Case study: Vengeance 2005, John Cena vs. Christian vs. Chris Jericho (Triple-Threat Match for the WWE Championship) – June 26, 2005
All three men have a staredown in the middle of the ring before Jericho slaps Cena in the face. Cena tackles Jericho and lands a flurry of punches on Jericho. Christian halts Cena’s attack on Jericho by stomping away at Cena. Jericho joins in and both Christian and Jericho corner Cena and connect with a series of body blows on Cena. Jericho knife edge chops Cena and Irish whips him into the turnbuckle. Christian and Jericho take turns assaulting Cena until Jericho knocks out Christian with a right hand. Jericho hits Christian with a back elbow. Jericho lands two running elbow drops on Christian. As Jericho goes for a third running elbow drop, Tyson Tomko, standing ringside as Christian’s enforcer, pulls Jericho’s left leg and slams Jericho into the barricade.
Analysis: Historically, triple threat matches feature one babyface battling two heels. There’s also normally an instance in this type of a match where the heels form a partnership resembling a handicap match in the interest of removing the babyface from the equation. Inevitably, the heels split apart since there could only be one winner. The same aspects hold true in this match. On a different note, kudos to Jericho on his instincts during the Tomko spot. Tomko originally pulled down the top rope in order to cause Jericho to back flip over the top rope. Tomko, however, was late in pulling the top rope resulting in Jericho being unable to back flip. Jericho, though, quickly instructed Tomko to pull him by his leg to accomplish the intended goal of sending Jericho outside the ring.
In the ring, Cena performs a hip toss on Christian. Cena stomps Christian in the corner. Tomko delivers a forearm shot across Cena’s spine. Referee Earl Hebner notices and ejects Tomko from ringside. Cena FU’s Christian over the top rope. Jericho recovers and nails Cena with a flying back elbow. Jericho covers Cena and earns a two count. Jericho vertical suplexes Cena and follows it up with a baseball slide. Jericho and Cena exchange haymakers until Jericho rakes Cena’s eyes. Jericho Irish whips Cena into the turnbuckle. Jericho charges at Cena, but Cena gets his right leg up for a big boot on Jericho. Jericho counters Cena’s Irish whip attempt into an Irish whip attempt of his own and plants Cena with a one-handed bulldog. Cena rolls out of the way from Jericho’s Lionsault. Jericho, however, lands on his feet and connects on a back elbow to Cena. Jericho drops Cena out of the ring with a baseball slide. Jericho exits the ring and sends Cena into the security wall. Jericho rams Cena’s head into a steel chair. Jericho attempts to vertical suplex Cena onto the Spanish announce table, but Cena blocks Jericho and DDTs Jericho onto the WWE title.
Analysis: The DDT from Cena on Jericho onto the WWE title was unexpected at a glance. After replaying it, Jericho subtly positions the title by sweeping it with his right foot. Jericho does his best to not spoil the planned spot in real time. Prior to this, Christian’s facial expressions when Hebner ejected Tomko from ringside told a great story. Christian’s chances of gaining an unfair advantage in the contest decreased tremendously and Christian’s facial expressions conveyed that narrative.
Christian bounces Cena’s head off the steel steps. Christian shoves Cena back into the ring. Christian covers Cena and earns a two count. Christian applies a headlock on Cena. Cena fights out of it and clotheslines Christian. Cena shoulder tackles Christian and plants Christian with a spinning side slam. Cena goes for Five-Knuckle Shuffle, but Jericho grabs Cena’s right leg and pulls him outside the ring. Jericho drives Cena into the steel steps. Christian performs a baseball slide on Jericho. Christian exits the ring to toss Jericho back in the ring. Jericho tries to lock in the Walls of Jericho, but Christian kicks him away and into Cena who is standing on the apron. Jericho bounces off the ropes and into a roll-up from Christian. Christian earns a two count. Christian climbs to the top turnbuckle, but Jericho gets back to his feet and attempts to suplex Christian off the top rope. Cena returns to the ring and positions himself underneath Jericho. Cena powerbombs Jericho while Jericho simultaneously suplexes Christian. Cena covers Jericho, but Jericho lifts his left shoulder off the canvas for a two count. Cena crawls to Christian for a cover, but Christian powers out before the count of three.
Analysis: The powerbomb-suplex combination off the turnbuckle is one of the benefits of watching a triple threat match. It’s a very innovative spot that always pops the crowd. The setup to the spot is also done cleverly to excite the crowd. Cena was outside the ring when Jericho had Christian in position for a suplex so most fans would think only a suplex off the turnbuckle is about to be performed. Instead, all of a sudden Cena rushes back inside the ring and joins in on the “high spot” to create an even “higher spot.”
Cena clotheslines Jericho and Christian. Cena bodyslams Jericho and performs a drop toehold on Christian. Cena lands the Five Knuckle Shuffle on both of his opponents at the same time. Cena rolls up Jericho, but Christian interrupts Cena’s pinning attempt with a roll-up of his own. Christian earns a two count. Jericho hooks Christian’s left leg and Cena’s right leg at the same time, but Christian and Cena kick out at two. Cena and Christian double clothesline Jericho before clotheslining each other. Jericho climbs to the top turnbuckle, but topples outside the ring when Cena rams Christian’s head into Jericho’s groin. Cena rolls up Christian and earns a two count. Cena attempts an FU on Christian, but Christian rakes Cena’s eyes and plants Cena with an inverted facelock backbreaker. Christian covers Cena, but Cena kicks out at two. Christian momentarily leaves the ring to grab the WWE title. Christian uses the title as a ploy to distract the referee while Tomko makes a run-in and clotheslines Cena. Christian rushes back into the ring and covers Cena. Cena raises his right shoulder at the count of two. Christian smacks the canvas repeatedly in frustration. Cena launches Christian over the top rope. Jericho returns to the ring and locks Cena in the Walls of Jericho. Jericho briefly releases the hold when he sees Christian on the ring apron. Jericho drops Christian with a springboard dropkick. Jericho reapplies the Walls of Jericho on Cena. Christian sneaks back into the ring and rolls up Jericho from behind. Christian earns a two count. Jericho reverses an Irish whip attempt from Christian with an Irish whip of his own. Christian ducks Jericho’s running one-handed bulldog and sets Jericho in position for the Unprettier. Jericho, however, shoves Christian into Cena who lifts Christian up on his shoulders. Cena knocks Jericho down by swinging Christian’s legs into Jericho’s face. Cena plants Christian with an FU and hooks Christian right leg for the pinfall victory. Cena retains the WWE championship.
Analysis: I loved the finish to this match. All three participants played a role in the finish which is fitting considering it’s a triple threat match. The match itself stands out to me all these years later for its high quality but, most importantly, because of Christian. It marked the first time Christian competed for the WWE championship. He breathed new life into the title scene and showed he belonged due to his growing popularity as a singles star.
Additional comments: This match held my interest from start to finish and didn’t require an abundance of finishing moves to build to an exciting finish. In fact, Jericho’s Lionsault and Christian’s Unprettier were not utilized at any point in the match to create false finishes. Still, all three men managed to produce believable nearfalls via roll-up attempts executed in a timely manner. Christian rolling up Jericho while Jericho had the Walls of Jericho applied on Cena was the most convincing nearfall of the match. Triple Threat title matches commonly lead to the champion losing his title without ever being pinned or made to submit. Therefore, a heel challenger in Christian blindsiding co-challenger Jericho with a roll-up pin teased the audience on a potential match ending scenario.
Verdict: An action-packed Triple Threat Title Match from bell-to-bell.
Final rating: **** (out of five)
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