Top 25 Matches of the first half of 2014
Now that we are in July, I thought it was a great time to look at the top 25 matches of the first half of the year (January to June). I want to mention that I have not seen every wrestling match in 2014, however I have seen mostly everything that has received praise. It is possible I haven’t seen your favorite match, but it is also possible that I didn’t enjoy it as much as you. Tweet me here or post on the Place to be Nation Facebook page.
Before we get to the top 25, here are three honorable mentions:
Kevin Steen vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW/ROH War of the Worlds, 5/17)
Negro Casas vs. Titan (CMLL, 1/3)
The Young Bucks vs. The Time Splitters (NJPW Dominion, 6/20)
Now onto the list:
25. Emma vs. Paige (WWE NXT arRIVAL, 2/27)
Look at what happens when you treat women’s wrestling seriously and give the talent some time. This was from the NXT arRIVAL show that was the first major event the WWE put on the network and, boy, did that show deliver. This was an eye opener, as these two took it to the mat and delivered something unique to WWE women’s wrestling. This was the best women’s match I have seen this year.
24. Kevin Steen vs. Silas Young (ROH Best in the World, 6/22)
It’s no secret that I may be the world’s biggest Silas Young fan. Also, being Canadian, I’m a mark for Kevin Steen. This was my favorite thing on the ROH PPV, as these two delivered an old school feel type of match. You had two hosses going at it and telling an awesome story of the veteran versus the young upstart. I loved this finish and I can’t wait for a rematch.
23. Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher (A Wrestling Odyssey, British Rules, 4/4)
How often do you get to see a World of Sport style match in modern context? Well, on WrestleMania weekend, Drew Gulak and Timothy Thatcher brought it. These two have become two of the best guys on the indies and this is a match you need to see. They do a great job of building the match through out. This is one of those matches that starts good and just gets better and better!
22. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma (NJPW Wrestling Dontaku, 5/3)
Some people will make a case that Ishii is the best wrestler of the first half of the year, and with matches like this, you can see why. These two are some of the better sellers in NJPW. They deliver a brutal match that is well paced, and there is no wasted motion. The finishing sequence is a great run.
21. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton (WWE WrestleMania XXX, 4/6)
This one is all about the story and the greatness of Daniel Bryan. The 65 thousand plus people in the crowd wanted only one thing and that was Daniel Bryan walking out of this show as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The WWE tried every trope they could think of to make it look like Bryan would lose, including Triple H and Stephanie coming in and almost stealing the show. A great ending to a great show.
20. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Raw, 3/3)
The rematch from the Elimination Chamber match that places a little lower in the rankings of my top 25. Although not on the level of its predecessor, it is still a great brawl. Rollins might had been the star of this one with the tremendous offensive flurry and then walking out of the match later on. Too bad this feud did not stretch into WrestleMania XXX.
19. Virus vs. Fuego (CMLL, 6/15)
Later on we will look at Virus’s other title match, but we were lucky to get a second one in the first half of the year. Virus works on top a lot of the match, really controlling it. However, Fuego really held his own with some nice comebacks combined with big spots. A Virus title match, even one that is not near his best, is still a damn good match that needs to be watched.
18. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Cesaro vs. Christian vs. Randy Orton vs. Sheamus (Elimination Chamber, WWE Elimination Chamber, 2/23)
This was one of the better Elimination Chamber matches that I can recall. Everybody came out of this looking great, including Cesaro, who was the star of the match for me. This felt really old school and brutal as they stiffed the hell out of each other. It’s rare to see such brutality in the WWE without weapons involved. The ending really stunk, but at least it lead to Bryan winning the title at WrestleMania XXX.
17. Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro (WWE Smackdown, 2/4)
At this point in the year it looked like Cesaro was going to have an all-time great year. A Ric Flair in 1989 type year. This was more evidence of that. This was a match with two great wrestlers who can adapt to anything putting on a match that actually looked like they were trying to win. There was so many neat reversals that it would be impossible to list them all here, but Cesaro channeling his inner Bob Backlund to lift Bryan out of a short arm scissors was such fun one to see.
16. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton (WWE Raw, 2/3)
What a great week Daniel Bryan had!
These two had a lot of amazing matches on TV in 2013 but none on pay-per-view. This one continued the great TV match trend. This match is right up there with the street fight as their best one. The focused offense was fun to watch. Bryan destroys Orton’s knee with viciousness; Orton’s neck offense on Bryan was equally awesome. Plus, it has a really cool, clean finish too. A match where Kane interferes and it doesn’t drag it down is hard to pull off.
15. Evolution vs. The Shield (WWE Extreme Rules, 5/4)
This was a real neat match. Evolution does a great job of slowing things down to build heat and to make when The Shield go on offense even more exciting. The whole finishing sequence of brawling in the crowd with Rollins’ crazy dive was insanity. That left Batista and Reigns alone in the ring to have a dramatic finish which continued the Reigns push.
14. Ricochet vs. YAMATO (Dragon Gate Dead or Alive, 5/4)
I’m generally not a fan of the Dragon Gate promotion and style. However, this match kind of bucks the trend as YAMATO goes after the knee of Ricochet, and they build the match from there. The selling was tremendous, and the knee was not forgotten later in the contest. If you want a modern cruiserweight style that I can dig, this was a great example of it.
13. Chris Hero vs. AJ Styles (ROH Flyin’ High, 3/22)
These two match up really well. Hero’s awesome strikes and Styles’ awesome selling of them really made for a great ROH match. This had a big fight kind of feel, like ROH used to have with Samoa Joe. Really, ROH at its best.
12. Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (WWE Royal Rumble, 1/26)
This match was the real coming out party for Bray Wyatt. Bray looked like a lunatic brawler in the ilk of Cactus Jack, while Bryan proves why he is the best in the world by carrying this. I think the spot of the year is Bray’s catching of Bryan on a dive and turning it into the Sister Abigail into the railing. One of the more violent matches you will find in the WWE.
11. Cavernario & Dragon Lee & Negro Casas vs. Cachorro & Rey Hechicero & Virus (CMLL, 5/23)
The best trios match out of Mexico so far this year, easily. This match had everything. When the individuals paired off, it was great. When they built this into a high spot madness fest, it was great. Although you could think of this as a spotfest, there are still great sequences of Virus and Negro Casas doing mat work. A must watch.
10. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW Return to Yokohama Arena, 5/25)
This was an all out war between these two. Ibushi has had a great story this year of coming close but not being able to beat the heavyweights. Ishii has just had a great year in general. If you want to see an intense stiff contest, with some crazy high spots mixed in, this is your match.
9. Virus vs. Titan (CMLL, 1/28)
Virus is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and any opportunity he has to have a singles match with time, it ends up being tremendous. This was the best of these this year. Titan has really established himself as a guy that can at least be carried to greatness. One of the cool things about 2/3 falls matches out of Meixco is the way things can be built up. The first fall was some really good mat work. The second fall played up Titan being a face in peril, which led to the third fall of big bumps, dives and nearfalls. A great example of lucha libre title matches at their best.
8. John Cena vs. Cesaro (WWE Raw, 2/17)
This was about as good of a TV match that I have seen from the WWE. This was built around awesome power spots that were well laid out in the match. Cesaro’s strength is unreal here. He deadlifts Cena into a gutwrench suplex at one point, and, at another point, he deadlifts him into a superplex. Just unreal. They also did a real cool job of teasing and building to all the signature spots, so that when they were finally hit they got bigger pops than usual. We really need to see more of these two together.
7. The Briscoe Brothers vs. The Hardy Boyz (OMEGA Chaos in Cameron, 4/26)
If there ever was a dream tag team indie match, this was it. This also continued the best feud of the first half of the year with Matt Hardy and Jay Briscoe. What was neat about this was that since it was an OMEGA show, The Hardy Boyz were the faces. It was also really intriguing here that Jeff Hardy was there to support his brother and had no real beef with The Briscoes and vice versa. This match had a hot crowd and built to a great story of Matt overcoming the odds in the end. This match is the best The Hardy Boyz have looked in years.
6. John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (Last Man Standing, WWE Payback, 6/1)
Maybe the second best “Last Man Standing Match” I can recall in WWE history (behind the Umaga-Cena from the 2007 Royal Rumble). This one was as wild and chaotic as you expect from a match involving The Wyatt Family. To say this is a Cena-Wyatt singles match would be misleading as the rest of The Wyatt Family and the Usos were just as big a part of this match. The craziest bump of the year may go to Luke Harper superplexing a Uso from the top rope to the floor through a table. Just insanity.
5. Rey Hechicero vs. Barero Cavernario (CMLL, 6/20)
This was the finals of “En Busca de un Idolo” tournament, which is the best tournament in wrestling you will probably see all year. They did such a great job of elevating four newcomers (Hechicero, Cavernario, Cachorro, Dragon Lee) and keeping everything either fun or awesome, that it’s a must watch from start to finish.
As for the finals, this match was great. Early on, it looked like it would be a solid match, but not great. Then, Cavernario crashes and burns on a tope and you think the match will fall apart. From there, Hechicero takes control and they work this classic plunky babyface versus bad-ass heel match. They just told a great story of overcoming the odds. Cavernario’s splash from the top turnbuckle to the floor felt even more insane than normal in this context.
4. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (WWE WrestleMania XXX, 4/6)
This might had been the best Triple H match of his career, if not, it’s the best match I can recall since 2001. Stephanie McMahon was an ultra heel in Triple H’s corner, and she really helped make this one a classic. There’s a bunch of neat things you don’t normally see in the WWE, like a Tiger Suplex. Triple H actually felt like the cerebral assassin in this one, doing the little things right. The story was almost perfect for the overall theme of WrestleMania, and this can go down as the second best WrestleMania opener in history, behind Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart.
3. Drew Gulak vs. Bif Busick (CZW to Infinity, 4/27)
One of the best indie matches I have seen in years. I love that there are a few guys out there that have switched from being influenced by All Japan Pro-Wrestling to being influenced by World of Sport. This match was filled with really cool grappling and matwork. Gulak controlled most of the match (he was the champion after all), and Busick did a lot of nice hope spots and comebacks. A real refreshing match, and if this is what the future of indie wrestling holds, then we are in store for some great stuff to come.
2. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn (WWE NXT arRIVAL, 2/27)
Dylan Hales called this match the best PWG match in years and I couldn’t agree more. One of my favorite things in wrestling is playing off previous matches, and this one had that in bunches. The best moment of that is Cesaro blocking the tope through the turnbuckles with an uppercut. So cool.
Cesaro continued his great year here and played the rough veteran so well. Sami Zayn could be one of the best babyface workers in history. These two were made to wrestle each other.
1. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Elimination Chamber, 2/23)
If this match took place in 2013, it would had been my match of the year. So far, it’s my 2014 match of the year.
When the crowd is chanting “This is awesome!” before the match even begins, you know you are in for something special. This was a war where everybody looked outstanding. Everybody was so great, I can’t even pick a MVP for this one. Dean Ambrose emerged as a great Ricky Morton babyface here. Erick Rowan more than held his own and looked like a legit monster. Seth Rollins was a lunatic with his great offensive flurry. Luke Harper may have the best facial expressions in wrestling, and his dives were out of this world. Roman Reigns has one of the best sequences in wrestling and just great charisma. Bray Wyatt was great as the ringleader here.
The story the finish of this match told was wrestling at its best. The Shield had spent a year beating people by out numbering them. Finally, the Wyatt Family gets the numbers, leaving Roman Reigns alone. The moment where Roman realizes that what he has done to so many others was about to happen to him was priceless. Of course him trying to survive was intense stuff. A perfectly booked match and a rare match that gets ***** from me.