Pre-show notes: If you missed the show, you can watch it here on WWE Network. You can find past editions of The Best and Worst of TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs on its tag page. Best: CrazySexyCool. Worst: ‘Red Light Special’ makes it sound like T-Boz wants to have sex with you in a K-Mart.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE TLC 2016. TLC, coming from me. Everything’s gonna be all right, why don’t you spend the night?
Actual Pre-Show Notes:
That preview image makes Chad Gable look like he’s got a full beard.
The kickoff match for this show was the Smackdown Tag Team Graveyard, teaming up American Alpha with the Hype Bros and Apollo Crews against Curt Hawkins, the Vaudevillains and the Ascension. Crews managed to be the least interesting guy on a team featuring Mojo Rawley doing MC Hammer dances and Mauro Ranallo not being able to tell Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins apart. And is it weird to anyone else that we’re four months into American Alpha on the main roster and they’re on a show where characters like Carmella and James Ellsworth get tons of time and creative development, but all they ever really get to get over on pay-per-views is 40 seconds of pre-show offense?
The good news here is that they won, at least, and they won with a running version of the Grand Amplitude, which is dope. The bad news is that they’re doing it in front of this Dallas crowd, which spends most of the night watching dudes fall off ladders like you’d watch a middle school assembly about drug awareness. And to be fair, this match had like two 10-minute chinlock sequences in it so it wasn’t exactly gonna get everybody hype — they ain’t hype! — but all Dallas cheered for for like the first six matches was an RKO. Brutal. They probably would’ve been a lot better off skipping the pre-show match, running that fast-paced Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin chairs match first, and used this for filler with a slightly better vibe somewhere between the championship matches at the end.
Anyway, the most important thing here is that Raw is in Austin on Monday night, so I’m gonna bring some tumbleweeds and throw them around in the crowd like beach balls, try to get that over as a thing.
Worst: The Official Theme Song
“We want to thank BUTT FUCKER for their song ‘ALT-FIGHT’ from the album FIGHT NATIONALISTS, it’s the official theme song for whichever pay-per-view this is. It’s available on iTunes! Download it today and move it into a folder with ChaCha La La so you can have two WWE songs on your phone!”
Best: It Was A Pretty Cool RKO, Though
The opening match is for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship, and ends with Randy Orton power-sliding in to hit an RKO on Rhyno while the Republi-CanBeast is distracted by Bray Wyatt’s spooky upside-down spider face.
I think the thing I like most about the Orton/Wyatt tag team is the understated story that neither of these guys had any upward momentum, so they decided to team up and play off each other’s strengths to actually move forward with their jobs and lives. I know it’s supposed to be about snake charming and cult harvesting or whatever, but it’s deeply pragmatic. Wyatt’s been a joke for years, and surprisingly had never won a title of any kind in WWE. Orton disappeared for a while and came back to lose to Brock Lesnar in like two minutes via helpless bleeding. But now here they are getting on the same page, and Orton’s increased his chances of hitting an RKO From Outta Nowhere by like 200% based on Wyatt’s ability to make people stop paying attention and stand around with their mouths open. Like, how easy is it to hit your surprise finisher when your tag team partner has teleportation abilities? You can just BLEARP~! in in the darkness and Jumping Head Hold your opponents to death. It’s great.
It’s sad to see Slater and Rhyno’s magical Cinderella tag team title reign end, but it’s the right call. Orton and Wyatt are #1 and #2 on the DESPERATELY NEEDS THIS list, whether they’ve Got Kids or not. Heath Slater for Intercontinental Champion, please and thank you.
Worst: Using Luke Harper As A Belt Rack
Orton and Wyatt both have signature poses that require them to hold out their hands, so Luke Harper’s stuck holding both Tag Team Championship belts. Poor guy. Also, is that the guy whose body you want your belts resting against? The inside of those things are gonna be slippery and smell like feet.
Besides, Erick Rowan isn’t going to be wrestling for a while, let him stand out here with belts on his shoulders so I don’t feel like talented-ass Luke Harper is as threatening as a coat rack somebody put on the curb and left out in the rain.
Best: Nikki Bella’s Hair
Just a quick shout-out to Nikki Bella for at least partially putting her hair up for the fight. Sure, she looked like she was in a sexy Daria Berenato Halloween costume, but more women should start doing this in WWE. The era of wrestling these matches with floor-length bright mauve horse-hair extensions needs to end. At least throw that shit in a pony!
Best/Worst: Nikki Booker Ts Carmella
From our TLC predictions:
I’m picking Alexa Bliss to surprise folks and win the Smackdown Women’s Championship, because I’m also picking Nikki to finally end her rivalry with Carmella here and step up to be the next champion, probably at the Royal Rumble. I think everyone knows Nikki’s going to be champion again, so using Alexa as a transitional heel champ between Becky Lynch and Nikki is a solid idea. Carmella gets got here, with authority.
Nailed it. Nikki makes Carmella look like an absolute afterthought by spraying her with a fire extinguisher for what feels like an entire quarter hour, then casually hitting a Rack Attack 2.0 and even more casually pinning her. It sorta felt like that WrestleMania moment where Triple H hit a Pedigree on Booker T and took forever to pin him, to the point that you thought for sure Booker was kicking out, and then he just got the three anyway. It’s probably not great for Carmella, hence the unsure declaration of whether this was the BEST or WORST, but if you’re gonna book Nikki strong, here it is.
A supplemental Worst for Nikki not knowing which end to hold a kendo stick by and hitting Carmella with the handle.
Worst: OH NO, NOT NATALYA
I guess we’re gonna wait until WrestleMania to give Nikki that Smackdown Women’s Championship win, so in the meantime she’s forced to deal with a totally unexpected betrayal from Smackdown’s weirdest and most expected betrayer, Natalya. GASP, WHO KNEW! The best part is the announce team timing their reactions to Carmella’s reveal so it sounded like they were joining in on the “what” chants.
Best: Mizzus Christ Superstar
First of all,
Man, I think it says something for the quality work The Miz is doing right now that even when he’s booked to be the most conniving and despicable heel in the world, locked in a loving marriage with a French-Canadian model, cheating to beat Sami Zayn, feuding with beloved-ass Daniel Bryan, kicking people in the balls to win ladder matches and calling everyone in the crowd LOSER LOSER LOSER LOSER, Miz is still getting loud, constant “MIZ! MIZ! MIZ! MIZ!” chants. Especially from a crowd that couldn’t care less about anything other than Randy Orton’s finisher for the past two hours.
Miz and Ziggler did their best to inject a little psychology into their ladder match, especially given the Russo-ish shenanigans happening in the main event, and I appreciate that. Miz spends a lot of the match trying to fuck up Ziggler’s leg, trying to smash it in the ladder and hooking on a ladder figure-four, only to end up in a ridiculous hanging scenario, falling and blowing out his own knee. So that leaves them on an even playing field, miraculously, with both dudes trying to hop up a ladder on one leg. I also like that when push came to shove, Miz had to go low, throwing out his own observed plan of competition to take a desperate shortcut. I mean, it’s technically legal, and at least Maryse didn’t get in the ring and tip the ladder over.
The best news here is that Miz is still the Intercontinental Champion, which set up the GREAT Miz/Bryan Talking Smack sequel afterward. If they don’t build to Miz vs. Bryan at WrestleMania, I swear. Let’s hope they at least build to a fake-out where Miz challenges Bryan, Bryan can’t get medically cleared and subs in like, Samoa Joe to murk Miz and take the IC title in like five seconds. Nakamura would be great in that spot, too. Who doesn’t want to see Miz as American Okada, honestly? Make Maryse start wearing a bandana over her eyes.
I just wanted to share it again. Can Smackdown and Raw trade “disappointments” so we can get Sami Zayn and Cesaro on Smackdown? Ziggler belongs on the show with the three minute matches with garbage finishes anyway.
Worst: David Otunga Should Shut Up About The Miz Not Being An “Athlete”
Bruh you look like a damn Adonis but couldn’t convincingly clothesline somebody without falling down, that’s why they put you in a sweater and stuck you on commentary. Mauro could probably throw a better dropkick than you and he’s got the athleticism of a Golden Girl at best. Stick to pointing out major keys and stop shading championship ladder match winners for not being able to wrestle.
Worst: Kalisto’s Little Shorts
What happened, did Sin Cara lose Kalisto’s luggage at the airport? Dude looks like Tatanka-cito. He looks like Rellik dropped 22 pounds to be in the Cruiserweight Classic.
Best: The Homie Baron Corbin
It wasn’t necessarily a match of consequence, but I think I enjoyed Corbin vs. Kalisto the most out of anything on this show. That’s not an insult, mind you, I liked pretty much everything in spite of how much better it would’ve been had the crowd been into it, I just liked this most. It had a quick, snappy pace, and the wrestlers actually seemed like they wanted to beat the hell out of each other. Surprisingly, that’s not something I buy a lot on current WWE TV. Even the big feuds end up being built around Roman Reigns smirking through some exposition nobody believes or Dean Ambrose attacking a mannequin with a screwdriver.
But yeah, Corbin and Kalisto kinda sorta secretly tore it up. There was a sense of urgency to what they were doing, and even the convoluted spot set-ups seemed like Corbin trying to figure out the most violent way to end this little guy in real-time. He tries to set up the big indie “bed of chairs” spot and it backfires, so he wins the match by just haphazardly piling up a bunch of chairs in the middle and hitting his finish on them. That’s a fun little moment of character adaptation. I also liked that the convoluted spot setups allowed Kalisto enough time to recover so he could reverse them, which is the only thing that kept him in the match. I dunno, I dug this a lot. It was a good, good lucha thing.
Ziggler and Kalisto for Zayn and Cesaro, yeah? You know you wanna do it.
Best: Alexa Luger
Alexa Bliss still doesn’t have a t-shirt or any merchandise and never even got a big TakeOver match when she was in NXT, but here she is powerbombing Becky Lynch through a table to become Smackdown Women’s Champion. That’s pretty great.
I really enjoyed this match, even if the crowd mostly treated it like pro wrestling wasn’t even happening, and the announce team kept missing their callbacks to Smackdown. I’d ask for the announce team to be fired, but WWE would think I meant I wanted them to lose their jobs, not physically shoot them into the sun.
Anyway, yeah, Bliss and Lynch told another great story in the ring, and I’m hoping Smackdown keeps this up until crowds start learning they’ll enjoy the shows more if they pay attention and actually follow said stories. Gotta get them away from that constant ADD rebooting Raw trained us to expect. Fight the good fight, creatives!
I’m excited to see what a heel women’s champ can do on Smackdown, even if (1) all roads lead to Nikki Bella forearming Bliss to death, and (2) the Smackdown women’s championship is bigger than the woman wearing it. +1 if Bliss decides to go back to the well and bring up Blake and Murphy as her backup. If anybody needs somebody around to carry their belt, it’s Alexa. Bonus points if Smackdown doesn’t get trapped by WWE’s current love affair with rematch clauses and hot potato title switches.
Suggestion for WrestleMania: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks in a tables match to unify the championships, which never actually ends because neither of them weighs enough to break a table. AJ Lee can be the guest referee and not be able to make a sound by hitting the mat with her counts. Just an hour of dead silence and no hit detection.
Best/Worst: Curse Your Chinless But Inevitable Betrayal
Notes on the main event:
– AJ Styles worked his ass off, literally. If you missed it, Ambrose hit EZ Money’s finisher on Styles onto some chairs and tore a hole in the ass of Styles’ tights. So if you’ve been wondering why everyone’s been tweeting about seeing Styles’ b-hole all morning, there you go.
– Styles also figuratively worked his ass off, bumping like a madman, hitting his moonsault DDT to the goddamn floor and doing a springboard 450 from the top rope to the outside through a table. Like, the observation that AJ Styles is the best wrestler in the world is pretty much common knowledge at this point, but I’m not sure anybody else works harder to be better at what they do, and makes it look so natural and effortless.
– The curse of Dean Ambrose gimmick match finishes continues. Remember when he tried to attack Bray Wyatt with a plugged-in TV and it exploded in his face? Remember when he lost to Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell because Bray had a holographic lantern? Ambrose is a great wrestler, but if he gets into one of these marquee gimmick matches, there’s a 100% chance it’s gonna end stupidly, with him on the ass-end of it.
This time out, Ambrose falls victim to the AJ Lee John Cena turn, where a babyface’s little buddy shows up to help them win a TLC match only to (gasp) push the ladder over and reveal they want the OTHER GUY to win. Here it’s James Ellsworth, and Ambrose spends the entire post-match just kinda mindlessly sitting in some garbage while Ellsworth and Styles celebrate independently. It’s the finish you expected if you ever watched wrestling before. Sorry, Dean. One day you’ll get a gimmick match moment that makes you a legend, and not a guy who sucks shit at gimmick matches.
In case you missed it, Ellsworth’s explanation was brilliant in a way, and a little disappointing in another.
For the brilliance, Ellsworth has a guaranteed WWE Championship match coming up and has beaten Styles three times, so he thinks he’s “got AJ Styles’ number.” He’s so caught up in his own hype that he thinks he’s ACTUALLY BEATING THE BEST WRESTLER IN THE WORLD, and not just being used as a goofy tool to embarrass Styles and advance Ambrose’s agenda. He seems to think that Ambrose will just understand, because Ambrose would’ve done the same thing for him, and he promises to give Dean the first shot when he wins the championship on Tuesday.
For the disappointment, and it’s only a little, Ellsworth comes across like an absolute cartoon character. I like that his motivation makes sense, but he’s an absolute two-dimensional buffoon to not acknowledge that Ambrose has been a total dick to him and has used him as a shitty pawn in his selfish game. I think the braver and more compelling choice would’ve been to have Ellsworth be delusional enough to think he can beat Styles because he’s “done it” before, but acknowledge that he sold Ambrose out because he knows Ambrose isn’t really his friend. It would cause Ambrose to have to accept some shit about his own character, instead of being the WWE star who gets to be “face” because he gets cheered for being casually cruel to even his friends.
Anyway, the bold choice now would be to have Ambrose help Ellsworth beat Styles again on Tuesday, and make Ellsworth WWE Champion. I know that sounds like the worst idea ever, but stay with me. Ellsworth helped Styles win this match because he wanted Styles to be WWE Champion, because he “knows” he can beat Styles, right? Wouldn’t it make sense for Ambrose to do what he’s done three times already and help Ellsworth beat Styles again, to guarantee that Ellsworth would be champion? Then you can have Ambrose just beat the ever-loving Christ out of him in a cage or whatever for a few minutes and send him away forever, and Styles and Ambrose will have to finally, officially confront each other one-on-one to see who’s the best.
Keep in mind that I’m super happy Styles is the champ and want him to just keep it until at least WrestleMania. I just think if you’re gonna do this shit with Ellsworth, that might be the most creatively fulfilling angle. You kinda Arquette your title in the process, but it’s not like any of these belts mean anything right now anyway. The guy who trounced John Cena, Randy Orton and WrestleMania Undertaker just lost to a retired 50-year old in 87 seconds. Do whatever you want.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Maybe Talking Smack could take Raw’s spot and a Raw match could be on the Network after Smackdown.
The Real Birdman
Ellsworth’s motivations make so much sense I’m convinced a WWE writer didn’t come up with them
Iron Mike Sharpie
Gotta love Ambrose reaching for the title from the second step of the ladder. I mean, Dean, you almost had it. You were “this” close.
There’s a hole in Styles’ fabric.
A chair to the back, a shield member’s only weakness
Jushin Thunder Bieber
Been trying to come up with something to say about Alexa winning, running through the memorable moments of her career in my head: glitter sneezing, the bloody nose match, double high-fiving Bayley during their standoff after a near fall sequence, her weird MRA lecture to Carmella, going heel with BAMF, 1960s Batman villainesque promos, claw hands, slapping the Vaudevillians, Iron Man gear to Freddie gear to Harley Quinn gear, and I realized…Alexa Bliss is my favorite wrestler. Like, a romantic comedy level epiphany. I feel like I need to rush to an airport to tell someone how I feel after it.
Baron Von Raschke
The underside of the edge is the hardest part of the table!
From the people who brought you “Bad with Jackets” Noam Dar, it’s “Reconsidering This Belt” Alexa Bliss.
Baron Corbin may be a heel, but his bellybutton is clearly a face.
Corbin: Go back to Lucha Underground!
Kalisto: I wish.
That’s it for TLC, folks. Thanks for reading, and be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show. And hey, if you wanna hit those social share buttons, you’d be doing us a favor. Every time you share the column, a man with two hands gets a WWE title shot.