Kurt Angle returns to WWE action for the first time in over ten years; Finn Balor faces off against AJ Styles.
The lead-in to Raw’s TLC pay-per-view has been entirely based around one match: The Shield vs. the team of The Miz, Cesaro & Sheamus, Braun Strowman and Kane. And in a Russo-like swerve, as of Friday afternoon, that match isn’t even happening anymore! Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt, amongst others on the roster, are suffering from an illness (rumored to be viral meningitis) and though it seems like WWE was just hoping for the best case scenario there, it didn’t work out. So who does WWE turn to to make sense of this mess? AJ Styles and Kurt freaking Angle, that’s who! But we’ll get to that.
Alicia Fox vs Sasha Banks (Kickoff Match)
Brian: I’m glad we’ve got even a smidgen of a storyline for the women that doesn’t involve the title. Yay! But, it has to involve Alicia Fox who, for some reason, still has a job. I guess I should be happy the the women are being given equal time with the men as far as crap matches, but this is a holding pattern until The Boss is back in the mix for the belt. Winner: Sasha Banks with the Banks Statement. Loser: The waistlines of all the people who hit the concession stand during this match.
Paul: Alicia Fox is in the same category as Natalya for me. She’s been around forever, she’s not terrible in the ring, but she’s just someone that I’ve never cared about. Combine her with uninteresting main roster Sasha Banks, and I’m envisioning that this match won’t go over very well with the crowd. I imagine a lot of silence, followed by "CM Punk" chants. I normally get angry when they don’t give women’s matches a lot of time, but I feel that this might actually benefit from a shorter match time. No chance that Sasha Banks doesn’t win here.
Patrick: Sasha deserves so much more than this. I’m also glad to see women’s angles outside the title feud (there are THREE women’s matches on this card!) but there’s no question who’s winning this match, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of point to having it. Sasha wins.
Alexa Bliss (c) vs Mickie James for the Raw Women’s Championship
Brian: As much as I’m glad that we are getting this match, how we got here is a detail best left to the past. It’s clearly the sophomoric jokes that pass for humor in the writer’s room/Vince’s head. Mickie is 38. AJ Styles is older than her. So is John Cena, Chris Jericho, Kane and several other men. Do they got mocked for being older? Nope, nope, nope, nopetopus. This doesn’t reflect on Alexa as a bad person, this reflects on the people writing the segments. I hope Mickie can win the championship and take it home to her son. Winner: Mickie James with the Mick Kick. Loser: Vince and anyone else who thinks a 38 year-old mother is less capable than a 38 year-old father could be.
Paul: I’m really sad, because I feel like this rivalry had the potential to be so much better than it’s actually been. Alexa Bliss has been the best part about the women’s division for the last year, and Mickie James was great at a time when women’s wrestling wasn’t. Instead, WWE does this weird thing where they can’t seem put together all of the pieces to have a good feud build. This is one of the more difficult matches to predict, but I think that Alexa Bliss retains here. I’ve been wanting her to have a long title reign, so let’s hope that she keeps it until WrestleMania, or until Asuka crushes her.
Patrick: This feud feels like filler, and has been written like it to boot. It’s too bad, because this could have been a lot better than it has been as both women are immensely talented and to a certain degree, popular with the fans. Unfortunately, this is almost certainly just be stalling until Asuka makes her debut and sets her sights on the Raw Women’s Championship. Since we’ve already seen Mickie vs. Asuka and Alexa seems to be the future of the Women’s division, I’d have to imagine that eventual title feud for Asuka will be against Little Miss Bliss. Alexa retains.
Asuka vs Emma
Brian: Asuka’s gonna kill you. Winner: ASUKA!!! Loser: Emma’s sense of accomplishment.
Paul: I would imagine that even the most casual wrestling fans know how this one will end. Still, if WWE decides to not make this a squash match, it could be the surprise match of the night. Check out their match from NXT TakeOver: London to see how great these two could be together when given the proper opportunity.
Patrick: Emma has gained a modicum of momentum lately, but not much and definitely not enough to match up against the force of nature that is The Empress of Tomorrow. If Asuka loses her main roster debut match against Emma I will eat my hat.
Enzo Amore vs Kalisto (c) for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Brian: With all the backstage upheaval, this is still turning out to be the best thing happening in the cruiserweight division. If the WWE Deep State can hang on and let the division and 205 Live develop, they can have some real winners on their hands. Considering how much the rest of the division hates him, there are plenty of opponents for Enzo if he has the belt. If he doesn’t, I’m not sure what his purpose is. Winner: The Realest 2-Time Champ in the Room Loser: The jabroni who makes his ring gear.
Paul: I can’t imagine WWE taking the belt off of Kalisto already, so I see him getting the win in a highly competitive close match. This is one of those matches where it feels like there will be a lot of close falls, yet the crowd will have almost no interest.
Patrick: WWE seems to have no problem hot-shotting the Cruiserweight Championship (or any championship lately, for that matter), so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Enzo win it back here. Kalisto even being in the title match on Raw was supposedly because of Neville’s departure, and I think the feel-good connection to Eddie Guerrero’s birthday was too good for WWE to pass up — because to WWE, Eddie is the spiritual father of all luchadores (and Sasha Banks). Enzo wins the title back and continues being the only thing remotely interesting on 205 Live.
Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann vs Jack Gallagher and The Brian Kendrick
Brian: Why doesn’t WWE address the big questions like “How does Jack Gallagher wrestle in a suit?” and “Why don’t you pronounce the second ‘g’ in his last name?” A trip to the dark side has been very beneficial for the Gentleman, and partnering with Kendrick is a great way to get a veteran to help build young talent. All four of these guys are solid competitors and just need to find a way to make the match stand out if they want to be remembered. Winners: Gentleman Jack Galla(g)her and THE Brian Kendrick. Losers: Anyone who doesn’t make it into the building in time for the Pre-Show, where I assume this match will be.
Paul: Man, two cruiserweight matches and three women’s matches on the same show. I’ll give WWE credit for using the divisions that most fans feel are extremely underutilized. With that in mind though, these poor guys will probably wrestle to about ten minutes of total silence. I would love to see this be an exciting fast-paced high-flying match that will get the crowd into it early. Nothing that will steal the show, but something that’s enough to keep people from getting restless before the real show even starts. This could go either way, but I think that Alexander and Swann get the win.
Patrick: I actually think this match will somehow be on the main card, as Alicia vs. Sasha is currently listed as the kick-off match. I couldn’t care less about this matchup, and I really doubt I’m alone in that. It’ll probably feature some pretty good spots, as Cedric Alexander is one of the most talented wrestlers in the company, and Swann, Gallagher and Kendrick are no slouches. I just wish the storyline was a little more compelling here. I’ll go with this match being the cooldown match before the main event, and the faces get a win.
NOTE: These predictions were written before the bombshell announcement that Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt would be unable to compete. As such, we’re including the original predictions for posterity, along with new predictions for the matches that’ll actually happen.
The Demon vs Sister Abigail
Brian: My wife caught the end of Finn’s “Pumpkin King” promo Monday and asked me what was going on. She is vaguely aware of wrestling since I can’t stop talking about it, knows who Bray and Finn are, etc. I honestly could not explain to her how monumentally, Man-Taur stupid this program is. I’m glad Finn can talk about some Celtic holidays some writer found on Wikipedia (Samhain for those keeping track), but why, in 2017, do we even tolerate camera tricks in professional wrestling? It was bad when a projector interrupted Bray’s match with Randy Orton at WrestleMania. Now that Bray has been possessed by Oogie Boogie, I think we’ve gone way past jumping the shark. Winner: Finn Skellington Loser: All of us who are dumber for having watched this happen with two extremely talented performers.
Paul: I can’t believe that something like this is actually happening. Let’s have the Demon quickly win, move on to something else, and never acknowledge this again. Meanwhile, give Bray some time off, and have him return at Royal Rumble with a revamped character.
Patrick: This has been one of the dirt-worst feuds in recent memory. Both these guys deserve so much more, and instead they are involved in a match that honestly causes me to physically cringe when either one is talking. This is the kind of stuff that makes me embarrassed to be a pro wrestling fan. Finn wins, because he’s facing Bray, company punching bag dressed in drag.
The Shield vs The Miz, Cesaro & Sheamus, Braun Strowman and Kane (TLC Match)
Brian: Wait, was that the whole PPV? Only two titles defended? Oh, that’s right, Brock doesn’t have to defend the title that he is wasting and both other titles (IC and Tag) are involved in this match. Can we add a Titus Worldwide/JJ vs Good Brothers/Elias maybe? Look, I’m beyond thrilled to have The Shield back and was cool with adding The Bar to The Miz. Braun in the mix is also cool and gives The Shield something greater than the greatest IC champ who ever lived to overcome, but Kane? There wasn’t anyone else? Sure, let’s go with it, why not. Can I go back to watching Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens hug on a loop until Survivor Series? Winner: Sierra, Hotel, Indigo, Echo, Delta Loser: Anyone who thinks that titles matter.
Paul: In my opinion, this is one of the worst PPV cards that I’ve ever seen, and this is the only match that I’m sort of looking forward to. Even this match feels like a house show main event where they just throw all of their big wrestlers into one match. Anyway, I’m pretty positive that Kane was added to this match exclusively to take the pin. So, Shield win after a triple power bomb to poor Kane.
Patrick: As I said in my review of Raw last week, this entire card has been built around this one mega match, and it’s a strange choice. The reformation of The Shield seems much better suited for a bigger event than a throwaway gimmick B-PPV in the middle of October, and the veritable rogues gallery they are facing off against is so haphazardly thrown together it doesn’t even make any sense — we have no idea why Kane is even there. The odds are greatly stacked against The Shield, but that’s Roman’s wheelhouse, and it would be insane to have The mother fucking Shield lose their first match back as a unit against a team of randos lead by The Miz. And that’s coming from a huge Miz fan.
AJ Styles vs Finn Balor
Brian: What wrestling god brought us this match with only two days notice? Is this one of those Network Specials mixed with an episode of Swerved? Are we really going to see what should be a WrestleMania sub-main event at TLC? This is a prime opportunity for the WWE to not put Bullet Club back together, because they shouldn’t do that, but maybe we’ll get a legit 2Sweet© and if there’s any way this match happens without The Good Brothers swinging by, I’ll eat Bray’s hat. Remember the hat? And the floral shirt? (Get better Bray!) Winner: All of us who believe that there is some good in the world. Loser: Survivor Series, where we’ll get The Pumpkin King vs Ooogie Boogie instead of a BC vs The Wyatts Traditional Survivor Series Match as the good Lord intended.
Paul: On the negative side, this is a super random match with two guys who aren’t even on the same show. It was thrown together at the last minute with absolutely no build. On the positive side, AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor should be much better than whatever garbage Sister Abigail vs. The Demon would have brought us. It also at least adds some intrigue about a Bullet Club reformation, and the possibility of Gallows and Anderson getting involved. This has so much potential to lead to something huge and exciting. Instead, I’m predicting that it will be a normal match with Finn Balor winning, and WWE not acknowledging that it ever happened once it’s over.
Patrick: Uhh…wow. The rejiggering of this pay-per-view just two days before it happens, via social media, is one of the craziest things I can remember happening in the world of WWE. Instead of the worst feud in modern history in Finn vs. Bray, we suddenly get the first two leaders of the world-famous Bullet Club facing off in what should be an absolutely awesome match. I don’t even care that AJ is a SmackDown guy and the only non-Raw member on the card. This should be epic! Since they are still advertising Finn wrestling as “the demon” and AJ is in enemy territory on Raw, I go with Finn ekes out a win here in the match of the night.
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and KURT FREAKING ANGLE vs The Miz, Cesaro & Sheamus, Braun Strowman and Kane (TLC Match)
Brian: How did this meeting go? “We’ve got a roster full of talented guys to fill Roman’s spot at a moment’s notice. I know they won’t be the biggest names, but man, there are some real workers in there.” “Well, what about Kurt?” “What, Angle?” “Yeah, Angle. Is he cleared?” “Well, sure, but we hadn’t really talked about when we would…” “Get him in there.” “Maybe a match with JJ at Mania would be a better way to…” “I said get him in there goddammit, we need to sell some Networks!” “That’s not how that wo…” “You’re fired, Jacobs!” Winner: Kurt and the Super Friends Loser: Kurt’s insurance company.
Paul: When Kurt Angle returned to the WWE, I figured that the only way he would ever step back into the ring would be at WrestleMania. I was thinking maybe a match with Triple H, or even his old TNA buddy AJ Styles. Even a Jason Jordan “You never really loved me” match seemed like it could have been a possibility. Nope! Instead, he’s teaming with two-thirds of The Shield in the main event of TLC with only two days notice. Having him involved definitely makes me more interested, but I feel like it’s really something that should have been saved for a bigger event with a lot more buildup. Also, Angle looks like he has difficulty moving his neck when he’s just giving promos in the ring, so I can’t imagine how he’ll look with tables, ladders, and chairs getting involved. Anyway, my original prediction still stands that poor Kane was only added to this match to take the pin.
Patrick: Kurt freaking Angle’s first match back in the WWE in a decade is in a three vs. five tag team match announced online two days before the show?! What in the world is happening?! I know you have to replace Roman somehow, but Kurt wrestling is the “break in case of emergency” option right now, and they just did it. They may as well have pulled Daniel Bryan out of retirement. I’m not complaining, because I’m stoked to see Angle back, but man is this out of left field. Either way, my prediction doesn’t change. Team Shield/Angle beats the randos.