WWE TLC 2017: B/R Expert Match Picks, Predictions and Analysis

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2017

WWE TLC 2017: B/R Expert Match Picks, Predictions and Analysis

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    The Demon will meet Sister Abigail at TLC.
    The Demon will meet Sister Abigail at TLC.Credit: WWE.com

    The annual TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view is usually one of the most anticipated events of the WWE calendar, but the company has this year got rid of what makes the show so special.

    In addition to the TLC match, past years have included additional separate ladder, chairs and tables matches. But WWE has done away with everything except the TLC stipulation in the main event.

    However, Sunday's show still has the potential to be entertaining. Here is a complete rundown of the card, according to WWE.com:

    • Alicia Fox vs. Sasha Banks (Kickoff)
    • Emma vs. Asuka
    • The Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher vs. Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander
    • Kalisto vs. Enzo Amore (Cruiserweight Championship)
    • Drew Gulak hosts a championship edition of his PowerPoint presentation.
    • Finn Balor as The Demon King vs. Bray Wyatt as Sister Abigail
    • Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James (Women's Championship)
    • The Shield vs. The Miz, The Bar, Braun Strowman and Kane (TLC match)

    Bleacher Report's lineup of writers will go through each feud and provide predictions for TLC's matches. Our group is made up of the following:

Alicia Fox vs. Sasha Banks

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    Q: It took 10 years and a complaint via Instagram for Fox to get her own shirt. What do you think has been keeping her from finding more success over the past decade, and is it too late for her to turn things around?

    AM: Alicia Fox is a holdover from the previous era, when women were models first and wrestlers second. She's always been decent but not the top of the line, and it's possible she peaked many years ago because she hasn't adapted to the times. There's still a potential future with her, but it's doubtful she will achieve top-of-the-line status anymore.

    Prediction: Banks is victorious.

    KB: Fox has always been a more talented athlete than wrestler, and this has led to her falling into the background as the roster steadily grew stronger. To find more success, she would need to improve drastically and pull back on working stiff, which has not happened yet given she bloodied Banks on Monday.

    Prediction: Banks wins this match easily with the Bank Statement.

    JJ: I think Foxy has just been overlooked. She came up in that tweener era after the Divas and before the "revolution." She is still decent in the ring, and she's naturally athletic (check her ballerina-esque northern lights suplex). Her character screams personality, so let's see what happens from here.

    Prediction: I have no clue. Just flipped a coin. Let's go, Sasha Banks. They have had excellent matches before, and this should be no different.

    RD: She's been passed over for bigger names and bigger stars and never been given a sustained shot. It's great to see her getting a chance to show how compelling she can be when allowed to be a live wire. She and Banks should put on a fun bout.

    Prediction: Banks gets the win.

    JM: I think Fox has been a bridge between two eras, and she hasn't fit into either perfectly. She was too good for WWE's Divas era, which wasn't defined by its Superstars' in-ring prowess, and now she's in the Women's Revolution as the elder stateswoman. She is more than capable in the ring, but she's got to leapfrog the newer Superstars. And to do that, she needs opportunities, which she hasn't yet received in full. It's going to be a tough hill to climb.

    Prediction: Banks prevails.

    CM: The biggest problem is timing. Foxy debuted at a time when a Divas match was little more than filler. When WWE wanted a fresh start, she was pushed to the wayside to make room for The Four Horsewomen. It's never too late to turn things around, and a good performance against Banks would be a great place to start. She also needs a new finisher, but that's a different conversation for a different day.

    Prediction: Banks wins, but Foxy gets the last laugh with a post-match breakdown and attack.

Emma vs. Asuka

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    Q: Asuka has been given a big pre-debut push through video packages and the announcers' discussions about her dominance in NXT. Should her first match on the main roster have been against a higher-profile opponent, or is it better for her to face someone like Emma to get her feet wet?

    AM: Emma is the perfect person to pair up Asuka with since they have already worked together in the past and the Australian can be a sacrificial lamb. Many fans aren't familiar with NXT stars because they don't watch the show, so this match has to introduce Asuka to a whole new audience. After that, it's better to be able to build to something bigger than to do that right out of the gate.

    Prediction: Asuka definitely wins.

    KB: Asuka is going to be on the roster for a long time. Why rush anything? Emma was Asuka's first major rival in NXT, and she will be great in helping establish Asuka on the main roster as well.

    Prediction: Asuka takes down Emma after a surprisingly competitive match.

    JJ: Emma vs. Asuka is the perfect introduction for the Empress of Tomorrow to the mainstream. They have chemistry from NXT, and Emma's style complements Asuka's approach well. This is my sleeper match for TLC.

    Prediction: Yeah...you think I'm picking against Auska?! LOL!

    RD: Emma is an excellent choice for Asuka's first prey. They have chemistry, as we saw in their meeting at NXT. And Asuka should devour all the Raw women's division's midcarders as she works her way up the food chain.

    Prediction: Asuka dominates.

    JM: I think WWE has handled Asuka's debut well, including the periphery story with the entire women's roster wanting to take their shot at her. WWE shouldn't spend too long getting her in the main event, though, as it has with Nia Jax.

    Prediction: Asuka in a squash.

    CM: It's unfortunate to see Emma being used as a stepping stone for Asuka, but putting her in this match at least shows management has faith in her skills. With all the work the company has put into pushing Asuka, it wouldn't risk having her first match on the main roster be a dud. If anything, this is a great opportunity for Emma because a good performance against The Empress of Tomorrow might help her find the push she has been looking for.

    Prediction: Asuka wins in dominant fashion. 

Kalisto vs. Enzo Amore

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    Q: Neville built up a reputation for having great matches as the cruiserweight champion. What do you think Amore and Kalisto have to do to keep that momentum going?

    AM: They simply have to put on great matches as well, but they won't. Enzo's bread and butter is his promo skills, not his in-ring action, so WWE is best off not even trying to make this about that type of performance because all parties will fail. Instead, Enzo has to try to think of entertaining ways to offset Kalisto's technique.

    Prediction: Amore takes the title back.

    KB: The momentum Neville built left with him, but Enzo has already shown he can add a different flavor to the division. As the annoying charismatic heel, he is a star people will want to see get his comeuppance at all times. Kalisto and Mustafa Ali can be the ones Enzo tries to run down before they get their revenge.

    Prediction: Enzo regains his title with the help of his new cruiserweight friends.

    JJ: Keep the entertainment level through the roof. Enzo isn't the wrestler Kalisto is, so these matches need an appeal other than the in-ring product. As long as they build the chemistry and keep the promos popping, they'll be fine.

    Prediction: Kalisto retains the title.

    RD: Amore and Kalisto will struggle to produce the kind of quality work Neville did during his reigns with the title. Amore will have to lean on his character work. Kalisto will have to hope he gets to work against better opponents soon.

    Prediction: Amore wins with some help from his new posse.

    JM: Simply put, they can't keep the momentum going. Neville was a great champ, and while entertaining, neither Kalisto nor Amore is on the Neville level. The best these two can hope for is to keep eyeballs on screens, or else the cruiserweight division will return to the doldrums.

    Prediction: Amore reclaims the cruiserweight title by hook or by crook.

    CM: Kalisto is a reliable hand in the ring, but Amore could be a problem. He's not necessarily a bad wrestler, but everyone knows he is better on the mic than he is on the mat. They need to work together to put on a match that surprises people otherwise Neville's absence will be felt more than management would like.

    Prediction: Amore wins back the cruiserweight title.

Bonus Question

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    Q: Every other TLC PPV has featured matches with just tables, ladders or chairs. Which three matches from this event would benefit from tables, ladders or chairs stipulations?

    AM: None of them strike me as being good fits for these gimmicks, but if necessary, Fox vs. Banks could have been a chairs match after having Fox flip out and attack Banks with one of them.

    Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James would probably work best as a ladder match, with the idea being that James couldn't even climb the ladder because of her "old age." 

    The Cruiserweight Championship would be the tables match, with Amore putting Kalisto through one with his newfound friends doing the dirty work for him.

    KB: Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor would be perfect as a chairs match, allowing the two "demons" to get more physical and brutal with one another. 

    Bliss vs. Mickie would make sense as a tables match as it is the same type of contest in which Bliss won her first title and would give Bliss an easy cheap out to retain her championship.

    Kalisto vs. Enzo makes too much sense as a ladder match because both are high-flyers and Kalisto has thrived in that sort of contest before. It would also allow the other cruiserweights to get involved and potentially cause the chaos necessary for Enzo to regain the championship without ever pinning Kalisto.

    JJ: Bliss vs. James in a chairs match. Their feud has been a brutal, insult-fueled spectacle. Why not add more violence to the match?

    Enzo vs. Kalisto in a ladder match. Nothing but high spots for Kalisto to play with and ladders for Enzo to display his ruthless side.

    Fox vs. Sasha in a tables match would be an excellent way to invigorate the crowd before the main show begins.

    RD: Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher vs. Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann in a tables match. This bout doesn't have a ton of spark thanks to a flat storyline. A table spot would at least give it a boost in excitement.

    Kalisto vs. Enzo Amore in a ladder match. The stipulation would both hide Amore's limitations and give Kalisto a chance to deliver some breathtaking moments. One of his career highlights remains his Salida del Sol from off a ladder at TLC 2015.

    Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James in a chairs match. Bringing in steel chairs to this contest would play up how personal things have become between champion and challenger. Bliss has spent weeks running down James, dismissing her as an old lady. It would be great to see the veteran respond with some chair shots to Little Miss Bliss' back.

    JM: Swann and Alexander vs. Gallagher and Kendrick in a tables match makes too much sense, especially since the crowd will need something to keep them interested in this throwaway feud.

    The cruiserweight title contest would have been perfect for the ladder match stipulation, and WWE could play up Enzo's fear of heights.

    Banks vs. Fox in a chairs match since that could be an equalizer in a bout like this, and it would be fun to see Alicia Fox wielding a chair.

    CM: I would have booked Asuka vs. Emma to be a tables match. It would have given Asuka's debut more of an impact.

    Kalisto vs. Amore in a ladder match is the only option that makes sense. Kalisto could hit a few high spots, and Amore could mask his lack of technical skills with pure carnage.

    Balor vs. Wyatt in a chairs match might have made the bout more interesting. There is little reason to care about this feud anymore.

Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James (Women's Championship)

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    Q: What does it say about how women are viewed in the wrestling industry when James is booked in a storyline wherein Bliss is calling her old when she is only 38?

    AM: This type of sad mentality applies not just to professional wrestling but all forms of entertainment. One look at actresses in Hollywood shows a distinct age gap between leading ladies and their male costars, who can sustain themselves longer without suffering the stigma of being "too old." It's peculiar, particularly when James looks just as good as her younger coworkers, both in and out of the ring, if not better.

    Prediction: Bliss retains.

    KB: WWE has always had heels take controversial angles with their opponents, and they should never be taken seriously. Calling a veteran on her last run in WWE old is one of WWE's tamer attempts to get heat. As long as James is allowed to show she has the ability to still go, it will all be fine.

    Prediction: Bliss is forced to cheat to survive James, proving the veteran still has it.

    JJ: It's more athletes than the wrestling industry. The minute an NBA player turns 33, people can't wait to gift him a rocking chair and Metamucil. Since the perception is that women wrestlers aren't active past a certain age in WWE, the angle works here. Especially as a former mentor to Bliss turned adversary.

    Prediction: Miss Bliss retains in an excellent showing.

    RD: The angle is out of touch and lazy. This is clear result of a double standard. Bliss and James have nailed their performances during the build, so it's frustrating that it has been within the context of a head-scratcher of a story.

    Prediction: Bliss retains.

    JM: I think it harkens back to my earlier comment about the stark difference between the two eras of women's wrestling more than age. James has proved she can perform on the same level as these Superstars, and the only reason age has become part of the story is the heel champion was looking for an excuse to not provide James with a title shot.

    Prediction: Bliss retains her title.

    CM: This is a tough subject. On the one hand, anything Bliss can do to get herself heat is good for the story, but on the other hand, criticizing James for her age makes little to no sense. She might be older than the rest of the women on the roster, but that doesn't make her old.

    It almost feels like the horrible storyline with LayCool calling her Piggie James back in 2009. It's just lazy writing. A better option would have been to have Bliss call her out for trying to take the spotlight from young talent. There's more potential in a feud like that.

    Prediction: Bliss retains, but James wins by count-out or disqualification. 

The Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher vs. Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander

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    Q: How would you review Gallagher's run as a heel up to this point? Should he have stayed a babyface, or is he better off in his new role?

    AM: I still think Jack Gallagher had more time as a babyface he could have capitalized on, particularly if he had been paired up with Amore as his first feud, but his heel run has been an interesting twist. The true test will be whether he can win the title in the next few months. If not, perhaps it was a mistake to turn him so soon.

    Prediction: WWE probably won't decide until Sunday night with a coin flip. Kendrick and Gallagher get the win.

    KB: I always thought Gallagher was underused as a face and had a great run against Neville, but he was doing nothing after their title match. Kendrick has helped revitalize his career and established Gallagher as a lethal threat. His feud with Cedric Alexander is the best story being told on 205 Live.

    Prediction: Kendrick and Gallagher again get the better of Alexander, pinning Swann.

    JJ: I love the heel role for Gallagher. He's a Bond villain come to life in WWE. I wish he would ditch the umbrella (gimmick infringement), but turning heel was a good change of pace for his character. Wrestling as a heel favors his moveset better.

    Prediction: Kendrick and the former Gentleman heelishly pull out a W.

    RD: He's been solid. Gallagher is just a victim of a lack of effort from the booking team. This ho-hum tag team match at TLC is a good example of that.

    Prediction: Swann and Alexander win.

    JM: I like heel Gallagher and think he can thrive in this setting. But it takes a commitment from WWE Creative to make that happen, and no one in the cruiserweight division has received anything resembling a sustained storyline.

    Prediction: Swann and Alexander prevail.

    CM: Turning Gallagher heel was the best option for everyone. He was coming dangerously close to becoming a comedy character, but his new attitude makes him appear dangerous. His partnership with Kendrick has been better than expected, and he has done a great job transitioning his style to be more focused on inflicting pain than doing tricks. This match will likely be better than most would expect because all four men are so hungry for success.

    Prediction: Kendrick and Gallagher get the win.

Bray Wyatt (Sister Abigail) vs. Finn Balor (The Demon)

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    Q: Would it be better if WWE used a woman to play Sister Abigail, or is having Wyatt play her a better option?

    AM: There are so many downsides to having a woman play Sister Abigail, such as the timeline meaning she would have to be much older. This possession or split-personality angle is much more interesting, even if this feud between Wyatt and Balor has gone on too long. Hopefully this will add a new dynamic to Wyatt going forward.

    Prediction: Balor wins.

    KB: I love the idea of Sister Abigail as a concept to give Wyatt a fresh start, but having him become Abigail is too much a rip-off of Balor's Demon and likely will come off poorly as Wyatt just wrestling in drag. I don't know that anyone could have pulled off the role of being Abigail's new vessel, but a manager by Wyatt's side would have given him far more longevity and been less of a silly gimmick.

    Prediction: Wyatt, as Sister Abigail, overwhelms The Demon, ending this feud with a definitive win.

    JJ: I wish WWE would use different characters altogether. They are completely botching Bray Wyatt and clearly are stalling Finn to buy time for whatever next move they envision. I hope Bray can get a consistent theme and the company actually invests in it. Sister Abigail does nothing for me.

    Prediction: Another coin flip in a lackluster TLC card. Sister aBRAYgail wins!

    RD: Sister Abigail turning out to be Wyatt in a veil is hugely disappointing. This was a major missed narrative opportunity. Fans are going to laugh this cartoon match out of the building.

    Prediction: Balor wins.

    JM: Of course Abigail should have been a new character. WWE has stumbled so many times with Wyatt, with this being the latest wrong turn. There's no way for Wyatt to look good here, as the premise that Abigail is his alter ego is terrible, coupled with the fact Balor simply cannot lose as The Demon. This will hopefully result in the reset button being pressed on Wyatt.

    Prediction: The Demon King wins.

    CM: This feud was stale weeks ago, and the whole Sister Abigail reveal has done nothing to give it new life. WWE had the chance to give someone like Nikki Cross or Sarah Logan a huge push by having them play Sister Abigail, but instead we got Wyatt in a dress. This match might be fun for the kids because of the Halloween theme, but it needs to be their final encounter.

    Prediction: The match ends in a double DQ after the ref fails to keep them under control.

The Shield vs. Braun Strowman, Kane, The Miz and The Bar

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    Q: Many fans have been begging for a proper Shield reunion since all three members of the group ended up back on Raw together. Is this storyline worthy of the reunion, or should WWE have waited until a bigger event like WrestleMania? Why?

    AM: This storyline is chaotic and makes no sense. It's a haphazard mesh of random things thrown together with zero cohesion and, frankly, a poor and somewhat lazy creative decision. It could be fun, but little effort was seemingly put into formulating it, and it shows. The Shield deserves better—as do the other people in the match.

    Prediction: The Shield somehow still pulls out the win.

    KB: This whole story just reeks of desperation, with The Miz selling the whole idea of The Shield reuniting by repeatedly referencing them out of the blue. The only reason The Shield should have reunited this soon was for a legitimate powerhouse team of three, not just five heels all angry with Raw's top babyfaces and goading them into fighting together again with no stakes.

    Prediction: The Shield manages to divide the five opponents and conquer, with Reigns pinning Miz.

    JJ: I think the storyline could have built slower toward Wrestlemania. But WWE has shown over the past few months that it's no longer waiting for 'Mania to pull the trigger on dream matches. So I'm going to enjoy this reunion for now. All the characters needed this boost.

    Prediction: No way The Shield doesn't find a way to go over in a devastating match.

    RD: Allowing non-WrestleMania events to host some of the biggest matches and moments is a welcome sight. The Show of Shows should still be the highlight of the calendar, but spreading the special stuff around makes for a more enjoyable year-round experience. The storyline is a bit thrown together, but the match is going to be an absolute barn burner.

    Prediction: The Shield.

    JM: I may be in the minority, but I think this angle works and that WWE was right on the timing. Say what you want about Kane's inclusion, but having The Shield go up against what amounts to a group of bullies has been a perfect way to get the band back together, especially in a TLC match where the heels' numbers advantage can be thwarted via the use of some outside objects.

    There are also plenty of ways to explore the group after this, whether they join forces for the long haul or are casually brought together from time to time until larger events like Survivor Series or WrestleMania.

    Prediction: The Shield wins.

    CM: I am a fan of Strowman, The Miz, Kane and The Bar, but having them face The Shield in a handicap match is so random. Not only does this take the tag and intercontinental titles out of play, but it never makes sense to have a TLC match without something for the Superstars to reach for above the ring. Having The Shield's reunion take place on a B-level PPV is fine, but there should have been a better reason behind it.

    Prediction: The Shield wins. Obviously.