The Evolution of…..The Ladder Match – part 1

Hola, buckshots. A new article piece I’m starting to do is called The Evolution Of….I take something, be it a wrestling match, television show, movie or genre, type of yogurt, and go through it’s evolution using key points. Sometimes things evolve from bad to good, or good to bad. But you take’em both and there you have, the facts of life, the facts of life. Man, did I want to have some boob-touching time with that biker-chick. What was her name, Sam?
Whatever happened to that? You know, the old 70’s/80’s shows where people think they’re gonna meet a dude named Sam, or Brad or something like that, and they’d ALWAYS roll up on a bike. But then the helmet would come off and tadow, it’d be a piping hot chick. That was always just some sharp writing. Anyways, I digress…today, we venture through the ladder match, let’s dig it!

The ladder match. Once upon a time it was seldom seen, being delegated to certain territories, and wrestlers who didn’t think that it was hokey and could provide as good a match as any other. Now a days, it’s probably the most favored for any stipulation match, thanks in part to young, hungry talent willing to go out there and bust their asses up. In this apple-pie sweet of an article, we’ll take a look at the evolution of the ladder match through a time line of key matches. Let’s get it crunk, shall we?

Stampede Wrestling is who we have to thank for the ladder match. They were the first territory to do anything like it. Back then, it was usually just a wad of cash that was up on a scaffolding, and the person would have to lean the ladder up against then crawl on up. On the WWE DVD, The Ladder Match, they have one between Jake Roberts [Jake the Snake], and Big Daddy Ritter [Junkyard Dog]. I’d review it here, but they don’t show the whole match, and what they do show, just sucks. So, I’m sort of being lazy in that I’ve seen it once, and that’s all I need. Nice to have for historical purposes though.

In the summer of ’92, Bret Hart was being groomed for a run with the WWE Championship, so they looked to him to give the rub to another wrestler that they had a lot of stock in, Shawn Michaels. Bret being the holder of the IC title, had no problem with that. However he thought, since SummerSlam was being held in England, why not drop it to Davey, and then Davey can drop it to Shawn? So it was. But Bret still wanted to do something special with Shawn, so he brought up the idea of the ladder match. Vince wasn’t sure, but Bret took a bit of time and sold him on the idea. Hell, even Shawn didn’t really know what to think about it at first. So, there it was, the WWE’s first ever ladder match;

Match: Bret Hart © vs. Shawn Michaels – Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title
Place: Philadelphia, PA – July 21st, 1992
Duration: 12:53
Company: World Wrestling Entertainment
DVD Release: The Ladder Match

Review: I can’t get enough of this match. I’ve watched it a handful of times, and always get a kick out of it. It’s awesome because even though a lot of people just tend to make these things a spot fest, this was a straight up wrestling match that had a ladder. It was rare for these guys to ever get near a ring together and not do the sport justice.

The Rating: * * * * 1/2th

After this, we wouldn’t see another ladder match for almost 2 years. Shawn was once again present, but his dance partner was none other than Scott ‘What’s the legal limit here?’ Hall, aka Razor Ramon. The deal was there were two titles, because Shawn was suspended while he was the IC Champ, so they crowned a new one, Razor Ramon. Welp, when Shawn came back he claimed he’d never been beat, and that he was still the champ. Razor raised his hand and respectfully disagreed. They had this one to settle it.

Match: Razor Ramon © vs. Shawn Michaels – Ladder Match for the IC Title
Place: Wrestlemania X – March 20th, 1994
Duration: 18:47
Company: World Wrestling Entertainment
DVD Release: From The Vault – Shawn Michaels, The History of The Intercontinental Title, Wrestlemania X

Review: What’s to be said that hasn’t been already? Nothing. Although I did read that Shawn doesn’t think this match is much. He believes it’s a good match, but not exactly worth the praise it gets. I think it’s a rad piece of work, don’t get it twisted, but I too don’t believe it’s a 5 star match. It’s close, it’s reaaaaal close. I know that historically it’s done for the business probably more than any one match has, but since the sequel they preformed is better in my mind, this can’t get the full monty.

The Rating: * * * * 1/2th

This match blew away everyone. They hadn’t seen anything like it before, and it’s blueprint was dying to be hacked apart and glued back together for years and years to come. I’d place it in the Top 5 of the most talked about matches of all time, right along with the Steamboat/Flair affairs.

As I stated, with all great movies, there is a sequel, and this one more than delivered. It was WWE’s third ladder match, to be held at SummerSlam 95, where the headliner was Diesel vs. King Mabel. Wow. Razor & Shawn could have gone out there, used their 12-inch voices, had a math off [where they HAD to show their work] and still have stolen the show with a main event like that. Yikes.

Match: Shawn Michaels © vs. Razor Ramon – Ladder Match for the IC Title
Place: SummerSlam – August 27th, 1995
Duration: 25:05
Company: World Wrestling Entertainment
DVD Release: The Ladder Match

Review: For me, this is the better of the two. Razor was in his prime, Shawn was on the cusp of his, and they both knew what the hell they were doing out there. This was a faster paced match with more intensity, and it also went a bit longer, without feeling like it drug on at any point. It’s also funny because at the beginning, the ref hangs the belt wrong, and you can see Shawn get his blonde locks all in a fuss as he makes them fix it.

Rating: * * * * *

After that point, wrestling started to usher in a new era. Gone were all the constant squash matches. Gone was the slower, or classic sense of wrestling. In it’s place was a more fast paced, high intensity action, and hardcore style of matches. The ladder match was becoming rather popular in this new world. However, you can only have two guys climb that bad boy so many times before people have seen it all, and it seemed like they had, until;

Match: The New Brood [Matt & Jeff] vs. Edge & Christian – Terry Invitational Tournament Ladder Match
Place: No Mercy – October 17th, 1999
Duration: 16:40
Company: World Wrestling Entertainment
DVD Release: The Ladder Match, Edge: A Decade of Decadence

Review: Honestly, although it’s not rated as high as the first Shawn/Razor match, it’s probably just as important to wrestling history. While Shawn/Razor helped change the landscape of wrestling, so did this. Hell, it blew it wide open. It shocks me to watch these days, and the announcers talk about how there’s NEVER been a tag-team ladder match before. I have a hard time thinking of a ladder match without a slew of people mixed up in it. Anyways, this match made all 4 guys stars, and completely stole the show. Not as good as the times they’d soon meet up in, but damn fine none the less.

Rating: * * * *

After that, we didn’t see any matches until we hit yet another milestone; the first ever Triangle Tag-Team Ladder Match

Match: The Dudley Boyz © vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz
Place: Wrestlemania 2000 – April 2nd, 2000
Duration: 22:29
Company: World Wrestling Entertainment
DVD Release: Edge: A Decade Of Decadence, Wrestlemania 2000

The Review: I think this is actually a bit of an underrated match, honestly. Few people ever talk about it, and I believe it deserves it’s place right up there with the rest of them. Sure, it’s a massive spot fest, but it’s just a damn good time. I find that it starts nice and slow, then builds itself in to a frenzy, going from a ladder match, to the first unofficial TLC match. Another show stealing performance that would begin Edge & Christian’s reign.

Rating: * * * * 1/2th

Of course, people ate that bad boy right up. As if setting two milestones in a row wasn’t enough for these kids, they had a third, at SummerSlam 2000. As it were, all three teams seemed to have their own favorite means of weapon. Edge & Christian favored the chair; as chickenshit heels, they needed something that was the equivalent of a drive-by shooting. Just set’em up, knock’em down, and haul ass. The Hardyz, being the high-flyer type, always feel the higher; the better. So if they wanted to really to send you home, they broke out the ladder and Jeff always had us thinking we’d seen his last match. With The Dudleyz, they just wanted pain. Pure and simple. Tag-teams, single wrestlers, 80 year old women, didn’t matter who you are; you were getting some of the Dudleyz wood, because Dudleyville, was built with tables.

So, the way to get the best of all 3 worlds was to put a bit of a spin on the ladder match. Sure, the schematics would remain the same, but the environment changed drastically. What we got was the first ever, TLC match – Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.

Match: Edge & Christian © vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz
Place: SummerSlam 2000 – August 27th, 2000
Duration: 14:51
Company: World Wrestling Entertainment
DVD Release: The Ladder Match, SummerSlam 2000

The Review: Metzler has to be the only person to not give this one 5 stars. This match style is probably the second most copied style of match since the original ladder match. You’ll see why as this article continues. Everyone here brought their A-Game, and destroyed the house. People just couldn’t believe what they were seeing before their eyes, as it’s truly the meaning of getting more than your money’s worth.

The Rating: * * * * *

This feels like just as good a place as any to end part one, hope you kids dug it like a caretaker, I’ll hustle up with number two, mesa promise.

Coming up, we see what ECW & TNA have to offer, as well as the WWE pulling out yet another variation of the ladder match.

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~ by Caliber Winfield on September 15, 2009.

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