an accidental assist from the dummy Ellsworth. I just don’t see why they would put Ambrose over when Styles clearly has a lot more to do as champion. If they end the show with The Undertaker showing up to confront Styles to set up a Royal Rumble match then that’s perfectly fine with me too. It would certainly add some intrigue and star power to Smackdown as well as the Rumble PPV itself.
If you want more of my extensive thoughts on this match check it out at The Comeback because I broke it down in different categories while also talking about the future of both guys.
Winner: AJ Styles
John: I think it’s going to be a very good show. There’s a chance we could be talking about the best PPV of the year if the right matches get a lot of time and the matches are booked well. I have a lot of faith in the performers delivering quality matches because there’s a lot of talent there. Smackdown Live is clicking on all cylinders and I think their last PPV of the year is going to be an awesome event.
If you want more WWE TLC talk as well as discussion on everything else going on in WWE from Rey Moralde and myself, check out the TJRWrestling Podcast with info on how to listen here (search “John Canton” or “TJRWrestling” on iTunes).
I’ll have the WWE TLC Review up either late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
Kurt - @KTankTMB
Mike - @DharmanRockwell
John - @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at [email protected] as well. Thanks for reading.