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Top Matches of 2013

by Samoa Rowe

Happy 2014, everybody! I’d like to take this time to thank you all for continuing to make DaWrestlingSite the success (by our standards) that it is. I would also like to encourage you to check out Scrooge McSuck’s “Best and Worst” article, it is an extremely entertaining read and he hit’s the nail on the head on several topics. Before I dive into my Top 10 Matches list, I am going to steal his categories and name my picks.

The Shut The F*ck Up And Enjoy The Show Award of 2013:

Anyone who goes to an independent show just to shout sarcastic horsesh!t and make fun of the entire show. If you think you’re too cool to be at a lowly wrestling show, don’t go. I’m sick of watching internet pay-per-views or going to live events where a portion of the crowd thinks they’re clever because they’re vocalizing everything the wrestlers are trying to do.

The Zack Ryder Award for Biggest Fall from Grace:

The Miz. This poor guy also had a lousy 2012, but this last year was just rough. Miz turned heel, without any build, by refusing a tag to partner, Kofi Kingston. The heel turn was not spoken of again throughout the remainder of Raw. Then, everyone remembered that Miz had a starring role in an ABC Family Christmas movie, and shouldn’t be turning heel anyway, so they pretended the turn didn’t happen. Within a couple of weeks, Miz was standing up for Santa Foley against Curtis Axel on Main Event. Recently, Miz has been left off of Raw altogether and no one even bats an eye.

Get Over Yourselves, It's Only An Angle Award:

I’m going to politely disagree with Scrooge over the CM Punk/Paul Bearer stuff, as the entire thing left a bad taste in my mouth and killed my interest in the pending Punk/Undertaker match (even though the match itself was good). My winner would be the Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger run from early in the year, when Swagger was being set up as a serious heel against Alberto Del Rio, and their extreme right-wing talking points ruffled feathers among conversvative commentators, such as Glenn Beck. It was only an angle, and if you don’t like having a light being shined on your beliefs, then perhaps you should rethink your positions.

Biggest Hypocrite of 2013:

WWE. For years and years, they’re all “We’re not a sport, we’re entertainment” and use this excuse to avoid sports regulations. At the same time, they won’t let their wrestlers join the Screen Actors Guild. Suddenly, they’re negotiating their next TV deal, and suddenly they want to pass themselves off as a sport again, due to the big TV rights fees other live sports get. I know it’s all about the Benjamin’s, but give me a break.

Worst Match of 2013:

Big Show vs. Randy Orton from Survivor Series. I had the “pleasure” of being at this show live and spent the majority of the match marveling over just how venomous the crowd was, especially with all the resting. This match had no business main eventing a major pay-per-view, let alone a house show in 2013.

Worst Storyline of 2013:

The Authority storyline, in general. Scrooge named “The Authority vs. Daniel Bryan” and while that did indeed suck, it’s not like anything else The Authority has been a part of has been any good. Stephanie and Triple H are supposed to be heels, except they frequently punish their underlings (Vickie Guerrero, Brad Maddox) for also being heels. Triple H is always cracking jokes and looking for pops from the guys in the crowd. They always get the last word in their promo exchanges, not giving anyone on the active roster a chance to get over. They made their entire roster look cowardly by making them stand on the stage and watch them abuse their power. Everything The Authority touches it tedious and makes me want to turn the show off. They’re approaching “Anonymous Raw GM” levels of inconsistent and aggravating. If I could change anything about WWE today, it would be getting Steph and Hunter off TV for a good long while.

Worst Diva of 2013:

Jojo. Even the greener NXT divas can work circles around her.

Worst Tag Team of 2013:

Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, though I feel kind of bad for picking on them, since they’re true NXT rookies. Still, they’re an odd pairing, and their matches are embarrassing, and WWE felt they were ready to be featured on an internet show, so what am I supposed to think?

Worst Pay-Per-View of 2013:

Battleground, despite the excellent Shield vs. Rhodes Brothers match. I find the finish to the Orton vs. Bryan main event, with Big Show knocking them both out and just kind of standing there, to be unforgivable.

Best Diva of 2013:

AJ Lee. I enjoy her work, and the fact that she cares enough about what she does to tattoo the date she won the Divas title on her neck makes me like her even more.

Best Tag Team of 2013:

The Rhodes Brothers. They stole every show they were on for a solid couple of months and picked up where The Shield left off making the tag titles seem important.

Best WWE Wrestler of 2013:

Daniel Bryan. This was an easy decision. I wasn’t that fond if his Team Hell No run, as he seemed to be on cruise control, waiting for the right time to turn it up again. But when that time came, it came in a big way, and Bryan broke out with hot matches against The Shield.

Best PPV of 2013:

Summerslam, hands down. Cena/Bryan and Punk/Lesnar were two of the year’s best, and the undercard held up well with a strong Del Rio/Christian match.

And now, SamoaRowe’s Top 10 Wrestling Matches of 2013:

10) Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust (WWE Battleground, ****)

WWE sure had a lousy fall season. The Authority took over and wasted no time emasculating the entire roster by forcing all the wrestlers to stand on the stage and watch helplessly as Triple H and Stephanie made Big Show cry. Of all people, Cody Rhodes was one of the few to stand up to them, and SHOCKINGLY this got him over. Cody lost his job in a match against Randy Orton, big brother Goldust failed to get him rehired, and big daddy Dusty Rhodes got punched out by Big Show (serving the whims of Stephanie). This all lead to a match against The Shield at Battleground, which otherwise was probably the worst pay-per-view of 2013. When it came down to it, Cody and Goldust wrestled their hearts out against Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, and Dusty took care of Dean Ambrose at ringside. The Rhodes picked up the win and their jobs, and had a memorable celebration with the baby face roster on the stage. This was a feel good moment and a diamond in the rough during a frustrating period for WWE.

9) Sami Zayn vs. Antonio Cesaro (WWE NXT 8/21/13, ****¼)

2013 was a year that NXT, WWE’s developmental web series, made pretty much every other wrestling TV show look bad. It did a better job getting heels and baby faces over than Raw or Smackdown did, had a better small building presentation than TNA had, and generated more passion from the fans in attendance than ROH did. The best example was fighting hero Sami Zayn going toe to toe with workhorse Antonio Cesaro in a 2/3 falls match. Despite coming up short, Zayn got himself over in the match as an ass-kicker with enough credibility to challenge for the NXT title, while Cesaro cemented himself as one of the premier workers in 2013, who served as the backbone of WWE. The match was elevated by a hot crowd that showed a passion for the participants, as well as the story they were trying to tell. Go check this one out on Hulu.

8) Michael Elgin vs. Jay Lethal (ROH Supercard of Honor VII, ****¼)

2013 was the worst year for ROH in their eleven year history. They backed off from doing live iPPVs due to the constant technical woes that lead to them delivering refunds on a monthly basis, no storylines caught on in a way that attracted new fans, and there really weren’t any breakout stars (though they’d probably claim reDRagon, C+C Wrestle Factory, and a few others, they’re only kidding themselves). Top stars like Elgin and Lethal spun their wheels from January to December, but they still stole the show over Wrestlemania weekend with this #1 contenders match. I don’t really have much else to say about this one other than it’s a compact, tight 20 minute outing, with some well-earned false finishes (not just the typical “I hit a move and you kick out, then you hit a move and I kick out” type of match). The fact that this was the best match from ROH in 2013 is also a sad testament to the lack of impact the company had in 2013, and they should be looking to make some big changes in 2014.

7) The Undertaker vs. CM Punk (WWE Wrestlemania 29, ****¼)

I attended Wrestlemania 29 and I was not feeling terribly optimistic about this match going into the weekend. I flat-out hated the TV build, which centered mainly on a burnt-out, off-his-game CM Punk disrespecting the memory of the recently deceased Paul Bearer. I know Paul Heyman and CM Punk would probably argue that this tactic was brilliant and that they’re the only two heels in the business who aren’t afraid to be hated, but I thought it was too much and more often than not prompted me to turn Raw off. Also, I wasn’t expecting Undertaker to show up in great shape, and their previous 2009 matches were below average. Sometimes it feels good to be proven wrong, and Taker and Punk stole the show at WM29 by delivering a dramatic and suspenseful epic that actually got me buying that Punk could indeed end The Streak. A good portion of the live crowd was behind Punk and were willing to go along for the ride, even if the outcome wasn’t actually that much in doubt. It helped that Undertaker came back in better shape than in previous years and held up well against the meaner and leaner Punk. Nothing else on Wrestlemania came close to touching this modern classic.

6) Johnny Gargano vs. Shingo (DGUSA Open the Ultimate Gate, ****½)

This was DGUSA’s big Wrestlemania weekend main event, pitting longtime champion Gargano against his most threatening challenger in a while. This went over 30 minutes and had the crowd chanting “Match of the Year” until Gargano turned heel and cheated to win, effectively turning prompting “bullshit” chants. Gargano’s title reign survived 2013, as did his new “oblivious heel” persona. While I found this match thrilling (not live, but spoiler free) it did not seem to spark much interest in DGUSA/EVOLVE, as the company continued spinning their wheels, having peaked for the year over Wrestlemania weekend.

5) CM Punk vs. John Cena (WWE Raw 2/25/13, ****½)

Since WWE had billed the first Cena vs. Rock match at Wrestlemania 28 as “Once in a Lifetime” it seemed kind of shifty that they seemed hell-bent on having a rematch at Wrestlemania 29. Also, with the type of year CM Punk had in 2012, it only seemed right that he get to main event the biggest show of 2013. These ingredients made this clash between Cena and Punk nearly has heated as their previous WWE title matches. With the added benefit of this being a Raw match, it was easier to surpass expectations, so when they were kicking out of each other’s finishers and busting out moves you don’t see everyday (ie, a piledriver) you know the stakes were high. Going into the match, I was open to the possibility that it would end in a draw and we’d get Cena vs. Punk vs. Rock at Wrestlemania so they could dance around the “Once in a Lifetime” issue, but it turned out WWE didn’t care, and Cena ended up going over clean after nearly a half hour of action. This match left me feeling red hot for Wrestlemania, and feeling positive about Cena.

4) Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (WWE Summerslam, ****½)

Daniel Bryan broke out as a top tier baby face in 2013, mostly from his series of matches against The Shield in an assortment of different pairings. Whenever Bryan was opposite the Shield in a six man tag, it would be Bryan to get a hot tag late in the match and blow the roof off any given building with his explosive offense. The momentum Bryan built from this feud resulted him being so over, WWE management had to give in and book him against John Cena at Summerslam. Sadly, WWE immediately seemed self-conscious over this decision and pretty much apologized for it repeatedly. Luckily for Bryan, John Cena is a big fan of his (and a potential future brother-in-law, as they’re both dating/engaged to the Bella Twins) and insisted on putting Bryan over cleanly before taking a break to have elbow surgery. The resulting match was another too-good-to-be-true Cena vs. Smart Mark Favorite match, and Bryan won cleanly with a running knee to the face. For about 3 minutes, Bryan celebrating his win seemed to signal good times ahead creatively, but Randy Orton cashing in Money in the Bank (with thanks to a Triple H Pedigree) actually signaled a creative downswing.

3) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW 8/2/13, ****¾)

New Japan Pro Wrestling built some serious steam in 2013 with it’s successful and critically acclaimed internet pay-per-views. They crossed my radar over the summer in the midst of their annual G1 Climax round robin tournament. I caught a few matches here and there, but didn’t get serious about catching up on the big MOTYCs until I remembered that I had a list to make. While I’m sometimes lukewarm on puro, this match made me regret my stand off-ish attitude. I’d only seen a handful of Tanahashi matches previously and zero Ishii matches, and by the end of this G1 Climax bout, I was jumping out of my seat for the near falls and surprise counters. Ishii is a beast of a man, and Tanahashi is an ass-kicking all-rounder. As a special bonus, here is the match recap I wrote for myself while catching up on the year’s best:

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW 8/2/13)

Tanahashi goes for the throat in the early going. He applies a headlock and takes Ishii down to the mat. Ishii counters with a suplex, but Tanahashi holds on to the headlock. Ishii retaliates with a series of head butts. Tanahashi counters a head of steam with a cross body. The fight spills to ringside, where Ishii connects with a hard whip into the steel barricade and a power slam. Back to the ring, Tanahashi absorbs some head shots and returns the favor. Ishii ruthlessly chops the life out of Tanahashi. Second wind by Tanahashi, quickening the pace with rapid attacks. Corkscrew takedown by Tanahashi, followed by a drop-kick into the turnbuckles and a dive to the floor. Tanahashi misses a somersault leg drop off the turnbuckles, leading to the a rapid fire exchange of stiff offense that leaves both men down. They summon their FIGHTING SPIRIT for a slugfest. Ishii slaps the taste out of Tanahashi’s mouth and nails a BACKDROP DRIVER! Hard power bomb into a cover only gets 2 for Ishii. Desperate clothesline by Tanahashi and a hard earned German suplex with a bridge gets 2. Tanahashi goes top rope, but Ishii hits the ropes. Vertical superplex by Ishii! Power bomb by Ishii only gets 2! The crowd is going nuts for these near falls. Ishii counters Tanahashi and nails a lariat for a heartbreakingly close near fall. Tanahashi plants Ishii with his elbow but is too slow to make the cover. They jockey for position and Tanahashi nails a DRAGON SUPLEX. Another dragon suplex but Ishii kicks out!! Tanahashi’s Frog Splash misses, and Ishii capitalizes for another near fall! The crowd heat is infectious at this point! They trade crawling head butts and slug it out on their knees. They trade forearms until Tanahashi blindsides him with a head butt. Ishii blocks a suplex with a sick rear head butt! Ishii nails a BRAINBUSTER but TANAHASHI KICKS OUT!!! PILEDRIVER by Ishii finally ends it at 17:38! The final five minutes had me, an uninitiated NJPW viewer, jumping out of my seat for the near falls and counters! A truly eye-opening marvel that demands your attention, ****¾.
Winner: Tomohiro Ishii

2) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW Invasion Attack, *****)

I thought Tanahashi vs. Ishii was going to be the best NJPW match I was going to see, until I caught wind about the series of IWGP Championship matches Tanahashi had with Okada. This particular match from Invasion Attack was the best in their series, resulting in Okada winning the championship. Rather than try to find new ways to gush about it, here’s another bonus match review:

IWGP Championship:
Hiroshi Tanahashi © vs. Kazuchika Okada
Invasion Attack 4-7-13

They lock up and Okada seems a tad disrespectful in a clean break, patting the chest. Tanahashi doesn’t ake this well and aggressively goes for the headlock. Okada reverses and nails a shoulder block. The pace quickens, and Tanahashi seems to have the upper hand and knows it. Okada slaps the face and follows with a big boot. Tanahashi throws some punches but misses the drop-kick to the knee. Tanahashi counters into an armbar and continues working over the arm. Okada comes back with a DDT on the apron! Okada applies a unique Full Nelson variation, flipping his body over Tanahashi’s head. Okada enjoys a stretch in the driver’s seat, delivering a variety of submission holds and quick attacks. Tanahashi blocks a piledriver on the floor and bats Okada into the steel barricade and ring post. Tanahashi scores a flying cross body to the floor! Tanahashi finds his second wind and delivers and impressive comeback. Tanahashi targets the arm of Okada with repeated shots. Okada counters with a flapjack, followed by a shoulder breaker. Okada slams Tanahashi in place for the flying elbow drop, which aggravates his arm injury. Tanahashi blocks the piledriver but runs into a perfect drop-kick. Okada pretzels the legs and grabs the head for a sick submission. Both men struggle to their feet after a slam, and Tanahashi nails a straight jacket suplex! Another Tanahashi slam sets up a top rope move, but Okada knocks him off the top! Okada kicks Tanahashi over the barricade and follows with a DDT onto the concrete! Tanahashi crawls into the ring for a scoop slam for a near fall. Tanahashi targets the hurt arm and blocks the perfect drop-kick! Tanahashi smashes the arm, but Okada counters with a lariat! Okada’s piledriver is countered again, but he improvises with his modified cobra clutch! Tanahashi counters with a flying club onto the injured arm! Flying cross body by Tanahashi connects, followed by the hangman clotheslines and Full Nelson Suplex! Okada kicks out! Frog splash to the back by Tanahashi, but a second one is countered! Both men struggle to stand, but Okada nails a drop-kick to the back. Tanahashi counters the piledriver AGAIN, but his gut-wrench suplex is also blocked! Tanahashi attempts to steal the piledriver, but Okada reverses and finally hits it! Desperate lariat by Okada is enough for the win at 31:33! Okada wins the title! I hate to gush, but this was AMAZING with a story that you could really sink your teeth into, with Okada struggling to hit the piledriver and overcoming an arm injury. Everything they did looked good and contributed to the story, I almost feel dirty, but this was *****.
Winner and new IWGP Champion: Kazuchika Okada

Without further adieu, here is the official SamoaRowe MOTY for 2013...

1) Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk (WWE Summerslam, *****)

Yeah, this one is kind of obvious, and Okada vs. Tanahashi nearly stole the top spot, but this match has several intangible elements putting it over the top. For starters, the match itself is amazing, with Lesnar brutalizing Punk, who put in a top notch underdog performance. Secondly, the build was fantastic, with Paul Heyman backstabbing Punk at Money in the Bank, and aligning his stable of clients against his former best friend. Thirdly, WWE had a stellar summer, with Payback, Money in the Bank, and Summerslam all being above-average pay-per-views that had me feeling like we were entering a new WWE golden age (how wrong I was about that, eh?). All the goodwill WWE built up over the summer culminated with this match. It amazes me that Summerslam did a frustratingly low buyrate of just under 300,000 buys, but my theory is that Punk, Bryan, and Lesnar appeal to fans who are more likely to pirate the events, while Cena and HHH fans are more apt to pay for them (the less exciting Summerslam 2012 did around 360,000 buys with Lesnar vs. Triple H on top). Lesnar vs. Punk, and Summerslam 2013 as a whole sort of stands as an example of what WWE could be, and why cynical “smart fans” like ourselves stick around.

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