And now we come to the big kahuna of matches, the PPV matches. WWE PPV this year has been, in a word, outstanding. If in 2010 most shows were good with maybe one great match, in 2011 most shows were great with at least one awesome match. The difference in quality is immense and the list of great PPV matches this year is lengthy. Here are the best…
10. Smackdown Money in the Bank Match (WWE Money in the Bank)
A list of the best matches of the year since 2005 just isnt complete without Money in the Bank. No matter how many times they do this, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, I always end up loving MITB. Its just too much fun, and Smackdown’s was the pick of the two this year.
Crazy spots galore, of course. Justin Gabes immediately brings the awesome by climbing a ladder and HOPPING IT TOWARDS THE MIDDLE. There’s this great little interlude where the ladders almost disappear and we get men doing lucha highspots. The consecutive topes of Bryan, Gabes, Slater and Cara ruled hard. Shortly thereafter, Sheamus (whom Cara had been battling all night playing off their go-home match) proceeds to KILL SIN CARA DEAD. POWERBOMB ONTO THE LADDER BRIDGE. JESUS F*CK. Brutal sh*t.
Now things get serious. Corre works together and then implodes again. HOLY GOD, Bryan got Doomsday Device’d to DEATH by Kane, Jesus. Guys are really starting to die now. Slater Neckbreakers Bryan off the ladder. Slater gets f*cking POLEAXED ON THE END OF A LADDER and deposited outside. That was crazy. In his turn to DIE Sheamus gets CHOKESLAMMED ONTO A LADDER BRIDGE. All match Kane has been so dominant whenever he’s in the ring that finally everyone decides to collectively destroy him, ending in Gabes’ TERRIFYING Wobbly Ladder Bridge 450 that he somehow nailed “in a phonebooth”. INSANE SH*T.
It comes down to Bryan, Wade and Cody in a great final stretch. Bryan finally escapes Wasteland with a million AmDrag elbows and a KICK, and this was amazing, because the crowd had been chanting for him the entire match – they liked him and wished he could win without believing he would, but when Barrett gets Kicked you can literally see every single person in the crowd RISE UP IN UNISON because they realise he’s actually going to freaking win. AMAZING moment.
And win he did. Just mental, everyone in the building lost their sh*t, Bryan was crying his eyes out, even Cole stopped heeling on him. We’re half an hour into this Smarks’ Dream PPV and we already get Bryan Danielson, future World Champion. Incredible moment. Awesome match.
9. Christian vs Randy Orton – No Holds Barred World Championship Match (WWE Summerslam)
I’m a big fan of the babyface getting the ultimate revenge in the final blow off, and as far as blow off matches go, this was one of the best ever. It was also a WAR. I mean, these guys beat the Holy Sh*t out of each other, to the point where Christian, derided by Edge before the match as the most whiny, gutless chickensh*t in the world, actually came out looking like a million bucks having taken so much punishment from Orton and going down swinging. There was some brutal ass kicking going on here, like Orton LAYING IN THE PUNCHES in the corner (disturbingly so), or Christian beating the SH*T out of Orton with kendo shots and choking him with the end of it. Nasty. And they linked this brutality seamlessly with their never-ending quest for Counters. Just awesome work.
Two things I particularly want to mention, the first being Orton’s selling. Sometimes you just take it for granted, but Randy Orton was the motherf*cking KING of Selling in this match. He was just excellent, and on a show groaning under the weight of greatness, for these 25 minutes at least he was undoubtedly the best pro wrestler in the universe. The other main point is the storytelling running through this match (as with all their matches) was phenomenal. To begin, Christian is shaken that his genius plan of using Edge backfired and Orton immediately circles him and proceeds to kill this f*cker. He survives all of Orton’s offense, and even gets Orton onto the announce table, but he cant help himself, wastes time mocking him and BAM RKO THROUGH THE TABLE! That was an awesome spot (the table finally broke!) and Christian and particularly Orton selling this and barely crawling back into the ring was incredible sh*t. Orton actually ended up worse for wear, from his own move.
So with Orton just as hurt as he is Christian actually hits the Killswitch but BAM, KICK OUT. Just like the last match Christian has no idea how to react, and seemingly panics because Plan B is to spit in Orton’s face again. Bad decision. It worked last month with the DQ stip, but here with no rules Orton fires the F*CK up and KILLS THIS F*CKER. He just goes completely nuts, tossing furniture, putting him through tables, breaking kendo sticks, DDT on the trashcan. Christian, utterly defeated, gets one last shot in with a kendo stick, springboards out of pure instinct and BAM RKO ON THE STAIRS. Ball. F*cking. Game. The poetry going back to the first match is beautiful. An incredible blow off, a brutal war, and one of the best Street Fights (or equivalents) in a long time.
8. Mark Henry vs Randy Orton – Hell in a Cell World Championship Match (WWE Hell in a Cell)
The build to this was, like Henry’s entire run, fantastic and I was insanely excited for this, and they delivered with an epic, awesome match. This is easily my favourite HIAC since 2008.
I said this at the time but it bears repeating, this was basically an old school cage match, minus any blood. No weapons apart from the stairs, no insane bumps, no real craziness, it was just a heel locked inside a cage with a babyface to fight it out for the title. The pure simplicity of this match was wonderful. A lot of credit has to go, honestly, to commentary. JR, Cole and Booker called this unbelievably well, with zero bickering, and really did a lot to put over relatively basic moves as devastating. I mean, the main spots during the heat were backbreakers, a powerslam and a bearhug. In a Hell In A Cell match! And they absolutely made it work.
The match as it unfolded was awesome fun. Orton knew he was in for a war and came out swinging, putting Henry into the Cell literally within a minute. Henry soon takes over and just destroys this man forever. Henry was an absolute beast, doing sh*t like the Brock slams into the Cell and post, and LAUNCHING THE STAIRS AT RANDY. Tossed them like a football. Orton was also a champ, selling his ass off like a motherf*cker and fighting back whenever he could. I was just talking about this recently, I like it when babyfaces are always trying to be active and fight back when they’re being beaten on, and Orton did a great job staying in the contest. These guys were working like machines.
And then the finish. My Lord. Orton takes all this beating, and FINALLY manages to make a proper comeback. Now, Orton was never able to hit the RKO on Henry before but he finally did on the go-home, so going in Orton knows if he can just nail the RKO, he can win. BAM, he nails it! One, two, KICK, OUT. It…didnt work. F*CK. Booker screams at him to just hit it again, but Orton gets a better idea and goes back for the one move that has to work: The Punt. Orton runs, BAM WORLD’S STRONGEST SLAM! Game over. The timing of that was out of this world, and the storytelling could not have been more perfect. Hands-down the best finish of the year. Everyone is awesome.
7. Mark Henry vs Big Show – World Championship Match (WWE Vengeance)
Minds: blown. I mean, they had a good match at MITB, and I was expecting quite a bit from them here, and these guys went to work and blew even my expectations completely out of the water.
First off, I love that when these two work together they realise that there’s nobody to bounce off them like usual, so these giants decide to bounce around themselves. They took some astonishing bumps here. But more on that later. Henry, who has been unstoppable for months, an immovable monster, pinning Orton clean – he goes in here and gets DOMINATED. His size advantage is lost. So he tackles the knee and gets to work on the previously-injured leg instead. A great pro wrestler, is your world champion. Show is great selling the sh*t out of this, even going for a bodyslam and collapsing under his leg, Cena-style. Thats a kingsized spot from the last guy in the world who should have trouble lifting things, especially when Henry lifted him earlier with the greatest of ease.
And then, it happens. They crawl to their knees on opposite sides of the ring. Slowly, they turn. They stare each other down like rams. They jump up, they ROAR, they CHARGE, they clothesline each other to death. GREATEST MOVIE SCENE IN A MATCH EVER. That was just so awesome and I laughed hysterically. There’s a great kneeling strike exchange before Show finally makes a comeback and COMPLETES THE BODYSLAM. Down the stretch we go unbelievably nutty with the bombs. Chokeslam, kick out. World’s Strongest Slam, kick out. SUPER CHOKESLAM, kick out. That was one insane bump and an awesome nearfall. There’s this great escalation going on, as bigger and bigger moves arent getting the job done, forcing them to do insane things like ascend to the top rope. You really feel like something monumental is needed to keep these guys down.
And something monumental is what we got. SUPERPL-ARGH, RING BREAKS, EVERYONE IS DEAD. That was an amazing, amazing finish, Jesus. It was awesome, everyone lost their sh*t for it, it made perfect sense, it prolongs the feud without taking away from either guy. That accomplished a HELL of a lot. And man it was cool. Made even cooler by Show continuing to sell his ass off and Mark Henry being the Greatest of All Time refusing to be helped and collapsing up the ramp. Insanity. Honestly I’m struggling to think of a better match between superheavyweights. Ever.
6. John Cena vs CM Punk – WWE Title Unification Match (WWE Summerslam)
Summerslam was an awesome show. As The Rematch this was almost as awesome as MITB the month before (spoiler alert). The atmosphere obviously wasnt quite the same but this was still a super hot crowd, and for pure in-ring action this was arguably just as good as the original.
I just love the way these guys work long main events, feeling each other out and trading holds. It was building well, and then suddenly Cena tried a shoulder block and OH MY GOD. This. F*cking. Sequence. They countered EVERYTHING, shoulder block to knee lift to running knee to shoulder blocks to spinny slam rolled through to running knee to bulldog to spinny slam to 5KS to kick blocked into STF to Koji Clutch to STF to Anaconda Vice to crossface. I mean, my God. In a world with Orton and Christian (and the Punk/Rey sequence at Capitol Punishment for that matter), this was the most incredible stretch of counters of the year without question and one of the most insane you ever saw. This blew my mind.
They really busted out some cool sh*t in this match – Punk used Jericho’s springboard apron dropkick, Cena used a Jackknife rollup, of all things. Even the Yay/Boo Exchange here was unique, using kicks, knees and chops to mix things up, right into CENA’S DROPKICK, which was hilarious. Punk completed his knee-bulldog combo by throwing a GIANT knee to Cena on the top rope and a super bulldog. Just straight-up awesome work. Even Hunter didnt detract from the match, as his only real involvement was nixing a countout after Punk hit a giant TOPE and launched himself head-first into the barricade. Finally down the stretch we get serious bomb throwing – the FU, the GTS – and nothing is working. Then a final, desperate strike exchange before one more brutal KNEE in the ropes that allows Punk to hit a second GTS.
The finish, with Cena’s foot on the ropes, f*cking sucked to watch even though it made sense. But the aftermath returned the excitement (Nash, Alberto!) and you cannot deny the simply awesome 25 minutes these guys worked. A tremendous main event.