WWE was in a bind going into last night’s Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view. A contagious viral illness is going through the Raw locker room. Bray Wyatt was pulled from his match against Finn Balor. Roman Reigns was pulled from the main event, scuttling the Shield reunion.
But the WWE had reinforcements. In place of Wyatt, SmackDown wrestler A.J. Styles would wrestle Balor. And Kurt Angle, the general manager of Raw, would make his return to a WWE ring for the first time since a match against Sabu on the rebooted ECW in 2006.
The Styles/Balor match was interesting, and not just because A.J. Styles is the best wrestler in the world and Finn Balor is also a wrestler. Both men once led the Bullet Club, a faction primarily in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Balor, who was known as Prince Devitt before WWE, was one of the founders of the faction. When he left the promotion for WWE and left the Bullet Club, A.J. Styles was his replacement.
The pair’s first match together was pretty good! Balor won with his stupid finishing move—a top-rope double stomp called the coup de grâce—and the pair put together a cool wrestling match that built from one spot to another. It was incredibly entertaining.
William Regal, the general manager of WWE’s developmental NXT division and a real-life mentor and recruiter for the company, tweeted his praises after the match.
He’s right. Many of the best wrestling matches just that: Two great fighters want to win a wrestling match. Keeping it simple often produces the best result.
So, then came the main event.
It was not simple. It was, quite often, incredibly stupid. And it was, in a very different way, totally entertaining and acceptable as a main-event wrestling match. It was a beautiful disaster.
The match was a 5-on-3 no-disqualification match featuring Kurt Angle, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose teaming against The Miz, Braun Strowman, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Kane. It followed the formula of most multi-man matches in WWE: It was full of props, it featured wrestlers incapacitated for long stretches only to revive at precisely the correct moment, and it had several memorable spots.
For example: Rollins and Ambrose delivered top-rope splashes through the announcers’ tables in stereo onto Kane and Strowman. Angle did a bunch of German suplexes in a row, then was powerslammed through a table and out of the match by Strowman. Ambrose was powerbombed through a table that didn’t break. Rollins and Ambrose fought out of a garbage truck that had been backed out onto the announce area. Kane, who got into it with Strowman throughout the match, eventually flipped and tore down a row of chairs hanging from the ceiling on top of Strowman.
This led to the most memorable moment of the evening, when the rest of Miz’s team turned on Strowman and sent him into the garbage truck. The truck was then turned on. Was he crushed to death? Is he lost at a dump in Minneapolis now? Who knows?
Much like the last time Reigns had to be pulled from a PPV, Survivor Series 2014, the match seemed like it wasn’t even re-written. When Angle’s music played and he returned to the match, it could’ve just as easily been the intended setup for a Roman Reigns comeback. He, Ambrose, and Rollins delivered a Shield-esque powerbomb to The Miz and won the match.
It was not a match that will reward multiple viewings. It didn’t really advance any storylines. But it featured the first time Kurt Angle wrestled in a WWE ring in more than a decade, and a guy was crushed by a garbage truck. That’s good wrestling.