The women steal the show at TLC

For The Baltimore Sun

Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Asuka sent the TLC crowd home happy Sunday after a wild main event that featured a brutal match, a title change and a major storyline as the Road to Wrestlemania begins.

The match was as brutal as the build led the crowd to expect. Tables, ladders and chairs (and kendo sticks!) were used liberally, and some of the spots were crazy and stiff. At one point, Becky jumped off of a ladder onto Charlotte, who was on the announce table. The table didn't break immediately, and it's amazing that Charlotte's ribs weren't broken. Charlotte would later spear Asuka through the barricade in a memorable spot. All three were vicious with their weapon strikes.

Then the match reached the climax. The three women all found themselves on top of ladders as they brawled back and forth. Asuka was the first to drop. Charlotte and Becky continued their fight on top of the ladder. Then Ronda Rousey made her way down. She stepped into the ring, saw the two on top of the ladder, and tipped both over. As she made her way back up the ramp to boos, Asuka was able to recover, climb the ladder, and capture the Smackdown women's title for the first time.

This match was everything that the fans wanted. A great match that used the stipulation well between strong characters involved in a great storyline. Yes, some fans may not be happy that Ronda interfered as they wanted a clean finish, but this pushes their storyline forward as we really get into Wrestlemania season. And while Becky certainly deserves to be champ, allowing Asuka to be champ while she gets positioned for something bigger is not a bad thing at all.

In addition to being a great match, the whole main event felt incredibly important. Yes, women have main evented WWE pay-per-views before. However, TLC's match wasn't the main event simply because they were women. It was the main event because it was the most-anticipated match of the night, featuring the superstars that the fans care about the most. It also involved what seems to be the biggest storyline going into Wrestlemania season and took it to a new level. Yes, it involved women, but they didn't need to drive that fact home. The women are the most important thing in WWE television right now, so of course it would be in the main event. It was a given.

Fans have complained about lackluster main events in WWE pay-per-views recently. That criticism ended on Sunday, as you couldn't ask for more to finish a pay-per-view with than what you saw at TLC. On a major Raw with Vince McMahon returning on Monday, you hope they can build off of this success.

The rest of TLC:

»Dean Ambrose claimed the intercontinental title after beating Seth Rollins. Unfortunately for the match, it was sandwiched between the main event and the WWE title match, and thus it fell flat for much of the crowd. Despite being such a personal feud, it also felt slightly lackluster, likely because the feud will continue after this. There were no stipulations attached and much of the match was conducted as a standard match without true brawling, even though it had been built as a blood feud. Ambrose eventually won with a Dirty Deeds.

»Daniel Bryan successfully retained the WWE title against AJ Styles. This match truly allowed Daniel Bryan to show off what “The New” Daniel Bryan was going to do in the ring. Gone were much of his exciting moves. In their place were vicious strikes, brutal submissions, mixed with some heel tactics. He lived up to the nickname he had given himself years ago, as “Mr. Small Package” won with a reversed small package. You can bet this feud isn't over.

»Braun Strowman beat Baron Corbin in a rather unorthodox way. Strowman wasn't cleared for the match. However, he came out in a sling and reminded Corbin that TLC matches were No DQ. Out came Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable and Finn Balor to help attack Corbin. Special referee Heath Slater even got involved in the beatdown. As Corbin tried to escape up the ramp, Kurt Angle came out to continue the assault and get Corbin back in the ring. All the men hit finishers on Corbin, and Strowman set one foot on him for the 3-count. Strowman will face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble and Corbin is no longer GM of Raw.

»Ronda Rousey successfully retained her title against Nia Jax. These two work extremely well with each other. Rousey's offense really shines against bigger opponents. Unfortunately for her there aren't too many women bigger than her in the company, so it wouldn't surprise me to see them continue going back to this well when they can, though it does look like Ronda will be moving on to Charlotte and/or Becky.

»Rey Mysterio beat Randy Orton in what might have been the surprise match of the night. The two used the chair stipulation perfectly, using the chairs in creative ways. Mysterio caught Orton in a roll with assistance from the chairs for the win. With that finish, it doesn't seem like this feud is over, but with the Royal Rumble coming up, it's possible the two start to drift away from one another.

»Finn Balor beat Drew McIntyre in a bit of a surprise. During the match, Dolph Ziggler came out to attack McIntyre. Even though McIntyre would recover, Balor was able to take advantage and eventually get the win. After the match, Balor and Ziggler would brawl in the back after Ziggler took credit for the win. So I guess Ziggler is a heel again.

»Natalya beat Ruby Riott in a very physical tables match. All three members of the Riott Squad ended up going through tables, in what seems like a decisive ending to that feud.

»The Bar beat The Usos and The New Day to retain the Smackdown Tag Titles. This match was just what you expected between these three teams.

»R-Truth and Carmella beat Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox to win season two of the Mixed Match Challenge. This means that R-Truth and Carmella will be the No. 30 entrants of their respective Royal Rumbles (as long as R-Truth doesn't get confused about his entry spot). They also earned a vacation, and R-Truth chose to go to WWE headquarters. Expect some good vignettes from that.

»Elias beat Bobby Lashley in a guitar on a pole match, though Lashley got the upper hand after the match ended.

»Buddy Murphy retained the cruiserweight title against Cedric Alexander.

Questions? Thoughts? Email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout

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