WWE TLC 2014 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterDecember 15, 2014

WWE TLC 2014 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Last month WWE opened up its subscription-only WWE Network to the world for free, presumably adding tens of thousands of possible viewers to its annual fall-tradition Survivor Series. In a sport where every success and failure can make or break a performer's career and perception is everything, this was extraordinary pressure.

    Luckily the crew delivered in a big way with an excellent show.

    This month it's back to paying customers only—but the pressure to deliver is still there, with competition rearing its head in the most unexpected place. 

    On Thursday developmental wrestlers in NXT, newcomers still learning their trade at the WWE's cutting-edge Performance Center in Florida, put on an astoundingly good show for a worldwide audience on the Network. The fluid wrestling, coherent plots and big league performances, frankly, put what fans normally see on WWE's flagship television show, Raw, to shame.

    WWE superstars are athletes with a lot of pride. After their understudies put on such a great show, rest assured they'll be looking to do the same. I fully expected Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler to do everything in their power to reassert their status as the hardcore fans' favorites. 

    Instead, despite some outstanding moments, there were no truly outstanding matches. John Cena earned a match with Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble. Roman Reigns returned and looked great in the ring and terrible on the mic. Ambrose and Bray Wyatt destroyed their bodies for tepid applause. It was a show fans will instantly forget.

    If you're scoring at home, it's WWE NXT 1, WWE 0. The future looks bright. The present? Less so.

    What follows is our trademark instant analysis and letter grades for every bout on the show. Matches are graded not just in comparison to each other, but they're also based on how well they live up to their potential and to fans' expectations.

    Disagree with our assessments? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

The New Day vs. Goldust and Stardust

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Result

    Kofi Kingston pinned Stardust after their double-team move, The Midnight Hour.

    Highlights and Quotes

    The New Day is all kinds of color coordinated. This is important in a tag team. Cohesion. Identity. Team spirit.

    "I think they're too happy. I think they're hiding something. Nobody enjoys life that much." —JBL on The New Day.

    Big E smashes Goldust Vader-style. Poor Dustin is still doing this despite being old enough to have been smashed by Vader himself.

    Big E leapfrogs Stardust in a show of athleticism. Later he tosses him up in the air—right into a Kofi Kingston dropkick. These guys have some potential.

    The announcers discuss the Great Gazoo from The Flintstones at length. Meanwhile no one under 40 has any idea what they are talking about. 

    Stardust with a cool variation on the Boston crab. Worked about as well as the Boston crab, though.

    Kofi sends Stardust flying out the ring, and he lands hard on the outside. Ouch.

    Grade

    B

    Analysis

    It always takes a little while for a new tag team to work out all the kinks. The New Day will be no different. The process will be sped up, at least a bit, by being put in the ring with one of the sport's best teams. Goldust, especially, is the perfect opponent to help a new team get its ducks in a row.

    This match wasn't anything great. But considering I expected the normal three-minute "kickoff special" and got a real wrestling bout instead—I'm pretty happy.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper (Ladder Match)

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    Dolph Ziggler climbs the ladder to win the WWE Intercontinental title.

    Highlights and Quotes

    Ziggler gets a huge pop from his hometown Cleveland fans. Normally this would mean he's surely doing the job.

    "That's how we figured Luke Harper would use a ladder." —JBL, as Harper rams Ziggler headfirst into the steel. 

    "That's the same T-shirt he's been wearing for two years." —Michael Cole on Harper's stained grey masterpiece. Do they sell that at the WWE store? 

    Harper tosses a ladder out of the ring onto Ziggler out on the floor. That didn't look pleasant.

    Harper does a suicide dive outside the ring and collides with a ladder. The announcers immediately speculate his arm is broken. That's how you know it isn't.

    Dolph Ziggler is wearing a crimson mask. I repeat—Dolph Ziggler is wearing a crimson mask. 

    That awkward moment when you don't know if it was supposed to be a DDT or a spinebuster.

    A ladder Harper set up between the ring and the announce table finally paid off—but for Ziggler. Harper took a hard bump onto it, hoisted by his own petard.

    "Harper covered in the stains of this match." —Cole. Sounds like a dirty match.

    Grade

    A-

    Analysis

    While WWE was presenting this as an all-time classic, something about it felt disjointed to me. It's the nature of these matches. These aren't real wrestling matches. They are stunt shows. 

    Sure, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon put on a classic at WreslteMania 10. But that was a match that featured ladders—not an excuse to fall from high places. Today, certain spots are expected. The stunts escalate to the point that the spectacle has almost no connection to actual professional wrestling. 

    To me that sort of limits the potential for a bout like this to be a truly special and dramatic bout. It can be spectacular—but I'm not sure a Ladder match can ever be great. 

The Usos vs. Miz/Damien Mizdow

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    The Usos beat Miz and Mizdow by disqualification when Miz hit Jimmy Uso with the tag team belt to end the match.

    Highlights and Quotes

    Jay Uso and the Miz start off the match with an extended Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko segment. Unfortunately, these two aren't Malenko and Guerrero when it comes to mat wrestling.

    Mizdow does a handstand in the corner when the Miz is held in an endless vertical suplex. Still funny.

    "It's actually genius. It's method acting." —JBL, comparing Mizdow to Al Pacino.

    Miz refuses to tag his partner in. Don't worry, that never backfires.

    Mizdow took one for the team when Jimmy Uso came flying over the top rope. That's commitment to the role, folks.

    Grade

    C+

    Analysis

    Mizdow is a great gimmick. But there are a lot of great gimmicks in the WWE. The difference between the guys opening the show and the main eventers is the ability to put that gimmick to the side when it's time to deliver in the ring.

    Mizdow, by its very nature, is a concept that can't be put aside. What happens in the ring is part of the gimmick. That's why, no matter how many laughs he gets, Mizdow is destined to be an undercard act until it's time to move on to something else.

Big Show vs. Erick Rowan (Stairs Match)

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    Big Show pinned Rowan after a knockout punch. He used the stairs to hold him down to secure the win.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "Big Show needs to remember—the bigger beard has the right of way." —Jerry Lawler as Rowan starts like a house on fire.

    Rowan dropkicks the stairs right onto Big Show. Then clobbers him with them. That's why they call this a Stair match I guess!

    "What is that, a modern day Stonehenge?" —JBL as Rowan builds some kind of elaborate stair-based clubhouse. Or something.

    The Big Show's openhanded slaps are brutal. Make me cringe harder than any bump into the stairs could.

    "Big Show sucks." —the fans. That's unkind.

    "What's the matter, you fellows nervous?" Big Show to the announce team.

    Rowan slammed Big Show on the steel stairs.

    "Did you see Big Show bounce off the stairs?" —Cole. Yes. Yes I did. 

    Rowan leapt off the top rope with the steps. Show attempts to move, but it caught him on the hip. Unplanned carnage!

    Show proceeds to spear Rowan through Stairhenge. 

    Grade

     B+

    Analysis

    I saw a lot of criticism for this match online. That's to be expected. There's a line of thought that says the bigger guys, by default, aren't nearly the performers guys like Ziggler or Seth Rollins are. 

    But, given a fair chance, this match was pretty darn good. It had nearly as many insane stunts as the Ladder match earlier in the evening—only with hundreds of extra pounds bumping around the ring.

    I thought it was excellent professional wrestling—flame away.

Seth Rollins vs. John Cena (Tables Match)

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    Cena and Rollins both go through a table at the same time. The match was restarted. Cena then AA's Rollins through a table to win the match.

    Highlights and Quotes

    Rollins doesn't have the worst hair in wrestling history. But he does not have main event hair.

    "Let's dance." —John Cena. Then he punched Rollins in the face. Worst dance ever. 

    Mercury and Noble are interfering in this match. That's going to make it hard for Cena. Doesn't anyone care about sportsmanship anymore?

    "If John had friends he could have brought them with him."—JBL. Touche.

    "Let's go Cena! Cena sucks!" —the crowd can't make up its mind about Cena.

    "He is extremely creative." —JBL on Cena as he rams the metal barrier into Mercury. HOW CREATIVE!

    Cena finally tosses Mercury to the moon with an AA to even things up a bit.

    There are tables, ladders, chairs and stairs all around the ring. But Seth Rollins believes a briefcase is probably his best bet to do damage.

    Rollins uses the table to leapfrog Cena. That was a cool spot.

    Cena put Rollins through a table, but the ref had taken a bump to the outside. Rollins' security, however, removes all evidence, and the match continues.

    Cena overcomes all odds and double AA's both members of J&J Security through a table. Justice.

    Both men go through a table at the same time, and the match is restarted. Rollins almost immediately hits an insane suicide dive, landing on the floor right on top of Cena.

    "Are you all right, Cole?" —JBL as Cole takes a bump after light contact from Rollins. Cena had attempted to AA Rollins through the announce table, but it did not break.

    Big Show came out to beat on Cena. But wait—that's Roman Reigns' music! The 2014 Superstar of the Year rescues Cena and restores order. That's hero's work.

    Grade

    B

    Analysis

    John Cena is the biggest WWE star since the Rock. He's been a consistent main eventer for more than a decade. He is the man.

    So why, oh why, does WWE have to present him as the underdog in literally every match? He's not the 1-2-3 Kid thrilled to get the duke over Razor Ramon. He's the biggest star in the sport.

    This kind-of-predictable booking hurts his matches. We can't even have the pretense of an athletic contest before the interference begins and never ends. It's old. It's been old.

    The WWE is in desperate need of new blood. It's time to turn Cena heel and start the process of putting it over. 

AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella (Divas Title)

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    Nikki Bella pinned AJ Lee with the Rack Attack to retain the Divas title. Before the finish, Bella sprayed an unknown subject in Lee's eyes.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "Nikki has two things AJ doesn't...a twin sister and the Divas title." —Jerry Lawler. That was racy!

    Nikki wraps AJ Lee around the ring post. AJ is all kinds of flexible. All kinds.

    AJ leaps into a guillotine choke. That's a UFC move. A tribute, perhaps, to her husband, newly announced MMA star CM Punk? 

    Brie is sent to the back, but her distraction proved plenty costly.

    Grade

    C+

    Analysis

    This wasn't a real match. This was a chance to get some popcorn, visit the can and re-energize for Dean Ambrose versus Bray Wyatt.

    These two are capable of better. They proved that much last month at Survivor Series. But if you aren't even given an opportunity, well, it's hard to reach out and grab greatness.

Ryback vs. Kane (Chairs Match)

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    Ryback pinned Kane with the Shell Shock.

    Highlights and Quotes

    Kane, apparently, was upset that Ryback was referred to as a monster. That's how he sees himself. Yes, he needs therapy.

    My friend Stephanie points out that Ryback looks like the comic book version of obscure MMA fighter Josh Burkman. That's true! Trust me.

    "Boring! Boring! Boring!"—I can forgive the crowd this one. It is boring. 

    Kane potatoes the heck out of Ryback with a chairshot to the back. Ryback gets his receipt with a spinebuster onto a chair sculpture.

    "ECW! ECW! ECW!" —the crowd. This does remind me of ECW—the worst parts of it.

    Kane tosses a chair right at Ryback's face. That could end poorly.

    Grade

    C+

    Analysis

    It's hard to suspend disbelief in a Chair match these days. Wrestlers, due to concerns about head injuries and concussions, no longer hit each other in the head with them.

    That's probably for the best. But these two guys looked pretty silly not aiming for the noggin for 10 long minutes. Time to retire this idea—permanently.

Rusev vs. Jack Swagger (US Title)

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    Rusev beat Swagger with the Accolade to retain the U.S. title

    Highlights and Quotes

    "The prices of oil are dropping..." —Lana before being cut off by Jack Swagger's music. But I wanted to hear what she had to say!

    "Married to a supermodel, eats at Cracker Barrel. Everybody wants to be Jack." —JBL. I do love me some Cracker Barrel. 

    Rusev breaks the ankle lock with kicks right to the face. That was clever.

    I'm not really clear on why the Accolade is supposed to hurt. It looks like a pleasant stretch. Just throwing that out there.

    Grade

    C+

    Analysis

    This is one of the WWE's best ongoing feuds—but you'd never have guessed it based on this show. This was a forgettable short match on a forgettable interminable show. 

    With the events being primarily broadcast on the WWE Network, I wonder how long the promotion continues to act like it is racing the clock? At some point it will decide that, since it doesn't have to fit a specific broadcast window for pay-per-view, matches like this can have the time they need to succeed. 

Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt (TLC Match)

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    Credit: WWE

    Result

    Wyatt pinned Ambrose with Sister Abigail after Ambrose was "blinded" by an exploding television monitor.

    Highlights and Quotes

    The crowd holds up all their cell phones like lighters during Bray's entrance. Ambrose ruins the mood by throwing a ladder at him. Well, this is going to be crazy!

    The two fight through the crowd. This really does have a 1990's feel to it.

    "Ambrose just does not care, does he?" —Michael Cole after Ambrose leapt from a table onto Wyatt. 

    Ambrose goes under the ring and comes back with two kendo sticks. Get ready for next year's event: Tables and Ladders and Chairs and Stairs and Kendo Sticks.

    You can tell Ambrose watches the WWE Network. A lot. Look up "Dirty" Dick Slater and Brian Pillman. You'll see Ambrose's inspiration clearly in those two legends.

    Wyatt with a fat man senton onto Ambrose. Who was on a ladder. Wrestlers are unwell people.

    Ambrose jumps off a ladder to deliver a double axe handle. 

    All these crazy spots—and Wyatt goes and upstages them all with a simple clothesline. 

    "This is a human demolition derby." —JBL as Ambrose drops an elbow off a ladder to put Wyatt through a table.

    Ambrose proceeds to climb an even taller ladder to drop another elbow on Wyatt, who is resting peacefully on another table. 

    "This isn't about who wins. This is about who survives."—Michael Cole.

    After yet another elbow drop off another still taller ladder, Ambrose and Wyatt lie spent on the mat. Ambrose kisses Wyatt to wake him up, Wyatt headbutts him and Ambrose starts wailing away.

    A TV monitor just blew up for unknown reasons. Well, that's certainly a finish. Not a good one. But one.

    Grade

    A-

    Analysis

    There's such a thing as diminishing returns. There's a reason, on a traditional wrestling show, that matches build up to the main event. It's not that the promotion favors one wrestler over another. It's just that, if every match on the card is a wild and crazy spotfest, what's left for wrestlers in the most important match to show fans?

    Ambrose and Wyatt had a bit of a problem with this here. Ziggler and Harper had already satiated the crowd's desire for ladder spots. Cena and Rollins broke a number of tables. Ryback blistered poor Kane with chairshots. 

    By the time the main event started the crowd had seen it all. That meant, to get any heat at all, the two had to resort to increasingly dangerous and extreme stunts. By the time the monitor started sparking the two had most definitely leapt right over the shark.