On April 2, 2000, WWE held WrestleMania 16 – better known as WrestleMania 2000 – in Anaheim, California, headlined by a Fatal Four Way that saw four different WWE Superstars each cornered by a different member of the McMahon family in a battle for control of the WWE World Champion. Then-Champion Triple H had his girlfriend Stephanie McMahon in his corner, while The Rock was with Mr. McMahon, Mick Foley with Linda McMahon, and The Big Show paired with Shane McMahon. While the entire card is mostly forgotten in today’s climate, WrestleMania 2000 did produce one match that not only stands the test of time but changed the WWE – and pro wrestling – landscape. That came in the Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Tag Team titles that saw The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & Devon) defend their titles in a Ladder Match against The Hardy Boyz (Jeff & Matt Hardy) and Edge & Christian. It would be the first televised triple threat between the two and would set off a chain of matches that would help define what many consider one of the greatest eras of tag team wrestling in WWE history.
The Dudley Boyz had arrived in the WWF just nine months prior, having crossed over from ECW where they were 8x ECW World Tag Team Champions during a hellacious and violent career with the extreme promotion. They made their debut on WWF Sunday Night Heat on August 31, 1999, defeating the team of Stevie Richards & Blue Meanie. It wouldn’t be until September 20, 1999, that they would make their debut on Raw, where they defeated a young team known as the New Brood, featuring Jeff & Matt Hardy under the guidance of Gangrel. The Dudleyz would start facing all the tag teams in the WWF as they made their names known to a wider audience, facing The Acolytes (Farooq & Bradshaw), The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher), Kane & X-Pac, and more, until finally confronting another young team of Edge & Christian on the November 11, 1999, edition of Raw. Edge & Christian had only recently left Gangrel’s Brood (where they were replaced by the Hardyz) and were also looking to make it on their own. In February of 2000 at WWE No Way Out, the Dudleyz momentum finally brought them home gold, when they defeated the New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn) for their first WWE World Tag Team Championships.
Edge & Christian had been tag teams in the Canadian indies prior to joining the WWF in 1998 (as Sexton Hardcastle & Christian Cage), and the two were initially part of Gangrel’s vampiric trio The Brood. After being involved in the Undertaker‘s Ministry of Darkness storyline for much of 1999, Gangrel grew tired of Edge and turned on his disciple, expecting Christian to do the same. Instead, Christian turned on Gangrel and the duo split off on their own. Gangrel turned to the Hardy Boyz, who had become hot rivals for Edge & Christian since their first match-up on Shotgun Saturday Night in April of 1999. On September 7, 1999’s SmackDown, Edge & Christian had their first encounter with Gangrel’s New Brood-look Hardyz, a feud that boiled over into the Terri Runnels Invitational Tournament, as both teams fought for Runnels’ managerial services. Hardyz won Runnels and the next night they turned on Gangrel, making both tag teams faces together for the first time. Edge & Christian moved on from their rivals and began to get into the WWF Tag Team title hunt in early 2000, facing tag teams like D’Lo Brown & The Godfather, Kurt Angle & Steve Blackman, and The Acolytes.
The Hardy Boyz had arrived as a unit in late 1997, pre-dating both their rivals, but were relegated to mostly the C-shows like Shotgun Saturday Night and Sunday Night Heat, and often as an enhancement. This trend continued for all of 1998 and it wasn’t until the spring of 1999, when former Freebird Michael “PS” Hayes became the duo’s manager, guiding the new team to greater success – and onto Raw. Under Hayes’ guidance, they would come out flying – they would be the first of the three out of the Dudleyz and Edge & Christian to capture WWF tag team gold, defeating the Acolytes for the WWF World Tag Team titles on July 5, 1999. Their first reign was short-lived, as they would lose them back to the Acolytes just two weeks later at WWF Fully Loaded. That year saw the Hardyz go through three managerial changes – from Hayes to Gangrel to Terri Runnels – as WWF tried to find the perfect fit for this high-flying and exciting unit. By early 2000, it was apparent that the Hardyz were the future of the WWF tag team division. But what they needed – in fact, what all three teams in question needed – was a defining WWF moment that would ignite it all together. That moment finally arrived on April 2, 2000.
While The Hardyz had feuded with Edge & Christian in 1999, they had not had a proper storyline with the Dudleyz until early 2000. The two feuded through to Royal Rumble 2000, which had culminated in a tables match, which surprisingly the Hardy Boyz won. The next night on Raw, the Dudleyz seemingly turned faced, paying respect to the Hardy brothers and promising to help them defeat the New Age Outlaws that night for the WWF World Tag Team titles. But it was a ruse – during the match, the Dudleyz interrupted the winning three count, allowing the Outlaws to retain, and instead delivered a thunderous 3D to the Hardyz instead. This lead to the Dudleyz winning their first WWF tag team titles the following month, with them now heading to WrestleMania 2000 as the WWF World Tag Team Champions. But now the tables were set and following a no-contest battle royale to determine the #1 contenders for the WWF tag team titles, Edge & Christian and The Hardyz were both announced as the opponents for the Dudleyz’ titles in a ladder match on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
What resulted was a thing of magical beauty and a match that set a new tone for tag team wrestling in the WWF. Three hungry teams determined to be more than footnotes in the annuls of WWF history, the six men put on a classic match, cementing their legacy and giving Edge & Christian their first of seven reigns as WWE World Tag Team Champions. The Hardy Boyz would end up with eight WWE Tag Team title reigns, and the Dudley Boyz with nine, establishing all three as the greatest WWE tag teams of all time. The trio of teams were so hot together, that they fought again, in the first-ever Tables, Ladders, & Chairs match at SummerSlam 2000 and the following year at WrestleMania X-7 they topped the 2000 match with their TLC II match. But it all began 20 years ago in Anaheim, California when three teams collided at WrestleMania 2000.
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