WWE TLC 2018: Most Intriguing Subplots Heading into Final PPV of the Year
WWE's version of a demolition derby, TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, is heading our way this Sunday with promises of calamity and assured destruction to go around.
With all those weapons ringside, that isn't just some play on how much of a wreck WWE programming has been these past few months, even though that has been the case.
However, despite all the bad execution, there are many interesting storylines going on at the center of this event to make the card a lot more compelling than it seems at first glance.
Titles are on the line and careers are hanging in the balance. The first push toward the Road to WrestleMania will start here, and there are plenty of unknowns to keep us guessing what we're in store for.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the most interesting subplots and storylines going on right now in the build toward TLC 2018.
Mutiny on Baron Corbin's Sinking Ship
Lately, WWE Raw has pretty much revolved around the story of Baron Corbin's reign of terror, with more and more stories getting tied into the mix.
The most recent has been the Seth Rollins-Dean Ambrose feud, which was previously a separate entity, being woven in with The Architect defending the Intercontinental Championship after calling out the acting Raw general manager's leadership as the reason for the red brand's decline.
Since we've seen Corbin use his influence to target his enemies, it stands to reason he will do something to get back at Rollins at TLC and maybe cost him the title as just one of his evil acts of the night.
Even if he isn't a direct puppet master, he is tangentially attached to Drew McIntyre, who finds himself adding more names to his list of enemies. The Scottish Psychopath is currently feuding with Finn Balor as well as the newly turned tweener Dolph Ziggler, but that isn't all.
When Corbin gave McIntyre a set of medals and reminded us of the Scot's humiliation of Kurt Angle, it acted as a means to keep that feud's fire going a while longer, possibly to be reignited soon with the former GM's return.
Corbin has been involved in the Elias and Bobby Lashley feud and turned Heath Slater into a referee who reluctantly does his bidding, which brings up the question of whether the new official will be forced to screw people over at TLC, too.
It all comes back to The Lone Wolf, but as much as he's involved in half the matches on the card, the most interesting subplot may just be that he could lose that power against Braun Strowman on this night, too.
If that's the case, who will take over in Corbin's place? Perhaps that's a question to which we already know the answer.
Alexa Bliss' Rise to Power
Due to the injury she suffered before Evolution, Alexa Bliss has been out of action and in need of something to do, which is why she was granted an authority role on Raw as the head of the women's division.
Since then, she has held her own on the microphone and served a solid purpose as Survivor Series team captain, but WWE has booked her in terrible Q&A segments that aren't doing her any favors and will destroy her value in that role if they continue.
However, despite having a bad run these past few weeks, there is still a ton of potential going on with Bliss in charge, especially if Corbin has to forfeit control after losing to Strowman.
As the next highest-ranking member of the team, she would be in line for a promotion and Stephanie McMahon may make her the next general manager of Raw, rather than just the heading the women's division.
If so, how is that going to affect Ronda Rousey's title reign, the feud between Natalya and Ruby Riott, the upcoming Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber matches and more?
TLC could see a massive shift of power from Corbin to Bliss that will take not just the women's division in a new direction for 2019, but also everything else on Raw.
Becky Lynch's Health Status and Asuka's Inclusion
While we saw her get physical on SmackDown, it's still unknown what shape Becky Lynch will be in if she's able to wrestle at TLC.
This isn't something WWE is keeping us in the dark about, but it is a variable with no certain outcome. Anything can happen once the punches start flying, but how WWE is planning on handling that is another element to the question.
Will Lynch wear a mask to cover her nose and help protect her face? Will she adjust her move set to avoid certain maneuvers that could be more dangerous to her in her current state?
There's an equal chance The Irish Lass Kicker will be able to compete as normal as there is the possibility that all of the spots will be on the safer end or won't necessarily even involve her, even if that diminishes the quality of the segment.
There is speculation Asuka was inserted into the match specifically to counteract Lynch's medical state, picking up some of the slack and making it an easier fight to work around while keeping the SmackDown women's champion safe.
If that's the case, WWE must have a game plan in mind not just to prevent Lynch from doing anything too dangerous, but also for Asuka to come up short—she wasn't supposed to be there to begin with, so she surely wasn't scheduled to win from the start.
Is that why The Empress of Tomorrow only won by disqualification against Charlotte Flair, to help keep The Queen strong by not taking a true loss? Is her sole purpose just to take the hits before Lynch or Flair wins?
Even if we rule Asuka out as not likely winning, it seems the trajectory is for both Lynch and Flair to face Ronda Rousey at Royal Rumble and/or WrestleMania 35, so determining who wins at TLC will give major spoilers for which woman gets the Show of Shows match and how things will progress going forward.
Ultimately, it will be interesting to look back on what transpires at TLC to see if Lynch's injury causes the match to go down a particular path, either with her dropping the belt or working safely to retain it.
The Mixed Match Challenge Season 2 Conclusion
Who would have thought one of the most interesting aspects of this pay-per-view would revolve around Alicia Fox, Jinder Mahal, Carmella and R-Truth?
To be fair, it isn't because of any of them, but rather due to what they are involved in—the finale of the second season of WWE Mixed Match Challenge.
This tournament meant nothing at first, but it was eventually announced that the winning team would get an all-expenses-paid vacation and, more importantly, the 30th entry spot in the Royal Rumble matches.
Somehow, Mahalicia and Fabulous Truth—two sets of comedic characters—are fighting for the most coveted entry numbers in the biggest match heading into WrestleMania season.
That is bewildering on so many levels, which makes it interesting, as WWE must have some kind of plan in place, right? This couldn't possibly just be a scenario where the final participant of both Royal Rumble matches is wasted on people who will never win.
Or is that the case? Did WWE mess this tournament up so badly that this was how things played out and it's just going to end up being a huge mistake?
This could be one of the silliest, biggest problems come January if there isn't a bigger plan in place, and it will be interesting to see how things develop from this point.
What About the Other Feuds?
Oddly enough, instead of scrambling to find anything to put on the card, WWE is in a situation where there are too many feuds going on to fit all of them onto the lineup for TLC.
For instance, AOP are entitled to a rematch for the Raw tag team titles against Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, so will that match take place on the next television episode, or will there be an impromptu addition of that for the pre-show come Sunday?
Is there going to be any follow-up to the feud between Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe, which revolves around the latter criticizing the former's recklessness throughout his career?
Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura are assuredly set for some kind of clash for the United States Championship, but WWE has put such little focus on that title and Nakamura for months that it would be interesting enough just to see them care about the pair again.
Sometimes, one of the most interesting things heading into an event isn't what is already being advertised, but the potential that something else completely unknown may happen, too. And with these feuds going on, there's a chance at least one of them could factor into TLC in some way.
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.