Brutal. Violent. Career-Ending.
These are the words that are most often used to describe a TLC match.
In this case, the irony was, what was supposedly a potentially 'career-ending' match, actually ended up launching the careers of John Cena and Edge; instantly propelling them into super-stardom. One of them went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame just 6 years later, and the other became not only the biggest star since the "Attitude Era", but the name and face of WWE.
This match headlined what has been called, "one of the best rivalries in the history of WWE", and also one of the better pay-per-views of the last decade or so.
To its credit, it had to live up to the fantastic opener between Jeff Hardy and Johnny Nitro, the extremely entertaining DX vs. McMahons and Big Show, as well as the emotional farewell match between Trish Stratus and Lita -- two of the best ever -- where both divas gave it all they had and came close to stealing the show. Now, the pressure was on these two rising stars -- Cena and Edge -- to top all that and deliver in the Main Event.
And deliver they did.
"A match you've never had, a match I've never lost."
The story was, if Cena lost he would have to go to SmackDown. The match was also heavily-hyped because it was a match Edge had never lost, and one Cena had never competed in. To make things worse for Cena, the match was in Edge's hometown of Toronto, Canada.
The match started with some wrestling, but quite early into the match, Edge brought out the weapons (demonstrating his comfort with the TLC stipulation) and then it was on!
With the Champion Edge clearly in the driver's seat, the two proceeded to tear the house down with some incredibly high-risk spots. Edge did most of the work here, but Cena pulled his weight. With innovative spots like the STF with the ladder, and the spear off one ladder onto another, alongside the usual typical spots of such matches (recycled but no less brutal), the already raucous crowd was on its feet.
Both men took some sick, cringe-inducing bumps, such as when Lita pushed Cena off the ladder in the ring through a table outside, then just moments later, inadvertently doing the same to Edge. Even Lita took an FU from Cena. All the while, the crowd was electric knowing full-well they were witnessing a classic.
The finish was one of the sickest I've ever seen in my life, with Edge going through two tables off a ladder. Finally after a hard fought battle, Cena began his third reign as WWE Champion, which would be the longest reign of the 2000's, only recently surpassed by CM Punk.
Edge was undoubtedly the star of the match, taking the maximum bumps and carrying Cena through his first ever TLC match. The crowd was 100% behind him and he fed off of their energy, delivering a modern-day classic. As Jim Ross said of him during the match, "He's a helluva champion".
He deserves all that praise and more.
Cena did a solid job, despite his obvious limitations in the ring, not hesitating to take some really dangerous bumps. He did his share of the work in this match, handling the high pressure situation excellently. When I look back on his career, and wonder where and how he became "The Man", there is no doubt in my mind it was on this night (September 17, 2006) that Vince, and the other powers that be, decided to run with him as the next face of the company.
One of my lasting memories of the match, is the reaction of the crowd when he fell off the ladder through the tables. Up until that point, the crowd was raucous and jeering. This was the turning point, they were stunned, offering him up a fair amount of support, thereafter.
The crowd was fantastic. Cheering throughout for Edge, and jeering Cena; it really fit with the story of the match. (Which was one of Cena overcoming the odds in a hostile environment, in uncharted waters with the TLC stipulation.) They really kept the tempo of the match going, thus making it that much more enjoyable for me as a viewer.
Finally, props to the commentary team for doing a great job selling the drama of the match. Jim Ross hyped up each and every spot, proving yet again why he is the greatest commentator of all time. Jerry Lawler's constant jabs at Canadians were pretty entertaining, as well. Also, props to Lita for playing a crucial role in the story of the match. She entered separately, instead of her usual entrance of the time, playing tonsil-hockey with Edge... and it was for a reason:
Edge was the face here, just for this night, and bringing Lita would have garnered him heat. Instead, she came midway through the match, at the turning point when Cena gained the respect of the crowd, and brought just the right amount of heat to turn some sections of the audience to support Cena's win. She also took a solid FU from Cena, despite being in a physical, competitive match earlier in the evening. She earned herself some serious respect that night.
Overall, this was one of my all time favorite matches. I'd like to know what you Cagesiders thought of it too.
Side Note: Since my idea about CSS having a segment entitled "Match of the Week" didn't garner enough positive feedback to make it a regular staff feature, I decided to make this my weekly FanPost offering.
In closing, the promo package of this match was one of the best ever. Well, worth checking out. So, here it is:
Editor's Note: This FanPost has been mildly edited for promotion to the front page and various sections within Cageside Seats for your enjoyment, Cagesiders!