Monday, August 29, 2011

Bikers Thought They'd Get an Advance Screening of Wild Hogs: Hog Wild 96

Been working on a WCW Top 100 matches for a poll on a forum. Decided I'd watch some 96 stuff and talk about what stood out to me.

Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs. The Ultimate Dragon

Really dug the opening to this: they do some lightning quick mat work. 96 Rey is so quick and smooth and looks perfect, and Dragon is good enough to keep up with him and get over for his arm drags and such. It looks fantastic, and then they start to one-up each other. I don't generally dig the goofy spots where both guys go for springboard moonsaults and then pose-- stuff like that bugs me-- but here, it was brief enough, and I was in a good enough mood from the start, that I could dig it. Then Dragon threw a handful of crappy kicks and took control of and killed the match. It's not that he's bad on offense-- though his strikes stink-- it's that he doesn't do a whole lot of meaningful stuff. He aimlessly beats on Rey, gloats but not interestingly, and then refuses to pin Rey. The announcers talk about but can't explain it, and I really can't think of a rationale: there's a belt on the line, and there's no hate between them. There's no reason why Dragon isn't going all-out trying to win, but instead, he's content to do moves and pose for the crowd. Rey comes back and hits a sweet finish, and I guess it's still a good match, but nothing I'd call great.

Dean Malenko vs. Chris Benoit

I used to buy into the "technical classic" hype, but this time around, it felt like a pretty flat 30-minute match. Didn't hate it: it's surprisingly watchable for a flat 30-minute match. Still, it's not a lot of fun. They work parity throughout the match, exchanging holds, keeping even with big spots and near-falls. And there are a ton of near-falls through different pinning combinations. The announcers are great and totally put over the fatigue, and I can totally buy that both guys are spent by the end of the 20-minute time limit. Big time workrate, I guess, plus all the energy expenditure to get out of the different roll-ups. The parity stuff led to some cool equal exchanges: Malenko hits a big plancha, so Benoit hits a big superplex; and later, Benoit gets the plancha back, and then Malenko gets the superplex back.

But there's not enough characterization, not enough emotion, to put this over the top. I don't want to sound like a typical "Malenko lacked charisma" dude, because I think he can be a great babyface. They just choose not to work with any heel/face dynamic until the first overtime. They don't work limbs or look for submissions; they don't lose tempers or cheat: they trade roll-ups for 20 minutes and occasionally do high-impact moves. Things pick up in overtime: Benoit starts to act like a dick and tears at Malenko's knee and even uses Malenko's Texas cloverleaf, which was cool except it would've been better if Malenko had tried to build toward that hold in the first chunk of the match. Malenko's selling is fine but he won't give up. In the second overtime, Malenko starts to get the knee work back to maintain the parity theme, but then Woman interferes and Benoit gets a successful roll-up. I liked the arc: they work even until Benoit finally cheats to win, which cheapens the whole thing, and that's fine, but I don't get why it took a Horseman 30 minutes and 2 overtimes to cheat to win.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Ric Flair

Thought this was totally great. Unlike the Malenko/Benoit match, the heel/face dynamic is clear and strong early. Flair acts like a dick and tries to taunt Eddie; he tries to shove him around but Eddie shoves back, tries to slap him around but Eddie slaps back. It's awesome: Eddie looks fiery and pissed and Flair makes him look like a million bucks. They work the match as an extended Eddie revenge segment. He turns Flair's cheap tactics against him, rakes the eyes, uses the figure-four, but he never goes as far as Flair would have. Flair gets the ropes and he relinquishes the hold well before five, stuff like that. Both guys bring big-time chops here. They really do hit hard. And the finish works. Eddie hits a Frog Splash but hurts himself, so Flair can pick up a cheap win by going after the knee. Made Eddie look good and established that he only lost because of one awkward landing; it made Flair look like a smart, survivalist veteran, which was how he should've been booked at this point anyway. Good structure, good characters, and fiery Eddie: great match.

Scott Hall/Kevin Nash vs. Sting/Lex Luger

Not as hot or awesome as the BATB 96 main, but this was still a blast. The Outsiders are so fun to watch act like dicks in the start of the match. Hall beats on Luger a bit and then taunts while Nash smirks. Luger fires back and flexes and looks like a badass, and Nash makes this great face, like, "Why you takin' this shit seriously?" Nash comes in and spits on Sting to kill the babyfaces momentum and force a match-up with the smaller guy. They work a sweet set of exchanges: Sting spits back but doesn't have the strength to slam Nash until he gets rolling and hits some strikes, and then the slam feels like a big moment. But Nash catches him shortly after and hits snake eyes and gets help from Hall on the apron. Outsiders aren't great in control, but they have charisma, engage the crowd, and Hall throws big rights, and Sting is a great FIP. Best hot tag tease comes from Sting collapsing and headbutting Nash in the nads. Luger off the actual hot tag is very good. Intense and ripped and forearming. Then they bust out a pretty goofy cheap finish, and Luger gets pinned after a punch to the back of the knee by a referee. Looked for a bit like this might've become the best match of the show, but the lame finish hurt it. Still tons of good stuff and totally enjoyable.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Best of WWE 2011 - Extreme Rules


#11 - CM Punk vs. Randy Orton - Last Man Standing - Extreme Rules 5/1/11

Orton's at his best in hardcore-type matches: he hits hard with weapons and takes crazy bumps, and reckless settings fit his goofy mannerisms better. This was a strong, escalating, violent brawl. They start working somewhat even but with Orton getting the upper-hand mostly: Punk drops a knee, Orton drops a bigger knee, etc. The feud highlighted the similarities between the two, so that worked. But then Punk whipped out a kendo stick and the match escalated. They communicated hate throughout the match, and they consistently built momentum. The kendo stick shots were particularly violent, both guys took great bumps-- the spot where Punk gets thrown through a chair wedge in the ropes onto the apron and then outside looked great, and both guys ate post brilliantly-- and the selling was awesome. Punk's wobbly-legged stuff looked great and put over the near finishes. This also didn't have as much downtime as most LMS matches do, in part due to Punk's ability to perform perpetually and entertain, even when he's not actually doing anything. His faces are the best. And Orton going ballistic with the cane was the best thing to come out of his new psycho-killer babyface character.


#12 - Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio - Falls Count Anywhere - Extreme Rules 5/1/11

Orton/Punk succeeded with hate; Cody/Rey succeeded with recklessness. They start hot, exchanging stiff strikes, and never slow down. They brawl all over the place, and it's a terrific arena brawl: both guys incorporate signature stuff in creative ways and also bust out brand new stuff, and they both take nasty bumps. They also call back to the feud in significant ways: Cody uses his mask, Rey exposes a knee brace before going for a 619, etc. They go up the stairs and into the concourse and back around, and the most impressive part about the match is how hard they hit each other. I'd say both guys strike well in general, but they totally kicked it up for the blow-off. Rey's mist came out of nowhere and was completely awesome.


#8 - Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio - Ladder Match - Extreme Rules 5/1/2011

A better opening and this easily makes the top five, but the finish is still strong enough to call it truly great. And the opening was very good, too: they exchange strikes and then go to the ladders, which they utilize well throughout the match. They incorporate signature spots in new ways, which Christian always does well, but adding ladders to stuff makes it cooler and more devastating. Cool stuff like Christian crawling under the ring to the other side and then running through the ring to baseball slide the ladder into Del Rio; Del Rio getting knocked off the ladder only to land on his feet and hit his enziguri, etc. Del Rio also works Christian's arm briefly, which leads to great selling from Christian throughout the match. But it really takes off when both guys start to bump like mad. Del Rio takes a whole bunch of nasty shit on ladders, and the bumps get bigger while the crowd gets hotter. They get a cool false finish out of a spot stolen from Jeff/Edge at ER09 and a better one after Del Rio hits a senton on a ladder draped across the apron and announce table-- that looked awesome. And Del Rio takes a back drop onto a ladder and a flapjack onto a cornered ladder, and Christian eats an enziguri off the top rope while holding a ladder, which he falls flat on. All awesome stuff. Even simpler stuff, like Christian's Edge-homage spear followed by the brilliant shoulder sell, was great. And Brodus Clay's appearance was awesome: he interrupted the hottest false finish only to eat stiff ladder shots. But that gives time for Del Rio to come back and lock in a cross-armbreaker through a ladder, which looked great. Edge's distraction was awesome, too: it protected Del Rio but wasn't long enough to detract from Christian's title win. It looked like Christian might have stopped Del Rio even without the distraction. Del Rio taking the big bump into Ricardo, Brodus, and a pool of Brodus's blood (yeah, stiff ladder shots; forgot to mention Christian got busted open down the stretch, too) felt just. I like when heels with cronies get punished with their cronies all at once. And Christian's title win was a great feel-good moment. Edge being around wasn't something I'd normally dig, but he seemed so genuinely excited and happy to see his best friend finally get what he deserved that it added to the moment.

I'm a Christian mark, so that meant a lot to me, and I probably have it 5 spots higher than it should be, but whatever. It's a great match.

Added to THE REST:

John Cena vs. John Morrison vs. The Miz - Cage Match - Extreme Rules 5/1/11

Not a great match, but more "way better than it should have been." Because really, this sounds terrible on paper, but it turned out to be a bunch of fun. Constant action and Miz & Morrison both had great roles while Cena established early that he just wanted that goddam belt. Miz tries to climb cowardly at the start and it almost works. Then Morrison tries to climb acrobatically and it almost works. Then they put over the danger for the champion, which might be the strongest part of the match. Miz hits his finish on Cena but can't pin him because Morrison's at the top of the cage. I dug Morrison trying to jump out throughout the match and Miz trying to find opportunities. Miz's superplex bump deserves a mention for looking stupidly deadly. And nobody spends much time lying around until Truth's appearance, which is pretty awesome: he murders Morrison because Morrison deserves it. The knee into the steps looked great, and he took Morrison out, got his symbolic "victory" by climbing out, and took out the third wheel so we could get a Miz/Cena finish. And the finish was epic: they dueled atop the cage and finished with a great superAA. Really awesome spot, really fun match.

Best of WWE 2011: THE LIST

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Best of WWE 2011 - Mo' Mac, Mo' Pain

Added to THE REST:

Drew McIntyre vs. Zack Ryder - Superstars 8/18/11

Really fun match. I'm glad Ryder's back on tv as his shtick is a bunch of fun and he can have good matches. He's fine as a babyface here: he takes some nasty stuff, hits a great face wash, and has other fun offense. Of course, he's also a total goof and hits a weaksauce finisher, so some will dislike him. But McIntyre is the star here, and he pummels Ryder from the start. Dude throws bombs, then Ryder tries to comeback and hits a crossbody. But McIntyre is lethal on the outside and busts Ryder's spine into the apron. From there we get a bunch of McIntyre beating on Ryder, and McIntyre beating on anybody is simply pro wrestling. He also takes an awesome bump off a hope spot: McIntyre's on the apron and Ryder grabs an arm and runs him into the post and McIntyre flips over and lands on the floor. Great. He also hits a fantastic boot and counters a Ruff Ryder into a powerbomb. Ruff Ryder doesn't look great as a finish, but it's a cool spot that they built to well.


# 19 - Drew McIntyre vs. Rey Mysterio - Smackdown 3/11/11

All matches should start with Drew McIntyre kicking a face. He doesn't waste time and throws an awesome boot and then wails on Rey, who is a bit too quick and starts flying around, so McIntyre takes a powder. But Rey follows and they have a cool exchange that leads to Rey tripping Drew into the apron. Drew takes control on the outside by driving Rey into the post and then flattening him with a sideslam onto the apron. They only get 5 minutes, so Drew doesn't have a lot of control stuff, but he works Rey's back and looks great, and Rey's really awesome when he gets rolling. These two gel well, naturally: Drew sells for Rey and Rey eats Drew's nastiest offense. Finish really rocks as Drew takes a posting well, eats a nasty kick, and they frame the 619 organically and in the corner, which makes it unique.

Added to THE REST:

Drew McIntyre vs. Rey Mysterio - Smackdown 4/15/11

More time but less quality. I doubt these two could have a bad match-- they're too talented and too well-matched-- but this definitely didn't feel like the best they could do in 9 minutes or so. There's tons of quality spots, but the 3/11 match was a focused sprint, and this felt somewhat rambling: Drew did moves on offense & Rey made comebacks. The announcers tried to put it over as Drew grounding Rey, but he allowed too much space too often for that to be his intent. They later tried to put it over as a young Drew taking Rey to the limit, but it didn't feel like an exceptional test for Rey. I'm probably being nitpicky: there's tons of fun stuff here and it's mostly a blast, but there are segments that drag early in the match. It starts with Drew talking trash and then they exchange bombs. Drew comes out on top, but Rey uses his quickness to counter until Drew catches him going for a rana on the outside, and then Drew smashes him into the barricade. Devastating. He doesn't work a particular body part, though, and Rey starts his comeback soon and hits a cool leg drop to a dangling-from-the-second-rope McIntyre. It was obvious Drew was trying to get into position, but whatever. Drew busts out some really awesome cut-offs, including a nasty big boot to a running Rey, and later a murderous clothesline from his knees. So yeah, bunches of awesome spots and a nifty counter to lead to the finish. Good stuff, but not as good as you'd expect from these two.

Best of WWE 2011: THE LIST

Best of WWE 2011 - Matt Striker?

One of the WKO guys pimped Striker's recent series with Darren Young. Matt Striker? Had to check it out.

Added to THE REST:

Matt Striker vs. Darren Young - NXT 8/9/11

Not a great match and probably not even top 50 for the year thus far, but it's totally worth checking out. Grisham & Regal are a quality duo on commentary, and it's so refreshing to see commentators talking about the guys in the match and putting them over. Striker looks lost in the opening parts, which is a good thing: he hasn't worked in 3 years. He throws some good punches and cool arm drags until Young catches him with a fist on the apron, and then he hits a neckbreaker. Really dug Striker's selling at that point, but you could tell he didn't quite have everything right. Like his commentary, it seemed like he knew what to do but tried to hard to do it right, so he does this goofy reach to the crowd, which might've worked with a close-up, but he didn't get the close-up. Not a major knock on the match, though. Young hits a great over-the-head belly-to-belly and looked great in general. He also busted Striker's nose, and the inadvertent blood looked great combined with quality facial expressions from Striker. Awesome spot where Young chucks Striker, who takes a shoulder-first baseball slide bump into the ring post. Looks great and sets up Striker selling his arm throughout the match, which is quality. His hope spots are cool but weird. He busts out a gory bomb, which looks great, but I think if he goes back to working full time, he'll have make sense of his move set. Here, it felt like he picked out cool moves to do and then did them.

But the match is a ton of fun. Young goes back to the arm repeatedly, and it has a cool story: young & hungry star tries to prove a point against a veteran who hasn't worked in a while and wants to prove he can still go. Pride & all that. Worth checking out.


#24 - Darren Young vs. Matt Striker - 8/16/11

Better match and something I'd call "really good," whereas the first was something I'd call "surprisingly good." Felt like Striker watched back tapes of himself to get the goofiness out of his mannerisms and really nail them down. He also doesn't fuck around with arm drags in the early going because Darren Young dissed him too much, so he wails on the kid. Legitimately awesome punches in the corner from Striker. Lawleresque. Then Young hits a cheap shot and throws some punches of his own, which pisses Striker off. He goes back on offense and alternates between chops and forearm smashes. Beautiful. Outside, Striker stomps Young's hand against the steps, which Young sells really well. And then Striker works the hand briefly, and then busts out a swank roll-through armbar on the targeted limb. I wish Striker would've wrenched at fingers on the injured hand throughout the armbar, but it was still an awesome sequence and a terrific shine period. Young's cradle counter looked great, and I dug that he took control by simply being quicker than Striker: Young is more fit & active. He already got himself over as a dickhead in the build by bullying an interview guy, so here, he doesn't need to further establish his heelishness. Instead, they make him look like the better athlete, which doesn't hurt Striker because he's still shaking off the rust and shows tons of heart-- really, he comes across as a natural babyface, with sympathetic faces and fiery comebacks while working from the bottom.

Crafty spot on the apron: Young goes for a neckbreaker like in the last match, but Striker counters only to eat a back suplex. Striker's sell is great: he looks hurt but also frustrated that he let the younger guy outfox him. Young works Striker's ribs briefly, which is a good thing as Young's finisher targets the ribs. Then he goes for a springboard shoulder block from the apron in, only for Striker to catch him and hit a rope-elevated neckbreaker. Awesome spot, but Striker left him too close to the ropes and it cost him. Reminded me of the Lawler/Miz Elimination Chamber match. Finish is terrific: a cool strength spot from Young that also made him look crafty and went back to the ribs. Check this one out.

Also, it looks like this might lead into a Regal/Young program. They had fun stuff on Superstars last year-- Regal beat the shit out of Young, who established his bump-freakishness-- and Young looks even better now, and it should be a blast with the roles reversed.

Best of WWE 2011: THE LIST

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best of WWE 2011 - D-Mac Busts Heads


#8 - Drew McIntyre vs. Chris Masters - Superstars 5/12/11

One of the best possible pairings. These two had a great one on Superstars last year (8/12/10), and this was about on the same level as that. D-Mac comes out cocky and smirking, so Masters rocks him and teases the Masterlock early. McIntyre takes control by grabbing Masters's leg from the apron and wrapping it around the post: a cool spot that played off McIntyre's stolen-from-Finlay use-the-environment shtick, which always rules. Then we get several minutes of a guy with brutal and creative offense beating on a guy with top-notch limb selling. So of course it works. Masters has been great for a while, and the way McIntyre continues to improve amazes me. Not just his offense & bumping, which have both become incredible, but he communicates frustration so much better now than he did a year ago, and here, he takes another leap forward by busting out some impressive athletic spots. Masters boots him out of the ring when he goes for a figure-four, but McIntyre goes through the ropes and lands on his feet, which looks cool. Then he slaps the table in frustration, which looks great and costs him because it gives Masters enough time to go back on offense. Best part of the match: McIntyre hits a beautiful dropkick and then kips up. It looks amazing. Finish is good, too, and I should've talked about Masters's selling more because it's brilliant, and McIntyre takes off his knee pad to make it look extra vulnerable. Also worth noting that Masters has gotten very good on offense. He really wails on dudes with chops & such.


#12 - Evan Bourne vs. Drew McIntyre - Superstars 5/19/11

A little 6.5 minute masterpiece. Drew powers Bourne down but Bourne squirms out with quick mat stuff. McIntyre tries to bully Bourne throughout the opening: he hits a shoulder block and gloats; he slaps Bourne in the face after putting him on the turnbuckle, but Bourne comes back with quick arm drags, including a leaping drag off the second buckle, which looks awesome. Bourne on offense rules, and McIntyre bumps great and communicates arrogance and frustration perfectly. Bourne also hits a beautiful rana and throws great kicks, but McIntyre finally kills him with a clothesline. Bourne does a backflip off the apron and dies. All in the first two minutes. Then McIntyre bullies Evan and throws a great big boot. They don't have the time to work great limb stuff like in the Masters match, but with McIntyre's size advantage, a bully segment works just as well. He hits a delayed superplex and shows off and wails on Bourne, who can make anything look like gold and gold look like god. They do a cool spot off the apron that leads to McIntyre eating steps and Bourne throwing a great flurry of kicks into the awesome finish. Bourne goes for another rana but pays because Drew learned something: he tosses Bourne into the buckle and hits the Future Shock.


#19 - Evan Bourne vs. Zack Ryder - Superstars 5/5/11

A pairing that doesn't get enough pimpage. Ryder is goofy but can work and has had multiple goodies with Bourne & Christian. Bourne is a treat here, leading Ryder through some slick mat exchanges. I'll go nuts for any chance to watch Bourne on offense busting out quick mat stuff. And then Ryder catches him going for a rana off the apron to the outside and smashes him into the barricade. It's worth reiterating that Bourne dies all the time, beautifully. And Ryder hits an awesome facewash. And these guys bust out cool counters together and time stuff great. This one didn't sizzle quite as much as their 5/27/10 match but was still plenty fun and worth checking out.

Best of WWE 2011: THE LIST

Friday, August 19, 2011

Best of WWE 2011 - WrestleMania

Attended this show live and thought it was mostly good, aside from the Rock stuff, which simply wasn't pro wrestling. Del Rio/Edge was a fine title match and better than most Edge stuff from the last couple years, but still nowhere near the Del Rio/Christian stuff, which I might talk about soon. Taker/Hunter was very good for what it was, but it wasn't something that appealed to me in any major way. If I feel like watching it again, I might write about it. Two great matches, though.


#10 - Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio - WMXXVII 4/3/11

Dead crowd, but they worked a smart & fun match. In an earlier match, Cody exposed Rey's knee brace only to eat a 619, which broke his face. He blamed Rey for ruining his good looks and underwent a major character transformation. Now he wears a plastic mask and uses it as a weapon, and he has darker music. Goofy but fun gimmick, and he works it really well. He attacks Rey early, but Rey is ready and fights him off. Cody protects the face. That's a significant part of his character and a good spot. Throughout the match, we see a prepared Cody with an arsenal of counters to stop all of Rey's stuff. He also uses the mask as a weapon both to deliver punishment and to cut Rey off. His control segment isn't perfectly focused, but it works because Rey squirms and counters enough to keep Cody on his toes, and they bust out a bunch of cool spots. Awesome delayed superplex. The finishing stretch totally rules. Cody takes off Rey's knee to try to maim him, but Rey defends himself and fights Cody off. Then, Rey takes off Cody's mask and wears it to deliver a string of awesome diving headbutt revenge spots. Cody's face gets thrashed. Side note, Rey's strikes are really awesome here. He has great kicks. Anyway, Cody goes to the outside and catches Rey in the face with Rey's knee brace. Looked really incredible. Awesome finish, great match.


#7 - CM Punk vs. Randy Orton - WMXXVII 4/3/11

Punk obliterated Orton's knee with a monkey wrench during the build. They hate each other. They work a pretty basic match: Punk goes for Orton's knee right at the bell and doesn't let up until he starts to try to put Orton away down the stretch; Orton tries to punish Punk early until Punk weakens the knee, and then he sells and looks for desperation RKOs. Punk's knee work is engaging and varied, and his facial expressions are really awesome. He mocks Orton, and Punk mocking dudes rules. His responses to dodging RKOs are priceless. Punk busts out a figure-four around the ring post, and then there's a great Indian Deathlock spot. Punk wails on Orton's knee while Orton tries to claw at Punk's face only to get an elbow to the ribs. Then Punk nearly falls asleep and lets his shoulders touch the mat for 2. Then Punk wails on the knee some more and Orton claws some more until he finally gets into position to headbutt his way out. Tons of activity on a simple hold. Again, a great finish. Punk goes away from the knee to try to finish Orton off when he realizes that Orton won't tap, but the Anaconda Vice doesn't work either. Orton goes on adrenaline and hits Punk hard while still selling the knee. Orton's mannerisms are goofy and his Thesz press is worse than Kelly Kelly's, but none of that hurt the match much. Orton goes for a punt but collapses, and Punk's response is brilliant, as is the teased RKO, as is the mid-air RKO, which was perfectly-timed and not contrived.

Best of WWE 2011 - THE LIST

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Best of WWE 2011 - SummerSlam

SummerSlam 2011 was a truly great PPV. Four great matches I'll talk about here, plus a fun 6-man opener to get guys on the card, plus one of the best divas matches in a while, plus two funny backstage segments. Check it out.


#13 - Sheamus vs. Mark Henry - SummerSlam 8/14/11

Doubt this will stick to my list because it had lulls and there's been a ton of great stuff, by the dynamic between these two was incredible. Babyface Sheamus excites me and Henry's been on a tear since his heel turn, tossing tech guys and murdering monsters and talking shit. He lumbers around and clubs Sheamus and dominates. Sheamus brings fire on his comebacks and wails on Henry and the crowd digs all of it. Few awesome spots: Henry drapes Sheamus on the middle rope and then drives through and smashes him and lands on the outside; Sheamus hits a running double ax on one of his comebacks-- it's beautiful; Henry eats a Brogue kick but tumbles through the middle rope in a Vader-level fat boy bump, and it breaks hearts because Sheamus had him! Then they kill the rail on the finish: it looks sick, folks flip, and we get one of the best count-out finishes I've seen. Lord I want a rematch. Match was two big tough guys beating on each other. Not a classic, but it was pro wrestling, and that's what I love.


#8 - Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett - SummerSlam 8/14/11

I'm not high on Barrett, but he proved himself a solid hand here, in his best match yet. Bryan looked great, of course, and we got something pretty great. They worked the mat briefly at the start and Bryan stretched Barrett beautifully, which you don't see a lot in current WWE. Then Bryan hit some great dropkicks and rolled early until Barrett caught him with a black hole slam. Great spot, and it connected with what Barrett talked about on the last episode of SD, about studying Bryan, finding weak spots. Barrett's control stuff could've put this over the top if it had been better, but instead, it dragged a bit. But he hit everything fine, focused on Bryan's back, and hit an awesome forearm smash to cut off one of Bryan's comebacks. Bryan also took a great apron bump, and they teased a Wasteland off the apron, and then Bryan hit his flying knee off the apron. Really great sequence, and the finishing stretch rocked. Barrett was prepared to get to the ropes when Bryan went for his submissions. Finish was awesome, too, as Bryan took his clothesline bump off the top rope. No great story or character development here, but we got a hard-hitting match between two guys with something to prove who don't like each other. Bryan really leveled Wade with some of his kicks. Again, pro wrestling.


#5: Christian vs. Randy Orton - No Holds Barred - SummerSlam 8/14/11

This started uneventfully but at least Orton got his crappy short-arm clotheslines out of the way. He goes for his RKO on the table early, and Christian tries to run because he's felt that before. Orton catches him and beats him up in the crowd and then stomps on his head and grins crazily. Back in the ring, Christian dodges Orton and Orton eats post with his shoulder. Announcers put over his injury history, and he sells it throughout the match. From here, they take off. Christian looks like he has something to prove on offense because he does: Edge called him a bitch. He wails on Orton with a kendo stick and chokes him with the point of it. Orton, however, catches Christian going for a leaping shot with the kendo stick: beautifully-time dropkick. These two always work counter-heavy matches, but works because they time well, hit hard, and have familiarity. They also set up, build to, and pay off on the big spots. We get a sequence of great teased table spots, and then down the stretch, we get quality table spots, including a nasty powerslam through a table in the corner. Orton hits great powerslams, and what puts this match over the top is all the crazy shit Christian takes. He takes a monster beating after being called a bitch: I hope they put that over on SD, but they'll probably bury him.

I could see folks finding this prop-heavy, but it only got cluttered toward the end, when Orton lost his shit. That was awesome, but the way. He kicked out of a Killswitch (ate it beautifully, fwiw), so Christian went for a con-chair-to but spat in Orton's face first-- the match was loaded with quality callbacks, and that was the best of them-- so Orton dodged the chair and blew up. From there, we saw him kill Christian. Some might have found the finish contrived, and there was a distracting spot where Christian had to hold a trash can in place so he could take a rope-elevated DDT onto it. But that was still one of the best trash can spots I've seen. So yeah, this had some of the weaknesses you might expect in a garbage match, but it was mostly violent and awesome and totally worth checking out.


#2 - CM Punk vs. John Cena - SummerSlam 8/14/11

Already talked about the greatness of their MITB match, which had a surreal atmosphere and was drenched in drama and one of the best WWE matches ever. They worked evenly for a while until Cena took over and tried unsuccessfully to put Punk away: that match was about Punk's heart. Here, the crowd is split more evenly, meaning they were less surreal but still plenty of fun. And they work with parity throughout the match while building off their previous encounter, and they do it without cheesy stand-offs or turning the match into a your turn/my turn deal. Part of the reason it worked, and why the whole feud has worked, has been because both guys are such different characters, and that shows in their work. Cena works traditional, with punches, kicks, and basic holds, while Punk brings his muay thai stuff and an array of kicks. Cena hits  elbow drops; Punk hits falling head-butts. Equals but opposites. The early mat stuff rules: it's not flashy but it's sensible and effective. The callback spots are great. In one out-of-this world sequence, Cena goes for his typical offense but Punk catches him with a knee to the face while he's mid shoulder-block. Punk goes for a knee in the corner but Cena dodges and finishes his shoulder blocks and goes for his slam to set up the five-knuckle shuffle. Punk counters through with a headlock takeover, hits his running knee against the ropes, goes for a bulldog only to have Cena counter with his slam and go for the five-knuckle shuffle. Punk tries to counter with a kick to the face-- callback to the MITB match-- but Cena catches him and goes for an STF, which Punk counters. Beautiful. Then Punk busts out an STO into a Koji Clutch, which Cena counters in an STF, which Punk counters into an Anaconda Vice, which Cena counters into a crossface. It's incredible, exhausting. Both guys bring their best and put tons behind each strike and bust out tons of great counters. Punk sells the knee all down the stretch. Triple H's role works fine. The strike exchanges further accentuate the differences between these two. Cena hits a 100% perfect dropkick and throws an awesome punch flurry down the stretch. Both guys communicate desperation brilliantly as they approach the finish. The finish itself is pretty cool and sets up future feuds while still leaving the door open for another Punk/Cena match.

Another bona fide classic which deserves extra commendation for being way different from their previous classic: MORE PRO WRESTLING.

Best of WWE 2011: THE LIST