The two matches at the top, John Cena-Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose-Bray Wyatt, have the potential to be Match of the Year candidates.
First, to Cena-Rollins. Cena is Cena, and being Cena, and facing the stipulation that a loss means he is no longer the #1 contender to the WWE title, makes the outcome in this one pretty easy to forecast. But even as Cena wins to stick another dagger in the now-defunct Authority, he will do everything else he can to put over Rollins, the reigning Money in the Bank anointed one, whose offensive abilities are a perfect match for Cena’s abilities in selling.
This one has the potential to be a breakout match for Rollins, who with the MITB briefcase at his side needs a boost into main-event status to put him into position in the spring to challenge his former Shield teammate Roman Reigns for the WWE title (you know, after Reigns defeats Brock Lesnar at ‘Mania for the strap; getting ahead of ourselves here).
Next to Ambrose-Wyatt. Rarely do you not care who gets the fall, but this is one where no matter how it finishes, it’s how they get there that we want to keep us talking. A classic TLC match seems to be in the cards between these two, with the buildup beginning at Survivor Series and continuing with smart booking on Raw and Smackdown the past few weeks to keep our focus on this red-hot feud.
It’s to a point where the only thing these guys can do is fail to meet our outsized expectations for how good this one is going to be. That’s a legitimate issue going in.
The rest of the show has a few Raw 9 p.m. hour-quality matches: New Day vs. Gold and Stardust, Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan vs. Big Show, The Miz and Damien Mizdow vs. The Usos, Ryback vs. Kane, Nikki Bella vs. AJ Lee and Rusev vs. Jack Swagger.
The best of the bunch? Maybe Miz/Mizdow vs. The Usos, mainly because the Mizdow act is still hilarious (it will get old soon, right about the time that WWE decides to break them up). Maybe Harper-Ziggler, though I have to say, sentencing Ziggler to the beginning of the card again after having him get the fall in the main event of the biggest match of the year is a huge comedown, and unfortunately typical of the generally uninspired approach of creative to booking outside of the top of the main event the past couple of years.
Rusev vs. Swagger makes no sense. Been there, done that, Rusev got the easy win, and now we get it again because, well, what else do you do with Rusev until you begin the walkup to a WM31 match with Cena? (There has to be something better than another match with Swagger, though.)
All in all, though, I’m very much looking forward to TLC. Which means I’m about to be disappointed, because my expectations are high, and WWE seems to do a better job of surpassing low expectations than meeting high ones.
– Column by Chris Graham