Thursday, April 9, 2020

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 54: Best of WWE 2010-2014 (NXT, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, The Shield)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 54:
The Best of World Wrestling Entertainment 2010-2014

Objective:  Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at http://gweproject.freeforums.net/) into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.

Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.

Subject: This fifty-first volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the beginning of the Top 24 countdown of the best matches to take place in WWE between 2010-2014. This will be the first ever four part series in Pro Wrestling Love history! There has never been a better time to be a WWE fan than from 2012-2014 if you love in-ring action. In my opinion, 2013 is the best year wrestling-wise in the history of the company.  The year 2010 was a strange year for the WWE as the WWE lost a lot of this its essential support structure for John Cena. The year 2010 saw Shawn Michaels go into retirement, HHH & Undertaker went into semi-retirement, Batista & Jericho left and it was Edge's last full year. This left just John Cena and Randy Orton as main eventers by the end of 2010. The year 2010 saw a complete overhaul in the WWE main event scene. The key replacements came in the form of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan who were the new major minted main eventers during the first half of the 2010s. I selected the year 2014 as the end year because seems like the year they finally transitioned away from John Cena being The Man. The year 2015 seemed like the year Roman Reigns would begin his era but instead it has become more like the Brock Lesnar era, which I am not complaining about as a big Brock fanboy, but that's for a different blog.   You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at ridingspacemountain.blogspot.com. You can check out the full version of these reviews in ProWrestlingOnly.com by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.

Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram & ProWrestlingOnly.com.



Best of WWE 2010-2014 #18-#13

#18. William Regal vs Kassius Ohno - NXT 4/10/13

What is amazing to me is Regal had his career match in the last year of his career, but on his terms. Regal could have went out there with Hero and done a 2010s epic and had all the stars showered upon him, but they didn't. They stayed true to William Regal and had the best William Regal match they could. That's what really impresses me about this match. It is a match that is built around grit, struggle, violence and of course awesome facial expressions. The build is basic. Young gun calling the veteran not just washed up but a "never was" and now it is time for Regal to show his mettle.

As with most Regal matches, the devil is in the details. By "devil" I mean the way he dishes out the pain and punishment. The opening chain wrestling has a sneer and grit to it that most wrestlers forget. Of course, there are the cute moments like the mule kicks in the corner while the ref admonishes. "O my heavens, what do you mean, my good sir Im not mule kicking him in the testicles." It is a good spot in the shine because it is entertaining as it is violent. That's the match it is gritty. It is head shots, finger manipulation and chokes, not much in the way of highspots, but much in the way of high drama. The story of the match develops into Hero trying to disrupt Regal's equilibrium by kicking him in the ear a lot versus Regal trying to break every single one of Hero's finger. It is a brutal masterpiece of violence that is right up Regal's alley. Things that stood out to me. I loved how Regal got out of the full nelson...check that out. Hero is double jointed in one of his fingers and it is fucking gross. The only time they got me real bad was there. The number one thing stood out to me was Regal's glassy eyed look. It was so perfect. If I didnt know any better I really thought he was stone cold out. The finish run is great capper to the body of this match. Hero cant apply his cravat finish because his fingers are mangled. It becomes a stand up Knockout battle. Hero desperately tries to KO Regal gets one nearfall, but when he goes for the elbow, Regal pulls the trigger first and wipes him out. Regal Running Knee KO's KO!

Regal has had brutally violent matches with Finlay and Benoit. He has had scientific classics with Larry Z and Arn. This match combines the science with the brutality to create his ultimate masterpiece and one that truly is Regal in every sense of the word.

17. WWE Intercontinental Champion Luke Harper vs Dolph Ziggler - TLC 2014 Ladder 

Luke Harper may look like Bruiser Brody, but he wrestles like Stan Hansen and the world is a better place for it. He had a total disregard for Ziggler and his own welfare. Having watched wrestling for seventeen years now, it takes a lot to make me cringe, but repeatedly I was wincing in pain with each punishing blow. It was so violent and I even questioned if it was all worth it. I hope it will be because I thought this be HBK/Mankind match for Ziggler. Shawn Michaels needed the match with Foley to establish that he dish out the pain as well as he could take it. It is similar to how in the 80s pretty boy tag teams would be positioned in brutal fights with gnarly heels to show they were tougher than they look and earn credibility with the audience. To keep the Shawn Michaels thread going, matches like The Rockers versus Rose & Somers bloodbath in the AWA come to mind. If exploited properly, this can be that very match. It is so difficult in this day and age to be an asskicker and not come across as a cool babyface. Harper was able to tap into such an uncomfortable violence that he was booed heavily. Yes, eventually there was the obligatory "This Is Awesome" chant, but for the vast majority of the match the people cheered Ziggler and booed Harper. It helped a lot they were in Ziggler's hometown of Cleveland, but regardless, to see such an outpouring of emotion to cheer for one wrestler was so refreshing in this day of "appreciating the match" and other such hogwash.

On the rewatch, with a closer attention to detail, I realized how much Harper really destroyed Ziggler for the opening half of the match. It is a testament to Ziggler that when I was watching with my family that I really never felt like he was totally out of it and that he was always struggling. Too often he can rely on deadfish/pop-up selling, but here, I thought more often than not he kept it a competitive style of selling. Harper established the perfect pace for this brutal masterpiece. It never plodded, but they never rushed to the next spot. He was going to let that ladder just fall on Ziggler's head and then climb the ladder to retain his title. Those ladder timber spots were vicious especially the one that clipped Ziggler in the head. The most violent spot of the match was without a doubt the Harper suicide dive onto the ladder where he basically piledrove himself into a ladder. How he did not break his arms and/or be concussed was beyond me. I could barely watch. The Ziggler pop up and scramble up the ladder was perfect, because up until that point he had basically no offense and now the monster has basically impaled himself it was time to take advantage. It was great drama as the Creature from the Black Lagoon rose again and stopped him. Not to be topped Ziggler took some hellacious bumps like on a powerbomb onto a Ladder (the ladder did not break) and then being catapulted into the middle rope with the ladder around his head (concussion city and getting busted open). Ziggler breaking free of the doctors to stop Harper from climbing the ladder was an awesome moment.

This should not be lost in the shuffle, but the effort they put into this and how much they were willing to risk made the Intercontinental Championship feel like a big deal for the first time in forever. As I survey the damage, Ziggler is bleeding from the face and fingers while Harper is bleeding from all sort of odd places on his body. You really felt like whoever wins this demolition derby deserves it. Ziggler makes his grand comeback, but what's great is that it is not just one move. He has to keep beating Harper back, first it is a facebuster onto the ladder, then it is DDT off the ladder, then dropkicking the ladder into his face and finally the superkick off the ladder that wins ZIggler the match. The fact that it was Ziggler had to earn every single step by constantly hitting Harper with big shots really you made it feel like he could earn it.

Ziggler proved he could withstand the punishment doled out by one of WWE's most sadistic monsters. Harper made him earn this every step of the way delivering one of the most malevolent performances of the year. Harper gave as good as he got as proved by that suicide dive. For Ziggler, we see if the WWE exploits this newfound credibility as a tough, die hard son of a bitch. The negatives are slight. but apparent: Ziggler's punches still look like shit and they did lose a bit of steam towards the end as the spots got a bit more contrived. In terms of a violent spectacle, where the pretty boy babyface not just survived the monster, this match deserves to be ranked among the best ladder matches of all time.

#16. Cesaro vs Sami Zayn - NXT Arrival 2/27/14

NXT is where pro wrestling lives, baby! Where has this Cesaro been on the main roster? No, it is not completely booking's fault. I am taking that bully mentality and those violent heel tendencies. Cesaro is damn great wrestler, make no mistake about it, but he has the same problem that many midcard heels on the main roster have. They do NOT do anything heelish in the context of the match. This is why "This is awesome" is so prevalent because there can't be good without evil and no one is evil in the ring. On this night, Cesaro was a total, unmitigated, unadulterated prick. Zayn is the consummate babyface. He is the lovable underdog character that you believe can win, but know it is not going to be easy. You know he is going to leave it all in that ring and you will never be disappointed by Zayn win, lose or draw.


Watch the two out of three falls match first, before you watch this match. Ok, you watched it now, good. Unlike most modern WWE series of matches, this series actually builds layers on top of other matches. The only WWE series that comes close recently is Cena/Lesnar. The beginning of this match was probably my favorite beginning to any match of 2014. It was just so perfect. Zayn has proven from the previous matches that his best chance to elude Cesaro with his quickness, but now being familiar with Cesaro he is combining his natural elusiveness with actual scouting experience. Cesaro shows him up early with his power and gives him a playful slap to the back of the head that gets a rise out of everyone. Cesaro goes for the Giant Swing, but Zayn eludes it with a armdrag to the outside. Zayn goes flying out onto Cesaro and it is fastbreak offense that gets the crowd rocking. Cesaro nips in the bud by catching Zayn off the top and into a backbreaker. Cesaro is just in total bully prick mode throwing Zayn around on the outside and he looks to use the post, but Zayn yanks Cesaro into the post with his feet. Zayn looks to repeat his awesome dive through the turnbuckles, EUROPEAN UPPERCUT! HOLY SHIT! Cesaro had it scouted. Now, we get Cesaro going back to the post and wrapping around the post. Cesaro working the knee was incredible and some of his best work in the WWE. Zayn is killing it selling, but also mixing in hope spots. I loved the whiff on the enziguiri triggering the single leg crab. I love sequences like that. His next spot was for Zayn was his split legged moonsault caught by Cesaro and slams him into the ramp. Damn! That was actually credible countout finish tease and you really feel Zayn's grit and determination to return to the ring.


Zayn's first big score is the Exploder into the turnbuckles. I agreed that Zayn needed to get hit some offense at this point in the match, but I thought it was a bit too easy for Zayn and felt more like it was his turn than him earning it. Cesaro goes back to the knee to cut off Zayn’s string of offense and applying a leg wrench using his neck as a fulcrum. Then you move to another interesting aspect of the characters. Cesaro starts to get a little cocky and Zayn takes advantage with roll up out of the Giant Swing. I love how Zayn fights during the Swing; it really makes for an awesome visual and puts over Zayn’s character. During a sloppy Cesaro cover Zayn slides Cesaro over for a two count. Cesaro almost more pissed at himself for letting that happened, crushes Zayn’s head with a double spot that had me popping like crazy. Zayn has another burst of offense using a hurricanarana off the top to set up his Yakuza Kick (I could not understand what Zayn’s name for it is.). Zayn won the first fall of the last match with that move. 1-2-NO! OH shit, you just gave Cesaro your best shot and that has to take a lot of wind out of your sails. Cesaro starts to obliterate with European Uppercuts and Zayn is just rocked, but won’t stay down. Zayn has one last burst of burst and the fists start flying. He throws a wicked German. Can he pull it off? I love Zayn’s selling with him holding his mouth, fighting through the pain and showing great fire looking for that Yakuza Kick, but Cesaro demolishes him with a big boot. Cesaro throw him up and European Uppercut only get one, but Cesaro will not be deterred and hits a roaring European Uppercut and Neutralizer for the win!


Zayn and Cesaro just crushed it out there. If there is any NXT match as good as this, then hot damn I am going to be in for one helluva run. Cesaro showed some of his best character work here as an arrogant bully. Zayn’s story of craving that respect and proving himself by defeating the main event bully made for a great hook. He fought to the very end, but eventually succumbed to Cesaro. Then Cesaro comes back to the ring and gives him that respect in the form of a hug. This is a perfect representation of how to get someone over by losing. Everyone came out looking better from this masterpiece.

#15. Antonio Cesaro vs Sami Zayn - NXT 08/21/13 2 Out of 3 Falls

For my money, Cesaro has his masterpiece of his 2013 campaign against Sami Zayn (if you are like me and have trouble keeping straight all the WWE rebranding, Zayn is El Generico) on NXT in a blowoff to a series of four matches. I went in totally cold to this match and was only aware of it because places like the Wrestling Culture podcast pimped it so heavily. I believe that all matches are helped when placed in context, but in a testament to this match's greatness it is bitchin' even in a vacuum. Part of that is due to the announcers doing their job (fancy that!) and explaining that Cesaro is a pompous prick and had called anyone out of the locker room and Zayn responded and got a fluke win. In order to negate this flash pin scenario, they are having 2 out Of 3 Falls match to prove who is the better wrestler (fancy that a feud over who is the better wrestler!). Zayn's strategy from the outset is very similar to Ziggler's. It is full court press suffocation of Cesaro. He immediately dives onto Cesaro when he is making his entrance and then whips him in hits a Yakuza Kick in the corner and wins the first fall. This plays off perfectly the first match and demonstrates why Cesaro has requested 2 out of 3 falls because he falls prey to flash pins. Also, it establishes Zayn's strategy of suffocating Cesaro. Cesaro tries coming at Zayn and rolling away, but neither strategy gets anything going for Cesaro However, it only takes a couple of minutes before Cesaro is finally able to hotshot Zayn and just lay in some wicked shots.

Cesaro has one of the best chinlocks since the 80s because of they way he grips and sells it, but it is Zayn who really makes it by how hard he is fighting the chinlock by trying to break up Cesaro's grip. It is how many moves you have or what moves you do. It is how you do your moves that is what these two proved by making the chinlock an interesting point of the match. It makes sense that Cesaro wants to sap the energy of the dynamo, Zayn and contain him while he is rejuvenates. In some of his main show WWE matches, Cesaro is a bit too neutral. He wrestles sort of like a puro wrestler where face and heel lines blur, but here he really embraces his heelishness and just treats Zayn like a punk. Of course, Zayn shows him up on some of his strongman's spots like countering the gutwrench into a sunset flip. I have to say two of my favorite Cesaro spots (maybe someone has done it before) was the bridging fall away slam and the superplex with the opponent on the apron, just very impressive visuals. Zayn seems like he is going to mount a comeback with a dropkick, but Cesaro wrangles him in a chinlock swings him around and Zayn has no choice, but to tap.

The third fall is the perfect climax to the story of Cesaro's strength versus Zayn's elusiveness. If Cesaro can catch Zayn, Zayn is dead in the water, but if Zayn can wriggle free he has a shot. Cesaro follows up his second fall win with a huge European upper cut in the corner and he trash talks Zayn. It becomes a war of chinlocks versus rollups and it is high drama throughout. Zayn mounts his big comeback hitting this crazy powerbomb that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Cesaro powders, but Zayn does not let up and dives through the turnbuckles to hit a tornado DDT on the floor. Holy shit, the kid might just pull this one off! They tease the countout victory. Back in the ring, Zayn goes for the tornado DDT again, then there is a finish to end all finishes with Cesaro running around and tossing Zayn up into an European Uppercut to win. This is a truly incredible match that embodies everything that makes wrestling great: Bully vs underdog, Strength vs. speed, struggle, playing off early matches, great build, bitchin' spots, awesome layout and a tremendous finish.

#14. The Shield vs The Brothers Rhodes w/Dusty Rhodes - WWE Battleground 2013 Non-Title

Unless he gives an even better performance on the following night, this has to be Cody's career performance. I have nothing against Cody. He is a solid worker. He is a bit bland. He is a bit mechanical. He thinks too much. On this night with teaming with his big brother for the first time, with his father in his corner and fighting for his career and the Rhodes family legacy, he let it all hang out and left it all in the ring in an awesome emotional performance. A lot of the focus of this match, I feel was given to Goldust and his incredible comeback story. I don't want to take away for that. For Goldust to comeback and be the best hot tag in wrestling and one of best workers in the world at the end of year is nothing short of miraculous. This match belonged to Cody and his urgency.

The match starts how it should start with the Rhodes ripshit about their treatment at the hands of The Authority and opening a can of whoop-ass on The Shield. For those not up to speed, The Authority threw their weight around and got Cody fired because he could not beat WWE Champion Randy Orton and then Dustin failed to win Cody's job back. So now they have one last shot to win their jobs back against the Tag Champs and the most dominant faction in wrestling, The Shield. Rollins actually pulls Reigns out of the ring to regroup and reset the match by challenging Dusty to a fight. This gives us that great visual of the Three Rhodeses squaring off against The Shield. The battlelines are drawn the best damn three man team in the WWE against one of the most proud wrestling families. Give Cole credit, when he pointed out the Rhodes cant let the emotions get carried away and thus get DQ'd, which really establishes the gravity of this match. However, it was that emotion that cost Cody the advantage because Rollins was able to suddenly drop him on his head into the middle turnbuckle (that move really needs a name). I love The Shield take after Mark Henry and love to lay the badmouth on their opponents during a match. Dean Ambrose was excellent with "Make his dad feel it! Make his sister feel it! Make his mother feel it!" and here come the "We Want Goldust". It is hot in Buffalo tonight! Cody moonsault! Hot tag to Goldust and he moves around better than 90% than the roster, which he is 15-20 years older than. In another shocking twist to this match, Reigns actually out-bumped Rollins in this match. He was making Goldust look like a million bucks. However, in a classic Dustin bump, he whiffs on the cross body and crashes to the outside.Wait are we in St. Paul in 1982 tonight? Because get ready for a double face in peril muthafuckas! They tease a countout loss and the Shield and the commentary team were so great at milking this. One of the best countout teases by the WWE in a long time. Rollins busts out the old Eddie splash over the ropes for two. Buffalo loves them some Goldust and I cant blame them he is kicking some ass selling for the Shield. Powerslam from Goldie and here comes Cody. Cody is a house of fire. Springboard dropkick. Spinning Alabama Slamma. MuscleBuster. He is pissed and kicking ass who is this Cody Rhodes!?!?!?!??!?! Then in the segment we were all waiting for: Dusty takes off his belt whips Ambrose and the delivers the Bionic Elbow. The crowd pops huge! Reigns looks to crush the American Dream, but Goldust tackles him outta nowhere. Cody grabs Rollins and hit CROSSRHODES! 1! 2! 3! The Rhodes family celebrates as the crowd goes wild.

How bitchin' was that whole affair. Proof positive that fundamental, badass pro wrestling transcends time. You noticed how there were "This is Awesome" chants that is because people were not popping for moves or the matches. They were chanting for the babyfaces who had been wronged and were getting their retribution. That is how wrestling should be. When you deliver a story people can actually sink their teeth into they wont worry about Flying Space Tiger Drops and Miracle Ecstasy Bombs they will invest themselves in the characters, their motivations, and their actions. Cody and Goldust wrestled like they were fighting for their livelihoods and the crowd returned in kind. Too often in wrestling, there is a disconnect between the story and the match, but here everyone understood their role and kicked ass. Goldust delivered a performance that is the reason he is still on the roster to this day. They highlighted Cody by giving that last hot tag spot taking us home to the finish and he delivered in spades. But wait they might have won back their jobs, but the Shield still has the Tag Titles...

#13. NXT Champion Adrian Neville vs Sami Zayn - NXT Takeover REvolution 12/11/14

NXT crowds are far from perfect, but for this match they were undoubtedly perfect. This match goes from a normal MOVEZ~! match to a great match and a star-making performance for Sami Zayn because this crowd was totally invested in the Sami Zayn character. They also proved me wrong. The past couple of years my confidence had been shaken that babyfaces could exist in this cynical, jaded wrestling climate. When Sami Zayn had the chance to blast Neville with the championship belt, they all chanted "NO!" in unison throughout the segment. They cared about how Zayn won the match and that meant a lot to me. It restored my faith that real babyfaces can still exist in this world. The pop for his victory would have been the feel good moment of the year if not for the amazing Daniel Bryan story that began the year.

The match also represented something that I personally fear the growing homogenization of American and Japanese wrestling. The match felt like a very good Pro Wrestling NOAH main event circa 2009, more than a big time WWE match. You had these moves alone: Split Leg Asai Moonsault, Kawada Kicks, a convoluted Blue Thunder Bomb, Koji Clutch (called by the announcer as that!), Dragonrana, Half Nelson Suplex, and Exploder into the turnbuckles. Of course, the most telling sign was the strike exchange. It was such a barrage of moves that I felt that the humanity of the match sometimes was stripped from it. The Zayn story was sometimes lost in getting to next spot. Kudos to the crowd for never faltering and always making this about Zayn with their constant exhorting of Zayn and Ole Chants. Besides the finish, I liked the beginning of the match the most because it exploited the more interesting parts of the story: Zayn's confidence and crowd dynamics.

Neville was doing all the little things to mitigate Zayn's crowd advantage and stop him from getting out of the gates hot. The chain wrestling was very entertaining and a great way to bottle Zayn up. Then he would get into his heads with the front handsprings to show him up. Neville gets too cocky is caught with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Zayn goes on that early fast break run with a split leg Asai moonsault. There is a weak transition that allows Neville to get back on top. Again, Neville is bottling Zayn's excitement up with a reverse chinlock and kneedrops to the face. Again, Neville cocky hits some playful kicks to the face before the Kawada Kicks. Zayn hits a nice swandive to the outside. I liked how Zayn was not letting Neville breathe and forced his advantage. After this, it got a little move trade-y. The setup for the Powerbomb was lifting from Japanese in a very good way. I liked how Neville had to use a forearm sledge, withstand a Zayn counter, and kick him in the head to hit the powerbomb. That is pro wrestling at its best, having to earn that move. As much as I may be complaining, I marked out for the DRANGONRANA~! I just think it would have looked even cooler if it was not surrounded with other standard big spots.

The ref bumps were perfect and returned the match back to the story. The crowd was on point telling Zayn to not worry about the ref only to eat a thrust kick and the Dragonrana. The crowd was so pumped for that kick out. Then again during the aforementioned "Should I blast him with the belt or not?". The crowd pleading with Zayn not to do it only for Neville to sneak in with the roll up. These were great false finishes. Zayn winning with the Yakuza Kick was a spectacular moment after not being able to win the big one during his career. He pulled out all the spots in this one and still held himself to his moral code. It was nice to see fellow Quebecois, Kevin Steen (now Kevin Owens) and Pat Patterson celebrate with him. Even Nevilled embraced Zayn. However, just as they were going off the air, supposed best friend Kevin Owens threw Zayn down on the back of his head on the ramp and then brutally powerbombed him on the apron (that's just Indy, :) ). I thought these NXT shows needed a big angle to hook you into the next show and this was perfect. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 53: Best of WWE 2010-2014 (Mark Henry, Undertaker, John Cena)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 53:
The Best of World Wrestling Entertainment 2010-2014

Objective:  Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at http://gweproject.freeforums.net/) into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.

Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.

Subject: This fifty-first volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the beginning of the Top 24 countdown of the best matches to take place in WWE between 2010-2014. This will be the first ever four part series in Pro Wrestling Love history! There has never been a better time to be a WWE fan than from 2012-2014 if you love in-ring action. In my opinion, 2013 is the best year wrestling-wise in the history of the company.  The year 2010 was a strange year for the WWE as the WWE lost a lot of this its essential support structure for John Cena. The year 2010 saw Shawn Michaels go into retirement, HHH & Undertaker went into semi-retirement, Batista & Jericho left and it was Edge's last full year. This left just John Cena and Randy Orton as main eventers by the end of 2010. The year 2010 saw a complete overhaul in the WWE main event scene. The key replacements came in the form of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan who were the new major minted main eventers during the first half of the 2010s. I selected the year 2014 as the end year because seems like the year they finally transitioned away from John Cena being The Man. The year 2015 seemed like the year Roman Reigns would begin his era but instead it has become more like the Brock Lesnar era, which I am not complaining about as a big Brock fanboy, but that's for a different blog.   You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at ridingspacemountain.blogspot.com. You can check out the full version of these reviews in ProWrestlingOnly.com by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.

Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram & ProWrestlingOnly.com.


HALL OF PAIN~!
Honorable Mentions

Mark Henry vs Big Show - Money In The Bank 2011
Mark Henry vs Sheamus - Summerslam 2011
World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs Daniel Bryan - Smackdown 11/4/11
World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs Daniel Bryan - Smackdown 11/11/11
World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs Big Show - Survivor Series 2011
World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs Daniel Bryan - Smackdown 11/29/11 Steel Cage
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs Big Show - Smackdown 1/6/12
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs The Big Show - Smackdown 1/13/13 No DQ
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs Mark Henry - SD! 1/20/12 Lumberjack
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs Mark Henry vs Big Show - Royal Rumble 2012 Steel Cage Match
WWE Champion John Cena vs Mark Henry - Money In The Bank 2013

The Hall of Pain run in all its reigning glory! Mark Henry went from fast forward material to going on one of the single greatest runs in the history of pro wrestling. His trash talkin', mean muggin', asskickin' ways made all his promos and matches credible. Three matches from the Hall of Pain run make the Top 24, but I wanted to make sure everything from the amazing three-way feud with Daniel Bryan and Big Show is covered. Starting with Okada/Omega, Meltzer has started rating what he believes to be really great matches as Six Stars again (there is precedent from the All Japan 90s days of him going to six stars). In my opinion, they only thing that is ever worthy of six stars is the Mark Henry fake retirement promo. It really tugs on the heartstring, when he tells his daughter that daddy is coming home it always gets me and then for him to turn on John Cena right now is just the best. It is just so pro wrestling and I love it!

Shawn Michaels vs Rey Mysterio - Smackdown 1/29/10
Two of the all-time greats that really never crossed paths much as Shawn was marching to retirement in a couple months. He must have realized he had not wrestled Rey since the Eddie tribute and wanted to get a match in and this was a great match that should be talked about more.

John Cena vs The Rock - WrestleMania XXVIII
The main event of the first WrestleMania I ever attended. Live, I remember thinking it was just ok. However, watching it back a couple times since I have always thought this was great. One of the best Clash of the Titans, Megastar vs Megastar match. This match where I think Cena finally transcended wrestling and really became a Megastar.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan -
WrestleMania XXX

The greatest feel-good ending to a WrestleMania! At the end of WrestleMania XXX you really feel like WWE is headed into another golden age with The Shield, Wyatt Family, Cesaro and with Daniel Bryan at the helm and unfortunately that was completely desolated by the summer.

Antonio Cesaro vs Sheamus - Main Event 06/05/13
Sheamus vs Cesaro - Smackdown 6/14/13
Antonio Cesaro vs William Regal - NXT 12/25/13
John Cena vs Cesaro w/Real Americans - RAW 2/17/14
Speaking of the awesomeness of Cesaro, here are three amazing Cesaro matches from 2013. The year 2013 is amazing and there are probably so many great TV matches I have not seen, but you should track down as much Cesaro from 2013 because he was so great. Also anytime Cesaro vs Sheamus hook it up, you know it going to be great. The WWE's hoss division was on fire during 2013.

NXT Champion Paige vs Emma - NXT Arrival 2/27/14
In my opinion, this is the first great WWE women's match, not Charlotte vs Nattie and this should be remembered fondly as kicking off American wrestling fans and WWE management taking women's wrestling seriously.

World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs Christian - WWE Over The Limit 2011
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan - Extreme Rules 2012 2 out of 3 Falls
CM Punk vs The Undertaker - WrestleMania XXIX 
WWE Champion John Cena vs Daniel Bryan - Summerslam 2013
Why I put these four matches together is that I think most wrestling fans would rate these matches in their Top 24, but for whatever reason they just don't hit that mark for me. I think they are great matches and I enjoyed matching them (Punk vs Taker, I got to see in person!), BUT they just don't kick me the ass the same way the Top 24 do.

The Shield vs Ryback, John Cena, Sheamus - WWE Elimination Chamber 2013
WWE World Tag Champs Brothers Rhodes vs The Shield vs. The Usos - Hell In A Cell 2013
John Cena w/Mark Henry & Big E. vs Seth Rollins w/The Shield - Smackdown! 12/27/13
The Shield vs Wyatt Family - WWE RAW 3/3/14
Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins - RAW 8/18/14 Falls Count Anywhere
The Shield were a huge breath of fresh air upon their arrival in late 2012. Their chaotic swarming, havoc full court press style is unlike anything seen in WWE and maybe anywhere in pro wrestling. Their tag team matches became must see television with every match being organic and dripping with urgent. This is just a small sampling of the greatness of The Shield.

World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler vs Alberto Del Rio - Payback 2013
Two wrestlers that I would not expect to have a classic together were Ziggler and Del Rio. Ziggler was never meant to be a El Hijo De Senor Perfecto, he should have been Ricky Morton Jr. selling his ass off in a face in peril segments. His selling is sublime. Del Rio is such an inconsistent. He is more miss than hit, but he hits, he hits hard. This match is built around Ziggler's concussion and its damn near perfect for they are trying to do.

WWE Champion John Cena vs Batista - Extreme Rules 2010 Last Man Standing
This is the great match of their three-match series that served as a sendoff for Batista. Batista was positioned as Cena's equal in 2005, but it became apparent by 2006 and especially by 2007 that John Cena was The Man and Batista was always going to be below him so it made since for him to leave. He had major feuds with pretty much every main eventer at the time and the only one left was Cena. Their best match is the one-off from Summerslam 2008, but this is also a great watch.

CM Punk vs Rey Mysterio - Over The Limit 2010 Hair vs SXE Pledge
The height of the Straight Edge Society and CM Punk's great gimmick as a hardline leader of an anti-alcohol, anti-drug stable. Punk vs Mysterio is an overlooked great feud and this is their best match together.

WWE US Champion The Miz vs Daniel Bryan - WWE Night of Champions 2010
WWE Champion The Miz vs John Morrison - RAW 1/3/11 Falls Count Anywhere
Contrary to popular belief, Miz did have great matches before 2016 and here is the proof. The Bryan vs Miz match from 2010 is a great blowoff to their NXT mentor/student angle, which was just so genius to have Bryan be Miz's protege to raise the dander of all the Daniel Bryan fans. The Miz vs Morrison is another feather in the cap of Morrison as he has another great in a style that seemingly not conducive for these two to have a great match. Neither man is considered violent, BUT Morrison actually is violent and Miz is a great chickenshit so it works out well.

WWE Champion Rey Mysterio vs John Cena - RAW 7/25/11
WWE Champion CM Punk vs Interim WWE Champion John Cena - Summerslam 2011 
WWE Champion CM Punk vs John Cena - WWE Night of Champions 2012
Cena vs Punk had two high-profile matches that did not make my Top 24, which speaks more to the greatness of this era moreso than a slight to these matches which I rated both at ****1/2. The Summerslam match is overlooked in favor of the Money In The Bank because the LA crowd is not as raucous as Chicago (MITB '11 Chicago crowd may be the most raucous American crowd of all time) and also the finish with Kevin Nash's return and Del Rio's cash-in leaves a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. The Night of Champions match builds the foundation for the excellent RAW match as a match that is built around scouting and defensive wrestling. Cena vs Mysterio is often overlooked great match between two of the all-time greats that only had one match together. It was so great to see them mix it up AND also have a great match to boot.

Brock Lesnar vs Triple H - Extreme Rules 2013 Steel Cage
WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena vs Brock Lesnar - Summerslam 2014
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs John Cena - Night of Champions 2014
As a big Brock fanboy, I have been over the moon how well his run since 2012 has gone. The Summerslam 2014 match is famous. I think it is a ***** angle, but it is more than angle than a match and I would rather highlight other great matches than this. Much like the Summerslam 2011 match, the subsequent Night of Champions 2014 rematch is forgotten in part due to an imbecilic run-in by Seth Rollins but it is also an excellent match. Finally, everyone remembers the Brock Lesnar vs HHH feud for the egg they laid at WrestleMania XXIX and trust me I was there live in New York and the match sucked and I watched it back and it still sucked. However, the other two matches were excellent and as you can see only one of those two matches are listed, indicating that yes, my beloved Summerslam 2012 made the Top 24 matches of this era.

WWE Champion CM Punk vs Mark Henry - RAW 4/2/12
My last cut and it pains me to do it, but I had to. It made my Top 100 WWF/E matches of all time, but in this case I could add two 2013 NXT matches that weren't allowed in that voting. In fact that I think about it, I should add those two matches to my final list hosted on this site. This meant I had to cut this match. I loved this match so much while it was happening that I called my brother up and we watched it together in real time and marked out. That's how good it was. Mark Henry's trash talk was ***** in this match and we should gotten mic'd up Mark Henry every night.


Top 24 Matches of WWE 2010-2014

#24. World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs Big Show - Vengeance 2011

I love these two together. The video package before this is amazing. Great emotional babyface return promo by Big Show. Then Mark Henry doesn't want to give him a match so Big Show chokeslams him through a table and hits with a chair. Fuck yeah! Big Show starts off red hot and has Mark Henry reeling. Henry wants his title to go home. Big Show gets him back in the ring and Mark Henry hits a flying chop block. BIG BODYSLAM BY MARK HENRY! Good leg work. I like that once Big Show gets out he cant hold Mark Henry's weight. They have a great slugfest on their knees which means they are about Rey Mysterio's height. Damn! Big Show gets the best of it. Look at Mark Henry BUMP N FEED for Big Show. Look I love respecting size and all that but you got to be impressed by Mark Henry there. Plus he is the smaller man in the match. That's always mind blowing when Mark Henry is the smaller man. Big Show HUGE BODYSLAM on the Worlds Strongest Man! He is calling for the Chokeslam, Bang, 1-2-NO! Awesome. Mark Henry gets the Worlds Strongest Slam for two. Mark Henry is incredulous. He thinks to himself the only way to top it is go to the top. CHOKESLAM OFF THE TOP! HOLY SHIT! 1-2-NO! What are they going to have do to finish each other off? Big Show now goes to the top...Mark Henry meets him...No...NO...OH MY GOD...THEY BROKE THE GODDAMN RING!!! The crowd lost their fucking shit for that. This was a great super heavyweight slugfest and the finish run was really well done but that finish puts it over the top. Best pure superheavyweight match of all time!

#23. World Heavyweight Champion Undertaker vs Rey Mysterio - Royal Rumble 2010

Terrific David vs Goliath match! Reminds me how great both wrestlers are but especially the Undertaker. So much of this match hinges on him. How giving he is? Hoes does he set up Rey's offense? How does he respect the size differential but not make it a squash? I think Taker registered a perfect note. The way he tries to back Rey into corner with his gargantuan presence. The fear you feel for Rey Rey. The looming dread marching forth. Rey gets a flurry and then Taker just hurls him over the top rope to the floor. Treating him like a gnat. Great way to establish the size difference mattering. Rey switches up his strategy and want to use a springboard. Make sense. Taker punches him right out of the sky. Awesome! Loved the Rey rana counter to the chokeslam into the 619 attempt. Taker catches looking for a Tombstone and Rey busts up Taker's nose real good plenty of blood with some knees. Didn't Rey break Taker's orbital bone? Rey really has it out for the Deadman. Taker is always cutting Rey off with his power and his strikes. Again he sets up Rey's offense by using a missed move going for a big boot but posting himself. Allowing Rey to get in hope spots like a dropkick to the leg against post or the Asai Moonsault. This is a masterful performance by both men. Taker is just manhandling him, but again Rey dropkicks him on the Zombie Situp (why did no one else think of that???) and then the springboard splash. Great nearfall! Taker is bleeding profusely. I thought the finish was great with Rey avoiding the Last Ride. Hitting a 619, springboard dropkick to back for another 619 but when he goes for the West Coast Pop Taker catches and gives him a HUGE LAST RIDE! Absolute perfect David vs Goliath match by two of the greatest of all time. I am really glad I watched this. Forgot how damn good Undertaker was at this point.

#22. King Sheamus vs John Morrison - TLC 2010 Ladder Match

First and foremost, this match ruled! You will note neither man is champion so what is hanging above the ring. A clipboard! Yes, a clipboard to be No. 1 Contender, not exactly the coolest thing ever. Sheamus is coming off a 10 month main event run against Cena, Orton & HHH. At this point, WWE was moving onto Wade Barrett & The Miz. They did not shunt Sheamus into midcard hell and instead they kept him warm by having him win a King of the Ring Tournament, which allowed him to wear a cool crown to the ring and let people know he is still important. The way the IC & US titles were being booked this was the better option. They feuded him with Morrison as a means to elevate both guys. Morrison was in an interesting position. WWE lost a lot of maine event talent in 2010 (Batista, Shawn Michaels, HHH, Jericho) and the remaining main event talent was all babyfaces (Cena, Orton, Edge, Rey & Taker). So WWE needed heels, which is why Sheamus, Swagger, Kane, Barrett & Miz were all being pushed. Morrison as an up coming babyface was actually in a less fortunate spot being behind five heavy hitters. But enough about booking, lets talk about how great this match is.

John Morrison is way better than I remembered. I always thought he was a nancy boy like Kofi Kingston, but this dude hits hard and his spots actually look like they hurt because he is hurling his entire body at Sheamus. I thought the shine was really good. Lots of Morrison flying into your screen from crazy angles and just wiping Sheamus out. I really liked the test of strength over the ladder and how Morrison won and hit a crazy flip dive on Sheamus. Sheamus was great establishing that he is a bully but one that is being thwarted by speed. Then the heat segment happened and I remembered why I love pro wrestling. Morrison set up the ladder in a stupid spot and this was the only notable issue with the match is they kept setting the ladder up in stupid places. The spots for the most part were great just wish the set up was better. Ok enough complaining. So they do the spot where Morrison's knee is caught in the ladder. Sheamus then TIPS THE LADDER OVER!!! OH MY GOD! Sheamus then absolutely destroys the knee for like the next five minute. Great violence. Morrison is so great being this tenacious competitor coming back grabbing the ankle or the ladder. I liked the one time he kicked the ladder away from Sheamus just a little bit. Sheamus just started beating the piss out of him. I think my favorite spot was when Sheamus used the ladder was a lever to extend the pressure of a single leg crab and then slam the ladder on the back of Morrison's leg. I thought the Morrison comeback was really well done. It was all about headshots to Sheamus. Tripping Sheamus into the ladder, a kick to the head. Ringing Sheamus' bell while also selling the leg. The dueling ladders is when they really got the crowd into it. Morrison really ROARED with a comeback here winning the battle and hitting a big clothesline to send Sheamus out of the ring. I loved Sheamus coming back in with a Brogue Kick to the bad leg sending Morrison flying off the ladder. There were some great "nearfalls" for both Sheamus and Morrison. I liked how Morrison would actually grab the contract and have Sheamus knock him off. Made it seem so close. Since the beginning of the match they set up a ladder across the apron of the ring and the announce table. Terrible setup and execution of the spot. Definitely a low-point. I thought the actual finish was great. They used the Parkoor background of Morrison to ricochet off the rope while on the ladder into a wicked kick before grabbing the contract. With the Miz as champion and their history as a tag team this made perfect booking sense.

To me this was a modernized version of the Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon II classic. Just excellent knee psychology from the vicious Sheamus attack, the great selling of Morrison throughout and a smart, well-designed comeback. Where this gets hurts just a tad is how the spots were set up and that lame spot at the end where Sheamus goes through a ladder. Small complaints watch this match as it is just killer pro wrestling. 2010 is an incredibly weak year for pro wrestling globally this has a pretty damn good chance to be Match of the Year for 2010.

#21. WWE Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett vs Sheamus - Main Event 5/29/13

This has to be Wade Barrett’s career match right? Holy flying fuck this was awesome! I really need to re-watch Sheamus vs Cesaro from Main Event because I think this maybe even better. Hard-hitting, stiff brutal contest with a bomb-trading finish run and an insane finish. I loved Sheamus taking everything Barrett and hitting him twofold so he has to powder. Most impactful back heel trip ever by Sheamus. Look at those knee lifts by Sheamus in order to hit a Suplex. I love knee lifts. So manny great kneelifts. Barrett bum rushes Sheamus on a criss Cross sending him over the top rope and Sheamus whacks his funny bone. Sheamus sells like a champ. Barrett spends the entire middle third trying to knock Sheamus’ head off in unique and brutal ways. Sheamus is is peppering in hard, stiff hope spots and Barrett is snuffing every rally almost immediately with wicked shots of his own. Everything is so urgent! This is pro wrestling! Sheamus just says fuck it and basically hits Barrett so fucking hard he can’t cut him off. This is match that got over on stiffness and struggle. Not nearfalls! They actually chanted “This Is Awesome”. Insane. Then they traded Bombs but everything was convincing and made sense. These two have deep Arsenals. White Noise, Battering Ram, Cloverleaf, Beats of the Balrog, Irish Curse Backbreaker vs Mule Kick, Blackhole Slam, and Wasteland. The way they did the finish with both men charging and who could pull the trigger on the killshot was fucking epic! Loved this to death! Sleeper pick for WWE MOTY for 2013 watch it and weep manly tears of joy!

P.S. Redman Report WWE MOTY 2013 Countdown is the greatest list ever Made. 

#20. The Undertaker vs Triple H - WrestleMania XVII

The beginning of the match was truly something interesting and dare I say innovative. I'd call it highspot brawling. I'd never seen it really done up until this point. They were doing brawling highspots but with minimal brawling in between. It was war of attrition style brawling centered around big time highspots. I really liked how everything was set up as a counter. I think in current wrestling there are too many hits. Each of the wrestlers have BIG TIME Irish Whips that set then up for wanting to do announce table spots. Each time, they thwarted in dramatic fashion. First HHH tackling Undertaker into a Cole Mine explosion and then HHH taking a hellacious back drop off the announce table. The first person to hit a big time offensive move is Undertaker hits his suicidal tope which I am such a mark for. Then it is right back to the counters as HHH hits a Spinebuster to a running Undertaker through an announce table. This ends Act I. I thought this was really lean, mean highspot-oriented wrestling. 

I think Act II was where they dragged but it was necessary to get to Act III. Act II is the worst excesses of Pro Wrestling NOAH with none of its connective tissue. I can at least dig the escalation. Chokeslam vs Spinebuster. Chair is introduced by HHH but used against him. Pedigree vs Last Ride. I will say HHH's moves were better set up because they were true counters and had desperation to them. Tombstone ->1-2-NO! HHH DDTs on the Chair and that sets Pedigree #2. I think the selling especially from the Undertaker was really good in this stretch. He sold how incredulous he was that HHH would not stay down and then sold being concussed really well. This ends Act II and now we go to Act III. 

What separates Pedigree #3 from Pedigree #2 is we all believed Pedigree #3 actually had a chance of winning the match. Now we have entered the part of the match where we actually believe a finish can happen. This is also perhaps the greatest use of WWE Masterpiece Theatre. I think Savage vs Warrior is better, but this is pretty damn great. Undertaker's selling is fucking off the charts. Some of the best selling of all time. He totally has the Old Gunslinger going to out in a Blaze of Glory at the OK Corral down pat. HHH was great at being the remorseless asshole that was basically willing to kill this man dead to win the match. Chairshots were brutal, a protected chair shot to the head. That moment when Undertaker reaches up to choke HHH and HHH does NOT sell. Damn how good was that. How many times have we seen Undertaker use his other worldy powers to vanquish his opponent at the last second. Not today says HHH. Great example of how no selling can be such an effective tool. From there Undertaker has to pull himself up by the ropes. He is staggered on jelly legs with his fists balled up. My God, we are seeing the Undertaker...vulnerable. Fucking brilliant. HHH slashes the throat and hoists him up for the Tombstone nails it! Man Alive that place went fucking nuts! HHH sold it so well. This prompts HHH to get the sledgehammer which is great escalation. Undertaker, The Undertaker, is on his back squirming for the bottom rope trying to pull himself to safety. He is like a giant version of Ricky Morton. Holy shit, selling to another level. Taker gets him in Hell's Gate. Great sell job by Triple H, loved the last ditch pick up of Sledgehammer only to drop it again and then go unconscious. What a finish!

Bonus points for Undertaker's after the match. It is very telling Triple H gets to his feet first and walks away first, while Undertaker lays motionless for quite sometime before collapsing off the apron to the floor in a powerful moment. Then they have to cart the Deadman away up the ramp. Wow! Talk about vulnerability and putting the story over!

Some of the best character acting in pro wrestling history! They take you on a journey through selling that is sublime. The middle drags this down and does not make sense as the brawling spots were higher end than the middle. That's nitpicking that ending is the cinematic journey that Shawn Michaels always wanted to take you on.

#19. World Heavyweight Champion The Big Show vs Alberto Del Rio - Smackdown 1/11/13 Last Man Standing Match

Where the hell has this Alberto Del Rio and where did he go? I have always thought Del Rio was mercurial. One week, he would be intense, passionate and urgent. Now the next week, he would look listless, bored, going through the motions and looking he would rather be anywhere else in the world. I thought he squandered a surefire amazing heel gimmick as the Mexican Million Dollar Man mixed with a little of Randy Orton's Legacy/Destiny gimmick based on Del Rio being second generation. Here he looked like an amazing babyface. His selling was off the charts great, definitely his strong point in this match. I really liked how scrappy and plucky he was in this. He was always peppering in shots. His performance dripped with effort against impossible odds. Now it is time to introduce what really made this match a classic in my eyes and that was Big Show's performance. 


Del Rio's performance was enhanced so much by how fucking great Big Show was in this. Big Show looked like The Giant he should have always been. He was Mount Everest in this match. He was registering pain. He was not selling. He was never bumping. He was just going down to one knee if he must and that was after wicked chairshot after wicked chair shot. He was pulverizing Del Rio. Swatting him like an annoying gnat. He was imposing his will with ease. So all the work Del Rio was putting in was magnified by how well Big Show played the Giant role. I really liked how they built the hope spots. They went from wild strikes to chairshots to Del Rio trying to rip Big Show's arm off (Big Show's howling was almost Vader levels of awesome). I liked how Big Show dropped Del Rio hard on the apron and then Del Rio just let himself bounce onto the floor. It was Del Rio that had to take the count. I liked how many Pyrrhic victories there were for Del Rio. It made you believe the situation was hopeless. From this hope spot, we get the big one when Del Rio hits a desperation dropkick and Big Show falls through a table and now Big Show is finally counted down, but gets up. I LOVED the part where Del Rio is trying to desperately to fell the Giant Redwood with clothesline only for BIG SHOW TO CHOKESLAM HIM! YES! Big Show does not bump for shit! Yes! They do a great job now escalating the "nearfalls" for Big Show. Big Show PLOWS Del Rio through the barricade. Great sell job by Del Rio how he goes limp and his upper is right up against chair exposing his teeth. He gets up and then Big Show hits his KO Punch and Del Rio is fucking out. Then in clever spot he slides out of the ring and lands on his feet! He is up! I dig. Now it is time for the grand finale. Big Show charges at him with the stairs but knocks himself silly with the stairs against the steel ringpost when Del Rio ducks. Del Rio RAMS Big Show multiple time with the Steel Stairs selling through the pain the whole time and then topples the announce table on Big Show!

I cant say enough about this match. I thought the character work was superb! Amazing babyface performance from Del Rio and an even better Giant Heel performance from Big Show. I thought the plot of this match was flawless, just perfect escalation. Dont sleep on this match!








Thursday, April 2, 2020

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 52: Best of WWE 2005-2009 (John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 52:
The Best of World Wrestling Entertainment 2005-2009

Objective:  Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at http://gweproject.freeforums.net/) into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.

Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.

Subject: This fifty-first volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the conclusion of the Top 12 countdown of the best matches to take place in WWE between 2005-2009. The year 2005 saw John Cena & Batista win the World Championships at Wrestlemania heralding the beginning of a new era. Even though stylistically there would be a lot of aesthetic holdovers from the Attitude Era, in terms of new main eventers Cena, Batista along with Randy Orton and Edge were the vanguard of a new truly 21st century generation. However, they were supported by Attitude Era stars Shawn Michaels, HHH, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle (until 2006) and Chris Jericho. The reason I chose 2009 as an ending year is because 2010 WWE lost a lot of this previously mentioned support structure. The year 2010 saw Shawn Michaels go into retirement, HHH & Undertaker went into semi-retirement, Jericho left and it was Edge's last full year. The year 2010 saw a complete overhaul in the WWE main event scene.  You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at ridingspacemountain.blogspot.com. You can check out the full version of these reviews in ProWrestlingOnly.com by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.

Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram & ProWrestlingOnly.com.



Top Six WWE Matches of 2005-2009

#6. Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio - Smackdown 6/23/05

So I had some time between my tour of Schobrunn Palace in Vienna & dinner at that palace so I figured I watch me some pro wrasslin. But they closed halfway through this match so i had to relocate to this fancy ass restaraunt. I felt like kinda asshole with my headphones in watching this match, but I'm by myself & it is too early to eat. It was just a weird setting to watch this match and felt the need to give some context to this match review. I got a Mozart concert at the palace after dinner and am really hoping they play his hit single, Amadeus. :p

Onto the match proper, everyone knows this is a badass bout and one I watched lived and again about 5-6 years back. Let's get this out of the way, I prefer the Havoc match. Based on memory, I thought this would give the Havoc match a run for its money but the Havoc match has every bit the hate this match has. Eddie was cold & souless here. In '97, he has that heel sneer. What puts the 97 match over is the flawless execution, high velocity of the impact, and the efficiency. Now this match is still tremendous. Again before the match, a lot of adieu before the match, let's give a shoutout to this hot, traditional crowd. They were rooting hard for Rey. Hell they popped for an armdrag two minutes in. They were chanting 619 when REY was doing the ab stretch. When do you ever hear that. Eddie sucks was ringing throughout the match. The wrestlers & the story was over. People need to stop with this bullshit that today's crowd is how it has to be in a post-kayfabe world. It is 2005 and this crowd is every bit as good as a 1985 crowd. It can be done but we need better writing and wrestlers who are invested in the writing.

Ok now onto the match proper, the story is simple Eddie turned heel in a violent fashion because he couldn't beat Rey in a clean, straight match. It drove him to insanity. This match is a representation of this turn as Eddie wrestles the first portion straight but is consistently bested by the quickness of Rey Rey. Rey hits a big springboard plancha to really kickstart his control. Eddie has a wicked bruise on his hip from a steel chair attack from a vengeful Mysterio from a previous episode of Smackdown. Rey uses abdominal stretch to work it over. The match kicks into the next gear when Eddie shoves Rey off the ropes and he takes a gnarly tumble off the top to the floor.

Eddie has that mid-match metamorphosis becoming that sadistic sociopath Hell-bent on brutally destroying Mysterio. Again, he was bested by Mysterio in a straight wrestling match and this fueled his mid-match psychotic break. It was quite the heat segment and should go down as one of the all time greats. Focused on the back, Eddie expertly combines grizzly holds, sudden cutoffs and humiliation tactics all focused on the back and breaking Rey's spirit. To me the two bavkbreakers and the powerbomb were standouts. Rey sold well and timed his hope spots well. The first 619 tease got a huge pop. He really did a great job dragging out his comeback. Gradually having longer runs but Eddie would suddenly cut him off. Eddie sold his frustration of not being able to pin Mysterio well. Eddie misses the Frogsplash and that was Rey's big opportunity. 619->Drop The Dime!


It was not quite as violent as I remembered. To me this was a really high end execution of a fundamental pro wrestling match. The mid-match heel turn by Eddie and Rey resislently resisting to lose and eventually winning to keep  storyline going. Probably the 2005 WWE match of the year but I'll have to take a look back.

#5. Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho - WWE Unforgiven 2008, Unsanctioned

Shawn Michaels' amazing 2008 campaign continues as he delivers another triumphant performance in the best blood feud in WWE history. At Great American Bash in July, Jericho bloodied Michaels with a wild back elbow that landed on the injured eye. Jericho ended up winning by TKO after Michaels could not defend himself from the barrage of punches to the open wound. Michaels came out at Summerslam to announce his retirement due to injuries, but Jericho came out and wanted to Michaels to admit it was due to Jericho. Michaels admits the injuries are at the hands of the evil Jericho, but Jericho needs to admit his family and himself that he will never be Shawn Michaels. Oh shit! Jericho goes to haul off and punch HBK, but instead nails his wife in the face. Another awesome angle! Now it is deeply personal as if it was not before! It is all leading up to this Unsanctioned match.

Shawn's demeanor in this match is pitch perfect. He is in blue jeans and cowboy boots. He is not here to wrestle. He is here for a fight. Everything is a punch or a strike. He takes off his cowboy boot to whack Jericho in the head with it. He hurls his own body at Jericho. Everything is physical and for maximum damage. There is a great moment where Michaels is making his first comeback. He hits the Flying Burrito, but it is not an inverted atomic drop. He CHOKES Jericho! It is a fight. He is out to maim. I love it. Adding to the list of injuries, Michaels' left elbow has been injured. He misses a chairshot to the head of Jericho instead nailing the post. Jericho takes over. There were two minor complaints about this match. One is I think Jericho could have shown more personality, more sadism, really relish in what he was doing. He was doing some furniture set up. Take a page out of Michaels' playbook and just throw nothing but fists. I thought the first Jericho heat segment was missing some "Oomph". The second was this was just after the "no blood" policy which sucks. Shawn tapped a gusher in July, but could not tap on here. The blood really would have put this over the top in my estimation. After, Michaels first comeback, Jericho as desperation defensive move pulls him into the chair eye first! Where's the blood! Give me that sweet, sweet blood. It is such a shame! Shawn's selling and wild swings are great. Jericho zeroing in on the injury was the best part of his performance. The climax of Jericho's heat segment is the Walls of Jericho. Shawn uses a fire extinguisher to get out. Again, I wish the drama is whether the hold can be applied rather than can he get out of a hold, but that's a problem in American wrestling.

Now Michaels is attacking the eyes of Jericho and they brawl up the ramp. Here comes Lance Cade. At first, Michaels is able to fend off both, but eventually succumbs to both. They attack the injured left arm in brutal fashion. Jericho goes to break Michaels' arm but HBK superkicks Cade and then chairshot knocks Jericho off the top rope through a table! My favorite part of the match was Michaels doing one arm swinging of the chair onto Jericho's body. It felt so wild and out of control, truly a man possessed. Loved it. He stacks Jericho and Cade on top of the announce table and drives an elbow drop through both. Michaels comes up fist pumping and the crowd roars. My second favorite part of the match was Michaels whipping Jericho like the dog he is. In my world, brawls should consist of cowboy boots, belts and chairs; on special occasions, powder and fireballs can be included. There is something about the belt that is so apropos for a blood feud. They re-do the Great American Bash finish but this time Michaels wraps his hand with the belt and just pelts Jericho with punches until he is defenseless. The ref calls it for Shawn Michaels. 


They do a really great job selling the violence of this match. I like the contrast to that elbow drop through an announce table. That's a pro wrestling spots. That's to be celebrated. However, the ending with the belt shots that draw blood and HBK beating Jericho senseless with fists. There is no fist pumping. There is no celebration. He had to go to a cold, dark, scary place. He had to do it for his family and himself and we get it, but we don't like it, quite frankly, Michaels does not like it either. I dig that. Violence of that level should be a last resort. I am glad they are not casual about it. It makes it all mean more. I have to admit I liked the Great American Bash match a bit more. I missed the blood in this match and I thought there were couple too many WWE weapons tropes (fire extinguisher, furniture decoration) that undercut the gravity of the match just slightly. This was an amazing Shawn Michaels performance who came to FIGHT! I am looking forward to the ladder match, which I remember loving.

#4. Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho - WWE Great American Bash 2008
WWE Match of the Year, 2008

The trilogy of the best WWE Blood Feud begins here. They had a great match at Judgment Day, but that was just a place setting. Jericho has gone full heel in memorable fashion by smashing Michaels' face into the Jeritron 5000 severely injuring his eye. Michaels retaliated by costing Jericho the Intercontinental Championship. Now we are here. Up until this point, this is easily the best Jericho singles match of his career. Michaels has had three all-time great years: 1986, 1997 and 2008. He is in the midst of an amazing run and it is a true testament to how good he was that all three of those years are in different decades.

There is a lot to love about this match and it is shocking how overlooked this match is. I think it is because it overshadowed by the two matches that follow. I love physical this is, how uncooperative and how much they had to earn their offense. There was no wrestling at all. It was just forearm shivers and knees. I loved Jericho throwing knees right off the bat. Michaels comes back with some head rocking forearms, but he is grabbing those ribs. I love it. He knows he is injured so he tries to get out of Dodge quick. Chopblock and an inverted Figure-4 summarily follows. I love it. When the rope break happens, Michaels is tenacious on pressing his advantage, but the ref keeps separating him. Eventually this allows Jericho to make to his feet, he whips Michaels hard into the corner and Michaels does the Flair Flip. Jericho does his patented springboard dropkick and Michaels takes a hellacious bump on the apron. I love how Jericho sells his knee on the Irish Whip and through the dropkick. He knows it is going to hurt but he has to do it. I like how he gradually recovers during his heat segment. Michaels does a great job selling the ribs and peppering in hope spots. The Enziguiri was a great cut off and cover by Jericho. I love how Michaels had to earn his comeback. It was not just given. Cut off by a Walls of Jericho. Fighting through the pain for the kip up. Fighting Jericho off for the Top Rope Elbow. Jericho was great as he started to move from the body to the eye. After the Walls, Michaels went for a surprise Sweet Chin Music (makes sense he was losing badly, needed to go for the Knockout Blow), Jericho blasted him in the face. Once he earned the Top Rope Elbow, Michaels went for Sweet Chin Music and now that's when you get the chicanery. Lance Cade, Shawn Michaels' student turned Chris Jericho disciple, distracts Michaels who knocks him out. You get the big biel over the top rope as Jericho wipes out Cade. The Michaels top rope moonsault to the floor knocking out both guys is the climax for the babyface. We definitively got to the babyface Michaels triumphant. Just when it looked like he take it home, Jericho throws a wild elbow in a waistlock that connects with the injured eye and busts Michaels wide open. What a glorious moment. Five alarm blade job from Michaels. I love how Jericho sells it he does not even know. Only back in the ring, he sees it and is astonished. After a few seconds of that, he BLASTS Michaels with a right punch to the cut. It was amazing. Michaels sold his ass off. Jericho worked the cut like a vicious heel, not just punches by kicks and great headbutts. Great trash talk by Jericho even Cade got in a shot on the open wound for extra heat. I really liked the one last ditch hope spot for Michaels, Jericho is trash talking and Michaels wrestles him down by the arm and puts him in a crossface. Too little, too late. Jericho makes the ropes and just relentlessly attacks the eye until the ref has not choice to call it because Michaels cant defend himself.


Another reviewer mentioned this and nailed it, this is some great Lawler/Memphis stuff. The fundamental body of the match that is efficient and lean. Everything is earned and makes sense. You get to see Michaels overcome both the ribs and Cade interference. Only to lose on a wild elbow. Then we kick in the big time, bloody Memphis angle that is going to draw big money. I have seen the two re-matches and love them both, but now I am really looking forward to them. This is the best work of Jericho's career and right up there with the best of Michaels.

#3. Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker - WrestleMania XXV
WWE Match of the Year, 2009

I have always considered this Shawn Michaels' take on All Japan. Now when I made the same claim about Jushin Liger in 1997. It holds water. It is highly unlikely that 2009 Shawn Michaels cares about the Four Corners. I don't even know if he knows who the fuck Misawa is. So it is more happenstance that they do a King's Road match in 2009 but it is glorious all the same. To me this is the logical conclusion of Shawn's preferred style. King's Road is workrate meets epic storytelling which is what Shawn was always trying to achieve since 1994. I think the first half of this match including the two huge missed dives is just fucking aces.

I love when tempo matters in wrestling. So many times it is body part psychology but tempo can be just as a powerful psychological tool. I love how it shifts and is unexpected. Who would have predicted in a million years that an uptempo style would favor the Undertaker? But they make it work. Also notice without much movement how much energy Taker expresses at the beginning of the match. So much pep in the step. It is infectious. He is so invested. It makes you invested. Energy is not just running around, it is good body language. Loved the Shawn cat and mouse game: the feigned superkick was so good. Once Taker got rolling, he was so explosive. Everything looked fucking great. Great missed Taker move to give Shawn the opening to attack the leg. It is funny but who would have predicted Undertaker to be the one to blow off leg selling to explosive rope running like he is Ultimo Dragon. Who would have predicted that Shawn would be trying to grind a win out using holds to contain Taker. This match reminds me of the 94 Misawa vs Doc with Misawa trying to contain the more explosive Doc and then land the Elbow. Same with Michaels but replace Elbow with Superkick. The Big spots in the middle come off huge. These are equivalent to huge apron spots in All Japan like a Nodowa off the Apron or a Tiger Driver off the apron.

My big issue with the match is that these huge spots don't feel like they have that much bearing on the match. Undertaker basically piledrove himself but doesn't feel like he is in a huge hole. I do think some of the finisher traders feels more like NOAH than All Japan if you catch my drift. That choke slam was massive. I think the Fighting Spirit sequence came off fucking great! Awesome selling and striking! I really dug and the final Tombstone rocked.


To me this flirted with ***** but the immediate aftermath of the two missed dives hurts it. If you JIP I Don't feel like they matter much but the Apron Spots were the climaxes of All Japan. I think after some finisher trading they do get back on track with a strong strike exchange and emphatic finish. I said AJ vs Daniels was the 2009 MOTY but that was based on memory, it is indeed this match.

#2. Edge vs Matt Hardy - WWE Unforgiven 2005, Steel Cage
WWE Match of the Year,  2005

At the core of the first known story in Western Civilization is Helen of Troy having been abducted from her family and country taken to Troy launching an international Trojan War and a years long saga. Think of the countless, books, TV shows and movies centered around love and the crazy actions men & women alike do because of it. It is without the single strongest driving force in humanity. Love is at the heart of so much what we do as humans good and bad. So when JR says "this goes beyond boyfriend/girlfriend stuff" he is dead wrong. There is nothing greater than love.

Love is glaringly absent in pro wrestling storytelling for the most part (Randy Savage/Elizabeth being the notable exception, but there are a few others). I do think it should be incorporated more as it would increase the emotional connection of the story. That being said I don't think every angle should have a love component. I think one a year makes sense. The current Rusev/Lashley/Lana angle should be the 2020 version of this would be perfect if Lashley was not as wooden as a 2x4 and Lana was not the worst actress in the history of pro wrestling. I never realized anyone could scream so loud with no passion behind it. Anyways, Edge/Lita are such a great sleaze couple. They would get even better in 2006 feuding with John Cena. Matt Hardy still really hadnt found his public voice but he was shoot cheated on so all hed had to do was show up be angry and throw some stiff rights and the crowd would go apeshit that's what happened.

Even though neither one of these guys is a favorite of mine (I know a lot of people really like Matt, but he never connected with me), but they hit it out of the park in this match. It was a classic steel cage match asskicking. Both men were in there to fight and it wrestled for maximum violence. They blocked the steel cage shots early which really put over how important the steel cage was and whoever tasted steel first would be at a decided disadvantage. Matt Hardy hit two of the greatest right hands this side of Jerry Lawler you would ever see that really rocked Edge. I liked that once Edge got punched in the mouth, now it was time to run and escape. Up until then, he was full of piss & vinegar. That's difference between a face & heel. Edge was just as geared up as Hardy but once he faced adversity he tucked tail & ran because he is a coward at his heart. I liked how Edge needed three moves to really take control because that how fired up Matt Hardy was: the eyerake, shoving Matt Hardy off the Twist of Fate into the cage and then ramming the back of Matt Hardy's head to block the Side Effect into the cage repeatedly. This was just vicious. Every Edge blow was delivered to the head. It was shot after brutal shot to the head. It was his fist, elbow, boot, the steel cage, powerbombs into the cage. Everything targeted the head. It was Edge's greatest heat segment and one of the best all-time. Matt did a great job having the glazed over look and really milking it, but still showing signs of life. 

Matt Hardy hits a desperation Side Effect. Again, just like when Hardy cracked him at the beginning with those two big time rights, Edge is headed to the hill. The first sign of trouble and he takes off. He goes for the door and Lita gets him the MITB briefcase. Hardy evades and BEATS THE SHIT OUT OF HIM. This is Lawler teeing off on Bockwinkel level shit. The CROWD COMES ALIVE FOR THIS! THEY GO NUTS! He ties him up in the ropes and unloads. Definitely the best of the match and very cathartic. Hardy rams Edge into the steel cage a bajillion times and draws BLOOD! Lita is worried tries scaling the cage but Hardy scares her off. He tries to crack Edge with the briefcase, but Edge pushes the ref into the ropes and Hardy takes a nasty spill. Best Edge spot is he spears Hardy through the ropes and into the cage. It looked awesome! Edge looks to leave, but Hardy stops him and Side Effect from the top! Lita saves Edge but getting into the cage. TWIST OF FATE ON LITA! I am 100% against man on woman violence and would be 100% against him punching her, BUT pro wrestling is wish fulfillment. It is not much different than wanting to Stone Cold Stunner your boss. It was great pro wrestling theater and catharsis.  Hardy takes his eye off the prize and Edge spears him. Hardy kick out! MATT HARDY WILL NOT DIE! Edge goes for the escape. Matt Hardy rams the back of Edge's head into the cage and Edge falls from the top rope. Matt Hardy hits THE MUTHA OF ALL LEGDROPS FROM THE TOP OF THE STEEL CAGE ONTO EDGE! HOLY SHIT! HOW DID HE NOT BREAK EDGE'S FACE! WHAT A FINISH!


Incredibly violent match, it was all fists, all head shots, tons of steel cage, great escalation, great cutoffs, great use of Lita, Matt Hardy exacts his revenge on both of them, Edge is a bloody pulp, that Legdrop could have not looked better, it was safe but looked like a million bucks, he could have easily broken his face or his own ass. Love charges everything up and love supercharged this match to be one of the greatest steel cage brawls of all time.

#1. WWE Champion John Cena vs Umaga - Royal Rumble 2007 Last Man Standing

John Cena should have been wrestling more matches like this throughout the second half of the 2000s. Classic pro wrestling match. When I think of pro wrestling, the first style I think of is the monster heel beating down the valiant babyface and that babyface making the heroic comeback. To me this is the epitome of the style. Umaga injured Cena's ribs on Monday at RAW delivering a big splash from the top rope through a table.

This is Cena 101. Sub-minute shine followed by a looooooooong heat segment (with plenty of hope spots) and then a rousing comeback. What separates this match from the usual Cena fare is how damn good the Monster is that he is fighting and that it deviates from a lot of his usual routine. Umaga was a great wrestler and even better gimmick. He was a throwback to the 80s and did a great job as this invulnerable Creature from The Black Lagoon who would keep rising again. A lot of people talk about Cena's selling, but Umaga's selling was perfect for his character. He would register the pain and just when you think you had him down, he would shake it off. It was not that he not selling. It was that he was just that much of Monster. He was creating an Everest for Cena to climb.

Cena begins the match by standing toe to toe with the Samoan Bulldozer. He valiantly tries to slug it out with Umaga, but Umaga bury a punch to the breadbasket and so much for that. The slaughter begins. Umaga is relentless on the abdomen and Cena is so great at selling. Cena is going full Ricky Morton here. It is amazing to watch. I love that Cena never dies on us and is constantly peppering in hope spots. I loved the escalation. First it was stuff like bouncing Umaga's head off the apron or getting his feet up on a corner charge each to no avail. It then became HURLING THE STEEL STEPS FROM THE RING INTO UMAGA'S FACE and Umaga missing a butt splash into the stairs. I love how the action ramped up. Umaga had some great cut offs like a Mack Truck Lariat and a great catch of Cena's crossbody into a Black Hole Slam on Cena's bad ribs.

The match really kicks into high gear when Cena starts his standard comeback but he does it so that everything involves Umaga landing on the steel stairs for maximum impact. Cena goes for the FU but his back gives out and he falls forwards. His head smacks the steel steps as the weight of Umaga drives him into the steps. Great spot! Cena comes up bleeding the match goes from great to instant classic. My complaint is out of these two wrestlers' control, but I want to say it because it bums me out. If this took place in the 80s, the place would be rocking for Cena's comeback. It would have been nuclear heat. Taking place in 2007 with half the crowd chanting Cena sucks and booing Cena, it is such a drag.

The best moment of the match is when Cena works over his own cut to get himself revved up. He starts punching himself in the forehead and the blood really starts to pump. He just roars to a massive comeback only for Umaga to hit the most SAVAGE SAMOAN DROP I have ever seen! He basically piledrove Cena from his sholders! Talk about electricity! That was so fucking badass. I love how they teased the Samoan Spike at this point as it feels like it could at any time and put Cena down permanently. Another thing I love about Umaga matches is how much missed moves matter. More often than not, the person that causes the most harm to Umaga is Umaga. Umaga is so powerful that when he misses a move like the butt splash in the corner or the flying headbutt, it causes him so much pain. Cena hits his top rope leg drop and this one looks extra vicious as Umaga really takes it on his head. Cena blasts him in the head with the monitor and still Umaga won't go down. Umaga catches Cena again and this time he drives him bad ribs into the steel post. Brutal. Back to my point of how Umaga is his own worst enemy. Umaga tries a running splash across the announce tables to obliterate Cena, but only for Umaga to eat the table. Umaga is only down for 9! Estrada undoes the entire top rope. He wants Umaga to give Cena a giant-sized Samoan Spike by using the turnbuckle as a spike. Now that would have been insane. Cena catches him with an F-U! I love how the nearfalls have been escalated. It was not 8 million F-Us and Samoan Spikes. Each was teased and it was the F-U that hit first. Then Cena choked Umaga out with the top rope in an STFU. Great visual with Cena wearing a Crimson Mask and Umaga's tongue sticking out and his eyes fading. Cena lets go prematurely and Umaga makes one last gasp but Cena pounces and chokes him out for good.


Holy shit! What a hero vs monster match! Cena's went down early, took a lickin' keep on tickin' and he looked like the world's biggest badass when he was punching his cut to get the blood to flow. Umaga was such a great monster. Great offense and the perfect amount of selling. I loved that so many hope spots for Cena were generated by missed moves by Umaga. Umaga is the only one powerful enough to hurt Umaga. Cena really drew you with his selling, but he never died, he kept fighting back and never gave up. The finish is just pure testosterone and I fucking loved it. Every bit the classic people say it is!


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 51: The Best of WWE 2005-2009 (John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 51:
The Best of World Wrestling Entertainment 2005-2009

Objective:  Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at http://gweproject.freeforums.net/) into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.

Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.

Subject: This fifty-first volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the beginning of the Top 12 countdown of the best matches to take place in WWE between 2005-2009. The year 2005 saw John Cena & Batista win the World Championships at Wrestlemania heralding the beginning of a new era. Even though stylistically there would be a lot of aesthetic holdovers from the Attitude Era, in terms of new main eventers Cena, Batista along with Randy Orton and Edge were the vanguard of a new truly 21st century generation. However, they were supported by Attitude Era stars Shawn Michaels, HHH, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle (until 2006) and Chris Jericho. The reason I chose 2009 as an ending year is because 2010 WWE lost a lot of this previously mentioned support structure. The year 2010 saw Shawn Michaels go into retirement, HHH & Undertaker went into semi-retirement, Jericho left and it was Edge's last full year. The year 2010 saw a complete overhaul in the WWE main event scene.  You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at ridingspacemountain.blogspot.com. You can check out the full version of these reviews in ProWrestlingOnly.com by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.

Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram & ProWrestlingOnly.com.


Honorable Mentions

WWE Women's Champion Trish Stratus vs Mickie James - WrestleMania XXII
Beth Phoenix vs Melina - WWE One Night Stand 2008 I Quit Match
WWE Women's Champion Beth Phoenix vs Candice Michelle - WWE No Mercy 2008

A trio of great divas matches from this era proving that great women's wrestling in the USA existed before 2014. I highly recommended Beth Phoenix vs Melina I Quit Match which I included in my Top 100 Greatest WWE Matches of All Time as a personal fun pick to spruce up the bottom part of my list. It is a truly excellent match and it is Beth Phoenix playing human pretzel-maker with the ultra-supple Melina.

Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XXIV
Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho - Judgment Day 2008
Shawn Michaels vs Batista - One Night Stand 2008 Stretcher Match
World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels - No Mercy 2008

It is truly amazing at his age that Ric Flair has such a great retirement match. This not just nostalgia talking that is a legitimately great match. It also spawned Shawn Michaels' third career year. Most people live for one career year, but Shawn has had three: 1986, 1997 and 2008. Of course was incredible is that each year is in three different decades and also three different roles. In 1986 he was pretty boy babyface in the Rockers vs Rose & Somers, in 1997 he was a King Prick heel in D-X and in 2008 he was the elder statesman having the last great blood feud in WWE history with Chris Jericho and an underrated feud with Batista that spun off of the Ric Flair match. Every Shawn Michaels perfromance from WrestleMania XXIV to No Mercy 2008 (including the Summerslam angle) needs to be watched to full appreciate the greatness of this run.

John Morrison vs Evan Bourne - WWECW 4/14/09
World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk vs John Morrison - Smackdown 6/26/09
WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio vs John Morrison - Smackdown 9/4/09

The biggest revelation of going back and re-watching all this WWE wrestling from 2005-2009 is that John Morrison is a fucking great wrestler. If he could cut a halfway decent promo, he would be a megastar. I thought he would be abother Kofi-lite wrestler, but the dude kicks ass and has great escalation and psychology. There are probably a ton of John Morrison hidden gems waiting to be uncovered.

World Heavyweight Champion Batista vs Triple H - WWE Vengeance 2005 Hell In A Cell
WWE Intercontinental Champion Ric Flair vs Triple H - WWE Taboo Tuesday 2005 Steel Cage
Triple H vs Umaga - Cyber Sunday 2007 Street Fight
World Tag Team Champions Rated RKO vs D-Generation X - New Year's Revolution 2007

Depending who you are, you either are totally surprised that Triple H did not have a match that made my top 12 or that just makes total sense. The Game was not without great performances as the four match above can attest to, but he did not have anything was truly classic. The best match of the bunch was the Batista Hell In A Cell match, BUT if you want a hidden gem that no one talks about check out the Umaga brawl from Cyber Sunday 2007 it is randomly great.

ECW Champion Jack Swagger vs Christian - WWECW 2/24/09

Ahhhh yes, the match that got so much hype that we all thought Jack Swagger was the next big thing in pro wrestling. Well 11 years later, maybe he can make something of this Moxley program in AEW (lets see how that sentence ages). This match ages really well. One of the greatest cat & mouse matches you will ever see. Swagger looks like a killer and Christian looks like the wrestling genius that so many claim he is.

Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio - WWE Judgement Day 2005
Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio - Great American Bash 2005
The feud where the uber-popular, wickedly charismatic Eddie Guerrero was desperately determined to get him to hate him. He actually made it work. It is testament to himself and to Rey for making it happen. The "Who's Your Papi" shirt during the Dominic portion of the angle was great. Seeing Dominic all grown up this past year was so weird. Brock threw that boy around that was awesome. They had an all-time classic during this feud, but these are worth a watch.

Chris Benoit vs William Regal - Velocity 7/16/05
Simply awesome.

Hulk Hogan vs Shawn Michaels - Summerslam 2005
I always heard that Shawn treated this match as a joke, but I dont think he did at all. This was wicked fun. I loved the build to this match so much when I was a teenager in 2005. Shawn started channeling 1997 Shawn and it was awesome! This was Shawn Michaels doing a 1989 Hulk Hogan as the big bumping stooge heel. This is the match Mr. Perfect should have had with The Hulkster. The key difference was that Michaels got the offense and cheated his ass off to add to the drama. He was not just a pinball for Hogan but he through relentless cheating actually looked poised to defeat Hogan

World Heavyweight Champion Batista vs Undertaker - Wrestlemania XXIII
Hoss sprint! These two decide to do the Kentucky Derby of Mania matches and just have an awesome bomb-throwing sprint! It is famous deservedly so!

World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle vs Undertaker - WWE No Way Out 2006
Chris Benoit vs Finlay - Smackdown 5/5/06
Chris Benoit vs Finlay - WWE Judgement Day 2006
WWE Champion John Cena vs Edge - WWE Unforgiven TLC Match

The year 2006 was NOT represented at all on this list so I grouped all these matches together as they were the best from otherwise lean year. Originally Cena vs Edge made my Top 100 WWE Matches, but going back and watching some matches from 2007 and reviewing my reviews, I have to say it just misses the cut, but I do think that is an all-time great feel good victory for Cena against his best archrival until Punk.


The Top 12ish Best Match of WWE 2005-2009

#12. (TIE) WWE Champion Randy Orton vs Shawn Michaels - Survivor Series 2007

Greatest Randy Orton match ever? I think most would say the Catcus match from Backlash 2004, but I think this one is definitively better. Is there anything else? While I do think Orton was great in this match, it was of course really the Shawn Michaels show. Some context: as an offshoot of the D-X vs Rated RKO feud in the beginning of 2007, Orton punted HBK to give his summer school vacation. Michaels came back in October and challenged Orton for the championship at Cyber Sunday, but Orton punched him in the balls to get intentionally DQ'd. So in the rematch, if Orton gets DQ'd he loses the title, BUT Michaels cant use the Superkick. This forces Michaels to wrestle a different type of match.



There is a lot to love in the first ten minutes of this match. Michaels uses a ton of vice grips (cravat, front chancery) on the head and neck of Orton to control him and attempt to get an early pinfall. The hallmark of this was how tenacious HBK was applying these holds. Really controlling Orton and driving the knees into his head. Orton did a great job selling it all. It also shows that Michaels is going to try to win by taking it to the ground and outwrestling Orton. Orton's counter was punching him right in the face on a break in the corner. Great heel wrestling from Orton here. Then trying to goad Michaels into Superkicking him; Michaels fakes him out and chops him. Orton was really good at selling these fake out spots as Michaels knowing that as much as I love ground wrestling and tight psychology the live crowd needs something to pop them and so he hits a baseball slide and an Asai Moonsault, but the spots are really organic well set up because Orton bites so hard on the pump fakes. So many wrestlers knowing that they are going be faked out just go through the motions, but here Orton makes you believe that he believes he will be hit by the pump fake. Good stuff. Loved Orton rolling through a crossbody for two and then immediately decking him with a European uppercut. I loved the urgency there. Michaels shine ends with a Sharpshooter. Ten years since Montreal at this point. (I cant believe it has been TWENTY years as of this writing!). Crazy to think Michaels would be wrestling Bob Orton's kid for the championship ten years after the Screwjob. The Sharpshooter gets a good reaction of course. From there, Orton thumbs HBK in the eye and snaps his neck across the ropes. Great heel transition. Really good organic set up to the Hangsmans DDT. Orton has a solid punch and an amazing European Uppercut. I am starting to like him ten years after the fact. This is where the match does down a notch. First the customary Orton resthold and then the very basic Michaels comeback. The Michaels comeback requires both wrestles to go through the motions rather than feel it. Loved Orton's dropkick to stymie the comeback. Shawn's gets melodramatic after his elbow drop tuning up the band but it is a fake out to get a small package. Meh, overthinking it there. Just go for the pin. Too elaborate of a ruse. Then again I hate the whole I need to wait for my opponent to stand before I hit my big move. After this, the match gets awesome again. Michaels goes for submissions (Crossface, Anglelock) and Orton tries to punt his head off. Good stuff. The finish is awesome. Orton goes for the RKO, but Michaels pushes him off, hesitates on Superkick and that slight hesitation leads to BANG RKO~!

First half was awesome, tenacious Shawn Michaels ground wrestling and Orton playing the heel really well. Great timed spots and sound psychology. Falls a little off the rails with some overly cinematic Michaels stuff, but comes roaring back with Michaels pugnaciously going for a submission victory but falling prey to the RKO when his instincts takeover to hit Sweet Chin Music. Magnificent. ****1/2

#12. (TIE) WWE Champion John Cena vs Shawn Michaels - Wrestlemania XXIII

Once Shawn Michaels was committed to wrestling as the heel in this match, this was excellent and a top flight performance by both wrestlers. Michaels is clearly at a size and power disadvantage, but he is accustomed to that and he chooses to battle this by taking out one of Cena’s wheels. Now, Cena is never out of any match because he has a puncher’s chance. Similarly, Michaels can always fall back on Sweet Chin Music. It is Cena’s ability to avoid Sweet Chin Music that pays dividends, but when he gets hit with it the question becomes can he bounce back? The weakest part of the match is the beginning, which I thought Michaels took way too much of it. 

Michaels wants a handshake with his co-Tag Team Champion. Cena hesitates so he slaps him. Cena takes some wild swings, but Shawn ducks. Shawn punches and a big chop sends Cena reeling. Michaels is in Cena’s head and using speed. HBK is the veteran and even though Cena has been champion for 20 of the past 24 months, there is a lot of pressure to vanquish a former champion like Michaels. Michaels outwrestling Cena with headlocks and again ducks punches and punches of his own and chop. Cena is clearly frustrated. HBK looks to build some speed and finally Cena nails a big clothesline. They establish Cena’s power game is Cena’s key to victory. Big Boos for that clothesline. Michaels hiptosses Cena from ring to the floor and then Asai Moonsault. This is way too rough of a start for Cena.

HBK goes full heel here and the match kicks into a next level goes into heat segment with chops in corner and then big sledge to the straight leg., Goes to work on the leg with great selling from Cena all the usual stuff from HBK (chopblocks, ropes wrenching, kicks). Really fucking well done. Great selling by Cena and there is some really cool corner work. They spend a couple minutes just in one corner with Cena trying to battle out and Michaels trying to suffocate him. I loved the chess moves here. Cena starts landing bombs and always has a punchers chance. Big one sends Michaels tumbling back, but he bulrushes Cena back into the corner to trap him there. Cena fights back for survival. Michaels tries to drive the shoulder again, but Cena collapses to the side and Michaels head strikes the post and is bleeding. Awesome transition! Michaels is wobbly. Cena recovers and smokes him with a big clothesline. Here comes that big power Cena offense getting on top and ground n pound. Big boos. Shouldertackles. Knee is messed up. Five Knuckle shuffle. Michaels avoids FU. Michaels is now desperate and thinks the match is slipping through his fingers so he pulls the trigger on Sweet Chin Music, but nails the ref. Cena looks FU, nope, DDT. This levels playing field between the bloody HBK and exhausted Cena. 

Michaels hits a PILEDRIVER ON THE STEPS! Total Mark Out by me! No ref, here comes one running down the ramp and only a two count. Michaels does his comeback sequence now. Michaels sneering and looking mean as hell. He wants to polish Cena off with Sweet Chin Music. Massive Cena clothesline turns the tide! Big time slugfest and Cena nails the FU, but only two. He wants to up the ante with the super FU, but Michaels knocks him off top rope. Crossbody, roll through FU NO! I totally bit on that as the finish. Michaels lands on his feet and tries Sweet chin music, but Cena ducks. Now Michaels is off balance making him vulnerable for the STFU. There is an awesome struggle that leads into a HBK cradle, but a missed Enziguri finally leads into the STFU. That should have been the finish. The STFU struggle was really well-done. Yes, that is criticism #2 they long just a bit too long. Ref and Cena argue and BANG! Sweet Chin music, Michaels down and he crawls over for only a 2 count. They take an 8 count to get back up each leaning on the other for a long time. This is clearly Shawn’s flair for the dramatic shining through. Cena tries the FU, no, but applies a good-looking STFU for the win.

Excellent chess match that stayed true to both men’s character. I have no clue what was up with the beginning as it was way too much Shawn and the match did not seem to climax at the right spot. There was a lot more heat for the first STFU. The long double count late in a match is a cool idea to milk a spot, but the whole leaning against each other and then rather pedestrian final finish sequence did compare as well as the previous STFU stretch. The knee psychology was awesome and the stretch run was totally engrossing. Too many issues to be match of the year, but still an excellent match. ****1/2

#11. John Cena vs Batista - Summerslam 2008

Terrific match, exactly what I needed to see to remind me how great a big match player, John Cena is. Total Dome, Clash of the Titans style match that if it happened in the Tokyo Dome or at WrestleMania would be more fondly remembered. Honestly, I am surprised this is not more well-known. I think ever since 2005 or so there has been a problem with the WWE's myth-making machine in dubbing matches as classics. In the 90s, the WWF drilled in the fans heads which matches were the classics, but I think that has sort of subsided over the years. It is a real shame that awesome matches like these are forgotten rather than celebrated.

The beauty of this match is the parallel lives these men have led, both winning their first championships at WrestleMania XXI ushering in the modern era. Cena was the standard bearer for RAW and Batista was the face of Smackdown. They did a great job keeping them apart for three years. That was the great thing of the brand split is allowed them to create their own dream matches. Just needed to wait 3-5 years and voila fans would be pumped to see a match of this magnitude. Just watching them make their entrances felt electric. It feels like the pinnacle of this era of the WWE. I thought the match they worked was pitch perfect.

Face vs face matches work best when there is a lot of symmetry and eveness. This match had it in spades. The way they each had one slam a piece. They each had one suplex a piece. They had the same number of pin attempts. On top of that, these are two faces known for their power. You add in that Clash of Titans feel. The power game being on display. I love how this match is worked around finisher attempts. Going for a finisher is dramatic. You know the match could end. It creates a moment of chaos. If he hits it, he could win. But the possibilities are even more exciting if he doesn't. Going for a finish will freak your opponent out as he scrambles to evade it. This opens him up to be clobbered once he has wriggled free. So even though you don't hit it, you can take command of the match we see this with Batista going for the BatistaBomb early, Cena evades, but eats a clothesline. Going for a finish is also a gamble. You are committed to the move, but you don't know your opponent will react. Batista's evasion of the FU leads to him chopblocking the knee and leading to a kneecrusher and a figure-4. Going for that finish early left John Cena open. Great psychology.


On top of that, amazing selling here from Cena that reminded me of his ability to be a great sympathetic babyface. I thought out of the kneecrusher and in the figure-4 he did stupendous. The FU, where he FUs him over the top rope after the figure-4, fighting through the pain and fighting through Batista having the ropes is a beauty. You know Cena is toast and he needs this move if he wants to have a chance at all. It is a great BIG highspot for these two behemoths.

Now they trade comeback routines. In a match structured like this, I love it. It feels big and important. John Cena gets the STFU as a good symmetrical counterpart to Batista's figure-4. Then as he is going for the FU, Batista drops down into a rear naked choke. At first, I loved this counter. It was both sudden and unexpected (never seen Batista use that). Unfortunately, it was quite possibly the worst, loosest "choke" I have ever seen. They tried to zoom in at first you could see that a huge gap between Batista's arm and Cena's neck. They quickly zoom out and try their best to find a shot of this shitty chinlock. The way Cena sells it after it is released is amazing. The choking and he is disoriented. BANG! SPEAR! You are so focused on Cena and then you are totally caught unaware by the spear as is Cena. Loved the suddenness there.

Then use one of the ultimate Clash of the Titans moves...the backward reverse of the powerslam (think of how Sting/Rude reverse the tombstone) and Cena hits an FU out of that! WOW! Cena goes up top they slug it out. Cena goes for that legdrop and eats a Powerbomb. Thought this was the finish given how this is where they say he was injured. Kickout. Wow I bit so hard on that and I popped just like the crowd. Cena eats another BatistaBomb for three.

I dig it. I think the first kick out makes Cena look legitimately strong but they immediately go to the finish which feel definitive. It was an even match all the way. Cena went high risk and he go caught that simple. It was a simple power match that Cena took next level with his selling and each having that superstar presence. One of the best matches of this era and one of the best BIG, Clash of the Titans, Dome type matches of all time. 

#10. Batista vs Shawn Michaels - Backlash 2008

I want someone to watch this match and then look me in the eye and tell me that Shawn Michaels is not a GOAT contender. Goddamn he was fucking awesome in this match. Maybe I am mistaken, but I have never heard anyone talk up this match. I figure it gets overlooked for the phenomenal series between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho that this very feud spawns. Before, I get into the match, I want to point out how great of a job they did here with the storytelling. I am an avid fan of soap operas and I think this one of the few times in the last 15 years that WWE really nailed soap opera storytelling. The Ric Flair retirement is a big deal and is going to affect wrestlers in different ways. It was great to spin a feud off of that event. You have Batista who is pissed, almost in mourning, that his mentor is no longer around and it is all Shawn's fault. Shawn says it would have been a disservice to the Nature Boy to let him win. He won the match fair and square and it was time for Nature Boy to ride off into the sunset. Then you have Chris Jericho with his career renaissance as a shit-stirrer, claiming that Shawn is a gloryhound and revels in the fact that he is the man who retired The Greatest of All Time. Then Jericho goes one step further to claim that Batista isn't grieving Ric Flair's retirement, he is angry that he did not get the honor to do it himself. This is great shit! It continued to be amazing throughout the rest of the year. Kudos to all those involved!

There are many facets that make this a great match but I think the one that is the most essential is the grittiness and the amount of struggle in this match. Struggle is something that WWE has lacked throughout its history. WWE matches tend to be every neat. I am in control and then you are in control. Wrestlers don't force their opponents to earn their offense more often than not. I have learned to love other aspects of WWE, but at the end of the day this will be why All Japan or JCP/WCW will always rank ahead of the WWF/E overall. I thought this match had that sense of struggle. That real burning desire to best your opponent in an athletic contest.

On top of that, this is nominally face vs face, which I always think is a very unique and implicitly interesting matchup. It can go in so many directions. You don't know who is going to play the heel in the match and how it will evolve. In addition, I think Shawn Michaels does incredible job playing to Batista's strengths. You mix this all together you arrive at what is match of the year contender for WWE in 2008.

Shawn does a great job early on establishing the power game of Batista. He is trying to attack Batista head on and makes no headway. Batista is shaking him off and just charging. Shawn chop blocks and then switches gear immediately to attack the left arm of Batista. A lot of reviewers would make a point to let you know Shawn and Batista fucked up the initial attempt at the short arm scissors. People make mistakes. We are human. It is how you react to the mistakes that matter. Shawn drives his knee repeatedly into the tricep of Batista. He forces his will on Batista to apply that short arm scissors. In fact it is better that it happened this way because he had to EARN the short arm scissors. If you have ever watched a Shawn Michaels match against Davey Boy Smith, you know why he uses this spot. This spot ultimately to establish the power game of his opponent. Interesting wrinkle here, Batista deadlifts Shawn, but they tumble over the top rope and there is even more wrenching action on the arm. As Batista is selling really well, Shawn shoves him bad arm into the post. After that, it is Dick Murdoch-like clinic on torturing a man's arm. It is tenacious and gritty. Batista is trying to use his power game to regain control, but due to a bad wing, he cant capitalize and Shawn with pitbull determination continues to attack the arm. I loved his hanging armbar over the ropes. This what I am talking about with struggle. Batista is fighting back, but Shawn is fighting through it all. Batista finally string together some power moves like the Samoan Drop and the Oklahoma Slam, but when he lifts up Shawn for the BatistaBomb, his arm fails him and Shawn comes down with the Crippler Crossface. Excellent! I marked out. It was right there when I realized I was watching a classic unfold. Batista makes the ropes and Jericho forcefully yanks Shawn off of Batista. Staredown. They do a great job making Shawn earn his comeback sequence (even though it is not a comeback in this case). Kip-up-SPEAR! Great spot. Shawn knocks Batista off the top and hits the Elbow Drop. Tune up the band and SPINEBUSTER! Loving these hope spots for Batista. One arm Ultimate Warrior rope shake and One Arm thumbs down. Batista is totally committed to selling the arm. Batistabomb, Shawn wriggles free, but twists his knee or perhaps he loses his smile momentarily. :P

Jericho backs Batista off. Michaels gets up and BANG! Sweet Chin Music. Great finish that plays into Jericho's new honest man character that would unveil in the coming weeks. Batista's power game vs Shawn's attack on the arm was a glorious story. Batista sold so well and Shawn was very selfless in establishing Batista's power game that everything melded perfectly. The home stretch was awesome with the big Batista moves stopping Shawn short. Shawn realized even with all his strategizing that Batista's power was too much so he had to dig deep in his bag of tricks and pull out a shady move to get the win. Highly recommended to watch. 

#9. WWE Champion John Cena vs Shawn Michaels - RAW 4/23/07

Shawn Michaels wrestles his ode to the NWA World Championship match without being the World Champion. At first, this kinda miffed me. Why is Cena acting like an upstart challenger. Telling Michaels, he is the close to beating him with the STFU on three occasions or the FU. Then I remember Cena is still being established. Winning the Championship in 2005 is one thing, staying there is another. Cena needs to prove everyone especially the veterans, he is no fluke. I think thats what this match is about. Michaels is not wrestling as Flair or Race. This is not a big bumping performance. This is a subtle heel Jack Brisco or Lou Thesz performance that even his archrival and king of the subtle heel, Bret Hart would be proud of. 

Michaels begins as an aggressive challenger working wristlocks and fireman carrys to try to gain an advantage and each time it is summarily countered almost into STFU, three times to be exact and each time Cena lets HBK know he is this close to beating him. Shawn, frustrated, slaps Cena and Cena responds with a big right hamhock. Thats the end of Act 1. Establishes Cena is not a big, dumb oaf. That he will not be intimidated by the moment or by wrestling. He can counter and is sure of himself. Shawn's opening strategy of taking the fight to Cena almost backfired three times and he needs to switch gears. 

Act II really establishes the Cena power game. This is a much better version of the Butch Reed vs Ric Flair side headlock matches. Cena and Reed have a lot in common in terms of build, presence and offensive ability. One thing that I often am disappointed about in First Wave John Cena (2005-2010) is that he wrestles a Lawler or Savage babyface style meaning he rushes into taking heat and then just makes a triumphant comeback. The shine is so critical in getting the audience invested and fired up. Going right to the heat segment is like going right into the breakdown of a song. This match we really get to see Cena shine and establish that power game. You get the sense of Cena's strength advantage and that HBK is in for a long night. Cena works the headlock, clothesline and shouldertackles well and more importantly Michaels sells it well especially when outside of the hold. I like HBK using roughhouse counters like a reverse elbow sound well by Cena and Michaels sells the damage of the headlock well even at this point. This is not a strong enough transition and Cena hits a big, meaty clothesline. Michaels out of desperation tries for Sweet Chin Music but he is no position to surprise the dominant Champion who evades and hoists Michaels up and almost hits an FU if it was not for the ropes. Thats the end of Act II which is Cena's shine through the power game climaxing with Cena almost hitting the FU. 

Act III as one would expect is when we transition to a heat segment. One issue I have with First Wave Cena (2005-2010) is that he tends to oversell at the beginning of the heat segment. He does not have levels or a gradual way of selling. You would have thought Cena had endured 10 minutes of brutal torture after just a couple Michaels chops. This is unfortunate. A strong transition is what is needed. It turns out that they were not going into heat, but rather Cena was overacting. It is called a register, brutha. Cena uses that power game to catch Michaels and turn into a powerslam, then a Fisherman Suplex and then a Throwback. All gaining minor nearfalls to build the drama. Shawn Michaels hits a swinging neckbreaker which is a lame transition and they lose me going into some Boo/Yay, FIghting Spirit stuff for no reason. Flying Burrito. I guess they are just going for it. Double Count for drama which is good, kip up. Top rope elbow of course, it is too early for Sweet Chin Music so he settles for a backslide, which is odd. Cena misses a shoulder tackle. Now thats a strong transition. Cena takes a hard bump on the mat and skids to the floor.  Michaels shoves Cena into the steel steps to cement his advantage and create a weakness in his arms. I like that Michaels did some of his normal comeback stuff early to make the fans believe this could end at any time and then organically create the hook for the heat segment proper with the shove into the steps. There were some efficiency issues (boo/yay) and Cena overselling issues, but some strong moments. Michaels hitting the big elbow signals to fans this could be over any minute. The Cena missed shouldertackle is a great transition and the steel steps sets up the effective heat segment. 

Act IV does not go as long as I would liked. Shawn did a great job torturing the arm. We werent quite at Dick Murdoch but that is in part due to the fact that it was cut short in my opinion. Shawn varied his attack and Cena did a great job selling. Before you know it we went into the typical Cena comeback sequence. I did like Cena yelling at his arm to fucking shape up before the Fist Drop. He even hit the FU and only two. 

Act V is Cena working the back with big power offense. Running the back into the post, bearhug. As is typical in big Cena matches when the FU fails he hits the Top Rope Leg Drop to the back of the head for two. Michaels gets a sunset flip powerbomb as the playing field is levelled and we enter the last phase of the match. 

Act VI is right after the double count by the ref...Cena goes for the STFU which Lawler lets us know is how Shawn lost at Mania. Good commentary King I had forgotten that. Michaels evades and shoves Cena off the apron onto the announce table. HBK wants to go to for that iconic spot from the Mania match where he piledrives Cena on the steel steps but Cena backdrops him on his bad back. Back in the ring, Cena finally locks in the STFU. Rope break. Good STFU, looked like a choke rather than two forearms across the face. Michaels goes for Sweet Chin Music but Cena has it scouted. Cena wants FU but Michaels creates separation for Sweet Chin Music! He does not cover immediately. Cena needs the ropes to avoid the 3 count. I liked the symmetry between the STFU and Sweet Chin music there. JR telegraphs the finish when he reminds us that this is non-title. I didnt know. As soon as I think I wonder if Michaels wins, he lands on his feet on a FU and BANG! Sweet Chin Music and collapses on top of Cena. 

This is a good representation that wins and losses to a certain extent dont matter. Shawn gets his win back from Mania. Cena never had the rubber match to go up 2-1 but Cena still is a way bigger star than Shawn ever was. Cena is a big star because he won when it mattered most and had a very high winning percentage. My point is that it is not that wins and losses matter or don't matter, it is context and the story being told that matters. The result of the match has long since been forgotten but what is left is a match everyone remembers as a classic. Now it is not like Dolph Ziggler going out proclaiming he is going to steal the show. This is a match where each man is trying to win and the by-product is entertainment as opposed to Ziggler whose goal is to entertain the fans. 

It is weird to call a 55 minute match rushed but it kind of was. I think theres a lot of things they could have flesh out. I think they did a really great job at the beginning. Michaels proved himself to be great at working on top in the 21st Century and I think he could have done more with the arm. I did like the story of Cena pummeling Michaels but Shawn always had a puncher's chance because of Sweet Chin Music. I watched this 2-3 times before and I knew I liked it but didnt think I loved it so I left it off my top 100 WWF/E matches of all time. This match totally belongs up there and I know exactly which match it will replace (Backlund/Valentine October 1981 that finish is dreadful). Awesome NWA Championship style match.

#8. WWE I-C Champion Chris Jericho vs Rey Mysterio - The Bash 2009 Title vs Mask

Even in 2009, Jim Ross occasionally had a good phrase, here he says "Has the nine lives of Rey Mysterio run out?". I think that is a perfect summation of the identity of Rey Mysterio, who as the smaller man in every match has to use high risk offense to stay competitive. When you are wrestling on the edge of a razor you have to be resilient because the high risk offense will be used against or you will crash and burn. I think there is no better wrestler in history at peppering in hope spots than Rey Mysterio. What separates Rey Rey from the spot monkeys is that he allows himself to fail. Some of these high risk moves are going to turned into tilt-a-whirl backbreakers, Codebreakers (what a spot) or the Walls of Jericho. He needs to be resilient enough to withstand that in a kayfabe sense. But in a working sense, he is secure enough in his ability and connection with the crowd that he does not always have to hit his offense and that his moves not always being successful makes for a more compelling match. I will say Rey Rey's selling and bumping is his bread and butter, but I don't think he gets enough credit for his offense and move selection. Jericho was on fire early on, I thought he lost a bit steam towards the end as he was more focused on hitting big spots, but early he was a great dick heel. I loved how he adapted to wrestling Mysterio by playing a big heavyweight. You really felt the weight of Jericho, which you don't usually see. They skipped the shine when Jericho hurled Mysterio into the barricade in a nasty spot. Mysterio always took a nasty fall from the apron on a baseball slide. The way Mysterio sets up his hope spots by creating that separation and then banging a couple off were great and another thing that separates him from the spot monkeys that shoehorn their spots into a match. That is the best split-legged moonsault I have ever seen and I hate the split-legged moonsault. The story of the end of the match was Rey going to live or die by the sword. He would hit a spectacular move only to be caught in a precarious predicament the next moment. It was a great roller coaster ride. It was here I thought Jericho's stellar character work disappeared and Mysterio was generating all the energy. The finish as a great play off their match from the previous month where Jericho swipes Mysterio's mask, but this time Mysterio is wearing another mask and is unphased. He is able to hit 619 and drop the dime.

Fantastic match! Jericho hit out of the park early and when he sort of came down (Jericho was very clean throughout the match, that was in reference to his character work), Mysterio picked up the slack. This is a perfect example of Mysterio's impeccable psychology and breath-taking moves. The finish was roller coaster of drama with Rey Rey looking like he was doomed on several occasions only to prove he can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.

Rewatched this match because I forgot everything about it. The Codebreaker spot got me again (lol!). I love when I forget a spot and get to mark out all over again. I agree with myself that is the best split-legged moonsault I have ever seen and I still hate the split-legged moonsault.

Things I noticed this time around was that the Rey senton splash to the outside was awesome and a great transition to the mini-Rey comeback. I don't think this was as Rey driven as I said in my previous review. I think Jericho continued to use his weight late into the match. Great catch and powerslam late into the match. I loved the counter to the spinning Argentine Backbreaker which was a great payoff to the previous match. All the Boston Crab counters were money and the crowd was super into them. I loved the powerbomb from the top by Jericho and following up with the feet on the ropes. Really terrific finish stretch. Still a classic. 

I am really excited to watch this a third time because I totally forget the Codebreaker spot again! :P

#7. WWE Champion Randy Orton vs John Cena - Breaking Point 2009 I Quit Match

At first, I was like what is the big deal this is just the usual John Cena vs Randy Orton match. Then Orton started stomping Cena's head on the steel steps. I was like that is pretty violent. Then Orton busted out the handcuffs and cuffed him to the ropes. Well that's definitely escalating thing. Then he hung him up on the post and the match got good, real good. This is the WWE at its cinematographic best. Orton pouring water on Cena so he doesn't pass out. A defiant Cena spitting the water back in Orton's face when he asks him if he quits. Orton whacking Cena as hard as he can with Singapore Canes to the exposed ribs leaving some of the nastiest cuts and bruises on Cena's body. Cena punting him in the balls. This was just great, over the top action movie ass kicking. The verbal selling of Cena was off the charts great in this match. His facial expressions too really captured the agony and helplessness of the situation. Orton did a great job writhing in pain after the ballshot. Orton gets a chair shot to the head and then another one. The way Cena flexes his entire body from the body almost like he is being electrocuted has to go down as one of the single greatest moments of selling in wrestling history. Orton misses with a chair shot and Cena knocks him down. He has the key. Cena cuffs Orton to himself meaning Orton has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide! CENA UNLEASHES THE FURY! We are talking some Jerry Lawler shit right now. WHERE HAS THIS CENA BEEN! These big hammock rights and all the energy this is what Cena should be. Orton does get an RKo as his last gasp. Then he tries to drag Cena to the key. Great drama here with the crowd finally coming alive. Cena ends up overpowering him and wrapping the chain around him such that in the STFU Orton is basically choking himself out. Orton says I Quit!

Beginning of the match being very pedestrian & run of the mill means this is not *****. I thought the finish was good, but could have been great if the metal of the cuff was around Orton's mouth but that's a nitpick. Now let me gush. Cena's selling was truly special. You could argue that he was not selling those Cane shots because they were a fucking shoot. Holy shit! I think the crowd was not reacting because this was not a conventional wrestling match with spots. It was closer to an action movie torture scene. Where Orton had Cena totally helpless and was just torturing him to get him to say I Quit, to break his spirit and rob Cena of his pride. Cena NEVER GIVES UP! They came up with a good way to get Cena the keys and then Cena just DESTROYED Orton! Really unique presentation until pretty much any wrestling match I have ever seen. Kudos!