WrestleWatch Vault: WWE TLC 2009
A bit of diversity in our Vault diving never hurt. We've worked through the Ruthless Aggression Era over the past couple of years, and a couple of weeks ago we jumped back to late 1997 to work through the origins of the Attitude Era. Today's entry brings us to an event entrenched in WWE's PG Era. To prepare for next week's TLC PPV, we rewind the clock a decade. In December 2009, WWE held its first annual TLC PPV. The TLC match had been a staple in WWE since Summerslam 2000, where Edge & Christian defeated the Hardyz and the Dudleyz in the next evolution of the ladder match. TLC in the WWE world does not stand for "Tender Love & Care", it stands for "Tables, Ladders & Chairs". To win the match is the same as a regular ladder match- scale the climbing apparatus and retrieve the championships dangling above the ring. But for a little added flavour, chairs and tables are strewn around ringside to maximise the carnage and chaos.
In 2009, WWE opted to further monetise the gimmick matches that they had made famous. In the past, WWE had rolled out gimmick matches whenever the feud/situation called for it. I really don't like the concept of gimmick PPVs, because it means wrestlers are having these brutal matches simply because of the calendar, not because the rivalry is sufficiently heated and personal. But it is what it is, at this stage it's ingrained in WWE culture much like the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania.
This period of time is one where I had largely stepped away from the WWE product. As I've spoken about in the past, World Wrestling Entertainment had become far too sanitised and kid-friendly. The weekly product was suffering, particularly Monday Night Raw, which had an increased celebrity presence. In lieu of a General Manager, the on-screen authority was the celeb guest host of that particular week. With the exceptions of Hugh Jackman and Bob Barker, most celebrities hosting Raw clearly couldn't give two shits about wrestling, they were just there to collect a paycheck and shill whatever movie/book/product they were releasing.
John Cena was THE GUY, but we were starting to see new blood rise, including the Celtic Warrior, Sheamus. The big fella had debuted in the dying embers of WWE's ECW brand, and since he quickly showed he might actually have some value, he was shifted to Raw to dominate as a monster heel. The other big draw of Raw was DX (Triple H and Shawn Michaels) re-uniting for the third and final time (if we pretend the match in Saudi Arabia never happened). They would main event this TLC PPV, fittingly in a TLC match, against the star heel tandem of Chris Jericho & Big Show. Over on Smackdown, Batista was in fine form as an entitled heel after years of being a top babyface, challenging old rival, the Undertaker, for the World Heavyweight Championship. And finally, even though ECW was on death's door, guys like ECW Champion Christian were doing their damndest to provide a quality wrestling product on that brand. And given that I wasn't watching weekly, and I have little desire to watch those shows now, that's all the context you get! Sorry, not sorry.
WWE had started broadcasting their shows in widescreen HD, so thankfully the video is in high quality on the WWE Network, and we don't have the black bars on either side of the screen like the Attitude/RA stuff has. One minor drawback from an aesthetic standpoint- with the exception of the old WWE logo, the overall look of the arena and stage is EXACTLY what current WWE looks like. If you compare 1996 to 2006, there's a large variety of cosmetic changes across that time. Not so much over these last 10 years. Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are on the call, representing Raw, and they are joined on commentary by Smackdown's Matt Striker.
Note: The dark match saw R-Truth defeat CM Punk. Wow. WWE weren't broadcasting KickOff shows at the time, so this information comes to you courtesy of Wikipedia. But CM Punk had been a multi-time World Champion by this point, so losing to Truth, and being in an un-televised match is extremely surprising.
Match 1: ECW Championship- Ladder Match- Christian def. Shelton Benjamin (at 18:05)
Thoughts: These guys were both ladder match specialists, so starting with them is an excellent way to kick off the show, guaranteed. The story was that Christian hand-picked his challenger in Shelton, wanting to "steal the show" with the Gold Standard (Shelty B had bleach blonde hair in '09). I don't know if they achieved the classic show-stealing performance that they were after, but it was still highly impressive. The PG Era reared its ugly head early, as Christian got busted open legit from a ladder falling on his face, and a doctor intervened mid-match to treat the cut while Benjamin had to stand by awkwardly. The action resumes and some cool spots happened, particularly with Shelton's elite athleticism, managing to leap and balance himself perfectly for some innovative feats of athleticism. The finish saw Christian Frog Splash Shelton through a ladder. The broken ladder gimmick wasn't as played out as it is today, so it made for a satisfying finish to start the show strong. (***1/2)
Match 2: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Drew McIntyre def. John Morrison (at 10:19)
Thoughts: McIntyre had just debuted in WWE, anoited by Vince McMahon as "The Chosen One". Morrison was right in the middle of his WWE run as the IC champ. Mad to think they're both in WWE today as tenured veterans, as Morrison just re-signed and made his first appearance on WWE programming in over 8 years yesterday, appearing on Network talk show The Bump. Anyway, Drew was still very green and Morrison was spot-driven, so a straight-up quality match was a bit tricky for them. It was okay for a 10 minute effort and second on the card. They do a nice job protecting Morrison's Starship Pain finisher- Drew doesn't kick out, but his leg goes outside the ring rope parameters to break the pin count. Moments later, he gets a thumb to the eye in classic heel fashion before hitting the Future Shock DDT (then known as "The Scot Drop") to give McIntyre his first major championship in WWE. (**1/2)
Backstage, Vince congratulates McIntyre, then Josh Matthews comes in for an interview. Sheamus interrupts to promise that he, too, is leaving TLC with championship gold.
Match 3: WWE Women's Championship- Michelle McCool def. Mickie James (at 7:31)
Thoughts: Laycool (the duo of McCool & Layla) were feuding with Mickie, calling her "Piggie James". It was bad. Not because it was "fat-shaming" and I'm triggered, but because it was lame and juvenile. The idea that a super-hot chick like Mickie would cry over such childish insults just seemed ridiculous. The actual wrestling in the match was at the high level of what they were doing at the time- although doesn't hold up as well compared to today's stuff. McCool was the longest reigning champion in all of WWE, and extended her reign here after a distraction from Layla allowed the lanky lass to blast Mickie with a big boot. (**)
Match 4: WWE Championship- Tables Match- Sheamus def. John Cena (at 16:19)
Thoughts: Too much, too soon for Sheamus? Yeah, probably. He had debuted on ECW feuding with Goldust only a few months earlier. But he was really good. One of the guys pushed in the PG Era that I was actually a big fan of. Nice brawling action and good teases of breaking the table. The placement on the card was early for a WWE Championship match, and especially for a Cena match, which made the finish even more shocking. Sheamus shoved Cena off the top rope through a table, and the Celtic Warrior is here to run shit as the champ. Good stuff. Cena was pretty stale around this time, so taking a chance on a newcomer like this is welcome. (***)
Match 5: World Heavyweight Championship- Chairs Match- Undertaker def. Batista (at 13:14)
Thoughts: Chairs matches rarely work as a stipulation. Ladder and table matches are fine, because there's a different method of victory in play. A chairs match is just restrictive. It's not a no DQ/hardcore match, it's just a regular match where one single weapon is legal. And the weirdness of that stipulation came into play, where Batista hit a low blow to Taker behind the referee's back, because that's illegal, but blasted him in the head with a steel chair in plain sight, because that's okay. Big Dave actually got a 3 count off this and went to leave with the title, but Smackdown GM Teddy Long came out and restarted the match. Fair bit of fuckery here, and Taker immediately sits up and hits the Tombstone in short order to retain his world title. It was well worked- Batista and Taker have great chemistry- but the fuckery of the booking and stipulations hurt this one a lot. (**1/2)
Match 6: Randy Orton def. Kofi Kingston (at 13:11)
Thoughts: This was the initial attempt at pushing Kofi as a singles star, the basis of the Orton/Kofi feud earlier this year. Kingston dropped the Jamacian accent and became more aggressive- the pre-match video shows his iconic Boom Drop moment in MSG on the Viper. As for the match, you have two great athletes- one, an established star, and the other, a young man on the way up with a lot to learn. That was the story of the match, and it played out nicely. It was always going to be a little tricky to stand out big time on a card with so many gimmicks floating around. One cool spot was simply a huge cross body from Kofi, serious height and impact that made me go "shit!" The finishing sequence was cool, incorporating Orton's Punt, which we don't really see today. Kofi misses with the Trouble In Paradise, but Orton reverses into the RKO. Good shit. Not quite great, but good. (**1/2)
Match 7: Unified WWE Tag Team Championship- TLC Match- DX (Triple H & Shawn Michaels) def. Chris Jericho & Big Show (at 22:32)
Thoughts: I liked the discipline shown here. These four veterans didn't put on a stunt show or try and kill each other, they picked their spots nicely of when to use the ladders, chairs and tables. The dynamic between Jericho and Big Show was good too, where the evil mastermind Jericho was ordering the giant to maim the DX members. The ladder was prominently used as a weapon by both teams to smash each other with, rather than using it to do high spots. DX used it nicely as an equalizer to take out Big Show. The only real downer was that the big finishing spot didn't quite work. Jericho was standing on Show's shoulders in lieu of using a ladder- because a lot of them were mangled wrecks around ringside- and Shawn hit Show with Sweet Chin Music, which was meant to send Jericho flying through a table at ringside. Unfortunately, Jericho couldn't quite make it far enough, and smacked the table face-first. Would have hurt like hell, but visually it wasn't as impressive as if he had actually crashed through the table as planned. DX win their first tag titles here, at least the HHH/HBK combination. (***1/2)
TLC 2009 was a nice way to start the yearly tradition of having PPVs based around Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches. While the level of violence was toned down from what fans were accustomed to expecting from these sort of gimmick matches, we had a roster full of talented wrestlers top to bottom that made it work on this card. We started strong with the Christian vs. Shelton ladder match, and also ended on a high note with DX taking on Jeri-Show in a TLC match. The rest of the card saw some new talent elevated, which always helps a show feel fresh and exciting, especially as WWE was ending the decade and looking forward to the 2010s.
Still to come in future posts on The Arena:
-Best Of The 2010s- Top 10 Wrestlers and Top 10 Matches
- WrestleWatch- WWE TLC 2019
- WrestleWatch Vault- WWF D-Generation X: In Your House 1997
- Spotlight- Birds Of Prey
- John Morrison: Rock Star (DVD Review)
Until next time, take care,