TLC will be WWE's final pay-per-view of the 2018 season, and most think that Vince McMahon & Co. are limping to the finish line. But Sunday will feature a slate of matches that could make us forget about the last few weeks of Raw and launch us properly into the road to WrestleMania.
Specifically, after TLC we'll know how WWE is positioning itself for the Royal Rumble. Whoever leaves TLC with WWE gold is likely to hold those titles to 'Mania, so look at Sunday as WWE officially setting its 2019 chessboard.
That said, let's get into the question WWE will have to answer on Sunday.
Well, It's Been a Few Weeks, How Do You Grade Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose's Rivalry?
Connor Casey: D. This thing started with so much potential when Ambrose made the initial turn, but everything since then has either left me scratching or shaking my head. Between dressing like dollar-store Bane, getting shots in his but while cutting promos, having Michael Cole and Corey Graves try to interrogate Renee Young (which only makes her look bad as a result) and his weird "chase me around the arena" segments, this program feels like they've been throwing five different ideas at the wall just to see what sticks. The only thing that keeps me from giving this an F is knowing their match on Sunday will probably be pretty good.
Ryan Droste: C. The match at TLC should be very good if given enough time to put something memorable together. Rollins is one of the top performers in the company and Ambrose as a heel is way better than Ambrose as a face. That being said, I want to see more of the crazy Dean Ambrose and less of the bad comedy heel Dean Ambrose.
Jack Snodgrass: Eh, B. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because they had to uncork this plan a few months early due to Reigns' exit. But it feels like this could be their first and only match for quite some time. WWE hasn't seemed so invested in this feud and likely reserve the right to pick it back up later next year.prevnext
It Feels like Rousey, Rollins and Lynch Are on Upset Alert. Who Loses Their Title?
Connor Casey: Becky Lynch. Adding Asuka to the TLC match gives Lynch a bit more credibility in a loss, plus it frees her up to win the Women's Royal Rumble and challenge Rousey for her championship at WrestleMania.
Ryan Droste: Definitely Becky Lynch. Under no circumstances shoulda Ronda Rousey be losing her title to Nia Jax. I agree with Connor in that Becky is freed up for the Rumble and going after Rousey during Mania season by losing her title.
Jack Snodgrass: I think Rollins and Lynch are both guaranteed to leave TLC without their straps. They need their paths cleared for 2019 push.prevnext
How Do You Feel About Evil Daniel Bryan So Far?
Connor Casey: I'm digging it. You can tell in his delivery that Bryan is really sinking his teeth into his heel promos and he's changed up his moveset in the ring to look more vicious (those repeated stomps are delightfully brutal). The only question now is where does he go come WrestleMania season, because odds are he's moving on from Styles after Sunday's match.
Ryan Droste: Absolutely love it. A breath of fresh air and the best thing going right now on WWE television. Bryan was arguably the most over babyface on the roster before and he has the entire crowd boo'ing him at this stage. This man is a tremendous pro wrestler and you can tell he loves playing the heel bit, it has given his character new life.
Jack Snodgrass: It's great. Apparently, Bryan lobbied for this heel turn, and he seems creatively committed to his new character. I think he's on verge of some of his most memorable work as a WWE Superstar.prevnext
Does Ruby Riott Have the Physical Mass to Break a Table?
Connor Casey: If she's thrown out of the ring through one, sure. Otherwise she'll need some help.
Ryan Droste: Oh, I think they will make sure of it. I think Natalya is winning this match so she will have to!
Jack Snodgrass: Not without a Riott Squad's members help!prevnext
Pick a Surprise
Connor Casey: Strowman wins his TLC match with just one move. They'll have Baron Corbin out in the ring bragging about how he beat Strowman by forfeit. He'll grab a ladder and slowly start to climb it while gloating. Then just before he gets to the top we hear "BRAUN!" which causes him to freeze up. Strowman runs in from behind and slams throws Corbin off the ladder before grabbing the contract.
Ryan Droste: I absolutely love Connor's take here and can definitely see that happening as a surprise. Otherwise, perhaps Elias being the one who gets struck by the guitar.
Jack Snodgrass: Kurt Angle wrestles for Strowman.prevnext
Who Will Have the Bigger WrestleMania Match: Randy Orton or Rey Mysterio?
Connor Casey: In recent years WWE has a habit of giving Randy Orton the WrestleMania spotlight even if he doesn't have a hot angle going (I'm still not over him beating Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 33). Expect him to get a one-on-one match while Mysterio is busy in some multi-man, high-flying match.
Ryan Droste: Randy Orton. As Connor said, no matter where he has been in recent months, he always seems to get put into a pretty good spot on the card. And there's a very vocal part of the crowd that always reacts to him. Though Mysterio is a huge star and an all time legend, I don't see them placing more emphasis on him at this point in his career than Orton.
Jack Snodgrass: Orton is bound to get a juicy opportunity at 'Mania but I think Mysterio will be US Champion by then. While Orton could very well be paired with AJ Styles, Mysterio could be dancing with Almas — something I'm personally excited to see.prevnext
Do You See WWE Making Elias a Champion, or Will He Always Be His Own Act?
Connor Casey: I think at some point he needs to start pursuing championships, otherwise fans will struggle to find a reason to care about him once his weekly concerts are over. He doesn't need to be challenging for the Universal title, but going after the Intercontinental Championship (especially if somebody like Baron Corbin or Bobby Lashley have it) could be fun.
Ryan Droste: He is definitely the type of character that can be a successful mid-card champion. He's not going to be world champion, but he's good enough and entertaining enough to carry some gold some day (and he should). There were plans at one point for him to become Intercontinental Champion and I think it will still happen down the road.
Jack Snodgrass: As a babyface no. But as a heel, yeah Elias could be a legendary Intercontinental Champion. I'm still not sure why WWE flipped him, regardless, he's destined to be a Hall of Famer.prevnext
Is it Time for AJ Styles to Move to Raw?
Connor Casey: While SmackDown Live is the house that he built, Styles should move on from the Blue Brand in the next Superstar Shake-up. Raw is in serious need of some more top babyfaces and he fits the bill.
Ryan Droste: No, I don't think so. Seth Rollins is assuming the top babyface role on RAW heading into WrestleMania season (where he will presumably challenge Brock Lesnar). With Reigns out and Strowman having his momentum stalled in part to his recent ill-conceived heel turn, this is Rollins' moment to shine. Due to Bryan's heel turn, I think Styles stays the top babyface on SmackDown, with or without the title, with no real challenger to that position in sight. If you take Styles off SmackDown, I'm not sure who the top babyface is. I'll do you one better, I think moving Finn Balor to SmackDown would be a better move. He could get a better chance to shine there as a top babyface.
Jack Snodgrass: I think it depends on how things are looking after WrestleMania. If Raw needs something exciting, or the Universal Championship scene is thin, then Styles could be the perfect upgrade.prevnext
TLC Is 2018's Last Pay-Per-VIew. Give the Wrestling Year a Grade
Connor Casey: C. Between the Saudi Arabia debacles, the WrestleMania 34 main event train wreck, Roman Reigns' unfortunate departure, the botching of Braun Strowman's babyface run, whatever they're doing with Dean Ambrose now, making AJ Styles fight Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe so many times in subpar matches we got sick of it and Shawn Michaels' cheap return to the ring, WWE brought down what was otherwise a great year for pro wrestling.
Take a look at the product outside of the main roster. All In lived up to the hype, Kenny Omega finally captured the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, Cody made the NWA Worlds Championship relevant again, Chris Jericho put a wrestling show on a freaking cruise ship, NXT crushed every single TakeOver event and promotions all over the world continued grow thanks to online streaming. The future of pro wrestling looks bright, as long as you ignore the most popular brand.
Ryan Droste: I'd say WWE is at that C level as well. The company usually produces very good PPV events when it comes to ring work, but the weekly television has been a real slog to get through for quite some time now.
NXT is still doing great things, and 2018 might be my favorite year in the history of the brand. Like Connor said, the world outside of WWE has still been very exciting and there is a lot of wrestling that fans have access to these days if they aren't satisfied with WWE.
So I would say a C for WWE, but if I consider the indys and the outside groups as well, I'd put the entire industry up at the B- level. New Japan is still good but a step below where they've been in the past. 2019 should prove to be very interesting when we see if this Elite Pro Wrestling company actually comes to fruitiion.prevnext
Pick a Royal Rumble Winner From Each Locker Room
Connor Casey: Raw Men's: Seth Rollins
Raw Women's: Ronda Rousey
SmackDown Men's: The Miz
SmackDown Women's: Becky Lynch
Ryan Droste: I think the men's winner will be Seth Rolins and the women's winner will be Becky Lynch. This might end up being one of the more predictable Rumbles in history, though that's not always a bad thing.
Jack Snodgrass: It would be pretty wild to see The Rock do it, but that idea only stems from unsubstantiated rumors; Rollins and Lynch.prev