TLC Preview and Predictions, 2011

TLC, December 18th, 2011, from the 1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore, MD

This is an interesting PPV for several reasons. Not only does it feature some of the most spectacular match stipulations in wrestling, but more shockingly, its the first PPV in forever that Jeeeeeerrrrrn Ceeeeeeenaahhh isn’t booked to feature on. It’ll be interesting to see is this affects the buys in a negative way, or possibly even, in a good way. The fact he isn’t booked, though, doesn’t mean he wont appear. In fact, Cena tweeting about watching from home makes me worry that the lady doth protest too much. If he does appear, here’s what might happen. Given the re-debut of 1997 Kane on RAW, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him involved in a match (Mark Henry’s again?) which would draw out indignant honor-lover John Cena to confront the Big Red Machine, successfully or not. The other lingering question is whether the tag titles will be defended as Epico and Primo (who need some sort of ‘Puerto Rican Connexion’ type name) have been raging towards the titles of late picking up high-profile victories against the Usos and champions, AirBoom. If this happens, it could go either way, and is likely to be a wonderful, explosive match.

Match 1) Chairs Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Mark Henry (c) vs The Big Show
I think the TLC, tables, and ladder matches will all be later on the card, while thinking that WWE will want to assert the PPV theme early on, so I predict that the chairs match will start out the match. Two giants wielding chairs is certainly a draw, but i’m unsure as to how good this will be. I don’t have a problem with the sensible limitations put on the use of chairs these days in WWE, but in a match where they are the only legal weapons, there is a risk of one-dimensionality. Still, if not Big Show, Henry can be trusted to do remarkable things with weapons at PPV, so he may be able to provide a saving grace. I think my reasoning behind my prediction for this match is based on the impact Big Show has had on Mark Henry, i.e. upset a lot of his momentum and reputation as unstoppable by … stopping him several times. Nonetheless, Henry still remains, thanks to his own way of carrying himself, a dangerous-seeming, powerful champion. Indeed, while Henry remains magnificent, it is in spite of Big Show, and for that reason i’d be amazed if WWE had any faith at all in him as champion. I think this’ll be the end of this feud, and Henry will move on to another challenger.

Winner: Mark Henry

Match 2) Intercontinental Championship Match: Cody Rhodes (c) vs Booker T
I said during my twitter-view of this week’s Smackdown (@RTVWOW by the way) that this match is one of the ones i’m most looking forward to on the card simply because the interactions between Booker and Cody has been surprising, fresh, and engaging. Booker as the consummate semi-retired legend with the ‘itch’ for the ring and expecting respect, against the brash and talented upstart. Apart from the fact that Cody at least is so much more than that. He is an exact mix of his ‘dashing’ and ‘grotesque’ gimmicks, with some amazing fresh talent mixed in. His berating Booker as ‘a lowly ANNOUNCER’ while Booker wrestled with himself whether or not to respond has been on of the best things on WWETV of late. Rhodes is obviously dependable in the ring, but Booker definitely looks like he’s still ‘got it’. Even better though, seeing Booker wrestle a full match again, and Cody wrestling someone completely new to him is also a big draw. The only reason this match is happening, however, is to get Cody over, so i’d be surprised to see Booker put down the upstart with a win. Cody will win, but it doesn’t need to be clean – in fact, a dirty victory might be ideal as it would give currency to a continued feud between the two while making Rhodes look great.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 3) Tables Match: Randy Orton vs Wade Barrett
Another intriguing story has been developing between Orton and Barrett. It’s a bit of a wrestling cliché, but never before has anyone seemingly gotten in Orton’s head like Barrett has with his Buzzword Barrage. His outsmarting of Orton on his irresistible charge to the top has been great, and again, refreshing on TV as Orton has been humbled without being weakened. Both are good wrestlers, but I must say i’m not too sure about how good this match will be. Though Orton has a moveset that suits a tables match, he seems to only wheel out his powerbomb when he’s building to and wrestling in tables matches, while Barrett’s moveset is even more awkward for a tables match. I like the feud though, and hope to see this continue as a feud for a while. This was one of the harder matches to predict, but I think the Barrett Barrage has too much momentum right now to stutter, and indeed, would suffer too much from a loss.

Winner: Wade Barrett

Match 4) United States Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Zack Ryder
This match is the culmination (so far, at least) of one of the most natural storylines in wrestling recently, as the self-professed, self-made ‘Internet Champion’ Zack Ryder has been on the face-chase against wonderfully internet savvy #heel Dolph Ziggler. Indeed, their feud has been going on for quite some time now and has been incorporated nicely in to the Z True Long Island Story web-series. Despite them trying to stretch history, this is not Ryder’s first title shot, and if he doesn’t win on this second occasion, its difficult to see how he’ll get a third shot. For a while, I imagined WWE keeping up the face chase for a while, but I now see Ryder taking the title finally this sunday. Not only do I know how they would legitimize a third shot for Ryder, but I see Ziggler featuring on the outskirts (at least) of the title picture going forward. The way I see it, Ziggler drops the title on Sunday, fails in his rematch, participates in the Royal Rumble (maybe doing double-duty at that event), competing for the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber, and from there, wherever! These two should have a great match, especially Ziggler who has been consistently stealing the show for months now. I placed this so high up the card because of the feel-good-factor of Ryder finally winning his first singles championship, and maybe taking it all the way to WrestleMania.

Winner: Zack Ryder

Match 5) Sledgehammer Ladder Match: Triple H vs Kevin Nash
This is probably the least anticipated match on the card for everyone. Nash coming back didn’t do any favours to the ‘Summer of Punk’, and has then been stuck in a post-attitude era quagmire in a feud that happened simply because of too many loose ends being left after his failed involvement in the angles of the summer. Despite some real attempts at serious drama and eye-catching brutality, the personal issue between the two simply hasn’t caught the imagination of the WWE Faniverse. I must say, however, even if Nash’s (and to a lesser extent, Hunter’s) body can’t take all of what a ladder match promises, this unique new match-type involving the sledgehammer does interest me. I hope the ladder itself isn’t legal as a weapon, but if it isn’t, there are lots of great storyline possibilities for either HHH or Nash when either of them get the sledgehammer. Both are certainly capable of living up to the brutality of the weapon and stipulation, and the finality of that as a weapon (especially when it has been treated as more devestating than before of late) means that this could well be the culmination of this feud, which in itself promises another wrestling cliché of ‘it all being left in the ring’. This’ll be an excuse to end the feud, but maybe this match could be a bright spark out of the ashes of this misfiring feud. This doesn’t necessarily point to a winner, but simply because I don’t see Nash sticking around, wrestling on the TV, I see him being put down by Trips.

Winner: Triple H

Match 6) TLC Match for the WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs Alberto Del Rio vs The Miz
For a while, I was worried about Punk being booked too similarly to the SuperCena style of being almost invincible, but I was heartened by his booking on RAW as he was pinned clean by Miz before being beatdown and having his arm worked by both Miz and Del Rio. A vulnerable champion is infinitely more interesting than a superhero, and that is what Punk has promised, and that has made this match much more unpredictable too, which can only be a good thing. It looks like Punker’s damaged arm will be the central story of the match, for him at least. As for Miz and Del Rio, I imagine they’ll do the classic ‘hey, lets work together against the good guy, but wait … who’s gonna win … oh snap, let’s fight!’ While i’m sure they’ll put on their parts of an excellent match, i’m unable to shake the feeling that they’re just championship fodder for Punk. Del Rio will certainly be moving on to pastures new, while Miz may well stick around the title picture through to the Rumble. That being the case, perhaps it’ll come down to Punk and Miz, with Punk going over. This wont be good because of the great technical acumen of Punk, Del Rio and (to a lesser extent), The Miz, but it should be good because of the talent of all three in the unpredictable, violent, and breathtaking environment. The build has been pretty good, but this match always promises much in terms of quality and excitement. Punk wont be losing the title this week, and I doubt he’ll be losing the title until WrestleMania, at the very earliest, as (hopefully) the first truly memorable and interesting champions in quite a while.

Winner: CM Punk

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