The Rewind - TLC III (WWE Smackdown! 2001)

The tag team circuit in the, then World Wrestling Federation was at its competitive apex in the year 2001 with the contenders vying for the prize being some of the best tag teams to ever pair up in the squared circle. The top spots were owned by stalwart A-grade teams such as the Dudley Boyz, Edge and Christian and the Hardys, with teams such as K-Kwik and Road Dogg, Too Cool, and Rikishi and Haku nipping at their heals in the quest for tag team supremacy. This is not to mention the intimidating presence of teams such as the Austin/Triple H two man Power Trip and the Brothers of Destruction teaming up in the ring at times and more often than not, making their mark. However, it was the shock aligning of two former bitter enemies that set the race for the tag straps on fire in mid '01 when Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit joined forces at Judgement Day to win tag team turmoil and go on to defeat the two man Power Trip in a classic battle on Raw that saw them pick up the Tag Team Championships and in the process put Triple H out of commission with a torn quadricep.


That week on Smackdown, the tag champs would be forced to put up their newly won tag team titles on the line against the big three teams in the business at the time, Edge and Christian, the Hardys and the Dudleyz. As if that wasn't hard enough, but they would defend the titles against those teams in a match that would usually be saved for the bright lights on pay per view, a TLC match. Unfortunately for Y2J and the Rabid Wolverine, as the bell sounded they were the targets of their opponents, with all six other men in the first ever four-team tables, ladders and chairs match, going straight for them in a flurry of fists and kicks before turning on each other when Edge and Christian sneakily tried to go for the win.


The introduction of the ladder to the ring resulted in an incapacitated Jeff Hardy when Bubba Ray Dudley threw the ladder at the death defying superstar whilst he was in mid-air, about to nail one half of the Dudleys with a Whisper in the Wind. Soon enough Benoit and Jericho would enter the ring, bringing another ladder into the mix and clearing house, almost taking their opponents' heads off in the process. After another Edge and Christian invasion and attempt at a quick victory, the four teams were at it once again, bringing tables into the equation. This led to Benoit flying off the top rope in an attempt to crash Matt Hardy through a table, only for Hardy to abandon his position on the table, leaving Benoit to sail straight through the wood and onto the floor. The tag team champions were one man down as Benoit was carried out of the arena on a stretcher, leaving Jericho to fend for himself and not only did he do that, but in a remarkable way as he caught an opportunistic Edge ascending the ladder towards the title belts and locked him in the Walls of Jericho, across two ladders 15 feet above the ring.

This prompted an onslaught from the other competitors in the match who would surge towards the ring, finding themselves all climbing ladders towards the prize, only to be suplexed or thrown off the ladders, crashing down on the mat with a sound that echoed throughout the Arrowhead Pond. With fallen bodies decorating the ring and its surrounds, Chris Benoit returned to the ring holding his ribs, hobbling towards the ladder until he was caught in a con-chair-to by a quickly recovered Edge and Christian, sending the Wolverine to the mat screaming in pain. The Dudleyz quickly took advantage of the distracted Canadians as they attacked E & C before nailing Edge with a five star 'Wassup!' With the crowd chanting "We want tables!" Bubba sent D-Von to 'get the tables', setting one up in the ring for an inevitable 3D until Chris Jericho spoilt their plans by taking out both half-brothers with cracking chair shots before copping one of his own at the hands of Christian, who had quickly entered the ring.


The Dudleys' plan were not to be ruled out yet however, as Christian was caught by D-Von climbing the ladder only to be brought down from the heavens for a devastating Dudley Death Drop through the table. Their celebration would not last long as the Hardys would once again remind the other teams that they were still in this match, dragging Bubba Ray to the outside, giving him a chair shot and laying him out on the Spanish announce table before Jeff Hardy, armed with a 20 foot ladder, would launch himself into the clouds to hit the fallen Bubba with an incredible springboard leg drop. This left Matt Hardy and D-Von Dudley in the ring, climbing up adjacent ladders, reaching high towards the tag team championships. Push came to shove between the two as they stood high above the ring until Matt Hardy caught D-Von in the twist of fate and sent them both crashing to the ring below, before once again making his way up the ladder towards the belts? only to be vacated from the ring by Y2J.

In an action packed couple of minutes, Jericho would then make another advance towards his and Benoit's tag team championships until he was speared from the top of the ladder by Edge, who had made his way back into the match. Not for long it would seem, as a wounded Benoit clutching his ribs crawled into the ring and up the ladder uncontested, grabbing the belts and with that, ensuring that he and Y2J would stay champions for another day?


The Outlaw's Opinion

Ok this match would easily rate as one of the best I have ever seen, not only was it innovative and off the charts, it is a perfect display of the heart and soul that was invested in the tag team division at that time. Whilst 2001 was the last gasp of air of the attitude era, it really brought home to all the viewers who had been watching the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, the Dudley Boyz and Jericho and Benoit wrestle in mid-card matches, how good these athletes really are and how much 'attitude' they brought to the dance. TLC 3 by no means summed up this action packed year for the, then WWF but it did sum up the potential of the Tables, Ladders and Chairs match that had only been devised a year prior but had imposed such an impact on the business that it will forever live in infamy in the minds of all wrestling fans. So here it is, the big cheers to the Tables, Ladders and Chairs!