From Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin in the opening match in 2009 to CM Punk defending the WWE Championship in 2011’s main event, WWE’s TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view has provided some of the greatest matches in recent memory.
As we reflect and identify the greatest matches in the event’s three-year history, we consider those matches that stood out on quality alone and the matches where the finish made your jaw drop.
Some of these matches have helped to elevate a Superstar to the next level. One TLC main event actually made an entire division feel relevant again!
So as we look forward to Sunday’s TLC PPV, let’s take a look back and rank the greatest matches in the show’s history.
As the first and only Divas Tag Team Tables match, this match was made to be historic.
Unfortunately, they didn’t make it very memorable. If anything, the finish to the match should stick out in the minds of fans.
Natalya pushed Michelle McCool and Layla off the second rope onto a customized table, but the table only cracked. She ended up improvising by diving off the top rope—putting her opponents through the table.
By Diva standards, this match was definitely above average. In the grand scheme of things, though, it fails to stand out among the other TLC PPV greats.
Kofi Kingston got a bit of a main-event rub at the end of 2009 when he met Randy Orton in the penultimate match at the inaugural TLC PPV.
Kingston proved he could deliver when put in the spotlight. He and Orton wrestled a good, albeit relatively short, match.
The only blemish on this match was Kingston’s inability to connect with the live crowd. They didn’t react well to his big moves and were pretty quiet even when he pandered to them.
Even so, this match proved Kingston has potential as a star. It’s too bad they haven’t given him another shot like this since then.
Not the best-wrestled match in TLC history by any means. However, this was a dream match for any longtime fan.
The match dragged a lot, but the homestretch was quite awesome.
Triple H managed to climb the ladder and pull down the sledgehammer. He then proceeded to clock Nash with it before dropping him with a Pedigree.
Nash pleaded with Hunter by flashing him the Kliq sign, but Hunter answered with the DX crotch chop. He finally answered the crowd’s “one more time” chants by knocking out Nash with the sledgehammer before pinning him.
As I said, the match was far from stellar. Even so, there’s a certain degree of appreciation for the effort the two legends put in. Plus, who ever thought we’d see Nash vs. Triple H in 2011?
One of the most memorable instances in TLC’s short history is Sheamus sending John Cena through a table and winning the WWE Championship.
The WWE strapped a rocket to Sheamus’ back when they moved him from ECW to Raw just two months before the PPV. Defeating Cena at TLC only added to his momentum.
Cena was ready to superplex Sheamus through a table when the “Celtic Warrior” suddenly pushed him off the top rope and through the table.
The match was very entertaining, despite the lack of crowd reaction during it. There was plenty of great action and the surprise finish definitely makes it hard to forget.
It’s no surprise that Sheamus was named the year’s breakout Superstar the following night on Raw.
While Dolph Ziggler was already slated as one of the company’s next stars, Zack Ryder was just on his way up.
Ryder and Ziggler had developed excellent chemistry over the months. They wrestled for about 10 minutes and put on a great curtain-jerking match.
The match was chock-full of convincing near falls. Both men did their part to tell a great story and make the finish meaningful.
Even better than the match’s quality was the feel-good moment that resulted from Ryder’s win.
Seeing Ryder celebrate his win with his father was one of the most memorable moments in the show’s history. On top of that, Ryder’s clean win was a major breakout moment for him.
This had all the makings of a perfect opening match. Christian and Shelton Benjamin went back and forth for 18 minutes.
There was plenty of memorable action to keep fans engaged from start to finish. They didn’t go overboard with the crazy spots, making sure not to overshadow the rest of the show.
Benjamin power slamming Christian off the ladder and Christian’s Frog Splash through a ladder were plenty to warm the crowd up for the rest of the night.
Driving Benjamin through a ladder with a Frog Splash was good enough to keep him down while Christian climbed the ladder to retrieve his ECW Championship.
This match is easily the best opening match in the show’s history. Heck, it also qualifies as one of the best opening matches we’ve seen in a long time.
DX’s reunion in 2009 culminated in them winning the WWE Tag Team Championships in the main event of the year’s final show.
Between the two teams, this match had a ton of star power. It’s no wonder the WWE chose to have them main-event the first installment of this PPV.
The two sides fought hard for over 20 minutes. Shawn Michaels and Triple H made history by capturing their first Tag Team Championships as a team.
In addition to the historic outcome, the match had all the thrilling action fans anticipated.
One of the most memorable spots from the match was Jericho standing on Big Show’s shoulders and reaching for the belts. Michaels put a quick stop to this by delivering Sweet Chin Music to Big Show, knocking Jericho outside the ring where he hit his head on a table.
Finally, this match proved the WWE was serious about reviving tag team wrestling. Well, until they let it fall off the radar over the next year-and-a-half.
However, as historic and entertaining as this TLC match was, it didn’t quite go the extra mile and separate itself from the other great matches in the PPV’s history.
Kane had a lot of impressive title retentions on his résumé heading into this match, but the Fatal 4-Way TLC match proved to be too much for the dominant champion.
Given Edge’s experience with TLC matches and Rey Mysterio's and Alberto del Rio’s athleticism, fans expected a lot from this match.
They weren’t disappointed. Compared to the other TLC matches in the PPV’s history, this was one of the more brutal ones.
Tables were broken and wrestlers flew from ladders. The most incredible moment of this match was Mysterio tipping a ladder over and sending del Rio through a table outside the ring.
Granted, it kind of overshadowed the finish, but it was still a cool stunt to watch.
The match didn’t quite make a star out of any of the participants, but it does have some historical significance. In his victory, Edge won his 10th World Championship.
John Morrison and Sheamus put themselves in an excellent position for success in 2011 by ending 2010 with a bang.
The two fought to become No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship in a show-stealing Ladder match.
Sheamus and Morrison had fantastic chemistry. Sheamus used his brutal, mat-based style to try and ground the athletic Morrison. Despite doing significant damage to his leg, Morrison was still able to perform the creative spots fans expected him to.
One moment from the match imprinted in the memory of fans is Sheamus being knocked off the ladder and through a ladder set up outside the ring.
As one of the best matches of 2010, it elevated both Superstars. Morrison’s win proved to be a breakout moment for him, despite the fact that he was released from the company in 2011.
Sheamus, on the other hand, was able to connect with the crowd in a way that he had been unable to since taking up the “King Sheamus” gimmick.
So aside from being one of 2010’s standout matches, it ended up moving each wrestler up the WWE’s totem pole.
CM Punk proved in the main event of last year’s show that he’s more than capable of selling a PPV in John Cena’s absence.
The WWE had a tough time building up Alberto del Rio and Miz as credible challengers, but the crowd didn’t seem to care. They were crazy for Punk from bell to bell.
Ironically, one of the most memorable moments of the night didn’t involve a competitor. Ricardo Rodriguez took a massive bump when Miz and Punk tipped over a ladder and sent him through a table at ringside. It looked even nastier because they overshot the spot.
Even though del Rio and Miz didn’t go into the match as plausible winners, the three of them still put on a competitive match that had fans on the edge of their seats.
Punk getting handcuffed to the turnbuckle near the end of the match was a nice touch. It really made it seem like Punk was in danger of losing the championship.
This match was the first of many title defenses in Punk’s epic reign as WWE champion. I’d say he solidified himself pretty nicely.
If you didn’t think Punk was the real deal before this match, seeing him celebrating with the WWE Championship on top of the ladder and hearing the crowd’s ovation must have opened your eyes.