WWE TLC 2013: Grading the Build for Company's Top Storylines
Some of the greatest matches in World Wrestling Entertainment have been accompanied by outstanding storylines that fans bought into from the get-go and, as a result, treated as truly special.
On December 15, at the annual TLC pay-per-view event, World Wrestling Entertainment will roll out three high-profile matches featuring four of its top Superstars and six young, breakout performers who will carry the company into the future.
John Cena and Randy Orton will clash in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match to determine the first Unified champion in 11 years.
CM Punk takes on The Shield in a three-on-one handicap match, the result of Punk's anti-Authority stance.
In the second handicap match of the evening, Daniel Bryan will meet the Wyatt Family.
With a top-heavy card and only two undercard matches announced five days from showtime, let us take a look at the build-up for each of the show's major matches and grade them based on effectiveness and quality.
John Cena vs. Randy Orton
Major championship unification announcement? Check.
Two of this generation's biggest stars? Check.
One of the most popular gimmick matches of all time in Tables, Ladders and Chairs? Check.
Prior to Monday night, John Cena versus Randy Orton at TLC had all of the elements necessary for a history-making main event but it was missing something special—that intrigue and excitement surrounding it making it a must-see contest.
That all changed in the closing moments of Raw, when Orton accidentally knocked Stephanie McMahon to the ground and drawing the ire of COO Triple H. "The Game" planted the WWE champion with the Pedigree then turned his attention to his wife, who was being attended to by a physician and World Heavyweight champion Cena.
The sight of Cena standing side-by-side with The Authority while Orton struggled to regain consciousness following the Pedigree instantly created interest in the match and added to the paranoia Orton has been experiencing over the last month.
The rapid setup of a match with the importance that Sunday's clash between Cena and Orton was a mistake. The championship unification stipulation is so strong that it could have easily headlined WrestleMania XXX. The company cost itself money by tossing it on a December pay-per-view event that has seen steady decrease in buys since its inception in 2009.
With that said, the company has done an excellent job in highlighting the importance of the match and the meaning behind having one champion for WWE going forward.
The video that aired in the third hour of Raw, right around 10:15, was a wonderful example of the company's production team's ability to get over the levity of a match through outstanding video packages.
Having the likes of Hall of Famers Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Booker T discuss how much the two titles mean not only to them but to the business as a whole, really hammered home just what Sunday's main event means.
The angle shot at the end of the show added drama to the match while creating questions as to whether or not there is some sort of alliance between The Authority and Cena or if Orton has ruined the relationship he had with WWE's resident power couple based on his actions Monday night.
CM Punk vs. The Shield
With a single explosive spear from Roman Reigns the night after Survivor Series, two of the most critically acclaimed acts in WWE were brought together in a rivalry that has the potential to produce some outstanding in-ring action.
On the November 29 episode of SmackDown, Punk insinuated that The Authority was behind The Shield's attack on him, laying the groundwork for a feud with WWE's resident power couple.
In the shows that have followed, Punk has taken on The Shield in tag team matches and has defeated Dean Ambrose in two consecutive matches. The celebration following the second win was short-lived, however, as Reigns delivered another jarring spear to the Best in the World, leaving him lying.
The more interesting element of the build to the three-on-one handicap match Sunday night at TLC is the dissension that has reared its ugly head between Ambrose and Reigns.
Ambrose's arrogance over the last month has rubbed the breakout Samoan star the wrong way on more than one occasion, though Reigns has not been verbal about his dissatisfaction with his teammate to this point. Instead, reminiscent of Batista in 2005, Reigns has used body language and facial expressions to indicate his feelings about the situation.
Whether or not that dissension plays into Sunday's match and, perhaps, creates a situation where Punk can capitalize on it and score a big upset win remains to be seen.
The multiple stories at play in the Punk-Shield storyline are poised to have major implications on the road to WrestleMania XXX.
However, those stories have overshadowed the actual conflict between Punk and his three TLC opponents.
Outside of two spears from Reigns and a few matches between Punk and Ambrose, there really is no reason for the two sides to dislike each other.
The creative team has done a great job of setting up major angles for further down the road, but they could have done a slightly better job of doing more to establish conflict between Punk and The Shield outside of the cookie cutter, "he hit him so now he's really mad" formula.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family
The night after Survivor Series, the Wyatt Family abducted Daniel Bryan. Per Michael Cole, Bryan was found in a parking lot later that evening.
And that is where the story seemingly ends.
Since then, Bryan has returned to the ring as if nothing ever happened.
He defeated Erick Rowan and dismantled Fandango this past Monday night.
Bray Wyatt has repeatedly appeared on the Titan Tron and tried to convince Bryan to join his family, telling the former WWE champion that he will unleash his inner-monster.
Somewhere along the line the Bryan-Wyatt Family feud went off the rails and never recovered.
Wyatt had his followers abduct Bryan, only to drop him in a parking lot?
Said abduction and the captivity that followed had no affect on him?
Rather than being a storyline that could maintain some of the momentum Bryan gained from his main event run while elevating the Wyatt Family at the same time, it has fallen by the wayside and seriously lacks the excitement and intrigue that a program involving these talented individuals should have.