WWE fans who thought crazy pay-per-view stunts in 2020 peaked with Rey Mysterio having his eye removed in a match with Seth Rollins clearly did not count on the final PPV of the year featuring Randy Orton lighting “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt on fire. The flaming “body” of The Fiend was the final visual as WWE TLC drew to a close from Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay on Sunday night.
While the wild stunt will be the lasting memory of TLC for most fans, the card also featured two exciting TLC matches for the promotion’s top titles and a pair of tag team title changes. In one of those tag matches, Charlotte Flair returned to the ring for the first time since June, helping Asuka defeat Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler to become women’s tag team champions.
It was a wild night at TLC, and CBS Sports was with you the whole way through the event, providing highlights, recaps and grades of all the action.
2020 WWE TLC results, grades
Big E, Daniel Bryan, Otis & Chad Gable vs. Sami Zayn, King Corbin, Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura: Perfectly acceptable Kickoff Show bout with interesting pairings that don’t quite get enough time to click in ways that meet the potential. Zayn was actively avoiding any extended work in the match, but he was especially avoided Big E. They went back to the finish from SmackDown with Gable asking for the tag from Otis only to then lose the match — except this time Otis was able to make the save. That led to the standard sprint run through big spots at the end of the match before Zayn snuck in with hopes of stealing the win with everyone else down, but Big E got the hot tag, finally getting Zayn one-on-one and quickly finishing things off with a Big Ending to pin the intercontinental champion. Big E, Daniel Bryan, Otis & Chad Gable def. Sami Zayn, King Corbin, Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall. Grade: B-
WWE Championship — Drew McIntyre (c) vs. AJ Styles (TLC match): Styles tried to get off to a hot start, but the raw power and aggression of McIntyre took over quickly. McIntyre seemed on his way to a quick win after brutalizing Styles, but as the champion ascended the ladder to retrieve his belt, Styles attacked with a chair. Styles’ attack compromised McIntyre’s knee, a body part the challenger would continue to target through the match, including locking McIntyre in a calf crusher using the ladder for extra leverage and another using a chair. Styles began to dominate the match from that point, using all available weapons to continue the assault on McIntyre. A belly-to-belly by McIntyre onto a ladder propped on the turnbuckle swung momentum back his way. He also cut off a Styles attempt to climb the ladder to grab the championship by plucking him from the ladder and press-slamming him through a table set up at ringside. As McIntyre seemed to have the match won, The Miz ran in and put McIntyre through a table while officially attempting to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and joining the match. Miz was climbing the ladder for an easy victory when Omos entered the ring and pulled him from the ladder, carrying him like a baby before dumping him over the ropes and through a table at ringside. Styles and McIntyre battled on a ladder, trying to reach the belt, when Miz entered with his own ladder and almost had the win before McIntyre knocked Styles to the floor, followed by Miz. Styles then leaped back to the ladder and knocked McIntyre to the canvas. McIntyre returned to his feet, however, using a second ladder to push over a ladder with Miz and Styles, hitting Miz with a Claymore and retrieving the belt for the victory. This was a quality TLC match that kept Styles strong, built the myth of Omos a bit more and finally gets rid of the Money in the Bank contract in a very down year for the gimmick. Not the most memorable of all TLC matches and maybe a step below expectations with extracurricular involvement, but there’s still not much to complain about here. Drew McIntyre def. AJ Styles to retain the title. Grade: B
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella: Banks, still furious from two weeks of having champagne bottles smashed on her back, went on the offensive immediately, delivering some strikes to the back of Carmella as a light sort of payback. Carmella got on top after being helped by Reginald the sommelier, with Reginald catching Carmella as she was thrown from the ring and then helping her hit a rana on Banks. Banks’ initial big comeback led to a near fall off a frog splash. Carmella then came back with an x-factor that led to her own series of near falls. After a flurry of pinning combinations from both women, Carmella locked in the Code of Silence followed by a double chicken wing with Banks’ head trapped for a few near submissions as the flurry of false finishes continued. Banks then locked in the Banks Statement but Reginald again made the save before taking a meteora from Banks. Shortly thereafter, Banks locked in the Banks Statement again to secure the tap and retain the belt. Carmella isn’t on the level of Banks, Asuka, Bayley and the other absolute top active women on the WWE roster, but she put in a career-best performance here with the validity of the long tease of her return and immediate top position hanging in the balance. Banks, of course, did more than hold her own in the ring. Sasha Banks def. Carmella via submission to retain the title. Grade: B+
Raw Tag Team Championship — The New Day (c) vs. The Hurt Business: Cedric Alexander tried for a fast start but was immediately dismantled by the champions until he was able to make a tag to Shelton Benjamin. Alexander spent a stretch outside the ring where he was repeatedly taken out by New Day to keep him from getting back involved in the match. Momentum continued to swing with big offense from both teams, including a Kofi Kingston SOS on Alexander for a near fall and a brainbuster from Alexander for another. Xavier Woods was out of the match for most of the second half, including when Alexander blind-tagged himself in as Benjamin seemed to have the match won and hit a Lumbar Check for the victory, winning the titles in the process. Alexander’s me-first attitude will be an issue eventually, but for now, there are new tag champions, though maybe in less spectacular of a match than these two teams are capable of delivering. The Hurt Business def. The New Day via pinfall to win the titles. Grade: B-
Women’s Tag Team Championship — Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Asuka & Charlotte Flair: Flair was Asuka’s surprise reveal as her tag partner. “The Queen” got some work in early before Asuka was in to play babyface-in-peril. Baszler tried to cut off the hot tag by pulling Flair from the apron, but Flair dropped her, took the tag and brought the fight right to both Jax and Baszler before a big boot on Jax for a near fall. Flair also hit the top rope moonsault to the floor to take out Jax and Baszler. Flair locked in the Figure-Eight on Baszler, but Jax broke the hold. Baszler tried to lock in the Kirifuda Clutch but Flair rolled through for a near fall before hitting Natural Selection for the win. Flair should give the Raw women’s division a big boost in her return, and she looked to be hitting on all cylinders in her return. The match itself falls firmly in “good, not great” territory. Asuka & Charlotte Flair def. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler via pinfall to win the titles. Grade: B
Universal Championship — Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens (TLC match): Jey Uso tried to run in to save Reigns early, only to be immediately taken out by Owens, who worked him over with a chair before using the same weapon on Reigns. Owens returned to Uso, attacking his leg with a chair before “Pilmanizing” it in the chair. Owens’ focus on Uso was enough distraction to allow Reigns to get back in the fight and begin dominating with chair and ladder shots. Owens continued to fight back, even after Reigns backdropped him on a pair of chairs, coming back with his own series of chair shots on the champion and a fisherman suplex onto a chair. Owens almost had the match won when Uso hobbled back to the ring on one good leg and pulled Owens off the ladder, opening up an opportunity for Reigns to hit a Superman punch. Even facing the double team, Owens continued to fight back, hitting Uso with a superkick and then Reigns with a stunner before trying again to ascend the ladder and grab the championship only to again be attacked by Uso. Owens buried Uso under rubble at ringside and tried to grab the ladder only to be again cut off, this time by Reigns.
Reigns powerebombed Owens on a ladder and put him through multiple tables on the outside of the ring. Owens refused to stay down, further infuriating the champion, who then hit a spear through a table. Owens told Reigns he would have to kill him, leading to Reigns missing a second spear, this time crashing through the ringside barricade. Owens put Reigns through a table with a pop-up powerbomb only to again be cut off from climbing by Uso. After again taking out Uso, Owens again almost had the title, only to have Reigns met him at the top of the ladder, hitting him low and choking him out with a guillotine before retrieving the belt. This was very good and Owens looked like an absolute force, constantly fighting off two men and clearly having the match won on multiple occasions. If anything, it was a little too heavy on going back to the “Owens almost has the belt but now the other guy came in” spots. But that’s the deal with Reigns, nothing is fair when it comes to fighting him. Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens to retain the title. Grade: A-
Randy Orton vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (Firefly Inferno Match): The Fiend laughed off Orton’s initial strikes, standing still in the center of the ring and taking the blows before shoving off an RKO attempt and putting the boots to Orton. Oddly, in a match where the objective was to light your opponent on fire, there was initially no fire surrounding the ring like a traditional inferno match. The Fiend hit Sister Abigail early, at which point he roared and fire finally surrounded the ring. The Fiend lashed Orton with a belt before lighting the it on fire and trying to hit Orton with it, but Orton avoided, as he did again moments later when The Fiend tired to murder him with a pickaxe. The Fiend then doused a rocking chair with gasoline and tried to light it on fire after placing Orton in it, but Orton again moved, this time following up with shots from an axhandle and the ring steps. The two continued to battle around the ring with various attempts to set the other man on fire until Orton hit a hanging DDT from the ring apron and tried for an RKO, only to have The Fiend lock in the mandible claw. Orton was able to walk The Fiend back into the fire, setting The Fiend’s clothes ablaze. The Fiend, still on fire, walked into the ring and tried to attack, but Orton hit an RKO. Orton then left the ring, grabbed a can of gasoline and doused the unconscious Fiend before setting him on fire to end the show. In a year featuring a match that was only won by popping out your opponent’s eyeball, WWE somehow found a way to top themselves by simulating a murder. It’s hard not to laugh, but it’s also hard to have an inferno match not be bad with all the teases of flaming finishes. Randy Orton def. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. Grade: C