Much to the chagrin of many a fan, this is our third straight pay per view without the WWE Champion. Heck, it's our third straight month without the WWE Champion. When Brock Lesnar became champion, people understandably had expectations about his schedule. Fans assumed WWE had signed him for more dates. Not a lot of dates, but some. Personally, I figured we'd see him defend the title at least once before Wrestlemania season began.
But that's okay, I guess. As always, it boils down to storytelling. Do they have a good story to go with this absentee champion? The answer is...kind of. It hasn't been said outright, but Brock not being there creates a certain aura around him. This is the man who is essentially holding the WWE Championship hostage. He's also the man who pinned The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX. He's the man who does the unthinkable. He's Brock Lesnar.
So Brock not being at TLC isn't a crime. Especially considering that in his absence, Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series both delivered, despite some of the TV shows being pretty lackluster. We've had things like The Authority losing their power, Sting making his first WWE appearance, as well as Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and (presumably) Bray Wyatt main eventing their first pay per views.
Obviously, TLC has some lofty predecessors to live up to...
Kofi Kingston & Big E. Langston vs. Goldust & Stardust
I'm not a fan of "The New Day." It's a stupid name for a group, they dress and act like the Harlem Globetrotters, and I just don't see any of these guys being furthered by this. Still, they're obviously being emphasized right now, so it makes sense to have them win. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of the much more interesting Goldust & Stardust. Incidentally, I'm growing pessimistic about us ever seeing a Dustin vs. Cody feud...
PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston & Big E. Langston
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Jack Swagger
As I noted previously, it feels like Swagger was simply thrown back in front of Rusev so he could have an opponent for December. It’s pretty obvious he’s not going to be the one to take the belt from Rusev. Still, it could be worse. These two have history, obviously. I’ve got a bad feeling about Zeb Colter, though. He’s one of the best talkers WWE has, but supposedly he’s been having trouble getting around lately. That’s not necessarily surprising, as all that traveling can’t be easy for Zeb. In any event, Rusev wins.
WWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Miz & Damien Sandow (c) vs. The Usos
You know who deserves more credit than he’s being given for Sandow’s current success? The Miz. Granted, it was Sandow who made the most of what I assume was only supposed to be a one-night thing. But “Damien Mizdow” is a two-man show. Without Miz feeding him, he’s got nothing to work with. They really stumbled on something great with these two, and that’s why there’s no reason to take the tag titles off them now. These guys must be going to Wrestlemania. How could they not be? Unless they’re already feuding by then…
PREDICTION: The Miz & Damien Sandow
WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Nikki Bella (c) vs. AJ Lee
It’s felt like AJ has had one foot out the door since she married CM Punk. I don’t fault her for that. Everybody’s got a right to be happy and be with the person they love. After the Slammy Award speech she gave this week on Raw, it certainly feels like this might be her last night. If that’s the case, I really wish she was working with someone else. As anyone who’s read my stuff knows, I am not a Bella fan. I respect the effort that both twins put in. But…no. Just no. But alas, if AJ is on her way out, Nikki has to win. God willing, someone like Paige or Charlotte will come along soon and take the title.
PREDICTION: Nikki Bella
The Big Show vs. Erick Rowan
I suppose a Stairs Match is no weirder than a Chairs Match. I don’t think it merited renaming the damn show, but giving these two a gimmick will probably result in a better match. From a storytelling standpoint, it makes sense to give a Stairs Match to two big guys, as it plays up the notion that this prop is really heavy. I imagine at some point in this match we’ll see Rowan slam Show on to the steps, as we’ve seen him pick up the giant before. It’s interesting to see Rowan spotlighted this way, as many thought he’d get lost in the shuffle after the Wyatt Family broke up. However, I’m going to say The Big Show takes this one home.
Kane vs. Ryback
I can’t help but think this match might have more of an epic feel if Kane were still dressed as “The Demon,” as opposed to a JCPenney catalog model. I’ve got to believe Ryback’s going over here. He seems to be a legitimately dangerous person to be in the ring with, but we can’t deny that he’s freakishly strong, and he seems to be legitimately crazy. At the very least, that makes him an interesting person to watch on television. But a future megastar? That remainds to be seen.
LADDER MATCH FOR THE WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Luke Harper (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler in a ladder match? NOW they’re on to something. Needless to say, this match is a potential show stealer. In terms of who wins, it’s a toss up. Ziggler has won and lost the belt twice already this year. So the notion of him winning it again isn’t exactly far-fetched. But if WWE really wants to give Harper a try, I can’t see why they’d have him lose his first high-profile title defense. Frankly, I’m not sold on Harper yet. But this match could go a long way in changing that.
PREDICTION: Luke Harper
STIPULATION TABLES MATCH:
John Cena vs. Seth Rollins
If Cena loses, he is no longer number one contender.
So if John Cena isn’t wrestling Brock at the Royal Rumble, who is? The only logical substitute seems to be Randy Orton, who many believe will return at TLC. But they’ve got a Rollins/Orton feud built in for when he comes back, so it seems unlikely they’d divert him from that. As lame as it would be, it looks like it’s going to be Lesnar vs. Cena for a third time. Let’s say Cena wins, and the Orton comes back with an RKO to Rollins (From outta nowhere!!!!!).
Rob’s Prediction: John Cena
TABLES, LADDERS, AND CHAIRS MATCH:
Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose
Much like Ambrose and Rollins main eventing Hell in a Cell, WWE has the chance to put a great spotlight Ambrose and Wyatt at TLC. Has their program been worthy of a pay per view main event? I can go either way on that one. When Bray’s mic work has been focused, and he’s not doing his evil laugh for no reason, the promos have been decent. But based on what they gave us at Survivor Series, I’m hoping the match overachieves. I’d love to see Ambrose win this sucker. Hell, he hasn’t won a single pay per view match since he struck out on his own. Sadly, I see more of the same here. But will it harm Ambrose? Probably not. I think what gets him over is his “unstable” vibe. You never know what he’s going to say, what he’s going to do, and THAT’s what makes him such an awesome commodity for WWE. Dean Ambrose will persevere. Hopefully for years to come.
PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt