WWE: The Ladder Match DVD Review

As far as gimmick matches go, the Ladder Match is a basic concept: no pinfalls, no submissions, no count-outs, no disqualifications, the only way to win is to climb the ladder and retrieve an object (normally a belt, although briefcases, vinyl records, and custody papers have also been used). The ladder itself can legally be used as a weapon in anyway the combatants deem fit. Yet for all the fancy scaffolds, infernos, cages, domes, cells, chambers and Triple-Decker Tower of Dooms it seems the Ladder Match must be one of the best (if not the best) in terms of having ratio of good matches to bad ones.

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Cert: 18

Length: 8 hrs 59 mins

Discs: 3

Chapters

Disc 1:

  • Ladder Match for North American Heavyweight Championship and Cash
    Jake Roberts vs. Big Daddy Ritter
    Stampede Wrestling – July 1979
  • Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
    Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
    July 21 1992
  • Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
    Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
    SummerSlam – August 27 1995
  • Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
    Triple H vs. Rock
    SummerSlam August 30 1998
  • Terri Invitational Tournament Final – Ladder Match
    New Brood vs. Edge & Christian
    No Mercy – October 17 1999
  • 1st Ever TLC Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship
    Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz
    SummerSlam August 27 2000
  • Ladder Match for a Contract for the World Cruiserweight Championship
    3 Count vs. Jamie Knoble & Evan Karagias vs. Jung Dragons
    WCW Starrcade – December 17 2000
  • WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
    Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho
    Royal Rumble – January 21 2001

Disc 2:

  • Tables, Ladders & Chairs II for the WWE Tag Team Championship
    Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian
    WrestleMania X7 – April 1 2001
  • 4-Way Tables, Ladders & Chairs Tag Team Championship Match
    Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz
    SmackDown! – May 24 2001
  • Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
    Edge vs. Christian
    No Mercy – October 21 2001
  • Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
    Rob Van Dam vs. Eddie Guerrero
    Raw – May 27 2002
  • Ladder Match for the WWE Undisputed Championship
    Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy
    Raw – July 1 2002
  • Tables, Ladders & Chairs for the WWE Tag Team Titles
    Kane & Hurricane vs. Rob Van Dam & Jeff Hardy vs. Bubba Ray Dudley & Spike Dudley vs. Chris Jericho & Christian
    Raw – October 7 2002
  • Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
    Chris Jericho vs. Christian
    Unforgiven – September 12 2004

Disc 3:

  • 1st Ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match
    (The Winner Gets a Shot at the World Heavyweight Championship Within in the Next Year)
    Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Edge vs. Christian vs. Kane
    WrestleMania 21 – April 3 2005
  • Ladder Match for the Custody of Dominick
    Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
    SummerSlam – August 21 2005
  • Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Loser Leaves RAW)
    Edge vs. Matt Hardy
    Raw – October 3 2005
  • Tables, Ladders & Chairs for the WWE Championship
    Edge vs. Ric Flair
    Raw – January 16 2006
  • Tables, Ladders & Chairs for the WWE Championship
    Edge vs. John Cena
    Unforgiven – September 17 2006
  • Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
    Jeff Hardy vs. Johnny Nitro
    Raw – November 20 2006
  • WWE Tag Team Championship 4-Way Ladder Match
    Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor vs. Hardy’s vs. MNM
    Armageddon – December 17 2006

The concept of a Ladder Match was first developed in Stu Hart’s Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling way back in 1972. Over the following decade the match was brought to the UK and United States with Dynamite Kid, Bret Hart, Bad News Allen, Dusty Rhodes and Big Daddy all competed in variations of this, perhaps the most famous being the Disco Ladder Match between Kendo Nagasaki and ‘Iron Fist’ Clive Myers on World Of Sport.

Eventually Bret Hart suggested the idea to Vince McMahon as a gimmick match for himself in the WWF. McMahon asked Hart to choose an opponent and put on a “demonstration”, leading to a House Show match between Hart and Shawn Michaels, over Bret’s Intercontinental Championship in 1992. McMahon and Michaels then took the concept and booked a Ladder Match on pay-per-view between HBK and Clique-buddy Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X, leaving Hart angry since he had been promised the first match. Interestingly that match (which to be fair has been released many times since) is only featured here in brief highlight form. On the night they brought the Ladder Match into the main stream with an incredible show, balancing innovative high-spots with making it look like they were trying to win rather than just perform stunts resulting in one of the most talked about matches in U.S. wrestling history and the first match in (W)WWF/E history getting five stars from theWrestling Observer Newsletter. Since then the Ladder Match has become a firmly established cornerstone of the U.S. wrestling landscape.

Presented by Todd Grisham (providing some background on each match), joined by guests Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Edge, Gregory Helms, Chris Benoit (in his final DVD appearance), Kane, Shelton Benjamin, Ric Flair, John Cena and MNM (well Nitro and Mercury, anyway), this three disc set charts the progress of the Ladder Match with twenty two of the best matches from 1979 to 2006, only two of which come from outside the WWF/E. The main menu on each disc features images of a ladder from all angles whilst ominous music plays in the background. We start with a collection of clips from classic ladder matches to the same music…

Disc 1

Lord Alfred Hayes: “In my lifetime I’ve probably only seen two ladder matches, I’ve never seen a title ladder match.”

Gorilla Monsoon: “I understand there was a shotgun involved in one of them Alfred!”

Lord Alfred Hayes: “Ha ha! Hahaha!”

Gorilla Monsoon: “Is that correct?”

Lord Alfred Hayes: “That was another match, a different kind of match!”

(WWF Smack ‘Em, Whack ‘Em, 21st July 1992)

The first disc has more quality matches on it than any single disc on any official release I’ve seen. Unfortunately the first match isn’t one of them. Jake Roberts against the late Big Daddy Ritter (better known as Junkyard Dog) from 1979 is a world away from the high-spot orientated style of ladder match we have become accustomed to. Its not just the style of wrestling that is different either: the match uses one of those old ladders you balance against a wall or in this case against some scaffolding above the ring where they have to climb to collect $10,000 Canadian Dollars and the North American Title. Unlike the ladder matches of today, which don’t need a referee, there are two refs in the ring… One has the job of holding the ladder in place. Around 6:30 is shown and I get the impression this match was included here to make the 90s-00s ladder matches look even better.

Originally released on Smack ‘Em, Whack ‘Em the first WWF ladder match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels looks somewhat basic today and has been surpassed many times since. It was still a cracking match for a House Show in that era in which both men and Michaels’ manager, the late Sensational Sherri, played their roles well and features some nice touches of realism in terms of the climbing attempts that are often lacking in the Ladder Matches of today. It’s also worth noting that these earlier matches took place in the old WWF boxing-style rings not the bouncier ones they switched to around 1998; Some highlights and commentary on the classic between Michaels and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) at WrestleMania X (“I think when you put it against the background of where wrestling was at at that time – the style, then you really have the chance to grasp the enormity of what that match did in our business.”, Shawn Michaels) leads us into their rematch at SummerSlam ‘95 not only stole the show but also featured arguably Hall’s best performance. From the entrances to post-match, this was a classic. Dok Hendrix does a good job alongside Vince McMahon on commentary and there is really a lot to like about this match: psychology, violence, high-spots, storytelling, bumps, finisher teases. Even Michaels’ real-life temper tantrums actually add to the match as he stomps around in a foul mood cursing referees (despite being a face) and McMahon about the belt being at the wrong height at the start and getting annoyed with the ladder for being in the wrong place at the end. “And what we have it the official complaining you would have to be André the Giant and have a jet-pack on your back to be able to reach that” says McMahon. Someone should use a jet-pack in a ladder match one of these days (like Bobba Fett) – it would be great. I love the fact you get five minutes of solid wrestling before the ladder is brought into play, the way they played off their previous Ladder Match (so what worked there doesn’t work here: that’s what you call learned psychology, for example when HBK goes to baseball slide dropkick the ladder into Ramon’s midsection and this time he moves), and the way it was more even (HBK dominated a lot more in the first one to the extent that even Vince McMahon said on commentary that Michaels seems the more competent at using the ladder as a weapon) reflecting the way their roles had changed in the seventeen months since (they were both now babyfaces whereas previously Michaels was the heel). I actually enjoyed this more than the original ladder match between the two because it was longer and more of a traditional story-based match. The first was innovative whereas this one was a great story but did introduce some innovations of it’s own like bringing a second ladder into the match. It’s funny to think how having more than one ladder involved at a time would become standard for these matches as the years went on to the point it’s now almost taken for granted.

The match between Triple H and The Rock at SummerSlam ’98 had a tough act to follow since it took place at Madison Square Garden (the site of Michaels and Razor’s classic ladder match from WrestleMania X) and at SummerSlam (the site of the above classic rematch). Whilst not quite up to the level of the HBK/Ramon classics it was an exciting match, the in-ring high-point of the month’s long feud between DX and The Nation, a WWF Match Of The Year Contender in 1998 and an important milestone in the careers of both men. This was both Triple H’s biggest win and also best match of his career up to that point. It was equally significant for his opponent as despite being the heel, The Rock received a booming reaction from the notoriously tough Madison Square Garden crowd which changed from “Rocky Sucks!” five minutes in, to dueling chants around the ten minute mark and finally the majority the support by about twenty three minutes. On the night the reactions to ‘The Great One’ were second only to Steve Austin (who was headlining against The Undertaker) establishing him as the next big thing (not Brock Lesnar). Although slow in places (not in a good way of slowing it down to allow the audience to absorb it, more sluggish) the match itself was very physical, replacing crazy stunts with two heavyweights going at it full force with help and distractions from their respective sidekicks Chyna and Mark Henry. The backstory between the feuding factions and the feeling that you are watching two future main eventers in their twenties compensates for some of the duller parts when they are catching their breath.

There was no stopping for breath in the match between Matt and Jeff Hardy and Edge and Christian at No Mercy ’99 an insane stunt-show which helped move the focus from catchphrases back to tag team wrestling, getting both teams over in the process. It’s worth noting that before the match we see footage of The Hardyz wrestling in their backyard as kids (“Oh yeah, we ruined a lot of my dad’s ladders growing up as kids and when we were wrestling on trampolines. That’s pretty much what helped us be so successful in these types of matches”, Jeff Hardy) – doesn’t this contradict WWE’s constant ‘Please Don’t Try This At Home’ adverts? As far as the match itself goes there had been tag team ladder matches before (notably in ECW with Rob Van Dam and Sabu versus The Eliminators) but this match took things to another level and set new standards for innovation. Even today this match stands out as better than a lot of the Tables, Ladders and Chairs and Money In The Bank matches which followed since just having four wrestlers meant there was not really any of the time with people just lying around ‘selling’ that you get in a lot of multi-man Ladder Matches. The two teams had shown great chemistry together before this but far surpassed expectations on the night as they stole the show from their more established peers resulting in journalists and insiders hailing Jeff Hardy as ‘The Next Shawn Michaels’. It’s interesting to see how ladder matches evolved over the years and this match was a vital step in perfecting the multiple person Ladder Match format and from then on it was just a matter of adding more weapons and more bodies. What really stands out here is the many ‘new’ spots (some of which The Hardyz had developed in their backyard) that are now standard in these types of affair. Almost as interesting is the backstory of how the match went from an angle based around Terri to helping establish four young men who were healthy and hungry but not really over, and in the case of the Hardyz and Christian guys they apparently had very little plans for. It’s no surprise to learn that the Terri Invitational Tournament (TIT) initials were credited to Vince Russo and both sides of the match have since said that Edge and Christian were originally booked to win the match. According to Edge’s autobiography Adam Copeland On Edge (2004)“Terri would be the mastermind” who would have double-crossed them the next night in a swerve and they would then have been attacked at the bank by The Mean Street Posse when they went to cash in their winnings setting up a feud between “the goths vs. the jocks”. After Russo left the company plans were changed on the day of the pay-per-view and Vince told The Hardys they were going over because “they needed it more”. According to the Hardyz’ book Exist 2 Inspire (2003) Edge was disappointed with this turn of events. Ironically the same reasoning would be used the other way around at WrestleMania 2000.

Following highlights of that WrestleMania 2000 Triangle Ladder Match (involving the above two teams and Buh-Buh Ray and D-Von Dudley) – specifically Jeff’s twenty foot Swanton Bomb – accompanied by the first of two interviews with Edge (who lists all his injuries including the broken neck which kept him out of action for sixteen months) we jump right into the first and, in my opinion, best Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC) from SummerSlam 2000. Featuring excitement from start to finish, plenty of big moves and insane bumps, a red-hot crowd in North Carolina, and three very over teams at the height of their popularity, this proved to be not only the high point of their rivalry but the best spot-based match in U.S. wrestling history. Every person in the match was given their chance to shine and Jim Ross’ call of “There’s your opportunity Matt! You’re at home, son! Go up that ladder!!!” still produces goose-bumps eight years later; There is a neat trick where the DVD’s producers make it look like Gregory Helms is sabotaging the DVD by adding in a WCW match (“Hey, why’s WWE getting all the credit for the ladder match, huh? Where’s the love for W-C-W?”) – There is a point there since the next match is the only one we get to break up the constant cycle of WWF/E stuff following the opening match: 3 Count (Helms and Shannon Moore) versus Jamie Knoble and Evan Karagias versus Jung Dragons (Kaz Hayashi and Jung ‘Jimmy Wang’ Yang) with Leia Meow (ECW’s Kimon Wanalea). This is confusing since even though it is a match between three teams it is for a shot at the WCW Cruiserweight Title. Typical WCW booking. This means there is a contract hanging above the ring or so we hope (“you think there’s a contract up there but really that’s just an 8 x 10 of me” jokes reigning champ Chavo Guerrero on commentary) and there is an unusual dynamic compared to the WWE multi-person matches because all six are smaller, high-flying type wrestlers. A contender for WCW Match Of The Year Helms calls this: “The greatest ladder match in WCW history and I’d put that up against any match that WWE has ever done” and whilst I think he’s right about the first bit, I don’t think the match was close to the proceeding TLC bout. That’s not to say it’s a bad match though One of the highlights of the final months of WCW was the re-building of the Cruiserweight Division with fresh talent and the opening match of the final ever StarrCade highlights the potential that was there (I imagine the Division would have become similar to the glory early days of TNA’s X Division but with more psychology) in a match which looks innovative even today. You won’t believe some of the moves they pull out in this one; this serves as a segue way into the match between Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho (who are acknowledged as former WCW competitors) at Royal Rumble 2001. These two had great chemistry, going right back to their match in the Quarter Finals at the Super J Cup hosted by WAR in 1995, and the two Canadians had been tearing down the house with their excellent feud in 2000-01. For all their great matches, this might have been their very best. If any one-on-one ladder match can equal (or surpass) the two Michaels/Razor matches then this is it. This was a unique blend of quality wrestling (particularly, but not limited to, before the ladder is introduced), intense bRawling, submission moves, high-spots, violence, chair shots, innovative use of the ladder and excellent psychology which marks a drastic change from the three multi-man, spot based matches which proceed it and the two which follow it on the next disc…

Disc 2

This will adversely affect your sexual drive.” (Jim Ross, WrestleMania X7).

We kick things off on a high-note with one of the better matches from the show on the best (and most financially successful) show of the entire Attitude Era, WrestleMania X7 – TLC Part Two. Almost stealing the show again this match featured more insane stunts from not only all three teams, but their respective sidekicks Lita, Rhyno and Little Spike Dudley. Sadly, the match is not a patch on the original. Although very good and lots of fun … but I don’t understand why anyone would rate it above the TLC match at SummerSlam ’00 or maybe even the Triple Ladder at WrestleMania 2000. It was given less time than those matches so it felt more like one spot after another with less time to absorb them and whereas e original TLC could be seen as the logical culmination of nine months worth of feuding on-and-off, the build-up here was rushed with a series of quick title changes resulting in all three teams been thrown back again so even though some of the spots are really spectacular, even more so than the original. The match is still very good and almost stole show and gave us a great visual in Edge’s mid-air spear which must now have become one of the most replayed moves in WWE history. Paul Heyman and JR do a great job on commentary, a combination viewers become accustomed to over the next few matches…

When you talk about ‘panic booking’ you have to talk about the so-called “forgotten TLC” which was not-only the first Four-Way TLC, but also the first to air on free television on the 24th May 2001 episode of SmackDown! The match was rushed together at the last minute (see Hardy and Edge books for an account of the amount of notice they were given) the week that Chris’ Benoit and Jericho won the World Tag Team Titles from ‘The Two Man Power Trip’ on Raw. During the course of said match Triple H famously suffered a torn quadriceps sidelining him for eight months and, with The Rock off in Hollywood, worried about the impact this could have on ratings the WWF gave away something very special indeed. Not everyone was happy about this decision, “When they first told us that they wanted to do it, we were a little upset. It felt like they just wanted to throw something together to pop the ratings… As it tuned out, TLC III ended up being phenomenal match. All eight of us really busted our asses and tore the house down,” (Jeff Hardy, Exist 2 Inspire). And tear the house down they did, the cool thing about seeing it here is the way it brings together everyone from the previous two matches in the DVD set, so we know all eight can use a ladder. The presence of Jericho and Benoit gives the match a different dynamic from the other TLC matches as they are pitted against three teams of TLC specialists, resulting in a more story-driven match, although less spotty there is still no shortage of high-spots and dangerous moves, like Benoit’s diving headbutt through a ringside table which was the start of the problems causing him to miss thirteen months with a broken neck. It is apparently one of his partner Y2J’s favourite matches.

The match between Christian and Edge highlights the fact that they aren’t as good in this environment against each other as they are working together. Part of the problem was that the feud between Edge and Christian was supposed to stretch over three PPVs (with Christian winning the first two) culminating at Survivor Series, but after their second PPV match was announced as a Ladder Match Edge fought to have it end their feud because he felt that as a babyface “if I were to get beat in a match with no rules, why would any fan want to see it again a third time?” Again the result was only changed at the last minute: “On the day of the show, it was decided the feud between E&C was over and I would win my third I-C title.” (Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland, Adam Copeland On Edge).The bout itself is less spectacular and violent than the TLC matches, and focusing on some pretty brutal but innovative moves, lots of low-blows and some evil chair shots. Although decent, at twenty plus minutes it feels a bit long (even Edge felt their feud was disappointing) but here it works really well as a nice change of pace from most of the other ladder matches on Disc 2.

The match between Rob Van Dam and the late great Eddie Guerrero is quite the little cracker. Following a decent but disappointing match at Backlash and a really good one at Judgment Day the culmination to their feud was this Ladder Match on the 27th May, 2002 episode of Raw. Eddie was an incredible heel at this point and out to prove himself following his return to WWE, whilst Van Dam was still really over and this turned out to be one of the best matches of ‘The Whole Dam Show’s’ entire WWE run. This was a strong TV main event with some good wrestling, good high-flying and creative use of the ladder , one of the top five Raw Brand match of 2002 (although there were better matches on SmackDown!) despite the poor finish, which drags it down a little. For the record, they edited out the frightening bit where an idiotic fan ran into the ring and knocked over the ladder whilst Eddie was climbing it and replaced it with a big close up of Chris Benoit in the audience (ironic considering who they are editing out of things nowadays).

The match between The Undertaker and Jeff Hardy for the Undisputed title is a ‘Love It or Hate It’-type match of WrestleMania XII Iron Man Match proportions. For some it was a brilliant match which told an entertaining underdog story of young Jeffrey being able to hang with ‘The Dead Man’. For others a methodical squash match, featuring some of the slowest ladder climbing you will ever see made all the more awkward by the size and (more importantly) speed difference between the two.

TLC IV named ‘Raw Match Of The Decade’ at the Raw X anniversary awards the next January was (like TLC III) thrown together for the purposes of TV. In this case its job was to get over the Raw Roulette gimmick as something worth caring about and it served its purpose well. This was a pure stunt and bump affair with Van Dam an interesting and appropriate addition to the TLC environment. The teams don’t gel as well as the familiar three teams from the first three TLCs, but having Kane as the Monster in the match paved the way for the Money In The Bank matches and it worked as a vehicle to build-up the big man for his PPV match with Triple H (Kane is in it on his own against three teams). JR does a good job of calling the match solo and manages to get in one of the best lines of the entire set: “Ever since the rosters – Raw and SmackDown!, I’m referring to – the rosters were frozen Bischoff’s treating people like Government Mules!”; The final match on Disc 2, between Chris Jericho and Christian for the vacant Intercontinental Title, is a massive let-down considering the previous quality of Ladder Matches these two had been involved in. This is a violent but sloppy bout, from which Jericho was lucky to escape without permanent injury after the way he landed. He would later be credited as the originator of the match which kicks off the final disc…

Disc 3

You think all the way back in 1963 when ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers became the first Champion he ever thought he’d wrestle in a TLC match?” (Jim Ross, Unforgiven 2006, 17th September, 2006)

Disc 3 brings us up-to-date with seven ladder matches covering a two year span, three from 2005 and four from 2006 beginning with the first and by far the best Money In The Bank Ladder Match from WrestleMania XXI. The image of ladders on fire during Kane’s entrance is a neat touch and from there on it develops into the best ladder match of recent years, actually surpassing a lot from the TLC-era. This one has it all: blood, violence, athletic high-spots, and a solid story. One of the main reasons it works is because of the excellent collection of talent with four more traditional ‘technical’ workers with a wealth of ladder experience in Edge, Christian, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho, one Monster in Kane and a stunt-specialist in Shelton Bejamin who enters a thrilling performance with his Spider-Man-style spring-board to the top of the ladder and T-bone suplex off the ladder on Edge. Make no mistake about it though, this match is ‘The Chris Benoit Show’ as he brings a level of psychology to the match, adds an emotional connection from the live audience to the stunts and bumps and helps build to a memorable finish. Perhaps the most important win of Edge’s career as it all but guaranteed him a title run.

It’s safe to say the match between Eddie Guerrero against Rey Mysterio from SummerSlam ’05 wasn’t the best match they ever had. Overshadowed by a tasteless storyline in which Mysterio’s eight year old son Dominick was revealed to be Eddie Guerrero’s illegitimate son and hampered by a surprising number of botched moves, the focus is not on the match but on Dominick at ringside with social worker Miss Crabtree (an inside joke at the expense of British legend Big Daddy… Shirley?). It’s inclusion seems a bit unnecessary.

Following MITB we are shown footage of Edge cashing in his briefcase and winning the WWE Title at New Year’s Revolution 2006 so surely it would have made more sense to move to the next Edge match?

The next three matches turn a spotlight on ‘The Rated R Superstar’ as he takes on three opponents in one-on-one matches, the first being Matt Hardy in Money In The Bank, Loser Leaves Raw match from the Raw Homecoming show marking WWE’s return to USA Network after five years on Spike TV. That show in general felt long (particularly the McMahons / Austin segment, good at first, seeming to go on forever) and this match which should have meant a great deal was almost irrelevant compared to Triple H’s return (and heel turn on Flair) and guest appearances from Roddy Piper, Mick Foley, Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan… Which is a shame because seen in isolation you realize the match was decent. Much has been written criticizing the way this feud was handled so I won’t say too much except that a red-hot, reality-based feud like this deserved at least a final pay-per-view match (they were one apiece at this point) rather than ending on free TV; “This is pretty damn cool” says Flair after he gives away the result to the next match.

The TLC Match he had with WWE Champion Edge was an interesting one: different to 99% of Ladder Matches and completely different to other TLC matches. Different by necessity, they couldn’t do high-spots so instead stuck with a story-based match containing both comedy and violence. Seeing the ‘Nature Boy’ in the first Ladder Match of his thirty plus year career was a strange experience but it was really cleverly booked with the “Can Flair do it One More Time?” story, his daughter at ringside and fans in North Carolina willing their hometown hero on. They emphasized that Flair wasn’t comfortable with the ladder whilst playing up it was Edge’s specialty – Flair legitimately doesn’t look comfortable operating a ladder and that actually adds realism to the match. The end result is arguably the best match of Flair’s current WWE run and an unlikely WWE 2006 Match Of The Year Contender.

Speaking of MOTYC, the match in which Edge defends the same title, under the same stipulations against John Cena at Unforgiven 2006 turned out to be one of the better WWE PPV main events of the last few years. This was probably Cena’s best match to this point and the best of the famous Edge/Cena rivalry that lasted most of the year. The match and the build up are great and everything about it gives that Big Match atmosphere. Everything is in the champion’s favour. they are in his hometown ,Toronto, with his specialiaty match. The main weakness here was stipulation: if Cena lost he had to join SmackDown!… This really made SD look the inferior brand, even more than usual. I was hoping they would have done a bit more wrestling before going for the big bumps, building up to a bunch of interference, and I do think Cena could have heeled it up a bit more to the crowd but what they did was entertaining. The reaction to Edge was brilliant – all the crowd are behind him; they use the gimmicks well – such as Edge’s springboard dropkick off the guardrail into the ladder into Cena and modified versions of their respective trademark moves; I thought the improvisation following the failed sunset flip/powerbomb spot actually added to it; and the closing moments were dramatic. In what could have been a predictable match they did a good job keeping us guessing who would win.

The penultimate match took place in the week leading up to Survivor Series 2006 and was the best match of the undercard feud between Jeff Hardy and Johnny Nitro (one of the better TV matches on Raw that year). Those expecting it to be another ‘Jeff Hardy Show’ were in for a surprise, as Nitro entered what at the time looked like a breakthrough performance. Packed full of high risk stunts this was a return to the TLC-era of non-stop high-spots and innovative moves, highlighted by a must-see standing dropkick from Nitro (on the second from top rung of the ladder) to Hardy (on the other side of the ladder).

Our last match involved Jeff and Nitro joining their regular partners Matt and Mercury alongside teams of Paul London and Brian Kendrick and William Regal and Dave Taylor in a Four Way Ladder Match at Armageddon.

Amazingly this bout took place unannounced leading into the pay-per-view. As Regal and Taylor were preparing for their regular Tag Team Title contest with LonDrick, JBL offered a prediction “My money lies with the tough guys – the guys from the UK”… only for SD! GM Teddy Long to come out and make the announcement he was adding the other two teams and making it a Ladder Match. This of course gave the former World Of Sport guys a disadvantage and much of the match involved their playing off their fear of heights as they repeatedly tried to keep the ladder out and keep the action ground-based. The bout also played off the MNM/Hardyz feud and seemed to be designed to put LonDrick over as the equals of The Hardyz – it’s a shame they didn’t do much with LonDrick afterwards. As exciting as it was, this match is certainly not easy to watch due to the famous see-saw spot, resulting in Mercury being rushed from the arena to the local hospital after he suffered a shattered nose, requiring twenty five stitches. As I mentioned in my review of last year’s Royal Rumble“It remains one of the most disturbing images broadcast on WWE television.”

TheBigBoot’s Best Match: Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (SummerSlam ‘95, August 27 1995) *****

TheBigBoot’s Most Memorable Quote:

Jim Ross: “Over seventeen thousand selling out the New Orleans Arena and we want to welcome our fans, we’re seen live in over seventy countries including Australia, South Africa, Mexico…”

Jerry Lawler: “Seventy countries? I didn’t even know there were seventy countries on the Earth! How many can you name?

Jim Ross: “Did you not get good grades in Geography down in Memphis?

Jerry Lawler: “Yes.”

(Royal Rumble 2001, 21st January 2001)

Conclusion

Who are you? King ‘The Toolman’ Taylor?” (Jim Ross, SummerSlam ’98, 30th August 1998)

In DIY safety and stability are primary concerns in ladder use but here you have to forget everything you’ve learnt when decorating. Someone like Jeff Hardy (a keen DIYer) will have to make sure he remembers whether he’s painting the ceiling or working a ladder match. The main thing highlighted by this set is the seemingly endless possibilities for innovation a ladder offers. The Cage match has been established longer with more storied history in terms of ending feuds, Hell in a Cell is inevitably bloodier and more violent, WarGames is arguably a cleverer idea (perhaps Dusty Rhodes’ biggest contribution to wrestling) but nothing can beat the Ladder Match when it comes to creating new moves. On the other hand the set illustrates something else, there have been so many ladder matches since 1999 that the gimmick has (sadly) lost some of its impact. As a result, although entertaining viewing Discs 2 and 3 don’t hold a candle to the matches on Disc 1 not just in terms of quality but of historical impact. After nine hours all those ladders can start to look the same. If you buy a DVD called The Ladder Match, there’s really no point in complaining about having too many Ladder Matches on it.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement: whereas the majority of recent releases have highlighted the depth of WWE’s video library, much of this set focuses on the WWF/E. It could have done with more matches from elsewhere. The WCW matches between Eddy Guerrero and Syxx (Souled Out ’97, 25/01/97) and Chris Benoit against Jeff Jarrett (StarrCade ’99, 19/12/99) would have been a good start. The argument about not wanting to feature Jarrett because he’s in TNA doesn’t hold water, considering his fellow TNA star Christian is included in no less than eight matches, whilst The Dudley Boys (TNA’s Team 3-D) are in four. Even from within the WWE it doesn’t feature the cracking Intercontinental Ladder Match between Christian and Rob Van Dam (29th September 2003 Raw). All three of those matches were good (and received ‘four star’ Observer ratings). Some of the matches chosen could have been better: including of some recent matches (Jericho vs. Christian, Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero) at the expense of the excellent Triangle Ladder Match from WrestleMania 2000 is puzzling to say the least.

That said, this is a great set. Like the Ladder Match gimmick itself, the ration of hits outweighs the misses. Almost all the matches are good, many are great and a few are classics. If you are a fan of ladder matches, WWE in general, or even a wrestler preparing for a Ladder Match then I’d recommend you watch this. You are bound to find something you’ll enjoy.

Points: 10 / 10

Buy It:

UK: DVD

USA: DVD

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