December 19, 2009
Matt Peddycord & Justin Rozzero

The 100 Greatest WWE Matches of the Decade: 2005

Triple H (w/Ric Flair) vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Edge vs. Batista vs. Chris Benoit – Elimination Chamber (New Years Revolution 2005)

Matt: LIVE FROM PUERTO RICO! Shawn Michaels is *your* special guest referee and the World title is completely up for grabs thanks to a HHH-Edge-Benoit triple threat match back in December that had a double-pin finish. Easily the best match this PPV ever generated in the three years of its existence. It was bloody, brutal, and quite dramatic. Benoit and Jericho started the match for the first five minutes and tore the house down. Triple H and Edge would be the first two men to escape their chambers. Somebody has to nearly kill themselves by coming off one of the chambers, so the inevitable happens as Benoit comes off the top of a chamber with the Swandive Headbutt to Triple H. It’s always a beautiful thing. We saw some awesome three-man spots as Benoit stopped a Pedigree on Jericho by throwing Triple H away with a German suplex. Also, there’s a neat exchange between Triple H, Benoit, and Orton. Benoit releases a nasty looking Crossface on Orton to put Triple H in the Sharpshooter since he’s just standing there taunting Orton. With Benoit’s head exposed, you can see the RKO coming a mile away. The moment finally comes when HBK gets involved. Orton ducks a spear from Edge, which causes Shawn to take the blow. Orton gets a spear anyway, but HBK is too hurt to make the count. Edge gets in Shawn’s face – SWEET CHIN MUSIC – followed by a Lionsault from Jericho and there goes Edge’s chances at winning the World title, which he was clinically obsessed about doing at the time. That sets up their match for the Royal Rumble. Triple H gets stuck in a Crippler Crossface-Walls of Jericho spot and everybody thinks he’s going to submit when Batista’s time to enter the match comes up and he makes the save for his mentor. I was becoming more of a Batista during the period after NYR when Batista started to mess with Triple H. Before that, he was just a big enforcer guy for the Evolution stable. Here is where he gets awesome. He throws Jericho into a cameraman and then SPINEBUSTERS Jericho on top of Benoit! WHO DOES THAT. That gets rid of Benoit. A Demon Bomb later to Jericho gets rid of him as well. That leaves HHH & Batista vs. Orton. Not good. As Orton continues to kickout of Triple H’s offense, he gets a little mad and lets Batista go for the Demon Bomb. Nobody kicks out of that. Instead, Orton low blows out and drops Batista with the RKO! Cover, 1-2-3! Batista is GONE! Umm, why didn’t Triple H make the save? He starts to and then he sits back down in the corner! Oh man. As the cage door opens up to get Batista out, Ric Flair hops into the match to distract HBK while Batista nails Orton with a clothesline. That sets up an easy Pedigree as HHH wins his tenth world championship (five WWE, five world). Afterwards, Batista puts HHH up on his shoulders to celebrate. You expect Batista to drop back, but it never happens. On an otherwise awful PPV, this match is worth taking a look at if you’re a fan of this era on Raw.

Justin: When Triple H lost his title in the triple threat match on Raw, many people thought a changing of the guard was in the air. Bischoff vacated the belt and put it up for grabs in the Chamber. Up until this point, this was definitely the best Chamber match in the history of the gimmick. All six men were in a good groove here and they all had good chemistry with each other. Despite still being a heel here, Batista was really gaining a strong fan following and had eclipsed his former partner Randy Orton as a crowd favorite. All six men worked hard and as badly as everyone wanted Hunter to lose here, he really was the best option to pass the torch to Batista. The subtle move by Hunter to feign being to worn out to save Batista was awesome too. Great match to kick off a really good year for in ring action.

Edge vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Christian (w/Tyson Tomko) vs. Shelton Benjamin – ‘Money in the Bank’ Ladder Match (WrestleMania 21)

Matt: The mother of all ‘Money in the Bank’ ladder matches. The chances we saw taken in TLC matches in years past came back with this one. This was all kinds of cool as we saw a very brief reunion between Edge and Christian, Shelton Benjamin WALKING UP A TILTED LADDER to clothesline Jericho, Benoit’s pain-stricken Swandive Headbutt. Much like Rhyno helped E&C win at TLC II at WrestleMania X-7, “The Problem Solver” Tyson Tomko nearly helped Christian win it all before Kane gave Tyson the big boot to the floor and turned the ladder over to send Christian falling on top of Tomko. Unlike your usual popcorn spotfest, this one had some storytelling as well. As Benoit made that final ascent up the ladder with his hurt shoulder, Edge comes out of nowhere and BLASTS Benoit’s shoulder with a chair. Down goes Benoit. Up goes Edge as he retrieves the ‘Money in the Bank’ briefcase to one day getting a random title shot whenever he wants.

Justin: This is the match that established the legend of MITB. Take six or eight hard working midcarders and toss them into a wild environment full of weapons and let them battle for a title shot. I think the prize really added to this match as well as the idea of a title shot that is good for one year was a shrewd one. These guys destroyed each other and really set the bar for the ensuing versions of the match. The breakout star here was clearly Shelton Benjamin, who wowed the crowd with his athleticism and risky offense. Edge picked up a big win to help keep his heel turn churning ahead and Chris Benoit put on an exhibition in legendary selling. Great stuff and a big contender for the match of the night.

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels – (WrestleMania 21)

Matt: I haven’t watched UT-HBK from WrestleMania 25 since I saw it live, but it’s these two matches that in my opinion HAVE to be the best standard one-on-one matches from WWE in this decade. I’ve done a review for this already on the Kurt Angle mixtape, so here you go!

Michaels eliminated Angle at the Royal Rumble and from there a rivalry was started to the point both guys have come to WrestleMania to see who the best wrestler of the decade is. This match is also labeled as an inter-promotional match, but all that really means is Raw vs. Smackdown. Both guys get into a wrestling stance to start and then Shawn shocks Angle with a slap! Charlie Murphy says, YOU DON’T SLAP A MAN! Angle explodes on HBK and rides him down to the mat. From there, Shawn does what Angle didn’t expect him to do – wrestle. HBK grabs hold of a headlock and doesn’t let go. Once Angle finds the ropes, Shawn applies a short-arm scissors down on the mat. Angle tries to lift and slam HBK out of it, but Shawn counters that into a sunset flip for two. Backslide gets another two. Back to the headlock. They brawl into the corner and as the “biased” Smackdown ref pulls HBK out, Angle blasts him from behind with a clothesline and grabs the ANKLELOCK out of nowhere. Shawn quickly rolls Angle off him and they take each other to the floor. Shawn sets up the Smackdown table for something big. They brawl on the floor until Angle ducks a blow and picks Shawn up for the ANGLE SLAM! Instead of dropping him on the floor, Angle backs Shawn kidneys-first into the ringpost! Back in, Angle hits a snap suplex for a pair of twos. Now he grabs a body scissors. HBK battles out, but gets caught with an overhead belly to belly suplex off the Ray Stevens corner bump. Angle places a knee in Shawn’s kidneys and pulls back on the neck. HBK escapes and during an exchange, slaps Angle again which gets him clotheslined hard to the mat. Shawn shoves off a belly-to-belly superplex, but misses the Flying Elbow. DOWN COME THE STRAPS! Michaels armdrags out of the ANGLE SLAM and takes Angle to the floor. He dives on top of Angle – driving his knee right into Angle’s face! Shawn avoids the German Suplex Off The Apron That Never Happens and knocks Angle onto the Smackdown table for the Springboard Splash, but the table doesn’t break! Back inside, Angle is bleeding PROFUSELY from the mouth. Shawn connects with the Flying Forearm and KIPS UP to continue his comeback. Flying Elbow hits this time as he sets up for SWEET CHIN MUSIC! Oh, Angle counters into the ANKLELOCK! Shawn makes the ropes and counters another ANGLE SLAM, but Angle rolls through into more of the ANKLELOCK! Shawn counters into a victory roll, but stands up into the ANGLE SLAM! Cover, 1-2-NO! Now Angle goes for it all with the Flying Moonsault and completely misses. Shawn slowly heads up top and gets caught with the SUPER ANGLE SLAM! Cover, 1-2-NO!! OH MY GOSH. Angle is REALLY frustrated right now. He grabs Shawn by the hair and SCREAMS at him to tap out, so Shawn shoves him back and delivers a desperate SWEET CHIN MUSIC! Slow cover gets two! Shawn was knocked so loopy by that Super Angle Slam, that it takes him forever to even get to his feet. Angle ceases the moment and easily takes Shawn down into the ANKLELOCK! HBK does one INCREDIBLE job selling the pain of the hold, but once Angle grapevines the leg Shawn has no choice but to tap out. (26:58) Such an incredible performance from both men. You have to think that Shawn and Taker may have looked back to this match when they got together at WM 25 in the way that there were several moments when the match could have been over, but it went another 10-15 minutes and continued to build and build up to a fantastic and dramatic ending. Without a doubt, one of the top three matches of the decade. *****

Justin: And the other contender was this showdown of legends. Since Michaels returned, this was one of those dream matches everyone was waiting for. When they set it up at the Rumble, everybody knew we were in for a treat. They delivered the classic everyone anticipated and in a pretty surprising result, Angle picked up the clean win on Mr. WrestleMania. The only gripe some pundits had was that Michaels lasted a bit too long in the Anklelock, but it wasn’t enough to punish the match on a whole. This was just a great match with a big time classic feel.

Shawn Michaels vs. Shelton Benjamin – Gold Rush Tournament Match (Raw, 5/2/05)

Matt: It’s an easy match to love. You have wrestlers that can fly and you have wrestlers who can go on the mat, but rarely ever do you have a sweet combination of the two. These two could do both and excelled tremendously against one another to make for one awesome match which stood out above all the other matches in this Gold Rush tournament to find a #1 contender to Batista’s world heavyweight title. Even though he already had the ‘Money in the Bank’ briefcase which guaranteed a title shot whenever he wanted, he still ended up losing to the Animal. But back to the match, it’s fantastic with Shelton nearly getting the win on Shawn on several different occasions but everyone remembers it for the amazing springboard into SWEET CHIN MUSIC to give Shawn the victory over the man with the longest IC title reign of the decade. That’s either a compliment to Shelton Benjamin or an utter travesty done to the title because I can’t for the life of me honestly remember him doing anything with the belt. I’ll let you decide.

Justin: This match was part of the Gold Rush tournament as Eric Bischoff was trying to determine a number one contender to Batista’s World Title. Shelton had really come into his own as a wrestler since breaking out a year earlier and when Michaels made his entrance, the fans in the arena started to buzz. These two went balls to wall and delivered a tremendous TV match. Of course, the highlight was the insane SCM that Benjamin ate as he springboards off the top rope and into the ring. Shelton continued to help his stock soar but Michaels was able to narrowly steal this win.

WWE Champion John Cena vs. JBL – “I Quit” Match (Judgment Day 2005)

Matt: If you thought John Cena’s successful WWE title match at WrestleMania was a tad lame, this match MORE than made up for it. Also if you had wanted to see JBL get destroyed for his entire 280-day reign because I know a lot of folks did, this is your match. I can’t think of too many bad ‘I quit’ matches in WWE. I’ve always liked them whether it was Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard or Ric Flair and Terry Funk or even the Rock and Mankind. This was not nearly as iconic, but they definitely tried. First of all, Cena makes his entrance on a SEMI TRUCK! Awesome. Well into the match, JBL makes a man out of the “Doctor of Thuganomics” (which if any dude nicknamed himself that in real life, they should lose all credibility for trying to be a tough guy) gives Cena the same scary chairshot he gave Eddie Guerrero the previous year at Judgment Day. He bleeds, but thankfully not quite as bad as Eddie did. I mean, really. Nobody should be doing that. Cena makes his SUPERMAN comeback that has been DONE over the years of his numerous and lengthy title reigns. They brawl over to the stage where Cena throws JBL through TV screens and through the car windows of JBL’s own limo. JBL gets in his licks too – violently hanging Cena from power cords and everything. Kind of an anticlimactic finish as JBL gives up before Cena whacks him with the smokestack from the semi truck he drove in on, but whatever. Cena nails him after he gives up anyway with the smokestack through a glass panel.

Justin: After a meteoric rise to the top, John Cena was still looking for that epic classic to cement his position. His WM Championship win was a bit anticlimactic as he easily dispatched of the long term champion JBL. JBL got his rematch here and they delivered the match that many expected at Mania. These two beat on each with ferocity and a bevy of weapons. The blood was flowing and the crowd was pumped as Cena was able to take out JBL once again to continue his title reign. This was a match Cena needed, but it would also end up being his final big time match with the fans completely behind him as a top level face, so in a way it is a pretty historic bout as well.

Masato Tanaka vs. Mike Awesome – (ECW One Night Stand 2005)

Matt: These two had a great rivalry going in ‘98 –’99 in the original ECW and now they meet again. Basically a tribute to their past crazy VIOLENT matches they had at Heatwave ‘98 and the two classic matches they had on TNN in late 1999. We saw an Awesome Bomb off the apron through a table and an Awesome Bomb from inside the ring out to the floor through a table. Just insanity. Tanaka took more super hard chairshots in one match than anybody should ever receive in a lifetime. But he wasn’t completely out done. He gave Awesome a run for his money with a tornado DDT on a couple chairs and a super DDT through a table! If you loved ECW for the hardcore wrestling, this is as close as WWE would allow anymore in this show-stealing match.

Justin: On the most unlikely show of the year, two forgotten stars of days gone by came to NYC to put on a violent reminder of what made ECW so memorable. Nobody ever could have dreamed that ECW would make a return like this and who would have expected Tanaka and Awesome to deliver a classic ECW war. These two went all out, probably auditioning for a job, and just laid waste to each other with sick weapon shots. Awesome put the dagger in Tanaka with a nasty powerbomb to a table on the floor and then put a cherry on top with a big dive out on top of him. Unfortunately, he messed up his knee, which may have cost him a contract. Regardless, it was a hell of a performance that added to the legend of this show.

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle – (Vengeance 2005)

Matt: The WrestleMania rematch nobody minded seeing again. Of course it doesn’t hold a candle to the drama of the first match, Shawn and Angle bust their rumps in match #2 of their three match series in 2005. We saw some nods to the original match by HBK avoiding an Angle Slam into the ringpost, but he still had to settle for a German suplex on the SAT. From there, Angle continued to destroy Shawn on the mat for the next 15 minutes. Just incredible stuff. Shawn made his signature comeback, but Angle cut off the Sweet Chin Music and terrorized HBK with the Anklelock. The whole match was centered around Angle’s desire to make Shawn tap one more time just like he did at WrestleMania 21. Of course Shawn held out all the way to the end. HBK finally nailed Angle with Sweet Chin Music, but it wasn’t enough to put Angle away. Once Angle came off the top (which isn’t his domain anyway), he leaped right down into Sweet Chin Music for real to give HBK his win back. Great match and it definitely deserves to be on this list, but the original match is most certainly the greatest of all three. Angle and Shawn would meet one more time on Raw’s return show to the USA Network in a 30 minute ironman match that went to a draw. Check that match out on the Best of Raw DVD!

Justin: The WM rematch was heavily hyped and heavily anticipated. The two stars delivered once again, equaling their Mania effort, with Michaels picking up the win this time around. Once of the best spots of the match was when Angle powerbombs Michaels into the turnbuckles. This year was loaded with great matches and these two produced two of them.

World Heavyweight Champion Batista vs. Triple H – Hell in a Cell (Vengeance 2005)

Matt: The breakdown of Evolution ends here at the Hell in a Cell. Some people love their other two matches, but I believe their best match is right here at Vengeance. After years of overrated and mediocre Hell in a Cell matches, we finally get one that is AWESOME. Batista busts Triple H open early, but then Triple H pulls out a chair wrapped in barbed-wire that both guys get a chance to play with. Yeah, that gets pretty gruesome. Naturally, Batista gets busted open as well. HHH finds a sledgehammer, but even that won’t put Batista down for the three count. Triple H saves himself from the same fate with a chain-wrapped fist to the face! That still doesn’t put Batista away. Batista makes his comeback and sends the bottom half of the ringside stairs into the ring. Triple H gets his head bounced off that a bunch, but he counters a Demon Bomb with a low blow and a Pedigree. Still can’t get the win. He wants to one-up his game a bit with a Pedigree on the steps, but Batista counters with a SPINEBUSTER on the steps instead. Why not. One Demon Bomb later and Batista defeats Triple H for the THIRD time on PPV in nearly three months. Now that’s putting somebody over, I don’t know what is. Certainly another brutal affair that cemented Batista as the next big star in WWE. He’ll become plagued with injuries over the next several years, so it’s just sad that he couldn’t really ever top this match.

Justin: One of the top stories of 2005 was the rise of Batista. Triple H did his best to make him a star, already having put him over twice cleanly. He was given one final rematch inside the Cell on a loaded Vengeance card. You knew Hunter could bring the goods in a gimmick match, but the jury was still out on Batista. Well, those questions were answered when these two gave us a brutal slugfest. There were no crazy insane spots, just a lot of weapons, violence and hatred. By the end of this battle, Batista was legitimized as a major star and Hunter was headed to the sidelines for a much needed break. This is definitely one of the best Cell matches in the history of the gimmick.

Matt Hardy vs. Edge – Cage Match (Unforgiven 2005)

Matt: If you were a fan in 2005, you know all about the Matt Hardy-Edge soap opera. In real life, Edge cheated on his wife with Matt’s girlfriend Lita and now the couple decided to become public with their relationship. Of course this was after Matt was released from WWE. Big mistake. After everyone protested, Matt makes an appearance on Raw three months after his release and acted like a total nut job saying that his fans could see him in Ring of Honor. While this was all true since Matt made several appearances in ROH, this appearance blurred the lines between a work and a shoot in a way that fans hadn’t seen since the early days of the nWo in WCW. So Vince resigns Matt just in time for a match with Edge at SummerSlam. Everyone hoped for a shoot fight considering the hatred Matt should be feeling for Edge, but when they started whipping each other into the ropes, the match lost all its appeal. Now we get a cage match. This was a year of brutality and these two about killed each other. Edge busted out some crazy offense on Matt like a powerbomb into the cage wall while Hardy just busts Edge and grinds on the cut like a mental patient. He gets a little revenge on Lita with the Twist of Fate and then drops the craziest moment of the match – a FLYING LEGDROP FROM THE TOP OF THE CAGE! That gave Matt the win. It’s just a shame looking back that this was the best that he ever got working in singles matches. Check this one out on the Hardy Boyz DVD!

Justin: To me, this may be one of the most underrated matches of the year, and maybe even the decade. Everyone knows the back story for this. Hardy made his return but was knocked silly by Edge at SummerSlam. He was looking for revenge here and he got it with a hard fought win inside a cage. The spot of the match was Hardy’s crazy legdrop from the top of the cage. This was another hate filled battle in a year full of them. Hardy gets a much needed win in a classic encounter.

WWE Intercontinental Champion Ric Flair vs. Triple H – Cage Match (Taboo Tuesday 2005)

Matt: Another match I’ve already done a review for, so I’ll just repost that instead. From the History of the IC Championship DVD.

Joey Styles and Jerry Lawler are on commentary. Time for Triple H to put Old Yeller down. Big standoff to start with both men exchanging some rather mean words! Being the master of mind games, Flair backs H into the corner for a chop and then walks away. Flair continues with the chops until HHH nails Flair with a High Knee. Flair chops back some more, but runs into a AA Spinebuster. Triple H is hesitant at first, but then starts beating the crap out of Flair and sends him into the cage to bust him open. Another throw into the cage sets up the Knee Drop out of the corner. H then takes Flair to the cage wall and starts to grind his face right before he splashes Flair up against the steel. This time H lowers the knee pad and Knee Drops Flair out of disrespect. Triple H sends Flair into the cage one more time and then starts to climb out. Flair is not going to die that easily though and meets H at the top and chops him down. They trade blows until they wind up crotching each other on the top rope. H climbs back up and finds a chain in the corner of the cage. With Flair down on the mat, H wraps the chain around his fist to come down on Flair, but Ric gets his foot up to block. H still has the chain wrapped around his knuckles as Flair chops him and sets him up for the FIGURE-FOUR with a shin breaker, but H gives him a chain punch to the face. Cover, 1-2-NO! Triple H drops a fist again with the chain on Flair before ref Mickey Jay takes it away from him. HHH destroys Flair by beating him down in the corner and then hits another Knee Drop before mocking Flair with the FIGURE-FOUR. Flair makes DEATH THREATS to Triple H when he’s in the hold! Triple H cranks on it but Flair will not die. Flair eventually flips Triple H the bird and turns the hold over into the ropes. H drags Flair to the middle of the ring to reapply the Figure Four, but Flair kicks him off into the steel. Now Triple H is busted wide open. When he sees blood, Flair gets a second wind and works the cut on the cage and with his fingers! Stalling suplex by Flair sets up the Rolling Knee Drop. Flair gives him another one. More chops from Flair leads to a chop block to do some damage on the knee. FIGURE-FOUR is applied by Flair this time. Triple H avoids submitting by throwing the ref into Flair to break up the hold. Flair stays in control with a knee drop to H’s knee and then starts to climb out. H comes after him, but gets raked in the eyes and takes a flying single sledge to the head. Cover, 1-2-NO! From there, Flair low blows Triple H to allow Joey Styles a justifiable reason to say “balls” on PPV. Triple H grabs hold of Flair to keep him from crawling out the door. He brings a chair in with him. H gets the chair away from Flair and goes to whack him, but Flair grabs the testicular claw! Flair gives him a chop while he’s there too! He ducks low off a whip though to set up a PEDIGREE, but Flair backdrops H over onto the chair. Flair proceeds to give Triple H THREE chairshots and then walks out the cage to retain his title and his dignity. (23:46) A very good albeit methodical brawl. ***ľ

Justin: Upon his return from his HITC loss, Hunter promptly turned on his mentor Ric Flair and put an ungodly beating on him on Raw. Flair challenged the Game here. Flair’s IC title was on the line as well. The teacher and the student spent nearly 17 minutes brutalizing each other until Flair was able to sneak out a win. After years of dominance and complaints, Hunter spent all of 2005 jobbing to help quell his detractors a bit. Flair showed that he could still deliver a vicious psychologically driven war with this one. They would put on another vicious battle at Survivor Series, making this one of the best feuds of the second half of the year.

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