The year 2012 offered up many memories and landmark moments for fans of World Wrestling Entertainment. The return of Brock Lesnar. A ‘Once in a Lifetime’ showdown. The longest WWE championship reign of the modern era. And, yes, the debut of Ryback.
While Raw had a big role to play in many or these memories, WWE’s twelve pay-per-view events also offered a great deal of action and big clashes – so it’s little wonder that Fremantle Media has released ‘WWE Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2012′, a three-disc compilation showcasing some of the strongest bouts from the year’s big shows. It’s available to buy now on DVD and Blu-Ray from WWEDVD.co.uk - but are the matches worth reliving?
WWE Champion CM Punk vs Dolph Ziggler –Royal Rumble 2012
The set kicks off in January, as CM Punk defends the gold against Dolph Ziggler. A fast-paced clash between two ‘workhorses’ of the WWE, the bout is a great showcase of both men’s talents, although the finish did Ziggler absolutely no favours whatsoever. It’s worth a watch though for John Lauranitis‘ hammy theatrics, who attempts to remain impartial as the guest referee.
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs Cody Rhodes, The Big Show, The Great Khali, Wade Barrett and Santino Marella – Elimination Chamber 2012
February 2012 brought the annual Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, and with it a need to fill the chamber twice on one night. Smackdown‘s offering has to be the weakest array of ‘big name’ talent that has ever entered the structure, as World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan defends against Cody Rhodes, The Big Show, The Great Khali, Wade Barrett and the ‘wild card’, Santino Marella. While it’s questionable that half of these grapplers should be competing for a World championship, much of the story of the match centres around the rivalry between Bryan and Show, resulting in a very memorable and entertaining moment when the giant finally gets his hands on the cowardly champion. The crowd also becomes unglued for the efforts of ultimate underdog Marella in the closing moments.
Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XVIII
“Does one win inside Hell In A Cell, or does one merely survive?” questions Jim Ross in the early going of this ‘End Of An Era’ match, and with good reason. Lauded by many as WWE’s match of 2012, Triple H and The Undertaker‘s brutal weapon-filled clash is professional wrestling story-telling at its very best, thanks in large part to the importance that fans now place on The Undertaker’s 20-win streak, and the addition of referee Shawn Michaels, who does a superb job of selling the near falls and emotion in the bout. With 78,000 fans hooked in for each and every move, this match, grounded in respect, is proof that, when it comes to pure spectacle alone, nobody does it better than WWE.
John Cena vs The Rock – WrestleMania XVIII
It wouldn’t be possible to have a DVD release such as this without including the company’s most-hyped match of the year, the bout that was proudly billed as ‘Once In A Lifetime’ – only to happen again twelve months later. Much has been written about Cena and Johnson’s stranglehold on the WrestleMania main event over the past three years, but there’s no denying the electric atmosphere that was on offer in Miami for this contest. With as big a ‘big match feel’ as you will likely ever see, both John Cena and The Rock get their own musical accompaniment – Cena with an abysmal performance from MGK and Rock with the crowd favourite Flo Rida – before finally getting down to business. With Michael Cole describing the contest as “the match that opitimises WrestleMania”, what follows is a sluggish, drawn-out affair between the two multiple-time WWE champions, which failed to fully hit its stride and deliver on the phenomenally-high expectations that come from one solid year of marketing and promotion. The crowd doesn’t seem to notice though, as they hang on each and every move from the two ‘icons’.
Divas Champion Laya vs Beth Phoenix – Over The Limit 2012
Presumably included simply to remind viewers that the WWE still has a Divas division, this is an overly-fussy content which pits the recently-returning Layla against the dominant Beth Phoenix, who controls the pace of much of the match after targeting the champion’s injured knee. Layla does a great role of selling in the short bout – which is given longer to tell a story than the average Divas match – but it’s hardly up there as a great PPV match. In fact, the highlight comes from Michael Cole on commentary, who hilariously offers the following hyperbolic statement: “The world is talking about the Divas title!”. Has a dafter statement ever been uttered on WWE television?
Intercontinental Champion Christian vs Cody Rhodes – No Way Out 2012
It’s easy to forget that Christian is still involved with WWE, but he did make a short-lived return to the promotion last year, spending a few months in the possession of the newly-retro Intercontinental Title. The champion andCody Rhodes complement one another well in this smooth bout from June’s No Way Out, as Christian plays to the crowd after an abrupt attitude change following the Hall of Fame induction of former partner Edge. Both men pick up some very close near falls in the closing moments, in a reminder of how Intercontinental title matches of old used to be the glue that held many a pay-per-view together.
WWE Champion CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan – Money In The Bank 2012
The then white-hot AJ Lee serves as the centrepiece for this ‘no disqualification’ title clash; as guest referee, all eyes are on the pint-sized diva as to which man she will side with in the contest. It’s a curious addition to the Punk-Bryan in-ring dynamic, as the two ROH veterans deliver a series of brutal chops, kicks, kendo stick and steel chair shots to one another in their bid to become champion. Daniel Bryan, in particular, looks intense throughout, and the match serves as a stark reminder of just how good he can be in the ring when not saddled with a comedy gimmick and anger management issues. CM Punk, meanwhile, once again defends his championship in the semi-main event on a pay-per-view event, with this being the final match before the champion had a sizeable attitude change and, in the process, embarked on one of the most entertaining runs of his careers to date. A strong match, but not their best, the viewing experience is seriously hampered by the inane commentary provided by Booker T, who must utter the word “baby” at least 50 times during this wrestling match. It’s ridiculously distracting – and commentary should never detract from what takes place in the ring.
Triple H vs Brock Lesnar – Summerslam 2012
Billed as ‘The Perfect Storm’, this first-time encounter between HHH and Brock Lesnar tells a solid story, but lacks the realism and suspension of disbelief that made Lesnar’s clash with John Cena such a phenomenal success. Strains of that match do continue here, with Lesnar pushed as the dominant monster and fighting with an MMA slant, but it lacks the drama of Lesnar’s return match. The former UFC champion is allowed the opportunity to look dominant ten years after his first WWE Title win at the same event – and it’s worth watching alone to see Triple H’s attempt to get the desired crowd reaction spectacularly backfire as the show closes.
Randy Orton vs Dolph Ziggler – Night of Champions 2012
‘The Showoff’ proves to be the perfect foil for ‘The Apex Predator’ in this Smackdown clash, which serves as a great showcase for Dolph Ziggler‘s athletic abilities, who flies around the ring with gusto for Randy Orton. JBL, on commentary, does an excellent job of playing up Orton’s third generation lineage and Ziggler’s extensive amateur background, and the two grapplers put on a superb contest that really reels the crowd in until an explosive, surprise finish. A good match that could have been great were more on the line, this one suffers from a lack of creative investment, as there is little more on the line than pride, with this being the ‘rubber match’ so often used when a more interesting storyline hasn’t been penned.
WWE Champion CM Punk vs John Cena – Night of Champions 2012
Punk’s first main event since December 2011 is all about respect, and brings back memories of the historic MITB 2011 clash between the two – expect this time, taking place in Boston, the crowd is slightly more balanced than it was in Chicago on that infamous night. A dominant showing from the cocky CM Punk, the champion – with Paul Heyman in his corner – wrestles rings around John Cena in the early going, countering much of the challenger’s offence including, at one point, the interminable Five Knuckle Shuffle. Michael Cole and JBL on commentary play up the length of Punk’s title reign (at this point spanning just over 300 days) and Cena’s strength, and the pair attempt to catch “lightning in a bottle” once again, coming close to equaling the action from their July 2011 scrap. Ending with a very innovative finish that shocked fans at the time, this was the match that firmly consolidated Punk as the ‘man to beat’ in WWE towards the end of 2012.
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs The Big Show – Hell In A Cell 2012
Concluding the three-disc set is a bout that, on paper, sounds very undesirable but which, on the night, proved to be a superb ‘battle of the big men’, as both Sheamus and The Big Show entered arguably the best performance of both of their respective careers with the World Heavyweight title on the line. Stealing the show from the Ryback/Punk clash that took place later that same night, Jim Ross, Michael Cole and JBL on commentary do a terrific job of calling the action, and the crowd is truly hooked for a series of superb near falls towards the end. In short, it’s a knockout.
Summary: Is this the ‘best’ that 2012 had to offer?
By and large, WWE’s ‘Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2012′ is a solid DVD offering – many of the matches included are more than worthy of their place, for either action provided (Punk vs Ziggler, Rhodes vs Christian, Sheamus vs The Big Show), or pure spectacle (Undertaker vs Triple H, Cena vs Rock, Triple H vs Lesnar). For fans that haven’t already purchased any of the company’s 2012 releases, it’s a good showcase of the company’s abilities to deliver action when the spotlight shines brightest.
But it could have been so much better. Shockingly missing from the compilation is the superb Extreme Rules main event between Brock Lesnar and John Cena, which blurred the lines between professional wrestling and MMA and provided the hardest-hitting bout of recent years. No doubt the company had its reasons for strategically missing off the Lesnar contest – it’s more important for fans to be reminding of the inferior Triple H encounter, after all, in the lead-up to their WrestleMania rematch - but it’s still a colossal oversight for a release marketed in such a way. Also missed off from the same card is Sheamus and Daniel Bryan‘s superb two-out-of-three-falls encounter, which undid much of the damage from their controversial 18-second opener at WrestleMania (although this match is included on the Blu-Ray version).
Almost as surprising as that is the fact that The Shield‘s excellent debut at TLC against Kane, Daniel Bryan andRyback is not included, or, for that matter, that November’s triple threat match between Ryback, Punk and Cenais missed off too. It would seem that, in its haste to get a ‘year in review’ DVD released in such a timely manner, WWE overlooked both November and December 2012 – two months boasting shows that would have been worthy additions to the set. If WWE is going to make this an annual release, they would be well-served to wait that little bit longer next year – just in case a show-stealing encounter once again takes place before the year is out.