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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The TLC Review - Orton vs. Cena Highlights Better Than Expected Overall Card
By The Doc
Dec 15, 2013 - 11:39:20 PM

Match 1: CM Punk defeated The Shield in 13:40 (** ¾) (Going into TLC, conventional wisdom suggested that the wily CM Punk would not be able to overcome the numbers advantage of The Shield – a team that had defeated various three and two-man combinations since debuting a little more than a year ago. There was a slight chance of a Punk victory, given recent hints at dissension in the ranks amongst Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns, but the odds were stacked incredibly in The Shield’s favor. Low and behold, the Chicago Made, Straight Edge Superstar found a way to win it. The match was very smartly worked. Punk did a nice job in the beginning of isolating his opposition in his corner. Reigns missed a Spear on the outside that would have essentially ended it, wildly flinging himself onto and over the announce table and dinging his eye on the side of JBL’s chair in the process in a move that would come back to haunt him later. Punk works effortlessly with Rollins and Ambrose. Most of the match was subsequently a rotation between Punk vs. the slighter members of The Shield. At the end of the day, the story of the match was Punk being smarter than his three opponents, which bodes well as we enter the month of January and start down the Road to WrestleMania. Reigns wound up Spearing Ambrose to allow Punk the 1-2-3. The Best in the World has some swagger back after a string of major PPV losses throughout the first eight months of the year. Since Night of Champions, he has gotten on a kayfabe roll. One would have to think that he will be a leading candidate to win next month’s Royal Rumble match and challenge the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania XXX)

Match 2: AJ retained the Diva’s title at 6:30 (** ¼) (Earlier this year at Payback, AJ not only won the Diva’s Championship, but combined with Kaitlyn for arguably the best women’s match in WWE since Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James at WrestleMania 22. For the last 182 days, she has provided the WWE with a champion that matters in a division that otherwise does not. Tonight continued the trend of rebuilding the credibility of the title. Natalya was the right opponent. There might be more charismatic options amongst the Total Divas crowd, but none of them have the grappling ability or the strength to put on the caliber of matches with AJ that Nattie can. AJ needs an opponent with some muscle mass to be able to catch her on when she does the bulk of her high spots. Nattie, Tamina, and Kaitlyn are probably the only women with enough experience to be able to have top quality matches with her. Rumors were abounding this weekend on the internet regarding AJ’s involvement in a backstage squabble with an NBC personality at the WWE Tribute to the Troops. Though it may have been on purpose to set-up some sort of angle for next year’s WrestleMania - you can never rule out such things at this time of the year, it also provided a backdrop that suggested a title change might be imminent in a WWE effort to remove the title from the source of a media black eye. Thus, the spot in the match when Nattie locked AJ in the Sharpshooter felt a little more like the end to the match than it might have otherwise. AJ’s escape was a legitimate false finish. Nattie’s subsequent counter of Lee’s Black Widow (arm) submission was another near fall. Lee retaining was the right call and the match was not long enough to reach the standard set in Chicago earlier this year, but it was another step toward respectability for a division that could constantly use another shot in the arm)

Match 3: Big E Langston retained the IC title at 6:27 (* ¾) (The action was pretty solid. E continues to impress me whenever I watch him wrestle. He is not lighting the world on fire by any means, but he’s proving to be more than just a guy that John Cena lifts weights with on the road. There is something there. I’m not sure how much is there, yet, but there’s something. Perhaps it’s just a desire. Damien Sandow, meanwhile, may as well have never won the Money in the Bank briefcase. It never benefitted him and his attempted cash-in, while very exciting at the time, gave him no momentum that the WWE higher-ups felt was worth capitalizing on. Sad. It was a potential star making moment when he tried to win the title from Cena after Hell in a Cell)

Match 4: Cody Rhodes and Goldust retained the Tag Team Championships in a 21-minute Fatal Fourway Elimination match (*** ¾) (In case you were unaware, the WWE decided to book a Fatal Fourway Elimination Tag Team Championship match for the PPV sometime during the week. Thank you, WWE. Beginning with the Rhodes Brothers winning the titles from The Shield in one of the most underrated matches of 2013, the tag team division has seen somewhat of a resurgence in both importance and quality. The champions are over. There are numerous challengers who are over, too, and have well-defined characters. This is not the tag team division that was hoisted on the back of main-eventers without anything better to do. No, Rhodes and Goldust are leading the way for a division featuring a mixture of a wide variety of talents. From motivated veterans like Big Show and Rey Mysterio to hungry young stars like The Real Americans to wandering mid-carders who need purpose like Ryback and Curtis Axel, the division is in pretty good shape. Matches like the 21-minute elimination bout help add to the growing reputation of the division, overall. Eight men worked their tails off to create an addition to the card that not many were expecting. The mid-card was thought to surely drag this PPV down a notch, but a borderline four-star effort from the tag teams brought TLC 2013 to an unexpected level of quality. The eliminations, coming at the seven and fourteen minute marks, respectively, before the final elimination at 21:02, were very well spaced out, giving each team an opportunity to shine. Goldust shined brightest, dazzling the Houston crowd with a series of moves that someone of his size and age should not be capable of pulling off so gracefully. During the final sequence of false finishes featuring Cody and Mysterio, the crowd began a chant of “This is Awesome.” Audiences may overuse that chant, generally, but tonight they were spot on. Do not look now but the Tag Team Championships will be the second most coveted title in all of WWE after tonight. What a great addition to the card!)

Match 5: Brodus Clay and R-Truth had a match (n/a) (Life is too short. No offense if you cared, but I didn’t)

Match 6: Kofi Kingston defeated Miz in 8-minutes (* ¾) (I thought that the WWE did a good job laying the foundation for this match in recent weeks and did well to build on what they had already done at the pre-show, when Kofi came onto the set and slapped Miz, setting up tonight’s match. Unfortunately, the crowd just did not care. Miz and Kofi are heading in the wrong direction, while other, younger stars with less mileage and history are passing them by. At one point, the crowd began chanting “Boring.” I didn’t feel that it was, but there’s just something missing with both of them right now)

Match 7: The Wyatt Family defeated Daniel Bryan in 12:23 (** ½) (It has become clear that the WWE fanbase is not going to stop cheering Daniel Bryan. They have chosen him as the wrestler that they want at the top of the card and are bound and determined to ensure that he finds a permanent home as a main-eventer. The WWE has made it clear that they want to push Bray Wyatt and his “Family.” There is something unique about the persona and it has Triple H’s backing. You might be hard pressed to find a fan that feels that Bray is not, at the very least, an intriguing character. The problem for Bray, to this point, has been that he feels a bit out of place in the modern era. The audience has not fully embraced him, yet, and he has struggled to sustain any kind of reaction. Placing him opposite Daniel Bryan was a risky move. On the one hand, attacking the top babyface would surely garner consistent heat on an emerging lead heel. However, the fanbase in 2013 wants what it wants and might very well rebel against anything that stands in the way of what it wants. It wants Bryan at the top and it may reject the Wyatts being pushed ahead of him. Fortunately, everything seemed to work out fine at TLC. Bray did well to better define himself, coming across in the ring as a man with a clear sense of purpose rather than a wrestler struggling to learn how to match his #thatwascreepy personality and his in-ring style - as he largely had prior to TLC. He had the crowd appreciating his efforts, reacting to his unusual back-bending stare that appears like something right out of a horror movie. Yet, he did not do it at Bryan’s expense. The Flying Goat was at his usual, compelling best, darting all over the ring and using his intensity and wherewithal to try and logically defeat three substantially larger athletes. Toward the climax of the match, he had everyone in the palm of his hand, making the people believe that they might see a repeat of Punk’s surprise victory from earlier. Alas, that did not happen, but tonight accomplished something for both entities. Bryan further proved himself as the most entertaining wrestler in the game, while Bray flat out proved that he can be more than just a talker)

Match 8: Randy Orton defeated John Cena to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 24:35 (****) (Randy Orton is back where he belongs atop the WWE Universe. The Viper slithered away from relevance a few years ago, seemingly cast aside after his WrestleMania 25 loss to Triple H and his feud-ending defeat at the hands of John Cena in late 2009. During WrestleMania Season, Orton had been reduced to a mere bit player, hard to believe as it may have been given his stature as a headliner or main-eventer of several key editions in “The Granddaddy of ‘Em All’s” ascension to its current heights. After winning the Undisputed - call it what you will - Championship at TLC, however, Orton has stamped his return to the main-event. Of all the top tier players in the WWE today, he was the one that seemed the most likely to wind up on the outside looking in come April yet again. He had made such a habit out of it that it would not have surprised many. More so than Cena or any of his other contemporaries, Orton needed to win the title as we round out the remainder of 2013 and get ready for January’s Royal Rumble. Much can still change between now and WrestleMania, but Orton is clearly in the driver’s seat for a major match at “The Show of Shows.” Speculation will now begin about a rematch between Orton and Cena. Maybe it will happen; maybe not. Surely, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk would not mind throwing their names into the hat of the potential next suitors for the Unified Championship. Time will tell us all of those answers. For now, let us simply appreciate the official end of an era. The brand split has been over since Triple H started calling Raw the “Supershow” two years ago, but the merging of the two titles that came define the Raw vs. Smackdown Era signifies finality. Let us also congratulate Randy Orton. His career could have spiraled out of control after his second Wellness Policy violation in the spring of 2012, but he kept working hard, having strong matches, and begging for the chance to turn heel and get back to his comfort zone. Well, he’s back. In a great match that lived up to the standard that he and John Cena set years ago when we last saw a chapter in their rivalry, Orton reclaimed an important position as the top heel in the WWE today. When he is on his sadistic game, only CM Punk is in his league as an antagonist. Orton and Cena did not offer the most brutal TLC match of all-time, but it was intelligently executed and paid attention to history, adding intangibles not often seen from the gimmick)

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think that Randy Orton will remain WWE World Heavyweight Champion until WrestleMania? Who takes it from him and when?

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