Previously on the Best and Worst of TLC: At SummerSlam 2000, long before these columns existed and I was still a lowly anonymous wrestling fan writing on op boards, the World Wrestling Federation had its first (branded) “TLC: tables, ladders, and chairs” match. Edge and Christian defeated the Dudley and Hardy Boyz, still clinging to that cool Z from the ’90s. Nine years later, they’d run the first TLC pay-per-view with only one of those people, and it’s probably the last one you’d think.
If you haven’t seen the original TLC, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Remember that With Spandex is on Twitter, so follow it. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter. BUY THE SHIRT.
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. TLC 2018 is this weekend, so … you know.
Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2009, originally aired on December 13, 2009.
Best/Worst: Christian And Shelton Benjamin ‘Steal The Show’
Up first is the only man from the original TLC match on the pay-per-view, ECW Champion Christian — how many of you forgot that was a thing — against “the best pure athlete in WWE,” Shelton Benjamin. As a reminder, “best pure athlete” is what they say about you when you’re in really good shape and can move around well but really aren’t that good at wrestling. See also: Billy Gunn.
This match is happening for one of my personal least favorite reasons any WWE match happens, Dolph Ziggler Division: they want to “steal the show.” It’s not an argument I’m ever going to win with wrestling fans (because most people don’t care), but there’s really no in-universe reason to want to have the “best match” on the show. I get having pride in plying your craft and believing you’re the best wrestler, but shouldn’t any wrestler want to have an easy win instead of a back-and-forth half-an-hour thing they barely won? Like, you never hear a professional sports team say it doesn’t matter if they win or lose, because the fans know they’re gonna go out and have the most exciting game every week. And yeah, pro wrestling’s not a sport, but “wrestling is a sport” is the foundational fact you build everything else on top of on a fictional pro wrestling TV show. If the skeleton of a sports organization with championships isn’t there, the show doesn’t exist.
Anyway, Benjamin and Christian have three things working against them, here:
- the fact that in 2009 ladder matches were already starting to get a little played out
- the fact that one-on-one ladder matches in the modern era are never as good as the multi-man versions because there’s way too much time spent watching guys set up spots, and
- everything goes wrong right at the beginning of the match
Christian gets busted open when a ladder falls on his face in the very first ladder spot on the match, and because this pay-per-view is happening in a post-Mattel-Deal world, they send out Dr. Z-Pak to stop the match in its tracks and patch him up. The first match on your first “dangerous matches” pay-per-view stops for like two minutes after its first spot because nobody’s allowed to see blood. The crowd goes from red hot to angry booing almost immediately.
To compensate for this, the next spot is Benjamin going to the top of a ladder on the floor and flipping onto Christian … only, I guess he got too in his own head or the referee didn’t secure the ladder in the right place, because Shelton almost accidentally kicks the ladder out from under his own feet and nearly dives head-first into the floor.
The match comes together after that, and they do an admirable job of getting the crowd back into things and trying to ignore Christian’s not-very-severe bloody eye. Your enjoyment depends on how into WWE-style ladder matches you still are, and how forgiving you are of wrestlers standing around staggered like they’re about to receive Mortal Kombat fatalities while their opponent tries to set up a spot. The most memorable is probably Shelton Benjamin’s ladder-gravity clothesline, which is either super cool or the dumbest thing ever done in a ladder match, I haven’t decided.
Christian wins, and would hold onto the title until February of 2010, when he’d lose it to the final ECW Champion ever, Ezekiel Jackson. Jackson would presumably hold onto the championship until he was murdered by a reanimated Mexican zombie and had his skull used as part of a decorative throne until it was removed and put in a locker to scare his cousin.
Worst: Look At This Giant Baby
Up next is an Intercontinental Championship match between two guys who wouldn’t actually get good until a few years later, after they’d left WWE: Intercontinental Champion John Morrison, aka the future Johnny Mundo, and Drew McIntyre, the future Drew McIntyre.
It’s pretty fun to go back and see McIntyre pre-“Drew Galloway,” when he was thirty pounds of muscle smaller and clean shaven. This is the beginning of his run as Vince McMahon’s “chosen one,” during which Vince declared McIntyre destined for greatness as a future WWE Champion. This is so early in his run that he’s still using a deeply generic rock entrance theme, which he’d dump pretty soon in exchange for one of the lamest and best entrance themes in WWE history, BROKEN DREAMS. By the way, this match is happening because Morrison dressed up like Braveheart to make fun of the Scottish guy.
The problem with the “chosen one” run is that WWE had forgotten how to book heels when Triple H commandeered and Pedigreed the mold so nobody else could use it, so even though Drew Mac is a tall, violent bad-ass, he’s got to worm his way to every victory. Here, he only beats John Morrison after thumbing him in the eye. And while that’s par for the course for heels of any era, you aren’t going to get anyone interested in a guy as the “next big thing” if he can’t DO anything. When Paul Heyman showed up and declared Brock Lesnar the next big star of the company, it worked, because Brock was 2-5 times stronger than everyone, looked like a freak of nature, and kicked everybody’s asses. He didn’t need to hold Jeff Hardy’s cargo pants to pin him, you know? Drew McIntyre, a natural Brock Lesnar, was more Jeff Jarrett than Brock.
McIntyre’s career after this is its own column, from his reputation getting tarnished because of a domestic dispute where he got attacked by his then-wife (ECW General Manager “Tiffany”) leading to a MASSIVE de-push, to him joining an imaginary boy-band with Jinder Mahal and Heath Slater before being released in 2014. He’d spend the next few years turning into a goddamn human monster, get an underwhelming run as NXT Champion, and return to WWE TV in 2018 as an actual future WWE Champion. Crazy how that all came back around.
Interesting note: Here’s ECW Tiffany being the first person to ever say “NXT” on television. ECW sure was a hot mess.
Worst: Matt Striker, And The Saga Of ‘Piggie James’
Oh God, this. Mickie James was once murdered by a cowboy when he pushed her in front of the Hogwarts Express, and it’s nowhere near the worst thing she’s had to go through on a wrestling show.
In 2009, someone in WWE decided that Mickie James had gotten “fat,” and decided to make an entire year of shows about it. If you’ve ever seen Mickie James anywhere ever you know she’s never been fat by any conceivable definition of the word, but we’d just entered the Bella Twins era of women’s wrestling programming, so anyone who wasn’t a super thin and toned Hawaiian Tropic model was obese. That led to the otherwise wonderful LayCool deciding Mickie’s name was actually “Piggie James.” Here’s Michelle McCool singing ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’ alongside a photoshopped image of Mickie as a pig, which Matt Striker (at his very worst) called a catchy and clever parody.
The only way this angle would’ve worked is if LayCool had called Mickie fat a bunch, the announce team had clarified that they were being hateful weirdos, and Mickie had immediately kicked their asses and won the Women’s Championship. Instead of doing … any of that, they had Mickie openly cry on camera every time she was called fat, had Layla dress up in a pig costume to make fun of her, dumped food on her, and here at TLC 2009, had Michelle McCool kick her in the face and pin her. To add insult to insult, Matt Striker is at his all-time worst here, being a heel announcer for only one match — this one — so he can call her “plump, or zaftig,” and breathlessly wonder how McCool can “support all that weight” when she picks Mickie up. Even Jerry Lawler is like, “wait, what?” when Striker’s doing his thing, and then Striker just looks at the camera and makes a Jim Halpert face and oh my God, all of it.
The good news is that they’d have another match the next month at the Royal Rumble, which Mickie would win in a squash and become the new Women’s Champion in the match they should’ve done in the first place. The bad news is that a few weeks later, they put McCool over her again and switched the title back. Mickie took a few weeks off to deal with an injury, but came back in March to … lose to LayCool again. Then she’d lost to them at WrestleMania in a 10-Diva tag, get released, then lose to LayCool in a tag match on Smackdown again on tape the next day. Oink oink, am I right, fellas?
Worst: Sheamus Wins His First WWE Championship Via Bullshit Technicality
Believe it or not, there was a time when Sheamus was a “young newcomer” to Raw. He’d beaten up everyone on ECW, so he showed up to Raw looking for an opportunity. After just a couple of months he’d been given a WWE Championship Tables match on the first-ever TLC pay-per-view via:
- “retiring” Jamie Noble by beating him up on Raw
- Brogue Kicking Jerry Lawler, which John Cena refers to as “crippling” him
- winning a battle royal when the final three are him, Kofi Kingston, and Randy Orton, and Kingston and Orton eliminate each other
So the hot new star they want to build lucked into a championship match. Does he beat Cena’s ass and cement himself as the new face of Monday Night Raw? Of course not! This is the same company that just booked “The Chosen One” to win via a thumb to the eye when the referee’s busy removing a discarded men’s belt from the ring. Sheamus wins when he and Cena fight their way to the top rope, and Cena … uh, jumps backwards through a table without even being pushed, taking the most baby bump you’ve ever seen, crashing through about 1/8 of a table:
The worst part is that Sheamus seriously doesn’t even touch him. You can see it in the GIF. He hover-hands him. The second worst part is that when Cena jumps backwards like the Ghostbusters dog he is, Sheamus accidentally falls off the turnbuckle himself and onto another table on the outside. When the match is over, Lawler makes a point to furrow his brow and point out that Cena lost the match due to his own incompetence, and that Super Tough And Cool Newcomer Sheamus only won by accident, and that it’s all bullshit. Michael Cole: “Nevertheless!”
It’s honestly borderline insane how WWE thought they were building any new stars during this era. They’re like, going out of their way to make sure you know nobody new is worth a shit. This is all building to the debut of NXT, of course, and the rise of the Nexus, a bunch of tough newcomers who make an impact on one (1) Raw and get their asses kicked by John Cena for the remainder of the year. Basically everything from Guerrero and Benoit’s deaths in 2005 and 2007 until Daniel Bryan’s “yes” chants catch on is an embarrassing character graveyard.
Speaking Of Not Being Able To Make Any New Stars
If there was ever a person you needed to put over on this pay-per-view right the hell now, it was Kofi Kingston. Kofi was coming off a hot angle with Randy Orton that saw him steal the show with a magnificent spot at Madison Square Garden, and a much dumber bit where he ruined a cherished Randy Orton-themed NASCAR that Randy had owned for like an hour and a half. Kofi was hot, though, and even his pre-match confrontation with Legacy — hi, Cody — and manning up to Orton backstage made him feel like WWE’s next top babyface.
So what happens? Orton punts him in the arm, ducks a Trouble in Paradise, and pins him clean with an RKO.
In early 2010 they moved him over to Smackdown, where he’d get shuffled back down the card to the very bottom: facing Dolph Ziggler over and over (and over and over) (and over and over) for the Intercontinental Championship. Eventually he’d find his way into a concerning “smiling black guy” gospel faction, help turn it into something special by visibly not giving a fuck and just entertaining himself, and get rebranded as a cereal-loving unicorn. He’s still never been WWE Champion, or anything close to it. Hopefully that changes one day.
It’s 2009 And The Undertaker Should Probably Consider Retiring
It’s gotta be coming soon, right? Right, future me?
The Undertaker and Batista have had some really good-to-great matches together, particularly the one at WrestleMania, but the first-ever “chairs match” at TLC isn’t one of them. The hook is that chairs are legal, which suggests that it’s just a no disqualification match with a chairs theme, right? Batista worms out of a Tombstone, hits a low blow on Taker, then bashes him in the face with the match’s one chairshot to the head to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Teddy Long wanders out and says “UH UH PLAYER,” and decrees that he won’t let the title change hands on a “blatant foul” in the chairs match. Undertaker immediately recovers, immediately wins, and debuts (?) his now signature “lie on the ground looking like he has to poop and throw up at the same time” dead old man pose.
Batista screams at Teddy Long backstage about screwing him over (because he’s seriously got a point, and it’s not like several other matches on the show didn’t involve outside interference without the GMs showing up to micromanage everything), starting up the “Hollywood Batista” angle and feud with John Cena that would send him out of the company the following Spring. But hey, not before dropping one of my all-time favorite Raw promos and forever encapsulating John Cena’s person with, “you keep on kissing babies and hugging fat girls.” Batista lost, but Drax won.
Worst: D-X IS LEGENDARY! PLEASE BELIEVE US, THEY ARE LEGENDARY FRIEND LEGENDS
Finally we have our main event, a Unified Tag Team Championship match between the champions, Chris Jericho and The Big Show, and the challengers, the Crown Jewel Players. Like every WWE match on pay-per-view involving Chris Jericho and Triple H, it’s mostly about how Chris Jericho sucks and Triple H is great.
Your enjoyment of this depends on how into spots from three rungs up the ladder you are. I’m not sure why crowds are forever enthralled with moves off the bottom rungs of a ladder, since it’s about the same height as the middle rope. Is it really spectacular that Christian could hit a reverse DDT from there, or that Big Show could get pushed over and hop off to bounce against the ropes with an outstretched arm? It’s just the second buckle in the middle of the ring. They get a lot of mileage out of six-foot tall guys standing about halfway up the ladder to jump off because their heads are technically at the “top of the ladder,” and the lower rung stuff is even goofier.
But yeah, that’s this match. Triple H and Shawn Michaels got super into doing sanitized versions of violent WWE matches like the TLC match and Hell in a Cell during this era as part of their D-Generation X nostalgia tour, where they rebranded the dick-pointing anarchist group as fun lovin’ jokesters who just love to have fun. They win the tag titles here because of course they do, and Chris Jericho nearly actually dies trying to do a spot off Big Show’s shoulders to the floor they clearly didn’t rehearse:
Man, if Jericho’s foot had hit that top rope an inch farther in, he would’ve eaten all the shit in the world. I think we’re all lucky that terrible looking spot ended up looking as good as it did. He at least earns points for trying to sell it like he got impaled on the table leg.
So What Did We Learn?
- instead of stealing the show, you should probably just try to win
- if your billed weight is 127 pounds, you’re a sexy Diva, but if you’re billed at 125, you’re a fat pig
- Matt Striker’s skull should’ve been part of a chair at some point
- the old man Crown Jewel main eventers have felt like old men for 10 years now
- we didn’t deserve Batista
- sometimes to succeed in WWE, you have to go away and develop yourself into the kind of character WWE loves yourself, because they sure as hell don’t know how to do it
Now make sure to join us for TLC 2018 this Sunday, in which Raw’s top champion won’t appear, and Sheamus and Kofi Kingston are still just wrestling for the Tag Team Championship!