With the WWE coming under intense pressure as of late to improve the product as 2018 comes to a close, the Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view represented the company's biggest chance to do so.
Vince McMahon is already announced for Monday Night Raw the night after the show, so what could he be planning for TLC to precipitate his appearance?
Would Braun Strowman actually be healthy enough to face Baron Corbin with a shot at Brock Lesnar and the Universal title hanging in the balance?
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose would finally clash nearly two months on from the latter's shocking heel turn - could he win the Intercontinental title?
Let's get into the action.
Mixed Match Challenge Finals: R-Truth & Carmella Vs Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox
Truth and Carmella were greeted with a bigger babyface reaction than one might expect, but the crowd was clearly on their side for their encounter with the tandem of Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox - the latter of whom amusingly danced the hell out of Jinder's entrance.
You won't be surprised to learn that this match was gimmick heavy with a dance break and calm breathing from Jinder and co. The action wasn't overly hard-hitting, but towards the end of the bout, Truth managed to low bridge Mahal and then totally botched a low-rope leg drop to the outside that Jinder sold like a champ. That allowed Carmella to lock in Code of Silence for the victory
Result: R-Truth & Carmella win via submission
This was what it was. It had all the elements going for the babyfaces and the match didn't go on too long where it outstayed its welcome. The idea of R-Truth coming out 30th in the Royal Rumble is hardly an exciting one, you have to imagine that will change.
Score - 6/10
SmackDown Live tag team titles: The Bar (c) Vs The Usos Vs The New Day
The action flowed effortlessly here for a very watchable contest. Sheamus and Cesaro showed their nous for slowing down the two athletic teams opposite them and The Bar seemingly had an answer for everything thrown at them until Kofi Kingston received the hot tag from Xavier Woods.
Lots of blind tags made for some cool spots involving all three teams, including Kingston trying to hit a cross body from the top on Cesaro, who turned it into a vertical suplex, which saw both men met by a flying Jimmy Uso.
The New day looked to have it won after Kingston connected with Trouble in Paradice on Sheamus and Woods hit the big elbow from the top, but Jey Uso and Cesaro made the save. After Kingston threw himself to the outside, that left Woods in the ring with the Celtic Warrior to eat a Brogue Kick allowing the champions to retain.
Result: The Bar win via pinfall
The action in this match was as good as you would expect it to be and Cesaro, once again, reminded everyone of what a real top-tier talent he is. It's hard to know what WWE are going to do with New Day and The Usos on SmackDown now; they've pretty much done it all. The Bar's path is hardly clear either, but it was fun nonetheless.
TLC match: Baron Corbin Vs Braun Strowman
Heath Slater stands in the ring with his referee jersey as Baron Corbin makes his way to the ring and the Lone Wolf explains that Strowman will be forfeiting the contest. He orders the ref to count to 10, but, of course, Strowman interrupts the count in a sling, no less.
Strowman says there are no DQs in a TLC match and that "if somebody wanted to help me, it would be perfectly legal." Apollo Crews shows up first, followed by Chad Gable and Bobby Roode and Finn Balor.
Lastly, Heath Slater tears off his referee shirt and everyone has at the GM-elect. After suffering several chair shots and attempting to make an escape, Kurt Angle makes his presence felt and beats on Corbin too.
After everyone hits their finishers in the ring, Strowman simply puts his foot on Corbin for the win. Corbin's reign as Raw GM is over and Strowman will meet Lesnar at the Royal Rumble.
Result: Braun Strowman wins via pinfall
For what this was, this was about as good as creative could have made it. The story that was told was fitting and the fact that none of his heel 'friends' came out to make the save spoke volumes, too. Braun couldn't possibly compete, but now he has a date with Brock Lesnar and a new GM seems to be heading to Raw. Everybody wins!
Score - 7/10
Tables Match: Natalya Vs Ruby Riott
In what was essentially 3-on-1, Nattie managed to even the odds by dumping Liv Morgan off the apron through a table and then bodyslamming Sarah Logan through another on the outside.
That left things one-on-one, but Riott managed to get the other hand and emotionally toyed with Nattie. She told Natalya that her recently deceased father was ashamed of her and brought the table with Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart posted on, into the ring.
After taking control of the bout, Nattie finds a table with Ruby Riott plastered on and decides to wear her dad's old jacket. With the leader of the Riott Squad attempting to hit a hurricanrana from the top rope, Nattie powerbombs her through the table for the win for a big pop.
Result: Natalya wins after putting Riott through a table
Out of every match on the card, this is one that exceeded it's expectations. There was compelling action throughout and the running narrative that was nicely played back to at regular intervals. Natalya put on a great performance and Ruby Riott continues to prove that she will be a breakout star one day.
Score - 8/10
Drew McIntyre Vs Finn Balor
This match started off with the typical big man trying to catch the smaller, quicker foe and Balor used his attributes best he could in the opening exchanges. Naturally, it wasn't long before the Scottish Terminator began to take charge, but Balor showed plenty of fire and aggression that ensured things were going to be competitive.
McIntyre chose a lot of submission holds to try and wear Balor down and in the process, it hurt the pace of the match. But, every now and again, Balor's energy would inject life into the affair. Balor's tornado DDT followed by flip over the top rope were the highlights of a fantastic comeback, but a smooth tilt-a-whirl backbreaker put an end to that.
After the match moved to the inside and Balor was thrown back in, Dolph Ziggler arrived to nail a superkick. Although the Showoff attempted to follow that up with a chair shot, McIntyre intercepted him. Drew chucked Dolph into the ring and followed in with the chair, but Balor met him with a dropkick straight onto the chair that set McIntyre up to suffer the Coupe de Grace, earning Balor the 1-2-3.
Result: Finn Balor wins via pinfall
The surprise of Finn Balor scoring a big win on pay-per-view in 2018 was extremely welcome and it was done in a way where Drew McIntyre lost no momentum whatsoever. Dolph Ziggler remains a heel who just wanted to get his retribution and it was announced during the show that Ziggler will face Balor on Raw. The story continues...
Score - 7.5/10
Chairs Match: Randy Orton vs Rey Mysterio
Chairs matches are historically terrible in the WWE, but these two have such terrific chemistry and are a pair of smart veterans, we knew they'd dig something decent out. Orton tried to be meticulous in his approach, but Mysterio's fast wits kept him in the game. With Orton on the outside, Mysterio started off the cool spots by doing a splash under the bottom rope with a chair across his chest, leaving Orton wrying in pain.
A missed senton on the outside that sent Rey onto a chair put Orton back in control and they continued to use steel chairs on the end of their textbook maneuvers. When Mysterio tried the same move back in the ring, Orton simply lobbed a chair straight in his face.
Eventually, Mysterio was able to hit the 619, but Orton almost instantly recovered to stifle the former WWE champion. After setting up a row of chairs, Orton attempted his fabled RKO, but instead, Mysterio countered and after an inventive combination, he rolled Orton up for the win.
Result: Rey Mysterio wins via pinfall
It might not be too strong to say this was the greatest chairs match of all-time, but that wouldn't really do anyone justice. Orton and Mysterio put on a fun match with plenty of enjoyable spots and it's clear these two have the same chemistry they did when they battled on SmackDown circa 2005. The finish leaves a frustrated Orton and every reason to believe this little rivalry isn't over.
Score - 7.5/10
Raw Women's title: Ronda Rousey (c) Vs Nia Jax
These two picked up right where they left off at Money in the Bank with a fast pace match that showcased both women's strengths. Rouse, quite obviously the faster of the two, evaded Jax early on and landed strikes on the move. However, when Jax grabbed Rousey and teased her with the same punch that broke Becky Lynch's face, Rousey reversed it into her patented armbar, only for Jax to reverse that into a powerbomb.
The match continued in that vein. Jax brought the power moves while Rousey looked to lock in her submissions at every given opportunity and wear her much larger opponent down. The match turned when Jax attempted to recreate the way she won the Raw belt at WrestleMania with a Samoan drop from the top rope, but Rousey countered with a sunset flip into a powerbomb.
After Jax tried to land her own knockout punch - eerily similar to Big Show's - off a Tamina distracton, Rousey blocked the attempt and locked in the armbar for the win.
Result: Ronda Rousey wins via pinfall
Although Rousey's one-on-one encounter with Charlotte Flair at Survivor Series was good, it's fair to say her best two one-on-one matchups in the WWE have come against Nia Jax. They play of each other extremely well and the pace of the match they put on was just so exciting. Nia delivered on a big stage and Rousey still looks like the bona fide star she is. Excellent.
Score - 8.5/10
WWE title: Daniel Bryan Vs AJ Styles
AJ Styles, four weeks on from dropping the belt to Bryan, looked fired up from the outset and delivered a set of nasty chops to get us going. It wasn't long, however, before the New Daniel Bryan was contorting Styles' body in various ways and hitting hard whenever he had the chance.
Bryan took total control of the match and showcased just how vicious and stiff he can be. He domainted Styles with a series of suplexes, submissions, knees and elbows that left the Phenomenal One reeling.
Styles would work his way back into the match and landed a big 450 splash, but neither man could get their real finishing moves in until Styles hit Bryan with the Phenomenal Forearm on the outside. The former champ tried to hit it again on the inside, but after Bryan moved out the way, Styles went for the inside cradle to grab the win, only for Bryan to reverse the pressure and score the pinfall.
Result: Daniel Bryan wins via pinfall
Before the main event came along, this was the best match of the night. As far as pure, technical wrestling goes, Bryan put on a show and it really spotlighted how much working as a heel suits him and his deep repertoire. Styles more than played his part and had a terrific comeback towards the end, but Bryan dictated proceedings and was crisp in everything he did. We're in for a fun title reign if this was anything to go, which, sadly, the majority of Styles' was not.
Score - 9/10
Intercontinental title: Seth Rollins Vs Dean Ambrose
For two men that should have wanted to tear each other apart as soon as they saw each other, the start of this match so stare downs and shoving before the action begun in earnest.
Ambrose had the hot start in this one as he went for the physical, smash-mouth approach. Rollins grew into the contest, though, but it remained a slugfest throughout without any real tempo. The match began to slide in Ambrose's favour when Rollins injured his knee - yet again - doing the exact spot that saw him tear his ACL years ago, a sunset flip down the turnbuckle.
With Rollins in control, Ambrose offers his fist for the traditional Shield union, but this surely deceitful ploy only makes Rollins mad and he starts to destroy the Lunatic Fringe. He takes Ambrose to the outside and delivers the same powerbomb into the barricade that took eight months of Finn Balor's career. Rollins then threw Ambrose back in the ring and attempted to hit the Curb Stomp, but Ambrose sprung into action and landed Dirty Deeds to pick up the win and the Intercontinental title.
Result: Dean Ambrose wins via pinfall
There is something about this feud which is just a little off. The same thing happened here where, at one point, the crowd chanted this is boring. The first half of the match was time killing it seemed and the fans could tell. The second half upped the action and it began to tell the story. Little call backs to their time in the Shield were nice but the whole match felt a little anti-climatic and certainly not the blood feud you'd expect. It does, however, free up Rollins for WrestleMania season...
Score - 6/10
TLC Match for the SmackDown Live Women's title: Becky Lynch (c) Vs Charlotte Flair Vs Asuka
Well, these three ladies went all out from the get-go here. The first major bump saw Asuka throw Becky Lynch from the top rope onto a ladder, and she followed that up with powerbombing Charlotte through a table propped up in the corner.
The biggest bump would see Lynch scale an enormous ladder and leap through Charlotte on the announcer's table below, with Asuka moving in just the nick of time. Charlotte wasn't so lucky and really got the brunt of the action. Once she recovered, Charlotte halted Asuka running on a tear with a kendo stick to spear her partially through a barricade before almost swanton bombing off the turnbuckle through a table on the outside that had Lynch lying on it.
With all three women out on their feet and the crowd at fever pitch having seen these ladies tear the house down, they began their ascent up the ladders only for Ronda Rousey to arrive on the scene. The UFC Hall of Famer would push over the ladder that had Flair and Lynch on leaving Asuka to claim her first-ever world title on the main roster.
Result: Asuka wins the SmackDown Live Women's title
It was going to take a lot to beat Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles for match of the night, but these ladies tore the house down. It was the perfect blend of wrestlers who were all willing to take risks to properly represent a huge, historic, landmark night for the ladies in WWE. Charlotte was at the heart of all the great spots as usual and her big match pedigree is unrivalled at this point. Becky continues to be super, super over, but this was a nice moment for Asuka and one she richly deserves. Even though it comes via a Ronda Rousey assist, the moment was still warmly received.
Score - 9.5/10
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