The first thing that must be said is that overall, last night’s TLC PPV was another excellent PPV from 2010. It again goes to show the anti-PG brigade that it doesn’t take blood to make excellent and brutal matches. At the very least, no one could say of any of the gimmick matches that they were tame.
Dolph Ziggler def. Kofi Kingston and Jack Swagger in a Ladder Match to Retain the Intercontinental Championship
Considering that there were to be another two ladder-based matches later on the card, this match was an excellent way to set the tone for the rest of the night. An interesting early spot saw Kingston thrust the ladder against Swagger’s wrist/hand – quite an interesting and subtly technical gesture in a match like this which usually sees ladders in the face or body. Ziggler used the ladder a lot in the early going, hitting his fame-asser on to Kingston on to the ladder and (I think it was Ziggler) hitting him with a slingshot into a ladder. Indeed, as you would expect, Kingston was involved in most of the ladder action; and as you would expect, he was involved in some cool spots, most notably jumping through the side of the ladder to hit Swagger with double knees and keeping the ladder standing. Shortly after this, all men were down, and Vickie Guerrero attempted to scale the ladder herself for Dolph. Unfortunately for her, she was caught by Kofi who lifted up his side of the ladder and left Vickie teetering. She was eventually saved by Ziggler’s pleading and Swagger’s attack to Kofi, and wouldn’t be in the ring again. The finish was a unique one, and one that probably wont satisfy all. Atop the ladder, Kofi and Swagger were struggling over the IC championship belt and, tugging it at the same time, dropped it to the floor for the waiting Ziggler for the win (Ziggler was meant to catch the belt, which would have been more effective, but I think we got the idea). Though a little unsatisfying, the match itself – though not the best of the night – was very good, and the end allowed Ziggler’s reign to continue, as well as this interesting three-way feud.
Natalya & Beth Phoenix def. LayCool in a Tables Match
Any worries that this match may be treated as second-class can be thrown out of the window; this was the best divas match in a long time, not just because it was a tables match, but because it was given just as much time as many of the male competitors matches. There were powerful moves, big bumps (notably one or two ones that were difficult to even watch to Beth). This wasn’t just from Beth and Natalya, LayCool more than played there part with some devastating moves on the faces. It was however, always going to be Natalya and Beth’s playground. Nattie’s double sharpshooter was remarkable and legitimately innovative, while the ending involved two spots with both of LayCool landing on the hard table (which wasn’t meant to break) before being put through it by a splash from Nattie. We want more of this, and it looks like we’ll get it.
Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov def. Heath Slater & Justin Gabriel (Nexus) by DQ to Retain WWE Tag Team Championships
This match was added to the card on the night, and certainly was the least remarkable in some ways as it seems to be more to do with setting up the Cena-Barret match. That is not to do the match down however. It was a good tag match, with Santino really starting to show that grappling prowess everyone knows he has (seemingly to be explained by him tagging with Vlad). There was really some excellent wrestling from him and the crowd was obviously really behind him. Nexus did well too, but their show of solidarity (with Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty accompanying them to ringside) backfired as McGillicutty was caught attacking Santino. Nexus just used this as an opportunity to send a message to John Cena with chairs, taking the tag champions apart in the ring.
John Morrison def. Sheamus in a Ladder Match to Become #1 Contender to the WWE Championship
This was arguably the show stealer. I think Morrison especially knew that it had to be. Sheamus performed out of his skin too, and in the early going, it was him that was the innovative one with the ladder. Standing out to me was when he tied Morrison’s injured leg in the rungs of a ladder and proceeded to hit a knee smash to the cansasv ladder and all. That was just the tip of the iceberg. There were huge shots and bumps throughout the match as Morrison tried to fight back from an apparently unassailable position as at one point, Morrison could barely stand and Sheamus just seemed to be piling more pain on the Shaman of Sexy. Fight back he did though, and as he managed to take the ascendancy, it was Sheamus who started to seem indestructible. A huge spot took place where he was speared by Morrison through a ladder propped up between the apron and the announce table; Sheamus managed to get up again though to try and stop Morrison from getting the contract. Trying to push Morrison to the floor, Morrison stopped himself on the rope with his foot, rebounding to hit Sheamus under the chin with a resounding version of his Flash Kick, allowing him to climb the rest of the ladder for the contract. Seriously, one of the best matches of the year, and one in which both men looked superb. It’s a vote of confidence in Sheamus to recognise that he has the gravitas to put someone like Morrison over already.
The Miz def. Randy Orton in a Tables Match to Retain the WWE Championship
The first thing that people need to realise is that a strong champion isn’t a necessity with a heel champion, and a heel champion being strong in terms of cunning as a opposed to grappling or strength is valid and a welcome new focus. This is exactly the case with The Miz. This match was good and though the fury of Orton was something Miz struggled to match up to in kayfabe terms, Miz managed to roughly keep in step with Orton throughout. Indeed, at the start, Orton was a veritable house of fire, beating Miz down early. It wasn’t long before Alex Riley interjected himself in the match to preserve Miz, pulling him out of the path of the Viper several times. Riley played his part excellently, being a constant irritant to Orton, moving and putting away tables that he set up, including the classic spot where he moved a table out of the way of a move that would otherwise would have seen the match end. Miz took advantage of these distractions at several points and did his fair share of beating Orton down with the steel steps and hitting several signature moves, all to huge heat. Miz seemed to have won the match after taking advantage of a downed referee to hit a Skull-Crushing Finalé on Orton and playing him in the wreckage of a broken table (broken by Orton with Riley) and alerting the referee. This was ingenious enough, but the referee saw the instant replay and restarted the match. More than ever, Orton was a house of fire, but again the Miz outsmarted the fiery Viper, escaping to the ring and using Riley as a battering ram to send Orton legitimately through a table. Miz is being cast, uniquely, as a champion that wont always outwrestle his competition, but who will usually outsmart/outmaneuver his opponents. It was a very clever ending to a good championship match.
Edge def. Kane, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio in a TLC Match to Become World Heavyweight Champion
This match was second only to the JoMo-Sheamus match in my eyes. This was perhaps more of a brawl, but considering the more elderly competitors on the whole in this match, I was surprised at the intensity of some of the bumps and spots (I mean that as no disrespect, but Edge is seemingly a lot more fragile these days, as is Mysterio; well, actually, perhaps not!) I was especially surpised to see Rey be pushed out of the ring on a ladder on to Edge and Kane as he was initially put in to a Chairs match to protect him. Kudos! After that initial spot, I liked how all three put their differences aside to team up on Kane, as I felt it was important that his strength and fury of late was documented. It was also good because Edge, who later said that teaming up never succeeds, showed his TLC veteran knowledge by being the first to turn on his fellow attackers and gain an advantage. Rey however, also showed some veteran instincts that nearly trumped them all. He held Kane on a table outside the ring while Edge climbed most of the way up a gigantic ladder in the ring. In this, the next big spot of the match, Edge literally jumped from the ladder, out of the ring, and on to a prone Kane. This of course, left both men down, allowing Rey the chance to try and climb a ladder for the title. A story developed however, that Del Rio was particularly intent in keeping Rey from winning, and he, not for the first or the last time, got to Rey before he could claim the title. The action then managed to spill to the stage area, where Kane went to town on everyone with chairs before being eventually stopped by Edge. This section also saw Rey climb a table which was part of the set and dive on to Kane way below on the floor before again being the first to realise that the ring was empty and attempting to take advantage, and again being halted by Del Rio. With all four men down, the match started the road to home. Ricardo Rodriguez started looking around like Vickie Guerrero had earlier, and himself started climbing the ladder. Unlike Vickie, however, this guy is trained and can take bumps, which he did courtesy of a Kane Chokeslam. Kane then went on to Chokeslam Del Rio and Edge who he sent through a table on the outside. The end really came when the three losing competitors were esentailly taken out of the running one-by-one. Firstly, Del Rio was sent from the top of the tall ladder through a table outside the ring by Mysterio in a sickening bump (seriously, i’m cynical about how much the table broke his fall). Next up, Rey, in an incredibly athletic effort, attempted a springboard moonsault from the ladder to the ropes on Kane, who caught him and hit a Tombstone Piledriver. Finally, Edge hit Kane with a chair several times to remove him from the ladder before spearing him from the apron through a table, leaving the opening for him to take his 10th world title. A very good ending in that it was believable that the other three were down while Edge wasn’t. Hopefully this will be the end of at least the Rey-Del Rio feud which has been good but run it’s course. As for Kane and Edge, I presume Kane will get a rematch …
John Cena def. Wade Barrett in a Chairs Match
I’m sure to many this will be in some ways a slight tempering of the awesomeness of much of this PPV. I myself thought something big might happen as it was being preferred to both world title matches for main event spot. In that, I was disappointed, but as i’ll explain at the end, this match went as it had to for the greater good. Earlier on, Cena had taken out the rest of Nexus (again), leaving of course, only Wade Barrett. The initial stages of this were suitably tentative, with Barrett and Cena facing off each holding a chair, but the deadlock was eventually broken by Cena, and starting off which would be another impressively brutal match – especially so here given the informal restrictions on the use of chairs these days. This wasn’t about spots, this was about brutality, with the two tading sickening blows to the backs and stomachs of each other. A cool moment came when Cena was setting off on his shoulder block series, which Barrett swiftly concluded with a swing of a chair in to the flying Cena. Barrett continued his attack, following a crawling Cena up the ramp, continually hitting him with chairs and callously discarding them one by one. Barrett then standing up the ring steps at the foot of the ramp in what would become one impressive and, again, sickening spot for the match. Unfortunately for him, it would be turned against him. At the top of the ramp, Cena managed to turn the tide with a back body drop before, sticking with the gimmick, getting a wheeled office chair from the back, placing a seemingly knocked-out Barrett in the chair, waking him up so he could see what was about to happen to him, and pushing him down the ramp smashing in to the steel steps awkwardly and horribly (in a good way!). In many ways, this was the beginning of the end. Barrett tried to fight back and scraped a chair across Cenas throat in a sickening way and sitting on a chair on Cena’s throat. Cena managed to characteristically power out of this though, and ended the match by setting up a bed of six chairs to hit an Attitude Adjustment on Barrett on to for the win. This wasn’t enough for Cena, who chased Barrett up the ramp with chair shots before placing a palate on top of him, trapping him, while, in a pretty awesome moment, he pulled down one of the sections of chairs down from the set, each landing on the palate with Barrett underneath. Now, this was a classic Cena-esque end to a match (e.g. Batista at Extreme Rules). Indeed, the reson I said this was important is because it really should mark the end of this Nexus-Cena feud. Cena vowed to take out every Nexus member, and now he undoubtedly has. There is nothing for him to achieve with them any more surely. If they both move on successfully, then this match, despite it’s slightly formulaic Cena ending, will be a success. The match itself was brutal, and could symbolise important new directions for both parties. It seems a Nexus resurgence will be difficult to realise, but that’s what RAW’s for. Hopefully they will move on to something new and equally shocking. If not, then it’s probably a good, if surprising time (at TLC) to finish the biggest storyline in wrestling this year, and one of the biggest of the decade.