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WWE TLC recaps and ratings: Kurt Angle returns to the ring

Tables, Ladders and Chairs is the final pay-per-view ahead of Survivor Series. Two titles are on the line, but Raw's biggest championship, the Universal Championship, isn't as Brock Lesnar continues to be missing in action. As the night rolls on inside of Minneapolis' Target Center, Tim Fiorvanti and Matt Wilansky provide recaps of the action, match-by-match, and ESPN Stats & Information's Sean Coyle has in-depth ratings for each contest, on a one-to-five scale based on five different categories.

This was updated in real time.


(c) - Denotes defending champion(s)

TLC Match: Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Kurt Angle def. The Miz, Kane, The Bar and Braun Strowman

A complete recap of this match can be found here.

Jason Jordan def. Elias

Earlier on the preshow, during a conversation between Kurt Angle and Jason Jordan, Elias interrupted requesting the opportunity to sing to the Minneapolis crowd. Throughout a series of segments tonight in which Elias attempted to sing one of his signature tunes, Jason Jordan repeatedly interrupted him mid-song. How? He threw produce at him.

To nobody's surprise, the vegetable throwing conflict turned into an in-ring battle between the two.

Jordan began the match displaying his power advantage, but Elias quickly took control with a series of headlock and arm bar submission holds. Jordan rebounded in a big way with a nice looking power slam, but the rebound was short-lived. Elias countered a belly-to-belly suplex attempt by Jordan and delivered a knee to his back, sending him into the turnbuckle. From there, he continued the onslaught with a series of strikes.

Jordan fought through and gained the upper hand driving Elias from corner to corner and suplexing him as he often does near the end of his matches. Following one final effort by Elias, Jordan was able to reverse a suplex into a small package for the three count, but it was not without controversy as it appeared that Elias might have gotten his shoulder up before the referee counted to three. Whether that was intentional or not, it looked a bit botched.

While both Elias and Jordan are incredibly talented and it was great to see them with a match on the card, it felt thrown together and came across that way in the ring.

Finn Balor def. AJ Styles

About an hour before the start of Tables, Ladders and Chairs, AJ Styles said what everyone already knew.

This is the match everyone around the world wanted to see. Concise and accurate, Styles in a last-minute development as of Friday, was going to take on Finn Balor in a fantasy match worthy of WrestleMania.

Yes, they're on different shows, and true, since joining the WWE, their storylines have in no way intersected, but even though they've never gone one-on-one in the ring, they're tied together in a way few other stars can match. Their success in the wrestling world traces back to the Bullet Club, one of the most prestigious international factions in the wrestling business. Styles and Balor were both leaders of this group that showcased itself largely in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

An impromptu match or not, not a wrestling fan in the world was going to tune out for this one. For one match only, Styles was bringing his pedigree and stardom to Monday Night Raw's pay-per-view.

The early advantage, though, went to Balor, whose Demon King entrance electrified the crowd. His face painted in his diabolical alter-ego, Styles could only look on. Before they even made contact, the crowd yelled in unison, "This is awesome."

The bout began with both feeling each other out before Styles struck Balor with a powerful drop kick. Balor quickly rebounded with a surfboard submission that slowed down Styles.

Balor hit Styles with another drop kick that sent his foe outside the ring. While nothing spectacular had happened to this point, the cheers only grew louder for both competitors. You'd almost could have forgotten that Balor was originally scheduled to come into this show set to face Bray Wyatt -- again. What an upgrade this was.

Finally, Styles connected with his first impactful move, landing a Phenomenal Forearm on Balor, but the Demon King smacked Styles with a huge kick, sending Styles over the ropes. Moments later, Styles regained his equilibrium and connected with a painful-looking face-buster to Balor. His momentum was short-lived.

Balor stomped away at Styles, over and over, then pummeled him some more in the corner of the ring. But just like that, it was Styles back on top, as he tried to end things with a calf-crusher, only for Balor to fight through the pain and escape the submission.

There was no slowing down the action from this point on. Outside the ring, Balor hit Styles with a drop kick into the barricade, but Styles countered by tossing Balor (and himself) over the announcer's table.

The two beat the 10 count and got back in the ring. Balor caught Styles with his own version of a Pele Kick, and moments later nearly ended the bout with a 1916 Balor rarely uses anymore. But again, the momentum shifted as Styles crushed Balor, who was perched on the top rope, with his own Pele Kick.

But it was all for naught. Balor had the last laugh, ultimately connecting with a Coup de Grace and winning the high-end showdown. Afterward, in a class act, Balor walked over to Styles and connected with a "too sweet" hand gesture.

We can only hope this was the first of many more clashes between these two. Yes, Sunday night was just a tease as Styles will return to SmackDown for the foreseeable future. Whatever happens between these two, this was a memorable moment. An unforgettable one. Styles came up short in this one, but filling in for Wyatt, he no doubt earned his substitute of the night award.

Enzo Amore def. Kalisto (c) via pinfall to win the cruiserweight championship

On Raw, there was a long stretch of time when the women's championship got hot-potatoed around a couple times a month. Despite some great matches between Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks, it started to lose some of the shock value and generally didn't do the belt any favors.

The cruiserweight championship has hit a similar patch of late, which continued Sunday night as Enzo Amore regain the title from Kalisto less than two weeks after the title went in the opposite direction on Raw. That other match was just over two weeks after Amore finagled the title from Neville at No Mercy.

There were surprises in the air, even before the bell rang. Amore's trademark voice strained to hit all of its points audibly, as Amore was on the brink of laryngitis-based silence. Kalisto returned to his old entrance theme and music, which was perfectly fine to begin with, and then it was lights, camera, action.

There was a nice little back and forth early on as each had the other's early moves well scouted out. A hurricanrana got turned into a head-spiking maneuver when Amore under-rotated, but Amore's lone notable in-ring slip-up actually ended up looking even more brutal. A tope suicida for Kalisto earned him the briefest of edges, but then Amore started to get down and dirty.

With the referee stepping in to control the situation, Amore pulled Kalisto off the middle rope and sent him head-first into the top turnbuckle. Manipulating these types of situations has become Amore's forte, and it's a smart direction to go in terms of evening the playing field with more talented in-ring competitors. Amore even found a little innovation of his own when he swung Kalisto out from a Salida del Sol attempt on the middle rope and hit a side suplex as they both fell to the ground

A few ground-based submission attempts helped Amore slow it down, but Kalisto hit his low headscissors head-spike (on purpose this time) and earned a two-count before Amore got his foot to the bottom rope. The chaos eventually sent Kalisto head-first into the turnbuckle, followed by a "DDG," though that earned Amore only a two-count.

Kalisto's second attempt at a Salida del Sol failed, and the action spilled to the edge of the ring. Amore got a handful of the ring apron as Kalisto tried to get him back into the middle, and as the ref bent down to check on him, Amore went deep with a thumb to the eye to temporarily blind the cruiserweight champion.

He hit his modified version of what he calls the "Jaw-dunzo" for the three-count. That win made him just the second two-time cruiserweight champion, along with the currently absent Neville.

There were a couple of tough moments, and Amore's never going to be the greatest technical wrestler in the division, but he hung in there and continued to take chances, eat bumps, and play to his strengths. As long as his voice can carry the division, the other guys he gets in the ring with can carry the in-ring action. With Amore back on top, there are plenty of worthy contenders who can challenge him.

Alexa Bliss (c) def. Mickie James via pinfall

Alexa Bliss has said repeatedly she has run through the entire women's division. And she's right. She has taken out the likes of Bayley and Sasha Banks in recent months, and that was after a long run as head of the class on SmackDown Live. But while she was picking up plenty of W's, her storylines had become flat and the overall narrative of the women's division more or less flat.

Enter Mickie James, who at 38 years old is considered past her prime -- according to Bliss anyway. She's a mom, who "probably wears mom jeans," Bliss said moments before entering the ring. Yes, the age angle is a bit of a stretch, especially when you consider two of Sunday's stars, AJ Styles and Kurt Angle, are 40 and 48, respectively.

So, a battle of generations this was not.

A six-time former WWE champ, James showed her experience early, refusing to give in to an array of offensive attempts by Bliss. The champ then took advantage of a fallen James with a series of moves with the purpose of ripping James' left arm out of her socket.

James quickly came back with a devastating slap to Bliss's face before unloading with more vicious hits to the champ's noggin. A couple of clotheslines and roundhouse kicks had Bliss on the ropes. Frustrated, Bliss, 26, began to come back again, notably kicking the rope with enough authority that it sent James onto the mat and onto her bad shoulder. Bliss climbed to the top rope and attempted her finishing Twisted Bliss, but James moved out of the way and then somewhat connected with a dropkick from the ropes for a two-count. That was as close as James would get to closing this one out.

Bliss soon recovered and finished off the match with a beautiful DDT.

While not spectacular, the action was solid and the result was predictable. Afterward, in an in-ring interview, a disappointed James said, "I wanted to take the championship home tonight, but I'm proud of my performance. This won't be my last time in a championship match for me."

This match was about the continuation of Bliss' dominance. Now it's on to bigger and more impactful matches for the Raw champion. The question: Is it too early for Asuka?

While you'd think the WWE creative team would save that for a top-tier pay-per-view after a good amount of build, recent knee-jerk decisions suggest this showdown could come sooner rather than later.

Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann def. Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher via pinfall

The stakes were relatively low heading into this cruiserweight division tag team match. But with two teams sporting distinctively different styles and a fair bit of history between them, there was at least enough tying everything together to make the fireworks we were sure to see mean something.

The action started with Swann and Kendrick, with Swann quickly falling into the wrong corner and getting isolated from his partner. It didn't last too long, though, and that came to be a theme during this match. The action didn't slow down very long unless it made sense. Alexander cleared everyone out in a hurry and set up for a high-flying move to the outside, only for Gallagher to trip him. Swann flipped off the top of the steel steps to take out Gallagher, Kendrick was sent to the outside next to his partner and Alexander hit a tope con hilo that sent him well over the top of the ropes -- and landed on his feet to boot, after taking out both of his opponents.

Swann got isolated again by Gallagher's hand, and it began to morph into a classic clash of styles -- brutality and physicality versus high-flying and speed. Gallagher and Kendrick slowed things way down, lost the crowd a little bit, but that only made the comeback all the sweeter. Swann tossed Kendrick out of the ring from the top rope, and finally got a hot tag that set Alexander off.

He hit a handspring into a roundhouse kick to Gallagher's face and got a two-and-three-quarters count. This sequence, as well as the one that closed the match, was another reminder of how athletically gifted Alexander is. As Alexander went for another pin, Kendrick pulled Alexander out of the ring near the ropes to break the count.

Swann tried to hit a DDT, but Kendrick caught him in mid-air and turned it into a release northern lights suplex. The villains simply couldn't keep the momentum, though, and things quickly devolved for Kendrick and Gallagher. There were plenty of superkicks to go around, and Kendrick temporarily got the upper hand by locking in a captain's hook. It rolled all the way through towards the corner, and Swann broke up the attempt by hitting Kendrick with a top rope phoenix splash. Swann hit Gallagher too, but a rebound headbutt to Swann cleared both of them out the ring.

In a flash, Alexander had Kendrick up, and then it was Lumbar Check and a 1-2-3. It earned Alexander and Swann the pinfall victory, though it's unclear as to what this could really mean in the long-term for any of the four competitors involved. The fact that a non-cruiserweight title match featuring only 205 Live talent made the main card for the first time is at least a small step in the right direction.

Asuka def. Emma via submission

The buzz was unmistakable.

For weeks, the WWE has been teasing the debut of Asuka, the no-doubt next big thing in the WWE, and perhaps the face that can single-handedly restore the women's division back to where it was a year ago and beyond.

They call her the "Empress of tomorrow," but Sunday, the star of tomorrow arrived. Asuka made her way down the ring amid of loud chorus of cheers to take on Emma in her first main-tier WWE match.

From the outset, it was clear how skilled Asuka's in-ring skills were, as she went for an instant submission, but to no avail. Still, she dominated the match for the first few moments.

Emma, who was making her first career singles bout in a WWE pay-per-view event, showed her doggedness and aggression and offered a tremendous demonstration about what she is capable of doing in the ring. Some of that aggression came early on. With Asuka hanging upside down in the corner of the ring, Emma stuck her with a couple of devastating kicks that ultimately resulted in a two-count.

As the match wore on, so did the cheers for Asuka. Her offense picked up with a sliding knee strike to the side of Emma's face. Now on the second rope, Asuka flatted Emma with a massive drop kick.

Later, Asuka had one of Emma's legs trapped and delivered a sweet-looking suplex. With more back-and-forth offense outside of the ring, the women finally moved back in, albeit not for long. The newest member of Monday Night Raw ultimately caught Emma with a Asuka lock, forcing her opponent to tap.

That's now 1-0 for the performer who entered the night coming off a 523-day reign as NXT women's champion. For the record that's longer than Charlotte and Sasha Banks combined. The win came as no surprise for Asuka, who promises to battle whomever the WWE women's champion is. She might be new to a large portion of the WWE universe, but after Sunday night, fans know who Asuka is and what she might do in her new home.

TLC kickoff show: Sasha Banks def. Alicia Fox via submission

As part of the WWE TLC kickoff show, Sasha Banks defeated Alicia Fox via submission. This was the second time in six days that Banks earned a one-on-one victory over Fox; her win on Raw was followed by Fox destroying her backstage, setting up Sunday's match. There were some bright spots, and each took some experimental chances over the course of an 11 minute match, but the outcome was as expected.

Tim Fiorvanti, ESPN.com