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It's time for WWE's annual closing PPV, the last PPV of the year and the last one before the Royal Rumble gets everyone excited in January, it's Tables, Ladders and Chairs! Oh, wait a minute, scratch that, it's Tables, Ladders and Chairs…And Stairs. Only a PPV with little direction can give have such a grammatically incorrect name, and that is exactly what WWE has given us.
The expected main event of the show is going to be John Cena vs Seth Rollins in a Tables match. The stipulation being that if John Cena were to lose, he loses his number one contenders spot for the WWE Championship. Noticeably absent from yet another PPV card is the WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, who will be skipping his third consecutive PPV despite holding the most important championship in all of wrestling. The most common way for WWE (and any wrestling promotion, really) to book things is to establish a hierarchy around the world championship. There is the champion, at the top of the pyramid, while everyone else scratches and claws underneath him, creating several important matches that will flesh out a PPV card in addition to the main event, the world title match.
With Brock Lesnar currently taking a three month siesta away from WWE, WWE has had to scramble to come up with intriguing ideas to get people interested in the shows while their champion sits at home. At Hell in a Cell, they pushed a fresh feud with younger faces into an engaging contest as the main event. At Survivor Series, they rather hastily put together a storyline leading to the downfall of The Authority. For TLC, they are pretty much going back to the traditional route, this time substituting the number one contenders spot for the actual world title match. But this all begs the question: What is the point of being the number one contender when the title is never around? In addition, it leaves the number one contender (Cena) creatively lost, since his natural rival (the champion) is nowhere to be found. Seth Rollins currently holds the MITB briefcase, guaranteeing him a chance at the world title, but in the last few months, he has been as close to the world title as Heath Slater.
The fact that the number one contender's spot is on the line makes it seem obvious that Cena is going to win. They wouldn't have made him the number one contender for two months, only for him to lose the spot to a heel in Seth Rollins. While Cena vs Lesnar is redundant, at least it makes more sense than Rollins vs Lesnar, which would take a lot of twisting for it to make any form of coherence. The only thing really preventing this match from being totally predictable is the fact that it is a Tables match, which conceivably, is a match that John Cena could dominate, only to lose in a flukey fashion, perhaps because of Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury. Cena once lost the WWE Championship to Sheamus in stunning fashion when Sheamus knocked him off the turnbuckle and into a table, but that was under much different circumstances than what will be taking place Sunday. The most likely outcome will be Cena winning the match after fending off the attacks of both Rollins and his henchmen, which won't do a whole heck of a lot for Seth, but it will get Cena through TLC and onto the Rumble, which is their top priority.
Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt will be continuing their feud in a classic Tables, Ladders and Chairs match, this time hopefully coming to an actual conclusion, unlike their match at Survivor Series. Ambrose destroying Wyatt's chair was the most underrated part of this feud, since it actually gives Bray a tangible motive to go after Ambrose. Before, it was unclear exactly why Wyatt chose Ambrose to attack, but now it at least makes a little bit of sense, and destroying the chair helps tap further into Wyatt's dangerous psyche.
The problem with this match is that it incorporates two guys who really need to win their feuds to remain relevant. Wyatt, as the backwoods cult leader, really needs to win his matches to maintain his idol status. Losses really do damage to his character, as he has experienced firsthand for seemingly all of 2014. Ambrose might be the hottest face in WWE, and the easiest way to keep him hot is for him to win matches. He already came up short at HIAC against Rollins, so he really cannot afford to lose two feuds in a row. The match might end up being an entertaining display of destruction, but it also might end up doing a lot more damage to their characters than their bodies.
The Intercontinental Championship will be on the line in a Ladder match, which is a pretty big boost for the title. Luke Harper will be taking on the recently dethroned Dolph Ziggler, in what could very well be the match of the night. Ziggler has been on an absolute tear recently, and knowing his tendency to sell moves to the max and take hard bumps, there really is no telling what he would attempt to do. In all honesty however, fans of Dolph Ziggler should be rooting against him in this match, since, and this is unfortunately true, holding the IC title is something that keeps a wrestler in the mid-card, not something that signifies a push out of it.
In yet another match that takes wrestlers from opposing teams in the Survivor Series match and places them in a singles contest, Ryback will be taking on Kane in a Chairs match. The Chairs match is the boring cousin of the ladder and tables match, partly because seeing someone hit in the back with a chair isn't nearly as exciting as watching someone fall off a ladder or crash through a table, and also because chairs are used all the time in wrestling. As much as WWE tries to hype it up, the Chairs match will always be the weak link in the TLC triumvirate. Kane has had a miserable 2014, and will likely cap it off with yet another loss. Ryback came back from his sabbatical with a lot of momentum, but that has slowed in recent weeks and with the return of Roman Reigns looming, he might have missed the boat again.
In the most bizarre match on the card, Erick Rowan will face The Big Show in a Stairs match. A Stairs match is presumably the same as a Chairs match, where there are still disqualifications and everything, but use of the steel steps is allowed. The steps are an overused weapon at this point, and they are so big and clunky that it is hard to really do a lot of stuff with them. Imagine a lot of Rowan and Show ramming each other in the shoulder with steps while Cole says it hit them in the head.
If there is any example of WWE creative going through a dull period, it is the fact that they have brought back Jack Swagger to feud with Rusev. Swagger already jobbed out to Rusev months ago, in very unmemorable fashion to boot. However, WWE has brought Swagger back to feud with Rusev again. Really all WWE needed to do was get any warm body from the United States and have them feud with Rusev, yet they selected Swagger to feud with Rusev again, which is like a TV network picking up re-runs of an recent sitcom that only lasted one forgettable season. The only logical explanation I can think of is that Rusev only feels comfortable working with a few opponents, so they paired him with Swagger because in the long run the result is going to be the same either way.
The rest of the card is filled out with typical WWE monotony. The Usos will challenge The Miz and Sandow for the world tag team titles, a sign that WWE desperately needs a fresh face in the tag team division, and that appears to be coming in The Ascension. Nikki Bella will face AJ for the Diva's Championship, which might end up being AJ's last match for a while. Lastly, Gold and Stardust will face The New Day in some form of tag match. The New Day would be so much more interesting if they were heels, and maybe they will be, but as faces they are pretty much the same three guys they were before the repackaging.
There could be some real quality at TLC as there are certainly some matches that could steal the show and make it memorable. However, the storylines are either boring or repetitive, and it would take some impressive creative work for WWE to make this show seem really important. In all likelihood, WWE is just biding their time until the calendar turns to January and they can get geared up for Wrestlemania season.