December 30, 2009
The 100 Greatest WWE Matches of the Decade: 2008
The Rumble Match – (Royal Rumble 2008)
First of all, seeing Michael Buffer again was AWESOME, but hearing him call out the first two entrants – Undertaker and Shawn Michaels – was pretty cool too. The first 30 minutes of the match is centered around these two fighting off eliminations as the entrants come filing in every 90 seconds. And with that came some decent drama throughout and the non-stop style action that separates your good and bad Rumbles. Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka make surprise visits. Piper eye pokes and Snuka headbutts. They both are promptly eliminated by Kane who makes his usual good showing. It always seems sort of moot because the Rumble match is the ONLY thing he does that anybody cares about anymore. Moving on. The match culminates once again with another climatic ending starting with John Cena as the surprise #30 entrant in his first match back since he tore a pectoral muscle back in October 2007. Kennedy, Umaga, Carlito, Chavo – they get tossed left and right until we’re left with Cena, HHH, and Batista. They all exchange finisher attempts and finishers until Batista gets eliminated by Triple H. More finisher attempts lead to Cena countering a Pedigree and lifting Hunter up on his shoulders to FU him out of the ring to win his first ever Rumble match.
Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho vs. JBL vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Umaga – Elimination Chamber (No Way Out 2008)
So the night after the Royal Rumble, John Cena cashed in his guaranteed WWE title shot at WrestleMania to get at Randy Orton early at No Way Out in February so he could win back the belt he was stripped of due to injury and never officially lost back in October. Since he got his wish, Raw still needed a challenger for WrestleMania, which brings us to this Elimination Chamber match. Since Survivor Series 2007 when Jeff Hardy finally climbed up to the main event scene to be the last man standing along with Triple H in their big 5-on-5 classic Survivor Series elimination match, Hardy had beaten Triple H at Armageddon to earn a WWE title shot against Randy Orton at the Royal Rumble where Jeff was unsuccessful. Onto the match. Outside of the DOUBLE SAMOAN DROP spot on HBK and Jericho, Umaga was dead in the water. He seemed as if he had no clue what to do next. JBL gets eliminated first with a Codebreaker from Jericho. That awakens a FURIOUS ANGER~! as he takes everybody out with a steel chair. From there, everybody left hits their finishers on Umaga to put him away. Sweet Chin Music to Jericho and a Pedigree to Shawn Michaels sends the first two to enter the match to the showers. That leaves Hardy vs. HHH. After a couple attempts, Triple H hits the Pedigree, but this time HARDY KICKS OUT! Oh man. HHH finds JBL’s chair and sets up for another Pedigree when Hardy low blows out and goes for the Twist of Fate. Too bad HHH shoves him off onto the chair. That leads to the death blow of a PEDIGREE ON THE CHAIR for the win to send Triple H to WrestleMania – again. At the time, everybody cried about WWE not taking a chance on Jeff Hardy and putting him over HHH here, but three weeks after this match Hardy was forced to drop the IC title to Jericho and sentenced with a 60-day suspension for violating WWE’s drug policy, which caused him to miss WrestleMania altogether.
Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels – ‘Career Threatening’ Match (WrestleMania 24)
Time for Shawn to put Old Yeller down. On Thanksgiving week, Vince McMahon told Ric Flair that he didn’t have “it” anymore and the next time he would lose, he would be forced to finally retire. Flair made it all the way to WrestleMania where Shawn said he would put the figurative gun to Flair’s head. Much like the whole weekend and the night after on Raw, this was more of a great tribute to Ric Flair than anything else. Shawn Michaels busted out the moonsaults and such to try and make this more of a memorable match, but at this point Flair was stuck with fighting dirty, laying in the chops, and the Figure-Four. One of the coolest parts of the match was Shawn being gun shy on pulling the trigger on the Sweet Chin Music when he had the chance. Flair then tripped Shawn up and applied the Figure Four to try and continue his career. HE WILL NEVER RETIRE! The closing moments of HBK telling Ric “I’m sorry. I love you.” before hitting Sweet Chin Music would stick with any Flair fan.
World Heavyweight Champion Edge vs. The Undertaker – (WrestleMania 24)
Possibly a case where HBK/Flair should have finished off the show instead of this match. Nevertheless, Edge main events a WrestleMania. Like the question asked every year, will this be the year Undertaker loses at WrestleMania? As good of a showing Edge put up against Taker, it still wasn’t enough. At one point after Taker inadvertently boots the ref down, Edge takes a page out of Psycho Sid’s playbook (technically Batista’s playbook from Survivor Series, but I just really wanted to get Sid in this series of columns somehow!) and steals a camera to blast the Undertaker with it. That causes Charles Robinson to SPRINT down the aisle to count the late nearfall. Two spears and a hesitation to cover the Undertaker when Edge had him down costs him the match as UT applies the GOGOPLATA out of nowhere to regain the World Heavyweight title – his second consecutive WrestleMania world title victory.
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho – (Judgment Day 2008)
In Chris Jericho’s case, this is what happens when righteous indignation goes wrong. A wrestling match? Nope. A feud with Shawn Michaels based on the belief that the WWE fans needed to be saved from hypocrites like Shawn Michaels after Jericho accused Shawn for feigning a knee injury at Backlash against Batista. When Shawn confessed that he wasn’t hurt and gave Jericho a SUPERKICK, well it was on like white on rice. This match would prove to be the starting point for the best run of Jericho’s career since he was the first ever Undisputed champion. He would go on to win virtually every award he could get from every major wrestling publication in the US. During the match, Jericho gave up trying to test whether or not HBK’s knee was really injured and when the opportunity arose, he started to work on Shawn’s ribs instead. Later on, Shawn makes his comeback and goes for Sweet Chin Music when Jericho “feigns” an injury and draws HBK into a Codebreaker for a nearfall. Shawn applies the Crippler Crossface (poorly done, I might add) and Jericho reaches the ropes. During an attempt at the Walls of Jericho, Shawn counters that around into a victory roll for the win. They shake hands after the match, but that would certainly be the last time anything like that would happen.
The Undertaker vs. Edge – Hell in a Cell Match (SummerSlam 2008)
If Triple H wasn’t on Smackdown at the time, this would have been a title match. This was Edge’s first and only Hell in a Cell to date. After screwing with the Undertaker all year long between himself, Vickie Guerrero, the Edgeheads, Chavo Guerrero, and Bam Neely, Edge had finally met his dead end with the Undertaker. Edge would splash and spear Undertaker through tables and ringside steps. He even spears Undertaker THROUGH the Hell in a Cell. During the match, they played around and teased a double stack of tables, which was paid off in the end with Undertaker’s classic CHOKESLAM OFF THE TOP ROPE. Always fun to watch. From there, Undertaker gave Edge his receipts for everything he had done to him with a spear and a Conchairto, but ended up putting Edge away for good with a Tombstone Piledriver. Afterwards in a most infamous spot, the Undertaker took Edge right off of WWE programming by giving a CHOKESLAM OFF A LADDER AND STRAIGHT TO HELL. Technically the chokeslam just sent Edge through the ring. Moments later when the lights go blue and Taker bows, FIRE COMES UP FROM UNDER THE RING. Yeah, pretty crazy.
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho – Unsanctioned Match (Unforgiven 2008)
So Jericho makes Shawn bleed until he can’t finish the match at the Great American Bash and then punched Shawn’s wife in the mouth at SummerSlam. He’s really asking for it now. Shawn comes dressed to fight, Jericho comes dressed to wrestle. Not a good sign for Chris. Naturally, this was all about revenge for Shawn. During the match, he had to fight off Jericho’s henchman Lance Cade and ended him with Sweet Chin Music. Right after that, Shawn sends Jericho off the top with a chairshot that knocks him through a ringside table. HBK goes on to one-up himself with a FLYING ELBOW THROUGH AN ANNOUNCE TABLE! Again – always a spot that’s cool to see. Back inside the ring, Shawn ties Jericho’s hands up with his belt and beats him in the eye until Jericho is completely unconscious. Even though this match is unsanctioned, the ref calls for the bell to give Shawn the win. Once the ref pulls Shawn off Jericho, Shawn turns around and SUPERKICKS THE REF! Oh no Shawn! What have you done? Shawn begins to realize what he’s done and starts to cry. Pretty awesome storytelling and an excellent chapter in the unparalleled feud of the year – arguably the feud of the decade.
WWE Champion Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy – (No Mercy 2008)
Outside of the usual pomp, pageantry, and importance of WrestleMania 24, this was the best overall WRESTLING PPV of the year in my view with two MOTYC matches. Seems like Triple H really likes working with Jeff Hardy. Through the years, Jeff has beat him for the IC title (of course he got his win and the title back eight days later), he’s beaten him at Armageddon 2007, he let Jeff kick out of his deadly Pedigree at No Way Out 2008, and then we have this little gem. This seemed like the night they were finally going to pull the trigger on Jeff getting a WWE title run like no other before it, so evidently he doesn’t like Jeff enough to let him pin his shoulders to the mat for the three-count when the WWE title is on the line. After they exchanged handshakes, HHH nailed him from behind and snickered about it. Hardy controls much of the feeling out stuff, but then he misses a somersault plancha and splats himself on the floor. Triple H works the back with your basic ab stretch/backbreaker stuff. Nothing wrong with that though. He’s a student of the game, by gawd. Jeff comes back and hits the somersault plancha on the second try. Back inside, they exchange some believable nearfalls and then Jeff delivers the SWANTON BOMB! Oh my gosh, is Jeff going to win? Nope! With Jeff sprawled out on top of him, HHH hooks the arms and rolls Jeff back with his shoulders pinned to the mat for the 1-2-3. HA! Just a standout performance from both men that has been overlooked. Better luck next time, Jeff.
World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels – Ladder Match (No Mercy 2008)
Certainly a match that favors both men, this is the match that ENDS this soon-to-be legendary feud. I liked this for many reasons, but one reason in particular was that it took the usual idea that ladder matches are daredevil spot fests where you try to one-up the other guy to win the object hanging from the rafters. This had to be different because this was a BLOOD FEUD and it needed be more violent than showy. What these two did was they used the ladder as a weapon and concentrated on using that to their full advantage on the ground instead of really going for the title. They didn’t even really battle over retrieving the title until the end because this was more about the FEUD than it was about winning the title. Call that a mistake, but I think it turned out just right. A month later at Survivor Series, John Cena would give Jericho the old FU to regain the belt.
WWE Champion Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Triple H – (Armageddon 2008)
After the Jeff Hardy hotel stairwell incident prior to Survivor Series, Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero took advantage of the moment and had her on-screen husband Edge return to take Jeff’s place in the triple threat match against WWE champ Triple H and Vladimir Kozlov in one of the worst WWE title matches on PPV this year. Anyways, Edge regained the gold and now here we are as Jeff Hardy returns and gets his WWE title shot in a triple threat match just as it was planned at Survivor Series, but without Vladimir Kozlov. Okay, a little Vladimir Kozlov. He interferes and attacks HHH to bring out Matt Hardy for the save. They do a couple neat Whisper in the Wind spots including a time where Jeff nails Edge from the doomsday device position. Some other cool spots in this match over by the announce tables too. Triple H and Hardy exchange finisher attempts which ends with Edge running in and SPEARING Jeff from one table through another. As Edge goes for the Conchairto on Hunter, Jeff steals the deathblow chair away from Edge and whacks him down. Triple H crotches Jeff up top as he goes for the Swanton, but a Pedigree on Edge and a pin attempt is all the time Jeff needs to get back up and hit the SWANTON BOMB on HHH and Edge. Feeling loads of pain, Triple H rolls to the floor as Jeff covers Edge for the win. FINALLY! Jeff Hardy wins the big one.
And that’s where we wrap it up for the year that was 2008. Next will be the tenth and final edition of this series as I cover my ten picks from 2009. Hope everyone has enjoyed them and be sure to give me your picks as well!