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: Yokozuna vs. Mabel
Ben’s Pick: Yokozuna vs. Mabel
Ben’s Take: As can often be the case with these early two-hour In Your House shows, not many options leads to me and the guys having the same selection, as happened here.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Sid vs. Vader
Ben’s Pick: Sid vs. Vader
Ben’s Take: See above.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match
Ben’s Pick: The Nation of Domination vs. The Legion of Doom in a Handicap match
Ben’s Take: And three years in, we diverge. During our September cards, Scott and Justin chose to split one match—Michaels vs. Mankind in 1996—for two—Cena vs. Edge in 2006 and Michaels vs. Jericho in 2008—while I went the other way, contending the one seminal classic outweighed two very good matches; we swapped our philosophies in October. While Shawn Michaels against The Undertaker in the first ever Hell in a Cell match has tremendous historic value and holds its own as far as being more than watchable, for the overall strength of my card, I want to split these two legends up and get twice the bang for my buck. While I liked the first Cell, they definitely still had kinks to work out, and there’s another choice down the line that I believe better exemplifies the gimmick at its best. Nobody will mistake the Nation against the LOD as a classic of any sort, but it does get a young Rock in there as his heel turn had just landed.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: European Champion D’Lo Brown vs. X-Pac*
Ben’s Pick: European Champion D’Lo Brown vs. X-Pac
Ben’s Take: The guys mistakenly plugged in a D’Lo/Gangrel match from September here, but we all had the same idea.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett vs. Chyna in a Good Housekeeping match
Ben’s Pick: Mankind vs. Val Venis
Ben’s Take: If I recall correctly, Justin and Scott found themselves in a hole needing an IC title match toward the end of building their card, but I knew I had options and didn’t have that hanging over me in 1999. Instead of taking Chyna’s big win, I opted for a fun if ultimately inconsequential instance of Mankind trying to put Val Venis over, my only chance to get Mick Foley on the show.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Steve Austin vs. Rikishi
Ben’s Pick: Steve Austin vs. Rikishi
Ben’s Take: Same train of thought here as Stone Cold did not have many October classics—decent match against Triple H in 1999, but not worth losing the WWF title for—but you always want him represented if possible, and this provides that.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WCW World Champion The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
Ben’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Christian vs. Edge in a Ladder match
Ben’s Take: Chris Jericho’s win over Rock for the WCW title cemented him as a WWE main eventer, but I had something different in mind for him years later and had already taken Rocky off the table. Edge and Christian’s first Ladder match on opposite sides may have let some people down in the thick of the Invasion, but they still put on a really good showing, and I think my Intercontinental title match outpaces Scott and Justin’s handily.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio for the WWE Tag Team titles
Ben’s Pick: WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match
Ben’s Take: No question, the classic match between two thirds of the SmackDown Six for the then-vacant WWE Tag Team titles will go down as a near-five star affair, but in my opinion, the boys had to move way too much to protect it, giving up four major players who could be used in other spots. While the tag match provides quality work, it’s been largely forgotten for various reasons, whereas Brock Lesnar against Undertaker remains many people’s choice as the platonic ideal when it comes to Cell matches. For overall value, I like spending Undertaker and the WWE title here over the four guys and one strap needed for the tag match, and think it tops the original Cell as well.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Mr. McMahon vs. Stephanie McMahon in an I Quit match
Ben’s Pick: Kurt Angle vs. John Cena
Ben’s Take: My 2002 decision yields immediate dividends by allowing me to use Kurt Angle in one of his many great pay-per-view matches against John Cena. This particular performance stands out for both guys, as Angle had reinvented himself for a solid babyface run, but more importantly, Cena had really put the pieces together and stood on the precipice of his unstoppable march toward the main event; this has both value from the quality standpoint as well as a neat time capsule appeal; and nobody wants to watch Vince against Stephanie except in the car crash sense.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: U.S. Champion Booker T vs. John Cena
Ben’s Pick: Randy Orton vs. Ric Flair in a Steel Cage match
Ben’s Take: Not sure the rationale here for Justin and Scott, whether it had to do with wanting to use Cena or needing to save Orton, but with neither concern, I’ll pick the great, bloody, emotional Cage match that Randy and Flair had from Taboo Tuesday in 2004, easily the highlight of that month. My back-up would have been Billy Kidman against Paul London from No Mercy, as I place that match on a self-recognized ridiculously high pedestal for some reason, but I didn’t need to go there.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: World Champion Batista vs. Eddie Guerrero
Ben’s Pick: John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Rey Mysterio
Ben’s Take: Batista and Guerrero stands the test as a lost classic, as I think it gets overshadowed by it being Eddie’s last PPV match, but I had other plans for the World title. JBL and Rey always had a fun big man/little man dynamic, and you get some big picture mileage as well, with this being their first major match in a lengthy feud that would all told span over four years; two big names and World champs to add to the card as well.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Gregory Helms vs. Matt Hardy
Ben’s Pick: Chris Benoit vs. William Regal
Ben’s Take: Still benefitting from my 2002 call, I get Benoit’s surprise return match against Regal from No Mercy in 2006 that featured a spirited, hard-hitting affair between two guys familiar with one another, plus a hot crowd riding the wave of an unannounced bonus.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: ECW Champion CM Punk vs. The Miz
Ben’s Pick: ECW Champion CM Punk vs. The Miz
Ben’s Take: Like Austin, CM Punk has few great October matches that don’t cancel out something else, but he had a fun ECW title defense against Miz at Cyber Sunday at 2007 that came about as a result of a fan vote where viewers picked the guy they most wanted to see get his ass kicked rather than necessarily for the best match-up, making for a fun and unique dynamic.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WWE Champion Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy
Ben’s Pick: World Champion Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels in a Ladder match
Ben’s Take: Part two of not taking the original Hell in a Cell as I have Shawn Michaels available for the blow off to his classic 2008 feud with Chris Jericho. In his most recent book and on his podcast, Y2J has called this his favorite match he’s ever been involved with, and I’m hard pressed to argue against; this feud leaps to the forefront of the all-time greats, reinvigorating Jericho’s career and preparing Michaels for the final chapter of his. It’s a second Ladder match on my card, but that’s not a price I mind paying in the least, plus the World title’s on the line.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Drew McIntyre vs. R-Truth
Ben’s Pick: Divas Champion Mickie James vs. Alicia Fox
Ben’s Take: I’ll always take a decent Divas match over an inconsequential singles match, and while I’m not quite sure this one fits the bill, it does have the title and Mickie James, so let’s go for it.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ben’s Pick: Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ben’s Take: A real gift here; though Daniel Bryan—just back from being fired and really taking off—had the U.S. title and Dolph Ziggler held the Intercontinental championship, this Bragging Rights showdown had neither belt on the line, and helped show what both guys could do.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Christian vs. Sheamus
Ben’s Pick: Sin Cara vs. Sin Cara
Ben’s Take: I used Christian a decade earlier, so the path Scott and Justin took doesn’t work for me here. The Sin Cara Azul vs. Sin Cara Negro feud may not have etched itself in history, but it provided for a fun high flying match that got the crowd going nicely enough.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Alberto Del Rio vs. Randy Orton
Ben’s Pick: U.S. Champion Antonio Cesaro vs. Justin Gabriel
Ben’s Take: Don’t remember this one at all, but always awesome Cesaro against perpetually underrated Justin Gabriel with the U.S. title in the mix even if it’s short seems like a good value pick, plus I don’t have Orton available to me.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: The Shield vs. Goldust & Cody Rhodes*
Ben’s Pick: WWE Tag Team Champions Goldust & Cody Rhodes vs. The Shield vs. The Usos in a Triple Threat match
Ben’s Take: I saved the Tag titles for last, but I get to end things with a bang. It’s the Rhodes Brothers with tremendous momentum coming off their reunion, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins at their peak as a unit, and the Usos near the peak of their ascent all going at it in a wild match. Justin and Scott picked the better match, but technically they broke the rules since the selected a non-title encounter; given all they’re provided us with over the years, I think we can let it slide, but I’ll play fair.
Ben: While I conceded September to Scott and Justin by sticking to my guns on wanting Shawn Michaels/Mankind from Ming Games to the detriment of a more complete card, I think we reversed here as their dedication to having the first Hell in a Cell, in my opinion, left them with a weaker overall product to mine. Undertaker/Brock Lesnar in Hell in a Cell for the WWE title and Chris Jericho/Shawn Michaels for the World title in a Ladder match alone would be a legendary double bill, but I’ve also got Kurt Angle against John Cena, Randy Orton against Ric Flair in a Steel Cage match, Edge against Christian in another Ladder match for the Intercontinental title, Chris Benoit against William Regal, and that killer three way for the Tag straps to put a bow on it, all matches the guys missed out on. They’ve got Angle & Benoit against Edge & Mysterio, which I wish I could have snagged, and Rock/Jericho for the WCW World title, but stacking pound for pound, I’m way more pleased with how I made out.