As part of an ongoing series on the Place to Be podcast, Scott Criscuolo and Justin Rozzero have been reviewing pay-per-view cards from the WWF/WWE month-by-month and putting together their all-time shows, plucking one match from each year. It’s made for some awesome shows and riveting discussion.
But have you been listening and found yourself now and again yelling “That’s not how I would have done it!” and becoming that weirdo on the train or in your office in the process? Well, I certainly have, and I’ve decided to do something about it.
Every time Scott and Justin build their all-time cards, I will do the same, offering my commentary on the PiCs’ selections.
-One match must be selected from each year
-No competitor can be used more than once unless they undergo a drastic gimmick/persona change
-The WWF/WWE, World, Intercontinental and WWF/WWE Tag Team titles must all be defended
With that out of the way, let’s get to it…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Bret Hart vs. Hakushi
Ben’s Pick: Bret Hart vs. Hakushi
Ben’s Take: Easy pick to start. The only opportunity to get Bret Hart on the card, and in one of his great unheralded—or has it been called unheralded enough to be sufficiently heralded at this point?—matches of the mid-90’s featuring Hakushi at the height of his too-brief WWF run.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Goldust vs. The Undertaker
Ben’s Pick: Yokozuna vs. Vader
Ben’s Take: While Yokozuna vs. Vader didn’t live up to—nor could it likely have—the expectations of the mid-90’s two greatest monster heels going one on one, it stands up as an attraction, and that’s what I’m picking it for. Another minor negative: it denies me the use of Vader/Ken Shamrock a year later, but I’ll take that hit to put a spectacle in amidst my wrestling. I get Scott and Justin wanting Undertaker on the card, but I didn’t want to burn my Intercontinental title match and hoped to have another opportunity with him later.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation of Domination in a Gauntlet match
Ben’s Pick: Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation of Domination in a Gauntlet match
Ben’s Take: Ideally, I would have liked Vader/Shamrock here, but I covered why I couldn’t already. Not wanting to use the WWF title yet or Rock or Mankind, you’ve got slim pickings on a two-hour show, so Ahmed’s continuing war against the Nation gets the nod.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WWF Champion Steve Austin vs. Dude Love in a No Disqualification match
Ben’s Pick: WWF Champion Steve Austin vs. Dude Love in a No Disqualification match
Ben’s Take: A major centerpiece of my card, I picked Austin/Dude for all the reasons Scott and Justin did with probably less hesitation than them. It’s an early peak of the Attitude Era with both guys at their athletic best having a great brawl with some nice wrestling mixed in, but more than that, you get all the trimmings, with Vince as the ref and all the awesome character stuff from Patterson and Brisco and company. As a very small aside, if I don’t manage to find an Undertaker match, at least he plays a role here.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Hardcore Champion Al Snow vs. Hardcore Holly
Ben’s Pick: Hardcore Champion Al Snow vs. Hardcore Holly
Ben’s Take: Rough show to pick from given the circumstances, but another installment in the consistently entertaining Snow/Holly Hardcore title series edges out the disappointing showdown between the New Age Outlaws.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: X-Pac & Road Dogg vs. The Dudley Boyz
Ben’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho in a Submission match
Ben’s Take: It’s tough to go wrong with Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho. Taking this match does remove two major players from the mix, but they’re arguably each other’s greatest opponents—or at least in the conversation—so it’s hard to imagine doing much better. After picking attractions and brawls following Hart/Hakushi, this puts another nice pure wrestling contest on my docket with the Submission stipulation cementing that. There would only be one another IC title match I’d consider, also with Jericho nearly a decade later, but his opponent there had better options.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: William Regal vs. Rikishi
Ben’s Pick: Women’s Champion Chyna vs. Lita
Ben’s Take: 2001 has another fairly weak card where barring the major titles and stars leaves you grasping for options. Chyna and Lita certainly did not have an all-time classic, but there’s an appeal to putting two of the iconic female stars in WWF/WWE history against each other with their only real meeting; I’ll take it over a middling Regal/Rikishi match.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Edge vs. Kurt Angle in a Hair vs. Hair match
Ben’s Pick: Edge vs. Kurt Angle in a Hair vs. Hair match
Ben’s Take: This one’s a lay-up; a career-defining match for Edge, Kurt Angle at the height of his pre-major-injuries powers in the ring, a fun gimmick and a tremendous feud.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Mr. America vs. Roddy Piper
Ben’s Pick: WWE Tag Team Champions Team Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero & Tajiri in a Ladder match
Ben’s Take: Kudos to Scott and Justin for getting Hulk Hogan on their card, but no way could I pass up this classic Ladder match, for my money easily the best Tag Team title contest available in May. I watched this one again recently and the mesh of styles between Eddie’s high flying, Team Angle’s crispness and Tajiri’s brutality with a ladder thrown in holds up big time. A case could be made for holding off on Eddie and using him in a singles match, but I’ll take that case, because I think I scored huge with this one.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Cruiserweight Champion Jacqueline vs. Chavo Guerrero
Ben’s Pick: Rob Van Dam & Rey Mysterio vs. The Dudley Boyz
Ben’s Take: Another fabulous and underrated tag match as Mysterio and Van Dam had great chemistry as a team that reinvigorated a sagging RVD, while the Dudleys had one last gasp left in them as a force to be reckoned with in WWE. This one went long and never skipped a beat as the ECW alums knew each other well and Rey fit right in. Again, you lose RVD and Rey for singles, but I’d rather fit more guys on the card and have some fun tag wrestling to break up all the one-on-one.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
Ben’s Pick: Cruiserweight Champion Paul London vs. Chavo Guerrero
Ben’s Take: It’s tough to pick against a Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero match, but I do think Justin and Scott overrated this one slightly; it’s not bad—their worst match could hardly be called “bad”—but I remember their 2005 feud stumbling out the gate with WrestleMania 21 and never really getting back on track until SummerSlam. Even if I’m misremembering and losing a classic here, I contend that the Ladder match from 2003 alone makes up for it and then some, plus I get Rey/RVD vs Dudleys from 2004 as a two-fer. To close out the deal, Paul London against Chavo Guerrero won’t make any all-time lists—except this one—but it surely beats the Jacqueline match as a Cruiserweight title choice. This could be the choice that divides my card most from the PiCs, but I think I’ve got the numbers on my side.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WWE Tag Team Champions MNM vs. Paul London & Brian Kendrick
Ben’s Pick: Booker T vs. Bobby Lashley
Ben’s Take: Good pick with MNM against London and Kendrick, but I used my Tag Team title slot so it’s not an option for me. Instead, I went with the finals of the 2006 King of the Ring tournament, a decent match, but more importantly a big character moment with the birth of the King Booker gimmick.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: World Tag Team Champions The Hardy Boyz vs. Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch
Ben’s Pick: Ric Flair vs. Carlito
Ben’s Take: Nothing preventing me from using the same match as Scott and Justin here since we consider the World Tag Team titles separate from the WWE ones, but I felt like I had enough solid tag matches and instead went with the opportunity to get Ric Flair on my card. I may kick myself about this one in the end, as I lose the Hardys and a technically better match, but for the sake of mixing it up and putting attractions alongside wrestling, Flair/Carlito it is.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho
Ben’s Pick: John Cena vs. John Bradshaw Layfield
Ben’s Take: This one hurt me, as I got here and realized I had no Shawn Michaels, my favorite wrestler and a guy you really want to try and get on an all-time list you’re compiling. Add in the fact that Michaels/Jericho stands out not only as the feud of the year for 2008 but maybe in recent memory, and I seriously considered blowing up my whole card, heading back to 2000 to free up Jericho, and starting from scratch. I roughed out a couple proposed revisions, but ultimately, as much as it pained me to lose HBK, the end gain to keep him and this match always seemed reductive. Tough choice, but I threw in Cena/JBL purely on name value, since all the best Cena matches had the title on the line. Two in a row I may regret…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: John Cena vs. The Big Show
Ben’s Pick: CM Punk vs. Umaga
Ben’s Take: Scott and Justin struggled—and ultimately failed—to find something for Punk without subbing in his WWE title match against Daniel Bryan in 2012 for Austin/Dude from 1998, but I just jumped back five years to his oft-forgotten feud with the always underrated Umaga. It’s not Punk at his peak, but it’s a neat look at his final formative days in WWE before he really clicks with the heel turn over the summer.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: R-Truth vs. Ted DiBiase
Ben’s Pick: R-Truth vs. Ted DiBiase
Ben’s Take: No other options.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: World Champion Randy Orton vs. Christian
Ben’s Pick: World Champion Randy Orton vs. Christian
Ben’s Take: Great match in a series of them between two future Hall of Famers, and for sure the best World title contest that didn’t require somebody already being used or take place in a year I wanted to pick something else.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Divas Champion Layla vs. Beth Phoenix
Ben’s Pick: Brodus Clay vs. The Miz
Ben’s Take: I had already used my Women’s title match, but I think everybody can appreciate a good squash with Miz on the losing end.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H in a Steel Cage match
Ben’s Pick: Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H in a Steel Cage match
Ben’s Take: And to wrap, we all took the loophole of Extreme Rules being in May last year to get two huge names on our cards.
Ben: Ultimately, I think two decisions define my card vs. Scott and Justin’s: choosing to forego Rey vs. Eddie in 2005 to get two tag matches—particularly the 2003 Ladder match—and jettisoning HBK/Jericho in 2008. When it comes to balance, I think my show looks pretty good, with a decent mix of tag and singles wrestling, plus attraction type stuff balances with solid in-ring product. I do have to dock myself for having a lot of huge names missing from my roster, including the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Edge and Batista. At first, May seemed pretty simple, but as I got into the mid-2000’s, it proved a lot tougher than I expected.