Updated WWE TLC 2018 Match Card and Early Predictions
The card for WWE TLC 2018 isn't set in stone, but with the lineup already as stacked as it is and only one more set of shows before the pay-per-view, WWE has given us a fairly finalized look at what matches will take place on December 16.
At the moment, five championships are on the line, and WWE's version of a demolition derby will assuredly include plenty of tables, ladders and chairs to go around with several gimmick matches already promised.
Also, the WWE Mixed Match Challenge tournament will come to a close and the fate of Baron Corbin's authority over Raw will be decided, meaning this event could have lasting effects well into 2019.
We know what WWE is advertising, but let's delve deeper and try to predict what else might be in store at this year's event.
Mixed Match Challenge Tournament Final
The semifinals for Season 2 of Mixed Match Challenge will take place next week, when MahAlicia will face B'n'B and Fabulous Truth will go up against Team Awe-ska to determine which two teams will compete at TLC.
Since Finn Balor and Asuka already have matches on this card, it is within reason to assume they won't have to pull double duty. It isn't unheard of, but it's rare for people to wrestle twice on the same card in unrelated matches.
If that is so, it rules out B'n'B and Awe-ska from the final, which means Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox would wrestle R-Truth and Carmella for the chance to earn the 30th entry spots in the men's and women's Royal Rumble matches.
Those four are on the comedic spectrum of WWE rather than being the most credible contenders, so either team could win and it would be just as much of a joke—and the laughs might be what prevents one of these teams from winning.
R-Truth and Carmella have been continuing their dance break interruptions on a regular basis, so it's likely one or both of them will do that at Royal Rumble.
In the past, these comedy spots have been used around the midpoint of an event, so it would be strange for them to enter at No. 30 and do something like that.
Unless the semifinals go differently, this may be a story of Mahal and Alicia getting the surprise victory and winning the tournament.
Prediction: MahAlicia wins Mixed Match Challenge Season 2.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Match
After numerous fights, the feud between The New Day and The Bar seems just about over, with this likely being their final shot to regain the tag titles for the time being.
It won't be easy, though, as The Usos are in the hunt for gold, and they have been on a roll since scoring several wins over Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles.
This Triple Threat match is one of those cases where WWE could do anything and it wouldn't be a surprise. As an end-of-year event, TLC is a good place for making adjustments to the roster before heading into WrestleMania season.
If WWE wishes to have the belts on The Usos, they could well win the titles here, giving The Bar their obligatory rematch at Royal Rumble and moving on to mess around with other teams in February and March before WrestleMania 35.
Likewise, WWE could postpone that change for a little while longer, by having The New Day take the fall, so they can be pushed out of the way and Jimmy and Jey can make the case that they didn't lose and deserve another chance.
The long game seems to be The Usos more than The Bar or The New Day, and they are likely to be holding the belts soon enough.
Prediction: The Usos win the titles.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
It was inevitable that Dean Ambrose would turn on Seth Rollins somewhere along the way, as these two can only go so long without clashing.
Now that they're enemies again, the Intercontinental Championship is caught up in their bitter feud and may find a new home soon.
Rollins has held the title since WrestleMania 34 outside of a stint in the summer when he traded it with Dolph Ziggler. With over 170 days as champion in 2018, he has held it long enough to lose it again and not appear weak.
What's strange, though, is that Ambrose is exactly the type of person who may be hindered by a title rather than helped.
The Lunatic Fringe works best when his feuds are personal and story-driven in a way that show off his personality, which isn't the case when he's the champion and people are lining up to fight him to take the gold away.
He then turns into the defensive and sympathetic character, which flies in the face of what WWE is doing with him right now.
Ambrose winning the championship could be a done deal here, but it won't be the end of the world if he loses—it might be more beneficial in the long run for him to stay away from it.
Prediction: Ambrose wins the title.
Raw Women's Championship: Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax
Given Ronda Rousey's star power, there is virtually no chance she will lose the Raw Women's Championship to Nia Jax at TLC.
Stranger things have happened, of course, so it isn't a guarantee, but no amount of heat Jax is getting from injuring Becky Lynch outranks keeping the title on Rousey.
There's no reason for Lynch to want to help Jax by costing the former UFC star the fight due to interference, nor should Charlotte Flair get involved in any means other than to fight Rousey herself, which would result in a disqualification.
Even the possibility of Natalya turning on Rousey isn't as interesting without the championship on the line, so that negates a title change happening here.
The bottom line is Rousey is too much of a commodity to not be holding the championship going into WrestleMania, and the heat surrounding Jax isn't the right type of atmosphere to transition to.
Prediction: Rousey retains the title.
SmackDown Women's Championship Triple Threat Match
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair have been dueling for months over the SmackDown Women's Championship, so by now, the WWE Universe pretty much knows what will happen regarding those two putting on a great performance.
This time, though, they will also have Asuka to watch out for, which adds a different element to the fight.
The Empress of Tomorrow's inclusion may be to protect Flair and Lynch, who are bigger deals going forward on the Road to WrestleMania months. If that's the case, it's a safe bet she'll suffer another loss.
It isn't the first blemish on her previously untarnished record, so it isn't the biggest deal in the world if she comes up short. Where the other two are concerned, though, determining a winner isn't an easy call.
This result depends entirely on WWE's plans for Royal Rumble and WrestleMania regarding which event sees Lynch vs. Rousey and which has Flair vs. Rousey II.
WWE could take the title off Lynch just to have her win the Royal Rumble and fight Rousey at WrestleMania, but that leaves SmackDown in the cold. There aren't any decent opponents for Flair on the blue brand, as Asuka vs. Flair is old news and their singles rematch is already scheduled for next week on television.
It makes more sense for The Irish Lass Kicker to fight Rousey at Royal Rumble in the champion vs. champion setup that was supposed to happen at Survivor Series, followed by Flair winning the Royal Rumble and challenging for the Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania.
That way, Lynch as SmackDown women's champion can be able to capitalize on her built-in feud with Nia Jax, based on their heat from the injury that took place.
Lynch vs. Jax is the next biggest match that can happen in the women's division and all it would take is for Jax to move to SmackDown, which isn't hard when WWE changes rules on a whim and trades can happen at any time when necessary.
Flair vs. Rousey and Lynch vs. Jax is the proper balance, but for that to happen, Flair can't win the SmackDown title if Rousey is holding the Raw one, and Lynch has to retain the blue brand's belt to keep that in the spotlight and to prevent it from being defended by Flair in a match that doesn't matter.
Prediction: Lynch retains the title.
TLC Match: Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin
The jury is still out on whether Braun Strowman will be able to compete at TLC after his recent injury.
If he is unable to compete, this match will likely be changed along with Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre and Elias vs. Bobby Lashley to become some sort of multi-man bout that may even include Apollo Crews, Jinder Mahal, Dolph Ziggler and others.
However, if we assume Strowman vs. Corbin is still on as scheduled, the stakes of this match speak volumes.
If The Monster Among Men wins, he receives a title shot against Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble and Corbin loses his position of power at Raw. If The Lone Wolf wins, he becomes the fulltime general manager of the red brand.
Typically, when these stipulations are put on a match, the most bombastic thing occurs, which would be disrupting the power flow of Raw, allowing Alexa Bliss or someone else to take over, and going with the built-in rematch of Lesnar vs. Strowman at Royal Rumble.
If that doesn't happen, it will be due to some outside interference, but since the scales are even between babyfaces and heels right now, the smart bet is to go with Strowman.
Prediction: Strowman wins.
Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre lost to Dolph Ziggler on Raw this week due to interference from Finn Balor, but it will be the last time he's going to lose for a while.
Clearly, WWE is pushing him with the intent to make him one of the biggest and most credible heels on the Raw brand, which means he'll continue to be protected as much as possible.
That includes this match at TLC against Balor, where nothing is on the line that would get in the way of a McIntyre victory.
This is perhaps the easiest match to call the winner of on the entire card due to measuring how little Balor has actually accomplished this year in comparison to how McIntyre is in the midst of a major boost to his career.
Prediction: McIntyre wins.
Elias vs. Bobby Lashley
If WWE looks at the lineup for this card as Strowman vs. Corbin, Balor vs. McIntyre and Elias vs. Bobby Lashley being a trio of the same feud, The Monster Among Men and The Scottish Psychopath getting the wins puts the tiebreaker on the shoulders of Elias and Lashley.
This is a tough one to call, as both men could use a win but neither stands to lose much by coming up short, and the feud isn't too complex that it needs to go in any particular direction or even continue after this.
Elias could just as easily keep fighting Lashley after a win or a loss, eating up some time before they go their separate ways and compete in the Royal Rumble match and move on to other programs.
Having Lio Rush by his side and an advantage in power should give an edge to Lashley, especially since his win could come before McIntyre's to make it seem like Strowman has no hope, until the cavalry comes out for the save.
Prediction: Lashley wins.
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles
SmackDown is a confusing landscape right now, with the most over babyface in the company turning heel and having virtually no possible contenders for WrestleMania season, yet he is still in such a position that he's essentially guaranteed to keep his title.
AJ Styles held the WWE Championship for an entire year, but there's only a slim chance WWE will put the belt back on him so soon after dropping it.
For that to happen, there would need to be some major stories in the works for WrestleMania that aren't being hinted at quite yet: Styles could fight Randy Orton with the title on the line or Bryan might start a new feud with someone without the belt involved, such as a Triple Threat with The Miz and Shane McMahon. But this does seem frantic for merely justifying a title change.
When in doubt, the simplest answer is usually the best one. In this case, that is Bryan coming out on top by hook or by crook and holding on to the WWE Championship.
Prediction: Bryan retains the title.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.