Kurt Angle did indeed make his return at TLC, and it was a triumphant one, as he ended up getting the pin to help the pseudo-Shield win on Sunday night. However, it wasn’t before we saw an overbooked main event filled with shenanigans.
It seemed clear that things were going to go oddly right off the bat, as instead of Angle getting his music played in triumph as he made his return, he instead opted to join Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in The Shield’s entrance, complete with him wearing a flak jacket. So with that goofy image in mind, the match started exactly how anyone would expect: tons of brawling with the various weapons around the ring. We saw Angle swinging chairs around, Ambrose and Rollins going off of ladders, and everything was great. However, things started to turn when Braun Strowman got his hands on Angle on the outside and powerslammed him through a table. Angle had to be helped to the back by officials and the medical staff after that move.
From there, the match turned into a prolonged beatdown of Ambrose and Rollins. The five members of the heel team took turns devastating the two. However, this is wrestling, and those sort of things can’t go down that easy. Kane accidentally hit Braun Strowman with a chair, and it looked like the two monsters would start fighting. Miz was able to calm them down, and everyone moved up the ramp to the stage where, of all things, a garbage truck was summoned. They tried to put Ambrose and Rollins in the truck, but they were able to fight out of it and take the fight to the heels. That’s when things started to get weird.
Eventually, Strowman prevented Kane from being double suplexed on the stage, but in the process angered the Big Red Machine. Kane attacked Strowman, going as far as chokeslamming him off the stage, and then pulling down on the hanging chair display, burying Strowman in the chairs. The four remaining members of the heels continued to attack Ambrose and Rollins. Eventually though, Strowman climbed out from underneath the chairs, and started to go after Kane. Trying to keep some semblance of cohesiveness, Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus all joined Kane in attacking Strowman. They put him in the garbage truck, and then pulled the lever, presumably crushing him, complete with weird sound effects.
The match went back toward the ring, and Kurt Angle’s music hit, signally the return of the Olympic champion. From there he played his greatest hits, hitting everyone with Germans, and even sinking the Angle Lock in on The Miz. Finally, Miz was surrounded by the three, they hit a triple-powerbomb on him, and Angle pinned him to win it.
This was a bizarre match, to say the least. Let’s make it clear, the implication is that Braun Strowman was murdered mid-match, which isn’t something you see every day in the WWE. It certainly was polarizing. The crowd waned midway through the match, and even the three faces surrounding Miz barely got a reaction. Many people felt it was overbooked, and quite frankly, a mess. However, there were others who found entertainment in the chaos. And after all, isn’t the point of wrestling simply to entertain?
And then there was the question of whether Angle should have returned in this match. He wrestled less as himself, and more as a member of The Shield. And I think this was done intentionally. They want Angle’s return to be big, and this was done out of panic and out of necessity. So how can you balance those two ideas? Make it so this match wasn’t everything people wanted out of Angle, so there’s still some clamoring for a singles match. When he makes his singles return, he’ll come out with all the pomp and circumstance of a Kurt Angle return, and they can make it seem almost like this return never happened. It was a smart way to get around the potential issues.
So in the main event we saw the return of Kurt Angle, some crazy brawling, and yes, a murder. That’s certainly one way to end a pay-per-view.
The rest of TLC:
-The Finn Balor/AJ Styles match was exactly what fans hoped for. A truly great match between two of the best wrestlers in the world right now that was full of great moves and throwbacks to their New Japan days. At the end, Balor hit one of the best coup de grace he’s hit since coming to WWE, nailing AJ flush with it. After the match, the two stood together, and they gave each other the Too Sweet, as the crowd popped. It’s hard to see that ending as something besides a shot at the Young Bucks and Bullet Club. Petty? Yeah, a little. But in this case, it got us this match, so it’s hard to complain too much.
-We have a new cruiserweight champion as Enzo Amore regained his title. After a back-and-forth match, Enzo poked Kalisto in the eyes, and hit the Eat Defeat for the win. We know that Kalisto’s title win was done on the fly as Neville walked out of Raw a few weeks back, so this returns the cruiserweight division to the status quo.
-In the other title match, Alexa Bliss successfully retained the women’s title against Mickie James. After the match, Mickie cut an impassioned promo thanking the fans for their support, and even though she said that this match proved she could still be champion (and it was a great match, one of Alexa’s best matches of her career), it felt a bit like she was stepping away for a little while.
-In the other big women’s match, Asuka beat Emma in her main roster debut to nobody’s surprise. However, what was a bit of a surprise was how much offense Emma was able to get in. She basically went 50/50 with the debuting Asuka. It made Emma look good, and Asuka looked strong as well (though I’m a bit concerned with how much Michael Cole hyped up how much fun she was having). It’ll be interesting to see if it’s the start of something for Emma.
-Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann beat Jack Gallagher and Brian Kendrick in a real showcase for the cruiserweight division.
-Sasha Banks beat Alicia Fox on the preshow.
-In an unannounced match, Jason Jordan beat Elias. This match was set up by Elias coming out and trying to play several times throughout the show, before Jason Jordan came out and threw produce at him. Elias gets great heel heat, and Jordan got the pop for stopping him, so as they try to continue to get Jordan over, this works.
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