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Top Ten Wrestling Matches of 2011
Here we go again. Rowe’s Top 10 matches of 2011. As per usual, there were some matches that had MOTY buzz that I did not get to see in time. This year’s most noteworthy examples would be Johnny Gargano vs. Yamato from DGUSA, Kevin Steen vs. El Generico from PWG’s Steen Wolf, and a handful of Eddie Edwards title matches in ROH from the spring. There was a distressingly lack of buzz worthy matches coming out of TNA (excuse me, ahem, Impact Wrestling) and WWE, but that has been the trend of the last couple of years.
10) Austin Aries vs. Low Ki vs. Jack Evans vs. Zema Ion (Impact Wrestling Destination X)
9) Randy Orton vs. Christian (WWE Summerslam)
7) Yamato vs. BxB Hulk (DGUSA Revolt!)
6) Sami Callihan vs. Fit Finlay (EVOLVE 9)
This year’s Wrestlemania was generally received as a disappointment. This was a match that (nearly) saved the show. I don’t think many people expected Undertaker and Triple H to come close to matching what Taker did with Shawn Michaels in the previous years, or to even try, but they pulled out all the stops to continue the new streak of awesome Undertaker matches at Wrestlemania. The kicker for me here was the closing moments of the match, when Triple H seemed to have Undertaker finally beaten, but the resourceful Dead Man managed to pull out a Triangle Choke and gain a last minute victory. Undertaker never seemed more vulnerable than he did here.
This was ROH’s biggest match of the year. Think about it, they had no television support going into this iPPV and they managed to do about 2,000 buys. To put that in perspective, TNA pay-per-views average 8,000 buys and they have a weekly primetime slot on a big cable network with somewhere around 2 million viewers. ROH showed quite a bit of patience and restraint by allowing the inevitable match-up between the American Wolves to reach this point. They wrestled a straight up great match and it was one of those great scenarios where you could imagine the outcome going either way. Edwards hadn’t held the belt for long but Richards was considered long overdue to hold the gold. In the end, Richards pulled out the victory after delivering some hard kicks, and the Wolves remained friends… at least for now. They tried to recreate the magic at Final Battle, and while they came close, there were too many variables holding the rematch back.
3) Smackdown Money in the Bank Ladder match (WWE Money in the Bank)
This is up there among the best Money in the Bank matches ever, coming close to the greatness of the original. There aren’t too many times when I sit up and take notice at how WWE booking makes everyone look good. Seriously, the participants here included Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel, and they both looked like stars. Sin Cara was carted out early, but managed to wow the crowd with a sprint of creative high spots. Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Kane, and Sheamus all filled their roles perfectly. And the kicker was the shocker of a finish: Daniel Bryan was the man to unhook the briefcase. Nobody saw that result coming and it was a great moment. This match flew under many radars, go check it out.
Speaking of flying under the radar, ROH’s Death Before Dishonor iPPV did just that. It was broadcast just before the new TV show premiered yet was filmed after those episodes had been taped. The result was an odd situation where the TV show completely no-sold the event, outside from occasional off-hand references. The shame is that Edwards and Strong had a match that completely surprised the hell out of me. It featured an odd “Ringmaster’s Challenge” stipulation that added different rules in a 2/3 falls scenario. The first fall was a normal match, the second fall was submission only, and the third fall was a 15 minute Iron Man match. While a lot of recent “long matches” were misfires, this one was compelling from bell to bell. It’s not often when I watch a 40 minute match that feels like a 20 minute one. Eddie Edwards had a banner year of work, capped off by this dark horse classic.
Most critics immediately marked this one as ***** after it happened, but I felt there were a few too many sloppy moments, bordering on botches, during the bout. Also, the impact of this match was negated by the fact that CM Punk returned only a week or so later after promising to take the title and leave forever. Still, this was a rare match to see in WWE in this day and age as CM Punk’s hometown Chicago crowd was 100% behind him and invested in the outcome. They threw some clever twists into the match as well, as at one point it looked like Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis were going to screw Punk. In the end, after about 30 minutes of action, CM Punk shocked the world by cleanly defeating WWE’s golden boy, John Cena. If you had told me this would happen even a month earlier, I would have laughed. While Punk cooled off from the initial hot period of his company scathing promo and title victory, this match secured him a spot on top of the WWE for the foreseeable future.
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