By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Edge vs Matt Hardy 10/3/05
Loser Leaves Raw Ladder Match
For WWE’s first three hour show and their return to the USA Network, they sure pulled out all the stops. Admittedly, the main event of the show would see a two minute match where John Cena defeated Eric Bischoff, but the rest of the card was loaded with big matches and talent. Steve Austin would stun the McMahon family, Triple H would return (and subsequently turn heel on Ric Flair) and Kurt Angle would battle to a two falls apiece draw in an Iron Man match with Shawn Michaels. With the Iron Man Match the first contest on the show, they were looking to hit the ground running whilst as many people were checking out the product as they could engage.
Also on the show was the final chapter in a storied, if controversial, rivalry. Following the real life falling out of Edge and Matt Hardy over Edge’s dalliances with Hardy’s then-girlfriend Lita, the WWE had initially fired Matt only to bring him back for the express purpose of feuding with Edge. It is testament to the professionalism – at least within the wrestling ring – that both men were able to put their differences aside and compete against each other in several different matches.
What had seemed to be a one-sided feud when Edge knocked out Hardy in under five minutes at Summerslam was turned on its head when Hardy defeated Edge in a cage match at Vengeance. This became the rubber match with the loser having to leave Raw in the process. As an added bonus, Hardy was also in the position to win Edge’s Money in the Bank contract. Whatever happened, this was due to be the final curtain on their animosity and it felt prescient for the match to be fought under ladder match rules considering the affinity these two men had with the gimmick.
The opportunistic nature of Edge was highlighted from the opening entrances as he wouldn’t appear for his own one, yet jumped Hardy from behind and attempted to rush the ring and grab the contract in the first ten seconds. Hardy was able to halt this plan before using the ladder to uniquely crush Edge’s ribs between the steel. As Hardy and Edge utilised the ladder to shorten the career of their opponent, Jim Ross ran down the real life trials and tribulations of the love triangle; a truly odd situation on an otherwise scripted programme.
The spots that saw the ladder being brought into play continued to be innovative; Hardy was flapjacked into almost grabbing the belt, before a Twist of Fate saw Edge block the finisher and send Hardy face first into a ladder teetering on the ring post. This same ladder was the start of a domino effect when Edge was pushed off a second ladder into it, bouncing back off and sending Hardy down to the mat, resulting in a description from Ross that suggested it was like a demolition derby.
It was somewhat poetic that Lita’s involvement would be the deciding factor. After jumping off of the ladder into the crowd to take out Edge, Hardy would attempt to powerbomb Lita through a table at ringside. The zeal with which the fans invited male on female violence may have been uncomfortable, but luckily for Lita, Edge would whack Hardy with a kendo stick and splash him through the table.
This still wasn’t enough and Hardy dropped Edge off of the ladder with a Twist of Fate. Just as it seemed nothing could stop Hardy, Lita used the same kendo stick that Edge had wielded to attack Hardy. When this still failed, Lita removed the ladder from underneath Hardy and allowed Edge to swing him off of the briefcase and into the ropes. Wrapped up between the top and bottom rope, with an additional Lita crucifix to keep the arms held tight, Edge was able to regain his Money in the Bank contract and send Hardy to Smackdown.
The posturing of the two who upset Hardy at times felt uncomfortable, but that was what the feud aimed to do. It pulled back the curtain on a situation that the masses knew about and used it to gain heat for Edge, heat that the promotion capitalised on over time. Rumours of Hardy’s demise had also been somewhat exaggerated; with this feud he had somewhat revived his WWE career. It wouldn’t all be plain sailing going forward between the promotion and the oldest Hardy, but this storyline at least kept him from the potential fall from grace his career could have taken when he was first fired. Every cloud.