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 411mania » Wrestling » Video Reviews

Ring Crew Reviews: Top 50 Matches from 2013 (Part VI: 6-1)
Posted by Jack Bramma on 02.08.2014

• To recap, part 1: (50-43)

• part 2: (42-35)

• part 3: (34-25)

• part 4: (24-14)

• part 5: (13-7)

****1/2 matches.

6. No Disqualification Match for the WWE World Tag Team Championship: Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. The Shield (c). WWE RAW 10/14/2013. Back at WWE Battleground, the Rhodes family got their jobs back and then defeated the Wyatt Clan the next Smackdown. The Rhodes parlayed all that into a shot at the tag belts and anything goes at that, courtesy of The Authority.

• Rollins and Cody to start while US Champ Ambrose watches on. Lawler talks about the numbers game but JBL retorts: “It's Cody and Goldust's fault for not being their daddy.” Cody sends him into the corner and elbows him into the ribs to tag in Goldust. Goldust in with a SHATTERED DREAMS HAMMER and a snapmare into a knee drop. Cover gets 1, only 1. Cody back in for a dropkick and works a few 1 counts. Cody snapmares Rollins down for a RUNNING KICK TO THE FACE! BRUTAL! 1, 2, 2 ½. Goldust in for some double teaming and a ButtBomb. Now Cody back in for a gordbuster. Cover gets 1, 2, kickout. Ambrose trips up Cody. Rollins tries to capitalize but Cody elbows him down only for Reigns to trash Cody and mouth off to the ref. Reigns in and it's time to go to school, RAMBLING WRECK STYLE! They put the boots to Cody and kick him to the floor. Reigns lands the CLUBBINGBLOWS. Back in, cover gets 1, 2, 2 ½. Rollins in and now he gives Cody a receipt for that kick to the face earlier. NICE! Rollins boots Cody around and sends him into the turnbuckle. Back suplex gets 1, 2, only 2 as the crew rambles on and on about conspiracy theories. Cody counters out of a resthold and pops up Rollins into the ALABAMA SLAM! NO! ROLL UP! NO! HOT TAG TO GOLDUST!

• He unloads on Rollins and backdrops him across the ring. He hangs up Rollins in the corner but Reigns distracts long enough for Rollins to free himself. Instead, Goldust takes back over with a bulldog. 1, 2, kickout. Rollins counters to a spinkick and ducks a Goldust crossbody which sends him flying to the floor. We take a break and are JIP to Goldust taking the heat. Ambrose: “HURT HIM TIL HE CAN'T MOVE ANYMORE!” Cody in illegally to break up Rollins's pinfall but he goes right back to a rest hold. King: “They have beat the gold off Goldust's face.” Goldust punches his way free, blocks a biel, for a backslide for 1, 2, 2 ½. Rollins clubs him back down to cut him off. Goldust tries crawling on his hands and knees for the tag but Reigns in to lunge and stop him with a LEAPING CLUBBINGBLOW! Reigns chinlocks him to slow things down again. Goldust flies out of the corner with the springboard back elbow. Rollins tags in to block a tag by taking out Cody. Rollins mocks Goldust feeling up himself but flies off into a POWERSLAM FROM THE SECOND ROPE! Ambrose tries pulling Cody off the apron again but Cody kicks him off. HOT TAG! Cody's fired up for a butt bomb and the Goldust uppercut. He sidesteps Reigns and sends him into the turnbuckle. ROLL UP THAT BEAT THE WYATT FAMILY! 1, 2, NO! TEARDROP MOONSAULT! 1, 2, 2.9999999! GAMENGIRI TO AMBROSE! Springboard missile dropkick for 1, 2, no. Rollins breaks it up but Goldust takes him to the floor and they brawl. Cody wants Crossroads BUT WAIT! AMBROSE IN TO BREAK IT UP! THE DAMNED NUMBERS GAME!

• They dump out Goldust and it's 3-on-1 assault time. They set up the triple powerbomb! MY GOODNESS! GOLDUST HAS A CHAIR! ONE FOR REIGNS! AMBROSE! ROLLINS! Reigns fuckin' NO SELLS and takes out Goldust. Reigns: “YOU IDIOT! YOU NEVER PUT THE CHAIR DOWN!” He swings and misses and Goldust comes back with a crossbody ON THE CHAIR! DOUBLE KO! Cody blocks a shot and sends Rollins into the chair. He tries the Beautiful Disaster. NO! BARRICADE BOMB FROM ROLLINS! Goldust and Reigns slug it and Goldust wins with the atomic drop and an uppercut. Rollins comes flying in but lands in an atomic drop. LARIATO sends him to the floor. CACTUS CLOTHESLINE ON REIGNS! Ambrose in to big heat and he wallops Goldust from behind. Reigns sends him into the barricade but Goldust fights back on both. He tries to post Ambrose but Reigns tackles him with the SPEAR THROUGH THE BARRICADE! Ambrose slides in Cody and then helps bring Reigns to to sneak a victory. BUT WAIT! OH MY GOD! BIG SHOW HAS COME OUT! HE DOESN'T WORK HERE ANYMORE! CALL THE POLICE! WMD TO AMBROSE! SHOW KO'S ROLLINS! Cody wants the Beautiful Disaster but Reigns ducks. WMD TO REIGNS! 1, 2, 3 FOR NEW CHAMPS AT 16:07!

• A fitting end to one of the hottest angles with one of the best matches of the year. Somehow, it feels like this should have been evener bigger. Throw in Dusty like you did at Battleground, keep the Shield undefeated until this loss, and put it on PPV and you've got possibly THE match of the year. As is, it's probably just the best match since August. This is easily the best thing to come of the Show face-turn though as he crashed and burned in the following weeks as a sympathetic character. Still, I would have liked for the ending to be more about The Shield losing to the Rhodes than losing to Show's WMD but I guess that's why they had the Battleground match first. ****1/2

****3/4 matches.

5. Money in the Bank Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Fandango vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Antonio Cesaro vs. Jack Swagger vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow vs. Wade Barrett. WWE Money in the Bank. 07/14/2013. The PPV proper has started and we get brief re-entrances for Fandango and Ambrose. Fandango gets a respectable ovation but it's blown away by the pop for Ambrose. Colter gets the stick for We The People. He says that Betsy Ross maybe should have added some tacos and burritos to the American Flag. Stay classy. Tonight, if Cesaro and Swagger can win the briefcase it'll be one small step for man, but one giant leap for America. WE THE PEOPLE! Sandow pulls a Rude by calling the crowd “slack-jawed mouthbreathers.” Cody tries to get in a word edge-wise but Sandow cuts him off and then the monkeys in the production truck cut HIM off from declaring the unified front of Rhodes Scholar.

• Fandango dances at the bell and Barrett tries to jump him but Fandango tangos out of the way. A brawl erupts as WTP have Ambrose and Cody isolated. They shitcan them out get a WETHEPEOPLE chant started. Rhodes Scholar take out Ambrose with a ladder and bring it in. WTP is doing the same to Fandango. Now, it's a ladder standoff between the Scholars and the Patriots. WTP throws the ladder at them to win that showdown. Swagger sets up a ladder in the corner for Cesaro to Karenlin Bomb Cody on the ladder. Swagger than biels Sandow and WETHEPEOPLE are standing stall. They go for the ladder sandwich on Cody but he avoids and hits a Beautiful Disaster on Cesaro. Swagger takes him down and starts to climb but Ambrose is back in. Swagger gets sent into the ladder and shitcanned out in a nice sequence with some reversals. Ambrose starts to climb and the crowd is with him but Barrett breaks it up to boos. Barrett traps Ambrose in the middle of the ladder and then big boots him down and out. Wade blasts WTP with the ladder and goes for Fandango but eats a rope-assisted enzuigiri and a SLINGSHOT GUILLOTINE LEGDROP ON THE LADDER!

• Fandango starts the climb but the Scholars are in to cut him off. Ambrose waffles Cody and dumps him back out. Sandow pulls Fandango down and throws him into the ladder and hits a snap suplex on a different ladder in the corner. Barrett pulls Ambrose out to the floor and sends him into the steps. Frenzied action so far with all having something to do. Barrett pulls a step off a ladder and goes to waffling everyone as Cole recounts the list of world champs who won this match and then won their first world title with the cash-in: Edge, ADR, Miz, Jack Swagger, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and RVD. Barrett clubbers down Sandow. King: “Have you ever had your bell rung with a rung?” Barrett and Ambrose both climb up but WTP pull Barrett off into the DEATH FROM ABOVE! Ambrose is a bit tougher to pull off. Swagger wants a spinebuster but Ambrose counters to a slick DDT.

• Cesaro and Ambrose climb and slug it out at the top. Cesaro applies a Sleeper, sort of but then just shoves Ambrose down. Cody cuts off Cesaro but keeps getting kicked off. Cody fires up and gets him up for the MUSCLEBUSTER ON THE LADDER! BRUTAL! Barrett back in with a DDT on Cody but he's too late to stop the CODY'SMUSTACHE chant. Swagger catapults Sandow into a low bridge ladder and everyone is down except Swagger and Barrett. They both are up on a ladder. Barrett lowers the bad and hits the Bullhammer and Swagger is toast. Barrett reaches up but Fandango is there to meet him. Fandango can't reach the briefcase, so he improvises with an MDK BOMB OFF THE LADDER! YESYESYESYESYES! Summer Rae cheers on Fandango to climb, but Ambrose squashes that with the bulldog DDT. Ambrose climbs but Cesaro picks up the ladder. Ambrose keeps climbing, so Swagger pulls him down. Ambrose fights them off for the old Funk/Dudley ladder carousel. But WTP have seen their ECW tapes and pick UP the ladder and Ambrose with it. Yeah, he's hanging on and not actually trapped but who cares. Ambrose skins the cat ON THE LADDER and tries to reach the briefcase but gets dumped out to the floor. Cool sequence. WTP drop the ladder on Barrett and now they're ladderless. They try the Andre-Snuka spot that JeriShow also tried at TLC 2009. Amazingly, they keep it together long enough for Cesaro to reach and touch the briefcase but Cody breaks it up with a missile dropkick. Awesome. THISISAWESOME says the crowd. That's two such chants in back to back matches but this time it's the full house. Swagger gets dumped out to the floor by Cody. Fandango in but he eats Crossroads.

• ANOTHER FOR BARRETT! CODYCODYCODYCODYCODY! CODY FOR WORLD CHAMP! Cody gets the big Home Depot/Tommy Dreamer ladder. Cody climbs up but Ambrose is there. They slug it out and Cody gets busted hardway as he pulls Ambrose into the ladder several times and dumps him. Cody: “SEE YA! BYE!” The crowd tries to cheer on Cody. BUT WAIT! THE SHIELD HAVE COME OUT! Cody valiantly fights them off but it's short-lived as Reigns pounds him down. They keep Fandango and Barrett at bay with Spears. They help Ambrose up. BUT WAIT! MY GOODNESS, IT'S THE USOS! They dump out Reigns and Rollins with WTP's help. HELL HAS BROKEN LOOSE AT RINGSIDE! AMBROSE IS CLIMBING! BUT CODY SHOVES THE LADDER OVER AND AMBROSE WIPES OUT EVERYONE AT RINGSIDE! CODY IS FIRED UP! JBL: “THE SON OF THE SON OF A PLUMBER IS ABOUT TO WIN THE CONTRACT!” Cody climbs and the crowd is chanting for him. He's almost there. NO! SANDOW DUMPS HIM OFF FROM BEHIND! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Sandow pulls down the briefcase at 16:27.

• For a great gimmick match that always delivers, this is head-and-shoulders one of the best ones in years. There is nary a slow point or downspot in the whole match. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the opener from last year, there were tons of moments with guys openly waiting their turn at ringside for their spot. There was none of that this year. Every time a guy was off camera, he had taken a finisher or a brutal spot on a ladder that should put him down for minutes at a time. The teamwork of WTP and Rhodes Scholars was perfect and logical unlike say two tag partners turning on each other the first 30 seconds of the RR. When this is coupled with the Usos-Shield kickoff match, you've got one of the best hours of wrestling from all year if not longer – with continuity, intersecting storylines, drama, hot crowd, high-flying action, everyone you could want. It reminds me of guys like Bret or Shawn or Austin or Foley from in the early 90s knowing they weren't getting booked worth a damn and were hitting the glass ceiling, so they went out there and put on the best matches of the show and busted their ass MAKING everyone pay attention. They knew Randy Orton wasn't taking a musclebuster on a ladder, so collectively they went out and stole the show. If there were any justice in the world, Cody would be a STAR after this match. He and Sandow should have a Steamboat-Savage series that would last 6 months getting both guys more over in the process. ****3/4

• Post-match, Cody is heartbroken while Sandow is exultant.

• Cole: “And Damien Sandow double-crossed Cody, as you take a look at the absolute brutality with this Money in the Bank ladder match.”


Cole: “King, inside that briefcase a Money in the Bank contract that Sandow can cash in any place, any time, he can do it tonight for a world championship opportunity.”

King: “Well, JBL's right. You do anything to get what Damien Sandow has right now.”

Cole: “But the months and months and months of running around of saying that he and Cody were the best of friends and then this tonight--”


King: “And when you're the next World Heavyweight champion, you don't need friends.”
JBL: “You can buy them; I did.”

4. GHC Heavyweight Championship: Naomichi Marufuji vs. KENTA (c). NOAH Great Voyage 2013 in Tokyo. 07/07/2013. Marufuji looks a solid 20-30 lbs lighter since the last time I saw him a couple years ago. He almost looks like a junior. KENTA on the other hand always looks like a junior. They lockup and neither budges, so we get a surprisingly clean break. Another lockup and Marufuji backs off for the clean break but KENTA bulls in with the forearms and it's go time. They forearm it out and yakuza kick it out. Marufuji tries the go behind LARIATO but KENTA ducks so Marufuji drop toe holds him. KENTA dodges the basement dropkick for a go behind. Marufuji counters the wristlocks with a few handstands so KENTA clips the knee and goes for the KO kick but Marufuji avoids. Electric super-fast sequence. KENTA goes back to the waistlock and a front facelock so Marufuji tries to roll through but KENTA headscissors him back to square 1. I'm detecting a pattern here.

• KENTA goes to the arm and Marufuji armdrags him over but KENTA stays on the arm rolling through. KENTA stomps the arm wringer but Marufuji tries to forearm his way free. More strikes so KENTA starts kicking the shit out of his ribs and Marufuji buckles. Double foot stomp and KENTA applies the vaunted OrtonLock. Marufuji gets the ropes but quickly falls to another few shots to the gut. Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. Marufuji bails out to the floor so KENTA falls on him with a double foot stomp and Marufuji eats rail BAD RIBS FIRST! KENTA kicks him further into submission and Marufuji is trashed. Back in, slingshot knee drop to the breadbasket gets 1, 2, only 2. KENTA with more stiff kicks. He blocks a charge but Marufuji dodges the yakuza kick. KENTA elbows free and avoids a leap frog with a flying yakuza kick. Cover gets 1, 2, no. Marufuji comes back by putting KENTA up top for a shortened coast 2 coast dropkick that sends KENTA to the floor. Marufuji drops KENTA on the apron with what I'm sure is supposed to be a brainbuster but doesn't quite come off that way. Marufuji follows up through with a SPIKE PILEDRIVER ON THE APRON! That looked crucial and KENTA falls all the way to the floor. Back in, Marufuji goes to work with the elbows to the bad neck. KENTA tries to fire up so Marufuji chops his ass back down like a badass. TAKE THAT, YOUNG BOY!

• Marufuji applies a triangle choke to apply more pressure to the bad neck. KENTA tries to get to the floor so Marufuji slingshot leg drops the BAD NECK! Into the rail for KENTA and now a spinkick that weakens his ribs. Marufuji posts him. KENTA fires up for a slug it out on the floor and Marufuji grounds him with a CLUBBINGBLOW to the neck. Back in, Marufuji works the neck with a few twists and goes back o the chinlock. KENTA makes the ropes though to get a break. Marufuji starts taunting KENTA and now it's back to slugging it out. KENTA outsmarts him with a brutal kick to the gut and another and Marufuji buckles under the pain. KENTA follows up with shoulder surges in the corner but Marufuji gets the boot up only to run into a powerslam. KENTA heads up to for a flying clothesline for 1, 2, 2 ½. KENTA applies an STF. Marufuji makes the ropes and then flips out of a suplex but eats a running knee. One more to the breadbasket and Marufuji is down for 1, 2, no. They exchange strikes and KENTA avoids a dropkick with a DR FG. KENTA covers for another nearfall. KENTA sends him off and Marufuji takes over with a Bluechipper dropkick. He charges in but gets flapjacked into the turnbuckle.

• KENTA with a yakuza kick but Marufuji no sells to charge from behind with a burrito. Marufuji with up and over and another dropkick to KENTA. Flying back elbow and Marufuji CURB STOMPS HIM DOWN! SUPERKICK HOMICIDA! 1, 2, 2.99. KENTA gets the boot up and tornado DDTs Marufuji across the ropes. KENTA tries to springboard back in but Marufuji dumps him with a dropkick. Cool sequence. KENTA tries to no sell only to get dropkicked down again into the front row. Marufuji preps a tope so KENTA trashes him into the rail and then onto the rail. KENTA drops a few knees on his gut for good measure. Back in, KENTA taunts setting up the double foot stomp of death and destruction all the way TO THE FRONT ROW! That was crazy. Marufuji shows the first signs of life at 10. He falls over the rail at 14. He's on his hands and knees at 16. He gets to the apron at 18 and crawls in at 19. KENTA's fired up for the springboard double foot stomp. It's IED time and KENTA says it's over. Top Rope double foot stomp for 1, 2, 2.99. Marufuji cuts him off with a knee to the face but KENTA comes back and tosses him into the post. Orton DDT gets another nearfall. KENTA wants the G2S but Marufuji escapes to the apron. LARIATO flips Marufuji to the floor. Another brutal spot. KENTA clears off the apron for a Tiger Suplex but Marufuji gets his moment when KENTA turns around. SUPERKICK! SHIRANUI ON THE APRON!

• KENTA back in at 15 to eat a Coast 2 Coast. 1, 2, 2.99. Marufuji wants another Shiranui but KENTA slips behind for the Tiger Suplex. Marufuji lands on his feet(!) for ROLLING GERMANS! KENTA elbows out of the third only to eat a go behind LARIATO. Marufuji sets up a SUPERKICK HOMICIDA but KENTA catches the leg for the STF. Marufuji powers up to eat a Tiger Suplex. Bridge gets 1, 2, 2.99. KENTA tries the KO combination but Marufuji O'Connor Rolls him for 1, 2, KENTA counters to the YES LOCK! NO! STEREO LARIATOS! KENTA lands last and both collapse for a double KO sell. Both are up and Marufuji hits the enzuigiri, superkick combo and wants the Shiranui to finish KENTA off. SHIRANUI! ONE, TWO, THREEOHNOHEALMOSTGOT'IM! Marufuji calls for the top rope superplex but KENTA blocks and Marufuji takes a nasty bump. KENTA covers for 1, 2, kickout. KENTA kicks him to the ribs and hits the BUSAIKU knee for 1, 2, 2.999999. KENTA wants the G2S but Marufuji lands on his feet. He enzuigiris KENTA in the corner for the SHIRANUI KAI! HE HITS IT! 1, 2, 2.99999999999999999! Yeah, ok, KENTA's not losing tonight. Marufuji hits another Shiranui but KENTA botches the landing so Marufuji props him up for a superkick and a Crane Kick knee. Marufuji wants a KO victory but the ref won't give it to him. Pole Shift gets 1, 2, 2.99999999. Marufuji says it's Game Over but KENTA blocks for an INVERTED GTS! ONE, TWO, THREEOHNOHEALMOSTGOT'IM! They get to their feet to slug it out and KENTA tries to fire up but eats a SUPERKICK! ANOTHER! KENTA no sells to his chop combo and a knee to the face. DR FG ENZUIGIRI! TWO! THREE! G2S! 1, 2, 2.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999! KENTA is fired up and drops the knee pad. UNPROTECTED G2S! 1, 2, 3 to put down Marufuji at 36:42.

• I don't know why I'm surprised and yet I am. Because no one's talking about NOAH, I figured they didn't have matches worth seeking out. I know that Okada, Tanahashi, and NJPW own Japan. I know that a lot of top NOAH guys defected over to AJPW with Kobashi. I know that NOAH is lagging in the Japan pecking order but this is still one of the best matches of the year and deserves consideration.

• Even if this is a repeat of 2006 encounter, this is a marvelous match with both guys throwing it all out there. This isn't just a slugfest for the sake of it like some other NOAH mains come off at times (the KENTA/Sugiura Global League finals from last year comes to mind). KENTA works over Marufuji's ribs with reckless abandon and stiff kicks. Marufuji takes over annihilating KENTA's neck with a brainbuster and piledriver on the apron. They both work in key counters and cut offs in slug it outs utilizing the psychology. They work in modified signature moves that fit perfectly within the context of the match. The only small drawback is a botch here or there. Spot of the match: The inverted G2S counter and Marufuji kicking out of the G2S. ****3/4

3. The Best vs. The Beast: No Disqualification: CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar. WWE Summerslam. 08/18/2013. After losing three straight to Rock and UT, Punk had a crisis of confidence and took his ball and went home. Two months later, Jericho called him out and Heyman accepted on Punk's behalf. In front of a raucous Chicago crowd, Punk returned victoriously over Jericho but only after Heyman almost blew it. The next night on RAW, Punk wanted to shut up Alberto Del Rio but wanted to do it without Heyman's help. The match was short-lived as ADR took a walk, but BROCK LESNAR returned to F5 Punk into oblivion. Heyman plead ignorance until his true colors shown through at MITB where he finally turned on Punk.

• Cole: “The Beast Incarnate is a 3-time WWE champion, a 2000 NCAA champion, a former UFC champion. And John, we talked about this during the Summerslam Kickoff show, you believe no disqualification will firmly favor Brock Lesnar.”
JBL: “Brock Lesnar defeated one of the greatest MMA stars of all-time, Randy Couture, in the Octagon. He defeated one of the greatest sports entertainment stars of all time, Triple H, in a cage. YES, I BELIEVE NO HOLDS BARRED FAVORS THE BEAST! … CM Punk almost defeated the undefeatable, The Undertaker's streak at Wrestlemania, but this could be the biggest fight of CM Punk's life.”
Cole: “And let's not forget the list of injuries that Brock Lesnar has given to CM Punk over the last month: he put four stitches into the chin of CM Punk; he caused rib injuries and knee injuries and an ankle injury as well; Brock Lesnar FEEDING ON Punk in recent weeks.”

• Punk runs right at Lesnar to start but Lesnar picks his ass right up and DRIVES him back into the corner for the kayfabe-reaffirming shoulder surges. Punk tries more rights that go nowhere except right into Lesnar's charging shoulder. Lesnar clubs him down and tosses him into the adjacent corner to stomp a mudhole. CMPUNKCMPUNKCMPUNK! Lesnar chokes so Punk gouges the eye for some distance and tries some MT knees. Lesnar catches one and goes right to the ribs. Lesnar throws him across the ring like NOTHING. Punk tries a flying knee but Lesnar CATCHES him and shoves him away. JBL: “IF PUNK DOESN'T DO SOMETHING, THIS THING COULD BE OVER QUICK!” Lesnar chokes away in the corner and taunts: “THAT'S IT, BOY! THIS IS MY HOUSE!” JBL, meanwhile, has a rather unfortunate linguistic hiccup as he says that Lesnar is here to “guzzle” Punk instead of “goozle” him. Bad times. Punk comes back with a high knee and another that sends Lesnar reeling to the floor. Suicide dive and Lesnar is down. CMPUNKCMPUNKCMPUNK! Punk gets the steel stairs for a waffle but LESNAR shoulderblocks the stairs into PUNK. That's CRAZY. JBL: “That defies physics. SIZE MATTERS, BOYS!” Lesnar with another knee to the ribs but Punk slides behind and shoves Lesnar into the ringpost. Punk comes flying off the top with a double sledge. Punk gets on the announce table and suckers Lesnar in for a flying clothesline. Punk sets his sights on Heyman to chase him down and Heyman trips over the stairs. But there's Lesnar to tackle Punk from behind. Lesnar scoops him up for a BIEL OVER THE ANNOUNCE TABLE! Lesnar does it again and then gets the awning and BREAKS IT OVER PUNK'S BACK WITH HIS FEET! MY GOD, THIS MAN HAS A FAMILY! SOMEONE STOP THE MATCH!

• JBL: “It's like Lesnar has no remorse – the closest thing you'll get to an animal in your life.” Lesnar helps Punk up just to throw him down again with a belly to belly on the floor. Back in, Punk fights back and cuts off Brock at the pass with kicks to the hamstrings. Lesnar no sells to swat him away and the crowd audibly winces. Brock: “This is my ring, Punk and you ARE my PUNK BITCH!” Heyman: “HAHAHAHA!” Lesnar brings him back into the corner for more surges and applies the BEARHUG THAT ENDED HULKAMANIA! … for 6 months or so. Punk forearms his way free with several shots to Brock's nose but then runs into a bone-shattering knee to the gut. Heyman: “STAY DOWN!” Lesnar: “C'MON, BABY GIRL!” If any man can single-handedly restore belief in professional wrestling, it's BAAAA-RACK LESNAR! Lesnar follows up with more brutal knees and goes back to the bearhug. Punk elbows out and heads up top but gets nowhere. JBL: “Brock is a solid piece of granite... a BIG piece of granite.” Brock catches him with a big snap ab suplex. Heyman: “PUNISH HIM! MAKE HIM PAY THE PRICE! SHOW HIM WHO IS THE BEAST!” Lesnar with a ribbreaker and floats over into 1, 2, 2 ½. Brock works the cover several times and then goes to a chinlock. I know Lesnar has had like five matches in the last decade or so, therefore it's crazy to think how much better he could get if he didn't take so much time off. Lesnar grabs a chinlock, but Punk elbows free and BITES LESNAR'S EAR! Punk with several kicks and forearms. Lesnar stumbles around punch-drunk as Punk lands a flying knee off the top. Punk fires up for the step up knee in the corner. Lesnar won't go down, so Punk follows up with another. Lesnar won't feed out so ONE MORE TIME! NO! F5! NO! ENZUIGIRI! MACHO ELBOW! 1, 2, 2.999!

• Punk calls for the G2S but Lesnar slides behind only to land in another enzuigiri. Punk hoists him up in the fireman's carry but Lesnar blocks with the KIMURA! THE MOVE THAT BROKE TRIPLE H'S ARM! JBL: “PUNK YOU BETTER TAP! HE'S GOING TO BREAK YOUR ARM! … HE'LL BREAK IT, PUNK! TAP TAP!” Instead, Punk stacks him up and rolls through to an armbar. Lesnar rolls him up, so Punk switches to HELL'S GATE! Lesnar overpowers and Rampage powerbombs him down. BUT PUNK HANGS ON! HELL'S GATE! BROCK'S GOING TO TAP! NO! Brock picks him up again but Punk counters with elbows to the head. Lesnar fires up and runs out with the RUNNING LIGER BOMB! Delay cover gets 1, 2, kickout. CMPUNKCMPUNKCMPUNK! Brock tells the crowd to go fuck themselves because he's going over tonight with THREE AMIGOS! 1, 2, 2.999. Brock stalks out to the floor for a steel chair. Punk tries to sneak him with a crossbody off the top but Lesnar gets the chair up to block. Punk still gets up first(?) and waffles Lesnar across the back a few times. Cole: “THIS IS WHERE NO DISQUALIFICATION MAY FAVOR PUNK!” Punk tries one more but Brock blocks! The Beast has the chair for his dirty work but PUNK COUNTERS WITH A LOW BLOW! Punk: “Where's your cup now, UFC BOY?!” Punk heads up top with the chair for a CHAIR-ASSISTED MACHO ELBOW! 1! 2! LESNAR POWERS OUT!

• Punk fires up and blasts down Lesnar a few more times. Heyman: “NO! NO!” HEYMAN GRABS THE CHAIR FROM BEHIND! Heyman: “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” Punk goozles him and grabs him by the tie. Brock attacks from behind for the F5! NO! PUNK'S GOT THE TIE! Brock and Heyman: “LET GO!” Brock is forced to release to save his meal ticket. G2S! 1! 2! HEYMAN INTERFERES! DAMMIT HEYMAN! Heyman begs off and then backs up and then sprints away. But Brock cuts Punk off at the pass. He wants the F5 but Punk counters to a DDT! 1, 2, kickout. ANACONDA VICE! Heyman tries to save Brock again with the chair this time. Punk puts a stop to that with a simple stomp. Heyman: “LET GO! LET GO!” Heyman then girlishly tries to slap Punk's foot off the chair. This is PERFECT. Punk goozles Heyman finally getting his hands on him. Heyman: “I'm sorry, PLEASE! DON'T!” Haymaker to Heyman. Punk then applies the Anaconda Vice and Heyman taps out. JBL: “HEYMAN TAPPING DOESN'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE!” Brock recovers and is all BROCK SMASH and just ENDS Punk with one of the hardest chairshots of all time. Two more and Punk is DONE. F5 on the chair ends it at 25:17.

• A phenomenal match that gets better with every minute, every kickout, and every instance of Heyman's interference. From a pure unadulterated storytelling perspective, this is probably one of my favorite matches ever along with HBK/Triple H from Summerslam 2003, Jericho and HBK's entire feud from 2008, and though a recent addition, Del Rio/Ziggler from this year's Payback, though I'm sure I'm forgetting dozens. You have three of the best wrestling performers in the world each doing exactly what they were born to do: Heyman being a sniveling front-runner coward, Brock being a Cro-Magnon blunt object, and Punk playing the ragged underdog clawing and scratching his way to inches of victory against all odds. You even had Brock and Punk both showing off what they'd learned from two of their most crushing defeats – Brock picked up the Three Amigos from Eddie and Punk picked up the Hell's Gate from Undertaker. Last, but certainly not least, they even left something in the tank storytelling-wise for a potential rematch as Punk never got to kick out of the F5 and Brock didn't get to kick out of the G2S as Heyman interfered. The only drawback for the whole experience is just some general dissatisfaction with Punk's execution of the Macho elbow and his kicks. ****3/4

• Post-match, Lesnar limps out victorious and Punk leaves to a standing ovation that Triple H didn't get last year.

2. Number 1 Contender's Match for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania: CM Punk vs. John Cena. RAW 02/25/2013. Fresh off losing two straight to the Rock for the WWE championship, Punk was on the outside looking in on Mania and the title picture for the first time in 15 months. While the rightful title contender after winning the RR, Cena felt a gaping hole at heart of his credibility because he knew despite chances at the MITB 2011, SS 2011, HITC 2011, 1000th ep of RAW, SS 2012, NOC 2012, Survivor Series 2012, he never could defeat Punk. Punk challenged his manhood and everything else about him for one more shot to get into the main event of WRESTLEMANIA!

• In-ring intros for this to give it the hard sell. Slow start as Lawler jumps in and says he thinks he senses doubt in Cena's eyes because of his poor track record against Punk. Good stuff. Punk grabs a headlock, but Cena snapmares him to one of his own. After a smooth chain sequence, Cena gets back to a chinlock and Punk is forced to get a rope break. Back to the headlock and Punk headscissors free and gets to a headlock. Cena tries the headscissors but Punk BLOCKS! NICE! Cena escapes and leap frogs his way into a hiptoss and Punk takes a breather. Cena is fired up early as we take a break. We're back to Cena whiffing on a charge and eating turnbuckle. Punk covers for a nearfall and goes to elbows to the back of the head. Punk hits a neckbreaker for 1, 2, only 2. Punk goes to a reverse triangle choke to slow things down. Cena stands up out of it and counters to the Electric Chair. He gets the boot up in the corner and hits a bulldog. Cover gets 1, 2, kickout. Cena swarms him with a front facelock. Back to the headlock for Cena as he works the cover. Punk sends him off and leap frogs his own way into a leg lariat for 1, 2, only 2. Nice one-up callback. Punk grabs a chinlock as we're still on cruise control. Cena punches his way out and goes to the shoulderblocks. He hits the first but Punk sniffs it out and Cena goes flying to the floor on the second attempt. Punk flies out with a suicide dive as we go to commercial again. We're back to Punk locking in an ab stretch. Cena hiptosses his way free but still sells the hurt ribs. Now, Cena gets another try at the shoulderblocks and a Protobomb. NO! PUNK ROLLS THROUGH FOR THE ANACONDA VICE! Cena stacks him up for 1, 2, 2 ½. Punk comes right back with a swinging neckbreaker for 1, 2, 2 ½. Cena wants the STF but Punk gets to the ropes and springboards back in with a clothesline for another nearfall. Punk goes for one more, but Cena slides behind and catches him on the way down in the STF. Punk powers his way out and floats into the ANACONDA VICE!

• Cena rolls him back over for a CRIPPLER CROSSFACE! Punk rolls back into a roll up for 1, 2, NO! Good exchance. They sell until it's time for the slug it out. Cena no sells a headbutt for some rights, so Punk catches him with a roundhouse. He goes for an enzuigiri but Cena catches him in the protobomb on the third attempt. He wants the 5KS but Punk counters! G2S! NO! Cena tries a roll up but Punk lands on top for 1, 2, 2.999. HIGH DRAMA IN DALLAS! Punk recovers for the step-up knee in the corner. He tries the bulldog but Cena shoves him off for another Protobomb. 5KS follows and he wants the FU, but Punk ducks behind for a G2S attempt. NO! LIGER BOMB! 1, 2, 2.99999! Cena heads up top, but Punk cuts him off. Cena headbutts him back down for the Super Fame-asser. 1, 2, kickout. Cena moves in for the kill but Punk counters with an enzuigiri. Step-knee again but Cena no sells AGAIN for the FU! 1! 2! KICKOUT! Cole: “SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE! WE MAY GO ON ALL NIGHT!” Punk is exhausted and rolls out to the floor to buy some time. Cena tries to gain an advantage but gets posted. THE REF'S COUNT IS AT 6! 7! 8! Cole: “JOHN! JOHN! YOU GOTTA GET UP!” 9! Peek-a-boo Cena races under the ropes to beat the count. G2S! 1! 2! 2.9999999999999999! Lawler: “WHAT CAN HE DO?! WHAT CAN EITHER OF THESE SUPERSTARS DO!?” Punk wants one more G2S but Cena hooks the leg and rolls into a STF! Punk makes the ropes! Cole: “What else can they do? I mean they've hit each other with their AA's and their Go to Sleep's and the STF's and the Anaconda Vices and everything else under the sun, here, tonight, and they can't get put each other away!” Punk breaks out the OLD SCHOOL PILEDRIVER! 1, 2, KICKOUT! Punk is in disbelief and tries a few more covers all for 2's. Dueling chants fire up as Punk heads up top. He whiffs on the Macho elbow. Cena-canrana and an FU end it at 19:42 of aired footage.

• This is the kind of great match that the WWE has really dialed in the past several years. Take a top guy and his signature, go-home sequence that NEVER gets countered or kicked out of and put him against another top guy with the same quality and have them counter each other and kick out of their finishers. This was particularly exquisitely sprinkled throughout this match with Cena needing multiple times to get the shoulderblocks right, then multiple times for the Protobomb and yet more times before he could finally hit the 5KS. The same was true of Punk and the high-knee, bulldog, Macho elbow, G2S combo. Each guy was so frustrated and at a loss that they broke out never-used moves like a Liger Bomb and a piledriver to get it done. Even the commentary was top notch here by Cole especially to convey the drama and importance of this match. Great stuff. ****3/4

***** match.

1. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c). NJPW Invasion Attack 04/06/2013. HT chant at the bell as usual but Okada has his supporters as well in attendance. HT dances away from a lockup and goes face to face with Okada as they soak in the moment. They lockup again teases a cheap shot before giving the clean break. HT has HAD IT WITH THE MIND GAMES and reverses around to play the same game. They reverse positions and counter into the corner where Okada finally gives the clean break. He goes to the taunt but HT cuts him off with a boot to the midsection. HT applies a headlock only for Okada to try and power him into a top wristlock and Okada switches into the headlock. He grinds it and HT sends him off. Okada with a shoulderblock and he ducks under a leap frog for a go-behind. HT counters but Okada wants the Rainmaker but HT breaks first with a Rainmaker attempt of his own. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! HT misses though as Okada ducks. Okada is PISSED as HT now steals the taunt as well. YOU MOTHERFUCKER! IT’S GO TIME!

• Okada smacks him and goes to the forearms. Yakuza kick and Okada is pleased with himself. Okada mocks HT and then grainds a chinlock. HT elbows free and forearms Okada in the corner. Okada charges in to the corner but HT tries to clip the knee. Okada has been brushing up on his NJPW tapes though and avoids and boots down. HT. Okada is LOVING IT as he also blocks a DSLW. HT switches things up with a Fujiwara armbar TD into the hold. Okada reaches for the ropes though and makes it. HT stomps away and goes to work on the arm. NICE! HT drops a knee and boots away on the arm. Back to the hold for HT as he now F4’s the arm. Okada rolls over into a cover but HT easily counters back. Okada gets the ropes but HT TORQUES THE HOLD AND WON’T RELEASE! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-URNS TO YOU! He finally releases after the ref chastises him. HT wraps the arm around the ropes and now they slug it out on the apron with Okada selling well. Okada boots him away for a DDT ON THE APRON! Back in, Okada hits the straitjacket TD and goes the handstand anchorhold. He tries several times before he flips over into a bridging anchor hold.

• He applies the arm-trapped, half crossface briefly and neckbreaks Okada for 1, 2, only 2. They slug it out but Okada goes to the neck. HT counters and tries the crossbody up and over but Okada ducks and rolls him into the DID! HT makes the ropes and comes back with kicks to the BAD ARM! YEAHHH! Okada blocks another and STEALS THE DSLW! YAKUZA KICK! To the floor and Okada chokes HT in the guardrail with a RAIL ASSISTED CAMEL CLUTCH! The ref pulls Okada away and he cooperates only to BOOT THE RAIL INTO THE HEAD! MY GOD, THIS MAN HAS A FAMILY! The ref tells him to get it in the ring and Okada’s all “Let me help him up first” and picks up HT for a TOMBSTONE! HT slides behind and tosses him into the rail. HT with several forearms and then WRAPS THE BAD ARM AROUND THE RINGPOST! TWO TIMES! THREE TIMES! HT climbs up top and nails the High Fly Flow crossbody to the floor. TANAHASHI chant from the crowd. Back in, HT nails a few burritos and drives the arm into the mat. He does it again and Okada is DONE. The ref starts reading him the last rites. HT brings him up and Okada tries a forearm but crumbles when he tries to use it. Okada’s selling is really world-class in every way. HT brushes it off and again destroys the arm. Okada tries to fire up but the arm is too devastated. Euro uppercut to the arm. FOREARM FROM OKADA! HT goes back to the arm and Okada is totally trashed. ELBOWS AND EURO UPPERCUTS TO THE ARM! HT is fired up now and egging on Okada. Okada recovers for a flapjack but STILL SELLS THE ARM!

• Okada in with a charge and the Emerald Flowsion neckbreaker. Okada now switches the sleeve over from his left arm to right for the MACHO ELBOW! Still the elbow is banged up and Okada sells the hell out of it. Okada still can’t let his fans down so he does the taunt WITH ONE ARM! OKADA FOR WORLD CHAMP! He wants a Tombstone but HT slides out to smack Okada down. He wants the Sling Blade but Okada shoves him off for a Bluechipper dropkick. RED INK APPLIED! HT fights and makes the ropes. Okada with a Samoan drop but HT is up first with a dropkick. He wants the Dragon but has to settle for the arm-capture German suplex for 1, 2, only 2. Michinoku Driver and HT heads up top. OKADA DROPKICKS HIM TO THE FLOOR! Okada trashes him into the rail for the yakuza kick. ORTON DDT OFF THE RAIL! OKADA HAS LOST HIS MIND! Ref counts gets to 10. 15! 16! HT IS STILL OUT! 17! 18! 19! HE MAKES IT BACK IN! Heavy Rain for 1, 2, nearfall. HT comes back with more shots to the bad arm after he counters a suplex. Okada tries a dropkick again but in a call back, HT stops short and then dropkicks his face. HT tries a Sling Blade but Okada ducks behind. RAINMAKER! NO! FOREARM TO THE BAD ARM! DRAGON SUPLEX! NO! RAINMAKER WITH THE BAD ARM! OKADA CAN’T MAKE THE COVER! Delayed cover gets 1, 2, 2.9999999999999999999. Okada pulls him up for the Tombstone. HT counters to a roll up for 1, 2, Okada rolls back to counter into the RED INK! TAPTAPTAPTAPTAP! HT FIGHTS BACK BUT OKADA DEAPSEATS IT! In a spectacular and hilarious moment, Okada swears to the ref that HT whispered in his ear and quit but the ref checks with HT and he can’t hear him. HT answers by diving and making the ropes. Okada tries to charge into the corner but eats turnbuckle. He puts HT up top but he boots him away and flies off with a sledge TO THE BAD ARM!@!@! DRAGON SCREW ARM WHIP! HT HEADS UP FOR THE HIGH FLY FLOW CROSSBODY! SLING BLADE! DRAGON SUPLEX FOR 1, 2, 2.9999999999999999999999999999999999. HIGH FLY FLOW!

• Rather than cover HT wants one more. KNEES UP FROM OKADA! Okada up and dropkicks the bad neck. He wants the Tombstone but HT counters. They both fight for it just like in the first match. HT torques the bad arm but RAINMAKER! NO! BACK TO THE WRINGER ON THE BAD ARM! TOMBSTONE FROM HT! NO! OKADA COUNTERS BACK TO HIS OWN! SPIKE TOMBSTONE! RAINMAKER! 1, 2, 3 FOR A NEW CHAMP AT 31:44!

• That’s the best big match I’ve seen in a long time – probably since HBK/Taker I. It gets everything right about the big match feel – the feeling out, the callbacks to previous matches, stealing taunts, great character moments, perfect counters, psychology, selling, etc. This match is epic, cinematic while most other matches come off small and inconsequential by comparison. It slows down to allow for character moments like Okada having no arm but still doing his pose or HT going for one too many High Fly Flows or them fighting over the Tombstone for just the right around of time. Perfection. *****

The 411: *10.0 is a default rating for the best of the year.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  10.0   [ Virtually Perfect ]  legend


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