Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2010 (or TLC 2010, from here on out) is the second annual pay-per-view dedicated to the match of the same name. Numerous TLC matches took place during the past decade, from legendary multi-team brawls (usually involving The Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and/or The Dudleys) to later variants like "Money in the Bank" matches. During these brawls, traditional rules are thrown out the window: all three items are plentiful and can be used for attacking or defending...but only the ladder can win the match, as the desired championship belts are typically suspended high above the ring. Often packed with daring, dangerous stunts, near-falls and clever teamwork, TLC matches quickly became show stealers on the rare occasions when they took place during Raw or Smackdown---or, more appropriately, a pay-per-view event. Like last year's installment, TLC 2010 also includes matches that mix the rules up a little (first one through a table loses, for example)...but for the most part, it's exactly as advertised.
Of course, as with all gimmick matches, the spectacle gradually loses its luster over time. Early TLC matches (circa 2000) set the bar high, and the stakes were gradually raised as the years wore on. The aforementioned "Money in the Bank" matches added the twist of a title shot for the up-and-coming winner. But it was easy to see that later matches just didn't have the same punch as earlier ones; after all, that's just how our consumer-driven minds work. It wasn't any different last year: TLC 2009 was a decent pay-per-view, but it didn't quite have the same impact as WWE's bigger events. This year's follow-up, held in Houston, TX on December 19, 2010, attempts to break that trend and avoid the sophomore slump. Here's what the evening's card looked like:
Complete Match Listing
(7 matches on 1 single-sided DVD)
Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Jack Swagger [Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match]
Natalya & Beth Phoenix vs. LayCool [Divas Championship Tables Match]
Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater vs. Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov [Tag Team Championship Match]
John Morrison vs. Sheamus [WWE Championship #1 Contender Ladder Match]
The Miz vs. Randy Orton [WWE Championship Tables Match]
Rey Mysterio vs. Edge vs. Kane vs. Alberto del Rio [World Heavyweight Championship TLC Match]
Wade Barrett vs. John Cena [Chairs Match]
Overall, this is far from a perfect pay-per-view...but in most regards, it's a shade better than last year's TLC event. Standout matches include the opening Triple Threat Ladder Match, John Morrison & Sheamus' blistering brawl for a #1 Contender shot (which was, in all honesty, a show-stealer with a terrific ending) and the Fatal Four-Way TLC match with Rey Mysterio, Edge, Kane and Alberto del Rio. These three matches bookend the evening's card---with Morrison vs. Sheamus squarely in the middle, of course---and their placement helps to elevate the overall show to greater heights. Slightly less impressible (but still damn entertaining) matches include the Divas' table match and The Miz vs. Randy Orton, thanks to an interesting finish. Only the Tag Team Championship Match and Wade Barrett vs. John Cena manage to disappoint. The former just falls flat at times; the latter isn't a bad match by any means, but it just doesn't feel like a main event. Overall, though, it's a good show that fans should enjoy from start to finish.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are apparently free from edits. Unfortunately, only one minor bonus feature has been included. This is bad news for those who already shelled out for the PPV the first time around, though new viewers probably won't mind as much.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, TLC 2010 looks to be on par with most current WWE releases...but that's not necessarily a free pass. Notable amounts of pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, which has been a long-standing problem we've undoubtedly become accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though reds pop out almost unnaturally at times. Certainly not a five-star presentation overall, but this is probably about as good as we'll get from WWE.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. A Spanish 2.0 play-by-play track is also available, though it's not quite as dynamic overall. As expected, optional subtitles and Closed Captions have not been provided.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 168-minute event has been divided into 10 chapters (one per match and significant "filler" event), while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. Several WWE-related trailers and promos play before the main menu can be accessed; as usual, the "Don't Try This At Home" warning isn't skippable. This one-disc release is housed in an "eco-friendly" black keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.
Only one short extra has been included here (a bonus Interview with John Cena after his championship match), and it's exclusive to this release. Like most backstage interviews, it doesn't really add much but Cena fans should appreciate the effort. Like the rest of the show, this segment is presented in 16x9 format and does not include captions or subtitles. Unfortunately, the pre-show dark match between Daniel Bryan and Ted DiBiase, Jr. is not included here.
It may not be WWE's best pay-per-view in recent memory, but TLC 2010 closes out the year on a relatively high note. Nearly all of the matches range from good to excellent, with only a few slowing things down as the three-hour event unfolds. The DVD package is right on par with current WWE releases, pairing a passable technical presentation with very little effort in the extras department. Casual fans (and those who ordered it the first time around, of course) should be happy with a rental, but TLC 2010 is good enough to be part of most WWE fans' permanent collections. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.