The Professional 3 12.29.13: Jon's Top 3 2013 Matches from Raw
Posted by Jon Harder on 12.29.2013
In his last column of 2013, 411's Jon Harder writes about his top 3 favorite matches from Raw this year. Three classics are in the list, and one is DEFINITELY a match you wouldn't expect!
Welcome everyone to another edition of the Professional 3 on 411mania.com! I'm Jon Harder and it is the last column of the year! Wow, I've made it through 2013 without being let go from the best wrestling website on the planet! This has been a complete blast to write every week in 2013 and bring you my unique views on the sport of kings. Trust me, it has been a blast to write each and every week for you guys who follow and understand my ramblings on the world of pro wrestling. And hopefully, you will get a feeling on what 2013 meant to me when it came to sports entertainment this year.
Now, onto this week's column. 2013, in my opinion, has been an awesome building block to redeveloping the WWE brand. For years upon years, people have doubted the story building of WWE. For the first time in quite a number of years, the #1 wrestling company in the world has done exactly that. They have found a way to make their main event stories work. Have they completely unfolded to where we see their hand 100%? No, but it's all about the long term planning. To build on a foundation, you have to start at the bottom and build a strong base. The Authority is that base. It is based off real life. In this generation of the world, the "machine" picks and chooses who they can mold to be a star. If you aren't what they are looking for, then they will do everything in their power to break you down, humble you, and attempt to restore you into what THEY want you to be. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are doing a phenomenal job of what is needed to portray of the "machine".
The talent pool in the WWE right now is far and beyond what this company has experienced in years. People can hate the fact that Daniel Bryan isn't the WWE champion right now, but in my honest estimation, the BIGGER picture is being formed right in front of our faces. John Cena still maintains his look and his aura as the workhorse in WWE. Randy Orton found his way to being the MAN right now as the WWE World Heavyweight champion, and is proving himself every single week. CM Punk had a phenomenal in-ring 2013 and the long-term rivalry with Paul Heyman has been nothing short of spectacular. Most importantly, the young talent in the midcard has been nothing short of impressive. So many young guys looking to break on through to the other side.
Also, you can see the other small steps the WWE has taken to bring back wrestling to its old school demeanor. The championships are slowly but surely being taken care of so where the importance of them mean so much more when they are being coveted for by the other athletes. Tag team wrestling has truly been reborn over the past year, as I alluded to in last week's piece. It's so refreshing to see that transpire. Most of all, gimmicks have finally started to filter in on a more consistent basis. The Wyatt Family, the Matadores, Fandango, and Big E Langston are a few examples what really came through in 2013 from a character standpoint. Hate it as it may be, internet wrestling community, but surprisingly, WWE has built a strong foundation this year to move on for the future. (EDITOR'S NOTE: It's not a dig at the IWC; it's more along the lines of frustration when everything does not go perfectly to plan when the die-hard fans picture it. I go through it from time-to-time, so you are not alone.) Plus, one of my all-time favorites came back to WWE as my personal favorite, so it came out even more tremendous than originally though. Who is one of my all-time faves, you ask?
WE THE PEOPLE.
But most of all, 2013 was the year where WWE finally began to master the 3 hour Raws. I'm sorry; I now appreciate the art of the 3 hour shows on the USA Network. WWE has found their niche on what needs to be on TV, not just the 3 hours in general, but the hour-by-hour and segment-by-segment standpoint. The incredible burn out factor of putting out 9 hours of original content every week runs quick, but Raw is the main focus and is ultimately handled properly. From placement of main stories in each hour, to debut vignettes, to WWE App spots, to promotion of the brand, and even down to the commentators, Raw is incredibly produced to the T. Perhaps, it might even be overproduced. But to me, the 3 hour Raws have finally hit their stride.
And within this year and the 3 hour programs, there have been some incredible matches. My god, the more this year went on, the quality of matches picked up to another level. However, on this week's P3, I have three in particular that I absolutely adored. With such a selection, I scoured through a lot of YouTube and Dailymotion to find the three I dug most. My selections are based on a simple process: the story that's being told, the action in the match, and what it leads to for the combatants. Is it weird? Absolutely, but in my mind, these three unique traits take for a great match.
Without further hesitation:
THE PROFESSIONAL 3: Jon's Top 3 2013 Matches from Raw
1) UNDERTAKER AND TEAM HELL NO VS THE SHIELD (RAW 4.22.13)
Quite possibly, the best six-man tag match in 2013, and that's saying something. The Shield was coming off retaining their undefeated streak as a unit at WrestleMania against Sheamus, Randy Orton, and Big Show. The night after WrestleMania, they attempted to go after Undertaker when, after defeating CM Punk, was in front of the hot Meadowlands crowd, dedicating his win for his former mentor and manager, Paul Bearer. The Shield came through the crowd and as the Undertaker was in sheer danger of getting destroyed, Team Hell No of Daniel Bryan and Undertaker's brother Kane, ran down the aisle and backed him up. This led to two weeks later in England, where the Undertaker had a rare match on Raw in a six-man tag.
This match-up did not let anyone down. Although the Shield had gotten huge wins on pay-per-view, this match FREE ON TV let everyone know that the Shield truly arrived. With the chemistry Kane and Bryan, combined with the aura of the Deadman, the Shield dominated these three men. In the end, Bryan got caught and was pinned. Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose became SUPERSTARS on Monday Night Raw. The following Smackdown, the Shield triple powerbombed the Undertaker through an announce table. The Deadman has not been seen since. A few weeks later, The Shield won the Tag Team championships from Team Hell No. The Shield had become the biggest force in pro wrestling, personally, because of this match.
2) JOHN CENA VS CM PUNK (RAW 2.25.13)
How can you not have this match on this list? CM Punk and John Cena have had a back and forth rivalry over a three year span. All started (if you want to go that far back) because Cena knocked over Punk's diet soda during commentary in late 2010, Punk and Cena have gone back and forth. Whether you reference Punk's manipulation of the New Nexus, the "Summer of Punk", who was the real WWE champion, Punk being envious of Cena's star power, or the inclusion of Paul Heyman, these two men have had an illustrious rivalry. However, with a WrestleMania main event on the line, which Punk manipulated Cena to put up via his 2013 Royal Rumble win, against WWE champion the Rock, both men put themselves to the limit and then some.
A lot of people ask themselves, "What makes the perfect match?" This is the contest to figure that out. You have the emotion of a WrestleMania main event hanging in the balance. You have the history of both men. You have both talents at the top of the mountain when it comes to phenomenal in-ring story telling. This is that match. Plus, watching Cena pop out a Frankensteiner and nearly risking his health to do it speaks volumes on how important this match was. I will never forget this battle and ultimately, this match might have been Raw Singles Match of the Year. Unforgettable and unbelievable. This was simply beautiful.
As a wrestling personality, you have to stand back and realize the art of a perfect "TV match". It doesn't have to have move, move, move. You need the element of human emotion. And with this match, you have exactly that. This match opened my eyes to a lot of small things you normally don't recall on a Best of 2013 column, but I'll give you a little history going into this anyway.
In 2012, Antonio Cesaro trounced Santino Marella to become the United States champion. After an 8 month reign, Cesaro lost the championship to Kofi Kingston. Almost lost in the shuffle at the middle of 2013, Cesaro found the managerial guidance of a "Real American" Zeb Colter. Alongside Jack Swagger, Cesaro found himself back in the thick of things on television each week. Every week, Colter would berate the public for not being a Real American like Swagger and Cesaro (who Zeb qualified as a gentleman who worked incredibly hard in this country and deserved the right to be one) and would be hated for it. Talented in the ring, Cesaro now had a purpose. On this night in September, Cesaro had a big match in Canada, but it was against the returning Santino Marella, who had been out with a serious neck injury.
Enjoy the little things of this match. Santino, for the first time in recent memory, actually smacked hands with the fans at ringside after his power walk to the ring. Colter had riled the fans up to hiss and boo and go absolutely berserk for the "Milan Miracle". These guys had the fans in their pockets. Although Santino won the battle, Cesaro won the ultimate war. How you ask? He got a standing O for doing a 44 second Giant Swing on television. You can look at this date as the next chapter of Antonio Cesaro's in-ring career.
Well guys, this is my last column of 2013. I want to thank my small, but loyal fan base for checking me out every week. I want to thank Larry Csonka and the 411 staff for the consistent plugs every Sunday for my column on obscure and unique views on wrestling. Most of all, I have to thank the world of wrestling. If it was not for this sport, I doubt I'd be writing at all. Thanks a bunch and see you next year in 2014!