I don’t think I’ve been subtle when it comes to my disdain towards the WWE’s ‘gimmick match’ pay-per-views. The thing about Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank and yes, TLC matches is that they felt more special when they popped up at random. When they are on a time table to appear a specific time every year, they lose their luster. But has this year’s Tables Ladders & Chairs PPV made me change my mind?
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. LUKE HARPER (Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship): I will not talk about how Ziggler put on a performance of the ages and proved how ladder matches for the lesser titles can still be a draw. I will, however, speak about Luke Harper and how he assisted Ziggler in putting on one of the best ladder matches since the clinic that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon put on nearly two decades ago. It is hard to establish strong ring psychology in dangerous matches such as these, but both superstars did so with ease. Though Harper has shown an uncanny knack for high flying moves, he chose to ground his match and wisely tried to keep Dolph grounded. But the hometown hero, after hitting a breathtaking high spot reversal into a DDT and a leap from one collapsed ladder to another ladder, reached the top and claimed his prize. WINNER: Dolph Ziggler.
THE USOS vs. DAMIEN MIZDOW & THE MIZ (Tag Team Championship): Try as he may, try as he might, Damien ‘Miz’dow can only do so much to make a match interesting when three other performers give us the same match we’ve seen out of them nearly twenty times already. The Usos are incredibly talented and their high spots, like the dive bomb onto the Miz outside the ring, were impressive as always. But every pay-per-view match of theirs, especially this one, feels like it could have been on Raw or SmackDown. What’s worse, one of the cardinal rules was broken again this year. You DO NOT END A MATCH ON A DISQUALIFICATION AT A PAY-PER-VIEW. Here’s hoping that there’s a better payoff on the horizon for this storyline. WINNERS: The Usos
ERICK ROWAN vs. BIG SHOW: A stairs match; that is the revolutionary new match type that WWE creative came up with. Show and Rowan are both gifted big men that can take a cheesy gimmick match like this and make it into a damn solid match. I was concerned with a spot where Rowan intended to come off the second rope with the top of the ring stairs to crush Show, who was lying on the bottom stairs. But Show dodged and the stairs bounced back up and clipped Rowan in the face. He was out of sorts from this point on. Show then delivered a vicious spear to Rowan, plowing him through half a dozen sets of ring stairs. One knockout punch to the back of the head later and Rowan was looking up at the lights. WINNER: Big Show
SETH ROLLINS vs. JOHN CENA: This tables match was an important one for John Cena, because if he lost, he would no longer be the number one contender for Brock Lesnar’s World Heavyweight Championship. Rollins has been bringing out the best in Cena in their past few confrontations and this was no exception. Rollins’ ‘security guards’, Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble were a factor in the match from almost the opening bell and interfered several times. Rollins’ athleticism was on full display, with one of the most amazing reversals out of Cena’s Attitude Adjustment, leaping clear over the table that Cena was intending to put him through. At one point both competitors went through a table, causing the referee to restart the match. Big Show made a B-line to the ring and went after Cena. But before he could finish off Cena, the music hit for a recently returned from injury Roman Reigns. One Superman punch and a spear through a table later and Show was no longer a factor, leaving Cena to put Rollins through a table. WINNER: John Cena
AJ LEE vs. NIKKI BELLA (Divas Championship): My heart goes out to AJ Lee. She is, quite possibly, the best Diva on the WWE roster since Trish Stratus. She has looks, presence, great mic skills and can put on a clinic in the ring. It’s a shame that, at yet another pay-per-view, AJ is saddled with competition that nearly injured her. Nikki Bella is trying. She had a few interesting spots, like pulling AJ into the ring post to do damage to her back. But this was not going to be a ten-fifteen minute amazing match and if it was, Nikki might have accidentally put AJ out for several months. It was a means to an end to furthering another vapid storyline for a division that is in disarray. Which is a shame since several in the division, AJ included, are capable of putting on four or five star matches. WINNER: AJ Lee
KANE vs. RYBACK: The ‘Demon’ against the ‘Big Guy’ was billed to be one of the most brutal matches of this pay-per-view. And it certainly was, but not in the way that many were expecting. One might say that wielding a steel chair in a match is somewhat of a fine art. Making it look like you are obliterating someone with a dangerous weapon without actually using it takes years to truly master. When it’s not mastered, you wind up how Kane looked after this match. There were several spots where Ryback clearly was swinging the chair too hard. Another spot that was supposed to be a spinebuster through a steel chair turned into a botch where the back of Kane’s head hit the edge of the chair, clearly a screw up. Kane, forever a company man, fought on and the two men continued to batter each other with chairs until Ryback was able to deal out his signature Meat Hook Clothesline, and then his ‘Shellshock’ finisher. WINNER: Ryback
JACK SWAGGER vs. RUSEV (United States Championship): These two men are immensely talented ring workers, but because of their restrictive gimmicks and limited mic skills, we rarely get a good buildup for these pay-per-view confrontations. But Rusev injuring Swagger’s manager (mouthpiece) Zeb Coulter was just the dusting off that this feud needed. Swagger’s amateur background and Rusev’s Sambo skills alone create a unique viewing experience. But high impact maneuvers, like the super kick that floored Swagger and nearly gained a count out victory for Rusev, kicked this up a notch. But creative needs to remember that Swagger is one of the best technicians on the roster, so if Rusev has to go over on him, it should be via pin fall or knockout, not via his submission maneuver, The Accolade. But that is exactly how Rusev beat Swagger…again. WINNER: Rusev
DEAN AMBROSE vs. BRAY WYATT: Thank you, WWE, for having the common sense to give these great workers the main event of the program. Their mind games over the past two months have been enthralling television. So much so that I didn’t mind their match at last month’s pay-per-view ending in a disqualification. Wyatt taking a shot from a kendo stick directly to the head was a ballsy move. So was Ambrose taking a punch from Wyatt that sent him flying off the top rope and through a table. Another spot featured Dean suspending Wyatt over the second rope, then doing a leg drop to Wyatt onto a steel chair. This match redefined the word escalation. After three elbows from the top of the ladder to Wyatt, Ambrose proceeded to use a flat screen television as a weapon. But he yanked the cord so hard, the television blew out, sending sparks in Ambrose’s face. This blinded him long enough for Wyatt to deliver his finisher, Sister Abigail, ending this battle. But the war between the psychopath and the sociopath doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon. WINNER: Bray Wyatt
TLC 2014 was a true human demolition derby where no one escaped unscathed. While some doubts lingered, these athletes took incredibly gimmicky matches and turned out a decent pay-per-view. Were you pleased with the final pay-per-view of this year?