Welcome to another of our very serious and important year-end awards. In this one, we’ll be ranking our top ten matches for 2013.
Like our top wrestlers, originally we were each going to do a separate top five.. but once again, we found that we’d picked a few of the same ones, so there were only ten different matches across the three different lists. What’s wrong with us?!? Anyway, once again, we’ve mashed together all our opinions for one collective top ten.
10. Goldust & Cody Rhodes vs. The Shield: WWE Raw, 15th October
The presence of The Authority has been a drag for the most part, but their feud with the Rhodes family was one thing that worked out pretty fantastically, with the high point being this match where Cody & Goldust won the tag titles from The Shield.
The history between the Rhodes and the McMahons gave it a satisfying edge of truth and, when you get down to it, I think people really do just want to see brothers united and victorious against a common enemy. Big Show’s presence tempered the finish slightly, but it was still an amazing slice of raw emotion that you don’t see a lot of these days. A middle-aged guy in smeared facepaint is money, brother.
9. Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins: WWE Raw, 10th June
These two are spectacular. Magic was made during the Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield string of matches and this was my favorite match from it.
8. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks vs. Candice LeRae, AR Fox & Rich Swann: PWG BOLA 2013, Night Two
Just such a fun match that perfectly encapsulates PWG. Everyone looked like a star and this will hopefully be looked back on as the match that launched Candice to a whole other level.
7. John Cena vs. Damien Sandow: WWE Raw, 28th October
A roller coaster of emotion is one of my favorite feelings when watching a match. Believing both wrestlers can win the match, going back and forth wondering how it could end, feeling yourself getting sucked into the web of pro wrestling is always something I enjoy. This match captured all of those facets. Damien Sandow showed he can hang with the best and John Cena stepped it up for another big match.
6. The Inner-City Machine Guns vs. AR Fox and Samuray Del Sol: PWG All-Star Weekend 9, Night One
This is a match that I’ve watched over and over again throughout the year. Sure, it can probably be called a “spot-fest” but it is so much fun. Del Sol and Ricochet’s back and forth was awesome. It’s one of those simple and exciting matches that I can show someone when they ask me why I like wrestling so much.
5. Daniel Bryan vs. Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro & Ryback: WWE Raw, 22nd July
Why should anyone care about the middle section of a gauntlet match between one guy who’s only just been pushed to the main event scene and another who’s stuck in a nothing tag team? Because Daniel Bryan and Antonio Cesaro are incredible, that’s why. Shockingly, you can probably just discount the Jack Swagger and Ryback portions of this match – while they were serviceable enough, the Bryan / Cesaro stuff was just pure magic.
4. Sami Zayn vs. Antonio Cesaro: WWE NXT, 22nd August
You know… It’s almost like these two had wrestled each other a few times before. This was one of the first matches that came to mind when I started putting my picks together. These guys have so much talent individually but there is also a chemistry there that makes it even better. From the pacing to the ending sequence to how well the story was told during the match, this one had me immediately hitting rewind to watch it over again.
The problem with a lot of NXT matches is that the hype and the anticipation can make it almost impossible for them to live up to expectations when they’re finally watchable. The Zayn/Cesaro two out of three falls match is one that really delivered though, at least for me. The dynamic between the two is perfect, the action was constant and there were a few spots which I just couldn’t believe I was seeing on a WWE programme.
3. Shingo vs. Johnny Gargano: Dragon Gate USA, Open the Ultimate Gate
I had the pleasure of seeing this match live. I’m a sucker for a match where the relentless face gets beaten down by the forceful juggernaut throughout the match. The thing about this match was that this time the relentless face could not overcome the odds without cheating. What was more important to this man? The championship or his integrity? Were there other ways that this match could have ended? Sure.
I normally wouldn’t have cared for this ending but I feel like it was the only way to really express the dire position Gargano was in and where he was heading mentally as a character. I will say that I was not a fan of how it came to a close initially but after watching over it a few times it grew on me and the match as a whole was wrestling at it’s finest. Shingo is a beast and this is where Gargano proved himself to be something truly special. The post-match promo by Johnny Gargano is what really got me. Amazing stuff here.
While I got an enjoyment out of independent wrestling this year, no specific match jumped out to me as a “must see match” or Match of the Year candidate except for this one. These two had amazing chemistry and the match intensity grew with every second. Johnny Gargano cemented himself as one of the best wrestlers this year and while many disliked the ending to this match, it really did help show his ability to play a great character on the mic. As Tim mentioned, the promo after this match launched the new persona of Gargano. Yes, I DID enjoy the show.
2. John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan: WWE Summerslam
What I would give for a CM Punk vs John Cena vs Daniel Bryan Wrestlemania main event. Honestly, I could have done a whole top five list using nothing but matches involving Cena, Punk, or Bryan from this past year. Here we have another match where Cena pushes himself against another top-notch talent. Daniel Bryan.
The build up to this was pretty exciting and the match itself delivered greatly. We were even given an ending in which Cena lost fairly even though we did not get to bask in it for too long. The near falls had me coming embarrassingly close to jumping out of my chair and yelling at the screen. I was heavily invested in this one. Bryan and Cena had the fans going nuts and I hate that the air was let out of the post-match celebration by a title cash in that would eventually have me lose interest in the product a few moths down the road.
Bell to bell, John Cena stepped it up yet again and Daniel Bryan proved why he is the best wrestler in the world. They went back and forth with excellent wrestling, portrayed a fight where you could bite into the false finish and executed an actual finish no one saw coming with Bryan’s flying knee.
It’s unfortunate that the aftermath has skewed the reaction for this match as it filled the memory with not so pleasant ones when most look back at it today. I hope we see a rematch (or 15) between these two in 2014. Very few things in pro wrestling are as amazing as the two best in the field squaring off.
1. John Cena vs. CM Punk: WWE Raw, 25th February
That “big fight feel” that you always hear about? This is a prime example of what it is. CM Punk and John Cena always put on a show when they wrestle each other and I would confidently put money down to watch them go head-to-head on any show they headline but even this surprised me.
From the moment the crowd was heard during the entrances I knew this was going to be something special and it was just a match on Raw. There was a pile-driver. Cena did a hurricanrana. There were so many incredible moments in this match. It fully encapsulates everything I love about professional wrestling. I think it’s safe for me to say that after seeing this match CM Punk and John Cena secured their spot as my favorite rivalry in wrestling history.
I mentioned prior that very few things in pro wrestling are as amazing as the two best in the field squaring off. Before Daniel Bryan’s popularity reached new heights this Summer, CM Punk was the 1A to John Cena’s face of the company. These two put on an absolute clinic on RAW with a match worthy of main eventing Wrestlemania.
Everything I love about pro wrestling was captured in this match. The aura, the athleticism, the drama, a collective group of a crowd all holding their breath or ooh’ing and ahh’ing at the same time. No two wrestlers right now have as great a chemistry facing each other as these two and it showed here. Cena’s hurricanrana into an Attitude Adjustment was a glorious finish.
From the unexpected spots (Punk’s piledriver, the Cena-canrana) and the intensity of the match to the unbelievable crowd reaction and the overall feeling that THIS was what the last year of WWE TV had really been building to, WWE really should just rewrite history and claim this as the match that headlined Wrestlemania 29.
I don’t think it’s unfair to compare Punk / Cena to Rock / Austin at this point – they’re the most natural main event opponents WWE has and every time they face one another, it feels like a big deal. Cena and Punk both seem most motivated when they’re facing each other too, so hopefully we’ll get something just as special from them in 2014.
Here were our top 5 Matches of the Year each:
5. John Cena vs. CM Punk
4. The Inner-City Machine Guns vs. AR Fox & Samuray Del Sol
3. Johnny Gargano vs. Shingo
2. Sami Zayn vs. Antonio Cesaro
1. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena
5. Goldust & Cody Rhodes vs. The Shield
4. Sami Zayn vs. Antonio Cesaro
3. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks vs. Candice LeRae, AR Fox & Rich Swann
2. Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro, Jack Swagger and Ryback
1. John Cena vs. CM Punk
5. Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollns
4. John Cena vs. Damien Sandow
3. John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan
2. Johnny Gargano vs. Shingo
1. John Cena vs. CM Punk