As 2012 comes to a close, wrestling fans everywhere will no doubt take time to reflect on the past 12 months in-ring action and storylines and weigh-up the good, the bad and the down right dismal.
Whilst it wasn’t the greatest year in sports entertainment history, 2012 witnessed some outstanding matches that, although few and far between, will make the year memorable to say the least.
With that said lets count down the greatest matches of 2012 from the three top company’s; WWE, TNA and ROH.
10) TLC Match: The Shield VS Ryback and Team Hell No – WWE: TLC
When CM Punk went down with a knee injury just weeks away from his main event match with Ryback at TLC, the WWE universe gave out a collective groan of exasperation. Then with the announcement that Ryback would team with Kane a Bryan to take on newcomers The Shield, the groan grew louder.
How wrong we all were.
This match had the potential to be a worst match of the year candidate but went on to surpass any of our expectations. It’s one of those few multi-man matches where everyone came out looking phenomenal especially Rollings and Ambrose who together had previously tore the roof off in the now defunct FCW.
Rollings fall from the ladder was both thrilling and shocking to witness whilst Ryback found new respect from a somewhat hesitant audience. All in all, a heart stopping spot fest that reeked of great in-ring storytelling. An inspirational effort by all involved.
9) Ladder Match: Jeff Hardy V Austin Aries – TNA: Turning Point
The only match from TNA to make the list and for good reason. 2012 will not be looked back upon fondly by TNA fans and will most likely go down as one of its worst years since its conception. Poor storytelling, bad booking and Bully Ray being pushed first as the top heel and now the top face, has made for a very trying year.
Not to dampen the efforts of the TNA roster but the action displayed in this last year has been a little lackluster making TNA appear more like a newly developed company rather than the 10 year global succession it claims to be.
With that said, Jeff Hardy and Austin Aries’ match at Turning Point was an absolute delight to watch showcasing new and innovative maneuvers with the ladder that made the match seem fresh and exciting.
I’ve gone on record for not liking much of Hardy’s work and that he isn’t deserving to carry the company, but when it comes to gimmick matches, he will undoubtedly go down as one of the greats.
The match was outstanding with Aries looking like the superstar he was destined to be. The ending of the match saw Aries and Hardy balancing atop a ladder that had been carefully placed on the top rope with Hardy delivering a devastating Twist of Fate that sent Aries to the floor. This move alone stole the show as well as the hearts of any flailing TNA devotee giving hope for a more prosperous 2013.
8) Micheal Elgin V Kevin Steen – ROH: Glory By Honor XI
Despite a few financial mishaps, 2012 was a good year for ROH wrestling wise with two individuals breaking through and subsequently cementing their names in the ROH legends catergory – Kevin Steen and Michael Elgin.
Steen has been the best heel the wrestling world has seen in years coming across as a true psychopath whilst Elgin has been pushing himself to 5-Star quality matches all year long.
So needless to say, when these two finally met at … there was a lot of anticipation
For what might occur. The match didn’t disappoint either outshining (in my opinion) Elgin’s match with Davey Richards earlier in the year.
For two men of formidable size, Steen and Elgin put on a fast paced high-energy spectacle that included Elgin delivering a corkscrew-moonsault and receiving a second rope Package Piledriver.
Look for Elgin to continue making waves in the company and most likely capture the Heavyweight belt in 2013.
7) Extreme Rules Match: CM Punk V Chris Jericho – WWE Extreme Rules
In the eyes of the public, Chris Jericho’s return to the ring was meant for one thing and one thing only: to clash with CM Punk and determine who really was the best in the world.
Their encounter at Wrestlemania showcased each wrestlers’ amazing technical abilities and stupendous storytelling skills that many thought could not be outdone.
Fast-forward one month and these two fought again in what could be the best street fight in years. Not many rematches live up to the hype of the inaugural match but when you have two of the greatest superstars of all time in the mix, anything is possible.
The match had excellent timing and pace and included just the right amount of high spots to not appear over the top. What’s more it solidified Punk as a top contender to carry the company which he has done so ever since.
6) John Cena Vs The Rock – WWE: Wrestlemania 28
Though I am not particularly fond of the Rock, it would be ridiculous not to include this match in the Top 10. It’s the modern day Hogan/Warrior or Sting/Flair. A year in the making with anticipation running high, this match had to deliver.
And it did.
Not so much a technical master-class but rather a battle of characters, of egos, of two super personas that will forever be associated with the word ‘wrestling’.
And isn’t that what its really all about?
But what really made this match memorable was the fans reaction throughout the entire bout. For an outdoor stadium, the Miami crowd made it as loud as any indoor one could ever be and acted as a third member of sorts.
It’s foolish to think that Cena and Rock will never clash again; it’s guaranteed money in the bank. Wrestlemania 29 awaits.
5) Sheamus V Bigshow – WWE: Hell in a Cell
Who saw this coming?
2012 was shaping up to be another subpar year for the Bigshow; an average feud for the IC belt followed by a mediocre heel turn where he seemed to get slammed by Cena every other week. So it was understandable that not many fans took notice when they put him with Sheamus for the World Heavyweight title.
Sheamus is shaping up to be one of the top players in the wrestling world and … by making Show look a million bucks the likes of which only a handful of wrestlers have achieved.
These two went at it in an out classic brawl with twists and turns that left many on the edge of their seat. Sheamus made history by kicking out of the WMD but more impressively picked Show up for a superhuman White Noise that garnered a whole new respect from the WWE fans.
Show picking up the ‘upset’ win was also a delightful surprise and has rejuvenated the aura of power and dominance around the giant that has been missing for so long.
4) Adam Cole V Kyle O’Reilly - ROH: Best in the World
Many will not know of either of these two athletes but at ROH signature show, both were immortalized as warriors of the ring.
For 12+ minutes, Cole and O’Reilly proceeded to beat the living hell out of each other with stiff kicks, painful submission holds and intensive slams. An all out war that unquestionably stole the show.
Perhaps the most significant moment of this match came when Cole continued fighting despite copious amounts of blood pouring from his mouth following a shocking kicked by O’Reilly.
Two future stars in the making for sure.
3) CM Punk V Daniel Bryan – WWE: Over The Limit
This match is the definition of a technical master-class with two of the all-time greats going at it hold for hold in this instant classic.
If you have never seen either of these individuals matches in ROH, I implore you to do so now as they are buy far some of the greatest technical encounters of the modern era.
These two displayed excellent pace and storytelling and took advantage of the situation to showcase a variety of new/forgotten maneuvers that helped establish as to why they are in the main even scene.
A magnificent feud that will hopefully be revisited in the future.
2) Ladder War - Kevin Steen V El Genrico – ROH: Final Battle
The story between Steen and Generico is one that will last a lifetime and will undoubtedly go down as ROH’s greatest rivalry.
Two of the ‘indies’ best wrestlers that go above an beyond the limit of physicality to please the fans every time they step in the ring clashed again at ROH final PPV of the year - and what a way to end it.
Much like Hardy and Aries had done early in the year, Steen and Generico went out and exceeded any expectations that come with a ladder match and tore into each other like never before. Generico took the brunt of the violence receiving a devastating powerbomb onto a ladder and later a Package Piledriver through another that was perched horizontally across two other ladders. This match is seriously something to be believed and undeniably cemented both Steen and Generico as ROH legends.
1) Hell In A Cell - Undertaker V HHH w/ Shawn Michaels as Special Referee– WWE: Wrestlemania 28
It will come no surprise to anyone that this match is number one on the list.
An unforgettable encounter that truly was the ‘end of an era’. Now many people took this tagline as simply Undertaker’s last match but what it really meant was the end of a four-year story between three amazing wrestlers.
For four straight Wrestlemania’s, Shawn Michaels, HHH and Undertaker have not only stolen the show but also provided fans with a storyline that will long but be forgotten. Three wrestlers that each year gave us their heart and souls to deliver arguably the greatest feud in the history of Mania with the grace and excellence that has made them legends in this business.
For these three men to be given such an amount of time to tell their story was not only a treat for the fans but also a testament to the resiliency and aptitude of the players involved. Who else but these three men, with the history they share together, could have put on such a performance? Despite a 20 year streak, these grapplers went out and made you believe that Taker’s time was up.
The match was sheer brilliance and the perfect ending to possibly the perfect feud.