Here’s my final thoughts on Raw and SmackDown Live’s WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2018!
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Cedric Alexander (WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
Reactions: While I’m sure that the stars of 205 Live would rather compete on the PPV main card, their matches provide the perfect dose of adrenaline that the Kickoff Show needs. Murphy and Alexander mixed in smart counters, intense striking, and cringe inducing apron spots throughout this enjoyable title rematch.
Watching Alexander rev up his already heated intensity was quite the treat. The near falls really pushed this bout to another gear. But it soon came to a quick close after a snappy series of moves were delivered to Alexander from a revived Murphy. With an extra five minutes, this one could have reached the quality level of the Survivor Series meeting between Murphy and Ali. Even still, this Cruiserweight Championship match was a good time.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Elias vs. Bobby Lashley (with Lio Rush) (Ladder Match With a Guitar Suspended Above the Ring)
Reactions: In what had to be the shortest Ladder Match in wrestling history, Elias managed to retrieve his guitar after a fun encounter with Lashley. Both men pulled out your usual array of Ladder-assisted spots in quick succession.
The coolest moments that took place during this quick encounter had to be Lashley flinging Elias into a ladder with a Belly to Belly Suplex and Elias Powerbombing Lashley into a ladder set up in the corner. Since this was a Kickoff Show bout, it never truly got going before its sudden conclusion. Plus the post-match shenanigans rendered the winner as simply meaningless, which brought this rare Kickoff Show Ladder Match down a peg.
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Mahalicia (Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox) (with The Singh Brothers) vs. Fabulous Truth (R-Truth and Carmella) (Mixed Match Challenge Finals; Each Member of the Winning Team Will be the Last Entrant of Their Respective Royal Rumble Matches at the Royal Rumble)
Reactions: BARS! Shout out to the Fabulous Truth for providing the live crowd with that pure Dylan heat before the match. Now for the match itself? Well…it was a match. That’s all there is to it. It was filled with some sloppy interactions between every member of this Mixed Match Challenge contest. At least the more humorous parts gave it a little bit of life (I’m always down for mid-match dance break!). It’s crazy how Mahal and Fox are considered WWE veterans, yet they STILL look extra awkward and uncoordinated in the ring…
Rating: 1 & a Half out of 5 Stars
The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus) (c) vs. (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and/or Xavier Woods) vs. The Usos (Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso) (Triple Threat Tag Team Match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Reactions: I knew we’d see these three standout teams clash in a Triple Threat Match at some point. And TLC 2018 is the show where that personal dream match of mine’s finally took place. It should come as no surprise that all three duos put on an extremely fast-paced encounter full of hot tags, Superkicks, and clever tandem offense.
It was a bit disappointing to see that The Usos didn’t get a lot of in-ring time, but they still made the most of it via a Superkick Party and some exciting dives. The result was never in question, but The Usos and The New Day worked hard to make the crowd think a title change was on the horizon. This would have been a bonafide classic with a few Ladders put in place. On its own, though? It still managed to be a good contest.
Rating: 3 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin (Tables, Ladders, & Chairs Match; If Strowman Wins, Corbin will be Stripped of all Authoritative Power and Strowman will receive a WWE Universal Championship Match at the Royal Rumble. If Corbin Wins, he will become the Full-Time General Manager of Raw)
Reactions: This wasn’t a match – it was practically a job review that saw Raw’s acting GM “catch these hands” from everyone he’s wronged. Strowman was clearly not cleared to compete in this TLC match, which is why it was played up as a handicap brawl. Funny enough, no tables or ladders were even needed here.
Corbin got fed plenty of steel chair shots and finishers from all the Raw Superstars looking for sweet, sweet revenge. Two great results came out of this extended beatdown – Corbin’s no longer presiding over Raw as GM and Strowman’s getting another Universal Championship shot against Lesnar at the 2019 Royal Rumble. I couldn’t be more pleased…
Rating: CORBIN’S OUTTA HERE!
Natalya vs. Ruby Riott (with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan) (Tables Match)
Reactions: It was nice seeing Natalya get a rare PPV victory. Especially after all the emotional strife she’s been put through by The Riott Squad. This blood feud didn’t exactly deliver the type of intense bout it needed to finish out on, however.
There were just many too dull periods during this match that saw tables being set up for too long and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart being used to tug at everyone’s heartstrings. Props goes out to Morgan and Logan for taking crashes through tables themselves. Sadly, their sacrifices weren’t enough to make this match worthwhile. Natalya got the revenge she deserved, at least.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Finn Bálor vs. Drew McIntyre
Reactions: This turned out to be a solid bout that wouldn’t be out of place on your usual episode of Raw. McIntyre demonstrated his penchant for dominance all the while, but Bálor remained vigilant throughout. Both men went back and forth during some hot exchanges. It had its basic beginning and middle portions that I’m sure fans are used to getting from a typical Raw main event.
Ziggler popped up to interfere, which was a slight surprise for your’s truly. Once a steel chair became a part of the equation, it became quite evident that McIntyre would regret using it. Bálor’s quick thinking and debilitating foot work brought an end to his taller (and stronger) opponent on this evening. All in all, this was good. A future rematch with more time could easily enter the realm of great, though.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton (Chairs Match)
Reactions: Mysterio did it! The legendary luchador had to constantly fight to stay out of Orton’s grasp and utilize the steel chairs surrounding the ring in several unique ways. Orton did everything in his power to punish his smaller foe, but Mysterio was just one step ahead during several intervals of the match. Mysterio’s steel chair assisted slide into an outside splash onto Orton was pretty damn cool. Plus we got plenty of painful chair shots to wince at all the while.
Orton’s methodical pace actually lent more to the match instead of taking away from it. It allowed the bout to build up to all the cool moments that took place during its middle and ending stages. Rey got the win after a cool sequence involving a row of chairs that saw Rey hop on Orton’s shoulders and flip him over into a pinfall. I wasn’t expecting too much from this match, which is why I thought it was a bit better than I expected.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nia Jax (WWE Raw Women’s Championship)
Reactions: Rousey’s streak of good to great PPV matches continues! It’s quite astonishing that not only is Rousey capable of having a good match with any woman of her caliber, she’s the only one who can get a watchable bout of the usually underwhelming Jax. Jax played her role perfectly here – she embraced the hate and used her overwhelming power to take the breath out of Rousey (and sometimes the crowd).
Once Rousey got going though, the bout’s brutality factor went up a few notches. In an act of desperation, Rousey took flight from the top rope and came crashing down on the challenger on the outside. Afterwards, both women clobbered each other and got the crowd to react to every big strike and slam they delivered. Jax actually looked decent, but it wasn’t all that shocking considering who her dance partner was. Rousey and Jax did the unthinkable once again by putting on a match befitting of the grand championship it was contested for.
Rating: 3 & Half out of 5 Stars
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles (WWE Championship)
Reactions: WWE made one of the smartest decisions in recent memory with this match’s setup – they gave it plenty of time to cook! It started off with slick technical work and plenty of posturing from the all-black attire donned WWE Champion. Bryan’s new heel persona is played masterfully nowadays and it was on full display here. AJ stepped up his game even more than usual by roughing up his foe and brutalizing his injured leg outside and inside the ring.
Bryan responded in kind with some of the stiffest strikes he’s ever delivered. The slow burn felt during this WWE Championship encounter made the crowd come alive once it reached a fever pitch. AJ’s continued leg work and the fact that he used his Phenomenal Forearm on the outside added even more life to this bout. Bryan tapped into his intelligence and made sure to use AJ’s anger against him. In the end, Bryan reached into his big bag of tricks to lock in a tight Small Boy pin on AJ for the win. Thanks to this bout’s long runtime, great character work from both competitors, and amazing in-ring action, this bout ended up being a late contender for WWE MOTY!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE Intercontinental Championship)
Reactions: After witnessing an amazing WWE Championship match beforehand, I was looking forward to Rollins and Ambrose keeping the live energy high. Sadly, that didn’t come to pass. Ambrose’s slow and plodding control of the match near its start did the opposite of Bryan and AJ’s work – it bored the crowd (and me) to tears.
It went on for far too long and caused the show as a whole to hit a speed bump. Rollins did everything in his power to wake up the crowd, which worked at certain points. But as a whole, Rollins’ usually entertaining performance wasn’t enough to save this bout from a disinterested crowd. The match itself wasn’t outright offensive by any means – it was simply lifeless due to Ambrose’s dull performance. This match surely didn’t live up to the high standards that both men are known for…
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka (Triple Threat Tables, Ladders, & Chairs match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Reactions: WHAT A FINISH! The top three ladies of SD Live worked overtime in order to give the crowd something to enjoy after the disappointing contest between Rollins and Ambrose. Thankfully, their combined work was a resounding success! Asuka tapped into her old Strong Style persona, Charlotte went stir crazy with a Kendo Stick, and Lynch used ringside tables to tear her rivals a new one. This TLC main event started out hot and maintained an incredibly exciting pace throughout.
There were a bevy of moments that stood out here, such as Lynch dropping a leg through Charlotte on the announce table and Asuka Powerbombing Charlotte into a table set up near the ring corner. Everyone’s mouths were left agape at the shocking ending, however. Rousey’s interference and revenge fueled actions were obviously put in place to set up the often-rumored Four Horsewomen (Team Rousey) vs. Four Horsewomen (WWE) bout at next year’s WrestleMania.
Rating: 3 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Match of the Night
Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles!
This year’s TLC was on the verge of being great, but it was let down by a series of bouts that were either lackadaisical or a bit too formulaic. The bright spots of this event kept it from being a total loss in the end. The WWE Championship match stole the show, the Triple Threat Match for SD Live’s tag team titles was a fun treat, and the Women’s TLC main event ended the show on a high note.
The Mixed Match Challenge opener, Ambrose vs. Rollins, and Natalya vs. Riott were definite low lights, plus the planned TLC war between Corbin and Strowman was more of an extended segment than a hotly contested brawl. The show was a bit overstuffed too, which made it feel a lot longer than it actually was. TLC 2018 was great in some parts and a complete bore in other portions. Seek out the top matches I listed beforehand (plus the Raw Women’s title bout) if you want the absolute best that TLC 2018 has to offer.
Final Score: 3 out of 5 Stars