Features

(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: TLC I – WWE SummerSlam 2000

wwe summerslam 2002 tlc

The year 2000 is widely considered one of the best years in WWE history from a popularity standpoint. There was something wild and chaotic about matches that year that made them wildly entertaining.

That sense of chaos made for fun TV but matches themselves were generally hit or miss throughout the year. But today we look at one if the biggest ‘hits’, which has gone on to become one of the most iconic WWE matches of the 21st century.

Today we revisit TLC I featuring three all-time great tag teams Edge & Christian, The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz from SummerSlam 2000.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

This match took place during the “Crash TV” era of WWE when pretty much the entire roster played hot potato with the tag titles. Between March 29th, 1998 and May 31st, 2004, no reign reached 100 days in length. In fact, during that period, the World Tag Team titles changed hands 70 times. To keep up with the “dude, swerve, bro” booking of the time, tag title matches were booked on an almost hyperactive basis, with some title changes happening within 24 hours. And while title reigns were short, the matches themselves got pretty wild and exciting.

Central to this period of wildness were three teams of newcomers and/or rising stars. The Dudley Boyz, fresh off their WWE debut from ECW, were arguably the best American tag team of all time with their incredible list of accolades and title reigns. They were the first to win the tag titles from the older guard teams like the New Age Outlaws (no longer “new age”) and were arguably the most popular tag team alive at that point. They were also experts with tables. But they soon found stiff competition in the form of Edge & Christian, two younger guys that broke off from the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness and later from Gangrel and his Brood. They became chair experts and started calling themselves “chairmen of WWE”. Lastly, there were the Hardy Boyz, two guys that started off as jobbers in WWE but eventually grew into a highly popular tag team attraction, thanks to their high-risk nature and their penchant for using ladders.

Three teams, each one specializing in one weapon type. To really settle which of these teams was the best, all three weapons would be combined into one stipulation: the first-ever TLC match. It was as even a playing field as it could get for these three teams, so it was anyone’s guess who would actually win when no single team had any sort of advantage.

 

The match

This match originally took place on August 27th, 2000. It was rated ****1/2 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and ****3/4 by TJR’s John Canton.

This is for Edge & Christian’s WWF World Tag Team Championships. The only way to win is to pull down both belts from above the ring.

E&C enter first followed by the Dudleys and neither team gets much of a reaction. The crowd pops big time when the Hardys come down and the two of them rush straight to the ring and start brawling with Bubba and Devon. Howard Finkel doesn’t even have time to announce them as the chaos begins. E&C go for some chair-shots but they get cut off. Matt and Jeff take over with chair shots and knock everyone else down. Matt throws a chair at Bubba’s head and then he and Jeff go for their Poetry in Motion tandem attack but Bubba hits first with a chair shot to a charging Jeff. E&C take over and Christian hits a chair-assisted corner crossbody splash onto Devon followed by a drop toehold into a chair by Edge. Edge introduces the first ladder into the match but everyone can see it’s clearly too short to reach the titles so it’s only there as a weapon. Edge places it against the ropes and puts Bubba against it and charges but Bubba sidesteps and pushes the ladder into Edge. Bubba DDT’s Christian as the fans chant “we want tables”. Bubba climbs the ladder but Matt and Jeff double powerbomb him to the mat. Jeff climbs that same ladder as Devon sets up a second one next to him. Devon climbs on the same side as Matt but Edge sneaks up behind both Devon and Matt and double Russian leg sweeps them both off the ladders. Christian climbs a ladder but Bubba cuts him off and lands a Bubba Bomb (full nelson…sit down spine jammer?) from the ladder. Nasty landing for both of them.

Jeff climbs a ladder as Edge brawls with Matt. Then edge knocks Jeff off his ladder which sends another ladder seesaws into Matt’s head. Edge and Christian grab chairs and go to hit Matt but Matt ducks and so Edge and Christian hit each other’s chairs. Bubba takes advantage and knocks both of them down with a ladder. Matt swings at Bubba with a chair but Bubba hits first with the ladder. Devon sets up a ladder near a corner and climbs to the top as Bubba scoop slams Edge. Then the crowd goes NUTS. Devon lands the WAZZUP diving head-butt to Edge’s groin and then they say their three most famous words: GET THE TABLES! Bubba buries Jeff under two ladders as Devon sets up a table. 3-D on Christian! Still unsatisfied, the Dudleys go to ringside and set two more tables atop two other tables already setup ringside, for a total of four tables. Bubba teases powerbombing Jeff through those tables but Edge cuts him off. Edge hits Bubba’s back with a chair and then cracks both Dudleys’ skulls with it as well. Matt appears from out of nowhere and hits the Twist of Fate on Edge. Then Matt climbs a ladder. Diving guillotine leg drop to Edge. But he and his brother aren’t done. Jeff follows with a leapfrog guillotine leg drop over the ladder. Matt isn’t done punishing Edge as he sandwiches him in a ladder as Christian climbs the turnbuckle behind him. but Matt sees Christian and throws him off. Christian hits the ladder and crushes Edge.

Matt tries setting up his ladder as Jeff sets up a big ladder at ringside. Bubba has been placed on a table next to that big ladder. Jeff reaches the very top of the ladder…and dives. Swanton Bomb…misses! Bubba avoids a dive and Jeff crashes through the tables.

Matt brings the big ladder into the ring as the only two others still standing are Christian and Bubba. Edge smashes another chair into Bubba’s face as Matt climbs the ladder. Edge, Christian, and Devon all climb the ladder to stop Matt. Matt fights back and takes Christian out with a Twist of Hate from the ladder. Devon and Edge both fall off and hit the top rope. Bubba’s the only man still standing. Now he tries climbing the ladder. Bubba climbs the ladder surprisingly quickly (not the token “slow-as-molasses-doesn’t-know-how-to-climb-a-ladder” climbing but normal speed climbing). He reaches up and – Edge & Christian knock the ladder over. Bubba falls off the ladder and through four tables.

The crowd starts booing as both Edge and Christian climb the one ladder. Everyone else is out of commission when suddenly out comes Lita! Lita knocks the ladder over, sending both Edge and Christian falling. Lita screams for Matt to climb the ladder and he starts doing so. But Devon gets up and lifts the ladder up from one side. Matt gets send flying backwards through two more tables. Lita checks on Matt but Edge appears and spears Lita.

Back in the ring, Devon and Jeff both climb the same ladder. Both Jeff and Devon reach out to grab the belts and then trade punches. Each of them grabs hold of one belt as Edge & Christian pull the ladder from underneath them. Jeff kicks Devon until Devon falls to the matt. Jeff tries hanging on (literally) but Edge & Christian hit him with a ladder from below. Then both of them setup and climb another ladder. They pull both belts down to win the match and retain their titles!

Winners and STILL WWF/E World Tag Team Champions after 14:51: Edge & Christian

 

Review

Even after over twenty years, this is still one of the most entertaining demolition derby-style matches ever. It was fifteen minutes of pure chaos with six dudes and Lita killing themselves, all in the name of changing the game and winning the titles. It was easily the match of the night and a definite MOTYC. I wouldn’t call this a wrestling match in the traditional sense, though; it was more of a display of risk, extremes and daredevilry. But it did its job in entertaining and still deserves praise for that.

There was very little in terms of actual wrestling moves here, which made sense because it was all about the stipulation. This was a contest to see which team could be most creative with the weapons around them and make the most out of them as well. That was this match’s biggest selling point and boy did everyone deliver. The match had some convoluted setup moments, but those were largely justified with some big payoffs in the form of insane spots and ludicrous bumps. This match will definitely appeal to the fan that likes seeing wrestlers perform dangerous stunts in order to see what kind of lunacy they’ll put themselves through to entertain.

At first the match seemed to favor the Dudleys, who were the most experienced and the toughest to keep down. And even though they weren’t the local favorites, they still got the loudest pops BY FAR. It’s almost unbelievable how easily they were able to make the crowd explode with a handful of moves and taunts. Crowd reactions like that just don’t happen anymore.

Meanwhile, Matt and Jeff played the role of daredevil underdogs willing to do whatever it took to win. it’s obvious that the stuff they did here would go on to have a massive impact on the later indy scene. Guys like the Young Bucks, Adam Cole, and others who love the spotty style followed what Matt and Jeff did in matches like this. Here, Matt and Jeff got ragdolled over and over and went to extreme heights to win. Jeff was the ultimate daredevil with his dive from the ladder through the tables and Matt took a psychotic backward bump off a ladder onto other tables. For those two, self-sacrifice and high-risk were their bread and butter. They showed passion and determination, even though they were getting their asses kicked more often than not. But to them, showing what they could do was just as important as winning the belts.

Lastly, Edge & Christian acted as the underhanded in-between guys that stole control from the other two sides. They had perfect timing and knew when to interfere. They reclaimed control at critical moments and tried their best to be as opportunistic as possible. They were all but written off after Matt threw Christian onto the ladder on top of Edge. But they came back at the very end once the Dudleys were largely dealt with. The final moment with Jeff trying desperately to fend them plus Devon off while literally hanging by a thread was awesome. But it wasn’t enough. Edge and Christian were too much of a cohesive unit for Jeff to handle alone. They used the numbers game more successfully than anyone else in the match.

And while this match was definitely a spot-fest lacking much in the way of technique, there was something about it that makes it different from more recent matches of its kind. For some reason, more recent matches like this come across as sillier, choreographed, predictable, and creatively-lazy. This match wasn’t like that; it had a sense of danger and awe that just can’t be found today. Even though many TLC matches have come in its wake, this one doesn’t feel primitive or underwhelming. If anything, these three teams set the bar so high for this sort of match that it has only been surpassed once.

Final Rating: ****1/4

Even now, after so many years of weapons-based matches becoming commonplace and watered down, this match still holds up very well. There’s a much greater sense of tension and danger in spite of it being somewhat predictable with all the laborious table setup and convoluted spots. But more than that, this is a car crash-style match that’s as exciting as it is wild. It doesn’t really go into excess territory. There’s this seriousness about it that makes it feel like the wrestlers are fighting (and hurting themselves badly) for something important instead of just “putting on a show for the fans and themselves”.

If you’re going to watch any TLC match other than the second one at WrestleMania X-Seven, watch this one. While it doesn’t reach the same heights as that second one, it comes pretty close.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.