‘Twas the last night of Hanukkah, and all through Boston’s TD Garden, hardly an enthusiastic fan was stirring for 2015’s final pay-per-view event, not even a mark.
Sure, there were exceptions, like when the Lucha Dragons thrilled us in a valiant losing turn, Dean Ambrose emerged victorious against that rascal Kevin Owens, or Roman Reigns numbed the pain of a plodding match with Sheamus by spearing Triple H straight to hell. Though for the most part, the crowd seemed nonplussed with the performances on display. Still, it wasn’t all for shame, and a la the magical Maccabee oil, the event endured reasonably enough to suffice, even if its memory won’t quite flicker in an eternal flame.
So without further offense to the Festival of Lights, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the 2015 installment of TLC.
5. Apparently, Ambrose Out-Scouted Owens
Which is wacky, since mean Dean is supposed to be a wild card who spends his idle time gnashing on denim for sustenance and staring at himself in the mirror while summoning Candyman. Nevertheless, a few sequences after KO was unable to telegraph – groan – the Lunatic Fringe’s signature slingshot clothesline (which even Jerry Lawler acknowledged “you knew was coming”), Ambrose shocked the world by countering Owen’s Pop-Up Powerbomb, scoring the 1-2-3 and snagging the Intercontinental title. While it’s hard to fathom how anyone still falls prey to Dean’s aforementioned lariat, it was refreshing to watch one of Owens’ opponents not just leap into his embrace like an overeager catcher who just caught his no-hitter. Moreover, Ambrose’s win was a great underdog moment and highlight of the night.
4. Is it Too Late to Just Team Up Charlotte and Paige?
Both women’s arcs from the dawn of WWE’s “Divas Revolution” to this point have been messy and marked by indecisive plotting, kind of like a Menahem Golan movie. Alas, here we are, and the division’s alpha females are at odds in a feud with blurred lines between heel and heroine but a shared, prevailing knack for talking smack and giving lightweight competition chase. Since their character development has been nothing less than random, would it be so inconceivable for the two to butt heads for just a little bit longer before realizing that, together, they could inflict an unprecedented reign of antagonism upon their unsuspecting prey? And in the end, you could always flip the switch and turn Paige sympathetic again when the union gets stale. But by no means should Divas champ Charlotte, a freak of nature like the women’s ranks haven’t seen since Chyna, ever go back to crybaby face.
3. No Comment on Ryback vs. Rusev and Del Rio vs. Swagger
Except to say that….
2. Story Matters
Yes, you are correct: That is a reference to AMC’s tagline of yore. Can’t get anything past you guys. But lo, I mean to call attention to the ultimate conundrum with this TLC, which is that we had no idea what anyone was fighting for. I’ll give a pass to the Sheamus/Roman Reigns fiasco, especially if it’s been a bridge to something bigger between Reigns and Triple H while everyone scrambled to figure out what life looks like long-term without Seth Rollins (remember him?). Otherwise, riddle me this: Even if there were memorable spots between “Team Extreme” and the Wyatts (though were there?) Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio wrestled their Mex-American hearts out, or Ryback and Rusev crushed our low expectations, there was absolutely zero sentimental incentive to cheerlead for any of the above three bouts. Unfortunately, and despite Ambrose’s thrilling win and tag champs New Day/the Usos/Lucha Dragons’ stellar opening showing, TLC‘s woeful midsection made it hard to forget what a truly inept run WWE’s been enduring with Rollins, Lesnar, Undertaker and Cena on the bench.
1. League of Nations Forever
None of us asked for it, but now it’s here. The hasty formation of League of Nations (and did I miss something, or where was Wade Barrett?) precipitated the thinness in narrative among its members’ singles rivalries heading into TLC (Zeb Colter, we the people hardly knew ye). It’s also been tasked with more or less filling the Authority’s void while Triple H rushes in to feud with Roman Reigns and rescue a hobbling product as it staggers toward the Road to WrestleMania. And thanks to their interference in last night’s main event, Sheamus is cemented as more than a fly-by-night champion. All this is to say that the greatest disservice WWE could do at this point is randomly destabilize an already arbitrary foursome. Time to go all in and push the League as your heavyweight harassers du jour, lest it be not merely a failed experiment, but case study in post-modern wrestling notoriety. Much as the company’s owned up to its ebbs and flows on assorted, talking-head-driven countdowns and DVD docs, it’s doubtful anyone in Stamford is thinking, “Hell, worst-case scenario, we can all have an on-camera laugh about League of Nations when we revisit the PG era during a 2000th Raw retrospective.” Truth is, it’s doubtful any of them are so cocksure that milestone is guaranteed.
Below the Belt:
- Has any character been more mishandled of late than Lana?
- Interesting to see where Owens goes from here. Up, I’m thinking.
- Puh-lease, like Bubba was ever gonna light that table aflame.
- Too late to re-christen New Day as Trombone Thugs-n-Harmony?
- Was this Reigns/Triple H feud the pivot from Rollins/Triple H we’re all thinking it was?
- Ya know things are rough when the crowd’s buzzing for a Cena run-in.
- Del Rio, your hands are getting in the way of your face hitting those chairs.
- Yeah, time to turn Ryback heel.
- It really might be time for the Wyatts to focus their gaze on League of Nations. Everyone benefits, no?
- Move of the Night: Kalisto’s Salida del Sol off one ladder onto another was truly awesome.
- Line of the Night: JBL on Charlotte’s mean streak: “What are you gonna emulate, Barry Horowitz?” Happy Hanukkah to you too.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Seriously, did I miss something with Barrett?