Wrestlemania is the time of year when every WWE superstar puts it all on the line. Everyone’s goal is to have the match of the night. What’s the “easiest” way to do so? Just add ladders.
The concept of a ladder match is simple: a prize (most often a championship) is hung above the ring and the winner is whomever sets up a ladder and retrieves it first. The ladder match debuted at Wrestlemania 10 and it was a sink or swim scenario. Had the match bombed big time, it probably never would have been seen again. Thankfully, WWE put it in the reliable hands of Shawn Michaels (who faced Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship) and a star was born.
Almost six years later, only a couple of ladder matches had taken place and none of them topped the original. That is, until the fall of ’99 when the concept was tweaked slightly: for the first time at No Mercy ’99, the ladder stipulation was added to a tag team match in stead of the standard one-on-one. Two teams, Edge and Christian and The Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff) took the concept to new and revolutionary extremes. The match was such an overwhelming success, a rematch of sorts was booked for Wrestlemania 16 five months later. This time it was tweaked once more. A third team, The Dudley Boys, was added, making it the first – and, to this day, only – Triangle Ladder Match. They tore the roof off again. In a recent interview, Edge admitted that he believes they set the bar way too high in these first two matches. Be that as it may, the three teams managed to top themselves a year later at WM17, when they competed in TLC II (a ladder match where tables and chairs are also scattered about to be used as weapons. TLC I took place at Summerslam 2000.)
The ladder match concept was used a little less often after that point. Probably because the stunts they were pulling were crazy and downright dangerous. Another ladder match wouldn’t be scheduled for
a Wrestlemania until the 21st annual show in 2005 when yet another new concept was born: the Money In the Bank Ladder Match. With this round, several WWE superstars (anywhere from 6-10, depending on how many superstars had nothing else to do on the show) would compete in the match and the winner would earn a world championship match at any time of their choosing. Every MITB winner has gone on to become a world champion because they can cash it in whenever the champ is most vulnerable, making it an easy win. The Money in the Bank match became a yearly tradition and was always a highlight of the show. It became so popular that, as of last year, the concept has been given it’s own pay-per-view event.
This is the first year since 2004 that a ladder match has not been scheduled for Wrestlemania. Will the event suffer? Or have they built themselves a good enough card that it won’t be missed? We’ll find out this Sunday.