WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Buddy Murphy(c) vs. Cedric Alexander - 7.25/10
THIS match is getting bumped to the pre-show? Has Vince & co, ever thought that things like this are the reason that so many people don't think 205 Live is worth watching? This is a match that 205 Live has been building up to ALL YEAR, and now it's going to get ruined by being stuffed on a pre-show that needs to bit in multiple matches in just one hour and will be interrupted by pointless commercials. These guys did the best they could with the criminally short amount of time they were given, with lots of big spots and nearfalls without it ever feeling like they were doing them for the sake of doing them or going overboard. If I'm Hunter, I'm sticking any of my big matches on PPVs anymore unless I can an in-writing guarantee that they're going to be on the main show and get the necessary time.
"The Drifter" Elias Sampson vs. Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush) - 5.75/10
Yes, they put a LADDER MATCH on the pre-show. The match was pretty good for such a short match, but who the f*ck books a Ladder Match to only go 6:20 (other than Vince Russo, I mean)?
Unlike the way they were hyping this up on Raw, you won the match by climbing the ladder and grabbing the hanging guitar, as opposed to winning by pinfall and the guitar being a legal weapon (which really doesn't make any sense, when you think about it, because it's already no DQs). Elias won, then was going to hit Lashley with the guitar because apparently beating Lashley in a Ladder Match wasn't enough for The Drifter. Lio Rush ran in to stop him, and Eilas got beaten down by both heels, while no babyfaces came out to help him. Sound familiar? Yeah. If this is what you were going to do, then why did you even book this match at all?
MIXED MATCH CHALLENGE SEASON 2 FINALS: R-Truth & Carmella vs. Alicia Fox & Jinder Mahal (w/The Singh Brothers) - -0.5/10 (yes, I'm going negative)
They did stuff, and then, inexplicably, there was a dance break. IN THE MIDDLE OF A WRESTLING MATCH. Who BACKSTAGE is turning the music on for Truth & Carmella IN THE MIDDLE OF A MATCH?! To make this worse, the Singh Brothers got in the ring because they wanted to dance, too. The babyfaces danced with them for a moment, then beat them up... for dancing during a dance break. What a bunch of assholes.
Then Alicia Fox came in and attacked Carmella from behind to cut her off and start the heat, meaning that the heat came because our heroes were idiots who distracted themselves by dancing instead of following on in their wrestling match. Then Truth and Fox did comedy with Fox's hat. Then stuff happened, there was more attempted interference, and then Carmella made Fox tap out for the win. The match was short, mostly dumb, and when the women were in, it was often sloppy. And, because of the stipulations, your #30 entrants in the 2019 Royal Rumbles will be... Carmella and R-Truth. Aren't you excited?
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS R-TRUTH & CARMELLA - Dumb. The gist here is that Truth chose the destination of the all-expenses-paid vacation they also earned by winning this match without Carmella's knowledge... and he chose to go to WWE headquarters, which then made Carmella upset because WWE headquarters is not a cool vacation destination. So basically they buried themselves.
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Sheamus & Cesaro(c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day (w/Big E.) - 6.5/10
David Otunga is subbing for Byron Saxton on commentary tonight. The action in the match was very good, but it bugged me that right after the announcers made a point about who was legal, the wrestlers seemed to screw up and forget that Kofi wasn't legal. This led to me keeping careful track of who was legal and who wasn't, and Woods was not legal when he got pinned.
TLC MATCH IN WHICH IF CORBIN WINS HE BECOMES THE OFFICIAL GENERAL MANAGER OF RAW, BUT IF STROWMAN WINS, CORBIN GETS FIRED AS GENERAL MANAGER AND ALSO BRAUN GETS A WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE SHOT AT BROCK LESNAR AT ROYAL RUMBLE 2019:
Baron Corbin vs. Braun Strowman - no rating, MORONIC segment.
Before the match started, the announcers were hyping up Vince's appearance on Raw tomorrow, with the babyface announcers insisting that Vince is showing up to do something about Corbin's abuses of power. If Vince thinks Corbin is doing a bad job, then can't he just fire him anyway, making the stipulation here completely irrelevant?
Corbin made Heath Slater the referee for this match. He ordered to count Braun out for the forfeit. Braun's music played and he came out from the back, his arm in a sling. Did Corbin really not know that Braun was here? How do you not see the largest person in the company running around backstage?
Braun came out and cut a promo responding to Corbin's promo. Braun points out that there are no DQs, which means that anyone who hates Corbin could come and help him. That's true, but at the same time, it means that all of Corbin's friends can come out and him. Once Braun finished speaking, Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode, Finn Balor, and Chad Gable came out of the crowd with chairs and surrounded the ring. Then Heath Slater punched Corbin in the face, and five dudes all ganged up on one and beat him up with weapons... and those five are supposed to be the heroes.
Corbin tried to escape up the ramp but Kurt Angle came out and grabbed a chair to block his escape in that direction. Corbin, who is apparently too dumb to run left or right, runs right at Kurt and eats some more chairshots. Corbin gets forced back to the ring and beat up by the large gang of people in the ring, then Braun arrogantly pins him with a foot on his chest, because apparently this TLC match, unlike the one later tonight, can be won via pinfall. Then he tea-bagged Corbin. Not really, but it wouldn't have surprised me.
Everything about this was SOOOOOO f*cking stupid. We had WEEKS of terrible, repetitive episodes of Raw where the entire premise was that Corbin made unfair rulings to benefit his cadre of heel friends and punish his babyface enemies, and despite each suffering beatings from the same gang of heels every week, the babyfaces never tried to work together to save each other. And now, in the one match that actually has consequences, all of a sudden it's the babyfaces who are all working together, and none of Corbin's friends are anywhere to be found.
Then whole f*cking gang-beating aspect of it. Yes, what Corbin wanted to do was bullsh*t, but the way to solves the problem is for Braun to have ONE person represent him, so that things are once again fair, the way they are supposed to be. Instead, we now have the tables tilted ridiculously far in the other direction, so Corbin's loss here was just as unfair as the one he tried to saddle Braun with. Now throw in how much stupid sh*t they went out of their way to book just to add extra babyfaces to this gang-beating, thus dragging the quality of recent Raws down even more, and it gets even worse!
Natalya vs. Ruby Riott (w/the Riott Squad) - 6.5/10
They did a very good job of using many elements of the feud and tying them all together. The only problem with it was the fact that there was no reason for why the entire Riott Squad didn't just charge in at Nattie right away, and even that is something that I think we would normally look past, but it just became more noticeable here because whichever idiot put this show together put this match right after a no DQs match where the entire idea of the match was a bunch of people running in and attacking one of the competitors.
During this match, Corey Graves said that "Ruby has no time for anybody who doesn't support the goals of the Riott Revolution that she, Liv, and Sarah are trying to start." Does anyone have any idea what he's talking about? Since when are the Riott Squad trying to start any sort of "revolution?"
They aired the Lars Sullivan video package again. How about instead of just airing the same video package over and over and then having the announcers tell us that Lars is one of the "most sought-after free agents" ever, how about you give us an update on the negotiations via a promo from Lars' agent- or even Lars himself, as showing up here on this co-branded PPV would be neutral ground? Or how about instead of airing this same damn video package on Raw and Smackdown, you show us clips of the authority figures actually negotiating with him, like you would have seen back in 2002 when a top-level free-agent was being courted?
DREW MCINTYRE vs. FINN BALOR - 6.75/10
Balor appears to have borrowed some of Bryan Danielson's gear from the early part of this century. The match was going great but got derailed by Dolph Ziggler's interference. Once again we have a babyface needing help to win. If you didn't want to beat Drew, just book a three-way instead of a singles match and have Balor pin Dolph. Doing so would have been simple after Dolph's promo on this week's, would have actually enhanced Dolph's "I'm not a good guy; I just don't like Drew" narrative, and would have given you an out to still deliver some semblance of the advertised match if the illness that kept Balor out of action on this week's Raw didn't get better by the time the PPV started! But no. Instead we had to have an interference finish on a PPV.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Randy Orton - 7/10
EXTREMELY creative, and with one hell of a finish.
FINN BALOR INTERVIEW - He was upset about Ziggler interfering in his match, even though it helped him win. Dolph showed and was annoyed at Finn's lack of gratitude, and it resulted in a brawl. This probably would have worked if it hadn't felt so rushed. Doing this in a matter of second made both guys come off as unreasonable and unlikeable rather than what should have at first been a minor issue boiling over into something else after repeated prodding.
WWE RAW WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Ronda Rousey(c) vs. Nia Jax (w/Tamina) - 7/10
They did an excellent job telling all of their stories (Nia trying to hit her punch, Nia's size advantage, and Ronda working over Nia's arm). I enjoyed the callback to the Super Samoan Drop that Nia used to win the title from Alexa Bliss! at WrestleMania and Ronda avoiding it, even if the announcers didn't make the connection. If I have one complaint about this match, it was that the part of it that I enjoyed the most was the first few minutes, where they were almost working it like a kick-boxing match, with Ronda having to use her speed to avoid Nia's big punch. I'd have loved to see more of that.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS NIX JAX - Nia blows her off.
BECKY LYNCH CONFRONTS NIA JAX - This was a little borderline to me. Yes, Nia trying to make a name out of breaking Becky's face is not cool, but Becky attacking a one-armed woman after that woman just got done wrestling a grueling championship match is also not cool. This would have been better to do earlier in the show.
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Daniel Bryan(c) vs. AJ Styles - 8.5/10
Both guys worked the head and worked the leg a bit. Dragon won clean, so they built the match for AJ to get most of the offense. It was awesome, but at the same time never really felt like it achieved the potential it had.
NATTIE & RONDA CELEBRATE BACKSTAGE - Ronda came off like a total mark, telling Nattie how cool it was that she put on her father's jacket. Can we please write these characters like they're professional competitors and not children?
Charly Caruso then showed and asked Ronda about Charlotte, at which point Ronda got her serious face on and vowed revenge. Thanks for killing my interest in the main event by telling me there is going to be a f*ck finish.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins(c) vs. Dean Ambrose - 4.5/10
This dragged on FOREVER and never really felt like it was going anywhere. This needed to be a vicious brawl and instead it was mostly just your usual babyface vs. heel singles match. Seth's selling of his knee was not good at all, and eventually the heel just hit his finisher and won in a way that just didn't feel appropriate for such an ungodly long match. The crowd was chanting "THIS IS BORING!" at one point, and they weren't wrong.
TLC MATCH FOR THE WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S TITLE:
Becky Lynch(c) vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair - 9/10
Oh dear Lord the beginning of this video package is just so painful, they're trying to merge Christmas music with the fact that this is a TLC Match so we've got CGI tables, ladders, and chairs on top of CGI snow with a CGI Smackdown Women's Title sitting on top of the ladder, and Christmas music playing.
Before the match started, the announcers pointed out to us that this will be Becky's first match in six weeks. So hasn't she therefore violated the Thirty Days Rule and should be stripped of the title?
This was one hell of a violent match, delivering all of the carnage you expect from a TLC Match. I really hope Charlotte is okay after Becky landed on her with that big leg drop off of a ladder through the announcers' table. That was probably the worst thing that happened to anyone, but it was far from the only thing that looked horrendously painful.
This was an awesome, vicious, violent, intense, brutal, show-saving match... that still managed to a F*CKING TERRIBLE finish. Said finish was, predictably, Ronda Rousey coming out and tipping over the ladder while both Charlotte and Becky were on it, allowing Asuka to climb up and grab the title. So yes, this was YET ANOTHER PPV main event WITH A F*CK FINISH! And it was also YET ANOTHER supposedly important, "history-making" "first-time-ever" women's gimmick match involving a ladder WITH A F*CK FINISH. How does Asuka win her first championship on the main roster? Not by earning it, but by benefiting from a F*CK FINISH. I just watched two straight matches where the despicable heels won championships cleanly, and now in a match between three babyfaces, they gave us a F*CK FINISH. In the MAIN EVENT OF A PPV! I sat through FIVE HOURS of this... and they ended it with ANOTHER F*CK FINISH.
I have some very conflicted feelings about this show. On the one hand there was so much of it that was bad and frustrating and stupid and it was quite hard to sit through. But on the other hand, there were a lot of surprises, with Ronda vs. Nia, Orton vs. Rey, and Nattie vs. Ruby all delivering at a higher level than I had hoped for, and both the WWE World Heavyweight Title match and the Smackdown Women's Title match were excellent. Ultimately, though, I feel like I have to call this a bad show. While the matches I mentioned that exceeded my expectations were great (and, to be clear, in the case of Ruby vs. Nattie I was worried about time constraints and being hurt by the gimmick, not the ability of the wrestlers), none of them hit any sort of blow-away level, and the f*ck finish in the main event (and, to a lesser extent, Balor vs. Ziggler) left a bad taste in my mouth. With everything said and done, the dominant emotion I am feeling right now isn't excitement at how awesome that main event was, but anger at the fact that WWE ruined yet another big match with their terrible booking.