Ladder Match 2: Crash and Burn DVD Review – Disc 1By Cody DodsonIn honor of Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view event, I thought we would take a look down memory lane at the letter “L” in that acronym. I was out doing some Christmas shopping and came across the Ladder Match 2 DVD, so I got myself a little gift. I’ll be doing a review of Disc 1 for this column, which takes a look at some ladder matches from the past up until the year 2000. There’s a ton of content on this DVD, so let’s not waste any time and get started. I should note that this column would be insanely long if I attempted to do a play-by-play of each match. Instead, I’ll give some more general thoughts for each one, point out key moments, and tell you why I gave it the rating I did.<!--more--> PresentationFor the most part, this is just one ladder match after another. Christian acts as host, but he only appears three times and he doesn’t have a whole lot to say. They wanted to focus on the matches and not make a documentary out of it, which is fine. There are no special features on this disc or anything like that, just a series of matches occasionally broken up by Christian. I should note that if you’re watching on an HDTV, all of the matches have ladder graphics on either side since they were not originally filmed in widescreen HD format.Shawn Michaels w/Diesel vs. Razor Ramon – Wrestlemania X, March 1994Christian is so kind to point out to us that this is the measuring stick for all other ladder matches. He also says that it still holds up to the test of time. Let’s see if he is speaking the truth. He also tells us that this was the first time a ladder match was televised in the United States. I can never help but laugh at the use of mullets in older matches. That has nothing to do with the match itself, sorry. They don’t waste a whole lot of time in getting to a spot where Razor takes a decent bump to the exposed concrete on the outside, allowing Shawn to grab the ladder. Remember the time where a ladder match had one ladder on the outside and that was it? How times have changed. Of course, this is the match which contains the everlasting spot where Shawn splashes Razor from near the top of the ladder, as well as riding the ladder down off the top rope onto Razor. It doesn’t seem that impressive by today’s standards, but you can tell it was a huge deal back then. The two men do a great job of selling the beatings they have taken, especially at the end of the match. When you put in its historical context, this is a fantastic match that will always be known as one of the most influential gimmick matches ever. Shawn and Razor basically invented several spots which we still see variations of today. However, if you showed this match to a younger fan who has grown up on TLC matches, they would probably be bored. However, I’m going to rate it more for its historical context than I will for its quality compared to some of today’s ladder matches. By the way, Razor won the match after Shawn got his leg tied up in the ropes.Rating: 9 (out of 10) Tracy Smothers vs. Chris Candido – Smoky Mountain Wrestling, March 1994This match was billed as being for the prize of $2500, which was suspended in an envelope above the ring. It was a bit of a blast from the past to see referee Brian Hildebrand, better known as Mark Curtis, in the ring. One spot that stood out to me was seeing Candido get his had stuck between the rungs of the ladder and then seeing the end of the ladder rammed into the ring post. Other than that, this was largely a fistfight with some technical wrestling and a few ladder shots thrown in here and there. I can’t say that this match stood out to me a whole lot. I should note that no historical context is given for this match as our host doesn’t appear again until several matches later. I would have liked to have known a little more about what was going on and the reasoning behind this. Smothers won after throwing Candido from the top of the ladder. This was a serviceable match that gets better as it goes on, but nothing really stands out about it.Rating: 6Eddie Guerrero vs. Syxx – nWo Souled Out, January 1997This match was for the WCW United States Championship. One thing to note about this match is that the commentary team of Eric Bischoff and Ted Dibiase sucks. Bischoff sounds drunk, and knowing WCW, there’s a good chance he actually was. They just come across as two guys bullshitting rather than doing commentary. You have Eddie Guerrero in this match, so at least that part is watchable. Syxx does a good job as well and gets to showcase some martial arts skills. There is a brutal looking spot where Syxx takes a pretty good shot to the face from Eddie seesawing the ladder on the top rope. I should also note there are some totally bizarre camera angles that WCW chose to use. I know it’s supposed to be an nWo themed show, but the lens they have on is just distracting. Syxx does an impressive move on top of the ladder, doing what Bischoff calls a “jumping inverted sidekick”, which is more commonly known as a dropkick to Guerrero while both of them were on top of the ladder. Definitely a risky move for Syxx. Both men end up pulling the belt down at the end of the match, and Eddie hits Syxx in the face with it to win the match. This was a decent match that focused mainly on the use of the ladder. It gets extra points for being one of the few WCW matches featuring a member of the nWo that didn’t have tons of interference. However, those extra points are negated by the bad commentary and production values.Rating: 7Big Bossman vs. Mankind – Raw, November 1998This match was for the Hardcore Championship. The JOB Squad accompanied Mankind to the ring while Commissioner Shawn Michaels came out with Big Bossman. Lots of fun to see Mankind in the old brown tights and white shirt. I forgot that Bossman was decently agile for a big man whose in-ring ability isn’t always remembered fondly. I personally always thought he was good at what he did. It looks like Mankind is about to win after using Mr. Socko on Bossman when the corporate champion, The Rock, comes out and pushes Mankind off the ladder. From there, it turns into a handicap match with Rock attacking Mankind so that Big Bossman can attempt to climb the ladder and grab the belt, which he successfully does. I’m honestly not sure why this match was included. It’s just not that memorable at the end of the day. In fact, the best part was probably Shawn Michaels’ commentary in which he kept writing scores down for various moves. This could have been a lot better if given more time and without the overbooking.Rating: 5The Rock vs. Mankind – Raw, February 1999This match is for the WWE Championship. The Rock cuts a promo before the match which is always good to see. You can tell he’s a lot smaller than he is now in terms of muscle mass. Shortly after Mankind makes his way out, Stone Cold Steve Austin arrives to do some commentary. I can tell you that the match will get an extra point just because of this. They start brawling on the outside of the ring immediately, which leads to Foley’s classic spot where he somersaults over the ring steps when being thrown into them. I can imagine how much that has impacted his knees over the years. Mankind puts a ladder on top of The Rock and hits it with a chair a few times. It makes a lot of noise and the crowd eats it up. The Rock knocks Mankind off the ladder with a chair, and I have to say that there’s a part of me that misses the stiff chairshots. I know it’s better for the talent that they aren’t allowed to do that anymore, but damn did it add some drama to the matches back in the day. There a lot of good spots in this match. One that looks particularly painful is when The Rock hits Mankind with a chair while he’s on the ladder, causing him to fall off and get his arm tied up in the ropes on the way down. These two always had great chemistry together and this match is no exception. Something to note about this is that it took place the night after their epic Last Man Standing match. If you’ve read Foley’s books, you know that he was a bit upset with Rock after that match. If you remember, Foley took about 12 chair shots directly to the head in that match when he was only supposed to take five. It was his idea and he called for it. After the match, many people came and checked on Foley, but Rock never did. You could tell it hurt Foley’s feelings, so you have to wonder what went through his mind during this match one night later. Sorry about that tangent. Being that this was the Attitude Era, the Spanish announce table gets destroyed via a Rock Bottom. The end of the match occurs when both men are at the top of the ladder and Rock falls victim to Mr. Socko. Paul Wight aka the Big Show arrives and chokeslams Mankind, giving The Rock the win. This was a very nice brawl made that much better by having Stone Cold on commentary.Rating: 9Mr. McMahon and Shane McMahon vs. Steve Austin – King of The Ring, June 1999This match was for control of the WWE. We get a little segment with Christian beforehand talking about how this was one of the ladder matches that set the bar for drama as well as athleticism. You can see how WWE was moving towards the modern ladder matches at this point, as there are about 15 ladders in the entranceway, many of which are balanced on top of each other to create a ladder roof of some sorts. Of course, you know that it was going to come crashing down. One of the highlights of the match was when Austin used the McMahons to take out the supports to do just that. Also, can you believe this? The Spanish announce table gets taken out! It was as a result of a bit of rare Austin high-flying when he came off the ladder onto Shane. J.R. and King’s table almost gets taken out as well, but that one is better reinforced. Austin almost had it won at one point after two stunners but the briefcase was mysteriously raised out of his reach. The end came when Shane pushed both Austin and Vince off of the ladder and then got it himself. This was about what you would expect considering the McMahons were involved. There was a lot of punching and kicking combined with some ladder shots. I don’t agree with Christian that this set the bar for drama in ladder matches. It never really drew me in.Rating: 63 Count w/Tank Abbott vs. Jung Dragons – WCW New Blood Rising, August 2000 Just as a reminder, 3 Count consisted of Evan Karagias, Shane Helms, and Shannon Moore. Jung Dragons were Kaz Hayashi, Jimmy Yang, and Jamie Noble. This match featured the golden record belonging to 3 Count suspended above the ring, which they needed to retrieve. It also had a recording contract which would guarantee that 3 Count could never record another album, which the Jung Dragons needed to retrieve. This was WCW in 2000. Given the talent involved in this match, you might expect it to be a fast-paced, frantic match. You’d be right, and it works pretty well. I miss the cruiserweights. There was a lot of technical wrestling and high-flying in conjunction with the ladders. One of the highlights was Jamie-San Noble doing a crossbody block from the top of the ladder in the ring to 3 Count, who were on the outside. I just realized that Abbott is wearing a shirt that has holes cut to show his nipples. Deduct a point for that. The seesaw ladder spot makes another appearance in this match. This turns into a bit of a clusterfuck as the rules don’t make sense to me. Jung Dragons retrieve the gold record but apparently they have to retrieve the contract as well to win the match. Abbott ends up getting hold of the record so it doesn’t matter that the opposite team pulled it down. Abbott then pushes down a ladder containing a member of each team before telling his own team to go back up and get the contract. They do and 3 Count wins. Alright then. If you look solely at the wrestling on display here, this was a great match until it went a bit haywire at the end. The antics of Tank Abbott and his shirt bring it down a bit, as does the ridiculous premise of it. However, this is definitely one to check out if you liked the fast pace of the cruiserweight division. I’m going to rate this solely based on the quality of wrestling, keeping in mind the ending of the match was a bit ridiculous.Rating: 8.5Edge and Christian vs. The Hardys – Raw, September 2000This match is for the WWE Tag Team Championship. Before the match, we get a segment with Christian talking about the risks and rewards of ladder matches and how your body takes so much punishment. How right he is when you look at what happened to his partner in this match. He describes this match as a “hidden gem.” Let’s see if he’s right. They start the action with a ladder in the ring, which sets the tone for how this is going to go. At one point, E&C sandwich Jeff Hardy between the ladder, prop him up against the ropes, and springboard into him. It was a unique spot. The gigantic ladder has made its first appearance on this DVD. Of course it was in a match involving these four guys. Edge breaks out the spear from the top of the ladder onto Jeff Hardy, who is hanging from the belts. I’ll never get tired of watching that. Lita and her thong show up and I briefly expect her to hit the Hardy boys, thinking that she was with Edge. Stupid memory. In another first for this DVD, Matt Hardy is bleeding. They don’t attempt to hide it by turning the video black and white or anything like that. Matt Hardy suplexes Christian off of the ladder and they land dangerously close to snapping their necks on the bottom rope. That was a tad scary. Edge and Christian set up ladders next to the big one, looking to set up a conchairto on Matt while he is going for the belts. Jeff and Lita each knock over one of their opponents, allowing Matt to climb up and grab the belts. This was good. It wasn’t as exciting as some of their other efforts, particularly the matches involving the Dudleys as well, but this was a good match, which is to be expected when you put these four guys together with ladders.Rating: 7.5Overall, this disc is a bit of a mixed bag but solid for the most part. You do have the classic Wrestlemania X match, a few fun WCW cruiserweight matches, a solid match between four of the best ladder match combatants ever, and a very exciting WWE Championship match. The others are a bit of filler but there’s nothing horrible here. I would recommend at least watching this disc if you get the opportunity. There are two other discs to this set which I’ll review at a later date, as this column is almost twice my normal length already.That will do it for me today. Feel free to share your thoughts on the matches I’ve reviewed. Don’t forget to follow me on twitter and thanks for reading.Cody D.Email me: CodyDFeedback@gmail.comFollow me: www.twitter.com/thegreatcodyWWWYKI