Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Dec. 16
Prevailing champions were the stars of the WWE's best offerings this week.
Randy Orton, AJ Lee and Paige provided stellar entertainment between the ropes, reminding us just why they've been pegged to wear their crowns. Applause was due for some great matches on various stages.
The worst of the week in WWE action resulted from poor choices.
Santa Claus shouldn't get more airtime than Tyson Kidd. The TLC pay-per-view shouldn't lack in the tables, ladders and chairs department.
A new Match of the Year candidate, more proof of NXT's excellence and a submission move aided by a Santa hat were among the highs and lows in WWE this week.
Best: Champion of Champions
Revisionist championship history aside, TLC 2013's main event was the kind of match that forces fans to slide forward in their seats.
John Cena and Randy Orton capped off the pay-per-view with a battle that left behind a wake of broken tables and crowned a single world champ. Orton's viciousness continues to escalate. He was as compelling as he's ever been, stalking Cena and delighting in torturing him.
Their TLC match featured less violence than we've seen from these types of bouts, but it was still a powerful story of two titans slugging it out for the right to be called the "Champion of Champions."
The huge surprise many expected didn't come. Triple H didn't stick his hands into the action. There was no great shocker.
Instead, two top performers used handcuffs, suspense and crackling energy to end the TLC pay-per-view in momentous fashion.
Worst: Lack of TLC at TLC
TLC 2013 featured exactly one match that utilized the pay-per-view's theme.
Tables remained intact, ladders remained unbent and chairs were only used for sitting until Randy Orton and John Cena battled at the end of the show. Even when Kofi Kingston and The Miz fought in a no disqualification match, the brutality was kept to a minimum.
It's doubtful that many fans missed chairs matches being a part of the action, but there was little to make this pay-per-view different from all the others on the calendar.
Why not make the tag team title contest a ladder match? Why not have Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family end with the creepy clan sending Bryan crashing through the announcers table?
Should this become a trend, TLC will feel less special and lose some of its appeal.
Best: NXT 200
The 200th episode of NXT was one not to be missed.
The show delivered entertaining matches and set up showdowns for next week that amplify anticipation for episode 201. The stories were taut; the action thrilled.
Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards made their NXT debut, calling themselves The American Pitbulls. Paige and Sasha Banks impressed in a non-title match. Antonio Cesaro teamed with Leo Kruger against Sami Zayn and Tyson Kidd in a short match that felt electric at its high points.
Lastly, Adrian Neville challenged Bo Dallas for the NXT title in a Lumberjack match.
Not only did fans witness Neville's usual in-ring wizardry and the NXT Divas continue to flourish, but Kruger hit a spinebuster that would make Arn Anderson grin, and the show promised a tasty lineup for the next episode.
Cesaro will face William Regal. Natalya will take on Emma. As a bonus, Colin Cassady and Aiden English will have a singing competition.
With Raw and SmackDown sure to be heavy on a Christmas theme next week, NXT looks to be the most must-see WWE show on the docket.
Worst: Santa Claus
There are times it's clear that WWE is not aiming its programming at fans over the age of 10. There are times when it would be embarrassing for someone to walk in and see you watching a WWE segment.
The main story of Wednesday's Main Event fit both of those categories.
Mick Foley as Santa Claus found himself surrounded by Ryback and Curtis Axel. The two villains looked to bully St. Nick. Ryback tried to steal Santa's bag of toys.
This led to a match between Axel and The Miz, which saw Axel stomp on an action figure and Santa clamp on a mandible claw with a Santa hat over his hand.
To say the match and setup was underwhelming would be kind. WWE continues to make the holiday season a time for the uninteresting and ridiculous.
The only question is if this will be better or worse than Good Santa vs. Bad Santa, which is set for the Dec. 23 edition of Raw.
Best: AJ Lee
AJ Lee rocked it this week.
She and Tamina Snuka took on The Bella Twins on SmackDown in a match that reminded us just how good she is at selling her opponents' moves. Both Bellas' offense looked more impressive, thanks to AJ flopping around dramatically, contorting her body upon impact.
At TLC, she defended her title against Natalya.
It was one of the pay-per-view's better matches. The highlight was AJ suffering in the Sharpshooter, reaching out desperately for the ropes. The suspense of that moment added to a well-worked bout that showcased both women's skills.
A few days, she met her old foe Kaitlyn on Wednesday's Main Event.
Kaitlyn and AJ's chemistry, the contrast of their styles and AJ's submission skills led to the Divas producing the night's best, most dramatic match.
Worst: Tyson Kidd Underused
With as much programming as WWE has every week, you would think Tyson Kidd would get more than an appearance on NXT.
Since returning from injury, Kidd has suffered from WWE's inattention. This week was another example of him being pushed far away from the spotlight.
One of the company's best mat wrestlers and high-flyers couldn't get even get on Main Event and Superstars, two shows where 3MB was featured instead. While the athletic dynamo is by no means going to challenge John Cena for the company's top spot, there's got to be a story in which he can be involved.
Even Brodus Clay and Tensai have a rivalry in the works. Kidd, meanwhile, is sitting on the bench, continuing to take the air out of what could have been an exciting return.
Best: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton
Just when we thought the Match of the Year ballot was closed, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton forced their way onto it.
On Monday's Raw, Bryan got the first shot at the new WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The two men, who have fought for most of the second half of 2013, had their best effort yet.
Orton was magnificent, a shark charging toward blood in the water. Bryan's counters were art. They both amped up their viciousness, including Orton seemingly trying to snap Bryan's arm and both men biting each other.
Only a non-decisive finish hampered this bout. Orton escaped by getting intentionally disqualified.
Bryan getting this shot is a clear sign that he hasn't been pushed out of the world title picture completely. He remains on the periphery, awaiting his long-awaited happy ending.