WWE TLC 2018: Ranking the 10 Best Moments in PPV History Before 10th-Ever Show

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2018

WWE TLC 2018: Ranking the 10 Best Moments in PPV History Before 10th-Ever Show

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    Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles happened for the first time ever at TLC 2017.
    Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles happened for the first time ever at TLC 2017.Credit: WWE.com

    WWE TLC has had a storied history of marquee matches and monumental moments dating back to its inception in 2009. What started out as just another addition to an already-bloated WWE pay-per-view calendar soon became one of the more entertaining events of the year.

    Although every installment differs, TLC originally featured at least one Ladder match, one Tables match, one Chairs match, and one TLC match. The excessive amount of stipulation bouts on the card looked to be overwhelming at first, but it eventually earned the event the nickname of WWE's version of the demolition derby.

    With the exception of 2017, the event has always closed out the calendar year for WWE, usually on a high note (both literally and figuratively). As a result, TLC ends up being a sleeper show for everything it has to offer, regardless of how lackluster the buildup was beforehand.

    Over the past decade at TLC, several championships have changed hands, Superstars new and old have had breakout performances, and matchups fans never thought they'd see have come to fruition. The upcoming installment appears to be no different with the first-ever women's TLC match set for the card as well as the culmination of a blood feud between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.

    Where those anticipated outings will rank against history-making moments of the past remains to be seen, but if the following 10 TLC happenings are any indication, the pay-per-view is bound to be a blast for years to come.

10. The Wyatt Family Strike Gold (2017)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    After realizing he couldn't overcome The Wyatt Family on his own, Randy Orton went against his better judgement and joined the faction in the fall of 2016. His newfound alliance with Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper not only took fans by surprise but also solidified them as a force to be reckoned with on SmackDown Live.

    Now a cohesive unit and stronger than ever, The Wyatt Family shifted their focus to the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at the end of the year. They were immediately positioned as threats to the twin titles and challenged Heath Slater and Rhyno for the straps at the TLC pay-per-view.

    From an in-ring standpoint, the bout was hardly worth writing home about, but just to see Orton and Wyatt working as partners was surreal. They dominated Slater and Rhyno for a majority of the match before beating them with ease to become the brand-new SmackDown Tag Team champions.

    Not only were Wyatt and Orton getting along swimmingly, Orton officially earned the trust of Luke Harper, with whom he had had issues for weeks. Harper aiding Orton and Wyatt to victory was his way of showing that he approved of Orton's entry into the group and that he was willing to coexist with him for the sake of the stable.

    It wasn't long after that WWE announced The Wyatt Family would be defending the SmackDown Tag Team Championship under the Freebird Rule, therefore giving both Wyatt and Harper their first taste of gold on the main roster.

9. Randy Orton Makes History (2013)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    For years, the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships existed as separate entities on Raw and SmackDown Live. Rarely ever did fans see the two title holders cross paths, let alone put both of their belts on the line in one blockbuster bout.

    At the end of Survivor Series 2013, then-WWE champion Randy Orton came face-to-face with then-World Heavyweight champion John Cena, teasing that they had their sights set on the other's piece of hardware. It was announced soon after that they would collide in the main event of TLC to determine the first-ever WWE World Heavyweight champion.

    It had been over a decade since WWE had a sole world champion, so the idea of either Cena or Orton being in possession of both prestigious championships was almost unheard of. It would also cement the winner as the single most dominant Superstar in the entire organization, so failure was not an option for either icon.

    Needless to say, Cena and Orton had done battle before in various settings, but both men were strangers to the TLC match. Despite that, they quickly warmed up to the extreme environment and took turns battering each other with weapons, all for the chance to etch their name into the record books.

    Cena came close to clinching the two title belts hanging high above the ring at one point, only for Orton to thwart his effort by sending him spiraling down to the mat from the top of the ladder. That led to Orton retrieving the straps and becoming a dual champion, much to the delight of The Authority.

8. D-Generation X Become Tag Team Champions for the First Time (2009)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The inaugural installment of the TLC pay-per-view featured a huge Tables, Ladders and Chairs main event pitting then-Unified Tag Team champions Jeri-Show against D-Generation X.

    The story going into the match was that despite defeating Chris Jericho and Big Show in tag team action on a handful of occasions, Triple H and Shawn Michaels had never held a set of tag team titles together before. Thus, it was unknown how they'd fare on such a grand stage and whether they'd be able to deliver when the lights were on bright.

    Jericho and Show had dominated the tag team ranks for the better part of 2009, though they had never competed in anything as dangerous as a TLC match while partners. The same could be said for HHH and Michaels, but they found ways to get creative with some of the spots and make it as enjoyable of an outing as possible.

    The bout benefited from all four seasoned veterans having such strong chemistry with each other, as well as from having an invested crowd that desperately wanted to see DX reign supreme. The babyfaces battled back at every turn and withstood a great deal of punishment (including broken ladders and brutal chair shots) in their pursuit of the twin titles.

    Truthfully speaking, this match had no business being as good as it was, and the moment of DX capturing the championship that had alluded them for so many years was even better. It took a little longer than expected, but finally, DX was at the top of the tag team mountain.

7. Kalisto Makes Himself Famous (2015)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    When The New Day held the Raw Tag Team Championship from August 2015 to December 2016, there were few teams that were anywhere near their level of popularity. Thus, New Day retaining the titles whenever the gold was up for grabs seemed to be a foregone conclusion, including at TLC 2015.

    The event opened with New Day vs. The Usos vs. The Lucha Dragons in a Triple Threat tag team Ladder match for the twin titles, and despite receiving little hype ahead of time, the bout ultimately stole the show. All three tandems worked wonderfully together and produced an extremely exciting affair that the crowd couldn't help but go crazy for.

    More importantly, Kalisto had a spectacular showing throughout the bout by holding his own against all of the other competitors. Prior to that point, he had barely been showcased in singles competition, and although he still had to share the spotlight with Sin Cara in this matchup as well, he was especially impressive whenever he ascended any of the ladders.

    Just as it looked like Jey Uso was closing in on the championship, Kalisto ran up the other end of the ladder and hit him with the Salida Del Sol off the top and through another ladder in the middle of the ring. How neither of those guys didn't hurt themselves on that spot is unknown, but what was known was that Kalisto was a made man after that.

    While that breathtaking moment didn't result in a victory for The Lucha Dragons at TLC, Kalisto did go on to capture the United States Championship a few weeks later.

6. Kurt Angle's Triumphant Return to the Ring (2017)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    TLC 2017 was originally a one-match show on paper, with the entire event being built around The Shield reuniting in the main event against the makeshift team of The Miz, The Bar, Braun Strowman and Kane.

    Merely days ahead of the event, however, WWE revealed medical issues would force Roman Reigns to miss the show and that he'd be replaced by Raw general manager Kurt Angle. It was quite the turn of events, so even though fans weren't getting their long-awaited Shield reunion, Angle's in-ring return was equally exciting.

    From a storyline standpoint, it made some sense to have Angle take Reigns' spot in the match considering he had previously had bad blood with Miz and the rest of the heels. This was also the perfect way to get him back inside the squared circle where he belonged, and the format of multi-man matchup ensured he'd be heavily limited/protected.

    Of course, Angle looked ridiculous donning the Shield gear when he entered the arena, but beyond that, fans were stoked to see the Angle of old mixing it up with the talent of today. He hit a number of his signature suplexes on The Bar and beat Miz with an Angle Slam.

    It was obvious Angle was thrilled to be wrestling again, and he more than made the most the opportunity. The company made the right call by inserting Angle into the main event and making it up to those were looking forward to The Shield's highly touted comeback. Perhaps the pay-per-view was better off as a result of the changes to the card.

5. Zack Ryder Becomes the United States Champion (2011)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Zack Ryder's rise to superstardom in 2011 was as organic as could be. From starting up his own YouTube show earlier on in the year to vying for the United States Championship months later, he had slowly but surely won over the audience and had their unwavering support by that year's TLC pay-per-view.

    Ryder had already fallen short of beating Dolph Ziggler for the United States title a few times before, but it was a completely different story at TLC. He was riding a massive wave of momentum and finally felt like a championship caliber competitor.

    Meanwhile, Ziggler was coming off successful showings against CM Punk and other top-tier talent, claiming to be superior to Ryder in every way. It was such a classic clash of characters and attitudes that it was so easy for fans to rally behind Ryder as he took on the ultra-arrogant Ziggler in Baltimore at TLC with the star-spangled prize on the line.

    The Long Island Iced Z had to pull everything out of his arsenal in order to put Ziggler away, but one Rough Ryder that was enough to secure him the victory and the title. The months and years he spent struggling to score television time and later land a recurring role on Raw led him to that moment, making it that much sweeter.

    During his championship celebration, Ryder went over to his father and friends at ringside and embraced them in an emotional hug, signifying that his time had indeed arrived. WWE eventually ripped the rug right from underneath him by burying him six feet under, but it was a fun run while it lasted.

4. Edge Stands Tall in TLC Spectacular (2011)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Edge has always been known as the master of the TLC match, having competed in the first few in the early 2000s and winning almost all of them.

    Thus, once it was announced that the specialty match was getting its own pay-per-view in 2009, Edge seemed to be the perfect person to headline the event. Unfortunately, he missed the inaugural installment due to injury, but he was determined to make the 2010 installment his night to shine when he vied for Kane's World Heavyweight Championship in a bout sharing the same name.

    Originally, The Rated-R Superstar was supposed to receive a one-on-one shot at the strap, but Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio were eventually added to the mix as well. Of course, that hurt his chances of capturing the title, but it also made the match more exciting and unpredictable.

    Between the four Superstars involved and the plethora of weapons that surrounded them, it was nothing short of a spectacular train wreck. Using his TLC experience to his advantage, Edge outsmarted his opponents by dividing and conquering them one by one until he was the last man standing.

    After eliminating his opposition, Edge pulled the title down that was hanging from high above, which marked his record-setting sixth World Heavyweight Championship and his 10th WWE world title overall. His hard-fought journey back to the top of SmackDown in 2010 couldn't have culminated in a more fitting fashion.

3. Former Bullet Club Members Collide in Fantasy Warfare (2011)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    As previously noted, there's no telling how good TLC 2017 was originally going to be before the complexion of the card changed completely due to Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt suffering from an illness. Fans were already excited for The Shield's reunion in the main event, but there was no way Wyatt vs. Finn Balor would have been anywhere near as outstanding as Balor vs. AJ Styles ended up being.

    Once Wyatt was pulled from the event, Balor was in need of a new opponent for TLC, leading to Styles being announced as Wyatt's replacement. With the match coming together on a whim, it obviously had no prior buildup, but it was enough of a dream match that their lack of history as rivals hardly mattered.

    After all, both men had roots in Bullet Club as leaders of the faction from years earlier, which the commentators ultimately acknowledged during the bout. There was a buzz in the arena as soon as they stepped in the ring together, and although fans had lofty expectations for their encounter, Styles and Balor somehow managed to blow them out of the water.

    It was amazing how despite never once going one-on-one before, they had instant chemistry and created magic with each other. The audience was into everything they did and enjoyed it for the spectacle it was.

    Above all else, it was a straightforward matchup with zero interference and overbooking. Not only was Balor's clean victory over Styles huge for him, The Demon received an amazing endorsement from Styles afterward via his "too sweet" showing of respect.

2. The Shield's Stellar in-Ring Debut (2012)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Similar to the 2017 installment, TLC 2012 received a significant shakeup at the beginning of December when CM Punk was forced to pull out of the event due to an injury he sustained at the hands of Ryback, putting their WWE Championship clash on the back-burner indefinitely.

    WWE scrambled to come up with a new attraction for the event, so instead of keeping The Shield (who had debuted the month prior at Survivor Series) on the sidelines for the show, the company rushed to them wrestling their first main roster match under TLC rules.

    It was a make-or-break situation for the up-and-coming stars, but thankfully, they had three established stars to work with in Daniel Bryan, Kane and Ryback. As the first-ever TLC matchup where nothing was on the line, fans didn't have much of a reason to care about the contest going into the event, but no one had any idea just how exceptional the outing would be until the bell rang.

    From all six Superstars going to great lengths to steal the show to the electric atmosphere in the building that night, it was complete chaos from start to finish. The Shield took the fight all over the arena and stopped at nothing to show that they were the real deal.

    The black-clad trio not only proved they could hang with those three top talents, they also picked up the decisive victory.

    There's little doubt that this will forever be remembered as one of the most remarkable in-ring debuts in WWE history. Furthermore, it kicked off a stellar stint for The Shield, with all three members still enjoying singles success to this day.

1. Daniel Bryan Successfully Cashes in Money in the Bank (2011)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    When Daniel Bryan became Mr. Money in the Bank in July 2011, many expected him to be the first holder of the opportunistic briefcase to cash in the contract and fail to capture the championship.

    To be fair, Bryan had been spinning his wheels for months, though he teased challenging then-World Heavyweight champion Mark Henry on several occasions. He wasn't scheduled to compete at TLC 2011, making the chances of a cash-in all the more likely.

    Sure enough, he emerged moments removed from Big Show's victory over Mark Henry in a grueling Chairs match. With his MITB briefcase in tow, Bryan wasted no time in taking advantage of the downed World's Largest Athlete and pinned him in seconds to clinch the prestigious prize.

    The Baltimore crowd exploded with excitement for Bryan's big moment as he celebrated around ringside with the belt high above his head. Although Bryan was a babyface at the time, his repetitive "Yes!" chants laid the groundwork for his newfound catchphrase and also served as the catalyst for his gradual heel turn.

    The WWE Universe became believers in Bryan at TLC 2011, proving that even the most prolific independent wrestler could attain superstardom in WWE. Had his MITB cash-in gone any other way, it's possible Bryan wouldn't have amounted to the level of success that he did in the years that followed.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.