WrestleManias are built on moments. One of my favorite parts of the iconic TLC 2 at WrestleMania X7 is a tiny “blink and you’ll miss it” moment, and it’s something you’ll never quite understand without knowing the context, but it makes me shake my head and laugh every single time.
I’ll help set the stage a bit. We’re less than 10 minutes into the match and the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, and the Dudley Boyz have been absolutely killing each other. E&C did their thing and smashed people with chairs. The Hardyz hit their patented Event Omega on Christian from atop two ladders. Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley nailed Edge with a “Whassup?” and then followed it up by powerbombing the future “Rated R Superstar” through both Jeff Hardy and a table. There’s carnage everywhere in the form of bodies, tables, ladders, and chairs and the match is shaping up to be every bit as good as the two in the trilogy that precede it, which is a hell of a bar to try and clear. Basically, things are firing on all cylinders. I’ll let an excerpt from Matt Hardy from The Hardy Boyz: Exist 2 Inspire tell the rest.
“We were initially told that we were going to have 25 minutes, but right before the match it became 22 minutes. Our Plan was the finish itself would take 10 minutes… Then, during the match we got cut down to 18 minutes. I was the one who got word so I’m buzzing everybody: “We’ve got to go! Let’s go home!” Everything between that spot was immediately ixnayed. I was trying to tell Bubba, “We’re going home!”
“I said we’re going… “ DING! Bubba hit me over the head with a ladder.
First of all, knowing that one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history ended up getting cut for time twice, and wondering what else the teams had in store, will forever haunt me. Secondly, when you watch the match back and realize what’s happening in that moment, it’s a mixture between groan inducing and hilarious. Bubba cracks Matt extremely hard with the ladder, and Hardy’s half dazed and half angry “what the F%#k” expression as he checks his hairline for blood is a reminder that even the smallest of slip ups can have serious consequences in a match like this, but at the same time – well, shit happens.
It’s a reckless moment in a deep rivalry between three teams that was built on reckless moments, and it’s one of the few missteps in a series of matches that required six men to somehow throw caution to the wind and try and do it safely. I think Matt would agree, twelve staples and a messed up hairline is a small price to pay for making history.
Making history had basically become standard procedure for The Hardyz, E&C, and the Dudleyz at this point. Edge, Christian, and the Hardyz got things started at No Mercy in the fall of 1999, going from middle of the pack teams to full blown superstars with an incredible Ladder Match that was so good it earned a standing ovation from the crowd a full 24 hours later on Monday Night Raw. The Dudleyz followed suit a few months later, with a star making performance of their own against the Hardyz in a Tables Match at the Royal Rumble that set Madison Square Garden ablaze and provided some of the most iconic moments in the feud. Yet, the world hadn’t seen anything like what the three teams would deliver three times over the course of the next twelve months, starting and ending at the Grand-daddy of them all.
Because pro wrestling loves to make things complicated, TLC 2 was actually the third match of its kind between the three teams. A year before the trilogy concluded at WrestleMania X7, the three teams competed in a Triangle Ladder Match at WrestleMania 2000. This match was only named differently from the other two because they hadn’t come up with the TLC moniker yet, and the world needed us to wait until we could get Commissioner Foley to forever tie it to a Wizard of Oz reference, (“Tables and Ladders and Chairs, oh my!”).
The WrestleMania 2000 match is the longest of the trilogy and it’s somehow also the most frenetic. The pace and the action are insane and the spots are aplenty. With Jeff’s huge Swanton Bomb from a 20 foot ladder, where he basically lands on his ass, and Matt’s end over end bump off of a table stacked atop two ladders, several moments stand out as particularly brutal. Make no mistake, all six men let their bodies take an absolute beating for our entertainment that night. It became an instant WrestleMania classic that gave us the everlasting image of Edge and Christian sitting on top of the world holding tag team gold, but in the end it was just the tip of the iceberg of what the teams could do.
A few months later, it was time for the original TLC match at SummerSlam, and the trio of teams somehow found a way to make things even better. In front of a rabid North Carolina crowd that wanted nothing more than their hometown Hardy Boyz to pull off the victory, they took all of the chaos that they’d delivered before and took things deeper. The Hardyz came SO close to winning the titles multiple times, with Jeff even hanging from the titles towards the end of the bout (in a nice teaser of the historic moment that’s to come a few months later), as the building lost their collective minds. To the dismay of the Raleigh faithful, Edge and Christian reigned supreme once again that night, but the bar had just been set incredibly high going forward.
The Triangle Ladder Match was an insane spectacle and TLC built on that by upping the stakes in terms of spots and psychology to an incredible level. I was 9 years old heading into WrestleMania X7, so I can’t vouch for what the internet was like back then, but I can’t imagine the smart fans felt good about the three teams somehow topping their previous effort heading into the biggest PPV event of all time. Despite all of that, TLC 2 has gone down as the best match during the best show in WWE history, as the six men achieved the impossible and created a showcase somehow even more unbelievable and memorable than its predecessors.
Unlike the first two bouts that started as soon as the teams hit the ring, we get to bask in the big fight feel and let the energy of the crowd take over the arena before the bell rings this time. This was the culmination of one of the greatest series of matches in pro wrestling history, and while it was impossible for them to know it at the time, it feels like deep down, all six men had at least an inkling of a feeling that this would be the end of something special.
Once the action gets started, it’s fast and furious from the word “go” and doesn’t slow down until the big “go home” spot that Matt had to call for early, that forever ruined his perfect hairline. All six men climb ladders in the center of the ring, and seconds later, all six men lie scattered across the canvas and the floor as the Toronto crowd gets to their feet. Then, they activate their ace in the hole.
How do you top six superstars absolutely destroying each other with tables, ladders and chairs for tag team gold? You add three more bodies to the mix! Lita once again came to stick her neck out for her Hardy Boyz after getting involved in TLC 1, as she saved the match for her team and then ate a 3D for her troubles. Spike Dudley showed his worth to the family by hitting an incredible Dudley Dawg onto Christian to a table on the outside, and E&C’s good buddy Rhyno proved to be most valuable of all and made his presence felt all the way to the finish of the match.
The next ten minutes are as exhilarating as anything you’ll ever see in professional wrestling. All nine of the competitors practically killed themselves twice over, taking spills from ladders to the outside, breaking countless tables and basically putting one another through absolute hell while doing things that had never been seen before. Edge’s spear to Jeff Hardy from 15 feet in the air. Matt and Bubba falling a good 20 feet to the floor through two stacks of tables. D-Von and Christian dangling high above the canvas while desperately trying to kick the other free to yank down the belts before both crashing to the mat. There’s putting your body on the line for greatness, and then there’s whatever you want to call this match, and everyone involved undoubtedly suffers the consequences of that night to this day.
I’ll never forget the first time I watched TLC 2, because I actually wasn’t able to see it, but I heard it! Being a child and unable to afford WrestleMania, my brother Joe and I huddled around the TV on April Fools Day 2001, and turned the dial to the PPV channel anyway. The screen essentially looked like you were watching through a kaleidoscope if you didn’t actually buy the show back in the day, but the audio was usually decent enough to allow you to follow along and pray for those few seconds of focus you’d be lucky enough to get every so often. It’s probably just my brain rewriting history at this point, but I swear for the few seconds Jeff Hardy was swinging from those title belts and Edge plucked him 15 feet out of the air with a spear, that PPV feed was clear as day and I got to live in that moment, flashbulbs blinding me through the screen along with a roar excitement and disbelief from the crowd that’s rarely been heard before or since.
Watching this match through different eyes 20 years later, and having seen dozens upon dozens of multi-man and woman ladder matches during that time, you’d expect to be a little desensitized to the “Holy Shit” moments and the brutality of it all. Instead, no matter how many times I watch it, I come away more and more amazed. Over the last few decades, wrestlers all over the world have done their best to top the sheer spectacle, emotion, and ENERGY of this match – and while some matches have featured more carnage and plunder than TLC 2, and others have told more of a cohesive story, nothing has ever quite been able to touch the magic that was made on April Fool’s Day in 2001.
There’s nothing that says WrestleMania more than 70,000 people on their feet and losing their minds. After 15 minutes of chaos and destruction, Edge and Christian secured their clean sweep and won their third straight incredible battle, but if we’re being honest, who won the match that night is essentially just an answer to a trivia question. This performance went beyond just wins and losses, and it’s going to be remembered forever because of the dozens of moments that took your breath away, not the end result.
These three teams were no strangers to making history, and on that night they managed to somehow outshine everything else they’d done before and they did it on the grandest stage imaginable. WrestleManias are built on moments and so was TLC 2. It seems fitting that this match would be the crown jewel of the greatest Mania of them all.