Worst: Oh, ‘Twas The Week Before Christmas, ‘Twas It?
The show started off with a really terrible video package aping the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and sort of half-tangentially, half-hamfistedly working in rhymes about the WWE Superstars and the matches that would be on the upcoming card. Look, we all know how good the marketing geniuses are who make these packages for the WWE, but this had nothing to do with anything. It’s likely that the guy editing this all together was doing a straightforward TLC intro package (you know, those ones where they talk about how gosh darn brutal the whole thing is), and then suddenly an associate producer burst into the room, looking harried, and yelled, “Did you know there’s some kind of HOLIDAY coming up this week?! Oh, that’s great. That’s just perfect!” And then they’re up until 4 AM getting the faux-“IN A WORLD…” voiceover guy to come up with a slant-rhyme for “Ziggler.”
Worst: He Is No Longer Perfection
Dolph Ziggler is obviously the best (we’ll get to much more of than in a moment, hang on), but the “I AM PERFECTION” intro to his theme music was far and away the best part of that theme. It’s all well and good to have Vickie come out and introduce him, because Vickie’s great. More Vickie! But that simple little thing gave me plenty of enjoyment, and it was taken away from us before its time.
Worst: Casual Racism
We would be treated to the mother lode of casual racism in a later sketch, but it was nice of Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole to give us a wee soupcon of needless bigotry while introducing the Spanish announcers. You know how they pan over to the Spanish announce table and we get treated to a few brief seconds of people talking passionately about something before being cast back into the doldrums of the regular team? Well, they did that, and Lawler followed it up with a bemused, “Could they talk any faster, Cole?” To his credit, Michael Cole kind of just went “uh” and then changed the subject. Yes, they probably could talk faster, King. You’d still be a bigot.
Best: Zack Ryder’s Weird Body
In some ways, Zack Ryder’s weird body could be considered a Worst, because he’s got a realy weird body and if you think about it too long you might get a little creeped out. I’m not even talking about his hair color matching his skin color like he’s Bart Simpson come to horrifying life. I’m talking about the proportions and shape(s) of his body. He’s surprisingly tall, but almost imperceptibly so. He’s got a physique that’s somewhere in-between Jack Swagger and JBL. He moves around like he just heard about “moving around” recently and is eager to give it the old college try. I look at the guy and kind of can’t believe he used to be a Fake Edge. Not that Edge’s body was particularly weird or anything, but Edge at least looks like an actual person you might see, rather than a man made out of different types of sausages.
Big Best: Dolph Ziggler, Obviously
This was an opening match that got absolutely everything right. You’ve got a guy that people want to see win, even if they don’t know why. You’ve got a midcard title at stake that people want to see change hands. You’ve got a straightforward wrestling match on a gimmick PPV. Most importantly, you’ve got the best heel in the world that people absolutely hate and want to see lose. The Zack Ryder vs. Dolph Ziggler match from WWE TLC 2011 is this generation’s Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect match from WrestleMania VI. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen Beefcake/Perfect. To most fans, that was the match where Perfect’s undefeated streak came to an end, and it was basically brilliant, in large part due to Mr. Perfect, obviously.
Ryder/Ziggler is the exact same dynamic, played to a T. There’s the inexplicably popular guy with an odd gimmick who can’t wrestle super-well, and the guy who’s willing to bump like a ping-pong ball and pull out every dirty tactic in order to get the crowd to boo him and cheer the other guy. Hell, this match even had Ryder catapulting Ziggler into the turnbuckles! (Ziggler tried to get over the top buckle and ding his head on the ringpost, a la Perfect, but didn’t have enough oomph.) They pulled out all the stops here: Ziggler dropping ten elbows in a row just to be a dick, Vickie cheating, Vickie getting ejected (walking backwards down the aisle with her arms out going “Doooooolph! DOOOOOOOLPPPHHH!” was amazing), Ziggler even trying to pull the tights on a roll-up, everything you could think of or want in this match. I loved every second.
Best: A Finishing Move That Looks Like A Finisher, And Not Like Sexual Assault
Ryder did a great job in his biggest match of actually delivering his finisher, the Rough Ryder, as it’s supposed to be interpreted: that of a jumping leg lariat. It helps that Ziggler sold it like death, however, but getting your finisher to look right goes a long way toward getting it replayed a bunch on television and making it a legitimate move. “Jumping leg lariat” isn’t the most impressive-sounding finisher, but it’s a lot more impressive in execution than “that move where I advance my pee-hole toward your face as rapidly as possible.”
Bonus Best: Zack Ryder’s Dad