The final pay-per-view of 2011 is now in the books as many of WWE's top superstars let their extreme sides show. At an event known for tables, ladders and chairs, the TLC pay-per-view is now beginning to be known for good matches and even better title changes. Many wrestling fans went to bed Sunday night as a very happy follower of WWE. The hierarchy of WWE also should be very happy because the talent certainly brought their best.
The crowd in Baltimore had just about everything thrown at them. There were three title changes, two Cody Rhodes ambushes and a partridge in a pear tree at TLC. Some were better than others, so as end-of-the-year grades are being sent out, it's time to sharpen our pencils grade the performances of everyone who wrestled at TLC. Competitors will be discussed in match order based on how they entered the ring.
Dolph Ziggler may have left TLC without his United States Championship, but that wasn't due to a lack of effort. Ziggler was back to wrestling just one match at a pay-per-view, which may have made his stamina and performance in this match all the better. Ziggler could pretty much do no wrong in the match and did a great job in getting Ryder over as champion material.
My only gripe with Ziggler's part in the match is that it took help from Vickie Guerrero to lengthen the match. I still don't get how a spot like that does not garner a disqualification, but all it did was kick Vickie from ringside. Thankfully, it did not lead to an immediate end of the match due to the distraction of her ejection.
Ryder pulled out a bunch of moves he doesn't normally do, which all but hinted that this was finally it for Ryder. The long journey from the lower card to the United States Championship has been concluded, and Ryder is on top of the world. It is much more than just a push to a mid-card title for a young guy, but rather, the completion of a resurrected career.
Ryder looked good with Ziggler, but Ziggler could make anyone look good. From this great match, Ryder will have to use TLC as a launching point for his own streak of bringing the best out in his opponents.
Ryder has the tools to be a great worker, but seemed to hit some rough patches on the way to this title reign. The wrinkles in Ryder's game seemed to be smoothed out against Ziggler. Ryder's daunting task now is to prove that he deserves that championship and can help build on the prestige that Ziggler helped create.
The tag team champions were one of the three bonus matches seen at TLC, as they had their first title defense on pay-per-view in quite some time. Bourne and Kingston were as fluid as they have been together and made pretty quick work of their opponents. This could end up just going down as yet another title defense, but it is up to Air Boom to make a team like Epico and Primo seem formidable. Even in a pretty quick match for tag team standards, they did a pretty decent job of that.
Still, it was a short match, and not enough of what was going on made me believe that their position as champions was in any actual danger. That needs to be worked on.
Some viewers of TLC may not have even known who Epico was, but he teamed with his cousin, Primo, in this tag team title match. This team looks to potentially be dangerous in time, but is still too new and too raw to be taken seriously, even in a scarce tag team division.
Rosa Mendes is a nice touch as a manager, but she needs to take some pages out of Vickie Guerrero's book. Then again, maybe she can just borrow the book.
This team is compelling enough to watch going into the beginning of 2012. That's what this team bought tonight. They have a few months to sell the public on them as a tag team that can be champion. This was the last chance that Primo has been waiting for, and Rosa Mendes is running out of things to be doing as well. That desperation showed a little bit, but the sense of urgency needs to be felt like it was with a guy like Mark Henry earlier in the year.
Whoever has Randy Orton in WWE's Secret Santa, please find the book How to Get Somebody Else Over and give it to him. No tradebacks.
Just because Orton let Wade Barrett pin him at Survivor Series doesn't mean he is getting him over. Just because Orton takes a beating from Barrett through a lot of the match at TLC doesn't mean it, either. The ending of the match with an RKO onto the table meant that he wasn't getting Barrett over. Orton needs to be shown some tapes of the matches he had with Barrett a year ago, back when Orton was WWE Champion and Barrett was chasing him for it.
The entire reason why Barrett seemed poised for the next step when he feuded with John Cena was because of the great job Orton did with Barrett then. His selling point at TLC was the same as Evan Bourne's when he faces anyone 20 pounds or more than him.
This may not be the end of his feud with Orton, but it might as well should. At least Barrett can try to get over with working alongside of someone more accommodating to the situation. Right now, Orton is doing no favors. It's time to go to Royal Rumble in your hometown, and that's all he is focused on.
Wade Barrett tried to do everything that he could against Randy Orton at TLC. What we learned is that Barrett can dish a beating out, but that it could sometimes not matter too much.
Barrett's beating was one-sided at times, but it all ended up being because of that one move by Orton. I can't judge if Barrett jumped too far that he almost didn't go through the table or if it was Orton being too far away and altering Barrett's mark. I'm siding with the latter, but it will be up to interpretation.
I can't knock a guy like Barrett by doing what he needs to do, but his match's ending became an albatross on Barrett. By Royal Rumble, I will doubt that there is much for him to need a guy like Orton for. Barrett needs bigger fish to fry, and he will be fine.
Beth Phoenix's title match was unexpected for TLC, but it did happen. From some of her others, this was very pedestrian. Her opponent did not help, as it was stick figure Diva poster girl and former Divas champion, Kelly Kelly. A string of great matches by Phoenix seemed to end at TLC, as it was ho-hum with this short title match. Phoenix is better than that, and she is making her challengers look better because of it. Beth isn't getting much back in return, but it still is not an excuse for her own self.
Kelly Kelly had better matches earlier in the year, but has reverted back to her old ways as 2011 is coming to a close. Kelly Kelly worked hard to be Divas Champion and showed some parts to her offense that were new and improved. Now, it seems like any Kelly Kelly victory ends before it starts and ends up drinking the jello shots. She is not terrible enough to say that she doesn't know better. Kelly was significantly better earlier in the year, but doesn't seem concerned with this pay-per-view. Tisk tisk, Kelly...Kelly.
This one is going to be a tough one. I know that there has been a long time away for Kevin Nash, and his suspected feud with CM Punk got altered to have Triple H wrestle them instead. All the while, the story of this Sledgehammer Ladder match is the health status of one Kevin Nash.
Nash still looked in bad shape at TLC, prompting me to wonder why this seemed like a good idea in the first place. I also have to question the creative team, who decided to hand this match a whopping 20 minutes. The dark match of Drew McIntyre and Alex Riley could have taken some of that time, and there still would have been a match.
Nash also sold a Pedigree too early, which prompts anything and everything that Nexus was in when he comes by next. Don't run to the computer, Kevin. You may need to wash that great stuff.
Even The Game can sound rusty. That is all the more reason to give Triple H someone on the other side that will give him a hand. It is not that Triple H did terribly, but rather that his opponent is just able to make it through. Kevin Nash did damage to HHH, but everybody needs someone to keep themselves honest and not be ready to put out a dud. Triple H needed to keep the match afloat, which he did.
A backstage segment was all it took to get Sheamus onto the TLC card. His match with Jack Swagger was very good for a match with such little back story and one that was not advertised by WWE at all. Sheamus appeared at TLC for the third straight year, with the first of those three instances giving him his first WWE Championship.
It's pretty evident that Sheamus is in the plans for WWE going forward. He was drafted to Smackdown with the last pick back in the end of April. In the eight months since, Sheamus has had two good winning streaks, including the one he currently has. Sheamus also has one more World Heavyweight Championship match than I have had.
Considering his history with the new World Heavyweight Champion and their fights over the United States Championship earlier this year, it would be a decent feud. Who cares if they are both faces?
Don't look now, but Jack Swagger might be gaining some legitimacy. Despite losing at TLC, Swagger has been an important part of programming in recent months. Ever since hanging around with Vickie Guerrero, his stock has been rising. Swagger could be an early prediction for Breakout Superstar of the Year in 2012.
His match with Sheamus was solid, and he really is finding his slot in this company well. He's still one of the younger guys on the roster, but has the veteran instincts that will make him champion again. It could be sooner than later. Swagger will be an interesting guy to watch in 2012.
The place that Big Show is in is a heck of a tough spot to be in. Not every superstar could do it. Not only does he have to show his amazing strength in matches, but he had to put over Mark Henry's strength as well. He then had to win the World Heavyweight Championship and lose it minutes later.
Big Show is no longer a legitimate world champion consideration. He is there to make others look good. Big Show had a lot of work to do on Sunday night and did all of it without complaint. What's more is that he looked good doing it.
If BIg Show gets credit for winning a championship just to lose it again, Mark Henry needs to get even more credit. Henry was unstoppable in 2011, but lost in seven and a half minutes to lose his world championship. Mark had to sell a storyline injury while also reportedly having an actual injury. It seems all the more likely that it is because of this injury that the title was taken off of Henry.
Now, Big Show has the right to a rematch and not Mark Henry, at least not until his groin has healed.
Daniel Bryan is the talk of the wrestling world today after his cash-in of Money in the Bank and winning the World Heavyweight Championship. This time around, it counts. Pending a turnaround rematch on Smackdown, Bryan starts 2012 as World Heavyweight Champion.
I would give him a pretty good grade except that he hardly did much to perform. Bryan picked a good time, rolled over Big Show and that was it. That's not a fair thing to judge Bryan's performance.
It didn't seem like this match was going to happen for a while. Booker T was attacked backstage and then attacked again on his way to the ring. The third time was the charm for the Smackdown color commentator, but he still could not get the best of the Intercontinental Champion.
Booker certainly showed that he has some gas left in his tank, but Booker T just does not have it in the cards for him. He returned to WWE during the last Royal Rumble, so Booker's one-year anniversary for returning to WWE comes next month. Will it come with a rematch for the title?
Cody Rhodes has the chance to start 2012 as Smackdown's top heel, especially with Mark Henry's injury. The storyline with Rhodes and Booker T seemed to go on all night long before they had a great match. Cody's in-ring ability is leaps and bounds above what it used to be. The Rhodes Renaissance (I just thought about it) looks stronger than ever as the calendar changes.
Del Rio worked well in the main event. While it seemed like Ricardo Rodriguez took the tougher spots, Del Rio still was a good factor in the match. The problem is that Del Rio was the world champion at Survivor Series and there was little to no chance of Del Rio winning the match at TLC. Del Rio didn't even feel like a factor in the match at times, giving him the lowest grade of the three men in the match.
For a guy that was still in a tag team with R-Truth a few weeks ago, it was a little bit shocking to see The Miz so deep into a WWE Championship match. It actually seemed like it was The Miz vs CM Punk for a good portion of the match. It really felt like a two-horse race at a time. I would like to see The Miz and CM Punk face each other again on RAW or Royal Rumble in January. Despite losing to Punk, The Miz actually had a better showing at TLC because a lot of the result was put upon his shoulders.
Punk is on top of the world right now. He just headlined a TLC pay-per-view and came out victorious. He also did not have to compete with John Cena's popularity with Cena having the night off.
Punk rolls into 2012 with great momentum. Will his energy have to stay on Del Rio or The Miz, or should it focus to a returning Kane? Perhaps Punk should be worried about the person responsible for the "It Begins" promos?