Final Predictions for Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax, Entire WWE TLC 2018 Card
It's been a tale of two shows in the weeks preceding WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2018, with SmackDown Live doing an infinitely better job of building up the event than Raw. Despite that, it's a loaded lineup on paper that has the potential to end the year on a high note for both brands.
Becky Lynch has been riding high as SmackDown women's champion since September, but she will face her toughest challenge to date Sunday in the form of a Triple Threat Tables, Ladders and Chairs match also involving Charlotte Flair and Asuka. Can The Man escape the event with her title reign intact?
Another TLC matchup will take place Sunday, with Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin battling for the top spot on the Raw roster. Will Strowman be cleared to compete in time for TLC, and if not, will Corbin be automatically be appointed to a permanent position of power on Monday nights?
Dean Ambrose's shocking betrayal of Seth Rollins in October shook the WWE Universe to its core and resulted in a ruthless rivalry between the two that has carried Raw in recent months. When they collide for the Intercontinental Championship at the final pay-per-view of the year, who will reign supreme?
With WWE's version of the demolition derby upon us, now is as appropriate of a time as any to preview Sunday's pay-per-view and offer a prediction for each advertised contest on the card.
Fabulous Truth vs. Mahalicia (Mixed Match Challenge Final)
The second season of WWE's Mixed Match Challenge started out with 10 teams facing each other on a weekly basis with nothing of significance at stake. It wasn't revealed until recently that the winners would receive the an "all-expenses paid vacation" as well and the final spots in the men's and women's Royal Rumble matches.
Anyone who has tuned into Mixed Match Challenge on Facebook Live over the past few months would know that the show has been forgettable. Injuries and last-minute switches hindered the quality of the matches and have resulted in the tournament being treated like a total joke.
Worse yet, the two teams with the worst records were the ones who advanced to the final: Fabulous Truth (R-Truth and Carmella) and Mahalicia (Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox). There is no intrigue in any of these Superstars entering their respective Rumbles last, meaning it doesn't matter who wins here.
That being said, WWE might as well award Truth and Carmella the victory, if only because they have managed to click as an undercard act lately. Mahal and Fox have zero chemistry, so having Truth and Carmella come out on top would at least be a slightly more satisfying end to this atrocity of a tournament.
Fingers crossed WWE finds a way to bump Truth and Carmella from their No. 30 Rumble spots before the January pay-per-view. You likely won't come across many fans who would argue with the decision to do so.
Prediction: R-Truth and Carmella win.
Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander (WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
The WWE Cruiserweight Championship has been hotly contested throughout 2018, though no two competitors have more history with the prestigious prize, as well as with each other, than Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander.
The two first clashed for the championship in Alexander's hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, on the May 29 edition of 205 Live, and Alexander emerged victorious. They then met in Murphy's hometown of Melbourne, Australia, at Super Show-Down, and that time, he was able to take the title.
A rubber match has been in the works for a while, though no one expected it to occur at TLC. After all, it's rare for the cruiserweights to feature on any WWE show that isn't a Big Four pay-per-view, so seeing them added to Sunday's card was a pleasant surprise for fans of 205 Live.
As they have done the past two times, they will go all out and do everything imaginable to ensure they have the best bout of the night. When the smoke clears, however, it will be Murphy with his hand held high and the title still in his possession.
Alexander has had nothing short of a stellar 2018, but it's time for him to move on from the Cruiserweight Championship picture and perhaps join Raw or SmackDown Live as a full-time member.
Prediction: Buddy Murphy retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton (Chairs Match)
From Shinsuke Nakamura to The Miz, Rey Mysterio has made a handful of enemies since returning to WWE in October, but no one has been a bigger thorn in the side of The Master of the 619 recently than Randy Orton.
Mysterio originally ignited a fire within Orton after beating him in the first round of the WWE World Cup. Orton then targeted him in the weeks that followed and avenged his loss to Mysterio in a rematch on the Nov. 20 edition of SmackDown Live.
Their feud has only escalated since, with Orton battering Mysterio with a chair on multiple occasions, leading to a Chairs matchup between the two at the pay-per-view. With the heated rivals tied with one win apiece, both have an equal chance of coming out on top, but an Orton win would be the best bet.
Being the ultimate underdog that he is, Mysterio can suffer a defeat of this magnitude and not be damaged by it. Orton, on the other hand, has been riding a wave of momentum lately, and another notable victory would propel him into WWE Championship contention.
There haven't been too many memorable Chairs matches at TLC over the years (at least not for the right reasons), but if there are two Superstars who could make the most of the stipulation, it's Mysterio and Orton.
Prediction: Randy Orton wins.
Natalya vs. Ruby Riott (Tables Match)
It's always refreshing to have a rivalry in the women's division that isn't over a championship, but Natalya vs. Ruby Riott has been anything but compelling.
Fans have been divided on WWE using Jim Neidhart's death in a storyline with Natalya and The Riott Squad simply to create bad blood between the two. Both ladies are exceptionally skilled in the ring, but the focus hasn't been on their matches as much as it has their silly segments (Neidhart's broken sunglasses, the table with Neidhart's face on it, etc).
At the end of the day, Riott has way more upside than Natalya. The Hart family member is a solid hand to have to help put over up-and-coming talent, but her days as the centerpiece of the Raw or SmackDown women's divisions are done.
Meanwhile, Riott has impressed the masses with every opportunity she's been given since arriving on Raw in April, and that should continue as we enter 2019. She might not be contending for the Raw Women's Championship anytime soon, but a win at TLC would at least put her in the conversation.
With there being no disqualifications in a Tables match, look for The Riott Squad to make its presence felt in this bout and help Riott beat Natalya.
Prediction: Ruby Riott wins.
Elias vs. Bobby Lashley (Ladder Match)
Elias and Bobby Lashley have been at odds since the summer, and at TLC, their long-running rivalry will culminate in a ladder match with an interesting twist.
Instead of a contract or a championship hanging high above the ring, it will be a guitar, which has played an instrumental (no pun intended) role in this feud. Whoever reaches it first will be able to use it to their advantage for the remainder of the matchup.
As silly a stipulation as it is, there's a chance Elias and Lashley will make the most of it and produce something passable. Then again, this program has been a colossal waste of time and has hardly benefited either guy.
Although Lashley has been running rampant as a heel in recent months, Elias has more momentum. The WWE Universe has been solidly behind him as a face regardless of his lackluster win-loss record on pay-per-view this year, and a big win at TLC would propel him in the right direction.
With no disqualifications in Sunday's clash, Lio Rush could attempt to interfere and aid Lashley, but having Elias walk away with the victory would be the better bet. It would also make up for Elias' embarrassing loss to Rush on Raw recently.
Prediction: Elias wins.
The Bar vs. Usos vs. New Day (Triple Threat SmackDown Tag Team Titles Match)
Tag team wrestling has been more of a novelty act than a true priority on SmackDown in 2018, though the three teams that have continued to steal the show no matter what have been The Bar, The New Day and The Usos.
All three tandems have held the twin titles at some point this year, and on Sunday, they will collide with the gold up for grabs in what is bound to be a tremendous Triple Threat match. The feud hasn't been anything worth writing home about, but at least from an in-ring standpoint, this incredible crop of competitors can always be counted on to deliver the goods.
The Bar ended New Day's short-lived stint with the straps in October. Thus, there's no reason for them to regain the belts in the foreseeable future.
As for The Usos, they have mostly been removed from the tag title scene since WrestleMania 34. While a straightforward feud between them and The Bar would be entertaining, it's still too soon for Sheamus and Cesaro to be losing the titles.
If it isn't The Usos down the road, there's no telling who will dethrone The Bar as tag team champions, especially since everyone else in the division is basically irrelevant.
Prediction: The Bar retains the SmackDown Tag Team Championships.
Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre
As abysmal as Raw has been lately, Drew McIntyre has been among the few bright spots on the show from week to week. Unlike the rest of the roster, he has been wisely protected by management and has been kept special by winning far more than he loses.
His annihilation of Kurt Angle in November sent the message that he is on the rise and that no one is going to stand in his way of superstardom, including Finn Balor. It's been a perfectly fine feud, but it's clear Balor is nothing more than a stepping stone for McIntyre in his pursuit of the Universal Championship.
Having Balor beat McIntyre at TLC wouldn't be the end of McIntyre's aggressive push by any means, but The Scottish Psychopath has much more to gain from a successful showing on Sunday than Balor. He has his sights set on reigning supreme in January's men's Royal Rumble match, whereas Balor will continue to flounder until he is (hopefully) moved to SmackDown in the next Superstar Shake-up.
One interesting X-factor in this bout could be Dolph Ziggler, who owns a recent win over McIntyre. The Scot went on to avenge the loss by destroying his former tag team partner the next week, so perhaps Ziggler could resurface at TLC and factor into the finish of this match.
Per PWInsider (h/t Wrestling Inc), Finn Balor didn't appear on Monday's Raw because of illness. As of this writing, it's unknown whether he will be cleared to compete in time for Sunday's pay-per-view, but if the bout does go on as scheduled, expect McIntyre to have his hand raised in victory.
Prediction: Drew McIntyre wins.
Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax (Raw Women's Championship)
Ronda Rousey has been running roughshod over the Raw women's division since her arrival at the onset of 2018 and has gotten over with the audience as a megastar in the process.
Granted, she was already a notable name before signing with WWE, but Rousey's stock skyrocketed with her impressive in-ring debut at WrestleMania, and it was only onward and upward for her from there. From Alexa Bliss to The Riott Squad to Nikki Bella, no one has been able to measure up to her dominance, and it looks like Nia Jax will be her latest victim.
The two recently rekindled their rivalry from the summer after Jax earned a shot at Rousey's Raw Women's Championship at Evolution. Unfortunately, the feud has left a lot to be desired, and it doesn't help that there is little uncertainty over outcome of their contest at TLC.
On the bright side, having Rousey retain her title is the only booking decision that makes sense. For as much heat as Jax has these days coming off her vicious assault on Becky Lynch, she remains below average in the ring and offers next to nothing in the role of Raw's top women's heel.
Rousey has been undefeated and unstoppable for so long that to have her lose Jax would be one of the most short-sighted things WWE could do. Here's hoping the promotion is smarter than that and allows Rousey to end the year with the gold in her grasp.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey retains the Raw Women's Championship.
Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles (WWE Championship)
Daniel Bryan revealed his true colors when he unseated AJ Styles as WWE champion in shocking fashion on the final SmackDown Live before Survivor Series in November. No one expected WWE's resident "Yes!" man to go to such desperate lengths to regain the title he hadn't held for several years, but as it turned out, the heel turn was exactly what he needed to reignite his stagnant career.
It's clear that Bryan is much more comfortable as a heel than he ever was as a babyface. The material he's being given to work with isn't riveting, but it's the delivery of his promos that has made him such a treat to watch in his feud with Styles.
Speaking of whom, Styles has also benefited from being in chase mode again for the first time in more than a year. Fans have been clamoring to see him get his hands on Bryan and give him his comeuppance, which is why they should be fighting in some sort of stipulation match at TLC.
Nevertheless, Bryan and Styles have always worked well together, and their TLC clash should be no different. Bryan has proved time and time again that he will do whatever it takes to maintain his possession of the prestigious prize, so Styles is at a disadvantage in that respect and should lose in his obligatory championship rematch.
The rivalry deserves to last longer and should continue beyond this pay-per-view, but it would be foolish for WWE to relieve Bryan of the title Sunday considering how entertaining he has been in the role as heel champion.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan retains the WWE Championship.
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin (TLC Match)
Baron Corbin took over for Kurt Angle as the acting Raw general manager when Angle was removed from his position of power by Stephanie McMahon in August, and the flagship show has been in less-than-stellar shape since.
Meanwhile, Braun Strowman has taken aim at Corbin after The Lone Wolf cost him the Universal Championship at November's Crown Jewel event. Following Team Raw's dominant performance at Survivor Series, Stephanie promised Strowman a rematch with Lesnar if he could defeat Corbin at TLC, but if not, Corbin would be named the full-time GM of Raw.
In the weeks preceding the pay-per-view, Corbin has abused his authority at every turn. That has made it seem that Corbin's days in power are numbered and that his reign of terror is set to end at TLC, when he and Strowman go one-on-one.
After all, another Lesnar vs. Strowman matchup was inevitable based off the end to their encounter at Crown Jewel. The only question now is whether Strowman will be healthy enough to compete against Corbin at TLC or whether it will turn into more of an angle.
Either way, Strowman must steamroll through Corbin and earn another shot at the universal title, kicking Corbin to the curb as Raw GM in the process.
Prediction: Braun Strowman wins.
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (Intercontinental Championship)
The Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins rivalry kicked off with a bang after Ambrose shockingly betrayed Rollins moments removed from their Raw Tag Team Championships victory in October. The follow-up hasn't been nearly as hot, however, because Ambrose appears to be creatively stifled as a heel and Rollins is cooling off as intercontinental champion.
The title has felt lost in the shuffle over the course of this feud as well. Rather, the focus has been on their animosity and Ambrose establishing how much of a heel he is by insulting the audience every week.
This storyline is still in its early stages, so it virtually does not matter who wins in their first one-on-one encounter on pay-per-view in years. Ambrose has more to prove between the two and could use a nice run with the intercontinental title if he's booked like a credible champion.
However, it's equally possible Ambrose emerges victorious at TLC but by disqualification and not by pinfall or submission. Rollins' hatred for Ambrose may lead him to batter his former brother-in-arms with a steel chair, which would progress their program and protect both men.
Nothing is accomplished by having Rollins beat Ambrose decisively at TLC, making Ambrose the much safer choice.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose wins (but not necessarily the Intercontinental Championship).
Lynch vs. Flair vs. Asuka (Triple Threat TLC SmackDown Women's Title Match)
The women of WWE have been breaking boundaries for years, and WWE TLC 2018 will mark the next step in the Women's Evolution when Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Asuka collide in the first women's Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the SmackDown Women's Championship.
This is far and away the most anticipated match on the card, so there should be no dispute that this belongs in the main event slot. Furthermore, any of the three ladies could walk out as champion, making the contest that much more exciting.
Lynch is without a doubt the best thing going in WWE, but she doesn't necessarily need a title around her waist as WrestleMania season draws near. Ideally, she should be challenging Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women's Championship at the Show of Shows. In order to do that, she needs to win the women's Royal Rumble match (meaning she can't be a champion at the beginning of 2019).
Meanwhile, Charlotte has had her time in the spotlight as a former multi-time champion and should remain in chase mode for a little longer. That leaves Asuka, who has fallen far from her days as the undefeated Empress of Tomorrow earlier this year but could rebound with a historic title victory at TLC.
That opens up the possibility for both Lynch and Charlotte to challenge Asuka at some point. If Asuka loses on Sunday, it will difficult to take her seriously as a championship contender ever again following her rocky 2018.
Prediction: Asuka wins the SmackDown Women's Championship.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.