Top 10 Ladder Matches In WWE History
Tonight on WWE Network Dean Ambrose challenges Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Title and see the annual Money In The Bank ladder match for which the winner is practically guaranteed the WWE World Heavyweight Title somewhere down the line (unless your name is John Cena or Damien Sandow, of course)
Ambrose and Rollins have excelled in every match they’ve been in (they even managed to reinvigorate the Lumberjack match). So we all have high hopes for what they can bring to one of the WWE’s most popular and somewhat over-used match types of the last 25 years.
There have been over 40 ladder matches in WWE history, and they have made and broken a lot of careers. So often we hear about climbing the rungs of the ladder in WWE, well a look into the history of this match shows how instrumental it has been in literally elevating stars to new heights in WWE. So I will break that down into my Top 10…
10. Undertaker v Jeff Hardy – Raw (2002)
Of the list of matches this is one of the most unique. Undertaker is not someone who would think best aligns to a ladder match, but in this match both he and Jeff played their roles perfectly. Taker proceeded to roundly beat on Jeff for a large part of the contest, the underlying story being Jeff’s refusal to say die. The crowd were firmly behind Jeff as someone they had seen grow up in the WWE, breaking out of the tag division and now in an Undisputed Title match.
So they were particularly audible later in the match when Jeff mounted a comeback, Taker sold this all and there was disbelief after the beating Jeff had taken that he could come back and win this. Taker eventually cut him off and won the match but Jeff won respect from the fans and Taker for his performance.
9. CM Punk v Shelton Benjamin v Carlito v Chris Jericho v MVP v Mr Kennedy v John Morrison – Wrestlemania 24 (2008)
Money In The Bank is the most recent evolution of the ladder match. The concept is a multi-person scramble for the briefcase suspended from the ceiling. The very structure of the match lends itself to the style of match made famous by the Dudleys/Hardys/Edge & Christian. So generally these matches are more composed of a series of high spots utilizing the weaponry available, as you will struggle to tell a story in a 6+ person tornado match.
This is one of the most heralded Money In The Bank matches in its 10 year history. All the participants had sections of the match where they got their offence in. Once again it being Wrestlemania everybody wanted to raise the bar and we saw John Morrison hit an insane moonsault to the outside of the ring, while holding the ladder, and Shelton Benjamin take a particularly vicious looking fall from the ladder to a ladder propped between the ring and barrier outside the ring.
The close of the match was well done, there were a lot of near finishes and in the end Jericho dangling from the ladder helplessly while Punk grabbed the briefcase was a nice close to a crazy contest.
8. Eddie Guerrero v Rob Van Dam – Raw (2002)
After the Attitude era and WWE’s purchase of WCW the roster was jam-packed with talent, and occasionally we got some gems on regular Raw and Smackdown shows, this IC Title match was one of those.
RVD and Eddie already had an established back catalogue, but a ladder match was a different dimension for these talented performers (this was Eddie’s first ladder match, however RVD had a great match with Jeff Hardy less than a year prior). This was a well laid out match, which showed the correct way to incorporate high spots into a good wrestling match. It was slightly spoiled by a fan jumping the barrier and into the ring.
RVD got the win but both men did not disappoint and maintained their usual high standard of high flying encounter.
7. Eddie Guerrero v Rey Mysterio Jr – Summerslam (2005)
On paper this had all the makings of another ladder classic. Two of the best high flyers in the history of the WWE with an undeniable natural chemistry dating back to their Cruiserweight Title battles in WCW. The storyline of Eddie being the real ‘Papi’ of Dominick (Rey’s son) was ludicrous and terrible….if it wasn’t for Eddie Guerrero. Eddie almost single-handedly got the angle over with his infectious charisma.
The match was a great encounter, Eddie and Rey had such a strong arsenal of weapons that the ladder was almost secondary to their in ring back and forth. The finish saw a number of run-ins including Dominick and an early appearance from the Apex Couger herself Vicki Guerrero.
Eddie Guerrero surprisingly never had many ladder matches in his career, only 3 in the WWE and 2 of those are in this list, just another reminder of how special Latino Heat was.
6. Triple H v The Rock – Summerslam (1998)
This could very well be a headline match in AT&T Stadium at Wrestlemania 32 next year, and there is no doubt in my mind the natural chemistry between these two would make it another great encounter. But back in 1998 both men had had their false starts.
The Rock debuted as a goody two shoes babyface, a very behind the times character that prompted the fans to chant “Die Rocky Die”. Triple H was slated to win the 1996 King Of The Ring but he took the heat for the famous Kliq ‘Curtain Call’ at Madison Square Garden.
It had been 3 years since the last televised ladder match (which was HBK v Razor Ramon at Summerslam 1995) so there was excitement for the return of this match and with two popular superstars. They did not disappoint, Triple H and Rock gave an early preview into the rivalry that would carry the company through for years to come. The finish with Chyna and Mark Henry getting involved wasn’t necessary for me but it didn’t take away from a great contest that put Triple H over, and would set up the Rock to win the WWE Title later that year.
5. Edge & Christian v Hardy Boyz v Dudley Boyz – Wrestlemania 2000 (2000)
The tag division was so strong at this time in the WWE that they couldn’t ignore any of these 3 teams when Wrestlemania came around. Edge & Christian and the Hardys had broken new ground at No Mercy in the prior year, the Dudleys had joined around that time too and with their ECW experience the pieces fit together.
All 3 teams looked to emulate that No Mercy match after the reaction it had received and they did just that with complicated and hardly believable spots that once again raised the bar.
4. “TLC 2” Edge & Christian v Hardy Boyz v Dudley Boyz – Wrestlemania X7 (2001)
In the year prior all 3 had been involved in the Triple Threat Ladder Match for the Tag Titles at Wrestlemania 2000 and the first ever Tables Ladders Chairs (Oh My!) match at Summerslam (2000). So this new concept had been brought to Wrestlemania and once again these 6 guys realized there might not be many chances down the road to make a name for themselves have a ‘Wrestlemania moment’.
Again they treated us to unbelievable match filled with spots to top their previous encounters, the highlight being Edge’s spear on Jeff Hardy dangling from the title belts.
For me this was the end of the great series between these teams and the beginning of the decline of this match – which is no disrespect to the matches that followed this but this was the point at which TLC reached its peak.
3. Shawn Michaels v Razor Ramon – Wrestlemania X (1994)
The one that started it all, had this match been a stinker this whole list would not exist. But with two top tier performers like HBK and Razor Ramon, the chances of that happening were limited. Before the spot-fests that followed, this match focused on incorporating the ladder into the match as a weapon.
This match would seem dated to a lot of the fans that grew up in the Edge & Christian/Hardys/Dudleys era, but the pacing and psychology in this contest were fantastic. They had high spots in the match but knew when to use them and where.
HBK had always been highly thought of but this match elevated him into challenging for the WWE Title the following year at Wrestlemania XI, and who knows what Scott Hall could have gone on to achieve if he had re-signed with the WWE as this match showed that aside from his size and strength he was an intelligent and athletic worker.
2. Shawn Michaels v Chris Jericho – No Mercy (2008)
This was the culmination of one of the greatest rivalries in the WWE has ever seen. The prior month at Unforgiven HBK had got revenge on Y2J for punching his wife by beating him unconscious in a non-sanctioned match. The way HBK wrestled with his actions at the end of the match was one of the best in-ring non-wrestling related moments I have ever seen.
The problem was the slimy Jericho re-emerged in the main event Scramble match and won the World Heavyweight Title. As frustrating as this was, it was great because it meant this outstanding feud got centre stage at the No Mercy PPV the following month.
Michaels came in with an excellent ladder match repertoire but this was matched in kind by Jericho so what entailed was an outstanding back and forth match. The key was these experienced veterans understood the ladder is merely a prop for the bigger story and used it to put the exclamation point on their deep-seated rivalry. The finish with a tug of war for the belt was a great spot and a great finish to a classic rivalry.
1. Edge & Christian v New Brood (Hardy Boyz) – No Mercy (1999)
This was the bout that redefined the ladder match, and that is why I rank it so highly. Not only was it the first time the match had been done in a tag team capacity, but these two teams changed the psychology of the match for a generation. The number of spots in this match was unheard of, and it is a phrase used a lot but they did quite literally put their bodies on the line in this match.
The prize was not a title but the managerial services of Terri Runnels and $100,000, but the real prize was the notoriety they achieved from this match. It catapulted all 4 men into superstardom and they all went on to become World Champions, I don’t think that was by chance.
Since this match we have seen it evolve into TLC, Money In The Bank and even more recently multi-person ladder matches for the World Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles. The spots and composition of this match can still be seen today, many of today’s competitors have grown up on this match and those that followed it.
And I have no doubt that on Sunday, at Money In The Bank, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins will be channelling the Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian in their ladder match.
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