The final WWE pay-per-view of the year, TLC, will take place on Sunday night without WWE champion CM Punk in action due to injury. It's still a pretty strong card despite Punk's absence, however, mostly thanks to The Shield's impressive debut run.
The Shield will take on rising star Ryback and Team Hell No. Other marquee matches include John Cena challenging Dolph Ziggler for the right to own Ziggler's Money in the Bank briefcase and Big Show challenging Sheamus for the World heavyweight championship.
Since it's the last major show of the year, the results will give fans an idea of what direction key storylines are going heading into 2013. Add in The Rock's return leading up to the Royal Rumble and the WWE Universe has plenty to get excited about.
Can TLC succeed without CM Punk?
Let's take a look at the key viewing information for Sunday's event followed by a preview and predictions for TLC.
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
When: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: Pay-per-view (local cable providers)
Live Stream: WWE.com has PPV for $44.99
Battle Royal to become No. 1 contender for the Divas Championship – Pre-show match
Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio vs. Team Rhodes Scholars – Tag Team No. 1 contender Tables match
Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. R-Truth – United States Championship match
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Wade Barrett – Intercontinental Championship match
Big Show (c) vs. Sheamus – World Heavyweight Championship Chairs match
The Shield vs. Ryback and Team Hell No – Tables, Ladders and Chairs match
Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena – WHC Money in the Bank briefcase Ladder match
Main Event Preview and Prediction
While there are three matches that could make a solid argument to be the main event, Cena's star power will likely earn him and Ziggler the coveted spot. It would also give Ziggler a chance to shine, which he certainly deserves.
What should be the main event?
The match represents a key turning point for the "Show Off." His booking has been lackluster since scoring a major victory at Money in the Bank, and now we'll find out exactly how much confidence the company has in him.
Ziggler deserves a push based on his pure wrestling ability and improvement on the mic, but it hasn't happened yet. Beating Cena at TLC would be the start of something special, and that's exactly what I expect to happen on Sunday night.
Giving Cena another briefcase after failing to successfully cash in against CM Punk a couple of months ago would be a mistake. It's more important that Ziggler, who's ready for his first serious push, gets the big win.
There's a good chance The Shield will get involved in some fashion, since forcing Ziggler to defend his briefcase would fall in the unjust category, and protecting against that is the group's gimmick. Either way, Ziggler should emerge victorious.
Prediction: Dolph Ziggler
What They're Saying
Sheamus took out some of his frustrations on Ziggler before turning his attention to Big Show. They will battle for the World heavyweight championship at TLC, and chairs will be heavily involved.
Sheamus (@WWESheamus) December 11, 2012
Kofi Kingston will defend his Intercontinental championship against Wade Barrett on Sunday night in the latest step in a solid midcard feud.
Kofi Kingston (@TrueKofi) December 11, 2012
Undercard Match to Watch: The Shield vs. Ryback and Team Hell No
The Shield has been a terrific addition to the roster. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have brought some excitement and unpredictability to Raw and SmackDown at a time when the weekly shows desperately needed it.
Now comes the tough part. The novelty is starting to disappear, which means the trio will be forced to prove they have staying power. Having their first official match will be a great test, and it's one they should pass with flying colors.
Ambrose and Rollins are both solid in-ring workers. Reigns isn't as refined, but brings the enforcer aspect to the gimmick. It's a great combination. They will likely win by compromising Ryback, who's on too big of a roll to lose his momentum now, and then pinning either Kane or Daniel Bryan.
Prediction: The Shield
Which Star Will the WWE Bury? R-Truth
At most PPVs, there are multiple options for this dubious honor. That's not the case at TLC. The WWE is clearly starting to build toward next year and there aren't many superstars being put in no-win situations on Sunday.
That said, R-Truth has the potential to become a midcard casualty. Cesaro is in the middle of a really strong run as the United States champion. Due to that, it's hard to imagine R-Truth—who hasn't been built like a potential champion—winning the match.
Since there are so few slots available for workers outside the main-event scene, one loss usually means the superstar fades into the background for a while until others get their chance. R-Truth will probably end up being the show's biggest loser.
Star Unaccounted For: CM Punk
Punk was originally scheduled to face Ryback, but was removed due to a knee injury. An anticipated showdown with The Rock is looming next month, meaning it's likely a case of the WWE wanting to make sure he was at full strength in time for that match.
The good news is the creative team was able to put together a good card without him. That probably wouldn't have been possible without The Shield, which illustrates exactly how important the group's debut has turned out to be.
Fans are surely looking forward to the verbal battles coming up between Punk and The Rock. Let's just hope Punk doesn't suffer any setbacks over the next month and is ready for action at the Royal Rumble. That would make his TLC absence understandable.