WWE TLC 2013: Feuds Under Most Pressure to Deliver Big at Event
To say WWE pay-per-views have been underwhelming the last four months would be a pretty large understatement.
There has been a great deal of uneven booking, lackluster cards and disappointing matches that have run rampant.
Night of Champions, Battleground, Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series failed to excite, but December 15's TLC event, emanating from the Toyota Center in Houston, has a huge, history-making main event on top and two big handicap matches featuring eight of the hottest, most interesting Superstars in the sport.
With that said, there is a great deal of pressure on WWE as a whole, as well as its top feuds and stars, to deliver in a big way and to end 2013 on a high note.
Which feuds are most important to the success of the show and why?
Find out after the jump.
John Cena vs. Randy Orton
This one is pretty obvious.
The entire TLC pay-per-view is being sold almost exclusively on the back of the Unified Championship Tables, Ladders and Chairs match.
The bout is being sold as one that will have great historical significance and features two of the biggest, most decorated homegrown talents of the last decade.
Two heavyweight championships will be on the line, with one man leaving the Toyota Center with both of them in his possession.
If that is not pressure, nothing is.
By the time the December 15 event wraps up, its success is going to be determined by the quality of the main event and any story developments, twists or turns that occurred.
With the other two big matches being handicap bouts that could either be surprisingly good or disappointingly awful, realistically speaking, the main event becomes that much more important.
If the Cena-Orton match does not deliver the satisfying match that crowds expect from a bout that has been as hyped as it has, it would be a disaster for the show as a whole.
Considering the uncharacteristically long string of disappointing or just plain bad pay-per-view events the company has produced since September, another poor showing in the main event would only further damage WWE's reputation here in the second half of 2013.
CM Punk vs. The Shield
The first of two feuds leading to two handicap matches on the card, the CM Punk-Shield rivalry seems to be laying the groundwork for an eventual showdown between Punk and The Authority, a showdown that could lead to a high-profile match at the upcoming WrestleMania XXX next April.
The Shield has been the most consistently great aspect of WWE programming all year, while CM Punk is one of the two best workers in professional wrestling. That all but ensures that the match itself will be, at the very least, decent.
And it will have to be.
As one of the top stars in the business, Punk is heavily relied upon to help sell pay-per-views, drive up television ratings and sell tickets. His match is the result of one of the featured storylines, and he'll be responsible for helping fans decide whether or not to hand over their hard-earned money to purchase the event.
For that reason alone, despite the history of strong work from all involved, the handicap match featuring Punk taking on Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns is under a considerable amount of pressure to deliver in a big way come Sunday night.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family
Daniel Bryan is one of the best professional wrestlers on the planet.
His meshing of crowd-pleasing signature spots, a fast-paced, high-impact offense and unrivaled technical wrestling skills have helped him get over (and stay over) with the passionate WWE Universe.
Bryan's ability to adapt his style to fit that of his opponent is reminiscent of Bret Hart, whose legacy is strengthened by his tendencies to get great matches out of lesser-talented individuals. That ability would undoubtedly benefit the three-on-one handicap match he has against the larger, more power-based Wyatt Family on December 15.
While Bryan's will to have a great match against any opponent would likely be enough to guarantee fans a very good match, at the very least, one cannot help but feel as though this match will incorporate an angle into it that will render the quality of the match quite meaningless.
Like CM Punk, Bryan is considered one of the most popular stars on the roster and one of the top performers in the sport. Unlike Punk, the manner in which Bryan has been booked as of late has been less than stellar, meaning there is a great deal of pressure on the match not only to deliver a satisfying product to the fans but also to ensure that no more damage is done to Bryan as the all-important road to WrestleMania begins.
Natalya vs. AJ Lee
The seven-on-seven elimination tag match featuring the WWE Divas at Survivor Series was not good. Neither was the following night's rematch. In fact, not much involving the Divas has been excellent in recent months.
AJ Lee has done an excellent job of picking up where Kaitlyn and Eve Torres left off in restoring credibility to the Divas Championship, despite the fact that she has not always had the strongest competition thanks to WWE's determination to spotlight the Total Divas cast.
Brie Bella has developed rapidly into a solid in-ring hand, but she has been the exception to this point.
That changes Sunday night when AJ takes on the talented in-ring technician and third-generation Diva Natalya.
What the Calgary native lacks in natural charisma, she makes up for in outstanding wrestling ability. She is a submission specialist who utilizes her uncle Bret Hart's legendary Sharpshooter finisher and has ridden that finisher to great success in recent weeks, defeating AJ on a number of occasions to secure the title shot.
Natalya's recent 14:00-plus match against Paige on NXT is proof that she can deliver from bell to bell, and AJ's great match against Kaitlyn at Payback is proof of her talent.
The title match is by no means a high-profile one that will have any impact in terms of the overall success of the show. Instead, the pressure facing the competitors is from fans, who expect a certain quality out of the two Divas given their ability.
Champion and challenger have skill sets that should allow them to work well together, and their reliance on submission-based finishers should make for a very mat-based wrestling match.
If given the appropriate time, there is no reason to doubt that AJ and Natalya cannot prove that women's wrestling still has a place in WWE at a time when reality television shows are all the rage.
If they do not get the time or the performers have an off night, there will be a large contingency of doubters jumping at the opportunity to remind everyone else how right they were.