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AJ Styles retains title at TLC with help from unlikely source

For The Baltimore Sun
AJ Styles retains title at TLC with help from unlikely source.

Many people expected something unusual to happen at the end of TLC, whether it was the return of a superstar, or possibly a turn by one of the competitors. However, most people didn't see a turn coming from WWE's newest superstar: James Ellsworth.

The main event at TLC was everything you could have hoped from the match. It featured some great pacing, both AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose were able to show off in an environment they were comfortable with, and of course there were some wild spots, including a springboard-450 through a table by Styles.

And as the match ran toward the end, the two did the traditional fight at the top of the ladder spot. Ambrose knocked Styles off the ladder, and it looked like he would be free to reach up and grab the belt. Suddenly, with the camera zoomed in tight on Ambrose, the ladder began to shake. The camera angle switched, and James Ellsworth, who had come down to distract Styles and cheer on Ambrose earlier, was in the ring. He pushed the ladder over, sending Ambrose out of the ring, and through some tables that were set up on the outside. That allowed Styles to grab the belt.

Ellsworth would make his intentions known on Talking Smack after the show. To him, this wasn't an evil act, and he wasn't trying to cost Ambrose the match. Instead, using his logic, he had a title match, and he felt that he had Styles' number after all the times he had won against him. So, he would beat Styles for the title, and then give Ambrose the first title shot. Not the best logic, but Ellsworth sold it well on the show.

Ellsworth is in an odd spot. He got over right off the bat as a comedy figure. For that to be the first impression of a superstar, that's a label that can be tricky to shed. This might be the first step in Ellsworth having a more typical WWE career. It's not a full heel turn; however, showing actual desire for himself helps further develop his character. And we'll see where it goes from here. His lack of hatred toward Ambrose will make it so he's not a full heel.

However, you know Ambrose will get his revenge. Could this be an indirect way for Ambrose to undergo a character change as well if he brutally goes after Ellsworth? Either way, change is a good thing, and TLC set the stage for some big changes on Smackdown.

The rest of TLC:

-When Bray Wyatt debuted in the summer of 2013, it seemed like a lock that he would quickly rise through the ranks, and even if he didn't get the top title immediately, he'd be a presence in the title scene. Fast-foward 3 ½ years later, and he hadn't held a single title. That changed on Sunday night, as Wyatt and Randy Orton won the tag titles from Heath Slater and Rhyno. While it's great that Wyatt now has gold, hopefully they won't get stuck in the tag division, as they could do some fun things with Wyatt and Orton ... particularly with the seemingly jealous look Luke Harper was giving Orton.

-The tag titles weren't the only titles to change hands on Sunday night. Becky Lynch's title reign came to an end as Alexa Bliss sent her through a table to win the Smackdown women's title. It wasn't a fluke win, like you often see in table matches. Instead, Alexa Bliss was able to drop down to the floor when they were battling on the apron, and send her through a table on the floor. It wouldn't surprise me if this is a short reign, but it's a just reward for Alexa, who has made the transition to the main roster better than any of the other summer NXT callups.

-The Miz retained his intercontinental title against Dolph Ziggler. Yes, he ended up winning with a couple low blows as the two were battling on top of the ladder, but of course, those were legal in a ladder match. It was a great match between the two, as they continued (and probably ended) the fantastic rivalry the two have had over the past few months. Miz's win and continued feud with Daniel Bryan raises the question: Why did Ziggler win the title in the first place? The Miz/Daniel Bryan feud is one of the most compelling things in WWE right now, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

-Nikki Bella beat Carmella in a No DQ match. It was a fine match, though after seeing Charlotte and Sasha battle all around the arena on Monday, it felt a little bit flat. After the match, Carmella took the mic and said it was Natalya who attacked Nikki at Survivor Series. It's an odd way to announce that, but at least it sets Nikki toward her next opponent.

-Baron Corbin beat Kalisto in their chairs match. It was a surprisingly even match. Corbin getting the win was important though, as he continues to interact with Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, 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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