WWF Hardcore Championship
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Rob Van Dam
They start with some chain wrestling to establish parity, which I just find completely worthless here. Neither guy is even known for their chain wrestling, parity is already established by the fact this is a ladder match and you’re only at a distinct disadvantage if you’re 500 pounds or have no arms and legs, so the whole thing is such a transparent waste of time. Just go for the ladder!
Worse still is the fact that this is being billed as the “first ever hardcore ladder match”, when in reality, it’s not discernibly different to any other ladder match you’ve ever seen. I recognise that with the advent of the TLC matches, using tables and chairs would dilute that gimmick, but you’d think they could have dragged the 1999-approved trash cans and kendo sticks out of the mothballs for one night just to add a bit of variety and live up to the moniker. I get that the WWF would want to move away from the nutty highspots of said TLC matches, especially in light of the neck injury suffered by Chris Benoit after he wrestled in one on SmackDown! just a couple of months prior to this, but when you advertise a ladder match as “hardcore”, you leave fans with a certain expectation that you can’t deliver.
Eventually, they build to a spot where Jeff grabs the loop holding the belt but Van Dam pulls the ladder away, leaving him dangling there, so RVD swings Jeff from one side of the ring to the other, then attempts a springboard superkick on the rebound. I say attempt, because he actually misses, making himself look like a complete idiot on what would have been an incredibly cool spot if it had made contact. That’s the nature of those kind of highspots though, sometimes you roll the dice and it comes up snake eyes.
Problematically, that leaves Jeff swinging around aimlessly, so he has to take a bump off nothing lest he accidentally pull down the belt that he’s been booked to lose. He then immediately climbs back up using the ladder, thus making himself look every bit the fool RVD did, and Van Dam shoves him off it with Jeff taking a ridiculous flip bump into the ropes that saw his upper back land roughly on the mat, and looked like he could have torn both hamstrings and blown out both knees on the ropes to boot. For those unaware, pro wrestling ring ropes are extremely sturdy, not at all springy and elasticised as the work would have you believe.
From there, the result is academic, as Van Dam clambers up to claim his second reign as Hardcore champion. Though it may not come across as such in the review, I actually thought this was a pretty good match for the most part, and some of the big bumps were crazy, it just had a hard time living up to the bar the ladder and TLC matches had set over the previous couple of years.
Final Rating: ***½