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(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Edge vs. John Cena – WWE Unforgiven 2006

wwe john cena edge unfrogiven 2006

This is another match that was recommended to me by one of our readers here at TJRWrestling. I’ve been told that it’s a forgotten classic and one of the top matches of its era.

Both wrestlers involved still have legions of fans and many have praised this as one of their best matches together. But is it really that good? Read on to find out.

Today we revisit the TLC match between Edge and John Cena from WWE Unforgiven 2006.

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

The rivalry between Edge and Cena was one of the biggest stories in WWE in 2006. Edge cashed in his MITB briefcase (that he won in 2005) right after Cena survived a hellacious Elimination Chamber match at New Year’s Revolution 2006. He won the WWE title from Cena right then and there but Cena won it back three weeks later. Cena then got a second taste of MITB madness when 2006 winner Rob Van Dam cashed it in ahead of time and announced a title match at ECW One Night Stand. Cena lost the title to RVD after Edge attacked Cena. But then Edge won the title from RVD a few weeks later on RAW. Cena and Edge traded barbs for weeks, with Cena also making hilarious and racy comments towards Edge’s girlfriend Lita.

The two of them fought again at Saturday Night’s Main Event in July, which Cena won via disqualification. Then at SummerSlam, which was held in Cena’s hometown of Boston (OK, so not his actual hometown but close enough), Edge won clean. Edge celebrated with a new version of the title that mocked Cena’s spinner belt (itself a mockery of titles as prestigious championships, but that’s another story for another day). Edge threw Cena’s belt into the Long Island Sound and Cena got revenge by attacking Edge during his match later that night. Cena demanded one more chance at the title, and to convince Edge to accept, he added that he’d leave RAW for SmackDown if he lost. Edge accepted, but on one additional condition: that he’d pick the stipulation. Cena agreed to this and later in the show Edge attacked Cena with the three weapons that made him famous: a table, a ladder, and a chair.

Many people were excited for this match because they believed Edge would win. He was undefeated in TLC matches and thus far he had beaten Cena more times than Cena had beaten him (on TV, anyway). But there was one factor working against Edge: WWE superstars almost always lose in their hometowns (because according to Vince McMahon himself, predictability = bad and swerves = good). So even though this was Edge’s favorite stipulation, the fact that the show was in Toronto (or as close to it as possible) stacked the results against him.

The match

This match originally took place on September 17th, 2006. It was rated ****1/4 out of five by both the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and TJR’s John Canton. Let’s see how well it holds up.

They lock-up and Cena shoulder tackles Edge down off a headlock three times. Edge ducks down, leapfrogs, and bitchslaps Cena. Cena takes Edge down and lands mounted punches. He goes for a back body drop but Edge counters with a swinging neckbreaker. He hits Cena’s gut with a chair but Cena ducks the next chair-shot, causing Edge to hit the ringpost instead. Cena sends Edge back into the ring and hits a fisherman suplex. Edge sidesteps out of a corner to avoid a charge and hits an Impaler DDT. He grabs two chairs and sets them up open in the ring. Both Edge and Cena try suplexeing each other into those chairs but both block until Edge hits an inverted DDT into/through them. Edge grabs a ladder and climbs it once in the ring but Cena knocks him down. Edge clotheslines Cena down, places him in the 619 position, and smashes a ladder into his head. He places that ladder against Cena against the ropes and hits a springboard dropkick from the barricade, driving the ladder into Cena’s head again. That was cool. Edge tries driving a ladder into Cena’s gut in a corner but Cena dodges and hits some punches followed by a hiptoss into that same ladder. Cena goes for the FU/AA from the ring to two tables down below at ringside but Edge fights out and lands on the apron. The two trade punches until Edge starts swaying like he’s going to fall. Cena charges at him but Edge punches him down first. Edge climbs one of the turnbuckles but Cena cuts him off by crotching him. Cena sets up a table and tries to superplex Edge through it. Edge blocks it with punches and goes for a diving sunset powerbomb. But something seems to go wrong; the powerbomb succeeds but Cena land slowly and softly, and on the mat instead of through the table. Edge reverses a corner whip and powerslams Cena through that same table. Cena falls to the floor so Edge runs up a ladder set up in the corner and lands a plancha onto Cena on the floor. Thank God Edge jumped off at the right moment; it looked like he might miss or land too close and faceplant on the ringside mats or something.

Edge tosses Cena back into the ring along with two more chairs. He hits Cena’s back and swings again but Cena kicks him down. Cena gets up first and hits a flip-over facebuster sending Edge’s face into a chair. Then he grabs and opens the ladder, puts Edge between the two sides, and slams it closed. Ouch. Cena follows with an STF through the ladder. Edge taps out but there’s no submissions in this match. Cena lets go for some reason (why not just keep the hold in until Edge ‘passes out’?) and uses the ladder as a battering ram to smash Edge’s face in. then Cena AA’s the ladder onto Edge and lands his side suplex. He does his ‘you can’t see me’ taunt and then climbs the ladder for the fist drop. Cena set up another table (even there’s one set up right in front of him) as Edge grabs a ladder from one of the referees. Cena turns around and Edge cracks him in the skull with the chair. Edge places Cena on that table and then sets up another one on top of the first one (and Cena). He climbs a turnbuckle for a dive but Cena escapes and punches Edge so hard he flies off and hits the barricade face-first. Cena grabs a ten-foot ladder from under the ring and starts climbing it as Edge starts climbing the eight-foot one set up nearby. Then Edge spears Cena from one ladder to another. Edge gets up first and climbs the big ladder but stops when he sees Cena stirring. He jumps down…but Cena catches him and hoists him onto his shoulders. Edge escapes by climbing back up the ladder. Cena counters that with a powerbomb onto the side of the other ladder.

Edge rolls to ringside but Cena chases him and gets revenge for earlier with a chair shot to Edge’s head. Cena climbs the ladder at a normal pace (i.e. faster than 99.9% of wrestlers) and reaches the top. He has the title belt in hand when Lita appears. Lita lifts the ladder from one side. Cena goes flying to the floor and through a table. Nasty landing for Cena.

Edge gets up first and starts climbing the big ladder, even though it’s clearly not centered. Cena makes it into the ring but Lita hits him from behind with a chair. That impact sends Cena into the ladder, which falls to one side, sending Edge through a table outside. Lita is beside herself and then she turns around to see Cena staring her down. Cena shows no remorse as he lifts her up and slams her with an AA so impactful it causes one table to fall off of another. Cena puts that table back in place and readjusts the big ladder so that’s directly beneath the title belt. He climbs it but so too does Edge. Both of them trade punches and then reach up to grab the title belt. Cena picks Edge up and then AA’s him off the ladder! Edge goes crashing through two tables. Cena grabs the title belt without any further effort. We have a new champion!

Winner and NEW WWE Champion after 25:28: John Cena

Review

This was alright. If you like sluggish weapons-based brawls then you’ll enjoy this match. Both Cena and Edge tried some creative spots and the results were mixed. Some stuff was good and some stuff was bland. If you’re looking for top-tier wrestling carnage, this is not the match for you.

The match’s structure was, well, boring. The chemistry between Cena and Edge was good but not great. After hitting some simple moves early on, Edge went all weapon-crazy and started hitting Cena with anything he could find. And when he wasn’t using the ladder in inventive ways he was playing interior decorator as he moved stuff around in ways that exposed the match and strengthened the sense of phoniness within it. It was completely illogical and unreasonable to believe that Edge, who was undefeated in TLC matches, would actually set up a ladder in the wrong spot thinking he was close to the title. As soon as the camera showed how far the ladder was from the belt, it was 100% obvious that a big spot was coming and any climbing up the ladder at that moment wouldn’t lead to someone reaching the belt hanging above.

But Cena was just as guilty of doing ‘obvious’ things in the match that made it harder to enjoy it. Cena setting up the two tables on top of the other was dumb. At that moment Edge was basically a warm body and Lita just got wrecked with an AA. He should’ve grabbed the ladder and gone for the title. But since ‘the next spot’ required two tables, he had to waste precious seconds setting up something, thereby telegraphing what was going to happen next. There was no spontaneity or flow at this point in the match.

But worst of all, the match just wasn’t that compelling outside of a handful of ladder spots from Edge. It came across as a lame and boring brawl with laborious setup sequences. The only really good parts were Edge’s ladder-to-ladder spear and Cena getting his revenge on Lita. Other than that, most of the match featured bland brawling, repetitive signature moves, and plenty of lying around and setting up tables. Even though it had some good moments and high-impact spots, the match lacked something cohesive. Each big moment came across as its own entity instead of part of a larger whole. For whatever reason, neither Edge nor Cena could keep the flow going, which in turn led this match to have a sort of start/stop quality to it.

Final Rating: ***1/2

For a match with such great build, so much heat, and such a wild crowd, this match didn’t live up to the hype, nor does it now. It was mediocre, especially compared to Cena’s later matches and Edge’s earlier matches. Cena was still somewhat unproven as a compelling guy to watch while Edge seemed a bit off here. I appreciate the creativity with some of the spots they did here, and yet their chemistry wasn’t the best. For some strange reason, things just didn’t click that well between them here. That in turn led to moves being botched, spots taking too long to setup, and the payoff not being as cathartic as it was built up to be.

The problem with many of these weapons-centric matches is that the wrestlers get too engrossed in creating high-spots. When viewers can clearly point out that the wrestlers are doing something wrong/illogical in a match, that should be a major red flag to any wrestler. it should be a warning that one’s strategy is full of holes and that whatever you’re doing can be predicted from a mile away. And while sometimes predictability can be a good thing, it carries the risk of the payoff underwhelming due to a lack of genuine shock and excitement in what you’re doing. In other terms, it’s better for a match to be built around its end goal (i.e. getting the title) than the “environment” both wrestlers find themselves in (i.e. tons of weapons, let’s use all of them to the point of overuse).

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.