In celebration of the upcoming 1000th episode of Raw, World Wrestling Entertainment has created a countdown of the “50 Greatest Matches in Raw History”. The list does a great job counting down matches that were a combination of thrilling action, had an impact on the company’s landscape and were overall memorable. Of all the matches on the list I believe one should be ranked a little bit higher than where it landed on the list. In fact, there could be an argument made that it was the best match in Raw’s history and that match is match number 15 , Tables, Ladders and Chairs IV from the very first Raw Roulette.
On October 7, 2002, Monday Night Raw was in Las Vegas. As a theme for the evening, then General Manager Eric Bischoff, decided to enact the first ever Raw Roulette. Essentially, Raw Roulette meant that every match that night would have some sort of stipulation, and that stipulation would be decided by spin of a “prize” wheel (a giant wheel with a number of various match stipulations ranging from blindfold match to bra and panties match). Early in the show, then Tag Team Champions Kane and Hurricane Helms (Team HurriKane) were told they would be the main event and (after spinning the wheel) would be competing in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. As the show went on, a backstage vignette showed Bischoff discussing who the opponent for the match would be. It seemed like he was discussing with one person whom he deemed a master of the TLC match, but as the camera panned back it was revealed he was discussing with Christian, Jeff Hardy and Bubba Ray Dudley. As the night went on, Christian went on to recruit Chris Jericho for his team, Jeff Hardy recruited Rob Van Dam, and finally Bubba Ray Dudley wanted to recruit his brother, but instead Spike Dudley insisted he join the team. With the teams now set, it seemed more likely that Team HurriKane would lose the titles. To make things worse, Evolution attacked Hurricane Helms before the match, thereby eliminating Helms from the equation, leaving Kane to defend the World Tag Team Titles alone in this four way TLC match.
The match was an amazing display of high spots. One after another, there were dozens of moments in this match that one could point to as applicable to a highlight reel. It could be Bubba Ray Dudley’s Bubba Bomb to Christian from the top of the ladder, Hardy’s leg drop to Kane on the outside, Christian flinging Spike to the outside onto a table, or even Chris Jericho getting dropped from the top of the ladder to the outside of the ring, this match had too much action for a regular Monday Night Raw match. In the end, the man who stood tall, was the “Big Red Monster” Kane. Without his tag partner, Kane alone withstood four of the WWE’s most seasoned TLC veterans to retain the Tag Team Titles, in an overall thrilling bout.
Other than being dubbed the best match of the first ten years of Raw in 2003, what makes this bout unique from every other match that happened so far in the history of Monday Night Raw, was that it was a high spot match, that literally materialized out of no where and was a television freindly hardcore match. First, TLC IV is a class of high spot match that would normally be seen only on large shows or pay per views. The fact that the last half hour of Monday Night Raw was dedicated to one match, let alone a match that featured hardcore elements and the Tag Team Titles as the main event, was definitely a big thing that set this match apart. Next, this match came out of no where. There was no prior announcement of this match the week before and the match literally built itself up until the time of the bout. You don’t see this kind of match formation in today’s WWE (unless, it’s a pay per view). Finally, the last reason this bout is so unique, is that it was a television freindly hardcore match. Today, you don’t really see any hardcore matches of this caliber on Monday Night Raw. Most hardcore matches on Raw today only feature one chair or one table spot, but this one featured dozens of weapon spots. Most importantly no blood was spilled in this match and also no chair shots were delivered to the head. For a match this wild, it’s pretty incredible that those two things didn’t occur. Overall, speaking for myself this match was the greatest in Monday Night Raw history. It built itself in one night and deilvered on all fronts.