10 Things We Learned From WWE TLC 2018

Balor's paint, weird tables, Seth, Dean & more...

The following two statements are apparently true:

  • You don't have to watch the weekly TV shows in order to enjoy a pay-per-view

  • Actually, skipping the weekly TV shows just to watch the pay-per-views is probably the way to go.

Monday Night Raw often takes critical swipes from the ones who tend to watch it anyway, but the slow whittle of the weekly viewership numbers has indicated deeper annoyance than the usual bellyaching. With Raw now approaching "Impact on its most ambitious days" numbers, WWE has broken the emergency glass that houses Vince McMahon, and will be unleashing him upon Monday's Raw to serve as leak-plugger. Time to shake things up, they say.

I join many of the irritated gallery in finding the recent Raws to be inane space-occupiers and have mostly stuck to watching football in these post-Survivor Series weeks. After watching the Graded and WTF?! recaps, it seems that choosing Joe Tessitore's hemorrhoidal screams and Jason Witten's clumsy stammering over Raw was choosing the lesser of two evils.

But you don't need to watch Raw in order to enjoy a pay-per-view, as was abundantly clear from watching TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs on Sunday night. It was a fun show for the most part, a little bit of everything scattered throughout. Starving myself of the weekly slop not only didn't hurt my enjoyment of the event, but it actually enhanced it - going in with a fresh mind and spirit helps.

Here's what else I learned.

10. It's Definitely Possible To Over-Gimmick A Show


Alright, let's get a minor quibble out of the way here, though it's not exactly a new one for WWE. Because of the TLC header for the show, WWE's compelled to shoehorn in every combination of stipulation (table, chair, ladder, TLC, chairman's ladder, Jacob's table and ladder, et al) into the show, which is an attempt to dress up matches that lack the anticipatory levels that WWE desires.

But when you're putting a LADDER MATCH on the KICKOFF SHOW, you may have overdone it a wee bit. The Elias/Bobby Lashley suspended guitar match was a way to give Elias a win without pinning the powerful Lashley, but with a ladder stipulation, shouldn't it have been on PPV? Or maybe even saved for television? Especially since the feud (presumably) continues due to the post-match beatdown. It's kinda hard to portray a ladder match as an alpha/omega scenario when you're putting it on during the "Let's get some popcorn and a program before sitting down" stage. What's next, a 30-man Cruiserweight Rumble on the Royal Rumble Kickoff show?

9. The RockerPlex Needs To Make A Comeback


As a WWE fan of nearly 30 years (as if my curmudgeonly nature wasn't enough of a clue), I can recall lots of nifty moves you never see anymore, particularly tag team finishers. The Revival, uh, revived Power and Glory's PowerPlex, but I'd love to see comebacks for The Shaker Heights Spike, Total Elimination, The Sidewinder, among a few others. One retro-tastic manoeuvre was brought back to life during the SmackDown Tag Team Title brawl.

It was there that Cesaro and one of the Usos (I think Jimmy?) resurrected the old RockerPlex, in which Shawn Michaels hoisted the foe up in a Vertical Suplex, and Marty Jannetty came off the top and cross-bodied the guy while he was upside down. Wouldn't mind seeing that one a little bit more, especially if Cesaro and Sheamus are willing to grow their hair out like Ultimate Sin-era Ozzy.

8. TLC Matches Don't Require The Use Of All The Namesake Weapons


A TLC match implies that chairs will be swung, tables will be broken, and ladders will be ascended. The Braun Strowman/Baron Corbin fight for opportunities and absolute power gave us one-third of the advertised mayhem, though it was understandable since Strowman's still on the mend from elbow surgery. The match was a glorified angle, albeit a crowd-pleasing one. And with Corbin out of power, Raw creative is SURE to improve instantly.

But I thought about how the lack of tables and ladders in a TLC match could be applied. Imagine WWE advertising a barbed wire match featuring a truly-detestable villain, and as soon as the bell rings, he rolls up the opponent and wins, with nobody hitting the barbs. Talk about a way to fan the flames! I like that the advertised stipulations don't always guarantee the full use of them. Keeps you on your toes a bit.

7. Tables With A Deceased Wrestler's Likeness Affixed To Them Are Not At All A Pain In The Ass To Transport


It's about a seven-hour drive from San Diego to San Jose, from last week's Raw to Sunday night's TLC pay-per-view, and the Jim Neidhart-adorned table made an appearance in both locations. Now, it's *possible* that Ruby Riott peeled off the Anvil Fathead from the table on Raw, rolled it out, and threw into the trunk of her rental car for convenient transport, but I like my idea of events better.

I'd like to think that The Riott Squad just strapped the table to the roof of their car, were lucky to avoid precipitation and bird droppings and got it in one piece to San Jose, where it could continue to be used as an explicit visual aid in making sure the audience remembered who the heel was. Artists suffer for their art.

6. Demon Paint Cannot Be Applied In Under 30 Minutes


The Demon aspect of Finn Balor continues to have much allure, sending an entire fanbase into a cataclysmic frenzy as soon as the thump-thump of the heartbeat hits their ears. Balor's application of the face and body paint makes him virtually unbeatable, imbuing him with the sort of power and invincibility that can only be found in Popeye's spinach cans.

Balor didn't don the complex paint scheme for his match with Drew McIntyre, when you'd think that a challenge of that magnitude might require busting out the colour palette. It must take more than 30 minutes to apply the paint, seeing as Balor appeared un-primed earlier on during the public execution of Constable Corbin. It's not quite as nifty as Clark Kent hustling into the phone booth to switch into the Superman garb. In other words, Balor's not going to be saving your city from catastrophe on short notice.

5. Gentlemen's Agreements Prohibit Chair Strikes To The Head


Now there's obvious, kayfabe-busting reason why you won't see steel chairs swung at the human skull in WWE ever again, but work with me here. In a match featuring two men who hate each other's guts (one of them a Buffalo Bill-esque filthy sadist) and a gaggle of steel chairs that can be legally used, it *is* a little bit funny to see them each go for the plunder, and then immediately thrust them lip-first into each other's ribcages.

I'm not saying Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio should be playing a game of "Human Railroad Spike" with each other's noggins, but in a "Chairs Match", a bout that essentially promises uninhibited violence, it does take me out of the match to see them not going balls-out to obliterate the other guy. I *understand* why, but kayfabe gets thwarted by reality in a manner that can take a spectator out of the match.

4. Nia Jax Doesn't Have WWE Network


Hey, don't take it from me - it was Renee Young that turned me on to this little tidbit. In the early stages of the Ronda Rousey/Nia Jax Raw Women's title bout, Young talked about how Jax could "watch tapes" of Rousey in order to improve her game against the defending champion. Tapes, she said. As I wonder what percentage of the modern wrestling fanbase has actually ever shoved a VHS tape into an honest-to-goodness VCR.

Seeing as virtually every Rousey match is available on that five-year-old streaming service that WWE incessantly offers free monthly subscriptions for, and her UFC fights are all available on Fight Pass (something WWE *doesn't* plug, for obvious reasons), where do these wonderful relics of media come into play? Wait til Renee finds out that everyone's theme music doesn't get blared out from a JVC KaBoomBox with a cassette player.

3. Ross Tweddell Wields Just As Much Influence As Oprah


I assure you that is entry is not meant to curry favour with my esteemed colleague and mentor, Mr. Ross Tweddell, but it cannot be stated enough just how strong his word is. The proof was in the pudding when Michael Cole let the home audience know that Daniel Bryan intended, upon his retention of the WWE Championship against AJ Styles, that he planned to sub out the leather-strapped WWE Championship for a more vegan-friendly alternative.

Well, isn't that what Mr. Tweddell had brayed about weeks ago? Leave it to Ross to bring this character contradiction to the international eye, a large enough scope to include a busy man like Bryan, and get him to promise change for the sake of his morals. We're not calling Bryan a hypocrite, not at all! It's just that Ross noticed an inconsistency, used his clout to call attention to it, and because of it, Bryan is now attempting to better himself. You don't need protest signs to influence important change in the world - you just need to be the antithesis of a numpty, that's all.

2. You Can Cease To Be Brothers


I hate to keep harping on Renee, especially since Corey Graves wrecked her night by badgering her over her husband's recovery from a life-altering staph infection, but something else she said caught my attention, as it's a very interesting turn on a phrase. She referred to husband Dean Ambrose and opponent Seth Rollins as "former brothers".

"Former friends" is one thing, but "former brothers"? Is this actually possible? Does it require a procedure that involves complex lasers, or maybe a particularly sharp carrot peeler of some sort? Did Liam and Noel Gallagher ever seek such a radical procedure at any point during their endless acrimony? The phrase, "You can't choose your family" exists for a reason, I thought, but apparently not.

1. Charlotte Is Insanely Resilient


The main event pitting Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Asuka in a TLC match for the SmackDown Women's title was a tremendous show-ender that made all three women look strong, set the stage for future feuds, mollified the fans who felt Asuka had been constantly short-changed, and gave us plenty of jarring mayhem to gawk at.

In particular, Charlotte endured one nasty strike when Lynch jumped off of a ladder, sandwiching Ms. Flair between an unyielding announce table and her own body weight. The visual itself was cringeworthy, and the spot caused Charlotte to cry out in obvious pain (a muted curse was in there). Frankly, I'm surprised that we didn't see something resembling tomato paste fly out of Charlotte - from both ends. But minutes later, she was back into the thick of things, with renewed energy and aggression. She may get flak for not being Becky, and for getting served more often than others, but you can't say she hasn't earned everything she's gotten. Charlotte is not only highly skilled, but she's incredibly tough as well.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.