With the return of The Dudley Boyz to the WWE, along with Edge and Christian appearing on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast this week, I decided to revisit one of my favorite matches of all time: TLC (Tables, Ladders and Chairs) 2 from Wrestlemania 17. I re-watched the match and wrote my thoughts down live as I watched.
First, a little backstory. Wrestlemania 17 took place on April 1st, 2001. I was 11 years old and had mostly fallen out of watching pro wrestling. WCW had folded and had been absorbed into the WWF, so I couldn’t see Sting face off with the nWo anymore. I traded in my WWF cards for Pokemon and Dragonball Z cards. Wrestling wasn’t cool anymore, according to my peers. I didn’t watch any pro-wrestling for over a decade.
Once I fell back in love with the art form, I went on a mission to absorb and learn as much history about the last decade of wrestling that I had missed. I watched every Wrestlemania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble pay-per-view. I spent countless hours reading match cards on Wikipedia. I consumed books, DVDs and documentaries. Wrestlemania 17 was highly regarded as one of the greatest WWE shows of all time, with plenty of evidence to support that claim.
TLC 2 was a three team tag-team match featuring The Dudley Boyz (Bubba and D-Von) vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff). This was the early 2000s, where everything was eXtreme and spelled with a Z. Limp Bizkit contributed their hit, “My Way” for the theme song of Wrestlemania 17, adding another facet into this snapshot of an era. 2001 was the tail end of the Attitude Era, but before the conversion to a TV-PG rating and the name change to WWE. Sort of a weird in-between era with the WWF absorbing WCW and ECW and effectively winning the Monday Night Wars.
The same three teams pioneered the TLC style the year prior. TLC 1 took place at Wrestlemania 16 and while it set the bar for chaotic, team-based ladder matches, TLC 2 set out to top everything from its predecessor.
The tag-team title belts are suspended from the ceiling of the Houston Astrodome and the winning team must retrieve them by any means necessary. No holds barred, no disqualification, anything goes here.
Matt and Jeff Hardy are out first to huge a babyface reaction.
These guys were so cool in the early 2000s. Fishnet shirts and JNCOs made them incredibly popular as the “alternative” guys. In 2015 you could probably find these guys managing a Hot Topic in Nebraska.
Edge and Christian are out next, followed by the Dudleys. The Dudley Boyz gimmick is literally “get the tables.”
Paul Heyman and Jim “JR” Ross are on commentary for this one and are two of the best talkers in pro-wrestling history. JR more so at the commentary desk, while Heyman is one of the best promos.
The bell rings and everyone goes after each other in a huge brawl. There’s no structure here, nor is there really any needed. Christian eats a flapjack from The Dudleys face first into the mat.
The brawling continues until Edge and Christian introduce the first ladder and start careening it into other people. They also introduce the first chair of the match and send Jeff Hardy face first into that.
More ladders get set up inside the ring and the teams take turns trying to climb to the top while their rivals take turns denying them that privilege. The wrestlers are building up to some bigger spots in the match here by falling off a few steps at a time, laying the foundation for the chaos that’s yet to come.
Matt and Jeff climb two separate ladders and jump off onto Christian with a leg drop and a belly flop, respectively. Matt pops off his fishnet shirt and you hear a huge shriek from the women in the crowd.
Dudley Boyz get the upperhand and set up Edge for the “Wazzup” - one of their signature moves which features D-Von doing a flying headbutt off the top rope into Edge’s crotch, while Bubba holds Edge’s legs open. Pro wrestling, everybody. They’re referencing the “WAZZUUUUUP” Budweiser commercials from the early 2000s, and continue to do so in 2015. There are kids watching the Dudleys now who have no idea what this means, and weren’t even alive when these commercials aired. Bubba calls for D-Von to “get the tables,” much to the Texan crowd’s delight.
More back and forth action takes place until Bubba powerbombs Jeff Hardy through a table Edge was laying on for our first table spot of the night, about 5 minutes into the match.
With everyone laid out, the Dudleys head outside the ring and set up a 2x2 stack of tables. Obvious foreshadowing has you wondering who is going to go through this, and how? It’s simple wrestling psychology to entice the crowd into watching closely.
3 more ladders are set up back inside the ring and all six competitors climb up to square off with their foes. Of course, these all get tipped over and Christian takes a nasty spill over the top rope and onto the floor.
I understand how and why people call pro-wrestling “fake,” but spots like that just aren’t feasible to be faked. Christian falls over 10 feet onto what is essentially a gym mat. These performers aren’t out there practicing these stunts before the show; they just improvise it and hope for the best, strictly for our entertainment.
We’re about half way through the match when everyone’s reinforcements come in to interfere in the match. What was 6 performers turns into 9. Spike Dudley runs in to aid The Dudleys, Lita runs down to assist The Hardy Boyz, and Rhyno interferes to assist Edge and Christian. Spike Dudley puts Christian through another table, Rhyno tackles Matt through another table set up in the corner of the ring. Keeping up?
Lita pulls Edge off of a ladder in the middle of the ring while JR says “Lita’s jerking edge off! …….the ladder.” Since JR is a professional, he caught himself saying something awkward and quickly fixes it.
Lita flies off of the top turnbuckle with a headscissors to Rhyno. Spike bashes Rhyno’s skull in with a chair and the Dudley Boyz reappear to hit Rhyno with some more chairs. This senseless violence is driving the crowd absolutely crazy, with flashes from cameras going off everywhere. These spots are hard to watch now and are pretty cringeworthy. Concussions weren’t really considered in wrestling 15 years ago. Getting hit in the head was part of the job.
Spike and Rhyno get laid out on top of two adjacent tables outside of the ring while Jeff climbs to the top of a huge ladder next to them. Jeff dives off into a Swanton Bomb to the two men on the tables, but overshoots and only hits Rhyno. We’re led to believe that this was enough to take out both guys. This is our first big spot of the match.
Christian and D-Von are in the ring together racing up a ladder. Matt Hardy pulls it out from under them and the two are left dangling in mid-air while holding on to the title belts. Christian and D-Von lose their grip and fall to the ring. Jeff Hardy then ends up in a similar position, dangling from the ropes until Edge climbs another ladder and flies off of it, spearing Jeff and taking him to the ground. This is a huge moment from the match that will forever be highlighted in Wrestlemania clip shows and video packages. This was also enough to take out Jeff for the remainder of the match.
Matt and Bubba climb up another ladder when Rhyno reappears and pushes them over the top rope, where they crash through the 2x2 table tower that was constructed by the Dudleys earlier in the match. What the Dudleys created eventually came back to bite them for another huge spot. I’ve seen Edge spear Jeff Hardy off of the ladder so many times that I’ve basically become desensitized to it, but this spot always gets a reaction from me.
With all of their opponents laid out through chaos and destruction, Edge and Christian climb a ladder and retrieve the tag team belts for the victory.
As the camera pans around the ring, we see all of the carnage and wreckage of broken tables and ladders strewn about the arena. Jim Ross states, “this looks like a tornado ran through a mobile home park.”
TLC 2 is a complete spot-fest. The match runs a little under 16 minutes, and maybe 2 minutes of the match has any downtime where the wrestlers are setting up new props for the next set of stunts. This match is highly regarded as a classic, and part of a legendary Wrestlemania. It’s a classic in the sense that these 6 performers did all sorts of memorable maneuvers and stunts, but there wasn’t much to offer in terms of telling a story (the main event of The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin has plenty of that, though.) This goes to show that a good wrestling match can offer death-defying stunts, high-drama storytelling, or even a mix of both.
This match might have raised the bar too high for TLC matches in WWE history. TLC matches since have still featured crazy high spots, but they have been greatly toned down in favor of the wrestler’s safety, which is perfectly fine. In a vaccum, this match is easily 5 stars just for the risks and stunts involved. It’s quite the product of its time, but TLC 2 holds up even with the cloud of nostalgia.
by Nate Dimit (@ndimit)