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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: TLC 2017



TLC 2017 has to be one of the strangest things that's happened in recent wrestling history.

We've got an episode of RAW snowed out by a blizzard, sure, and every now and then we've got wrestlers walking out. That's the worst of it. We haven't had any no-shows or holdouts like in the old days, but for the first time in what seems to be... ever, TLC was ravaged by illness to two top stars. Viral something booked the show and gave us AJ Styles (okay, still makes sense) and... Kurt Angle. Yes, 48-year-old Kurt Angle, with the broken necks and the history of injuries. He looks spry as a fox, but that's old Kurt Angle.

The WWE being the major leagues of pro wrestling mean that you can two of your best living legends at a moment's notice, give them enough time to work some magic, and actually make the most out of a terrible situation. Nowadays, we're all caught up in the sports entertainment part of pro wrestling to remember that sometimes you can have a good straight-up wrestling match and it would work, and all it took was the threat of viral meningitis to remind us.


The force majeure backed RAW into a corner and had to make the wrestling all about the wrestling. There's something to be said about the lack of storyline buildup that WWE could still have produced in the two days between the announcement and the show, but at this point, knowing where both brands are headed after TLC, it becomes moot. 

We've now softly reset the stakes to look toward Survivor Series and strict brand-on-brand warfare, but we shouldn't be complacent—just because the world-class wrestlers are able to carry the burden of making do without an overarching narrative doesn't mean you shouldn't support them by not providing it. Onscreen debate was at least heavy for Kurt's strange decision to involve himself in the main event, but for a wrestler in the middle of a character study like Finn Balor, he could've used the opportunity to be more visibly introspective in the absence of the personality he was supposed to face.

It's the little details that go the longest ways, and it's not unreasonable to ask for that effort. You gotta hand it to the WWE for co-opting disease and turning it into a must-watch PPV that wasn't like that days before, but if they still want to tell the stories they want to tell—especially if it involves a dead sister and a Demon King—they still have to work for it.

But hey, as for everything else? Everyone stepped up to the plate too. That's what happens when you give people time. A

Match of the Night



This absolutely sucks to say, but Bray Wyatt going down with the sickness was the best thing that could've happened to Finn Balor lately. Some hard work establishing a basic premise—like maybe Finn needed to prove to people that he needed the Demon to fight and send a message to Bray or something—could've worked, but the Bullet Club dream match was great by itself, and nothing can take that away from them. People now want to see it with higher stakes, because that's what a story will do for you.

*****

  • I touched on this earlier, but RAW being decimated (probably in the archaic sense of the word) means everyone gets time to do their thing, even cruiserweights who aren't fighting for the title. This doesn't mean that everyone was maximized, though; why couldn't Gallows and Anderson have interacted with AJ Styles before his match?
  • Are Jason Jordan and Elias heading for a double turn?
  • Nobody should be complaining about a relatively long Asuka/Emma match. Some of you will complain about PPV-worthy matches being on free TV—imagine how you'd react if this debut was a squash. You need to build Emma up, and Emma was one of the few women down in NXT who held her own against Asuka.
  • That said, I would've loved to see Mickie James win the title and finish what she and Asuka started last year.
  • Enzo and Kalisto put out a much better Cruiserweight Championship match than when Enzo beat Neville. It seems like the Certified G is finding even more confidence, and I didn't even know that was possible. But hey, it's working for him.
  • The cruiserweight tag match is proof that you shouldn't really be giving up on terrible PPV cards on paper, because they can come through. Swann and Cedric have so much chemistry, though, that it should be a crime to not allow them to challenge for the RAW Tag Team Championships. Maybe they could be that breakthrough act after Enzo.


Photo from WWE
*****

Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.

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