The stipulation doesn't lend itself to great stories, is limiting once the bell rings and, as a result, has produced only good-not-great matches. Created as a way to celebrate the object that gives the TLC acronym its last letter, the Chairs match doesn't compare with its furniture-based brethren.
When WWE introduced the TLC pay-per-view in 2009, it showcased each of the elements of its titular bout—tables, ladder and chairs—in individual matches.
The Ladder match had long been delivering classics. The Tables match had a less-rich history, but it had its fun moments, thanks to The Dudley Boyz and others. As for the chair-centered clash, it felt like a thrown-in piece of filler.
A part of that is how forced of a gimmick it is. There is rarely a good reason, narrative-wise, to square off in this type of match.
The steel cage makes perfect sense as a destination for two warring rivals. The danger of the structure feeds on the idea that two wrestlers hate each other—and that a standard ring can't house their fury.
It is also designed to hold foes in and lock out intruders. It creates (in theory) an even playing field where two rivals can end their feud without any run-ins or manager interference.
A Lumberjack match has a similar purpose—creating a wall made of men keeping the fight contained.
The Ladder match has an inherent symbolism to it. A prize hangs above the ring, and the two combatants must climb up to reach it. It's a physical representation of reaching out for victory.
As for the Chairs match, there's little reason for enemies to chose this method of battle. If two guys really hate each other, why don't they opt for something of the no-holds-barred variety? Why not demand to step inside the Hell in a Cell?
The path to the bout is often the same each time: a brawl involves chair shots right around TLC time. And so that match is booked where they can do more of that.
That's how Kane and Ryback arrived at this match.
Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt, meanwhile, get a TLC match to emphasize each man's unstable nature. Weapons and high risk fit perfectly into where their feud is going.
Going with the Chairs match for Kane and Ryback felt more like a way to check that item off a list.
The TLC match opens the door to new options for violence. The Chairs match, meanwhile, has a narrower focus.
Only chairs are legal as weapons. That creates a lot of the same type of moment. That's especially true considering WWE's change in policy regarding where one can swing those steel objects.
With shots to the head banned, foes are often forced to bend over, awaiting a blow to the back. There's only so much of that one can see.
It doesn't help how awkward that spot can be, with the recipient of the chair shot seemingly holding out his body to be struck.
A Ladder or Steel Cage match has the advantage of the drama that comes from wrestlers climbing to the top and nearly winning before their opponent drags them down. The Chairs match, on the other hand, offers a lot of something that shows up plenty elsewhere.
We see chair shots in No Disqualification bouts, in Street Fights, in angry outbursts after a loss.
It's not as special as seeing a man fly off a Ladder onto the ring ropes. It doesn't compare with a brawl atop the Hell in a Cell.
The chair-centric climax hasn't been impressive either.
Inside the Hell in a Cell, fans have seen wrestlers crash through the cage. Ladder matches end in big moments where men tumble off the rungs onto a waiting table below. The Tables match ends with a wood-splitting crash by design.
As for the Chairs match, it's hard to have an explosion at the end of it.
WWE had Big Show turn to a giant chair in an attempt to put an exclamation point to his bout against Sheamus in 2012. John Cena's final touch in his win against Wade Barrett in 2010 was pulling down a string of chairs.
Though it's something new, if that's the peak of a match type's history, it makes one question why that history should continue.
Dave Meltzer hasn't been very generous in his ratings of Chairs matches in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t ProFightDB.com). You can't blame him.
|WWE Pay-Per-View Chairs Matches|
|Event||Date||Match||Star Rating (Out of 5)|
|TLC 2009||12/13/09||Batista vs. Undertaker||2.5|
|TLC 2010||12/19/10||John Cena vs. Wade Barrett||3.75|
|TLC 2011||12/18/11||Big Show vs. Mark Henry||.25|
|TLC 2012||12/16/12||Sheamus vs. Big Show||3.25|
That's the baseball equivalent of two doubles, a weak single and a whiff for a strikeout.
Big Show and Sheamus had great chemistry during their 2012 feud. Each time that the two titans collided, they seemed to ramp up their intensity. The Chairs match was the least memorable of their pay-per-view bouts, though.
The silliness of the giant chair at the end is partly to blame. It also forced the two powerhouses to sing a lot of the same notes, with chair shots dominating the battle.
Batista and Undertaker have had far better matches against each other.
It's not as if their chemistry got worse by the time they met at TLC 2009. The Chairs match just hindered them.
Ryback and Kane look to avoid that fate come December 14.
The Chairs match does not have a classic on its timeline as of yet. There's little reason to believe it ever will. On a night featuring some of WWE's best gimmick bouts, the Chairs match enters as the runt of the litter.