Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC) rolls into Dallas, Texas tonight (Sunday 4th December) and the action is sure to help set Smackdown up for an intriguing start to 2017.
TLC bring chaos alongside its stipulations and viewers are in for an entertaining night. But what kind of surprises await this weekend? A shock heel or baby face turn?
Here’s a look at the card alongside some predictions for the night’s bouts.
AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose
Some may call it confidence, others arrogance, but whatever it is, it has been the driving force behind AJ Styles. Despite a slow start, the phenomenal one definitely found his feet when paired with John Cena – beating him twice – before moving onto controversially taking the WWE World Championship from Dean Ambrose using a low blow to steal the title.
Since then, Ambrose has been on a mission to ruin Styles’ life, repeatedly costing him matches to enhancement talent James Ellsworth. Now after many jokes and tricks, the two will face off on Sunday with Ambrose needing to prove that, when the odds are even, he does have what it takes to stop one of the most impressive WWE runs in recent history.
Ambrose has been up and down this year, however his feud with Styles has been one of the consistent and most loved storylines on the blue brand. Styles and The Lunatic Fringe have combined humour and drama in a way that has made their rivalry well worth all the times it has main-evented the Tuesday night show.
AJ Styles may have not directly wrestled in a TLC match but his great ladder matches within other companies stand him in good stead. Considering how well both he and Ambrose work inside the ropes, and noting Ambrose’s outside experience of brutality, to say that this match will be chaotic and vicious could be an understatement.
Being the heart of Smackdown, this feud has helped allow the correct stars to shine on the blue brand, however now is the time for the magic to end.
Styles should, and will retain his title, so he can move onto pastures new and Ambrose will be likely to find his next rival in the upcoming Royal Rumble.
Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss
When you get exceptionally successful in a short space of time, its no surprise that ego quickly inflates. And few women have had as much success as quickly and early as Alexa Bliss. After being crowned the No. 1 contender to face SmackDown women’s champion, Alexa immediately began acting as though she had already won.
Stinging words – Bliss calling Lynch an unworthy champion – have been thrown by the challenger, however The Lass Kicker has answered back by successfully defending her title, albeit in a controversial fashion. The feud is now approaching breaking point as Bliss gets under the champion’s skin unleashing a hidden fury not before seen from Becky.
While this feud may have been slightly overshadowed by the storytelling found in Nikki and Carmella’s rivalry; the two NXT-moulded superstars have pair together and helped strengthen the division immensely.
The addition of a stipulation, that can sometimes hinder the quality of the wrestling, and that both women are new to helps add an interesting dynamic to the feud; a dynamic that will be unique to watch unfold as both women navigate towards seeking victory that no longer revolves around pinfall or submission.
Lynch has been the ace for SmackDown’s women’s division, and WWE Creative should ride her for a while. Even as Bliss continues to impress, she is still young and needs time before taking the reins.
It would be fairly shocking for Lynch not to retain.
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
Demanding respect when you’re a champion is only right, but The Miz has done nothing but stamp his feet to get his deserved respect. However, much to the delight of the audience and several people on the roster, The Miz is still waiting for his moment with no one – particularly not Dolph Ziggler – playing ball.
The rivalry between the Cleveland natives has been intense and heated, more than ever before. Miz has attempted to end The Show Off’s career, using uneven odds to his advantage in the form of Maryse and The Spirit Squad. The feud is now at the point where they could do anything and everything – even more with the scope of a ladder – to be sure of being the one who keeps the championship away from the other.
Even though the match type has been overused over recent years, since neither Miz nor Ziggler know the meaning of a ‘subpar performance’ – even more so when paired together – we could be in for an enthralling bout (despite this being the fifteenth-millionth-trillionth-time the pair have fought).
To predict the winner of the rivalry is difficult, even more so with the nature in which WWE has bounced the championship throughout.
However, given the strength of The Miz and his character at present, he must retain and hopefully the more nefarious the way, the better!
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
Proving his worth via his story of redemption, after not getting drafted to either Raw or Smackdown, Heath Slater has definitely proved his worth throughout the latter of 2016.The it seems that the feel good factor of the story is about to get run down with a buzz by Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton.
The rather random pairing of top stars have been running roughshod around Smackdown, namely helping the brand defeat Raw at Survivor Series in the men’s elimination match. No one wants to run into this new Wyatt Family.
Despite the lack of build in comparison to other matches on the card, the all out battle for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships in combination to the stories behind each tag team helps to create intrigue around the bout. This match could be a filler, or could be the one that wakes the crowd up, unexpectedly.
One thing is for certain the pairing of Slater and Rhyno has lasted longer than expected. Holding the titles for 84 days and showcasing a solid run is great, but running into two men that are quite clearly on the rise may be too much for Slater and his underdog narrative.
Simply, Wyatt and Orton as single entities are too big to lose here, so when combined it’s pretty clear they grab the W.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
The minute Nikki Bella made her return she stole the spotlight away from many of the younger women, in particular the woman she pinned that night, Carmella. Immediately the junior of the two took offence, attacking Nikki to make sure she made it clear just how hard it would be to outshine The Princess of Staten Island.
After months of fighting it seems only right that the two likely candidates for the Smackdown Women’s Championship fight one last time; however with no rules in their way to help decide who is the better of the two.
Bella and Carmella’s fued has been a fantastic addition to the women’s division on Smackdown, generating emotion through memorable brawls which help to sell the No Disqualification stipulation even more.
Since turning heel, Carmella has improved week in and week out, putting on solid matches with Nikki as she goes. Nikki, has found her stride, hardly missing a beat and picking up where she left off with being a consistent female performer proudly representing Smackdown with a power wrestling style.
Saying this, out of the two Carmella is still fairly inexperienced, even more so when placed next to Nikki who easily looks prime contender for Becky Lynch’s title. As this is set to be their final match, the woman immediately on the rise will take the victory.
And that woman is Nikki Bella.
Baron Corbin vs. Kalisto
Baron Corbin made it pretty clear from his debut that he wasn’t one to overlook; imposing himself onto the WWE audience and attacking anyone in his way. Not long after being drafted to Smackdown he set his sights on Kalisto, attacking and injuring the luchador and taking him out from months.
It was hardly surprising upon Kalisto’s return that he got his revenge; attacking Corbin and in turn costing him a main event spot at Survivor Series.
Based on story alone, this feud has it all. However with so much time passing, this feud is not nearly as exciting. This is largely down to how long the story was left and how rushed it appears to have been since Kalisto’s return.
Corbin and Kalisto are two good in-ring performers, who only continue to improve, however they have been stuck with the worst match type among the TLC choice: the chairs match. Depending on the balance of Corbin’s brutality and Kalisto’s athleticism, this match could be just your average card filler.
Out of the two, it appears that Corbin is edging towards the ‘push’, so it would only hurt him to lost to Kalisto – even more so when you take into consideration size in such a physical contest.
Corbin is getting the win on this one.