WWE closed out a challenging 2020 on Sunday with its final network special of the year, a TLC PPV.
And just like the previous 11 months, it was a show with incredible highs and incomprehensible lows.
When it comes to the highs, Roman Reigns’ successful defense of the Universal championship against Kevin Owens in a brutal Tables, Ladders and Chairs match tops the list.
Owens attempted to overcome Reigns and his cousin Jey Uso in a match that will likely be in the discussion for year-end lists. The intensity between the two was unrivaled as they absolutely pulverized each other throughout the match. Reigns needed assistance to finally overcome Owens, who said he would need to be killed to lose. Hopefully, this feud isn’t over.
The show inexplicably closed with a match that had nothing to do with tables, ladders or chairs. Instead, viewers got Randy Orton “defeating” The Fiend in a Firefly Funhouse Match by leaving The Fiend engulfed in flames. It was ridiculous, but that’s what people have come to expect whenever Bray Wyatt is involved in a match.
Here’s how it all went down at the Thunderdome in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Preshow: Otis, Chad Gable, Otis & Big E def. Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura
The main storyline here was the feud between Big E and Zayn, but it was kind of startling to see this amount of talent shoved into an eight-man tag match on a preshow. Nevertheless, the match was fine. There was nothing memorable about it, but it was a reason to get everyone involved. For the close, Zayn tried to weasel his way into a win, only to find an incensed Big E there to hit the Big Ending for the pinfall. It’s likely that Big E will get the Intercontinental championship sooner than later.
Drew McIntyre def. AJ Styles and The Miz to retain WWE championship
The ending was never in doubt, but the way they got there was unnecessary as The Miz cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase late in the match.
McIntyre and Styles tried to inject extra brutality into this kickoff match. What fans got was solid but not spectacular. That was probably due more to the lack of heat between Styles and McIntyre heading into this match; it was difficult to become emotionally invested. There were some great spots, including Styles using a chair and ladder to put McIntyre in a calf crusher, a Phenomenal Forearm reversal into a suplex on top of a ladder, and McIntyre pulling Styles off the ladder and launching him out of the ring onto a stack of tables.
Of course, The Miz had to interfere to cash in his MITB. Omos took Miz off the ladder and dumped him through a table on the outside. Morrison attempted to smash a chair over Omos’ back, only to see it fall to pieces. Omos chased Miz to the back, which left Styles, McIntyre and Miz. After all three battled on top of the ladder, McIntyre finally grabbed the title after knocking Styles off the ladder and nailing the Claymore Kick on Miz.
Sasha Banks def. Carmella to retain ‘SmackDown’ women’s championship
Carmella probably didn’t ask for this glam gimmick that is a hybrid of something the WWE attempted with Eva Marie and Lana. But she has looked great in the ring since her return and this match was well-done. As usual, Banks bumped like a maniac, but Carmella has made her offense look a lot stiffer.
The tilt-a-whirl counter into an X-factor took the match to another level as the women hit a beautiful final stretch of counters and chain submissions. Carmella started with a Code of Silence and chained together with a sequence of failed submission and pin attempts. Banks escaped to slap on the Bank Statement, only for Reginald to pull Carmella out of the ring. Carmella took advantage with a pair of superkicks on the outside but again couldn’t get the pin. Banks countered into a Bank Statement to get the submission and retain the title.
Hurt Business def. The New Day to win ‘Raw’ tag team championships
It’s difficult to figure out whether Cedric Alexander’s overzealousness is true character development or something WWE will use to kick him out of Hurt Business just as he’s hitting his stride. It still has been fun to watch because Alexander absolutely needed something for his character. And just when it looked as though it would cost his team, it got them a victory and the U.S. and “Raw” tag titles instead.
The match started with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods abusing Alexander in what appeared to be a near squash, but Shelton Benjamin’s powerhouse offense ensured they’d stay in the match. It was a fun back-and-forth that included a final stretch of Benjamin dominating and then Alexander sneaking a tag, hitting his Lumbar Check for the pinfall and giving Hurt Business the belts.
Asuka and Charlotte def. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler for women’s tag team championship
We all know where this is heading, right? Charlotte returned to replace Lana as Asuka’s tag team partner, so now we can begin the countdown to when Charlotte turns on Asuka.
This match was fine for what it was, which wasn’t much more than a Charlotte showcase that comes at the expense of everyone else on the “Raw” roster.
Jax and Baszler spent a lot of time in control of Asuka, who finally escaped and made the tag to Charlotte. Charlotte immediately went after Jax, who is responsible for putting Charlotte on the shelf earlier this year. The pace kicked up a notch as Asuka hit a hip attack on Jax to the outside, which left Charlotte and Baszler together. Charlotte escaped the Kirifuda Clutch and nailed Baszler with Natural Selection to become a grand slam champion.
It’s all very predictable because you can’t keep Charlotte away from the gold.
Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens to retain the Universal championship
This was an absolute slugfest that delivered on all accounts.
Owens had been incredible in the build to this match with an intensity that could only be rivaled by Reigns. After weeks of being attacked, it was only right that Owens began the match sneak-attacking Reigns and annihilating Jey Uso. But Reigns would take advantage of the numbers game and get the upper hand once Owens clobbered Uso and sent him to the back.
Owens added to his history of selling out in brutal gimmick matches with extra intensity in this affair as he took some vicious bumps throughout. A sequence in which Reigns powerbombed Owens onto a ladder, sent him crashing through a table and delivered a Samoan Drop through a third was incredibly violent.
Reigns attempted to nonchalantly climb the ladder but the resilient Owens made one last-gasp effort. Reigns speared him through a table for his troubles. The incredulous look on Reigns’ face as Owens kept coming back. Owens baited Reigns into missing a spear through the barricade and set in motion another series of brutality.
Owens hit Reigns with a pop-up powerbomb through the table and got his hands on the title until, you guessed it, Uso stopped him. Uso received a stunner for his troubles. Owens raced back up the ladder but was met by a low blow from Reigns, who sunk in a guillotine to retain.
It’s unfortunate that these two won’t be involved in a long-term feud because they are made for each other. Reigns continues to be the best heel in the business. Here’s hoping WWE finds a place for Owens to excel.
Go out of your way to watch this match.
Randy Orton def. The Fiend in a Firefly Inferno Match
For no real reason, WWE closed a TLC show with Orton and Bray Wyatt performing in a match that didn’t involve tables, ladders or chairs. Despite the history of horrible matches these two have had together, WWE was determined to try again. Well, add another silly match to the list.
This time, it was a Firefly Inferno Match. While not as tragically bad as the House of Horrors match at WrestleMania 33, it wasn’t very good, either. It was The Fiend plodding around and getting in some offense while Orton scurried away and did his best to not be set on fire. The match is supposed to end when someone gets set on fire. These matches are never good.
There was a pickaxe in the match for no real reason and The Fiend attempted to set Orton on fire in a rocking chair.
It was all just plain silly. Orton finally backed The Fiend into a wall of fire and then hit him with an RKO with flames coming off his jacket.
The match should have been over then, but Orton grabbed a gasoline can and set The Fiend’s entire body on fire as the show went off the air.