Previously on the Best and Worst of TLC: James Ellsworth helped AJ Styles defeat Dean Ambrose in a tables, ladders and chairs match for the WWE Championship. Yes, that happened less than a year ago. If you can remember that at all, it feels like it happened in like, 1983.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs for October 22, 2017.
Best/Worst: Nobody Is Ready For Emma
This one’s going to be divisive, so I’ll break it down from both points of view.
From a fan perspective, particularly one that can pretend this shit’s happening in a vacuum, I thought Emma vs. Asuka was great. I’ve always liked Emma a lot, believe she’s without a doubt the most underrated and underappreciated woman on the WWE roster, and like seeing her get to be a real wrestler again instead of just being the women’s division’s easily-bagged-on Byron Saxton Type. And as a person who’d prefer to see a good wrestling match to a purely purposeful one most days, I was entertained and thought they did good work.
From a more critical perspective, this was another of those weird main roster debut matches where they take someone who’s supposed to be charismatically dominant — see also Nakamura, Shinsuke — and have them get dominated for most of their debut. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t have Asuka out here against Ziggler. Emma controlled most of the match, forcing Asuka to fight from underneath, and the announce team couldn’t seem to figure out if Asuka is supposed to be deadly or if she “loves to entertain.” They didn’t seem like they were on the same page.
I guess it comes down to thinking constructively about what you want Asuka to be on the main roster. If Emma hadn’t spent the last her entire main roster career being more or less a total jobber, the match would’ve made more sense, I think. You could’ve bought her going toe-to-toe with even the best female wrestler in the history of the company because she’s a top level talent. It’s what made the NXT version of this a little better. There you had Dana Brooke creeping around, too, to give Emma an advantage. Going straight from “lose to everyone in seconds” Emma to “dragging Asuka around by the hair” Emma made it feel less like Emma stepping up her game to prove a point and more like a reboot. Or like an obstacle for Asuka that doesn’t really exist. And I’m fine with that, because Emma, but I can see why it wouldn’t do it for everybody.
All things considered, I still consider the match a Best. I feel like the difference between this and matches like Nakamura, Corbin or Roode’s debuts is that Emma did step it up, and carried her side of the match enough to make Asuka’s offense and comebacks pop. Besides, it’s not like every Asuka match is a 30 second squash. She’s not Braun Strowman or pre-Crisis Nia Jax. She’s not dominant because she’s Goldbergian, she’s dominant because she doesn’t lose.
Until the distraction roll-up on Monday. Kidding, kidding.
Best Enough: The Cruiserweight Tag
There wasn’t a lot to the cruiserweight tag team match, but hey, they got about 8 minutes and had a fun little back-and-forth match. Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann should be pulling double duty as an actual tag team in somebody’s tag division. And lord knows what they did here was better than the chinlocks and thumbs-to-the-eye of the Cruiserweight Championship match.
Worst: Why Does Charly Caruso Not Make Eye Contact When She’s Interviewing People
Is she blind? Does she have bad self confidence? Is she a vampire? Is she eight feet tall and they’ve got her standing in forced perspective to make Alexa seem taller?
I wish they’d watch more of the pre-show interviews with the interviewers and wrestlers just talking to each other about what’s happening like human beings and stop doing these weirdly produced things with a bunch of rules about eyelines and where you can and can’t look.
Also, Kayla > Charly.
Best: If Bray Wyatt Was Still On The Card, This Would’ve Been Match Of The Night
I had lowered my expectations for this one, and it ended up exceeding any I could’ve had.
I really loved this match. I think the thing I loved about it the most is that it not only included arm work, they made sure that the work they did earlier in the match came back around and paid off for the finish. After working the right arm the entire match, Bliss takes advantage of a distraction late in the game, yanks Mickie into the buckles WITH the arm, then hits a DDT to finish her off. There’s even a great nearfall before that that plays on the limb work. Bringing the psychology of the first half of a match into play in the second is such a logistical lay-up that so, so, so many wrestlers willfully ignore. What you choose to do early should have some bearing on what you do later, you know? It doesn’t have to be “worked the arm, won with an arm bar,” but you can at least acknowledge it and give it purpose.
I also really appreciated that Bliss won the match by being a manipulator and an opportunist, but not by “cheating.” She fought hard and won the match straight up. That matters, especially when you’ve got an Asuka in the division who had a competitive match with your Emma and everyone needs to rise to that level of competition to validate it. And how could you not like Mickie’s post-match speech? I’d like to think she had those tears in her eyes partially because she knew how good that match was, and was happy to have had it.
Great stuff. Between that, Emma/Asuka’s work and the best of the Sasha Banks/Alicia Fox matches on the kickoff show, it was a great night for the Raw women’s division.
Best: The Camera Work
Not sure the match needed a Biscuit Butt callback — or Alexa’s Internet-breaking “I like my butt, it’s cute” — but that’s some exceptional camera work. The kung-fu zooms on Alexa’s face are great, especially since there are TWO of them for one moment. Helps make up for the production crew completely missing Miz’s great Vince McMahon Memorial Apron Creeping in the main.
From our outdated-before-anybody-read-them predictions:
I think Enzo takes it back here. Especially if you believe those reports that Kalisto winning the title on Raw was in response to Neville, and how the original plan was for Neville to lose that to set up Kalisto/Enzo here. WWE hates an audible and loves a reset button, almost as much as they love doing the opposite of the right result when plans suddenly change. Enzo wins and we start over.
Sure enough, that’s what happened. Enzo wins a high-flying, breathtaking Cruiserweight Division match with a thumb to the eye. Enzo’s now won the title twice, once with a low blow and once with a thumb to the eye. He should win his third title with the Jushin Liger Bum Thumb.
Kalisto is just so, so lame right now. I don’t think he ever recovered from Good Lucha Thing. His gear looks like his mom made him a Dragon Ball Halloween costume and a Drago costume the next year and he put them together, his promos (including his post-match bit) make him sound like a confused little kid, and he once again wins a title on a whim just to lose it again right away. Dude’s so uncool he’s making Apollo Crews look like Pentagon Dark.
Ah well. Now we start over.
Best: This Match Might’ve Been Three Sweet
Here’s a quick breakdown of reasons this match — which had zero build, no point, was booked on the fly and featured no animosity whatsoever between opponents — was not only the best match of the night, but one of the best main roster WWE matches of the year.
- It was Finn Bálor vs. AJ Styles, holy shit
- It meant Bray Wyatt wasn’t going to wrestle
- It meant Bray Wyatt wasn’t going to have his fourth match with Finn Bálor in like two months
- we could forget all that embarrassing shit with Sister Abigail and Halloweenie Demon Finn Bálor
- Styles was in South America before this match, had to fly all the way here with like zero rest and put together a great match with a guy he hasn’t wrestled, and did so with zero visible lethargy, awkwardness or rust
- The crowd was losing their minds for it before it even started, which can sometimes make even a bad match legendary
- It allowed Finn to open up his offense for the first time in ages, and do something besides dropkicks and Slingblades. Finn should buy AJ Styles a car for wrestling this match with him
- It gave Finn an incredibly strong, clean win over a major Superstar he wouldn’t have gotten if he’d been spooky wrestling shit-ass Bray Wyatt with a shit-ass sheet over his head
- It gave us enough without giving us EVERYTHING, meaning that when they get around to having a formal match with a build and a story to build it up it’s going to fucking rule
- This moment:
Not five stars or six and a quarter or anything hyperbolic like that, but man, it was good. I’m telling you, WWE is never better than when they have to call an audible and book a crowd pleasing wrestling show on the fly. I’m not wishing illness on anybody, but I wish they had a Community Chance situation where every quarter they had to pull a “whoops, your show is fucked” modifier and work with it.
Jason Jordan Is A Dick
Not sure if I should give this a Best or a Worst, so I’ll just type “Jason Jordan is a dick.” How you gonna wheel out a fruit trolley (™ Peyton Royce) and throw produce at a dude while he’s trying to sing? Also, is Elias afraid of vegetables? Why did he run away multiple times instead of kicking Jordan’s ass? Does he have scurvy because he’s a drifter? I have so many questions.
The match they end up having is fine filler, but man, can somebody PLEASE give the announce team a talking point for Jason Jordan matches other than “HEH, ISN’T IT FUNNY THAT BOOKER T SOMETIMES DOESN’T LIKE JASON JORDAN AND SOMETIMES HE DOES, HEH, WHAT A HYPOCRITE, HEH HEH.” We get it. Move on. Talk about literally anything else. Five minutes of Cole going “HEY WAIT A MINUTE BOOK, CHUCKLE CHUCKLE” is the new “some say Paige started the Divas Revolution.”
Best: How Do You Do, Fellow Shield Members
oh my god, what’s wrong with Roman Reigns
On Twitter I descried the main event as an improv scene that started out great but then went off the rails and got weird and boring, and nobody would edit. This is one of those matches were if you don’t share the consensus opinion people get very mad at you on the Internet, but it is what it is.
It felt like three (or possibly four) different matches just kinda sewn together, and how could you even blame them? What else could they do? Two weeks ago this match was The Shield vs. The Miz, Sheamus and Cesaro. Then it was The Shield vs. Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro and Braun Strowman. Then they added Kane. Then Roman got sick, The Shield reunion they’d spent a month building up to and made the entire selling point of the pay-per-view was off, and they had to sub in Kurt Angle. So the match we should’ve had and the match we did are so dramatically different that the fact they did a match this good at all is a miracle.
It’s fascinating. It starts off pretty fun, with Kurt Angle’s weird looking head replacing Roman’s like somebody put Angle in the Shield in the video games. They do the “Shield can beat up anybody” 3-on-5 act with Angle subbed in, which is weird, and they have them attacking everyone with chairs like the heels can’t figure out how to pick up shit and attack people with it themselves. But it works, because it’s what would’ve worked with Roman, because of several years of The Shield being the three specifically matched guys who can do that. But sure, it’s fine. It’s fun. That’s what matters.
The match goes on for a bit and it looks like the faces are gonna win big, but Braun puts Kurt through a table with a poweslam and takes him out of the match. Kurt is really getting into the Roman Reigns role by getting “hurt” in the middle of a match, going to the back to chill for 15 minutes and then walking back out at the end. This part of the match is where it starts to get kinda weirdly boring, as it’s an extended beatdown involving the set, a garbage truck, and as most people predicted, Kane and Braun Strowman randomly turning on each other.
From our predictions:
The logical thing here, I guess, is that somebody’s turning on somebody on the heel team. Seems like it’ll be Kane and Strowman suddenly having a problem and choking each other, or like, Kane taking a pinfall and Braun beating him up for it to set up another Hosspocalypse-esque thing for Survivor Series.
Kane accidentally hits Strowman with a chair. Strowman pushes him down, and it looks like they’re gonna fight until the heels try to smooth things over and Ambrose and Rollins attack. Then later when Kane just attacks Strowman, the announce team is like, WHY IS HE DOING THIS, THIS DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. Except if you watch the match! Between this and Raw, they could show Kane pouring milk onto dry cereal and Michael Cole would get dizzy from confusion. Kane chokeslams Braun through the stage, hits him with the Wade Barrett “all the chairs fall on you” display shot, and lowers his own team’s handicap to 4-on-2.
Braun lives, of course, and ends up fighting his entire team until they murder him by throwing him in a garbage compactor. Remember when Casey Jones sarcastically kills Shredder in the first Ninja Turtles movie? It’s that. If you think I’m being a smark about it or whatever, listen for the crowd chanting “THAT WAS MURDER.” Maybe James Storm watched that Mickie James match and called in with an idea.
With Braun dead, Angle’s able to make a dramatic return. He takes out The Bar by himself, Ambrose and Rollins slam Kane through the barricade, and everyone teams up to hit finishers and an “Olympic Shield Bomb” on Miz to win the match.
As you might’ve gathered from the write-up, my official review of this match is one parts “that was fun” and two parts “why is any of this happening?” Like Finn vs. AJ it ended up happening just to happen, and that was fine, but unlike Finn and AJ it was 40 minutes long and featured a dude dying in a garbage truck. So it was a mixed bag. But again, what else could they do?
And that was TLC. Probably the most bizarre pay-per-view of the year, non-TripleMania division.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
And thus ends TLC 2017, the first non-canon PPV in WWE history.
As an aside, I’m pretty sure Braun getting put in a trash compactor is a super villain origin story like Swamp Thing or Cat Woman.
Kane For Mayor: Some candidates just want to watch the world burn.
Team Miz legitimately looks like they’re dressed for a Halloween party
So, Brock has Jimmy Johns on his trunks and Bálor has Bacardi on his back.
Right now Bray Wyatt is in a hospital somewhere, cutting a spooky promo on the nurse changing his I.V. bag.
As hyped as I am for this match, DAMMIT, NO DEMON S. PUMPKINS?
Jushin Thunder Bieber
AJ: So the demon is…
Finn: His OWN thing.
AJ: And Bray and Sister Abigail are?
Bray: *under sheet* PART of it!
Enzo sounds a little under the weather. Guess the viral issue isn’t just in the locker room.
The real offspring of Kurt Angle would have brought out the dairy aisle
Join us next month for Survivor Series, where the announced main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal ends up being an Elimination Chamber match pitting WWE Champion Sunil Singh against AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sycho Sid and the New Age Outlaws.
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