In what seemed like a perfect storm of timing, Sunday’s fantastic WWE TLC pay-per-view gave way to an episode of Raw which had already announced the return of Vince McMahon in front of the camera. Instead, what we got was something best described as a wait-and-see tease at best and an insulting bait-and-switch at worst, depending upon your perspective. Either way, it’s hard to argue against the idea that McMahon’s return failed to live up to expectations. Luckily, the remainder of Raw picked up the slack enough to finish off a serviceable episode this close to Christmas week.
Let’s take a closer look at what went right for the red brand and what sins might be best deemed as unforgivable, and be sure to check out our audio instant analysis of WWE TLC. Subscribe to the In This Corner with Brian Campbell podcast by clicking the “subscribe” button in the embed below.
Vince McMahon and family announce changes to Raw
WWE wasted no time in giving what was promised as chairman Vince McMahon made his much-hyped return and admitted Raw’s need to “change with the times.” Out came Stephanie McMahon, brother Shane McMahon and Triple H. All four members echoed each other’s sentiments that they haven’t done a good job listening to their audience and spoke of a “fresh start” that would begin tonight by taking back Raw and SmackDown. “More importantly,” Triple H said, “we will be giving you what you want” with new matchups and faces. “As of now, you are the authority.” The McMahons said they would take control — as a family — over both Raw and SmackDown Live, which seems to eliminate the commissioner roles but leaves the general manager roles in a state of flux.
Former acting general manager Baron Corbin came out to complain about losing his authority the night before. After what seemed like an ill-fated commercial, the McMahon family chose to incite the crowd into booing loud enough that Corbin’s plea to get his job back couldn’t be heard. Ultimately, Triple H declared Corbin could only get his job back and run Raw if he beat Kurt Angle right now.
— WWE (@WWE) December 18, 2018
Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable & Apollo Crews def. Baron Corbin via pinfall (No DQ Match): After Heath Slater came out as special guest referee, Triple H and Shane kept interrupting to add new participants to this 4-on-1 match and change the stipulation to no disqualification. Even Slater began to stomp Corbin before all four wrestlers hit their finishing moves. An Angle Slam led to the finish before Angle added one more on Corbin through a table.
What an epic and monumental waste of time. Even worse, it spoiled what could have been a turning point moment for the direction of creative at a time when fans were still buzzing from TLC. Despite coming out of the gate with big promises of change, WWE chose to follow McMahon’s return by essentially repeating the worst match from Sunday’s PPV and using the same finish. Could you imagine the crowd’s reaction at that moment had McMahon’s return been followed by Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch coming out instead, along with an announcement that the brand split was ending? Or how about anything else other than what happened?
Instead, WWE chose to pander to the live crowd with a gratuitous beating on Corbin that was not only stupid, it allowed the McMahon family to shift the real-life blame for record-low ratings and lazy booking on Raw over the past four months to Corbin’s fictional shoulders. (Even though, in kayfabe, Stephanie was actually the one to blame for appointing Corbin to the position and then disappearing.) With the amazing TLC show providing WWE creative the opportunity to create some real momentum (not to mention goodwill) entering the holiday season and the build toward WrestleMania 35, what fans received instead was the same old status quo wrapped in shiny Christmas paper and unfulfilled promises. Grade: D