It was the final pay-per-view of 2020, and WWE was ready to give a big send off to the year that made a good number of us think more critically about wrestling than ever before. After grappling with the aftermath of Speaking Out and how to create a more safe environment for all fans, along with the moral issues surrounding watching people touch each other during a global pandemic, all we really wanted to see was a huge ring of fire and Randy Orton committing murder on live TV. Naturally, WWE delivered.
8-Man Tag Match: Big E, Otis, Chad Gable, and Daniel Bryan def. King Corbin, Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Sami Zayn (Kickoff)
This happened! I had to pause and wonder if I’d actually missed some episodes of SmackDown and there was a reason why all these dudes were fighting now, but there isn’t. It’s just a combo of feuds with a sprinkle of King Corbin to save time for Randy’s snake entrance. Corbin was accompanied by Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler, who are now known as the Knights of the Lone Wolf, because no one wants to think about the Forgotten Sons. We saw Gable and Cesaro go back and forth early on, which was way better than this mismatched tag had any right to be, and a great tease of things we will likely never see. Bryan tagged in and wiped out Cesaro with a big elbow, but Cesaro caught the Yes Kicks. Sami came in to keep Bryan down, but the faces made the comeback. With Gable’s coaching on the outside, Otis hit the caterpillar on Nakamura, but Shinsuke delivered harsh kicks to both men to get away. Things broke down as everybody hit their big moves, concluding with a huge German suplex from Gable to Cesaro. With both men down, Sami tagged in to pick the bones, but Gable countered the Blue Thunder Bomb. He tagged in Big E, who landed the Big Ending to end the match. This was fine. It wasn’t really anything, but that’s fine. Big E and Sami for the IC title should be very fun.
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre def. AJ Styles and The Miz (TLC Match)
This was a bit of a surprise to kick things off. Styles went after the knee from the bell, trying to chop down the bigger McIntyre. Drew came back with some huge chops and shot AJ into the corner, then followed it up with a series of punches. He took a moment to point aggressively at Omos, a crucial part of any match. Another big chop sent Styles to the outside, and Drew started decorating. He tried to suplex Styles on the table, but he just escaped. After dropping AJ onto the barricade, McIntyre pulled a ladder into the ring and started to climb, but Styles ran in with a chair shot to the back. He tried to climb the ladder himself, but was plucked off by Drew, and went headfirst into a steel chair. Styles returned the favor by chucking a chair into McIntyre’s back, and followed up by bouncing him off the ladder. He teased a Styles Clash onto a ladder, but Drew fought out and hit a FutureShock DDT. Styles hit back with a calf crusher through a chair that looked like it might pop McIntyre’s leg out, but he kept fighting back. Styles wrapped his knee around the post and wiped him out on the outside. He went to the top rope and got knocked down with a chair shot, as Drew limped back to the ring. Even a ladder to the face didn’t keep the Scottish Psychopath down, as he countered a Phenomenal Forearm and launched AJ into a backdrop straight into another ladder. A second Phenomenal Forearm managed to connect, and Omos threw his buddy a ladder to set up. McIntyre, despite only have one working kneecap right now, ripped Styles off the ladder and tossed him out of the ring and through a table/ladder combo.
Suddenly- Miz and Morrison ran in! Miz dragged McIntyre off the ladder and cashed in, to make the match officially a Triple Threat. I know the Miz’s gimmick is that he only has 2 brain cells, but wouldn’t it be so much easier to wait until this current match is over? Not only will you know the champ is exhausted, but you only have to face one dude. Anyway, Miz didn’t think of any of these things, even after he spent a month saying how much easier it would be to beat AJ over Drew. He was pulled off the ladder by Omos and sent through a table, while AJ’s associate chased Morrison backstage. McIntyre and Styles both tried to ascend the ladder, climbing as slow as two men in great physical shape can. Miz came to join the party, but McIntyre used his ladder to knock the other two down. A Claymore to Miz allowed Drew to climb solo and grab his title, retaining to end this overly lengthy match. I drank one and a half Wawa coffee stouts during this match, so that should give you an idea of just how long it lasted. Styles and McIntyre worked great together, and this match had excellent spots, but the lengthy runtime and the useless cash in just didn’t do much for it. Thanks for playing, Miz. Better luck next year.
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks def. Carmella
Carmella played defense right away, trying to roll out of the ring, but Banks wasn’t having it. Sasha threw her over, but she was caught by the sommelier. He gently tossed her into a hurricanrana on Banks, who kicked out at two back in the ring. Carmella stomped on Banks in the corner, but Sasha got her back with a strike. A neck breaker on the apron laid out the champ on the outside, but she just managed to kick out. Sasha landed the Three Amigos, then went up top for a frog splash. Carmella kicked out at 2, completely shocking Sasha, which is a huge task when you consider she met CGI de-aged Luke Skywalker on Friday. Carmella got a big facebuster and attempted 3 pins, but Sasha kicked out each time. Carmella went off, hitting blows to Banks back and following up with a super kick. Sasha grabbed the rope to break the count, incensing Mella even more. They traded roll ups until Carmella got the Code of Silence. Sasha tried to counter into the Bank Statement, but Carmella got her in another hold. They traded submissions for a minute, before Sasha finally locked in the Bank Statement. Sommelier Reginald pulled Carmella to safety, and took a meteora for his devotion. Another Bank Statment and Carmella tapped at last, securing The Boss her throne.
This was surprisingly pretty competitive, with Carmella looking great. It’s hard to have a bad match with Banks, but Carmella held her own and has certainly improved in-ring. This was a good choice to help cement Banks at the top of the division, and let Carmella shine.
Raw Tag Team Championships: The Hurt Business def. The New Day
Kingston came out of the gate hot, wiping out Alexander and going for the pin immediately. Woods continued the attack, planting Alexander with a spine buster, but he kicked out. Benjamin tagged in and dropped Woods, who kicked out at 2. Kofi came in with a big stomp to Benjamin as Woods took out Alexander, but still The Hurt Business stayed in it. Cedric delivered a sharp kick to Woods’ back, then got him in a submission. MVP’s water must have pumped him up ringside, because he wrenched Xavier’s head back like he was hoping to pull it clear off. He continued to control Woods until he went for the Neuralyzer, but Xavier blocked it with a drop kick. Kofi tagged in and took out Benjamin, but a distraction from Cedric on the apron gave The Huet Business the upper hand again. Benjamin caught the Boom Drop and tried to turn it into a double team, but Kofi escaped. He hit the SOS and Alexander barely kicked out. Woods ran in to break up a pin and ate a Neuralyzer and Pay Dirt for his trouble. Kofi and Benjamin ended up on the top turnbuckle, with Shelton landing a superplex. He waited for Kofi to get up, but Cedric tagged himself in to hit the Lumbar Check and score the win. This was the right call to make for The Hurt Business, and the future tension between Benjamin and Alexander could be excellent.
Women’s Tag Team Championships: Asuka and Charlotte Flair def. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler
Asuka’s mystery partner was a returning Charlotte Flair- great to see Charlotte back, although the first note of Recognition already gave away the finish of the match. Baszler and Asuka started off, with Shayna going after The Empress’ legs. Charlotte tagged in and immediately went for The Figure Four on Baszler, who just slipped away. Nia tagged in to meet Asuka, knocking her into the corner and letting Shayna step in to go after Asuka’s elbow. Jax threw Asuka around on the outside, sending her into the ring post before rolling her back in the ring. Asuka continued to take punishment from the tag champs as Charlotte stewed on the outside and gave her best sassy hair flips. Asuka hit a spinning back fist to finally get the hot tag; she came in with several chops to Jax and dropped Baszler on her back. A big boot to Jax got a 2 count, and after a knee from Asuka, Charlotte landed a moonsault on both heels. Baszler still kicked out, so Charlotte got her in the Figure Four, then popped it into the Figure 8. Nia broke the hold to free her partner, and Baszler tried to lock in the Kirifuda Clutch. Flair escaped to hit Natural Selection and score the win, and we once again have two singles wrestlers as women’s tag team champs. This match was still good, and Asuka/Baszler and Charlotte/Baszler will be bangers in the near future.
Universal Championship: Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens (TLC Match)
As Roman was watching the championship slowly rise in the air, Owens jumped him and hit a cannonball. He drove Reigns into the barricade and landed a splash on the outside. Jey came in to run interference and got cut off with a super kick. Kevin went for a chair and unloaded on Jey stomping his ankle through the chair. As officials helped Jey hop backstage, Roman landed a drive by to lay out Owens. Reigns took the stairs and potentially tried to decapitate Owens with it. In the ring, he laid into KO with ladders and chairs, leaving him crumpled against the mat. Kevin continued to try and fight, but barely got to his feet. Roman hit a back body drop to send him through the chairs once more. He tried to climb the ladder, but Owens popped up with a chair and wiped him out. A suplex sent Reigns into a chair, and Owens was rolling. He started to climb, got his hands on the title, until Uso ran back in. Family first, kids. Owens beat down Jey until Roman came in with a Superman Punch. Uso and Reigns set up tables, but a Owens still fought back. A stunner to Reigns and a Pop Up Powerbomb to Uso left him alone in the ring. KO got to the top of the ladder once more, but Reigns quickly joined him. Roman powerbombed Owens into another ladder, then a table, then another table for good measure. Reigns is most at home when he’s destroying the majority of Lowe’s stock. He casually made his way up the ladder, only to find Owens somehow grabbing ahold of his ankle. Roman told him he was embarrassing his family, so Kevin fired back with a slap. A spear through the table seemed to hurt Reigns just as it did Owens, and both men were down. KO baited Reigns into another spear on the outside, but dodged just in time and sent the champ through the barricade. Owens was fingertips away yet again, but Reigns caught up and threw him down. Owens landed a Pop Up Powerbomb through the table, and Uso caught him on the ladder. A stunner wiped out Jey, and things seemed possible for Kevin until Roman once again met him on the ladder. A guillotine hold at the top choked out Owens, who crumpled to the ground as Roman grabbed the belt.
This was a lot of fun, and while I can’t say a bad thing about either man’s performance, I just wish it wasn’t so long. There’s only so many shots of the underdog barely brushing the title atop the ladder that I really want to see, you know?
Randy Orton def. The Fiend Bray Wyatt (Firefly Inferno Match)
So the way to win this match was to set your opponent on fire, which rocks way too hard for WWE. They started things off just staring at each other, until Randy finally went in with a punch. The Fiend giggled it off until Orton tried for an RKO. Wyatt snapped, unloading on Randy in the corner. Orton escaped two Sister Abigail attempts but couldn’t get out of the third; The Fiend planted him on his head and then raised the flames and set the ThunderDome ablaze. He found a leather strap that someone had conveniently left around the ring and walloped Randy. He set the strap on fire, but Orton just got out of the way. Each man tried to shove each other into the extra strength heat lamps, and The Fiend found some gasoline. He doused the rocking chair and laid a path to where Randy was laying, but the Viper tried to fight back. Wyatt tossed him into the chair and pulled out his trusty Bic, lighting the gas trail as Randy scrambled out of the chair. He nailed The Fiend with the steps and used a chain to choke him, trying to shove Wyatt’s face into the flames. Just on a technical safety level, as this is live, I’m so curious how they rehearsed this/what that fire is. Both these dudes are really risking it all for TLC. TLC. This isn’t even Hell in a Cell- the theme only half fits, and they’re not even afraid of burn scars on their skull tats.
They continued to go back and forth, The Fiend setting an axe handle on fire and trying to cave Randy’s chest in, until Wyatt backed him up against the flames. Orton spun around and shoved the Fiend into the fire, then hit an RKO on a still burning man for good measure. Randy, realizing he just committed murder on live pay per view, had some mixed feelings at first, but still elected to grab the gasoline bottle and pour it all over his coworker. Randy lit a single match and very slowly watched it burn down, before incinerating the body of his victim. He hit the pose and watched a man’s body disintegrate right in front of his eyes to close the show. Huh.
I feel the tender loving care in this ThunderDome tonight. Also, feels a bit toasty.
- Roman/Owens was excellent stuff from both men
- Great to see Charlotte return and claim her grand slam. She'll be a huge boost to Raw's women's division.
- Carmella really looked at her best here against Banks
- The Firefly inferno match was fun for what it was- although what it was still isn't clear.
- Hurt Business finally scores the tag titles!
- McIntyre/Styles felt bloated with a lengthy runtime and unnecessary Miz cash in
- Despite the fantastic tension, Reigns and Owens also felt just a bit too long
- Not to devalue the importance of a YouTube streaming kickoff show, but Bryan gracing the pre-show was a tough pill to swallow