SmackDown’s final PPV of the year saw the blue show make good use of tables, ladders and chairs – but it was a bad night for the good guys.

The kick-off show saw a changed panel – Lita and Jerry Lawler are out, and for this show at least, it was Daniel Bryan and Pete Rosenberg – whilst the pre-show match was another multi-man tag.

American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable), Hype Bros (Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley) & Apollo Crews vs. Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch & Aiden English), Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) & Curt Hawkins
This was standard fare… we avoided an early reunion of the Edgeheads as Curt Hawkins tagged out as soon as Zack Ryder came in. Remember when Curt had a lot of build ahead of his return? That was a waste, wasn’t it?

Mojo and Zack worked well, ending with Rawley landing the modern equivalent of the Worm – his Hammer Time axe-handle drop. Very quickly after that, Rawley found himself on the defensive end of things, before he dropped Aiden English with a straight right. We had a never-ending series of what would be Royal Rumble eliminations as everyone threw each other out of the ring, before everyone returned to the ring… ending with the babyfaces standing tall. Well, it’s a different way of going to a commercial break.

After we returned, Konnor was wearing down Gable with a rear chinlock, before the Vaudevillains took over. There was a good spot where Gable was trying for a tag, but the rest of the heel team rushed outside and pulled the faces off the apron as Viktor was just about to lose grip of Gable. Gable finally made a comeback by avoiding some double teaming, before making the hot tag to Jason Jordan. A frantic finale saw Aiden English take a Hype Ryder, before the Ascension were dropped by a pair of top rope clotheslines, as Apollo Crews suplexed Hawkins inside the ring and onto a pile below. The Grand Amplitude on Simon Gotch got the win in a match that was fine, but mostly forgettable until that final 30 seconds. **¾

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt vs. Rhyno & Heath Slater (c)
The only surprise about this was how short the match was… just under six minutes long.

Rhyno and Bray got us underway, and it was Rhyno who was on the receiving end in the early going. Slater barely had a little more luck, but a referee distraction from Luke Harper allowed for some double-teaming as Slater was taken down.

Heath worked free of a rope-hung DDT and tried to mount a comeback, but his slingshot into the ring was switched into a powerslam for a near-fall. Slater actually managed to leap over Wyatt and make the tag to Rhyno, who cleared house… only for a spear on the outside to Orton end up being taken by Harper, who took the bullet instead.

Rhyno returned to the ring to stare at Bray doing his crab walk, and that was enough of a surprise for Orton to slide back in and hit an RKO to win the titles. This was just about a competitive squash, but the right result given that the Rhyno/Slater story had outlived its usefulness. **½

No Disqualification: Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
This was actually quite a fun outing – making good use of the no-disqualification rules without going overboard. Carmella sent Bella into the ring steps early after countering a powerbomb into some headscissors, before suplexing Nikki into the ropes with a Glen Joseph Special.

Carmella used a Singapore cane on Nikki as she was trapped in a Tree of Woe, but after Nikki was thrown down, she was able to kick out at one before being trapped in a Code of Silence. Except Nikki was easily able to grab the cane and use it to break free.The pair rolled outside and drove each other between the apron and the crowd barrier, before Nikki hit a roundhouse kick off the barriers.

Nikki made more use of the Singapore cane in the ring – leading to a shot of a kid cheering the use of a weapon – before a blast with a fire extinguisher sent Carmella down. After using the entire extinguisher, the Rack Attack 2.0 (TKO) secured the win in a fun match that felt like a throwback to the days of 24/7 Hardcore title matches. **¾

After the match, Carmella – still coughing and hacking from those extinguisher shots – took the microphone and revealed that it wasn’t her who attacked Nikki at Survivor Series. It was Natalya. So what do we see after that reveal? An advert for Kay Jewellers where Natalya helped a fan pick out an engagement ring.

They’re still building up the Daniel Bryan/Miz storyline…

Ladder Match for WWE Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz (c)
This is the feud that’ll seemingly never die, but at least this started out somewhat fast-paced as Ziggler tried to go for a ladder in the opening minute, having taken a slingshot to the floor. They used the ladders early on as Miz was thrown into one after both men teased doing their finishers into ladders, before Ziggler sidestepped a ladder shot as Miz ended up sending some into the ring steps.

They played a tug-of-war spot with a ladder that saw Miz sent into the ring post, before Miz took a DDT into a ladder that had been propped up on the ring apron. Dolph took a ladder to the midsection after Miz hit a dropkick in the corner, before Miz stood on the same ladder across the corner and tried for I guess a superplex, but ended up being knocked into the ladder as Ziggler then leapt off it for an elbow drop.

Miz had to pull down Ziggler as he almost had the title in his hands, before a second attempt saw Miz shove the ladder into the ropes as a replay showed another kid happy with the carnage they were watching. A series of Daniel Bryan-esque dropkicks kept Ziggler trapped behind a ladder, before another Dolph comeback ended when Ziggler’s leg was smashed into the ladder as he tried to claim the belt.

Ziggler took a knee-breaker onto the ladder, before finding himself wrapped up in the same structure as Miz combined his figure four leglock with the ladder. After freeing himself, Ziggler tried for – and failed – with a superkick, before taking a Skull Crushing Finale onto the ladder, but Dolph recovered to knock away the ladder as Miz was within seconds of winning.

Potty Mouth Miz swore like a sailor after Ziggler knocked the ladder into his knee, and was able to recover to save his title, then land a slingshot powerbomb onto a ladder in the corner. On one leg, Miz hobbled his way towards the ladders in the middle of the ring, and set up a second one for some reason, then hopped up one ladder with his good leg. Dolph joined him and they fought atop the ladders, with Miz finally getting knocked down with a headbutt. Miz again recovered and kicked Dolph low as he was straddling between two ladders, and that proved to be enough to retain the title. A pretty good match – maybe a little on the long side, but really enjoyable once you took the backstory into consideration. ***¾

Chairs Match: Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin
Kalisto has new gear, which reminds me a lot of Tatanka’s old ring gear. Sadly, he started to look for chairs during his entrance by looking under the ring… and ignoring the half-dozen-or-so chairs that were right in front of the announce tables.

The match started with Corbin blocking a chairshot, before he saw Kalisto avoid a powerbomb onto a folded-out chair. A step-up plancha helped Kalisto take down Corbin, but Baron quickly turned the tables by pounding his fists into the head of the former US champion. Corbin nearly won it in short order with a chokeslam, before setting up six chairs side-by-side as a landing pad in the middle of the ring… and sure enough, Corbin tasted them first with a short-rana, before a flying seated senton knocked Corbin through all six chairs for a near-fall.

An impressive reversal saw Corbin counter a tope suicide into a Deep Six on the floor, with the spinning side slam winding Kalisto. Back inside, Corbin piled up a series of chairs, before choosing to stalk Kalisto with a chair… and missed with a series of shots. Kalisto hit back with a ‘rana off the crowd barrier, before throwing a chair… then himself at Corbin into the barriers. Some moonsault knees onto a chair got Kalisto a near-fall – although that move kinda made me scratch my head – before Kalisto had his fun with a chair.

Kalisto looked to end things with a Salida del Sol through a pile of chairs, but Corbin avoided it and then countered a flying clothesline by… throwing a chair at him. An End of Days onto the chairs later – the bump from which barely seemed to faze Corbin – and the match was over. I was expecting little out of this, but this blew me away. Take away the usual wrestling logic (“bumps where both of us land onto chairs don’t hurt me”) and this was quite a spectacle. ***½

They had a promo with Natalya where they questioned Carmella’s reveal from earlier in the night. Natalya barely addressed the accusation, only saying that Carmella would lie “because she’s a liar”.

Tables Match for WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch (c)
I’ll be honest; after seeing the table stuff go wrong in the women’s Hell in a Cell match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks, I was expecting this to be really anticlimactic.

Becky started by knocking down Alexa with forearms, before going for a table – similar to what we had with the ladder match earlier. However, Bliss pushed a table back under the ring as she seemingly tried to avoid going for the hardware early on. After a brief skirmish, Becky won out and managed to set-up a table at ringside, but it was her who had to fight off Bliss as the challenger tried to knock her off the apron and through the wood.

Lynch tried a Rob Van Dam-esque springboard kick to knock Bliss through the table, but it didn’t work and Bliss bit back before finally going under the ring for a table. Bliss tried to set Lynch up for a dive through the table, but Becky got up and went for a Bex-Plex… only to b shoved down and into the table instead.

Bliss blocked another Bex-plex attempt, before Lynch tried to sunset flip her challenger through the table. Instead, Bliss backflipped out and hit some moonsault knees to Becky’s midsection, before countering a death valley driver through a table by flipping it upside down and just DDTing her onto the underside of it. Becky immediately fired back with an armbar through one of the table legs to Alexa, but the momentum kept shifting back and forth as Bliss countered an attempt at a stomp through a table with an Iconoclasm, taking Becky down to the mat.

Out of nowhere, the finish came when Becky baseball slid to the outside, then went up to the apron to slug it out with Alexa… who raked the eyes and leapt down before powerbombing Becky through the table to win the title. The crowd genuinely seemed surprised at that result – but all I’d say is: don’t get used to seeing Alexa with the title. A decent match, in spite of the table stipulation which really restricted them. ***

The show-long advert-story with Natalya and the fan ended with the fan proposing in the middle of the ring (in an empty arena) to his girlfriend. If you thought this Kays Jeweller’s advert was going to end with a rejection… what the hell were you expecting?

TLC Match for WWE World Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles (c)
If you aren’t a fan of James Ellsworth… you may hate parts of this match. They went half an hour and as you’d expect, it was great.

Ambrose shot out of the blocks, and brought a ladder into play early on – forcing AJ to duck under it as he was whipped into the ropes, but the champion wasn’t as lucky second time around. From there, Ambrose took AJ up the ramp and threw him into some of the tables, ladders and chairs that had been set up on the set. Ambrose took AJ almost to the back of the arena, then set him on a table… but AJ rolled away as Dean climbed a stupidly-tall ladder.

From there, they brawled into the crowd, with AJ wearing a bin on his head… because we all love to see people stuck in those things. After being thrown back into the ringside area, AJ countered a leap off the barrier with a dropkick to Ambrose, who then replied by crotching the champion on the guard railings. Back inside, AJ took a slingshot into the ladder – and ended up outside, allowing Ambrose to follow up by just throwing a ladder onto him, rather than try and go for the title. Returning into the ring again, Styles set up a series of chairs as a landing pad, before Ambrose countered a suplex and threw AJ through the four chairs with a release suplex.

I’m not going to stare at AJ’s rear to see “the spot” but this may well have been where he ripped the ass on his tights…

Ambrose ripped the legs off of a table by throwing AJ through it, before the champion ending a series of never-ending counters by suplexing Ambrose through a table in the corner. That was followed up by a teased superplex through a table on the floor, before Ambrose countered a Phenomenal forearm and eventually backdropped AJ to the floor. A tope suicida sent AJ’s head bouncing into the English announce desk, before eventually placing the champion onto it… then setting up a ladder on the German announce desk and climbing it for an elbow drop. Yep, that’s a new one!

After getting back to his feet, Ambrose slid another ladder into the ring and started climbing it… only for AJ to resurrect himself and knock Dean off with a Phenomenal Forearm. Both men got up and started climbing the ladder, but they knocked each other off and went straight into teasing finishers, with Ambrose countering a Styles Clash by standing up and swinging AJ into the ladder with an Alabama Slam-like move.

Undeterred, Dean went back up the ladder, but was caught by AJ whose powerbomb attempt was countered with some headscissors that sent both men to the outside. AJ recovered to hit a moonsault into a reverse DDT on the floor, before setting up Ambrose on a table and finishing him with a springboard 450 Splash in an insane move that saw AJ flip over after impact.

As AJ went to climb the ladder, James Ellsworth came out – to a noticeable chorus of boos. Yes, the shark’s been jumped with this guy. AJ kicked Ellsworth down and looked to repeat the Styles Clash off the ring steps from SmackDown last week, but Ambrose made the save and instead dumped AJ with a double arm DDT onto the ring steps. The crowd booed as Ambrose went in to grab the title, but AJ made his way back into the ring to keep the match alive briefly… only for Ambrose to punch him down and send AJ flying out of the ring.

Ambrose was within seconds of winning, but James Ellsworth slid in and pushed the ladder, sending Ambrose flying through two tables at ringside. That left the path clear as AJ climbed up to retain his title, giving a rather unedifying end to an otherwise fantastic main event. Do we still need this James Ellsworth story to be continued? Is there anything new that can happen, apart from the expected ass-kicking that he’ll get from Dean Ambrose? ****

Well, TLC was a show that crept up on us all and personally, was a show that I had very low expectations on. This seems to be a trend from WWE this year – low expectations creating a really good show. Granted, a show that will mostly be forgotten in the weeks ahead, but a good show nevertheless.