As 2016 comes to a close, the wave after wave of WWE PPVs does as well, as we just received Smackdown’s final special event of the year with TLC (Tables, Ladders, and Chairs). With a card that looked questionable at best going in, the Smackdown side had a large task ahead of them, and the result left me wanting.
Match 1: Heath Slater and Rhyno (Champions) v. The Wyatt Family (Bray and Randy Orton) for the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships
In one of the bright spots of the night, the Wyatt Family continued their dominance of the Smackdown brand here in their match with Rhyno and Slater. In a match coming in under 6 minutes, the Wyatts made quick work of the champions, and come out looking extremely strong as a unified front. Ever since the debut of Bray Wyatt a few years ago, he’s needed this show of dominant force to cement himself as the creepy cult leader personality that he is. After their big win at Survivor Series, it looks like that’s the direction we are going in. While it may seem like Rhyno and Slater got somewhat squashed here, they did manage to put up a fight, and in the story sense, I’m left fearing the Wyatts rather than thinking less of the former champions. Even though Orton will more than likely turn on Bray at some point in the future, their current run is strong, and it will be interesting to see how WWE manages the other tag teams in the face of this dominant faction.
Winners and New Tag Team Champions: The Wyatt Family
Match 2: Nikki Bella v. Carmella in a No DQ match
While I’m happy this match is getting a PPV spotlight, and the feud has had continued strength for multiple months, the No DQ stipulation was odd. The two used the match gimmick somewhat, but I felt that it got in the way of their storytelling. Carmella is portraying an excellent heel, jawing throughout the entire match to get under Nikki and the crowds skin a like. As soon as she brought the kendo stick into play, it became more about the weapon and less about their actual ring psychology. Also, even though she beat Nikki up pretty well with the cane, Nikki never seemed to be out of the match, which makes the use of the weapon, usually an end all be all type of instrument, even more confusing. The finish of the match, however, was what really brought this match down. Nikki, using a fire extinguisher, essentially emptied much of the canister on Carmella, which led to a Rack Attack for the win. The fire extinguisher, and the use of it for a solid minute or so, was overkill to the point where it drew me out of the match, as becoming too ridiculous. Also, it appears that this was just a vehicle to get Nikki to a match against Natalya, who turned out to be (shocking no one), the person that actually attacked her before Survivor Series. I’m really enjoying Carmella’s heel work, so I’m nervous she’s going to get tossed aside, but hopefully she finds her place in a new feud.
Winner: Nikki Bella
Match 3: The Miz (Champion) v. Dolph Ziggler in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title
After months of 5 star matches, it was never in doubt that these two would put on an absolute barnburner. In what I can only imagine to be the blowoff match to this feud, The Miz and Dolph brutally destroyed each other in this clear match of the night. With a huge amount of seminal IC title ladder matches, I was interested to see how these two would make this stand out from the crowded pack of greatness, and the sheer inventiveness in the use of the ladders as weapons set this apart. Between slamming each other into in and using the metal as an extra angle of pain for submissions, these guys made it very believable that neither would be able to walk following this grueling slugfest. Even with the added element of the ladder, the storytelling never left the match, as they both methodically took out each others legs, and the desire to win the belt never wavered. As Miz pulled out the win, using a low blow, legal in this match, to knock Ziggler out for good, the IC belt is in a place it hasn’t been in recent memory; incredibly high esteem. It’s looking like they are continuing the Miz Daniel Bryan feud coming out of this, which is interesting since Bryan can’t wrestle. However, after this year for Miz, I have no doubt in his ability, so I am on the edge of my seat for what comes next with him. As for Dolph, his future matches are more uncertain. Even though the chemistry he had with the Miz will be hard to replicate, I have high hopes for him in 2017.
Winner and still IC Champion: The Miz
Match 4: Baron Corbin v. Kalisto in a Chairs Match
Chairs matches have a fairly rough past, so the bar for this match could not be any lower. On top of that, this feud has made very little sense from the offset, and Corbin has yet to prove himself to me. I would say that this match impressed me, in that the expectations were pretty low, but I wouldn’t read into that too much. The sheer number of chairs in this match became problematic, as the two become more concerned with chair positioning than each other at points. Even with those points bringing the match down, Kalisto is always good for some interesting high spots, which he did here, and Corbin ended up brutally tossing Kalisto around. The match had the higher end of what you’d expect from a match highlighting chairs, but in the end, I’m not left really drawn to either guy, and it seemed more throwaway than anything else, merely to get Corbin over and look strong.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Match 5: Becky Lynch (Champion) v. Alexa Bliss in a Tables Match for the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
I had very high hopes for this match, and, like a few of the earlier matches on the card, the match gimmick completely got in the way of this match. Both Becky and Bliss are some of the best workers on the roster on both a technical and storytelling perspective, but the necessity of the tables forced them to spend large chunks of time in this match dealing with the tables themselves, or setting up crazy potential table spots only to have them reversed. Due to that, the match seemed slow, and it was hard for either of the two of them to get a groove going, let alone us watching the match. After several gie and takes between the two and flirting with going through the table, Bliss eventually got Becky in a powerbomb and through a table, giving her the win. Even more perplexing, they attempted to interview Becky on the ramp following the loss, in an incredibly awkward and unnecessary moment. We know these two need to go at it again, and there’s no reason to get a talking point following the match. With the flashes of solid back and forth wrestling, I’m hoping we get a rematch with these two, one that doesn’t have a stipulation like this, as I know they both are capable of a high quality match.
Winner and New WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss
Match 6: AJ Styles (Champion) v. Dean Ambrose in a TLC Match for the WWE World Championship
With AJ styles, it’s easy to assume every match he has will be the match of the night. Sadly, that was absolutely not the case here, and this main event became a slog, save for a few spots toward the end. Ambrose’s style, both in the ring and out, is getting to be tiring, and lack the crazy man spark that WWE is going for. In what are supposed to be lunatic antics are coming off more as goofball shenanigans, and his wrestling style is suffering. The Ambrose that we came to love had a brawling style, not clean, but brutal and intense. This newer Ambrose has lost the brutality, and, while he’s jumping from ladders on top of announcers tables, it generally seems like he’s pulling punches. The character needs a bit of a make over, but with his popularity, there’s no incentive to do it. For AJ, he does his best to try to make this match solid, hitting some insane spots, like a springboard 450 splash through a table. His speed really makes Ambrose seem almost outdated, which makes me wonder how Ambrose would work with someone slightly slower than the highly athletic AJ. The finish of the match was also incredibly telegraphed, with the lovable James Ellsworth turning heel on Ambrose, sabotaging him by sending him off a ladder through a table, giving the window AJ needed to retain. I’m not sure who AJ will be facing at the Rumble, as I’m sure Ambrose will be in the Rumble itself, and the Ellsworth payoff, I can only assume, will be on Smackdown. I’m still positive on Ambrose’s near future, and, put with the right opponent, can be the guy we loved in the past.
Winner and still WWE World Champion: AJ Styles
Tables, Ladders, and Chairs puts a bow on the year for Smackdown PPVs, and while the future is bright, this event left little to be desired. Regardless, I’m very excited for the Rumble next month!