Top Ten Wrestling Matches of 2008
Let's see, it was only about 11 months ago that I typed but this ditty, so my thoughts now are about the same as they were then. Only difference is that I'd probably bump out the Jericho/Michaels Unsanctioned match due to awarding those two men the top spot and in it's place add the Brent Albright/Adam Pearce NWA title match from Ring of Honor's Death Before Dishonor event. Otherwise, everything stands.
Now before anyone asks, I have not seen ROH's Death Before Dishonor VI yet, so I cannot comment on the Brent Albright/Adam Pearce match which has earned lots of critical acclaim. I thought about putting off making this list until I'd caught up more on recent DVDs, but if I do that then it will be so long until I get around to this that it would be the spring and it would be silly. So having said this, let's get started.
10) ROH World Tag Team Championship: Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black © vs. Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson - (Ring of Honor: Respect is Earned II).
This was a great part of the blood feud between Aries and Jacobs. Initially, the match ended in a disqualification within minutes when Jacobs and Aries couldn't contain themselves and fought so viciously that the referee had no choice but to call for the bell. Luckily, Tyler Black and Bryan Danielson had cooler heads on their shoulders and were able to get the match restarted. From there, this was an excellent tag team contest. ****1/4.
9) Elimination Chamber: Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho vs. Umaga vs. JBL (WWE No Way Out).
The elimination chamber is such a great concept and has all sorts of potential, but the matches never seem to live up to the hype. This was an exception to that rule, as the action was chaotic and all over the place from start to finish. With the winner getting a Wrestlemania title shot, there was a lot at stake, and the crowd was hoping for a Jeff Hardy upset after he'd been so close to taking the title from Randy Orton a month earlier. The fans would have to wait, as a Triple H pedigree (and a wellness policy violation) would delay Hardy's rise to the top. ****1/4.
8) Jimmy Jacobs vs. Austin Aries (ROH Vendetta II).
The war between Aries and Jacobs continued at a sickening pace. The story was that Jacobs invited Aries to join the Age of the Fall, and used his own girlfriend, Lacey, to try and lure him into the group. Instead, Aries stole Lacey from Jacobs, infuriating the pathetic and insecure Jacobs. In retaliation, Jacobs had the Age of the Fall jump Lacey as she was leaving a gym and hurt her so badly she would have to leave wrestling. The build resulted in this brutal match. Aries would gain a measure of revenge and planted the seeds for Necro Butcher's departure from the group. ****1/4
7) Unsanctioned match: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (WWE: Unforgiven).
Speaking of outstanding build, Jericho had made it not just his mission to drive Michaels from the WWE, but to make sure he would forever be credited for doing it. At Summerslam, Jericho took a swing at Michaels and accidentally knocked out his wife. The story of this match was Michaels' quest for revenge, even if it cost him his soul. The match was brutal and evenly matched for quite a while, but ultimately the momentum swung into HBK's favor and he left Jericho a bloody and beaten mess. Many thought this would be the final chapter in their war, but Jericho wasn't finished, as he crawled out to a Scramble match later in the show to capture the World title. ****1/4
6) Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Edge (WWE: Summerslam 2008).
This was the climax to a feud that had spanned for more than a year. In a day and age when it feels like feuds are continually rushed, the bad blood between Undertaker and Edge started in May 2007 when Edge stole the World title from the Dead Man up until Summerslam in August 2008. In between, they had battled many times and Edge had continually screwed the Undertaker. All that came to a head in the Hell in a Cell, when suddenly none of Edge's tricks and short cuts could save him. Undertaker defeated his arch nemesis and sent him crashing into the ring canvas before "blowing up" the Rated R Superstar, sending him straight to Hell. ****1/4
5) Career Threatening match: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels (WWE WrestleMania 24).
Over the past thirty five years, very few men have meant as much to professional wrestling as Ric Flair. While this was billed as a "career threatening" match, everyone knew going into it that this was it for Flair. It would be hard to imagine a more fitting way for a legend to go out on a high note. Flair and Michaels wrestled a quality match in front of one of the biggest crowds in American wrestling history. The finish was as emotional as anything I've ever seen in wrestling, as Michaels, knowing he had Flair beat, mouthed "I love you, I'm sorry" right before blasting Flair with the Sweet Chin Music. It's funny to think that just ten years ago Flair was being disrespected left and right in WCW and it looked as though his career was going to end on a quiet note. Instead, Flair found redemption in his second WWE run and got the retirement treatment and respect he deserved. ****1/4
4) ROH World Tag Team Championship: Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black © vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico (ROH Driven).
It's hard to find many genuinely touching or emotional moments in wrestling. While the Flair/HBK match hit such a note, it would have been hard not to considering the ramifications. However, these four men were able to capture such a moment, involving nothing more than the ROH Tag Team titles. Kevin Steen is a reluctant babyface, in that he's a proud slob, a jerk to his fan favorite tag partner, and sometimes he's slow to do the right thing. So that kind of makes him like Shrek, doesn't it? Anyhow, Steen made it his goal to hold gold in Ring of Honor in 2008, and after coming up short a few times against Nigel McGuinness, this was his last big shot. The Age of the Fall were crafty and formidable as usual, but after a dazzling series of nearfalls in front of a rabid crowd, Steen and Generico were finally able to capture the gold. The post-match celebration was a genuine moment of happiness and accomplishment for the unlikely duo of Steen and Generico. ****1/2
3) ROH World Championship: Nigel McGuinness © vs. Bryan Danielson (ROH Sixth Year Anniversary).
Danielson and McGuinness have wrestled many times, yet each time they find a way to have an outstanding match that is unique from their other encounters. This time the story was that Nigel was whining about the concussion he had suffered the last time he'd performed in front of the same NYC crowd and he didn't want to wrestle if it meant risking further attacks to the head. Danielson agreed with Nigel that they would not target the head during their match. This was all well and good until late in the contest when Nigel was finding that he could not put Danielson away. Nigel resorted to going back on his word and viciously attacked Danielson's head and previously injured eye. Nigel's heel turn was complete and the NYC crowd wanted him dead. ****1/2
2) FIP World Championship: Erick Stevens © vs. Roderick Strong (FIP Redefined)
At Ring of Honor's Final Battle in 2007, Stevens scored a major upset when he bested Strong for the FIP title. This was during a time when FIP's future was up in the air, as the promoter's wife had suddenly passed away and a series of shows had been cancelled. During this time, Stevens made the most of his title reign in ROH, scoring huge upset victories defending the title against top names like Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson. When FIP finally got back to business in February, Stevens vs. Strong was signed as the rematch. The match itself was a brutal, yet old-school contest. Strong managed to knock out Stevens at ringside and returned to the ring in time to win the title back by count-out (which is legal in FIP). Stevens would later wake up and would need to be told that he was no longer the champion. ****1/2
1) Ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho © vs. Shawn Michaels (WWE: No Mercy 2008).
I must confess that I am a huge fan of Chris Jericho, and for years it bothered me that his initial run as World Champion in 2001-2002 was such a mess. This match nearly makes up for that. This was the Chris Jericho as World Champion match that I always wanted. Not only that, but it was the blow-off to his long running feud with Michaels. Drifting from the usual ladder match forumal, they didn't go for a spot-fest, but rather used the ladder when it was convenient as a measure to hurt one another. Jericho was out to prove himself against Michaels, who had embarassed him on television earlier, reminding him that despite everything he accomplished that he would never be Shawn Michaels. Jericho took a step closer when he defeated Michaels to hold on to his World title. I initially rated this match as ****1/4, but after thinking it is a definite ****1/2 classic.