The TD Garden in Boston, MA played host to WWE’s final pay-per-view extravaganza of the year as TLC rolled into the building in a flurry of splintered tables, towering ladders and crumpled chairs. Every title in WWE was on the line and brutality was in abundance. It’s your PPV recap…
1. Pre-Show: Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks and Team BAD performed their own version of the ’12 Days of Christmas’ song before the match in one of the most excruciating promo segments of the year. Thankfully, what followed was a terrific match between two women who can really work together in Banks and Becky Lynch. After their terrific clash back at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, they opened TLC with a technically sound bout in which the women were shown to be evenly matched as in-ring performers. Lynch had Banks in the Disarmer when interference from the other members of Team BAD allowed Banks to lock on the Bank Statement for the victory.
This was a solid contest, but it unfortunately suffered on television due to the bizarre decision to insert a lengthy commercial break advertising upcoming Network content. It sucked a lot of the momentum from the match and hurt the power of the finishing stretch. Despite that, this was a great way to start the show.
2. Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: New Day (c) vs. The Usos vs. Lucha Dragons
Multi-man ladder matches are always a recipe for beautiful carnage and this was certainly no exception. All six men, or perhaps seven given Xavier Woods’ involvement, put their bodies on the line to construct a tremendous spotfest to open the show. Every performer in the match got the chance to shine, with Kalisto and Sin Cara in particular on excellent form. The highlight of the match came when Kalisto performed a Salida Del Sol on Jimmy Uso from the top of a ladder, through another ladder positioned against the ropes in a spot that had to be seen to be believed. Eventually, Xavier Woods interfered, knocking Kalisto off a ladder by throwing his trombone at him. This allowed Kofi Kingston to scale the ladder and grab the belts. This was a simply outstanding encounter that got the show off to a cracking start and really helped to make the tag team division seem as if it mattered.
3. Rusev vs. Ryback
This match was put in a really tough spot, directly after the chaotic ladder war. Rusev and Ryback did a decent job in the early stages, hitting hard and with Ryback performing some impressive flying moves. As Ryback tried for the Meat Hook, Rusev rolled to the outside. The Big Guy gave chase, but was pushed onto Lana, who immediately fell to the floor screaming. Ryback fell for the same ploy that did him in a few weeks ago on Raw, with Rusev landing a monster superkick. Back in the ring, Rusev was able to lock the Accolade on Ryback, forcing the Big Guy to pass out. This was a perfectly decent match, let down by the fact that the story hasn’t progressed beyond the repetitive Raw angle.
4. US Championship Chairs Match: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger
The chairs match is a stupid gimmick that has never produced an even half decent bout. Alberto Del Rio and an incredibly motivated Jack Swagger put on a reasonably okay match, but one that was hamstrung by a number of factors, including the terrible gimmick. A goofy spot in which the two men duelled with chairs opened the match, which soon gave way to an arms race in which both men battled to use the most chairs, rather than win the title. A Patriot Lock assisted by a chair made for a cool visual, but was let down by Del Rio’s inconsistent selling of the injury afterwards. Del Rio’s foot stomp finisher onto a stack of tables brought the match to its end with the champion retaining the belt. This match was not unenjoyable, but suffered from the lack of heat. Swagger deserves credit, though, for throwing himself wholeheartedly into his first PPV singles match since last year’s TLC event. He deserves to be thrown a bone by Creative.
5. Elimination Tables Match: The Dudley Boyz, Rhyno and Tommy Dreamer vs. The Wyatt Family
This match promised carnage at TLC, particularly given the glimpse of a cheese grater and lighter fluid under the ring earlier in the show. It was Erick Rowan who was eliminated first, eating a 3-D through a table from the Dudleys in true ECW style. Soon after, Rhyno was eliminated after taking a big boot from Luke Harper into a table in the corner. A uranage slam from Wyatt put an end to D-Von Dudley, giving the Wyatts an advantage. Determined to get rid of Braun Strowman, the two remaining ECW originals buried Braun Strowman under a stack of ringside tables. The distraction, meanwhile, allowed Luke Harper to blast Dreamer through a table at ringside with a suicide dive. Bubba Ray Dudley grabbed lighter fluid and doused a table. However, Braun Strowman resurfaced and slammed Bubba Ray through the table to secure the win for the Wyatts. It was great to see the Wyatts get a big win on pay-per-view, but it was bizarre that the fire spot wasn’t followed through and this was perhaps a result of some sort of cock-up from the guys in the ring. The match itself felt a little flat, but was wild enough to be a fun ride.
6. Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
Kevin Owens took to the mic before his championship match, berating the Boston fans for celebrating the successes of their sports teams, despite them not having achieved anything themselves. He compared these fans to Dean Ambrose, whose only accomplishment was throwing stuff at Owens.
Ambrose and Owens have tremendous chemistry with each other in the ring and this match showcased the best of both of them. The champion repeatedly tried to slow things down, but Ambrose picked up the pace with his ludicrous antics and innovative reversals. The Lunatic Fringe nailed Owens with Dirty Deeds, but the champ was able to get a single finger on the bottom rope to break the count. Owens repeatedly tried for the Pop-up Powerbomb, but Ambrose had counters for it every time. Just as Owens looked likely to hit the move and retain his gold, Ambrose pulled off an impressive hurricanrana to roll up Owens and become the new Intercontinental Champion. This was a solid, if unremarkable match, but the finish was such a surprise that it ranks as one of the more exciting WWE moments of recent months. If WWE wanted to make TLC memorable, this was the right way to do it. Hopefully this will lead to even bigger things for Owens, who is a main event star in waiting.
7. Divas Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Paige
The pre-match video package made a massive deal of Charlotte’s move towards becoming a heel, which continued throughout the championship match. Ric Flair consistently made a nuisance of himself at ringside, loosening the padding on the middle turnbuckle and even moving his daughter’s foot under the ropes to help her avoid a pinfall defeat following the Ram-Paige. There was considerable brutality from both women, including a brutal low-angle DDT from Charlotte that dumped the challenger right on her head. Charlotte dropped Paige headfirst onto the exposed turnbuckle in full view of the referee before retaining her title via pinfall. This was a solid match that seemed to execute a decent double turn, but the fact the referee saw the tainted finish was very poor. It will certainly be interesting to see how this one progresses on Raw, which is more than can usually be said for the women’s division.
8. WWE Championship TLC Match: Sheamus (c) vs. Roman Reigns
The crowd in Boston seemed to have made up their mind about this match from the moment the bell rang, booing it out of the building. However, Sheamus and Reigns battled a bruising contest, peppered with violent spots. The strikes were hard and tables broke left, right and centre at the hands of both men. Sheamus even took a Samoan Drop through a ringside ladder in a shocking moment. Inevitably, the League of Nations arrived just as Reigns looked poised to win the match and beat down the challenger. Bizarrely, Dean Ambrose and the Usos were nowhere to be seen, leaving Reigns to fight alone. A Brogue Kick from Sheamus put Reigns out of the ring, allowing the Irishman to retrieve his WWE Championship and win the match. Both men worked incredibly hard here and wore the wounds of conflict by the time the bell rang. If the crowd had gone with them, this could have been a real cracker.
Incensed at the manner of his defeat, Reigns battered Sheamus with a steel chair after the match. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon ran to ringside with about half a dozen referees, attempting to calm Reigns down. That wasn’t going to happen, though, and Reigns brutally assaulted Triple H with the chair. The boss sold like a man who desperately wanted Reigns to get over. The babyface subsequently powerbombed The Game on the announce table and drove him through it with an elbow drop. Reigns left down the ramp, but surged back to deliver a ferocious Spear to the boss on the floor. This was a red hot angle to end TLC that had the previously silent fans cheering for Reigns and should fire the starting pistol on a WrestleMania program for Reigns and Triple H.
Fans had zero expectations going into TLC after weeks of uneven build, but the show delivered entertainment in abundance. The tag team ladder match was an absolute stunner and just about every bout on the card had something worth recommending. Raw will be very important to determine the direction going forward, but it feels like the creative slump of the year’s final months is coming to its end.
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.