Matt’s Last Look: TLC and S 2014 Plus the Year in Review

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It’s referred to as the WWE’s demolition derby and was the final PPV of the 2014 year. This past Sunday, the sixth annual TLC event took place from Cleveland. Over the years, the TLC event has tended to be one of the better gimmick style PPVs from a match quality perspective, so the question was whether this event would be of a similar nature. The line up looked to be a bit of a mixed bag, with the potential for a few really good matches, but also a few that could have been quite bad. Of course, coming off the heels of an awesome NXT Takeover event a few days prior, the pressure was on and many expected the stars of the main roster to step up on this night – after all, the last time an NXT event was so close to a PPV was Payback, and that show exceeded expectations. Did they on this night? Read on and find out. I’ll admit that I was not completely focused while watching this month’s PPV. That was no reflection on the show itself, but more me following the tragic situation that was unfolding in Sydney at the same time.

Anyway, I tuned into the pre-show in time to see the match, which saw the New Day contingent of Big E & Kofi Kingston (of course accompanied by Xavier Woods) defeating Goldust & Stardust in a standard tag match. The usual kind of match you tend to get on the pre-shows going just over 11 minutes.  The opening video package focused on all the key players in the big matches and put over the demolition derby theme of the show. Good stuff as always. The announcers were the regular trio of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & John Bradshaw Layfield. After the opening pyro the show got under way.

WWE Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match: Luke Harper (c) vs Dolph Ziggler  Winner: Dolph Ziggler by retrieving the title belt at 16:42 Heading into this show this, along with the main event, was the match I was most looking forward to. We know that Ziggler is one of the best performers in the company and its refreshing to see him actually featured again the past six months or so, while Harper has also proven himself as a very good big man performer, going back to his time in the Wyatt Family. I have to admit that when this match was announced, I was disappointed, as I thought it seemed like Ziggler should have moved up the card after being the star at Survivor Series, whereas feuding for the I.C title seems like very familiar territory for him. A match like this was a good use for him on this show though, as he was very much showcased. He got a big pop from his home town crowd and that, coupled with the idea of this being a ladder match in general, made it the natural pick to open the PPV with. For all the negative things you can say about the announcers, you have to give them credit in this match for making the I.C title seem like a big deal, which is something I hope continues with how behind Ziggler the crowd is. As far as the match itself goes, it was an excellent performance from both men, and quite physical as far as the use of the ladders were concerned. About midway through the action, Ziggler was busted open. The medical staff went to check on him, but as he saw Harper going to climb the ladder, Ziggler pushed them aside to stay in the chase. In the end, Ziggler would come out victorious by connecting with a superkick to Harper off the ladder before climbing up and reclaiming the championship. I expected Harper to leave with the title here since he only won it a month ago, but its not like he’s really the kind of character that needs a championship. Ziggler losing the title was just a part of the Authority storyline heading into Survivor Series, and here he got his chance to regain it. With the main event situation seemingly set for the next few months, I’m fine with Ziggler stealing the show on the undercard for now. I hope it leads to something more further down the track. The company seems behind him, and the announcers were really putting the victory over big time. As far as Harper goes, he’s bound to cross paths with Erick Rowan at some point soon. An excellent start to the show. My Grade: ****

Before the next match, we saw footage from earlier in the night of the Miz approaching Naomi, continuing the tension with the Usos.

WWE Tag Team Championship: The Miz & Damien Mizdow (c) vs The Usos Winners: The Usos by disqualification when Miz hit Jimmy Uso with a Slammy trophy at 7:17. Our next match of the night saw the new tag team champions taking on the always popular Usos for the tag titles. The issue here was based around Miz continually approaching Naomi, which in turn angered her husband Jey Uso, but the real reason everyone was into this match was everyone’s favourite stunt double. Everyone has been saying it for months now, but Mizdow is awesome in this role, and the whole dynamic he has going with Miz is great. The Usos are a team that the company obviously wants to keep strong as top face contenders in the division, but I don’t think anybody really expected them to regain the belts here after holding them for much of the year. The match itself was really just a standard tag match that you could see on TV, but the crowd were into it mostly due to Mizdow’s awesomeness. The finish was pretty weak as they just had Miz get himself disqualified to save the titles. I thought they could have had the Usos take a loss here, but it seems like the feud will continue for another month or so, and its unlikely Miz & Mizdow will be a long term tag team. I see their reign coming to an end fairly early on in the new year. It could be the Usos winning the titles back, or perhaps the New Day. Either way, the Ascension will be in the picture soon, so it makes sense the titles get back on a proper face team before then. I think we’ll see tensions between Mizdow and Miz around the Rumble, perhaps starting in that match, but until then they may as well keep this reign going. It makes for fun antics while the division gets built back up. My Grade: **

Up next, we crossed backstage to Byron Saxton, who was standing by with Seth Rollins, along with J&J Security. Rollins promised that he would defeat Cena in their match as payback for the Authority losing their power last month. He mentioned Sting and said that Cena would have to bring the Authority back sooner than later. Rollins has come a long way on his promos. The guy exudes the star persona these days.

Steel Stairs Match: Erick Rowan vs Big Show Winner: Big Show by pinfall using the stairs after a KO Punch at 11:14. Ah yes, the match that resulted in the name of the PPV being changed – the first ever stairs match in WWE history. I’ve been surprised this feud even took place, as I figured Harper and Rowan would be facing off at this show coming off Rowan’s turn prior to Survivor Series due to their history. Instead we got this feud that seemed thrown together as an excuse for Rowan to beat an opponent with some name value to establish himself as a singles guy. That was not the result we got however, as in a strange booking decision, Show came out of this match victorious. The match was about what you were expecting it to be going in, a slow and plodding affair between two big guys, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been (that would come later in the night). Despite the slow pace, there were some cool spots like Rowan coming off the corner with the bottom of the steps in hand looking to guillotine Show, only for the giant to move out of the way, as well as Show spearing Rowan through a barricade of stairs set up earlier in the match. Overall though, it wasn’t a good match by any stretch. The stairs alone are too awkward to base a whole match around. Show ended up using the stairs to pin Rowan down after a KO punch, but the finish doesn’t make much sense. Sure, Show has just turned heel, but its not like he’s in the position where he needs to win. He’s there to put over the rising guys. Rowan may be the least impressive of the three former Wyatts, but he’s still decent and could have used a win here. Also, the show’s name shouldn’t have been changed just for this match. They didn’t call the 2011 version of the event Tables, Ladders, Chairs & Sledgehammers after all.  My Grade: *3/4

After an ad hyping the return of Total Divas season 4 (season three still hasn’t aired on E! here for some reason), we got a video package for the Cena/Rollins match. That was somewhat surprising as the match had been built as the main event of the show. It would take place next, with Paul Heyman making his way to ringside due to Cena’s future title shot being on the line.

Tables Match: John Cena vs Seth Rollins w/Joey Mercury & Jamie Noble Winner: John Cena by putting Rollins through a table at 23:34. Alright, so the big stipulation here was that if Cena lost, he would no longer be the number one contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship held by Brock Lesnar. Since Rollins had nothing on the line, the end result of this match was fairly predictable, but with two high level performers involved, I was looking forward to this as being a pretty good match. It wouldn’t be at the level that they are capable of due to the tables stipulation tending to not be conducive of great singles matches, but I was still interested in seeing what we got here. The match saw a heap of interference as expected in a no DQ setting, with Mercury and Noble getting involved at any possible time to give Rollins the advantage, or save him from losing the match. Cena fought them off all over the ringside area, but Rollins put on a solid showing as well with some cool spots. As the match went on, the ref went down, and as a result Cena put Rollins through a table with an Attitude Adjustment. After being taken out earlier in the match however, Mercury & Noble returned and got rid of the evidence before the ref could recover. Shortly after that we got the usual spot that shows off Cena’s strength by delivering an AA to Mercury & Noble through a table simultaneously. From there, Rollins and Cena went back at it, fighting on the ring apron over a bunch of tables set up earlier in the match. Both men ended up going through after grabbing each other and pulling each other down, which caused the ref to ring the bell. A winner was not able to be determined however, as two more refs came down, one claiming each man was the first to go through. This led to the match being restarted. It was a spot that probably wasn’t necessary other than to break a few more tables, since as soon as both men went through, it was pretty clear that was going to happen. The action moved to the outside again at this point, with Cena hitting an AA to Rollins onto the English announce table but it didn’t break. He clearly should have chosen the Spanish one – it always breaks, although according to WWE video games, a commentary table doesn’t count in this type of match. At this point, the Big Show made his way back down to ringside to assist Rollins. Before he could do too much damage however, the familiar music hit and we got the official return of Roman Reigns after his appearance at the Slammys. He got a good pop from the crowd. Reigns speared Show through a table in the corner and delivered a Superman punch to Rollins, which allowed Cena to finish him off with an AA through the table. The match was okay, but the booking prevented it from being what it was supposed to be. This was about getting Reigns to save the day. He was much better in this role than he’s come off in the interviews since being injured, so that’s definitely a positive, as is the reaction he got from the fans. I still am not sold on him being ready for the push to the moon that awaits, but it seems like its definitely the plan at this point. As far as the guys in the match go, Cena and Rollins are capable of much more in a regular PPV main event setting, and I’m sure they’ll get that chance somewhere further down the line in 2015. It seems likely that Rollins will keep Reigns busy while Cena is challenging Lesnar to their final encounter. Right after the match, the announcers stated that the long awaited return of the WWE title will take place at the Rumble as expected. My Grade: ***

After a recap of the pre-show match, we checked in with the expert panel hosted by Renee Young. As usual, she was joined by Booker T and Alex Riley. Heyman had been there earlier, but he had obviously been sitting at ringside in the previous match. They talked about what we had seen so far, and the Lesnar/Cena match at the Royal Rumble. We then went back to Byron Saxton, who was joined by the Bella Twins. Nikki claimed that AJ was jealous of them, before Byron asked Brie why she was suddenly back with her sister. Brie said she was sick of being asked about that, and that nothing would come between them. Essentially that means E! wanted them back together for the next season of Total Divas now they’ve had them feud.

WWE Diva’s Championship: Nikki Bella (c) w/Brie Bella vs AJ Lee Winner: Nikki Bella by pinfall with the Rack Attack at 7:38. The next match of the night saw the Diva’s Championship on the line, with the new champion defending against the former title holder. The match actually took place, unlike the WrestleMania XXVIII homage we saw at Survivor Series. The crowd was behind AJ as usual, but both women have had better matches this year. There wasn’t much to talk about. They’re both decent performers, obviously with AJ being the most talented female on the main roster, but this match just didn’t seem to connect. The end of the match saw Nikki cheat to retain her title by having Brie come in and spray AJ in the eyes with some kind of substance, and then hitting the Rack Attack on her blinded opponent for the win. The controversial way in which Nikki won suggests that this feud will continue, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see another diva enter the mix to even up the odds. This was nothing special, and nowhere near the phenomenal match we saw from Sasha Banks and Charlotte at Takeover.  My Grade: *3/4 

Up next, we went backstage to Tom Phillips, who was standing by with Roman Reigns. He stumbled over his lines before promising to make an even bigger impact in the Royal Rumble this year than last year. That’s there way of saying he’s winning. I think its a 99% chance at this point. Reigns looked good earlier in the night. Not so much here. He really needs to work on his promos as a top guy.

Chairs Match: Ryback vs Kane Winner: Ryback by pinfall with Shellshock at 9:50. Ugh. From the moment this match was announced, I’ve had no interest in this taking place. In case anyone hasn’t caught on, I am not a fan of Ryback at all and am not thrilled that he’s been rebuilt for a singles run. As for Kane, he’s overstayed his welcome as a regular in ring performer by about a year. Team Hell No seems so long ago. As expected, this match was awful. Easily one of the worst PPV matches of the year. The match dragged on way too long as well. Ryback isn’t the kind of guy that can have an interesting match outside of a five minute squash. The crowd seems to enjoy chanting “Feed me more” as he builds up his momentum, but aside from that, I don’t think they are as behind him as the company may have thought a month or so ago, as proven by the “boring” chants that took place for much of the match. I really don’t have anything good to say about this match. It was just two guys beating each other up with chairs before Ryback came back to put his opponent away. Ryback winning was expected and his push will continue for now, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve given up on him six months down the line. There were reports that management has cooled off on him significantly after treating his reboot as a pet project just a month back. Also, unless I’m mistaken, this is his first singles win since Money in the Bank 2012 on PPV. Kane should move into a non wrestling capacity if he’s going to stay on TV. He just doesn’t seem to have it in the ring anymore, which is understandable when you look at how long he’s been doing this.  My Grade: DUD

WWE United States Championship: Rusev (c) w/Lana vs Jack Swagger Winner: Rusev by submission with the Accolade at 4:50. From the mess we just witnessed, we moved on to the last title match of the night, the United States Championship. Rusev has continued on his dominant path ever since arriving on the scene earlier this year, and this match was just another excuse to give him a PPV victory. They tried to make us invest in this feud by having Swagger look for revenge after Rusev took out Zeb Colter a few weeks prior, but the reality is we just saw this back in the summer. I enjoyed the feud then as Swagger was hot as a newly turned face, but he’s become just another guy now. Rusev winning decisively was the right move, and it was a fairly dominant performance with this being the shortest match on the show. I probably would have preferred this and the previous match to swap lengths though as their prior matches have been decent. The crowd weren’t into this at all as there was some kind of altercation going on with a fan in the arena instead, but this was fine for what it was. I just think they could have put some other midcard face in the same spot to avoid making this a retread. Conventional wisdom is that Rusev is being set up for a feud with Cena, but you have to wonder how they will get there. I imagine they’d want Rusev to remain undefeated for that match down the line, but can you really see Cena competing for the U.S title? Sure, it would really boost the image of the title, but it doesn’t seem like something they would do. I’m interested in what they do next with Rusev when he finally gets in a competitive feud where we buy him as being able to lose. My Grade: *3/4

With the final match of the night coming up, we got a video package looking at the rivalry between Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt.

TLC Match: Dean Ambrose vs Bray Wyatt Winner: Bray Wyatt by pinfall with Sister Abigail at 26:58. Last month in the Survivor Series review I said that I thought this would be the TLC main event from the moment it was announced on that show. In the weeks that followed I changed my mind though, as this wasn’t really billed as the big match for this show on Raw and Smackdown (as opposed to Cena/Rollins). Nonetheless, Dean Ambrose got to close out another PPV which has to show the company’s faith in the guy, as he looked to get some payback on Bray Wyatt going back to his return at Hell in a Cell. Last month’s match was a mess just designed to set up this one. That was fine, but my expectations were higher than what we got here. Thats been a recurring theme for Bray Wyatt matches this year, so I shouldn’t be too surprised. He’s not terrible by any stretch, he’s quite solid actually, just not as great as we might have thought due to that awesome match with Daniel Bryan that kicked off the PPV year. Still, I thought this kind of match would have been conducive to Ambrose and Wyatt putting on a very good four star war to end the show on a high note. Overall, this was still a good PPV main event, with both guys putting on an enjoyable show, it just didn’t kick into that gear I was hoping for. Ambrose was the star of the match, with his usual insane antics getting the crowd behind him as he put his body on the line to destroy Wyatt. I enjoyed the brawl out into the crowd early on as they fought over to the expert panel area, with Ambrose diving off the desk onto Wyatt. Back at ringside and up the ramp, kendo sticks and ladders were brought into play as well for the competitors to punish one another with. Both men hit their finisher on the other during the course of the match, but in both cases it was not enough to keep the other man down. From there we got a funny spot as Ambrose went under the ring and pulled out a monitor and laughed as he looked at himself on TV in one of those quirky Ambrose moments that I love. From there came the “Holy Shit” moment of the match, as Ambrose brought down the biggest ladder from the entrance area and ended up diving onto Wyatt on top of the Spanish announce table with an elbow drop. After recovering, the Lunatic Fringe brought Wyatt back into the ring and looked to be closing in on victory. Instead however, he grabbed the monitor from earlier and set up to hit Wyatt, only for the cable to burst into an explosion. With Ambrose blinded, Wyatt was then able to hit Sister Abigail for the win. I understand what they were going for with the finisher in having Ambrose so crazy about hurting Wyatt that his craziness cost him the match, but the finish didn’t particularly make Wyatt look strong. People will complain about Ambrose losing another big match, but I don’t think it harms him too much, especially considering Wyatt needed a win as well. That’s what made this match so hard to predict. The mentality behind Wyatt being the one to win seems to be in line with the rumoured match with Undertaker at WrestleMania. Before that rumour came out I thought Taker was done, but I suppose we’ll find out in a few months. In the long run more people are going to remember that Wyatt won here than the way in which he won, so it served its purpose if thats the plan, it just could have been achieved another way. I think both guys will likely be in the Rumble next month, with this match being the blow off to the feud, so I’m interested to see where the go from here. Going on last is another sign of confidence in the younger stars by the WWE though. My Grade: ***1/2

Three Stars of the Night:

1. Dolph Ziggler – stole the show in the match of the night in his hometown with the crowd behind him as he regained the title he was screwed out of.

2. Luke Harper – really coming into his own as a big man singles performer. Tonight’s match will help his reputation as a guy to watch.

3. Dean Ambrose – the main event was disappointing for what I was expecting it to be, but still solid and Ambrose looked great aside from the lame ending. I look forward to seeing where 2015 takes the Lunatic Fringe.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, TLC 2014 was a middle of the line show, although when comparing it with the rest of this years shows it falls towards the bottom of the list. With a main event that reached the expectations many had going in it would have been a better show all up, but it wasn’t a bad event by any means. The match of the night was clearly the awesome opener. I hope Dolph Ziggler continues to steal the show on the undercard of PPVs going forward until there’s room for him to move further up the card. If anyone has a chance of restoring prestige to the I.C title, he’s the one that can do it with performances like tonight. He’s got the crowd behind him big time and is easily capable of putting on great showings, its just a matter of whether he gets that opportunity going forward. I think we can be optimistic as since Survivor Series its been clear that he’s being portrayed as a big deal rather than the afterthought that most midcard champions tend to become these days. A solid performance in the Rumble would definitely help as well. As far as the rest of the show goes, the two big matches (Ambrose/Wyatt, Cena/Rollins) were decent but nothing more. Maybe I was wrong to think the main event would be better than it was, but I definitely know Cena and Rollins are capable of a better match outside of the tables setting, so I hope we’ll see them get another big PPV match in 2015 some time. As for the undercard, it was fairly basic. Nothing terrible aside from the god awful Ryback/Kane match, but nothing worth talking about in the grand scheme of things. Heading into the new year we set our sights on the Royal Rumble. We know that at that show John Cena will get his shot at Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I’m not sure what to expect there as far as the match itself, but its pretty clear Brock will retain. He didn’t beat Cena to exclusively feud with Cena and then lose the title to him. He’s there to ultimately put over the winner of the Royal Rumble. That will be Roman Reigns. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Daniel Bryan miracle like everyone else, but I doubt its happening at WrestleMania 31. The Rumble has given us surprises before, but tonights show firmly entrenched Reigns as the guy thats going to win in my mind based on the interview. Its going to be interesting to see how he develops over the next month – he looked good in the arena here, but that promo was awful. I do wonder what his reaction is going to be like in Philadelphia in January. Time will tell. There was a lot of talk heading into this show that the main roster wanted to outperform the NXT roster from the excellent Takeover. Whether the reported “phoning it in” attitude that was reported in the Triple H/Vince power struggle was true or not, they didn’t achieve that here. This was a middle of the line show, the NXT show was better than all the PPVs this year aside from WrestleMania.  FINAL GRADE: 6 out of 10
THE LAST LOOK AT 2014:

Final 2014 PPV Rankings:

1. WrestleMania XXX (9.5)

2. SummerSlam (8)

3. Hell in a Cell (7.5)

4. Night of Champions (7.5)

5. Payback (7.5)

6. Money in the Bank (7)

7. Elimination Chamber (7)

8. Battleground (7)

9. Extreme Rules (7)

10. Survivor Series (6)

11. TLC: Tables, Ladder, Chairs & Stairs (6)

12. Royal Rumble (6)

Overall its been a decent year for PPVs despite being a shaky year as far as injuries derailing plans went. WrestleMania XXX was clearly the best show of the year and I feel privileged to have been there live for it. Most shows were around the 7 range which means they were decent but not great. There were no terrible shows, as the worst show of the year, the Royal Rumble (quite the shock in a normal year, but the booking decisions there were terrible) still had a very good match on the undercard. Most shows had that one or two matches that saved the show at the very least.

As you’ll have noticed throughout the year, I’ve been awarding three stars of the night at each PPV. Operating on the basis that first place awards three points, second place two points, and third place one point, here are the top ten PPV performers of 2014, with their total score in brackets. For those that were tied I’ve made a judgment call as to where they stand with one another:

Top 10 PPV Performers of the Year:

  • Seth Rollins (14)
  • Dean Ambrose (9)
  • John Cena (7)
  • Dolph Ziggler (6)
  • Daniel Bryan (5)
  • Randy Orton (5)
  • Roman Reigns (5)
  • Luke Harper (4)
  • Bray Wyatt (4)
  • Brock Lesnar (4)

Other Point Scorers: Cesaro, Chris Jericho, The Usos, Triple H, Erick Rowan, Sting

Top 19 PPV Matches of the Year:

It was going to be top 20, but that last spot had too many possible contenders. It was the same reason I initially expanded this from 15 to 20. Note that the NXT events are not included in any of these awards. Maybe we’ll do that next year.

19. WWE United States Championship: Sheamus (c) vs Cesaro – Night of Champions (***3/4)

18. WWE Intercontinental Championship – 2 out of 3 Falls Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Cesaro – Hell in a Cell (***3/4)

17. WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs John Cena – Night of Champions (****)

16. Chris Jericho vs Randy Orton – Night of Champions (****)

15. Number One Contender Hell in a Cell Match: John Cena vs Randy Orton – Hell in a Cell (****)

14. WWE World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena (c) vs Brock Lesnar – SummerSlam (****)

13. No Holds Barred Elimination Tag Match: The Shield vs Evolution – Payback (****)

12. WWE Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match: Luke Harper (c) vs Dolph Ziggler – TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs & Stairs (****)

11. WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Elimination Chamber Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Daniel Bryan vs John Cena vs Sheamus vs Christian vs Cesaro – Elimination Chamber (****)

10. Last Man Standing Match: John Cena vs Bray Wyatt – Payback (****1/4)

9. Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Dean Ambrose vs Dolph Ziggler vs Rob Van Dam vs Kofi Kingston vs Jack Swagger vs Seth Rollins – Money in the Bank (****1/4)

8. WWE Tag Team Championship – 2 out of 3 Falls Match: The Usos (c) vs Luke Harper & Erick Rowan – Battleground (****1/2)

7. Hell in a Cell Match: Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins – Hell in a Cell (****1/2)

6. Elimination Tag Match: John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Erick Rowan & Ryback vs Seth Rollins, Luke Harper, Rusev, Mark Henry & Kane – Survivor Series (****1/2)

5. Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt – Royal Rumble (****1/2)

4. The Shield vs Evolution – Extreme Rules (****1/2)

3. Daniel Bryan vs Triple H – WrestleMania XXX (****1/2)

2. WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan (****1/2)

1. The Shield vs Wyatt Family – Elimination Chamber (****3/4)

Quick Awards: 

Again, based solely on the main roster.

Tag Team of the Year: The Usos 

Feud of the Year: Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins

Diva of the Year: AJ Lee

Announcer of the Year: John Bradshaw Layfield

Unexpected Pleasure of the Year: Damien Mizdow

That’s it for the Last Look series of 2014. I hope everyone has a very happy holiday season and I shall be back next year to do this all over again. It’s been fun.

Author: Matt McCulloch