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[2014-12-14-WWE-TLC] Luke Harper vs Dolph Ziggler (Ladder)


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WWE Intercontinental Champion Luke Harper vs Dolph Ziggler 

WWE TLC 2014 Ladder Match

Luke Harper may look like Bruiser Brody, but he wrestles like Stan Hansen and the world is a better place for it. He had a total disregard for Ziggler and his own welfare. Having watched wrestling for seventeen years now, it takes a lot to make me cringe, but repeatedly I was wincing in pain with each punishing blow. It was so violent and I even questioned if it was all worth it. I hope it will be because I thought this be HBK/Mankind match for Ziggler. Shawn Michaels needed the match with Foley to establish that he dish out the pain as well as he could take it. It is similar to how in the 80s pretty boy tag teams would be positioned in brutal fights with gnarly heels to show they were tougher than they look and earn credibility with the audience. To keep the Shawn Michaels thread going, matches like The Rockers versus Rose & Somers bloodbath in the AWA come to mind. If exploited properly, this can be that very match. It is so difficult in this day and age to be an asskicker and not come across as a cool babyface. Harper was able to tap into such an uncomfortable violence that he was booed heavily. Yes, eventually there was the obligatory "This Is Awesome" chant, but for the vast majority of the match the people cheered Ziggler and booed Harper. It helped a lot they were in Ziggler's hometown of Cleveland, but regardless, to see such an outpouring of emotion to cheer for one wrestler was so refreshing in this day of "appreciating the match" and other such hogwash.

On the rewatch, with a closer attention to detail, I realized how much Harper really destroyed Ziggler for the opening half of the match. It is a testament to Ziggler that when I was watching with my family that I really never felt like he was totally out of it and that he was always struggling. Too often he can rely on deadfish/pop-up selling, but here, I thought more often than not he kept it a competitive style of selling. Harper established the perfect pace for this brutal masterpiece. It never plodded, but they never rushed to the next spot. He was going to let that ladder just fall on Ziggler's head and then climb the ladder to retain his title. Those ladder timber spots were vicious especially the one that clipped Ziggler in the head. The most violent spot of the match was without a doubt the Harper suicide dive onto the ladder where he basically piledrove himself into a ladder. How he did not break his arms and/or be concussed was beyond me. I could barely watch. The Ziggler pop up and scramble up the ladder was perfect, because up until that point he had basically no offense and now the monster has basically impaled himself it was time to take advantage. It was great drama as the Creature from the Black Lagoon rose again and stopped him. Not to be topped Ziggler took some hellacious bumps like on a powerbomb onto a Ladder (the ladder did not break) and then being catapulted into the middle rope with the ladder around his head (concussion city and getting busted open). Ziggler breaking free of the doctors to stop Harper from climbing the ladder was an awesome moment.

This should not be lost in the shuffle, but the effort they put into this and how much they were willing to risk made the Intercontinental Championship feel like a big deal for the first time in forever. As I survey the damage, Ziggler is bleeding from the face and fingers while Harper is bleeding from all sort of odd places on his body. You really felt like whoever wins this demolition derby deserves it. Ziggler makes his grand comeback, but what's great is that it is not just one move. He has to keep beating Harper back, first it is a facebuster onto the ladder, then it is DDT off the ladder, then dropkicking the ladder into his face and finally the superkick off the ladder that wins ZIggler the match. The fact that it was Ziggler had to earn every single step by constantly hitting Harper with big shots really you made it feel like he could earn it.

Ziggler proved he could withstand the punishment doled out by one of WWE's most sadistic monsters. Harper made him earn this every step of the way delivering one of the most malevolent performances of the year. Harper gave as good as he got as proved by that suicide dive. For Ziggler, we see if the WWE exploits this newfound credibility as a tough, die hard son of a bitch. The negatives are slight. but apparent: Ziggler's punches still look like shit and they did lose a bit of steam towards the end as the spots got a bit more contrived. In terms of a violent spectacle, where the pretty boy babyface not just survived the monster, this match deserves to be ranked among the best ladder matches of all time. ****1/2

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  • paul sosnowski changed the title to [2014-12-14-WWE-TLC] Luke Harper vs Dolph Ziggler (Ladder)
  • 1 year later...

I can safely say I'll never be an actual Dolph Ziggler fan but he's good at more than a couple things, and babyface selling is where I find myself closest to becoming a fan (see also: Payback vs. Del Rio). I tend to think he oversells but when you got such a big guy and such a dangerous environment it makes each noodle-bodied bump feel warranted. It helps this type of match when a guy's not afraid to fall off of a ladder in a horizontal 270 motion and catch his arm on the ropes on the way down. Ladder matches being mostly dominated by one guy aren't totally uncommon, but I can't remember one that I'd call closer to an actual mauling than this. Some of the spots in were nuts and unlike a lot of ladder matches, the offense mixed creativity with interesting ideas really well. Harper placing Ziggler under the ladder and doing a catapult with both of them into one of the ropes looked brutal as hell; if watching live I may have been worried Ziggler destroyed part of his neck. Even worse, I legit googled in 2021 AD whether or not Harper broke his arm on that tope landing. Disgusting especially on the replays. I would have to watch the entire match again to count exactly how many areas of the body these two got lacerated on, it felt like every second camera angle there was a new spot on a finger or elbow where we'd see some blood.

I loved how infrequently they actually climbed the ladder, too, putting over Ziggler never saying die, Harper having to maul him harder to try to make him. Also because it means each climb up the ladder feels actually big, and I thought Ziggler's scurrying toward a climbing Harper was as good as anyone's, too. Pretty great match.

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  • 3 months later...

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