The TLC Report Card: Simply Phenomenal

At this point in previous PPV Report Cards, I’ve described events as “unique” or “different”. Well tonight we take that aspect to a whole new level as this TLC show has to be one of the most bizarre wrestling cards I’ve ever seen. If you’re reading this you are probably aware of the wackiness that has paved the way for AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor as well as Kurt Angle’s WWE in-ring return. Kurt wrestling is insane enough and doing it in a 5-on-3 handicap match even crazier but adding tables, ladders and chairs (oh my) to the equation makes the whole thing almost unfathomable.

In addition to that ridiculousness is a very mild wrestling show featuring somewhat uninteresting title matches and a Nitro 97 Cruiserweight tag team battle. Oh yeah, and Asuka is debuting. What this introduction is basically saying is that if you are usually appalled by my lack of insight, this Report Card will astonish you with how little it helps establish what actually happened on this show. Expect nothing and you may find this mildly entertaining. Otherwise expect nothing but disappointment.

Pick Your Poison And X-Division Matches Added To 4/15 IMPACT

DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.

Pre-Show

Alicia Fox vs. Sasha Banks

We start the proceedings with the pre-show match between Alicia Fox and Sasha Banks. The pair brawled early as usual with Sasha getting the better of things until Alicia cut her off and applied my favorite and yours: the headlock. Sasha came back though and beat Fox up so much that she began to cry and begged off but Sasha refused and kicked her in the mouth instead. Fox eventually pushed Sasha off the top rope to the floor and hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on the outside before going for a cover which was a neat little character moment. She’s crazy you see?

She then turned to the great headlock again but at least seemed to be putting some pressure on Sasha’s back until eventually catching and then just dropping Banks out of the ring. This led to Sasha’s G1 Climax count-out tease as she barely rolled in at the count of 9. Fox then went to her trusty Northern Lights Suplex and another headlock but was soon kicked out of the ring as she went for a cover. Another count-out tease followed. I did really enjoy the ongoing story of Fox’s lack of focus often costing her and halting the progress her talent warrants as I’m a big fan of that kind of reasoning.

They traded neat moves down the stretch before Sasha finally put on the Bank Statement for the win. Pre-show matches often have hot crowds and are a lot of fun and this was no different. Banks’ selling really tied things together and Alicia is wacky if nothing else. Enjoyable match.

Grade: C+

Main Show

Emma vs. Asuka

The actual PPV (is that what these things are called nowadays?) begins with Asuka’s long-awaited debut. She unsurprisingly received a strong reaction. There was a feeling out process early but Emma’s taunting almost cost her immediately as Asuka threw her to the ground and put on an armbar. Emma made the ropes though and soon attacked Asuka’s arm to even things up. An Emma shoulder tackle was responded to by Asuka’s best Ultimate Warrior impression and she fired back hitting the rear view (damn right I did) and putting on an ankle lock.

The submission was countered by a slightly silly looking roll through that sent Asuka to the outside and Emma soon cut her off and beat her up on the outside. She worked the back a little, pulled the hair and was just generally mean. “Let’s Go Asuka” chants came quickly as the former NXT champ sold and Emma soon fired her up with a ton of slaps to the face which led to an Asuka comeback. Asuka ran through all her cool moves including a missile dropkick and a German suplex but Emma continued to flurry in spots, flinging Asuka to the floor near the end.

A headkick changed things though as it allowed Asuka to apply her submission finish for the win. Good match that seemed well put together in my view. I struggle to understand the complaints as far as match layout as to me Asuka was never that kind of dominant champion. Emma pushed her in NXT and did so again here but the key is, Asuka always finds a way. Good debut and a nice match.

Grade: B

We now got a backstage segment with Team Miz and I have no idea what happened here but I do always enjoy Miz talking so cool, I guess.

Elias Samson shenanigans followed and I was having a great time until Jason Jordan threw celery at him. Yep.

Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher vs. Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann

Cruiserweight action now as Mike Tenay joins Schiavone, Heenan and Dusty in the booth. In all seriousness, this match was always going to be good and they showed why here by each performing strongly throughout. The heels got offense on the fiery Swann early, grounding him and working his leg. However, Swann quickly went into one of his cool sequences and scored a big dropkick. This then allowed Cedric to for some reason come in and hit all of his awesome moves even though he was never tagged in. I’m not complaining though as the flurry really brought some instant momentum to the match.

A big dive from Cedric followed and the babyfaces beat Kendrick up for a bit including a spectacular tilt-whirl backbreaker from Alexander. Swann was soon cut off though and “The Man with a Plan” dragged him to the corner and tagged Gallagher in who quickly went to work. They got the heat on at this point and did some solid stuff until Cedric’s simply spectacular hot tag. He really is pure dynamite on offense and has a genuine babyface charisma. Kendrick pulled him outside as he ran wild though and even caught Swann out of the air to hit a beautiful suplex on the floor.

An inside cradle almost caught Kendrick off guard but he kicked out, kicked Cedric in the face and applied The Captain’s Hook. Swann intercepted though, using a Phoenix Splash to break it up. Gallagher then re-entered, walking into a Swann kick and nailing a headbutt leaving both men floored. Alexander took advantage of the opportunity, hitting the Lumbar Check on Kendrick for the win. Wow, this was a ton of fun and really worked in this spot with this more expressive and expansive layout. An exciting little tag team match and to be honest, both of these teams kind of rule and I’d like to see them against the Heavyweight pairings as soon as possible.

Grade: B

An Alexa Bliss promo was up next as she explained that she’s happy with her butt. I’ll leave that there.

RAW Women’s Title

Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss

Time for the RAW Women’s Title match now as known “OLD LADY” challenges Alexa Bliss for her crown. There was some standard grappling exchanges early as Mickie’s impressive speed got her immediate advantages. James then slapped Alexa’s butt (the one she’s happy with) and this received a huge pop. Once again, I’ll leave that there. Bliss gained control with a good old fashioned elbow to the head and began to execute some fabulous hair pulls but James kipped up every time and nailed her own expert hair pull to set up a big kick to the seated Bliss.

Mickie went for her trademark corner hurricanrana thingy but Bliss threw her to the apron and isolated the arm. At this point I’m excited as I realize that limb work has finally arrived and as we all know, there’s nothing better than limb work. Bliss’ work on the arm was perfect: super aggressive and calculated. Mickie sold it superbly too, showing desperation brilliantly as she tried to protect her arm at all costs. Alexa stayed on it though and hit some dope swingy move gimmick on the arm. Mickie continued to sell admirably and an absolutely awesome exchange of slaps broke out.

This culminated in a DOUBLE KO SPOT and they then brawled to their feet in what felt like quite authentic fashion. Mickie fired up and made her big comeback that the people responded to dramatically which was a cool moment and signaled how well both women had performed. A sunset flip bomb from Alexa got a two count but Mickie came back with a flapjack and went up top but Bliss cut her off as James landed on her injured shoulder. An attempted Twisted Bliss missed though and Mickie also missed (but supposedly hit) a dropkick from the top.

Mickie scored a big kick for a two count and Alexa begged off which gave her the chance to launch James into the turnbuckle and hit the DDT for the win. This match was simple in its layout but worked so well that it became a genuinely good title bout that made Mickie seem a very possible victor throughout. It probably lost its way slightly in the last couple of minutes but still, a very strong showing overall. Mickie then cut a brilliant post-match promo and it has to be said, she leaves this feud much stronger than she entered it and that’s a testament to the effort put in by both women.

Grade: B

We now head backstage to see Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose handing a Shield tactical vest to RAW General Manager/known cyborg and generally red bloke Kurt Angle. Cool.

Cruiserweight Title

Enzo Amore vs. Kalisto

Standard pre-match Enzo Amore promo gets us started before Kalisto’s horrific theme hit and the match begun. Kalisto’s skill was too much early but that aspect ended when Enzo pulled his foot out and the champion went flying head first onto the turnbuckle. Enzo then began to ground him before going up top only to simply step back down for a little heat. Amore is a very wacky heel worker thus far but who cares, he’s actually over and has legitimate personality. These things make him unique in the land of 205’ers.

Kalisto soon fought free of a headlock and launched Enzo into the turnbuckle, making his comeback with only a rope break saving Amore before he himself threw Kalisto into the turnbuckle and hit the DDG for a two count. Something happened that my notes were apparently unaware of and Enzo was suddenly in trouble, grabbing the apron desperately. As the referee tended to the now unruly apron, Enzo poked Kalisto in the eye and hit Gail Kim’s finish for the win. I loved the finish here and it was the right one too as Amore is clearly the savior the smaller men need.

Grade: C

AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor

The wackiness now begins as our last minute “dream match” between two former leaders of “THE NOTORIOUS CLUB” finally clash. “This is awesome” chants were present before the first bell and this was a special atmosphere for a match between two full-time main roster talents. An intense lock up was followed by the standard all-babyface match spots. I’m usually against the whole ‘we are both really good wrestlers…respect!’ style match but these two fought with enough vigor and intensity to make it all matter. A good example was the early grappling exchanges, all of which were made to look authentic and gritty by both guys work, particularly AJ’s.

They then traded cool moves before Finn put on the surfboard gimmick and I really liked how every transition felt earned and fought for. AJ soon gained some brief control himself though and hit a non-springboard Phenomenal Forearm for a two count. They exchanged strikes and continued to go back and forth, smoothly intercepting each other’s sequences as they went along. Within this recurring theme, Finn hit an awesome thigh slap kick that sent AJ to the outside and allowed for Finn’s standard dive over the top.

AJ fired back with the USHIGOROSHI and then that move where he drops his opponent on their face real hard. Guys, AJ is real good. Finn responded to this as any gentleman would, by stomping on AJ’s face with both of his feet. AJ soon caught Balor in the calf crusher but Finn aggressively fought free by slamming his head on the canvas in one of the few moments of real ‘Demon’ style Balor….whatever that means. AJ looked for a form of phenomenal forearm again but Finn pushed him off to the outside and was consistently ahead of Styles, that seemingly being the story.

This Finn Balor match had been really good so he had to go ruin it by hitting that silly front dropkick on the outside. Balor refused to win by count-out though and instead broke the count, AJ immediately stopped him in his tracks anyway and run him over the announce table with a big tackle. The pair sold before eventually sliding back in the ring at the same time, both simultaneously going for cross bodies and clotheslines. AJ then went for his famed strike combination but Finn stopped it with his own Pele kick.

Balor hit 1969 after AJ fought it off once and went up for the Coup De Grace but AJ used a huge Pele to halt him and hit a beautiful hurricanrana off the top rope. Styles missed the 450 splash though and Finn took advantage, hitting his front dropkick and the Coup De Grace for the clean pin. Following the match, the two shared a ‘Too Sweet’ and people were very happy. I’m generally not a huge fan of all babyface matches but this was almost perfect for what the crowd wanted and turned out to be a quite brilliant match.

Styles was particularly fantastic, especially considering the scenario. The man is simply the greatest in my view and it’ll take a lot to change that for me at this point as he continues to deliver when it’s needed most. A true pro and he was close to his best here which is quite the feat under the circumstances.

Grade: A

Elias vs. Jason Jordan

Every show needs a cool down match and rightly or wrongly, that was this match’s only purpose. Impromptu and developed via celery, this match certainly happened and Jordan mostly dominated things early as he continually overpowered the great Elias. ‘The Drifter’ turned things around eventually though, ramming Jordan into the turnbuckle with a big knee to the back. There has been an obscene amount of turnbuckle spots on this show, they’ve all been good but come on, a little more variety would be appreciated. Elias was now in control regardless and began to beat up Kurt’s son.

Michael Cole referenced some kind of Elias concert that would be taking place following the show and frankly, I’d like to know why my $9.99 doesn't provide me access to a stream of this concert. Back to this wrestling match anyway and Jordan made his comeback but Elias soon kneed him in the head and body-slammed him into the corner with Jordan’s legs slamming against the ropes. Jordan then got the pin with an inside cradle even though Elias seemed to have kicked out. I don’t know but I was very angry and so was the great Booker T. A nothing match which was what it was intended to be honestly, inoffensive but very forgettable.

Grade: D+

5-on-3 Handicap Tables, Ladders and Chairs Chaos

The Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus, Kane and Braun Strowman vs. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Kurt Angle

Main event time now folks and the babyfaces’ entrance set the tone for the insanity that would follow as Kurt Angle almost appeared out of nowhere, tactical vest and all with a big grin etched across his face. This was absolutely outrageously funny. Shield got the early advantage after Seth symbolically sacrificed himself allowing Dean and Kurt to attack with chairs. Angle then attacked Braun with a ladder….yes seriously. They continued to beat Kane up and looked to be setting up a triple power-bomb until Sheamus and Cesaro cut them off.

At this point Kane brought back those delightful uppercuts of his but the New Shield continued to batter him regardless and got the better of Braun too, with Rollins and Ambrose simultaneously coming off ladders to put both monsters through an announce table each. Kurt is cheering them on and this is already the weirdest match I’ve ever seen. This spot left Kurt isolated and Cesaro and Sheamus began to beat him up with Ladders and Chairs (makes sense). Kurt fired up like the lunatic he is though and hit his famous German suplexes on Miz, Sheamus and Cesaro.

He was now very excited and so was the crowd and I but suddenly, political power-player Kane sat up. This very much scared Kurt, the crowd and I but in all seriousness, it was surreal to see Kane and Kurt wrestling each other again, especially when Kurt countered the choke-slam and applied the Ankle Lock. Braun broke it up though, simply set up a table and power-slammed Kurt through it. Wow. This gave Kurt an escape from the match, or for now at least and the heels went to work on Seth and Dean immediately, battering the tag champs.

As they made a brief comeback, Kane accidently hit Strowman with a steel chair and BRAUN was now very angry. He responded to the chair shot by pushing Kane over like a quintessential school bully and The Shield duo took advantage of the dissension before being cut off again. At this point Sheamus and Cesaro attempted to put Dean through a table with something strange but it failed and Braun saved the day by simply launching him through the re-positioned table in the most simplistic fashion imaginable. Miz now unveiled a garbage truck to which Booker smugly responded with “taking out the trash.” Exactly Booker!

Ambrose and Rollins fought free though and hit big dives to escape before chasing the now lone Miz and dragging him back to the ramp. Kane made the save and Braun then saved him but Kane apparently refused this help and instead choke-slammed Strowman off the stage…trust me that it wasn't as cool as it probably reads. Booker responded confidently by claiming it was an accident but had to quickly concede defeat as Kane purposely destroyed his partner by dropping all of the stage set’s chairs on Strowman which again, wasn't as cool as it probably reads. 

I expected Kane to walk off at this point but he didn't and instead choke-slammed Seth and Dean through two tables, one of which didn't really react well to Dean’s body landing on it. Braun was suddenly rising again and Kane responded with a tremendous 9.48 on the famed William Regal/Alexa Bliss Facial Expression Scale. Braun was now a babyface and fought off the heels until they put the boots to him and threw him into the garbage truck in what I believe was an attempt to kill him.

This was so obscene that I lack the words to describe it, luckily Michael Cole summed it up perfectly: “completely beyond sports entertainment.” Indeed Michael, indeed. The ‘wrestling match’ now continued as Seth and Dean continued to get beaten up by the heels until Kurt Angle’s theme hit and the hunched red man suddenly returned in all his glory. He removed Cesaro and Sheamus with immediate Angle Slams but his success wouldn't translate to Kane and I can’t stress enough how much I love that we are still trying to make Kane look strong in 2017.

The tag champs stopped him from hitting a tombstone on Kane either way and ran him through the barricade together. Coming from behind, Miz caught Kurt with the Skull Crushing Finale but Angle kicked out at 2. He went for another but Kurt turned things around and put on the ankle lock which Miz countered by kicking Angle away as he landed head first on the apron in scary fashion. Thankfully, he was fine and together with his new Shield brothers, surrounded Miz and all hit their finishers on him as well as the triple power-bomb for the pin.

I wouldn't call this match “good” and it’s probably one of the weirdest I’ve ever seen but the truth is, I refuse to overly critique something that seemed to make the live crowd so happy. Was it far too long? Yes. Did it contain some outrageously bad moments? Absolutely. Was it still entertaining? Undeniably so. A crazy match made crazier by crazy circumstances. All in all, a fun main event even if admittedly flawed.

Grade: B-

Final Thoughts

Well, this was an interesting show to say the least. As far as the undercard, all three women’s matches more than delivered and the Cruiserweight tag match entertained too, as did the 205lbs title match to a lesser extent. The makeshift main event was fun at the very least and most importantly, the AJ Styles-Finn Balor clash was unsurprisingly excellent and stood out as the show’s clear match of the night. A fun show in which many matches over-delivered and that made for a very easy watch if nothing else. I do feel that there probably could’ve been slightly more actual tables, ladders and chairs featured but other than that, a very good show.

Grade: B+

Please comment your TLC thoughts below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. See you at Full Sail folks.

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