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So… That Happened: TLC 3

The era of the DVD is all but dead, especially for WWE fans. Want to relive any moment? It’s pretty much guaranteed to be on the WWE Network. Unfortunately when you’re living without an internet connection for a week, like I had to recently, you’re left with very few options left for entertainment. Thus, one morning I pulled out WWE’s “The Ladder Match” compilation released in 2007 and hosted by Todd Grisham. One match in particular caught my interest and I found myself thinking “that happened”? Trigger warning: this match contains Benoit and lots of it.

Think of an example of when a casual or former wrestling fan struck up a conversation with you about moments of the past. It’s easy to determine the viewing history of “former” fans; 90% of them seem to have been swept up in the WWF at the height of it’s dominance and then fallen off approaching the end of the Attitude Era. Thus, recounted moments are usually those on the extreme side; Mankind’s fall from the cell, Austin’s crimson-mask face turn and any number of Shane’s various antics. One thing that always seems to come up is the legendary TLC 2 from WrestleMania X-7 [WATCH: WrestleMania X-7, on the WWE Network].

Following the success of a match that more often than not makes it into lists of the best bouts of all time, two months later the WWE attempted to strike gold for a third time with TLC 3. The first wrinkle to this match, however, was that it would introduce another duo to the the WWE’s trio of tag team greats; the Dudleyz, the Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian. This team, somewhat strangely in retrospect, is Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. The pair had previously had a strange formation with Benoit losing a match against Angle at Judgement Day due to interference from Edge and Christian [WATCH: Judgement Day 2001, on the WWE Network]. This saw the Rabid Wolverine team up with Jericho in a Tag Team Turmoil match later that evening for revenge and, by coincidence, #1 Contendership. The next night they captured the WWF Tag Team Championship [WATCH: Monday Night Raw – May 21st 2001, on the WWE Network].

The second thing of particular interest is that TLC 3 was to take place on free TV on the May 24th 2001 episode of SmackDown of all things, just days later. The idea of such a match happening on broadcast television now is fairly laughable; sure, we get the occasional Steel Cage match (especially more likely since the draft extension) but it’s not like they’re busting out the Hell in a Cell for random TV tapings. Whilst Raw’s most recent TLC bout was January 2013, this remains the only time SmackDown has been graced with the gimmick.

The match doesn’t fool around and a series of ladder spots open the competition [WATCH: SmackDown – May 24th 2001, on the WWE Network]. The two Canadians are presented with a subtle layer of sympathy, facing off against three teams who have TLC experience (and a promo to open the episode from Vince who believes they have “run out of miracles”). Before too long, Benoit dives through a table on the outside and is stretchered out of the arena. After a few spots, including a savage suplex off the ladder from Bubba to Jeff, Benoit makes his way back to the ring clutching his ribs and intent on climbing towards the gold.

You may have noticed that one of the three namesake toys of the TLC match has been absent to this point but a two-on-one assault from Edge & Christian fixes that as they bring chairs into the fold to deliver a con-chair-to to Benoit’s ribs. From here, the latter delivers a brutal headshot to Jericho whom Tazz mentions in passing is recovering from a concussion. Grim. Kayfabe or not, whatever the case these things are much harder to see in hindsight. This probably won’t be the last time we revisit unprotected chair shots though, unfortunately.

Further spots in TLC 3 include the out of nowhere use of a TV monitor followed by Jeff impressively leapfrogging from one ladder, over another and down into the announce table, D’von sells a Twist of Fate like he just got electrocuted and finally Benoit ascends a ladder to retain the Tag Team Championship to a glowing babyface pop, despite not really being a part of the competition. This may have been for the best however, as it was revealed weeks later than Chris had sustained a neck injury during the match.

Following TLC 3, the winning duo strangely used their victory to secure world title shots from then-champion Stone Cold with Benoit challenging twice in the very next week. This alone is evidence that, at the time, the WWF knew that the unexpected would keep people tuning in. In retrospect, it seems incredibly scattershot. All in all, TLC 2 remains a good mile out from it’s successor but the third match of the series is still pretty fun, even with some very odd albeit interesting alterations to the formula. Hell, those interesting alterations are what these articles are all about. Jericho and Benoit teamed together in the fatal four-way TLC 3 on SmackDown. Weird, innit?

Money in the Bank Predictions

Later today, we’ll all no doubt be captivated by WWE’s July Pay-Per-View spectacular, Money in the Bank – live this year from our hometown of Phoenix, AZ. Since I didn’t get to join Adam and Jared on the podcast this week (I was quite literally climbing a mountain) and I’m ridiculously excited to see this show in person, I figured I’d share my own predictions here.

Pre-Show WWE Tag Team Championship Match: R-Truth / Kofi Kingston vs Primo and Epico

Por Favor!

Por Favor!

I have actually been semi-impressed in recent months by the development of Primo and Epico. Okay, so it may be partially due to the distracting gyrations of Rosa Mendes… But still, these two Puerto Ricans have had decent teamwork and have developed some semblance of a tag team personality – something that has been quite absent from the WWE in a while. Despite being completely uninteresting as a tag team, though, Truth and the Ambassador of Boom will retain. Look for AW and the Prime Time Players to show their heelish faces at the end.
Edit: I just learned that Hunico and Camacho scored the title opportunity. WTF? There is now officially nothing redeeming about this squash tag match. We’ll miss you in Phoenix, Rosa.

Participants: Dolph Ziggler, Christian, Tensai, Santino Marella, Damien Sandow, Tyson Kidd, Sin Cara, Cody Rhodes

No chance of winning: Santino, Tyson Kidd, Sin Cara
Santino is lucky to have the US title as it is. I’m really not sure why he’s in this match, as MITB isn’t exactly known for its comedic portions. Tyson Kidd, on the other hand, is sure to have a scene stealing moment or two, as he’s quite talented and sure to put his body on the line – we will give him a standing ovation, no doubt. Sin Cara is in a similar position to Kidd – he impressed me with his Friday Night Zackdown match vs ADR – let’s hope there’s no Botchamania fodder.

Dark horse contenders: Tensai, Sandow
Tensai has actually been not entirely crappy as of late, and it is his hometown, so maybe… Nah, who are we kidding? Sandow would be an interesting pick as winner, as it would be a very quick push for certain talent. In the end, though, he’s not terribly likely as he’d look a lot better with IC gold around his belt before any sort of major gold.

One more match: Christian
I guess he could win it, but how unexciting would that be?

Most likely to succeed: Dolph Ziggler
Scottsdale (I mean Bikini Bottom)’s own Dolph Ziggler is probably the favorite to win this match, as he’s most likely to have a decent run as World Heavyweight Champion in the next year. He’s here to show the world!

My pick: Cody Rhodes
In short, my logic is as such – Dolph is most likely to win a major championship in the next couple of months (depending on how those matches go) but Cody Rhodes is the one who could benefit the most from a run with that magical blue briefcase in hand. As a cocky heel, he could flaunt it and tease the cash-in many times before he find the right moment. He isn’t quite on par with Dolph these days, so he kind of needs it (or an actual feud with a top level guy) to get to the next level.

Participants: John Cena, Kane, Big Show, Chris Jericho

Doesn’t make sense: Kane
I can’t even come up with a compelling reason for Kane to win this match.

Boring: John Cena
As if he needs an excuse for a major title match. I know it’s been a while, but he pretty much just needs to ask, especially if the champion is a bad guy.

They’re gonna need a bigger ladder: Big Show
Not likely to win as construction of a ladder that would allow him to climb to the top is a mythical feat.

Champion by the night’s end: Chris Jericho
Yeah, you heard me.

Ryback squash match
There’s gotta be one, right? Look for the return of Stan Stansky as he goes one on one with the muscular one. It doesn’t last long. In all seriousness, let’s replace Stan Stansky with two of the local FSW (Future Stars of Wrestling) talent and you get the same result.

WHC Title Match
ADR vs Sheamus. Yawn. I’ll have to give it to ADR as he’s been semi-interesting as of late as the angry uber-physical heel. Sheamus has been pretty uninteresting as of late. Nothing against the big Irish fella, but creative has nothing for him these days…

That said, Cody Rhodes makes no appearance as heel on heel crime is something only few want to see.

WWE Title Match
I am so ridiculously excited for this match. The chemistry between these two guys in the ring, and with AJ added – on the mic as well – has been an absolute treat for us all over the past weeks (months). After last Monday’s marriage proposals, I don’t have any clue how the match will go or how the end will take place. I do like Jared’s Miss Elizabeth / Savage to AJ / Bryan comparison, and that would be a cool way to end this feud. They would be quite the power couple for months to come in the WWE. Hey, the modern fan has a short attention span – make that weeks. Good stuff regardless.

No matter how it happens, if there’s a Bryan win, look for a Jericho MITB cash-in. Code Breaker. 1-2-3. New feud with born again face Jericho standing triumphant over Bryan and a distraught AJ. And… Scene!

TNA: An Overdue Endorsement

If you haven’t been watching TNA, you’ve missed out on some suprisingly sophisticated commentary on the wrestling business. Actually, I should hesitate to use the word ‘surprisingly’, since TNA has been the more sophisticated of the two major companies since I started watching. It has long treated wrestling as a business, never shy to break the fourth wall every so often in an effort to make a larger comment within the standard face-versus-heel plotlines. (See: any TNA Rough Cut segment.) That is one of the two main reasons why I watch TNA every week and encourage others to do so (the other reason is that, in general, the wrestling itself is more believable — believe it or not).

To update the non-viewers of TNA, Jeff Jarrett has returned during the climax of a long-brewing feud between the young wrestlers and the veterans. Any wrestling fan is well familiar with this trope — young punk(s) are accused of not respecting the old guard, while the old guard is accused of being out of touch and/or unwilling to step aside for superior talent. Alongside pride and women, it’s one of the oldest stories in rasslin’. Lately, though, TNA has made it more interesting than usual.
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