Royal Rumble 2001

Ladder Match
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Chris Benoit (c) vs. Chris Jericho
You may have noticed that between the first tag team ladder match at No Mercy ‘99, the triple team ladder match at WrestleMania 2000, TLC I at SummerSlam, this match, TLC II at WrestleMania X-SEVEN and TLC III a few months later on SmackDown!, the WWF had quite the ladder match fetish going on around the early part of the new century. Unlike all those spot-heavy, team-based ladder bouts I mentioned, which in many ways are the spiritual successor to the Shawn Michaels-Razor Ramon and Triple H-Rock classics of the 90s, this one feels a lot more like the natural heir to the Michaels-Bret Hart ladder match of ‘92. That’s not to say that this match isn’t without spectacular moments; early on, Benoit goes for topé suicida only to get belted square in the face with a chair shot from Jericho, on which Benoit has absolutely no way of protecting himself or falling safely, and instead just hopes for the best. But for the most part, the thrill is built around the chase.

Certainly, when watched in close proximity to those awesome TLC matches, the “car crash spectacle” element feels a little lacking, but the psychology, timing and realism are all there in spades. Not only that, but they also manage to achieve what for some may be the ultimate worker’s goal – an entirely new move that nobody had ever seen before, in this case a Liontamer atop the ladder. Insane. Benoit also bumps around like an absolute maniac, taking full-on ladder shots to the face and throwing himself around (and out of) the ring, seemingly without a care for all the damage he’s doing to his body. Sadly, it was the lasting effects of matches like this, and particularly spots like his utterly bonkers Swandive headbutt off the top of the ladder, that played a major part in his eventual meltdown. The knowledge of how it all ended for him makes this one very difficult to enjoy in hindsight, much more than many other Benoit bouts you could name, especially knowing that its overall quality came with such a heavy price tag.
Final Rating: ****½

 

– Elsewhere, Billy Gunn tries to talk Chyna out of her match with Ivory. The angle was that Ivory and the Right to Censor had broken Chyna’s neck to set up their match.

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