Tables, Ladders and Chairs. Oh My! With AJ Styles defending his WWE title against Dean Ambrose in the titular match, one of the main questions is how, not if, the chinless wonder James Ellsworth would be involved in the main event TLC match. We got our answer, just probably not in the way most people expected.
With AJ injuring Ellsworth last week, there was no doubt that James would return to dish out some payback during the championship match. With this match being touted as a Human Demolition Derby and the propensity of both champion and challenger to throw caution to the wind, an undeserving, and very dead, live crowd was treated to the 19th ever TLC match.
It takes about a minute before Ambrose exits the ring and starts to bring the hardware into the ring. The two men quickly try to climb before the ladder starts coming into play. The match spills out to the entrance ramp where Styles is hit by multiple tables, ladders and chairs while Ambrose tries to keep AJ as far away from the ring as possible. Spots include suplexing Styles on the steel wheelchair ramp and Ambrose getting an actual garbage can, emptying the trash and then trapping AJ in it while he beats him back to the ringside area.
AJ hits a dropkick to stop Ambrose’s momentum and takes the offense to the challenger. AJ misses a flying clothesline and Ambrose drops him on the barricade, crotch first. Dean grabs a chair and runs into Styles with it, giving Dean a chance to try to climb the ladder for the first real time in the match.
Dean almost gets a hand on the title but AJ returns to knock Dean off the ladder. AJ bodyslams Dean onto the fallen ladder and hits a knee drop. Dean tosses AJ out of the ring, tosses a ladder on Styles for good measure outside the ring.
The crowd has started an annoying “Undertaker” chant while AJ hits Ambrose with a sidewalk slam onto a chair. More chairs come into play as four are set up in the ring. AJ looks to suplex Dean onto the four chairs, but Dean reverses it into a full body slam, turning AJ inside-out and AJ does a 180 and lands with his back on the chairs. This FINALLY pops the crowd.
Dean grabs a chair and hits a dicing elbow on AJ with the chair to follow up. Dean then tosses AJ into the leg of a table, breaking it and sets the rest of the chair up on the ring corner. AJ’s fighting spirit kicks in and he suplexes Dean into the table before collapsing on the floor.
Dean gets AJ out of the ring and hits a suicide dive onto Styles. AJ is on dream street so Dean takes the tops off all 3 announce tables. AJ is placed in the middle table while Dean grabs a ladder and places that on top of the German announce table. Dean climbs the ladder and hits a perfect elbow drop on Styles, crushing the table.
While AJ lays on the floor, Dean grabs a larger ladder from under the ring. Ambrose can’t climb quick enough as AJ hits Dean with a Phenomenal Forearm to knock Dean off the ladder. AJ goes for a Styles Clash but Dean counters it into a spinning slam that ends with Styles hitting the ladder with his side and lower back. Dean tries to climb but AJ grabs him and goes for a powerbomb. Dean counters that move and both men fall out of the ring.
AJ then goes for a standing moonsault from the ring apron and turns it into a reverse DDT. AJ brings a table close to the ring and puts Dean on top of it. AJ then hits a 450 splash onto Dean, using the ropes as leverage, crushing the table and Dean in the process.
AJ makes his way to climb the ladder and guess who shows up? James Ellsworth, sporting a neckbrace, but oddly no pants as he has his wrestling tights and a shirt. AJ doesn’t want this so he leaves the ladder and gets ready to hit another Styles Clash on Ellsworth using the ring steps again. Dean prevents this and hits Dirty Deeds on the steps.
Dean gets into the ring and makes the climb to get the title. AJ fights back into the ring but a hard right hand by Dean knocks AJ out of the ring, allowing Dean the free climb to the title.
However, Ellsworth isn’t done yet as he pushes Ambrose off the ladder, crashing through two tables and motions for AJ to get his title. Dean doesn’t move from his spot so AJ gets the title to retain. Ellsworth celebrates, but not with AJ, as we go off the air.
Winner…and STILL WWE Champion…AJ Styles
WWE TLC comes to us live from the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas. No frills, no intro promos. We start this off with a title defense.
Match 1: Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton w/ Luke Harper) vs. (c) Rhyno and Heath Slater
The four men in the match trade off for a few minutes. Eventually Bray and Randy, my girlfriend is calling them “Brandy”, work on poor Health Slater while Rhyno is forced to watch from his corner.
Eventually the Man-Beast gets the tag and goes to work on Bray including a second-rope shoulder tackle.
Randy pushes Bray out of the way to avoid a hit and tags himself in during the process. Randy absorbs the hit and Rhyno looks to Gore him outside the ring. Unfortunately for Rhyno, Luke pushes Randy out of the way, eats the Gore and when Rhyno gets back into the ring Orton hits him with an RKO for the win.
Winners…and NEW Tag Team Champions…Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton
Little confused because Luke is handed both title belts by both Orton and Bray after some intense moments, Bray drops to his knees to remind us to Follow the Buzzards. Does this mean the Free Bird Rule for the Wyatt Family?
Match: 3/5. Good opening match. A little quick but with little to no build for this match in the last 2 weeks, it’s not a bad way to start off the show. We all knew Rhyno and Health were going to drop the belts sooner rather than later.
Dean cuts a backstage promo. He tells us that James Ellsworth is back at home recovering but he’s keeping his chin…sorry…spirits up. Ambrose says his game plan is to let his temper get the better of him in a match like TLC. We go backstage elsewhere to talk to AJ Styles and while Renee Young asking him about Hard Times, we sadly don’t get a Dusty Rhodes promo.
Match 2: No DQ: Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
It looks like Carmella is sporting a shiner on her right eye during her entrance. I hope that’s just a bad makeup job. JBL just announces the shiner so I’m guessing it’s legit.
Nikki tries to powerbomb Carmella on the ring but Carmella counters it into a ‘Rana which drives Nikki into the ring steps. She beats the 10-count. Carmella goes to work and suplexes Nikki, catching her leg on the ropes. Carmella continues to do this, working on Nikki’s leg and then hangs Nikki up in the Tree of Woe.
While Nikki hangs, Carmella goes under the ring and pulls out a kendo stick and goes to work on Nikki’s leg with the stick. Carmella mocks Nikki by proxy using the “You Can’t See Me” taunt and she continues to unload on Nikki.
Carmella locks on her head submission but Nikki gets the kendo stick, hits Carmella to break up the submission. Carmella takes a little too long taunting and she and Nikki battle out of the ring onto the barricade. Both women trade blows and Nikki climbs the barrier and hits Carmella with a modified jumping enziguri. The ladies beat the 10-count (as you can lose via count-out) and then Nikki grabs a fire extinguisher and unloads it on Carmella. Nikki lifts Carmella up, hits the Rack Attack and gets the win.
Winner by pinfall…Nikki Bella.
Match: 2/5. Nothing special here. No botches and the move from the barricade was good, but these ladies didn’t add anything to the rivalry. A No-DQ match should have a more violent ending than being sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
Carmella gets on the microphone and tells Nikki she knows who attacked her at Survivor Series. Apparently it was Natalya. You know, the person who “found” Nikki beaten up. Makes sense.
After a shameless commercial from Kay Jewelers where Nattie of all people is in the commercial helping some poor dude pick out an engagement ring for his hopeful fiancé. Odd product placement there.
We go backstage to talk with Daniel Bryan. Bryan says he wants Miz to lose the title. Miz shows up to interrupt. Daniel reminds Miz he’s never liked him.
Match 3: Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler vs. (c) The Miz w/ Maryse
Dolph is rocking some patriotic tights. Kind of reminds me of the cover of Assassins’ Creed III. After a quick while the fight spills out of the ring and both men and each toss each gets Irish Whipped into a ladder. The fight stays outside while Dolph gets tripped and eats a ladder rung. Miz gets in the ring first and hits Dolph with a dropkick.
The fight spills out again and after David Otunga says Miz has the athleticism of Justin Beiber, my brain shut down for a few minutes but I do remember Ziggler hitting Miz with a Tornado DDT outside the ring onto a ladder.
Miz corners Dolph and stars battering him with a ladder. Miz sets up for a superplex but Miz gets shoved into the ladder, allowing Dolph to hit a Mach Man elbow and buy himself some time. Miz gets lowbridged. Dolph is the first to climb a ladder but Miz stops him. Dolph tosses MIz out of the ring but Miz gets back in and pushes Dolph off the ladder.
Miz finally gets some momentum and decides to mock Daniel Bryan’s YES! Chant. That ends quickly when Dolph shoves the ladder into Miz. Ortunga calls the ladder a “chair” and I’m shaking my head in disbelief. The two men climb the ladder and Miz gets knocked off but prevents Dolph from grabbing the strap when he locks Dolph’s left leg into the ladder.
Miz continues to work on both of Dolph’s legs as he uses the ladder in multiple ways. Miz finally locks in the Figure 4 using the ladder for added pressure. Miz then sets up for a Skull Crushing Finale, Dolph avoids it, goes for a superkick but the damage is too much, Miz hits the Finale and climbs the ladder but Dolph knocks the ladder out from under him.
Miz is holding his right leg in pain but that looks too much like a sell job as I didn’t see him fall on anything. Anyway, Dolph has to climb the ladder by hopping it but Miz catches him and slingshot powerbombs him into a ladder set up on the second rope.
Miz sets up a second ladder and climbs the new one. However, Dolph uses his arms to climb up the ladder as both men start trading blows at the top of the ladder. Dolph headbutts Miz twice, knocking Miz off the ladder. Dolph uses both ladders but Miz gets back up, kick Dolph in the crotch twice, dropping Dolph. Miz grabs the straps and retains without any interference from the wife.
Winner…and STILL Intercontinental Champion The Miz.
Rating: 4/5. No interference from Maryse. Underhanded tactic from Miz with the low kicks but totally legal. If this is the end of the Miz/Ziggler rivalry, it’s had a good run.
Miz gets on the microphone and dedicates the match to Daniel Bryan. He thanks him for motivating Miz to become the greatest IC Champion ever and reminds us that a participant is nothing more than a loser. Grade A heel work there.
Match 4: Chairs Match: Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin
Kalisto is first to the ring and starts off by tossing a half dozen chairs into the ring before Corbin is even introduced.
Kalisto tries to hit Corbin with 2 chairs to start off the match but Corbin dodges the first and grabs the second one. Kalisto channels his inner Sabu and hits a dive out of the ring using a chair as a boost. Crobin then uses his strength advantage and uses his shirt to choke Kalisto.
Corbin sets up chairs throughout the ring but gets drop-toe held into a chair he set up in the corner. Kalist then hits a ‘Rana driving Corbin into another chair. With Corbin wobbly, Kalisto gets to the top rope and hits a sitting senton on Corbin, driving him through six chairs but can’t get the pinfall.
Corbin goes outside and Kalisto goes for a dive but gets caught, Corbin counters it into a Deep Six. Corbin goes for a cover but Kalisto kicks out. Corbin sets up a bed of chairs and then stalks Kalisto outside trying to swat him with a chair but misses every time. Kalisto hits a ‘Rana off the barrier and then unloads several chair onto Baron outside the ring.
Kalisto hits Corbin with another chair shot and goes for a moonsault with the chair but Corbin kicks out. Kalisto then starts swinging a chair and nails Corbin in the side and back three times and adds more chairs to the middle of the ring.
Kalisto goes for a diving move but Corbin swings for the fences and knocks Kalisto out of orbit. Corbin then gets Kalisto up and hits the End of Days on the pile of chairs to end the match. Winner by pinfall…Baron Corbin.
Rating: 3/5. It’s a dead crowd which hurt. But as silly as a chairs match is, these guys made the most out of the stipulation.
JBL gives Kalisto a lot of props for lasting as long as he did. Corbin then goes to the announce table and rips off the top while yelling at Mauro Renallo telling him what just happened “will happen to any one who gets in my way”. JBL refers to him as a future champion and it’s hard to argue at this point.
We go backstage and Nattie is asked if she was the one who injured Nikki. Nattie denies it and says she wishes Becky the best in her match.
Match 5: Tables match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship Alexa Bliss vs. (c) Becky Lynch
During Becky’s entrance the camera cuts to Bayley superfan Izzy sporting her typical Hugger attire. Yes, in Dallas.
This one is just what you’d expect from a tables match with a lot of “action” near the table but nobody driven though one. Things get interesting when ALexa hits a DDT on the bottom of the table (the table was turned over and on the floor so it didn’t break) but after that Becky grabs Alexa and uses the table leg as extra leverage. Becky sets the table up on the bottom ring rope and places her on top of it, looking for a Sasha Banks-esque leg knee stomp but it’s avoided.
The two fight on the ring apron for a bit but Becky misses an attack and Alexis grabs her and powerbombs her to claim her first WWE title.
Winner…and NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss.
Rating: 2/5.The crowd has been absolutely dead and it made it tougher to enjoy. However, the final few moves were interesting.
Announcer tries to talk to Becky immediately following the match but Becky says she doesn’t want to talk because she’s disappointed in herself.
Main Event Rating: 4/5.The crowd only popped during a handful of high-spots. Interesting twist to Ellsworth getting involved. Will be interested to hear his reasoning this week.
Show Rating: 3/5.One again, a dead crowd did not help this show at all. The complete lack of energy for the chairs and tables matches made it tough to enjoy the main event. AJ has once again proven why he’s one of the top workers in the industry, especially with his 450 dive outside the ring.
Matthew Asher is no longer a freelance journalist as he will be moving to Missouri in January to become the head sports reporter for the Kirksville Daily Express. Follow him on Twitter @santavato and email him your questions on all things pro wrestling related.