The Art Of TLC: A Wrestling Match Like No Other
The initials T.L.C have a few different meanings; one being that it stands for 'Tender Loving Care' and another famous one being that it is the name of the best-selling American girl group of all-time, with TLC achieving massive success with tracks such as "Waterfalls", "No Scrubs" and "Creep" back in the day.
But for me, the letters will always mean Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
WWE's TLC pay-per-view is now a yearly show on the WWE Network, where matches and feuds have an extra stipulation that involves some foreign objects in the form of tables, ladders and chairs. TLC 2016 is a Smackdown-exclusive pay-per-view this time around and will see AJ Styles defend his WWE World Championship in a TLC match against Dean Ambrose, Becky Lynch battle Alexa Bliss in a Tables Match for the Smackdown Women's Championship, a chairs match contested between Kalisto and Baron Corbin amongst other matches.
While the show will likely be solid and fun, the whole TLC gimmick is very much overplayed nowadays and every time the pay-per-view rolls around, it's difficult to have an unique TLC match that features crazy, original spots and moments these days purely because we have seen so many over the years. There has been a fair bit of oversaturation.
So in light of the TLC this Sunday, I want to take a trip down memory and take a nostalgic look at the origins of TLC and when Edge and Christian, the Dudley Boyz and the Hardy Boyz created magic and blew the roof off arenas on several occasions as part of their jaw-dropping series of matches.
The trio of teams went out there in the same era where the likes of the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin had all the limelight and stole the show on a regular basis, taking their bodies to new limits and heights - literally.
The whole series of TLC in WWF got underway at No Mercy in 1999 when Matt and Jeff Hardy got the better of Edge and Christian in a Ladder Match, with the winners receiving a sum of 100,000 dollars and the services of Terri Runnels as their manager. It was peak Attitude Era weirdness, but the performances of the four men in the match earned rave reviews and they quite rightly were applauded off following what they had just produced.
The table-loving Dudley Boyz found their way into the mix and took on the Hardy Boyz in their signature match just months later at the Royal Rumble in the first ever Tag Team Tables Match in WWF. It was Matt and Jeff who prevailed in this 10 minute-long match, where both Dudleys, in their camouflage clothing with their lenseless glasses, were given a taste of their own medicine when they were both put through tables at the famous Madison Square Garden.
Then came Wrestlemania 16 and the second main focal point of the show was the Triangle Ladder Match announced between the three teams. It's dubbed as a 'Triangle Ladder Match' but it's pretty much a TLC match with the way it was all constructed and the fact tables and ladders were the forefront of the spots.
On a show where the main event of The Rock, Big Show, Triple H and Mick Foley in a Fatal Four-Way with a McMahon in every corner disappointed, the nine men in the fourth match of the show completely stole the show. The blend of performers was so neat and culminated in the greatest match of the pay-per-view infront of 19,776 people. You had the mean Dudleys and their obsessions with putting fellow humans through tables, the high-flying Hardys who knew no limits and were prepared to do absolutely anything to win the gold, as well as the opportunistic team of Edge and Christian.
The match was 22 minutes plus of utter carnage; tables smashed, ladders bent and bodies lying everywhere. I will forever remember the visual of Jeff Hardy being an absolute nutter and performing his somersault Swanton Bomb move on the motionless Bubba Ray Dudley, who lay on the table.
The three-way ladder match, won by Edge and Christian after they shoved Matt Hardy through a table, was an absolute masterpiece and had it been a one-time thing, it would have been completely fine. They had done enough dangerous spots and stunts in just one match but the match was so well-received that there was undoubtedly room for more madness involving foreign objects and death-defying leaps - and so that's when the original 'TLC' match came about - with it taking place just months later at Summerslam 2000 as the same three teams opted to self destruct themselves even more in the Hardy Boyz's home state of North Carolina.
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This encounter, which was the seventh match on a ten match show, got nearly 15 minutes and all three teams managed to top their previous performances. The match was presented as a main event bout and they had the opportunity to go bigger, go crazier and it definitely showed. Spots in this demolition derby included Bubba Ray Dudley crashing through FOUR tables piled on top of each other after being shoved off the top of a ladder, several ladders being hurled about as though they were frisbees, Jeff Hardy being a madman again and his brother Matt colliding with a number of tables when the ladder he was climbing was tipped over at one point in the match. Edge and Christian emerged victorious yet again, with this match getting a 4.5 rating out of five from respected wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Having stole the show at Summerslam, the only natural progression was to give the three teams the Wrestlemania platform once again, this time in an official TLC match. Out of all of the TLC matches that ever took place, the one at Wrestlemania 17 in Houston Texas, often referred to as the greatest Wrestlemania of all time, is easily my favourite.
Again, each performer found more within themselves and somehow trumped the utter insanity that was on display in TLC I and the Triangle Ladder Match. The Wrestlemania X-7 match had three extra components, with each team having an extra member interfering in the match: The Hardys had the daring Lita, Edge and Christian were flanked by beast that was Rhyno, while little Spike Dudley did his best to aid the Dudley Boyz in their quest for the tag team titles. All three interferees were instrumental in some of the madness that ensued in the match.
In front of a rabid Texas crowd, they went above and beyond to create yet another special match for fans. There was so much going on, so many elements and dynamics and so many ridiculous spots - all three tag teams well and truly outdid themselves. Desperate to be even more bat-shit crazy than he was in the other matches involving Tables, Ladders and Chairs (oh my), wrestling's version of Evil Knievel Jeff Hardy performed an outrageous Swanton Bomb onto Spike Dudley and Rhyno, smashing through two tables in a 16 foot drop.
Jeff, wearing his Mum's tights on his arms, was involved in the killer spot in the match which left fans in the arena and around the world gasping for air. Holding on to the Tag Team titles by the skin of his teeth after Bubba Ray Dudley removed the ladder, Hardy was on the receiving end of a mental spear from Edge off a 20ft ladder, prompting Jim Ross to completely lose his shit.
When I think of the Attitude Era and what it is all about, this is the moment that comes to mind. Jeff, aka 'Brother Nero', wasn't alone in tumbling from the greatest of heights though- his brother Matt and Bubba Ray fell through FOUR tables courtesy of Rhyno, who then put Christian on his shoulders and gave him the chance to unhook the titles to close out one of the greatest matches in professional wrestling history.
Bizarrely, the next two TLC matches - one of which featured the usual nine suspects from the three teams as well as champions Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, were given away on free television and eventually the momentum of the TLC gimmick died down. Nowadays, it is a yearly pay-per-view and though TLC matches can still be bags of fun, nothing will ever come close to the stellar series between Edge and Christian, the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz.
Their incredible work changed the game. They completely revolutionised tag team wrestling by doing things that the WWF audience had never seen before, making them all look like absolute stars in the process and propelling the likes of Jeff Hardy and Edge to main event status in the future.
If I wanted to get somebody into wrestling and show them exactly what it is about wrestling/sports entertainment that gets fans so hyped and invested, I would advise them to watch any one of the bouts involving Edge and Christian, the Dudleys and the Hardys. I struggle to understand how someone could not enjoy men falling from extreme heights onto tables (unless it's your window cleaner losing his balance of course).
The three matches (Wrestlemania 16, Summerslam 2000 and Wrestlemania 17) are a work of art and that's exactly what wrestling is - a form of art. While the outcomes of these matches are pre-determined, the athleticism, risk involved and the amount of pain these men put themselves through to entertain fans is next level and their efforts should still be applauded to this day.
To Edge and Christian, Bubba Ray and D-Von and Matt and Jeff, thanks for the memories.
Words by Josh Lawless.
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