Potentially, tonight's WWE TLC pay-per-view could be a historic one, thanks to the unification of the WWE and World championships in the main event. Will it be?
I think so. The rest of the card is somewhat underwhelming, although the two 3-on-1 handicap matches have the potential for some really fun wrestling and storytelling because of the individuals involved.
Obviously, how historic this pay-per-view becomes depends largely on the main event. Despite many gripes that the match-up and two participates are far from fresh, no one can deny that both John Cena and Randy Orton bring it on the big stage, and this is definitely a big stage. I'm excited to see what they can put together in a type of match that should feature plenty of memorable spots.
Kickoff match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Fandango
Think about where these two were the Raw after WrestleMania. Fandango had just wrestled his first official match, at WrestleMania no less, and defeated Chris Jericho, and the entire audience was "Fan-dang-o-ing" most of the night to his entrance music. Dolph Ziggler crashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to a huge reaction on Raw to become World Heavyweight Champion (and as long as we are taking a stroll down memory lane, recall that, at last year's TLC, Ziggler was in the main event defeating John Cena to defend that MITB briefcase). Now, on the last pay-per-view of 2013, these two are wrestling in prelim match on YouTube with absolutely nothing at stake. At least they can both work, so it should be a good wrestling match.
WINNER: Dolph Ziggler
Fatal 4-Way for the WWE Tag Team Championship: Cody Rhodes and Goldust (c) vs. Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel vs. Rey Mysterio and Big Show
There hasn't been a ton of build to this, although all of these teams have traded wins against each other as of late. The only team I can't envision winning is Ryback and Axel. Both are better suited for singles and just seem to be stuck in this tag team because creative had no idea what else to do with them once Paul Heyman was written off television. Mysterio and Show is a caricature of every tag team that has ever used the undersized high-flyer and powerful big man formula and again, it seems like the creative team really didn't have anything else for them, so they were thrown into a tag team, since they are both established guys. Rhodes and Goldust are still putting on great matches, but I feel like "The Brotherhood" may have run its course, or at the very least, is nearing its finale. Swagger and Cesaro? They are doing all the right things to get themselves over as a team, and it would be a shame if WWE pulled the trigger on a breakup to push Cesaro as a singles babyface (especially since he would just end up in mid-card purgatory) rather than keeping this great alliance going by making them the division's champions. Perhaps there is even a run until WrestleMania when they are unseated by another so-called "Real American" and a partner of his choosing, brother.
WINNERS: And NEW Tag Team Champions, Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro, the Real Americans.
Divas Championship: AJ Lee (c) vs. Natalya
For months, it seemed like WWE was building toward Natalya getting a Divas Championship match, but it never came until now. And now that it's here... meh. I like Natalya, but the iron isn't hot the way it was when Total Divas first hit the airwaves and she came across as the likable but under-appreciated veteran. If AJ wins, then she's basically taken on all of the Total Divas who can work a championship match (let's face it, you aren't trusting Cameron, Eva Marie or JoJo in that role yet) and won. Perhaps this means the introduction of a new face to the Divas division in early 2014 to feud with AJ? There are certainly a few girls in NXT worthy of a call-up.
WINNER: And STILL Divas Champion, AJ Lee
Intercontinental Championship: Big E Langston (c) vs. Damien Sandow
Looking up and down the card, there isn't an easier match to predict than this one. WWE is strapping the proverbial rocket pack to Big E Langston, who debuted the night after TLC last year, and -- in theory at least -- will be in possession of the second-most prized championship in the company once the WWE and World title are unified in the main event. The IC title is about to be important again as the belt that helps establish the next big stars the way it did for guys like Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and the Rock. I think Sandow, who has yet to win singles gold in WWE, could be Intercontinental Champion within the next calendar year, but for now, it's Langston's time to shine.
WINNER: And STILL Intercontinental Champion, Big E Langston
3-on-1 handicap match: CM Punk vs. The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns)
Having two 3-on-1 handicap matches on one show without any stipulatons should prove interesting. And while the obvious outcome would be having the three-member teams win in both cases, I think at least one of Punk or Bryan will have to emerge victorious to tell two different stories. In the case of CM Punk, he's already said on television a few times he plans to lose, but he's going to take the Shield down with him. And on television, we've seen signs of dissension within the Shield, particularly Ambrose and Reigns. I could certainly imagine a situation in which Reigns accidentally spears Ambrose, taking him out (perhaps after Punk has already hit a GTS or Rollins?) and Punk is able to keep Reigns down long enough to steal a victory. He escapes with an inprobable win and the Shield continues to dissolve.
WINNER: CM Punk
3-on-1 handicap match: Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan)
Fans, or at least some of them, are likely to complain that Bryan continues to get "buried" if and when he loses this match. I honestly can't see him winning because, again, I think you need to have different results in these two handicap matches, and it makes sense that the Shield be the three-man team to implode -- the only realistic way one person could overcome a trio. In the case of Daniel Bryan, I expect him to put up a heck of a fight, but ultimately succumb to the Wyatts (Bray in particular). But the match and the result isn't neccessarily the most interesting aspect here. They Wyatts have been trying to convince Bryan to join them. Will he? Will they beat him to the point he has no choice but the join them? And if he does, what does that mean? I don't have answers here. But I'm darn sure intrigued to find out.
WINNER: The Wyatt Family
Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the WWE and World Championships: Randy Orton (WWE Champion) vs. John Cena (World Champion)
Part of what makes this pay-per-view one of the most intriguing of the year so far is that it's not really clear what the outcome of the main event and the long-term fall-out will be. As Raw came to a close this past Monday, we saw a lot of seeds planted for potential long-term stories, and at least one of them was the Authority souring on Orton as it's hand-picked face of the WWE. The closing shot saw Cena -- in his white shirt no less -- standing alongside Triple H, Kane and Stephanie McMahon, all dressed in black. There is some symbolism there. The real question is whether it was a red herring from WWE to help sell the PPV (OMG you guys! Cena's finally turning heel) or foreshadowing of future events. There are a ton of interesting scenarios that have been laid out across the vast reaches of the interwebs about the finish to this one. The Authority screws Orton and champions Cena as the face of the WWE, with Cena as an unwilling pawn of the Authority, is the one WWE seemed to be teasing Monday. Then there is the crowd of fans fulling expecting the bait-and-switch, with both men retrieving a belt -- either their own or the other man's -- leaving open the possibility of a rematch at the Royal Rumble or further down the road. Of course, there are a group of cynics just assume: CENA WINS! LOL. And a handful of super-cynics that expect Triple H to retrieve both belts because even though he isn't technically in the match, he's Triple H and that's such a Triple H move. Another group made up of the optomistic meta-fan fantasy bookers of the world have Daniel Bryan joining the Wyatt Family to overthrow the machine, interfering in the match and helping Bryan retrieve the belts. All of these are interesting, but unlikely (OK, Cena wins isn't that unlikely), but that's why I'm predicting the one thing that no one else seems to be, because it might just be the biggest swerve of them all.
WINNER: And UNIFIED WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION, Randy Orton