WWE Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2015
December 13, 2015
Meet our review team:
- Rich Kraetsch (@VoicesWrestling): Co-host of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast and one of the primary owners of the website.
- Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland): Editor extraordinaire, Alex also does weekly NXT reviews for the website.
- Garrett Kidney (@GarretKidney): You won’t find anyone in the world who knows more about TNA. Not sure if that’s good or bad but we’re glad to have him on our staff. Garrett reviews Impact Wrestling weekly as well as the sporadic TNA PPV. He’s also super knowledgeable on WWE (as you’ll see throughout this review)
Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch
Garrett Kidney: While I understand the attempt to turn Sasha Banks in her hometown, having her go out there and sing essentially doubled down on everything wrong with the Diva’s Revolution. The presentation of the division hasn’t changed, just the branding. This was a perfectly fine but not a patch on their Takeover match (not that it was even trying to reach that level in the first place but that was part of the problem). Both ladies need a clear, focused direction going forward – they could do without being lumped on the pre-show as afterthoughts. **1/4
WWE Tag Team Title Triple Threat Ladder Match
The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) (c) def. The Lucha Dragons (Kalisto & Sin Cara) vs. The Usos (Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso)
Rich Kraetsch: What began as nothing more than a spotty ladder match with a bunch of guys setting up bridges and diving to the outside eventually turned into one of the more insane ladder matches this company has seen since the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian, Dudley Boyz-era. The spot everyone will be talking about (and rightfully so) saw Kalisto hit a Salida Del Sol from the top of a ladder onto another ladder. It’s absolutely incredible and may be one of the most insane spots I’ve ever seen inside a WWE ring… and that’s not hyperbole.
Xavier Woods interfering to help his team win the match helps the psychology a lot since I mean, c’mon, you booked a No DQ match and let the 3rd member of a team hang out at ringside, he should get involved. Anyway, this was as good an opener as you could have asked for, a very legit four snowflakes from me. ****
Alex Wendland: A couple takeaways from the this match: 1) Kofi was right, the New Day are freaking stars. 2) Kalisto is going to get a real chance to succeed.
Obviously this match was highlighted by Kalisto’s Salida Del Sol from the top of the ladder, and the rest of the spots were sublimely orchestrated and performed – Sin Cara’s Swanton to the outside is going to be criminally overlooked – the connective tissue, as Big E would say, was booty. This was a 30 minute opening match that should’ve been about 15 minutes, and the flow of the match proved it. The first half was filled with the transparent setups that often plague these kinds of gimmick matches, and was boring enough that I was fantasy booking the future announce team of Mauro Ranallo and Xavier Woods. The second half of the match though, that was bonkers. The Tale of Two Matches drags this one down, but the second half of the match obviously saved it. ***3/4
Garrett Kidney: There was me thinking that this was a really good but not quite great ladder match only for Kalisto to hit a freaking Salida Del Sol off of a ladder through another ladder. All six men have to be commended for the sheer amount of punishment they took, there was an awful lot of bodies clanging off of ladders in this match, and while I have little confidence that they will be rewarded in the future for taking those risks I can’t say these six didn’t go all out to give everybody watching this show their money’s worth. A little less blatant setting up and knocking down would’ve pushed this over the top but this was great. Also Xavier Woods is announcer of the year. ****
Rusev def. Ryback
Rich Kraetsch: At points during 2015 both Ryback and Rusev were mega-over and while both were just below main event/WWE Champion level, you could make cases for them as pillars of the next tier. Now as 2015 comes to a close, both men are solidly in the midcard and all the heat the Rusev/Lana pairing once had has been relegated to a dollar store “Jimmy Loves Lacey” angle. With that said, the match was definitely effective. Both men worked primarily within the power move confines but sprinkled in just enough high spots to keep the attention of those darned Millennials (myself included!). The ending saw the once mighty Lana relegated to merely a distraction for Rusev, but that’s nitpicking, this was pretty good. ***
Alex Wendland: This was a fine match and it got better as the announce team focused on the match and left behind the moronic, insulting storyline that got us to this match. outside of the opportunity to chant “Feed Me More,” the crowd seemingly couldn’t care less about the outcome of Ryback’s matches. Rusev looks like he’s a little faster than he has been since WrestleMania. Still, I appreciate Ryback’s ability to expand his moveset and add in the stuff from the top rope. I don’t know the answer for Ryback, but I hope this match sets a course for Rusev in 2016. ***
Garrett Kidney: Can we just accept that Ryback is a bad wrestler now? His Intercontinental title run was a flop, any push he had was a dud, and he doesn’t consistently have even just decent matches. This was a bland, heatless match that didn’t even deliver on the core premise of big guys hitting each other in any satisfying way. While I understand it’s against Ryback’s character to tap out they wasted a pass out finish here (using it in a nothing undercard match devalues what can be a very effective finish). This did absolutely nothing for me but hopefully this is the first step in a prolonged rehab of Rusev. *1/2
WWE United States Title Chairs Match
Alberto Del Rio (c) def. Jack Swagger
Rich Kraetsch: The chairs match is typically a kiss of death (need I remind you of the Kane vs. Ryback chairs match from last year, no? Okay) but these two worked their asses off to produce something not only competent but damn good. Unlike most chairs matches, this one featured just enough brutality and stiffness to feel like a geniune fight and not merely guys locked into a dumb stipulation. Swagger slowly but surely got over in front of this crowd and remains one of WWE’s most underutilized talents. Del Rio seemed legitimately pissed at multiple points throughout this match and whether that was him being the actual Del Rio we all know and…love or developing some edge to his character, it’s a welcomed sight. This match way overdelivered. ***1/4
Alex Wendland: A chairs match is the second dumbest stipulation I can remember (I see you, stairs match), but this was about as good as you’re going to get for a chairs match. Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio treated this as a no-holds-barred match that happened to have a ton of chairs around the ring. With the exception of Swagger’s chair-assisted ankle lock, the spots were inventive and told a good story. I don’t know if it’s the nationalism aspect, but these two have a pretty good chemistry that’s lacking in a lot of WWE’s midcard and even upper-midcard. Similar to the way I hoped Rusev’s match was indicative of his 2016, I hope this means we’ll get another Jack Swagger run. Swagger is talented and does a pretty decent job of the jingoist gimmick without making it feel jingoistic. Finally, when paired with his great #AskADR segment from the preshow, Del Rio has displayed more character development in one night than he has in at least a couple years of WWE television. ***
Garrett Kidney: While I still believe these two would have been better served without any sort of gimmick (in that they wouldn’t have felt obligated to work the match nearly exclusively around chair spots), they made the most of the chairs gimmick including some novel applications (a chair assisted Ankle Lock and a double stomp into a pile of chairs in particular). It was nice to see Swagger back doing something of note after months in the wilderness and I hope this wasn’t just a one and done. This was also one of Del Rio’s better efforts since returning – him endlessly hurling chairs at Swagger was tremendous fun. ***
Eight Man Tag Team Table Elimination Match
The Wyatt Family (Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper) def. Rhyno, The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley) & Tommy Dreamer
Rich Kraetsch: The twitter account @WWEStats tweeted out a fun fact about tonight being the first time the Dudleyz and Rhyno have teamed in WWE since InVasion 2001. This reminded me of something often brought up by our amazing Monday Night Raw reviewer Sean Flynn that Kane being a featured act on WWE TV in 2015 would be like Don Muraco having a role in the Attitude Era.
Using InVasion 2001 as our base, this Dudleyz/Rhyno 14-year-gap would be akin to Brutus Beefcake, Hercules and King Kong Bundy (circa 1987) being featured as a non-comedy, legit team on a 2001 WWE PPV. Again, it’s insanity to think about but it’s commonplace in today’s WWE and a glaring example of the stagnation this company has endured over the last decade and a half. Sure, they worked as enhancement talent here and it’s a good role for them but still… think of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake shucking and jiving onto your WWE PPV in the year 2001.
Thankfully, both the Dudleyz and Rhyno are far more talented than Hercules or Beefcake were in 2001 so this match turned out well. The intent from the beginning was clear: make Bruan Strowman an even bigger monster. He was very clearly the featured act not only in the Wyatt Family but in the entire match. This match was all about him and he played the role well. This match didn’t blow anybody away but it was solid filler on the card and was certainly better than I had anticipated. **3/4
Alex Wendland: Maybe it’s the Tyranena Icehenge Doppelbock talking, or maybe it’s having not watched RAW live for a few weeks (seriously, a Hulu subscription will triple the lifespan of your WWE viewing), but i enjoyed the Team ECW reunion for the fun it mostly was. I say mostly because watching Tommy Dreamer take any bump at all makes me uncomfortable after listening to him talk on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast about some of the memory problem he’s already having. The Wyatt’s had the relatively dominant performance they’ve needed for awhile now, and Bray Wyatt looked like a competent leader for a change. It was great to see Rhyno get a PPV match following the great NXT work he’s put in this year, work that you can read about in reviews from Yours Truly, RIGHT HERE, on VoicesOfWrestling.com. ***
Garrett Kidney: I don’t have any real problem deploying some ECW nostalgia exactly as WWE did here. They rolled them out for an eight man tag on a “B” show to have a fun (if lacking any rhythm or flow) tag team plunder match and lose conclusively. Plus I like Rhyno. Every roster needs a Rhyno. He has credibility, he has experience, he can still work, and he can still talk. He’s the perfect midcard gatekeeper who you can occasionally use in an uppercard spot.
The issue is they represent a symptom of a broader problem – that being WWE’s overreliance on acts from the past at the expense of the present. However Team ECW (or as I prefer to call them – Team TNA 2014) are an odd bunch to take that wrath out on considering the role they played here. They were pure enhancement and I’m fine with that. Take that wrath out on the Lesnar’s, Rock’s, HHH’s, Undertaker’s, Jericho’s, and Sting’s of the world. **3/4
WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens (c)
Rich Kraetsch: I like Dean Ambrose. I like Kevin Owens. Therefore I should like a title match involving the two, right? Well… not really. I wanted to like it, I honest to god gave it all the chances in the world but when it ended with Ambrose reversing a Pop-Up Powerbomb for the win and the title, I was left with nothing more than a shrug. An utterly forgetable match to cap what’s been a rollercoaster year for both men. I’d have to imagine Owens dropping the title here sets him up for a big start to 2016 (a Royal Rumble win, perhaps?). **
Alex Wendland: I’ve got to level with you, Fair Reader: I was dealing with puppy GI issues for the first half of this match. I’ll spare you a star rating as a result, but suffice to say that when you remove the horrible plot points and allow supremely talented wrestlers to go out and have proper pro wrestling matches you end up with an entertaining collection of matches that constitute a fun show. No matter how bad WWE weekly TV gets, their PPVs are almost always at least watchable because this is the deepest, most talented roster ever assembled. Kevin Owens made for a great Intercontinental Champion, but hopefully losing it will put him in the top heel spot chasing the WWE World Heavyweight Title, separate from the League of Nations.
Garrett Kidney: I’m not the biggest Dean Ambrose fan in the world but one thing I admire about his work is his attempt to wrestle differently to those around him. He tries to put his own unique spin on things and carve his own particular style. Despite them being able to win over a relatively tepid in the early stages and a fun closing stretch they didn’t meet the expectations I think most would have for them. A lot of that can be put down to how aimless both seem right now. Owens’ IC title reign has to go down as disappointing on the whole but hopefully 2016 is a bigger and better year for him. And hopefully the curse of the midcard titles doesn’t drag Ambrose down. **3/4
WWE Divas Title Match
Charlotte (c) def. Paige
Rich Kraetsch: Woah boy. Charlotte’s increased in-ring sloppiness reached next levels tonight. With that said, there’s an element of danger and uneasiness that comes with a Charlotte match, it’s actually kind of fun (of course, I’m not the one taking a DDT). The match featured very few highlights outside of the now-obvious Charlotte heel turn as her and father Ric cheated their way to victory. With the heel turn finally solidified, it’ll be interested to see where Charlotte goes and if she can start putting together some of the matches, segments and character work we saw on NXT television last year. **1/2
Alex Wendland: So, what’s missing? Is it the lighting? The intimate crowds? Norman Smiley? Cohesive storytelling? There’s something that we had, and have, in the NXT women’s division that’s sorely missing from the WWE women’s division. This match was a good one. They hit all the right spots, they paced it well and they even had a story that made sense for the match. What the hell is going on? Seeing as the #DivasRevolution was a colossal mess, let’s ignore the whole movement and try to improve the division without the forced brand marketing. But am I supposed to root for Paige or not? **3/4
Garrett Kidney: This seemingly interminable feud continues to produce very little of worth. The idea of fixing the problems with Charlotte’s main roster presentation by increasing her association with her father is one of the most tone deaf “Diva’s Revolution” ideas to date. This wasn’t really that bad a match – it was a little slow out of the gate but it engaged the crowd down the stretch before the finish – but the damage has long since been done. Charlotte is dead in the water as a redeemable main roster act. Paige has yet to deliver much worthwhile in nearly two years while Sasha and Becky wallow in pre-show nothingness with no direction. It’s difficult to think of how the mass call up of woman’s talent could have been handled worse. **
WWE World Heavyweight Title Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match
Sheamus (c) def. Roman Reigns
Rich Kraetsch: I’ll give these two a ton of credit for going above and beyond to make this match work. If I had turned the sound off or were better at separating a crowd from a match, I would’ve loved this match. However, the tepid, downright silent at times crowd, the lack of heat for everything but the closing stretch and a few highspots really hurt the match in my eyes. Some people can separate the two and enjoy a match on it’s own merits, I can’t and thus, this match suffered a bit. Both guys absolutely worked their ass off and Sheamus in particular took a number of hard falls. In the end, as many predicted, The League of Nations played a role in Sheamus’ victory. ***1/4
The most interesting development came at the end of the match when Roman Reigns appeared to snap. He destroyed Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and Rusev with chairs before turning his attention to Triple H. The crowd responded almost immediately which should be a clear sign to WWE creative to drop the comedy, drop the tater tots crap and let this guy be a silent killer hell bent on getting the WWE Title. That’s what fans respond to in 2015, not shitty jokes delivered with a wink.
Alex Wendland: Michael Cole, surprisingly, said it best: “It’s the same old story again tonight.”
This was actually a good TLC match! They opened with brutal spots and never really let up, Roman Reigns clearly didn’t have the time to take a nap and Sheamus’ pale guy gimmick worked to his benefit as he looked truly beat over. The crowd, however, shit all over both wrestlers and the match itself. Can they be blamed? I don’t think so. The main event scene has been treated like an experimental division since WrestleMania. NXT is developmental, not RAW. And finally, after 25 minutes of pretty good “demolition derby” wrestling, what do we get? God Mode Reigns. Again. It’s always the same thing. It took three of WWE’s highest-level heels and about 30 feet of crawling to give Sheamus enough distance to climb the ladder and retrieve the championship.
The best news coming out of this match is that WWE seems to be pitting Reigns against Triple H for WrestleMania instead of continuing to force him on the title scene. Reigns lays a beatdown as good as anyone else on the roster, but we’ve been given absolutely no reason to give a damn about Reigns – good or bad.
This match was indicative of the show at large: it was better than I expected, but does it mean anything? We have no reason to think it will, but the show closed with a lot of the crowd chanting “thank you Roman.” That has to be good for something…***1/2
Garrett Kidney: I have never felt this bad for not liking a match. These two absolutely destroyed each other and for absolutely nothing. Nobody cared. The people in the building were chanting for just about anything else. And just as they began winning over the crowd with the superb Superman Punch to the top of the ladder spot, the interference that was to be expected from the outset kicked in and derailed the match again. This was an utter mess.
The problems with Reigns have been long discussed. Sheamus though is another problem altogether. You can’t treat Sheamus as WWE did for much of 2015 and then expect people to take him seriously and believe him as World champion. That is never, ever going to work. So pairing a champion who nobody takes seriously with a challenger with a litany of problems in his own right was a recipe for disaster. Not to mention having them do chair, ladder and table spots on a show already stuffed to the gills with them.
There was one silver lining however and that was the post-match angle. That presented Reigns a little differently, it presented Reigns as a man with some edge. It presented him as a man who, after countless screwjobs, has finally snapped. This is a much more interesting direction for him. He wasn’t just the same old winking, smiling, joking babyface cut from the usual WWE mould. The problem is I have little faith in them sustaining this direction with Reigns – they have an extremely spotty record with having wrestlers actually care about what’s happened to them for longer than two weeks. But if they do there may be some life left in Reigns as a babyface yet. ***1/4