TLC: Who Will Be McIntyre’s Challenger

TLC

Last week, Drew McIntyre successfully reclaimed the WWE Championship from fourteen-time champion Randy Orton. However, he’ll hardly have time to rest on his laurels, as the battle to claim the belt has begun. With three qualifying matches on the November 23 episode of Monday Night RAW, the victors are looking to a Triple Threat Match in which McIntyre’s challenger at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs will be decided.

What should have been a victory lap for Team RAW after their Survivor Series win led to the mad scramble for championship glory that ensued. The discord that defined Team RAW before Survivor Series continued as each man put himself forth for a championship bid, with WWE official Adam Pearce seeming set to declare Riddle the challenger for Drew McIntyre’s title. To say that Braun Strowman took issue with this would be an understatement. An outraged Strowman bellowed at Pearce that he should have been offered a shot, and then floored Pearce with a headbutt.

Backstage, while being interviewed by Kayla Braxton, Pearce was approached by an ingratiating Bobby Lashley and a surly Randy Orton about getting in on the challenge for McIntyre’s belt, themselves. After a few fits and starts, Pearce threw down the gauntlet officially, issuing qualifying matches between Riddle and Sheamus, Keith Lee and Bobby Lashley, and Randy Orton and AJ Styles to make it to a Triple Threat Match to decide who will face McIntyre at December 20’s TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, for the championship.

The first pair to face off were the Original Bro and the Celtic Warrior. Both are Smackdown draftees, and had some heat on the Blue Brand with Sheamus being part of the chorus, along with King Corbin, that the NXT graduate didn’t “belong there.” Sheamus was, as usual, a powerhouse, brutally delivering his signature hard-stomping Brogue Kick and other offensive maneuvers with single-minded fury. Riddle, for his part, used his jiu-jitsu background to his advantage, grappling the athlete he dubbed “Fire Face” into a frustrated froth that he hadn’t put the Bro down. Riddle outlasted Sheamus’ signature finisher White Noise, and got the better of the Celtic Warrior in the end, and advanced to qualify for the Triple Threat match next week on Raw.

Riddle’s fellow NXT alumnus Keith Lee also had a hard fought victory against United States Champion Bobby Lashley. Lashley is one of the physically strongest athletes on the scene, known for a formidable combination of athleticism and brutality. He came in hot, attempting to set up a suplex on Lee. It was gutsy of Lashley to attempt to vertically lift all 384 lbs. of The Limitless One, but his attempt was not successful. He did manage to transition his suplex setup to a wrist lock and side headlock, and even brought Lee to his knees. When Lee was up again, he steadfastly deflected Lashley’s attempts to knock him to the mat with a clothesline, twice, standing mountain tall against the battering of the United States Champion. He did some battering himself, for a time trapping Lashley in the corner with a barrage of punches.

Lashley did manage to get Lee into his notorious Hurt Lock, but Lee broke the hold in high style punching Lashley over the ropes. MVP took issue with this, heckling Lee, who came out to ringside to meet him. Using the distraction, Lashley attacked Lee, and they slugged it out by the barricade.  Lee and Lashley continued trading blows, and a concerned MVP got in the ring himself. His interference was not profitable for him, or Lashley, as Lee laid out MVP and won by Lashley’s disqualification. Not only did Lee qualify for the Triple Threat on Raw but surely more confrontations with the Hurt Business are in his future.

The last qualifying match of the night was billed throughout the program as “WrestleManiaworthy”, Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles. Neither man is a current titleholder, but Orton seemed affronted to have to join the qualifying fray at all, rather than being automatically tapped for a rematch against McIntyre. While not as stunningly athletic as the Lee vs Lashley brawl, Styles and Orton spared little of their mutually formidable arsenals on each other. Styles went for a cover of Orton seconds after the bell, and the two veterans, and former WrestleMania opponents, were at their most brutal throughout the match, looking not just to diffuse but damage each other.  Styles zeroed in on Orton’s knees throughout the match, and made the Apex Predator grasp the rope for mercy in a particularly brutal leg lock.

The lights darkened, the screens of the ThunderDome went out one by one, and The Fiend made his demonic presence known, appearing in Orton’s corner and frightening the former member of the Wyatt Family. Styles got the better of Orton, and qualified for the Triple Threat match. The Fiend’s appearance raises new, ominous questions for Orton. Not only has he lost a clear path to face McIntyre at TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, but is the Fiend out to claim his soul at TLC?

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network.  TLC will air on the Network LIVE

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