|by Phil Speer
May 24, 2002
If you don't remember the third Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match (TLC III) --which aired one year ago today on SmackDown! -- then you've forgotten one of the most incredible matches in World Wrestling Entertainment history.
So say the eight participants in the match that night -- the Dudley Boyz, Edge & Christian, the Hardy Boyz and Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho, who had won the Tag Team Championship on that Monday's RAW. It seems that many fans and World Wrestling Entertainment officials alike have forgotten TLC III, so much so that the eight superstars have taken to calling it the "Forgotten TLC." And to some of them, particularly Chris Jericho, the fact that the match is virtually never acknowledged on WWE television is quite upsetting.
On the one-year anniversary of the Forgotten TLC, WWE.com remembers it.
"It was such a great match," Jericho said. "I'm not one to toot my own horn, but it was one of those nights when all the stars were aligned. It was just a kick-ass match. To be honest, it pisses me off because it was the Forgotten TLC. It was never on a best-of WWE show. The Hardys had a DVD out, and the company picked the matches to put on the bonus matches; they didn't put that match on there.
"It's like it's been forgotten, and that really bothers me, because you had eight guys who kicked ass and basically tore the house down, and it was never really mentioned again. And when it wasn't on the year-end WWE show, I was really, really pissed off. Really angry. Especially when I saw the Gravy Bowl Match and bulls*** matches like that. And you can print that. This great contest -- such an intense, kick-ass match -- was left out, and to this day that bothers me."
After all the eight superstars went through, Jericho seems to be justified.
They had all competed on the Judgment Day Pay-Per-View two days prior to the night that TLC III was taped. RAW was 24 hours later, and then the next day, Tuesday morning, they flew to Anaheim, Calif., for the SmackDown! taping.
"I was a little bit tired, but not as tired as Benoit," Jericho said.
"Remember, he had five matches at the Pay-Per-View (best-of-three falls against Kurt Angle and two falls in the Tag Team Turmoil Match), and then another match (on RAW)."
Said Christian, "We got there (Anaheim) and I turned my cell phone on, and I had a message saying that they wanted us to do a TLC Match and to call as soon as we could."
Word spread quickly among the eight participants.
"When Bubba turned to me and told me, I was kind of like, 'Oh boy,'" D-Von said. "Don't get me wrong -- each and every one of us bust our ass and do what we have to do. But knowing what we went through in the first three TLCs -- I include (the Table Match at) WrestleMania 2000 as being TLC -- I was just like, 'Oh man. No time to prepare. No time to get any ideas going.'"
But the superstars had no choice. On RAW the previous night, Triple H had torn his quadriceps muscle. He was out. The Rock was filming "The Scorpion King." He was out. And the ovation that Benoit and Jericho had gotten on RAW during the Tag Team Title Match that they won (beating the Game and Stone
Cold Steve Austin) was monstrous. They were hot. WWE officials put it all together: the hottest team in the company involved in the most exciting match that the company has to offer, along with the three teams who are kings of that match.
Arriving in Anaheim so early, the superstars would normally have time to eat, work out or attend to other matters before heading over to the Arrowhead Pond for the show. But not this time.
"We couldn't go to the gym," D-Von said. "We couldn't do anything. Other TLC Matches had a week, two weeks or even three weeks to prepare. We had a few hours, so that was kind of hard."
So the superstars headed directly to the building to begin preparing physically and mentally for the match. The first order of business was to let off a little steam.
"We all vented a little bit at the beginning of the day to certain people about 'Why is this happening? What is the benefit of it?'" Bubba Ray said. "The Dudleys, Edge & Christian and the Hardys did not want to risk the legacy of the match just because we had to throw it on TV. We just didn't feel like it was the right place or the right time. But in retrospect, obviously, you saw what we were able to pull off."
Said Edge, "To be honest, I wasn't too pleased. I've always felt that TLC was a Pay-Per-View match.
I understood the circumstances -- Hunter had gotten hurt, The Rock wasn't there -- so it was like, 'We gotta do something here.' Kind of like when we worked the Hardys in a Ladder Match when RAW debuted on TNN, the night after we beat the hell out of one another in a Cage Match. It was the same kind of feeling. It was like, 'Oh man.' Like I said, I've always felt it was a big, big match, and we were giving it away for free. But we wanted viewers, so we announced TLC, and that's usually guaranteed to get them. Usually too you have some warning before a TLC, so you can come in with some ideas. That one, we got told that morning, and we were just scrambling for ideas."
Plus there was the matter of having two extra guys in the match. Every other TLC Match -- including the one at WrestleMania 2000, if you count that one -- involved six superstars.
"There's a level of stress involved in those matches, just for safety's sake," Edge said. "Because you always have to know where your opponents are, and what's going on at all times. Add two on to that now, because you have two more people in it that have never been in a TLC Match before. So there are two extra minds that have to follow everything that's going on. They're professionals, but those matches are a different kind of animal. So it was stressful, but I think we were able to pull it off."
Jericho often brags to the other participants that TLC III was the greatest of them all (not coincidentally, it's the only one in which he participated). But there's no denying that it was at least in the same league as the other TLC Matches.
There was Benoit's dive off the top rope, to the floor, through a table (which was what triggered his neck problems, and he had surgery one month later). Jeff Hardy leg-dropped through the announcers' table after climbing to the top of one ladder and leap-frogging over another one. Edge speared Jericho as Y2J dangled from the harness that held the Tag Team Championship. Jericho bulldogged Bubba Ray off a ladder, and later gave Edge the Walls of Jericho on top of two ladders. Christian took an assortment of hellacious "bumps," and dished out a few on his own.
"I remember it was very physical and very hard-hitting," Christian said. "I remember I hit Jericho with probably the hardest chair shot I've ever hit anybody with in my life. And I just remember the crowd going 'Ooh.' It sounded like a gunshot.
I remember when I watched the match back, I watched the reaction of the crowd, and I actually saw people holding and rubbing their heads. That's how hard I hit him with the chair."
Jericho and Benoit retained the Tag Team Championship, but all the superstars could be proud of their performance, particularly considering the small amount of time they had to prepare.
"As far as I'm concerned, it was one of the best SmackDown! matches ever," D-Von said. "I loved every bit of it and I know the fans did too, because they showed their appreciation. Not one of those people in that building sat down. The whole time they were up."
"Do I think it was the best TLC Match? Not the best one," Bubba said. "But I think that they are all extremely great matches, with the TLC from WrestleMania X-Seven standing out as the crème de la crème of all the TLCs. But for something that had to be put together in a half a day, with eight people, on a live-to-tape show, I think it's incredible what we were able to pull off.
"We all kid around that it's the Forgotten TLC because people really don't remember it. They should, because it was probably one of the most incredible matches ever in the history of WWE. I don't say these things out of pompousness or anything like that. I speak on account of all eight men putting on just incredible performances. Just ask the fans. You don't have to ask the fans; just watch the fans. Watch their reactions on TV to that match. It's incredible. You don't stand on your feet for that long if you're
not having a great time."
But there were no highlights of it on subsequent episodes of WWE television, or even the company's year-in-review show.
"We were afraid that would happen, and it did," Edge said. "We went in there, busted our butts, and there was never any mention of it again really. Any Match of the Year candidate, anything like that, it wasn't mentioned, and we felt it deserved to be mentioned. That was one of the things that I pointed out to a lot of people going in -- 'If we do this, bust our butts and give 'em a Pay-Per-View match, it's going to be forgotten.' And it really was."
"To the day I retire," Jericho said, "that's going to bother me. If I ever do another home video, that's going to be the first match on there."