WWE’s Raw superstars will travel to my home state of Minnesota Sunday for the next WWE PPV, Tables, Ladders and Chairs. This show is forcing WWE to take a huge risk, and there’s no guarantee that the risk will pay off.
Since Universal Champion Brock Lesnar isn’t scheduled to appear in Minneapolis (somewhat odd, given that he’s lived in Minnesota off and on for many years), WWE is putting all of its eggs in two baskets. One is the main event, where the re-united Shield will take on the team of The Miz, The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro), Braun Strowman and Kane. Putting The Shield and Miz in the match also takes the Raw Tag Team titles and the Intercontinental Championship off of the table. So, WWE is producing a show where the Cruiserweight Championship will be the top male singles belt up for grabs.
The other basket is a little safer – Asuka will finally make her main roster debut, in a match against Emma.
So, WWE is presenting a show depending almost totally on a faction that hasn’t been together for four years and a woman who most of the audience has only seen in vignettes. I’m not sure this is a sound business strategy.
It’s definitely a top-heavy card, probably more suitable for a regular episode of Raw than a PPV.
The Professor’s TLC Preview and Predictions
Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox (Kickoff Show) – Surely, WWE could have found something better to do with Banks, who is one of the best workers on the roster. She’s also over with the fans in a way that most WWE women are not. With Asuka arriving, WWE will need a lot of “legitimate” opponents, and Banks should be near the top of that list. The most interesting thing about Fox is that, for some reason, she doesn’t look anything like she did when she joined the company 10 years ago. (If you don’t believe me, check her out on Google Images.) If Banks is going to eventually have an important match with Asuka, it would make more sense to build her up than to banish her to the Kickoff Show. This one should be easy – Banks wins by submission (for the third time in a row over Fox). Fox throws a tantrum, and Kurt Angle punishes her by making her write promos for James Ellsworth.
Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann vs. The Brian Kendrick and Gentleman Jack (The Ripper) Gallagher – At least WWE gave us some back story on this one. On Raw Monday night, they ran footage of Gallagher’s (shocking?!?!) heel turn a month ago on 205 live. He and Kendrick seem to have some unknown beef with Alexander. Swann ran down to the ring to defend Alexander from a beating at the hands of the heels, and (Presto!!) a tag match was born. In a match that virtually no one cares about, the heels win (if only because the faces got over on Monday). This will undoubtedly lead to some very compelling storylines on 205 Live that no one will see.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt – At first, I was pleased when WWE placed Wyatt in a feud with Balor. I figured it would elevate Bray and give Finn someone interesting to battle with. That was about 617 matches ago. Now, Wyatt’s character has gotten weirder and weirder (not really in a good way) and Balor is forced to act like he takes Bray’s Sister (AutoTune?) Abagail persona seriously. Wyatt should be a creepy heel – the kind of guy that you want to watch, but only through your fingers. Instead, he’s become that guy spouting nonsense on the street corner – the one you cross the street to avoid. The only way this could get worse is if WWE makes Wyatt come out dressed as a woman. (Don’t laugh – it’s probably a 50-50 bet at this point). I guess Bray wins this one, only because even the Demon version of Balor won’t hit a woman. (Or even a guy doing a bad electronically-enhanced version of a woman.)
Kalisto vs. Enzo Amore (Cruiserweight Championship) – WWE didn’t really start showing any interest in the cruiserweights until they decided to put the belt on Amore. The only thing that Enzo has in common with the rest of the division is that he weighs under 205 pounds. The cruiserweights were definitely suffering from a near-universal lack of personality (with the exceptions of Neville and Gallagher), but adding Amore to the mix wasn’t the right answer. Amore has personality to spare. However, his in-ring skills don’t match those of the rest of the division. Amore works hard, but he’s nowhere near anyone else on the 205 Live roster in terms of grappling skills. WWE would have been better served to leave the belt on Neville (who appears to have left because he’s allergic to bad storylines) or put it on Gallagher, who has a certain quirky charm. At least both of those men can carry a match. Amore wins this one, because having Kalisto (a great worker) keep the belt would make too much sense.
Asuka vs. Emma – Emma was the correct choice for this match. She’s visible enough to present a legitimate challenge for the Empress of Tomorrow, but not so high up the card that WWE is “wasting” a marquee match on a debut. There’s only one way for this to go. Asuka destroys Emma in a short squash match, and the reign of terror begins on Monday nights.
Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James (Raw Women’s Championship) – As good as James was, and as good as Bliss has been, this is really all about Asuka. James already took on The Empress in NXT, and came out on the losing end. Bliss hasn’t had the chance to face her. Combine this with the fact that Bliss is the most credible women’s champ since Charlotte Flair left for SmackDown, and you have the makings of a big match, probably at Survivor Series. That said, Bliss wins, and has a stare down with Asuka.
The Shield vs. The Miz, The Bar, Braun Strowman and Kane (Tables, Ladders and Chairs match) – It seems odd that this is the only stipulation match on the card. It feels like WWE made this a TLC match more to avoid having to change the name of the show than for any competitive reason. With a 5-on-2 advantage, including the presence of Strowman and Kane, it would seem that Miz’s team is almost certain to win. However, we’re talking about The Shield here. Possibly more importantly, Roman Reigns is a member of The Shield. As we’ve come to learn, Roman doesn’t lose matches on PPVs, not while Vince Bah-Gawd McMahon is in charge. So, against all odds and against all common sense, The Shield destroys everyone on the opposing team and most of the furniture in the arena on the way to a win. (And Strowman continues his plummet down the ranks that began with a clean loss to Lesnar last month.) The only possible way that Strowman saves his aura is if he turns on his own team, crushes all four of them, then eats a triple power bomb from The Hounds of Justice. Don’t count on it.
As I stated before, WWE is betting heavily on The Shield and Asuka to carry this show. That, in itself, isn’t a horrible bet. They’ll probably both deliver great performances. The problem is that Raw starts again on Monday, and no one seems to have any idea what will (or should) happen next.