With all the talk of Edge – err, sorry, Adam Copeland – now wrestling for AEW, it’s fun to see history repeating itself once again.
Twenty-four years ago, these four men were all rising stars in WWE looking to carve out a legacy in the company’s tag team division. Now, in 2023, all four men are now wrestling together in AEW and speculation is shifting once again. Although Edge appears to be feuding against his longtime best friend Christian for the time being, most people expect the two Canadian wrestling icons to team up sooner rather than later.
And when they do, it’s all but expected that Edge & Christian will go up against the best teams AEW has to offer, including the duo that helped make them famous, Matt and Jeff Hardy.
But will they be able to live up to the historic standard they set back in 1999? To answer that question, we need to look at their famous ladder tag match and see how it compares to modern standards of chaotic tag team wrestling.
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.
This was the fifth and final match in a tournament to determine which team would obtain the managerial services of Terri Runnels. Runnels, formerly known as Goldust’s manager Marlena, offered her services to whichever team would win the tournament and also promised the winners $100,000. Going into this match both teams had two wins apiece and the only way to win was to climb the ladder and unhook the sack containing the money.
Edge & Christian had also split from their former manager Gangrel go focus on themselves. In response, the Hardys aligned with Gangrel to form The New Brood
This match originally took place on October 17, 1999. It was rated ****1/2 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and TJR’s John Canton. It also came in second place for the WON’s Match of the Year, though it was quite a step behind the match that came in first.
This is the first tag team ladder match in WWE history. A shoving match leads to synchronized punching. Christian lands a back body drop while Edge hits a hiptoss. E&C hit tandem offense to both Hardys in opposite corners but the Hardys cut them both off before they can grab the ladders. Matt & Jeff hit their own combo moves and then they motion for Gangrel to help them but then the referee ejects him to the back. Edge ducks to send Jeff to the floor, Matt clotheslines Edge to ringside, Edge dropkicks a ladder into Jeff, and Christian brawls with Matt. There’s a chain of attacks that concludes with Christian hitting Matt from the apron and then he sets up the ladder in the middle of the ring. Everyone except or Matt gets a shot climbing the ladder but then Matt knocks it down.
Some seesaw action take place between Christian and Jeff and ends with Christian driving the ladder into Jeff into a corner. Christian runs up the ladder and dropkicks Jeff’s face. Edge sets up the ladder in another corner and both he and Christian whip Matt into it. Edge charges for a Poetry In Motion tandem move but Matt sidesteps. Edge crashes into the ladder and then Jeff sets it up to climb but Christian cuts him off and hits an inverted DDT off the ladder. Christian climbs but Matt back suplexes him off it. Matt climbs but Edge powerbombs him down. Edge climbs but Jeff flies off a turnbuckle to dropkick him off.
Matt places Edge on the ladder so that Jeff can land a Swanton bomb onto him. The Hardys send Christian into the ladder setup in a corner and Jeff dropkicks Christian’s face. They use the ladder as a makeshift clothesline and then set it up next to a corner so that Jeff can hit a leapfrog diving guillotine leg drop, which causes the crowd to give them a standing ovation.
The Hardys place the ladder on top of Edge and Matt moonsaults onto both the ladder and Edge, hurting himself in the process. As Jeff climbs his ladder, Edge returns with another ladder and useds it as a weapon against both Hardys. Edge places Matt in a corner, puts the ladder on him, and then catapults Jeff into it. Edge climbs the other ladder but Matt throws it at him, causing him to fall. Edge ducks a tandem ladder clothesline and Christian lands a diving crossbody onto both Hardyz and their ladder.
E&C capitalize by driving one ladder into Matt’s crotch twice and then they sandwich Jeff into a ladder and smash one end into him. Jeff is helpless as E&C smash his chest in with the ladder. E&C follow with a wheelbarrow press onto that ladder which hurts Christian as well. Then they land a double-team flapjack on Matt that sends him into a ladder and then to the floor. E&C setup both ladders next to each other as Jeff hits Christian with a Twist of Fate. Edge and Jeff climb both ladders, then they brawl, and then Edge hits a diving flatliner off the ladder. Edge climbs again but Matt hits a neckbreaker off the ladder. Christian and Jeff climb the same ladder but Christian hiptosses Jeff off of it.
Edge smashes Matt with the top of the ladder to send him ringside. Then E&C setup both ladders one on top of the other and teases a doomsday superplex. But Matt cuts them off and dumps Edge to the floor. He and Christian brawl, which allows Jeff to jump onto the ladder like a seesaw, which sends the opposite end into both Matt’s and Christian’s faces.
Jeff picks up the ladder but Edge hits him with a spear. After some recovery time all four men climb both ladders as they’re setup underneath the bag of cash. Edge knocks over one ladder but the momentum sends his ladder down as well. Matt & Christian get crotched on the top rope on one side, Edge lands on the top rope inside the ring and Matt falls to ringside.
After more recovery time, all of them climb the ladders once again. But then edge knocks Matt down. That momentum knocks down both Edge and one ladder, leaving Jeff alone atop his. Jeff reaches up and pulls the sack down to win the match!
Winners after 16:30: Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy
This is match is definitely historic from a novelty and industry-changing perspective but on a re-watch it doesn’t hold up well over time. I’m sure that it was refreshing by 1999 Attitude Era standards but let’s be honest, that was a pretty low bar. 1999 was only a banner year for angles, storylines, promos if they featured The Rock, and anything involving Steve Austin. Everything else, especially in-ring matches and delivering on what was promised, left a lot to be desired and this was no exception.
This match, while somewhat innovative for its time, is stuck in the middle between two groups of matches. It’s inferior to Shawn Michaels’ ladder matches with Razor Ramon in 1994 and 1995, which are still among the best matches in WWE history in general, simply because they were wrestling matches with ladders as supporting pieces and this was a ladder war with bits and pieces of wrestling mixed in. and it’s also a cut beneath the more inventive and creative ladder wars that came in its wake, including Shawn Michaels versus Chris Jericho nine years later, TLC I and II, and the Money in the Bank ladder matches. It has aged decently well, but not enough to be considered anything more than an important piece of wrestling history.
Even with the creative spots and win-by-any-means-necessary-even-if-it-means-we-kill-ourselves action, this felt more like a demolition derby and not even a great one. In a vacuum this match is fine but in comparison with other ladder matches in WWE this match just falls short by every conceivable metric. Shawn and Razor were much better skilled at building towards the climbing spots and the closing moments whereas this one ended somewhat abruptly and without tension. TLC I and II had all the carnage and high spots but got more out of them and went further without doing as much damage to the performers. Michaels/Jericho in 2008 and almost every MITB match had more creativity and made the stakes feel important. In short, this match was one big wrestling experiment that proved that there was something here but the final product needed a lot of work and polish.
In some ways, this match ended up being a bad influence on not just these four men but the wrestling business in general. Edge, Christian, Matt, and Jeff all got their biggest reactions by doing stuff that was light on wrestling and heavy on risk and stunts. Instead of fighting or grappling and then building towards the ladder use to make it special, these men made the ladders the focal point and built everything around it. That created a different psychology that moved the focus away from all four men’s own talents and turned them into simple bodies intended to be thrown around and put through the wringer. And as the years turned into decades, all four men became famous for what they did with weapons than what they did without them. It was as if all four of them became over reliant on hardcore garbage matches and began overusing wild stipulations until those special stipulations lost their luster and all of their craziest matches melded together, each one lacking anything distinct.
Final Rating: ***3/4
If you’re the type that wants to see how we got to where we are in 2023 when it comes to wrestling then there’s some historical value in seeing this match as it serves as a sort of humble beginning for what would become a defining aspect of modern wrestling. But if you just want to see carnage and bodies hitting the floor, then this match likely won’t hit the high notes you’re looking for. These guys did plenty of interesting stuff, but they didn’t get the most out of what they did despite the effort being there.
If you really want to see this wrestling style maximized and fined turned to the point of near perfection, then I would suggest watching TLC II. It has everything this match has and more, making it a far more satisfying viewing experience than what these four guys did here.