2013 hasn’t exactly been the greatest year in sports entertainment. There have been a lot of ups and downs, hits and misses, great storyline arcs and terrible moments that left you completely scratching your head. One thing has been consistent throughout the year though, and that’s the art of in-ring competition itself. If WWE hit a lull, TNA had exciting competition a few days away for you. When ROH felt like it was lagging behind, you could turn to NXT and see dramatic bouts with the likes of Adrian Neville, Paige, Sami Zayn, Kassius Ohno (at the time), and the rest of their cast of characters. NJPW had one of it’s best years, probably ever. So with all of that being said, here are the ten matches I personally felt to be the cream of the crop for the year.
(Note: I only considered WWE, TNA, PWG, ROH, NJPW and Pro Wrestling NOAH.)
10. Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. The Shield (Raw 10/14/2013)
A lot of people will disagree with me and say that the match between these two teams at Battleground was better. Granted, there was more on the line in that particular match (and Dusty Rhodes being in his sons’ corner made for great TV), but the rematch was the one that got me out of my seat, especially with some of the unexpected twists and turns that I won’t spoil for you here in this description. Goldust has been on a tear since he’s come back. Probably the best run of his career as far as in-ring consistency goes.
9. KENTA vs. Naomichi Marifuji (7/7/2013)
(The match starts about nine minutes in, and doesn’t last for the entire duration of this video, don’t worry.)
This probably isn’t even a top three match as far as the history of KENTA and Marifuji are concerned, but the fact that it still made this list should show you how amazing these two are, and the type of chemistry they have. They never fail to beat the shit out of each other and make you care while they do so.
8. AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle (Slammiversary)
Does this even need an explanation? Just look at the two names involved and you already know what’s in store. Kurt Angle wanted to know what side AJ Styles was on regarding the feud between the Aces & Eights and Angle’s cohorts, the MEM, and when Styles wouldn’t clarify his allegiance, we got the pleasure of seeing these two tear the house down.
7. Kurt Angle vs. Bobby Roode (Bound For Glory)
(I couldn’t find this match online, I guess TNA is trying to force people to rent video of the PPV on YouTube. I’m sure tons of new uninterested people would love to pay for a product in which they can’t sample for free.)
I’ll be honest, sometimes I don’t really like Bobby Roode. Sometimes Bobby Roode bores me, and he hasn’t really been the same since he lost the TNA World Championship. But this was one of the most intense matches of his career. I could have never even imagine some of the counters that take place in this match before I saw them at Bound For Glory. Styles vs. Bully Ray may have been a little more theatrical, but this was the match of the night.
6. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (Summerslam)
If this match ended a little differently, as far as the aftermath of the bout, it might be higher. The air got yanked out of the room, and out of the moment with what followed the most important match of Daniel Bryan’s career thus far. Regardless, this was still a top match of the year, and Cena once again stepped up to the plate and proved he could hang with whoever gets put across from him, blow for blow. Adversely, Bryan proved without a shadow of a doubt (even though anybody who knows him from ROH already knew this), he’s a guy you can count on in a 20+ minute, main event, big match situation.
5. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (Payback)
There aren’t many things on this planet that create the murmur and excitement of what it’s like when CM Punk walks into an arena filled with his hometown supporters from Chicago, Illinois. He had been gone for a couple of months, and just as you would expect, the roof came off of the place when it was time for the Second City Saint to defend his crown as the “Best in the World” against honestly, somebody I consider to be a top 10 performer of all time in Chris Jericho. They stole the show just as you expected them to.
4. CM Punk vs. John Cena (Raw: February 25, 2013)
I want to start this by saying, this Monday Night Raw main event, to see who would earn the right to face The Rock at Wrestlemania for the WWE Championship, was about 248 times better than the match that ended up happening for the WWE Championship itself. 248 is actually a generous number; I’m in a nice enough mood to be lenient with what happened for 24 minutes and one painstaking second, on April 7th of this year at MetLife Stadium.
Punk and Cena probably had the best, if not at least a top 3-5 main event in Raw history on this night, and this felt just as important as an NBA Finals game, or a Floyd Mayweather fight. Some could say that as a moment itself, this was the most exciting of the year (I personally would go with Dolph Ziggler cashing in his MITB contract). Even though they try to make you think Orton and Cena is the new age rivalry that mirrors Stone Cold and The Rock; we all know in reality it’s Cena and Punk, and this match is just more proof of that.
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (4/7/2013)
(This match starts at about 10 minutes in, and also doesn’t last the entire duration of the Youtube video.)
This is a five star match right here. In a lot of ways, similar to the dynamic between CM Punk and John Cena. Okada is the newest, youngest face of NJPW to break through the glass ceiling and be one of the more exciting factors as far as the direction of Puroresu is about to go. Hiroshi Tanahashi has been the backbone of New Japan for quite some time, and he just can’t seem to stop the momentum swing that Okada is on right now. This match told an amazing tale, had a dramatic end, flowed effortlessly and front to back, and is a classic example of two guys leaving it all in the ring.
2. CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (Summerslam)
This was a dream match that people had been wanting to see since CM Punk aligned himself with Paul Heyman on WWE TV. I almost don’t even have a description for this because it was just so flabbergastingly incredible. CM Punk even had his sideburns shaved to resemble Wolverine knowing he was going up against the Hulk that is Brock Lesnar. This was David vs. Goliath, this was “The Best” vs. “The Beast,” and if somebody said this was actually the match of the year, it would be hard to argue with them. There’s only one other match that I think brought professional wrestling to a higher level this year…
1. CM Punk vs. The Undertaker (Wrestlemania)
There are some moments you truly cannot replicate. There are certain atmospheres in professional wrestling, certain feelings in the air that words cannot adequately describe. This match was a fucking spectacle. From the moment The Undertaker rose from the hands of dead souls lingering in a cloud of smoke, to the second the bell rang to declare that this contest had come to an end, the excitement levels throughout MetLife Stadium, and I’m sure throughout all the homes of the people that watched this match, were on 11.
The passing of Paul Bearer, CM Punk stealing the all powerful urn after his emotional match with Kane, Heyman dressing up as Bearer and luring Undertaker in to a group of druids lead by a disguised CM Punk, and all of the intricacies in-between created an unrivaled electricity when the two stared across the ring from each other. Behind his two classics with Shawn Michaels, this is probably my favorite Undertaker WM Streak match of all of his 21 years of defending it.