Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE TLC: Daniel Bryan kicked AJ Styles in the balls, Baron Corbin was ousted as Raw’s authority figure, and Ronda Rousey beat the crap out of Nia Jax.
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Here’s the Best And Worst Of WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, originally aired on December 15, 2019.
Best: TLC Is A Land Of Contrast
TLC was … okay, have you even seen a beautiful car confidently speeding down the street only to go straight through the roadside rail and go careening off a cliff to its doom? That’s TLC 2019. I went into it with measured expectations — the show barely even got put together on time, but WWE often does its best work when it forgets to micromanage things to death, so it could’ve gone either way — and I can’t remember a show that started off this strong only to fail so miserably as it went along. This year, at least. Maybe I can, and I’ve just blacked out those memories.
Things start off with Humberto Carrillo and Andrade doing their thing again, with Andrade getting busted open and Carrillo stringing together some desperation offense into a big pretty moonsault for the win. More on that in a sec. They’re still teasing an Andrade and Zelina Vega breakup, which I don’t like even a little bit, but again, maybe it’s just hot-blooded heels getting in each others’ faces and blaming each other for the loss. Crowd are reacting more to Carrillo now that they’ve eased on their attempted presentation of him and have given him a few wins. That “wins and losses matter” thing isn’t just about stats. A general WWE crowd seemingly isn’t going to put in the effort to get invested in somebody these days if they don’t think WWE’s gonna do something with them. It’s a real chicken-or-the-egg scenario. They’ve gotta win sometimes. One competitive loss against a top star, that’s money. Several in a row, and the crowd just thinks you’re kind of a loser. It’s not like they spent the past 15 years getting trained to exclusively love the unbeatable superhero character or anything!
So yeah, about that moonsault. From the Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo section of this week’s Best and Worst of Raw:
Anyway, literally my only complaint is that the Aztec Press is a dumb ass wrestling move. You aren’t gonna beat anybody with a gentle, awkward splash to their shins. It’s like, the opposite of momentum. Jumping straight up and falling straight down increases damage and accuracy by 100%. The Aztec Press makes Starship Pain look like a Burning Hammer. It makes Dean Ambrose’s suicide dive look like King Cuerno’s. Just give Berto a big pretty moonsault or something and call it a day.
(note: I’m not actually claiming I had anything to do with it as the Aztec Press being convoluted was a pretty obvious observation, but it’s fun to pretend. I wonder how many times I could type “give The Miz the Orange Crush as his finisher” before there was enough energy in the world for it to happen?)
Best: The Best Plunder And Props Match Of The Night, Not Counting That One Suplex
Brother, look at this suplex:
That might be the most accidentally dangerous suplex I’ve ever seen. Obviously E was supposed to land on the ladder as they put him back up there and have Dash Wilder follow up with a splash to put him through it, but that whole setup was bad. If E and Dawson both managed to land on the ladder and break it, where do you think their bodies are going? It’d be like getting stuck in one of those old automatic beds in movies and cartoons that fold you in half against your will.
Revival vs. New Day opened TLC with another hot match, following up Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo by doing something completely different. Variety! I came away from this like I’ve come away from most New Day matches since Smackdown went to Fox and shit happened: deeply impressed by Kofi Kingston, and wondering why they lucked into turning him into a legit main-eventer only to shuffle him back into his previous role as “beloved team member.” That B+ Player shit was real, apparently. The good news is that Smackdown finally kinda seemed to remember that he’s a big deal and his big highlight here was one for the reel, but I’m worried that they’re just gonna kinda stay here and keep doing this until Xavier Woods gets back. It’s an awkward place to be in, I guess. I don’t want Kingston distancing himself from his buddies, but Woods being on the shelf should’ve been an opportunity for Big E to get a secondary singles run while Kofi stayed at the top. It shouldn’t have kept E in stasis and just substituted Kofi for Woods.
Regardless, these teams know what they’re doing (aside from the occasional horrifying ladder suplex, which could’ve happened to anyone after 10 minutes of falling onto/into ladders), and while I wish there was something more for Dawson and Wilder, there are worse spots to be in than, “guys we rely on to make sure part of our pay-per-view is good.” I still hope they get their underwear pulled over their head or whatever on Smackdown this week and then mysterious vanish into another promotion’s tag team division.
Best: You Knew This Was Gonna Be Match Of The Night, Right?
Our predictions for this match seemed to revolve around whether or not WWE realized how good this could be, and whether or not they’d get time to shine. I was briefly worried that Erick Rowan was gonna show up and Iron Claw slam them for some reason. Measured expectations, like I said. But hey, guess what? Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy got to beat the shit out of each other for almost 14 minutes and work a slow, deliberate match with bursts of intense KARATE VIOLENCE that told the simple story of two extremely fringe and weird alpha males going horns to horns.
Also, Black’s trunks made it look like he got the literal shit beaten out of him:
Spooky Al needs to “pick a fight” with whoever designed those.
I think my favorite thing about the match is that they battled it out, but still left something on the table for a rematch. I read some reviews that said the match “never got out of second gear,” but I don’t think that’s accurate. I think it was strong because they didn’t jump from one gear to the other. They had a fight that went up and down in gear as it went on. And, like Andrade and Carrillo, it got dangerous and bloody enough for the natural sense of urgency to crank up. I don’t like seeing anybody get their nose broken, but Black looking like he was getting taken to Hell by this extremely fit-ass Australian dude in Xena pants was dramatic.
Then, of course, there was this finishing flourish:
So. Good. Strap rockets to these dudes, and consider making matches like this the “WWE style” for a while. Those big corny “OMG moment” main events WWE’s been doing on loop for 20 years have really worn themselves out, and I’d at least like an ongoing division of people who find the middle ground between a NEVER Openweight Championship match and whatever Kurt Angle was doing so well in 2003 it became the company default. Don’t intentionally hurt each other for real, but make that shit at least look like it hurts.
Worst: Chicken Run
Before the Viking Raiders open challenge for the Raw Tag Team Championship, WWE announces that a group of “lucky fans” who look suspiciously like local wrestlers won the chance to sit at a KFC-branded table that’s actually between the security railing and ringside. First of all, LOL at the logistics of this. Can you imagine four actual fans winning the chance to sit in harms way eating chicken while a pay-per-view match happened? Second of all, between this and that time Dolph Ziggler dressed as Colonel Sanders to face The Miz dressed as a chicken, Yum! Brands must be dropping Saudi money. “We want people to buy our chicken, but we also want you to feel embarrassed about what you do.” Third of all, I can’t wait to hear how tough Jim Cornette thinks these fans are.
I don’t want to spoil things too much, but it turns out the table is part of the match. I really thought they were just gonna eat biscuits and low-quality coleslaw like a foot from Karl Anderson’s ass while the teams wrestled. And if “match revolves around a KFC tie-in” wasn’t enough, it ends in a double count-out. I think Anderson and Gallows might be physically incapable of being on TV without drowning everyone in second-hand embarrassment. I’m glad they make enough money to tweet about how nice their houses are while artistic fulfillment disappears over the horizon of their lives.
I can’t wait for the Royal Rumble, when four fans get to sit at ringside for The Burgerking Experience.
Worst: Rusev Vs. Lashley Must Continue
This felt like it went on for infinity and was as tepid as possible. But at least Rusev lost, guaranteeing us six more weeks of creative winter!
Not phallic at all, guys. You’re doing great.
Worst: Welcome To The 1994 Royal Rumble
Now we enter the children’s superhero portion of the program, which I think counts as variety.
- fast-paced, bloody lucha libre
- WWE-style tag team ladder match
- 15 minutes of EVOLVE-style striking
- a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial
- magical man overcomes the odds while Vince McMahon masturbates into a copy of The Fountainhead
These are all valid styles! Wrestling is for everyone!
Okay, so did anybody else feel like they were watching the casket match from the ’94 Rumble while this was going on? In case you’ve never seen it, The Undertaker and Yokozuna had a Grave Consequences match in which one had to place the other inside a Funerary Box and slam the lid shut. Undertaker was comically overpowered at this point, though, so you couldn’t buy a 600-pound man being able to hurt him. Instead, Yokozuna enlists help from Bam Bam Bigelow and the Samoans and Jeff Jarrett and Crush and Adam Bomb and The Great Kabuki (seriously) and Genichiro Tenryu and Diesel to win. It’s Undertaker by himself overcoming the odds against 10 guys, and even then Mr. Fuji has to steal the urn before it even matters. And even when Undertaker ultimately loses, he gets his heat back before the heels are even up the aisle with a message from inside the coffin and a literal ascension to Heaven.
Here, Roman Reigns is up against King Corbin in a match where Corbin could conceivably win “without really winning” by using weapons. But in addition to this, he gets his personal security team slash throne-haulers involved. This is like, half a dozen dudes. So it’s already 7-on-1, but you also have to get Dolph Ziggler out there. And you have to get the Revival out there. So it’s 10-on-1, just like Undertaker/Yokozuna, and eventually it’s just too much and Roman loses. It kinda hurts the “beloved locker room leader” thing when a guy’s getting beaten up by 10 people and nobody’s showing up to help him. What, is Shorty G too busy at catering to help a brother out? But yeah, the Undertaker/Yoko comparison doesn’t end there. Before we can even end the show and let the situation breathe, they show back up after the main event so Roman can hit a big spear on Corbin and get his heat back.
I’m honestly surprised they didn’t have Marty Jannetty put on a Roman Reigns vest and get raised up to the ceiling.
All in all, it was perfectly acceptable if you like this kind of logic-free “everybody into the pool” style of “chaotic” WWE match. It kinda felt like watching an episode of Teletubbies and complaining about how a baby got into the sun. It’s for babies and stupid people, it’s fine.
Worst, Then Best Best Best: Here Be Dragon
Bray Wyatt vs. The Miz was a horrible, horrible wrestling match, but I generally liked what they were going for. Miz prepped to fight the dreaded Shadow Clown and instead got this weird pacifist in a sweater who just wants to be pals and play with puppets. Innocent Funhouse Bray who doesn’t like violence would’ve worked a lot better if they hadn’t had him sneak attack Miz in this persona on Smackdown a couple of weeks ago, but whatever. His TitanTron was funny, and it popped the crowd.
The actual wrestling was an ice cold asshole, though. The only high point was Miz randomly doing the Pentagon Jr. arm-breaker, which is so funny a concept WWE’s YouTube channel gave it its own video. Re-do Pentagon’s entire Lucha Underground arc with Mike from The Real World, whether it makes sense or not. John Morrison can be the connecting point between the two.
As most of us guessed going in, the match wasn’t the point. THIS was.
In last year’s column I wrote about how happy I was that post-injury, hippied-out, Total Divas Daniel Bryan had decided to get his edge back. I compared it to the ROH Championship that kept me interested in wrestling during some dark times and made Bryan my undisputed favorite performer in the world. It didn’t really end up going in that direction, but we got “The New Daniel Bryan” out of it, and some brilliant and … well, new heel work.
In retrospect, I love that last year’s TLC saw Bryan go to the dark side and abandon the Yes Movement, and this year’s saw him come back to it in the way that it really started: with short hair, and a short beard. He now looks like that champion I love so much again, and like the guy who wandered into WWE under insane circumstances back in 2010. Not only is it a complete refresher for the character that allows him to look like a human being again, but how cool is it that the decade’s gonna end with The Miz being saved from a beatdown by what’s ostensibly his NXT Rookie? There’s so much symmetry here I can barely process it. I can’t wait to see where 2010 Daniel Bryan goes with a decade of WWE experience under his cloak.
to Michael Cole, though. “When we last saw him, he was dragged under the ring and had his entire hair ripped out!” His ENTIRE HAIR! This was said by a 51-year old man who gets paid to talk for a living.
Worst: Please Be Nice To Kairi Sane
On paper, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair main-eventing a pay-per-view against Asuka and Kairi Sane in a TLC match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship sounds like the best idea you could have for this show. In practice … man.
You can’t talk about this match without talking about what happened to Kairi Sane. It’s unclear exactly when she got concussed, but she got it, and she got it bad. There’s a lot of talk and slow-motion video claiming she got hit in the back of the head by an errant monitor throw, but I don’t think that was it. My best guess would be the T-bone into the barricade. If you watch it closely, it looks like she lands awkwardly — half on the mat, half on the floor — and the way her body bends causes her to knee herself directly in the face.
Here it is in slow motion:
So if you read opinions on the Internet today that say Charlotte injured Kairi Sane because she was being unprofessional, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. My read is that the circumstance injured Sane, because sometimes wrestlers get injured, and then Charlotte was a total asshole about it. There were some deeply uncomfortable moments for the remainder of the match where Kairi was visibly struggling — SOMETHING was wrong with her, whether you knew she was concussed or not — and Charlotte’s super pissed about it. The worst is when Kairi doesn’t take a spear like she’s supposed to and Charlotte angrily slaps her in the face, right at eye level. That’s not a worked slap, that’s a “get your shit together” slap, at a pretty terrible time. No blanket statements on Charlotte as a performer or person, but in the heat of the moment, that looks bad. It’s not like Kairi was some untrained jobber who showed up to the studio taping with a chip on her shoulder in 1985. If Kairi Sane is out there messing up spots, it doesn’t take a 30-year veteran to know something’s wrong.
Unfortunately, that’s the story of the main event. It spends most of its run-time meandering on the floor for one reason or another, usually because of convoluted spot set-ups, and the injury takes out one of the performers to make everything slower, more awkward, and WAY more concerning. Big disappointment, for (mostly) understandable reasons.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Real Birdman
A Buddy & Black Chairs Match
Buddy wins after sticking a chair under Black’s door knob, locking him in & winning by count out
Two white chicks not selling? What is this, a Shawn and Marlon Wayans film?
“and the odds were too much for Reigns to overcome”
This is my regular reminder that Big E should be an absolutely monster star.
NXT’s Kairi Sane would’ve tied Becky to a mast. Main Roster is dumb!
I see WWE is long form booking KFC vs. Popeye’s at Mania.
Randy Orton: “The crowd’s dead. Let me run out there and help Charlotte and Becky!”
HHH: “That wouldn’t make any sense”
Orton: “Look, Hunter, I just haven’t tossed a tiny person through a table in months. I need this.”
Crowd: “We want tables!”
Cole: “The crowd wants Roman to get out the hardware!”
Crowd: “CM Punk!”
Cole: “Now they’re chanting the names of wrestlers they don’t think are as good as Reigns.”
Cole: “Oh no, the audience is mad that Roman’s match is almost over, they want more.”
Trauma Lacerations Concussions
Gallagher: “That, right there, is gimmick infringement.”
Why does Bray Wyatt’s head look like Spongebob’s house?
Anyway, thanks for reading this year’s Best and Worst of Tables, Ladders, Chairs, and Snidley Whiplash Train Traps. Drop down into our comments section below to let us know what you thought of the show, give us a share on social media to help keep us in business, and make sure you’re here on Monday night (and Tuesday afternoon, I guess) for the post-show followup. See you next year, when the main event is [holds envelope to forehead] Braun Strowman vs. King Corbin, who is a fire fighter now because it’ll make people “hate him,” i.e. “say it’s lame on Twitter.” See you then!