Fresh from my little detour into AJPW’s past two weeks ago, it’s time to continue working through WWE’s 2005 product. At this point I feel as though enough content has been viewed to put together a small elite list of the matches I?ve seen thus far. They are in no order beyond the chronology of their initial broadcast, and honestly any of these are viable for ?2005 WWE Match of the Year? on any given day.
John Cena vs. Kurt Angle, WWE Championship No. 1 Contender’s Tournament Final ? WWE No Way Out 02.20.05
Triple H vs. Batista, World Heavyweight Championship ? WWE Wrestlemania 21 04.03.05
Chris Benoit vs. Edge, Last Man Standing ? WWE Backlash 05.01.05
John Cena vs. John ?Bradshaw? Layfield, WWE Championship I Quit ? WWE Judgment Day 05.22.05
Batista vs. Triple H, World Heavyweight Championship Hell in a Cell ? WWE Vengeance 06.26.05
Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero, Steel Cage ? WWE Smackdown 09.09.05
Matt Hardy vs. Edge, Steel Cage ? WWE Unforgiven 09.18.05
Ric Flair vs. Triple H, Intercontinental Championship Steel Cage ? WWE Taboo Tuesday 11.01.05
Whilst I enjoyed Jericho / Cena (Summerslam 2005) and really enjoyed Guerrero / Batista (No Mercy 2005), the performances above are on an entirely higher level than them. People may balk at the absence of certain matches, like the remainder of the Mysterio / Guerrero and HBK / Angle series and I?m sure there are a few television offerings that provide worthwhile entertainment too. Never fear as at this point their absence is purely because I have yet to watch them. Ever. They?ll be ?Musings..? topics in the VERY near future, with the exception of the free-to-air matches. I promise.
[Actually … If anyone recommends and requests a review of certain television performances from 2005, or feels as though there are some I simply can?t miss since I?m working through the best WWE had to offer then, send me an e-mail and I?ll get cracking. I?ll also give you kudos in the respective column!]
What’s interesting already from the above list is the streak of cage matches. 2005 played host to several superb examples of that stipulation, and each of them named above are some of the best I?ve ever seen. Regular readers would already know of my thoughts on Hardy / Edge and Guerrero / Mysterio, and the Flair / HHH encounter is reviewed in this very column. Nevertheless I can?t think of too many other cage matches from the WWE this decade that match them – Hardy / Umaga (RAW 2008) being the only one I can think of at the moment ? and none that surpass them.
Another intriguing trend is the increased presence of John Cena, Batista and Edge in comparison to the year before. Each of them made massive improvements, culminating in their eventual rise to superstardom. The only individual from that crop that seemed to regress was Randy Orton, but he also delivered a few quality showings with ?Taker. Considering the standard above, it would be very difficult to equal or surpass anything mentioned. That said, Batista and Edge obviously had a smidgeon of help in their performances (Triple H and Benoit respectively). Cena would be the only performer I?d remotely suggest involved at least as much individual improvement as having his hand held.
And when was the last time Triple H had such a presence on a ?Match of the Year?? listing?! Here he has three, which may not seem huge (in a list of eight it is!) but there’s really no denying how good he was in each of them. Almost any other year they?d be an easy ?Match of the Year? in my opinion. And his LMS showing with Flair would place alongside Guerrero / Batista and Jericho / Cena as just one notch below that list above. The quality is directly a result of his efforts, taking an inexperienced and perceivably average heavyweight in Batista and a restricted, deteriorating Flair to some fantastic matches. Since his face turn in 2006, Triple H hasn?t delivered as much as would be expected. I really, really, really hope another ?heel ? run is on the cards for Hunter, he’s in his element being hated on by everyone.
What made the Flair / Triple H series, and particularly their Taboo Tuesday cage match, great was that it didn?t over-exaggerate Flair too much. That’s a remarkable feat considering WWE’s tendencies to make the ?face? overtly powerful and immune to fatigue. He either counters, which sometimes cause Triple H to hit something that believably puts him on more of a back-foot (like eating the cage wall or hitting the turnbuckle), or plays dirty, at once alluding to the feud’s focus on whether or not Flair is the dirtiest player in the game anymore as well as giving the much older, past-his-prime competitor a logical manner in attaining offense against his younger, stronger foe.
Fittingly, Triple H is largely dominant. This operates far better when he’s a heel, as it gives a reason for the crowd to cheer his opponent on anticipating a fight back. With the sentimental favourite being Flair, who’s quite outmatched in everything but pride and heart, the Cerebral Assassin’s dastardly antics and dominance leads to a great progression and feel for the match. Flair’s prospects do seem bleak, making his eventual triumph contain a special feeling. The LMS match at Survivor Series granted the Nature Boy more licks in on The Game, which is attributed to the less-than confined environment than the cage a month earlier. That doesn?t ruin the performance, as again each occasion is believably depicted via a desperate counter or playing dirty. Unfortunately Flair surviving three consecutive Pedigrees at the LMS? conclusion is a bit of a stretch, considering how many individuals has put away by one, but it’s perhaps the only flaw. Albeit one more than the fabulous cage match.
The jaw-jacking ? watch Triple H’s Figure Four during the cage match, especially Flair’s intensity and cursing ? and revenge spots ? once gaining offense, Flair returns all the stuff he endured to his former friend, including knees to the head and ramming The Game’s skull into the steel cage ? makes the intense aura and impression of hatred very effective. In general, Flair’s amped up dirtiness (fish-hooking Hunter’s eyes ? ouch!, biting, squeezing HHH’s testicles and low blows galore) revert the story back to the question of whether the Nature Boy IS the dirtiest player in the game still. Moreover his targeting of the left quadriceps muscles, setting up for his submission finisher, is admirably manipulated into becoming a sign of their previous closeness as good friends by Joey Styles. Flair was Triple H’s best friend, and as such would know of the niggling injuries and significant kinks in his game.
The last man standing match emulates much of what first occurred in the cage match, and as mentioned before gets a tad silly with how much Flair takes before finally losing. It’s still a great match, with a slightly greater evenness and room to move around the ring giving it a sense of identity next to the superior predecessor. Despite not being as good as the first encounter, it’s still great and worth a look at. As for the predecessor, it may just be the greatest cage match I?ve seen, which may not mean much compared to those who have seen a great deal more pro-wrestling than me, but I?ve still come across my fair share of cage matches. It definitely has to be one of the best World Wrestling Entertainment have provided.
That does it for another fortnight. I hope ya?ll enjoyed this edition of ?Musings…?, and look forward to more thoughts on the year that was 2005 for World Wrestling Entertainment.
?Til next time,