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RAW Magazine – June 2000

ACHES & GAINS
By Robert J. Bledsoe

It reads like a laundry list of items to be picked up at the local pharmacy: heating pad, pain cream and aspirin. But it’s not the prescription for a social security or Medicare recipient; these are items used by Edge and Christian, the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz just one day after their thrilling Triangle Ladder Match for the Tag Team Championship at this WrestleMania.

“I had to roll out of bed to begin with,” says Matt Hardy. “Still, I’ve got a huge bruise on the right side of my back, butt and thigh. Also, my shoulder was bothering me a bit. My knee was real sore; that was the major thing. Plus, I got all cut up from the very last table I went through – when they [Edge and Christian] pushed me off the table that was stacked on top of the ladders.” “Whenever I go through a table it explodes,” continues Matt. “This one sliced me up pretty good. So, I was extremely sore Tuesday than I was Monday.”

It was the WrestleMania debut for Matt and the other five Superstars involved in the Triangle Ladder Match. And it’s one that none of them – or Federation fans – are likely to forget. Nicked with bumps and bruises, but no broken bones or other major injuries, all three teams have no reservations in admitting that their WrestleMania rendezvous was one of the most physically taxing matches they’ve ever participated in.

“I was in ECW for four-and-a-half years. We had a lot of matches, barbed wire and everything like that. This was the first time that Buh-Buh and I really been in an actual ladder match,” says D-Von Dudley. “We used the ladder in ECW, but never to this extent – never to where we were actually climbing up to get a belt or using them in spots and things like that. That was new to us. I think it was one of the most grueling matches we’ve ever been in. Parts of my body hurt that I never knew could hurt.”

Considering D-Von doesn’t like heights, his stellar performance in the Triangle Ladder Match is impressive. Facing his fear (plus some taunting and teasing backstage from fellow Superstars), D-Von knew that everything was on the line at his first WrestleMania. Thinking, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Please let this be over,” as he climbed each rung, D-Von put on his best face, masking his anxiety in an effort to entertain the nearly 20,000 fans in the attendance at Anaheim, California’s Arrowhead Pond, as well as the millions more watching at home on pay-per-view.

“I can’t even put into words,” says D-Von. “The fear was there. But, then again, it was WrestleMania.”

It was the love of the game and the love of sports-entertainment’s biggest annual spectacle that helped D-Von suppress his fears. But even for the biggest daredevil of them all – Jeff Hardy – blocking out thoughts of what could go wrong wasn’t an option; it was an impossibility.

“I’m nervous before every match until I get into the ring and get physical,” says Jeff. “I don’t know why. I guess it’s a good thing because it shows true love for what you’re doing. Just because you want to do so well, there’s always a fear of messing up or goofing up, or people laughing at you – especially with the things that I do [like] running up the ropes or trying to keep my balance without using my hands.”

“There’s always a good chance of slipping. Especially before this match, I knew that so many people were watching,” continues Jeff. “I knew that there were some things I was going to attempt in this match that could go seriously wrong. I was really worried about that.”

So, when Jeff Hardy ascended a steel ladder outside the ring, in the middle of the rampway and without the pads surrounding the ring, fans were equally worried. The idea was to jump from an unseemly height atop a ladder onto a prone Buh-Buh Ray, who was lying on a table. Some fans “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed.” Some watched silently amazed. Still others, without the stomach to witness the leap, turned their heads aside and shut their eyes.

As screaming fans cheered their approval, Jeff Hardy gave them his trademark hand signal, assuring the audience that what was about to happen was for them. With that, he leapt down with a “swanton bomb” onto a helpless Buh-Buh Ray, breaking the table in half. Grimacing in pain it looked as though Jeff’s lower back might have been injured. Remarkably he suffered only bruised heels and a stiff neck.

“Honestly, I wanted to steal the show,” laughs Jeff. “That’s how I am all the time. I think that’s a good thing. I think we all did. So, we went out there and gave it out best.”

The desire to put on the best possible performance for Federations fans was a common thread running through each of the participants’ post WrestleMania comments. For Christian, in particular, there was a challenge of meeting or surpassing his first ladder match with Edge against the Hardyz at last years No Mercy, a match many credited with launching both teams’ careers. As Christian saw it, he could not afford to have this match be a case of “one step forward and two steps back.”

“I felt a lot of pressure to live up to the first [ladder match] we had,” says Christian. “I was really nervous about that because I wanted it to be on par with the first one. After it was done, I was very satisfied because I had the feeling that it was on the same level. [However,] it was a lot more difficult because there were two extra bodies. And there were more ladders and tables in this match. So, there was more to be aware of in the ring. If you’re taking a bump, falling, there’s a higher risk factor.”

Six ladders and four tables later, WrestleMania has come and gone. Edge and Christian, the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz have now cemented a place for themselves in the history book of the World Wrestling Federation thanks to their Triangle Ladder Match. And while D-Von Dudley prefers conventional matches and Christian doesn’t mind a grinding gimmick match every once in a while, the Hardyz would have it no other way and look forward for more.

“The fans are probably what keep me going and always make me get back up,” says Jeff Hardy. “There’s just something about a reaction that’s so strong and powerful from 10,000 or 20,000 people. It just drives me crazy. I love it!”

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