Top 10 WWE September Pay-Per-View Matches
Admitting to being a fan of professional wrestling can be a social burden for anyone who learned how to tie his shoes more than two decades ago. The larger-than-life personalities of its competitors as well as their array of obviously-choreographed maneuvers are by nature more easily digested by the mind of a child. With age, one finds it increasingly difficult to defend his love for anything that held his attention during the more innocent years of his life, especially when it involves barely-clad bodybuilder physiques and boatloads of spandex. But I'm a sucker for nostalgia and have a hard time letting go of something after it has caused me years of joy and fulfillment, which should be apparent considering the concept of this entire website.
I witnessed my first televised pro wrestling match in early 1996 and instantly became addicted to the spectacle. Never for a moment buying into the idea that the action unfolding in front of me was a legit brawl between a guitar-smashing country singer and a former Dallas Cowboys linebacker, my 11-year-old self instead viewed it as any other form of scripted entertainment. Whether it be movies, television shows or the occasional election, I understood that the outcomes were predetermined, but I still found myself swept up in the drama and excitement of it all. The one wrestling company that has kept me watching over the years, for better or for worse, is World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Weekly programs on free television remain a staple of any marginally-successful organization in the world of professional wrestling. Pay-per-view events are where the real money is, used as a stage to showcase the most hotly-anticipated matches between the company's biggest superstars. The WWE runs pay-per-views at least once a month and has since 1998, with two of these shows, August's Summerslam and November's Survivor Series, generally being two of the most financially successful of the year. Unfortunately, the space between these monster events tends to drag as far as storyline and match quality are concerned. Every once in awhile, though, great matches materialize during this stretch of routineness. In dedication to this Sunday's Night Of Champions pay-per-view, PixelatedPop presents the Top 10 WWE September Pay-Per-View Matches!
European Championship Match: British Bulldog (c) vs. Shawn Michaels, One Night Only 1997; Intercontinental Championship Match: Edge (c) vs. Christian, Unforgiven 2001; United States Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alex Riley vs. Jack Swagger vs. John Morrison, Night Of Champions 2011
Eddie Guerrero vs. Edge
From 1999 to 2008, Unforgiven stood as the name of WWE's September pay-per-view. In accordance with its title, the event often featured storylines involving deep-seeded hatred or jealousy between feuding wrestlers. This match wasn't about championships, but rather revenge, as the up-and-comer Edge had picked up a victory against Guerrero the previous month at Summerslam. This back-and-forth contest culminated when Edge attempted a superplex, forgetting about the top turnbuckle pad that had been removed by Guerrero earlier on. The crafty veteran bashed Edge's skull into the exposed steel and followed up with a sunset flip powerbomb to earn the win. This encounter would serve as a precursor to a string of incredible matches throughout the fall of 2002 between the "Smackdown Six," which included Edge's tag partner Rey Mysterio, Eddie's teammate and nephew Chavo Guerrero and the ultimate duo of Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle.
World Heavyweight Championship Match:
Randy Orton (c) vs. Triple H
Randy Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history at Summerslam 2004, taking home the title at the tender age of 24. Unfortunately, Orton's cohorts in Evolution, the invincible stable that also included Batista and Ric Flair, denied the new champ his much-deserved celebration, booting the spry rookie from the group the following evening on Monday Night Raw when he refused to hand the big gold belt over to leader Triple H. At Unforgiven, just four weeks after the biggest win of his career, Orton's balloon was quickly deflated; interference by Batista, Flair and current ESPN anchorman Jonathan Coachman eventually lead to The Game regaining his coveted title after a devastating Pedigree onto a steel chair. Orton spent a ridiculous amount of time attempting to get his momentum back after the crushing loss, and critics would go on to blast Triple H for demolishing Orton's rise, turning him into a pandering babyface when he clearly excelled as a cocky, brash heel. Still, this match prevails, especially from a psychological standpoint, watching the arrogant Orton get under The Game's skin up until the unfavorable climax.
Hardcore Championship Match:
Rob Van Dam (c) vs. Chris Jericho
Rob Van Dam holds the honor of being one of few competitors who can thrill any audience in his sleep. During the lackluster WCW / ECW Alliance Invasion angle of the summer and fall of 2001, Van Dam sided with the renegade company, battling against the WWE's elite forces, but no one noticed as he remained insanely over with the fans. This match pitted RVD against Chris Jericho for the Hardcore title, allowing both flamboyant high-flyers to strut their stuff in a no-holds barred environment. In the end, Van Dam retained his belt due to an outside distraction by ECW owner Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, allowing him to hit Jericho with the Five-Star Frog Splash for the pin. The Invasion fizzled out with the WWE coming out on top at Survivor Series, freeing these fan-favorites up for future successes -- Jericho captured the Undisputed Championship in December while RVD won his first Intercontinental Championship at the following year's Wrestlemania.
World Tag Team Championship Elimination Match:
The Dudley Boyz (c) vs. Big Show & Spike Dudley vs.
The Hardy Boyz vs. The Hurricane & Lance Storm
There's nothing like a fast-paced, multi-team tag match to open a show and get the audience bubbling with anticipation for the night ahead. This contest featured The Dudley Boyz, an Alliance team who held the WWE's tag titles, squaring off against fellow WCW / ECW stablemates The Hurricane and Lance Storm as well as two WWE tandems in Big Show and Spike Dudley and The Hardy Boyz. This was just a fun opener where every move flowed perfectly. Spike took the brunt of the punishment early on from his big brothers Bubba Ray and D'Von, bumping around the ring in the way that only the 150-pound punching bag could. Other highlights included The Hurricane's failed attempt to chokeslam the colossal Big Show, as well as the giant ascending the top rope to tease an outside dive. The Dudleyz would go on to retain, last eliminating the Hardyz after a Bubba Bomb to Matt. All-in-all, this bout stands as a testament to the lost art of tag team wrestling in the WWE.
WWE Championship Match:
The Rock (c) vs. Chris Benoit vs. Kane vs. Undertaker
I'll preface the details of this match by stating that Chris Benoit was one of my all-time favorite in-ring performers. It's a shame that his legacy is forever tarnished with the events surrounding his death, and the fact that future generations of fans will never know his name is an unfortunate one. I've chosen to remember Benoit for who he was leading up to late-June 2007, not after. With that out of the way, I can say that this contest remains somewhat of a forgotten gem, with Benoit getting a chance early on in his WWE career to hang with main eventers Kane, Undertaker and The Rock, if only for one night. Minutes into the bout, Benoit smashed Taker with a chair and made the pin to momentarily be named WWE Champion. I recall this being one of the most enraptured moments of my life up to that point, having not yet learned the ways of a woman, until Commissioner Mick Foley restarted the match due to Undertaker's leg resting on the bottom rope during the pinfall. The Rock, whom I despised to his very core, would go on to successfully defend the title by pinning Benoit after a Rock Bottom, causing me to explode with an emphatic "Die, Rocky, Die!"
WWE Championship I Quit Match:
Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena
Breaking Point 2009
Aside from Bill Goldberg, no wrestler has ever made me instinctively change the channel faster than John Cena. From his dull, wash-rinse-repeat moveset to his cheesy insults spewed toward rivals that only 12-and-youngers would find even remotely humorous, I just flat out can't stand the douche. On the contrary, any time he finds himself in a match where he is sure to receive a malignant beating, I'll be the first one in line to witness his demolition. The premise of the "I Quit" match is simple -- when one competitor becomes so broken by the afflictions caused by this contest's no-rules atmosphere, he throws in the towel, as well as his pride, by muttering those two little words. Randy Orton, known for his ruthless persona both inside the ring and out (for the latter, just ask Kelly Kelly's gym bag), took full advantage of the stipulation, handcuffing Cena and blasting his midsection with a series of absolutely legit shots from a kendo stick. My only real complaint with this brutal encounter is that Orton dominated throughout, only to give up like a bitch while trapped in Cena's STFU with the handcuff chain wrapped around his neck. I would've found a way out.
Steel Cage Match:
Edge vs. Matt Hardy
It takes a special kind of professionalism to work a real-life issue into what is essentially supposed to be a staged fight. When Adam Copeland (a.k.a. Edge) and Matt Hardy's longtime girlfriend Amy Dumas (a.k.a. Lita) started laying carpet while Hardy was on the shelf rehabbing a knee injury, Hardy understandably became perturbed. On top of that, when word of the affair hit the main office, Hardy was released from his WWE contract, as the higher-ups found Edge to be the more marketable of the two superstars. The fans demanded justice, though, and Hardy was rehired shortly after, on the grounds that he and Edge settle their authentic disdain for one another in the ring. What transpired inside the steel cage that night between these former best friends must have been just as mentally scarring as it was physically. Hardy survived, pinning Edge after an insane leg drop from the top of the cage, earning back a small sliver of dignity he had lost from the forsaken debacle. While this was certainly an entertaining match fueled by anger and passion, it doesn't quite live up to the overall excellence of a previous cage match involving these two combatants...
World Tag Team Championship Steel Cage Match:
Edge & Christian (c) vs. The Hardy Boyz
Five years before their adultery-forged battle, Edge sided with "brother" Christian and Matt Hardy with actual sibling Jeff to clash inside the remorseless structure with the Tag Team Championship on the line. As two of the greatest teams in the history of the WWE, both Edge and Christian and The Hardy Boyz had to have still been nursing wounds caused by the first-ever Tables, Ladders & Chairs match just a month prior at Summerslam, but that didn't stop Commissioner Mick Foley from assigning this gut check with the gold at stake. The rules explained that the match could be ended by pin or if both members of one team escaped the cage, and when Jeff accidentally toppled to the outside within minutes of the opening bell, the champions suddenly found themselves with a tremendous advantage. Eventually, and with assistance from Lita, Christian was neutralized, allowing Matt and Jeff to deliver a thunderous Con-Chair-To to Edge on top of the cage. The brothers then put their feet to the ground, earning their second set of Tag Team titles and bringing to a close one of the best contests of their long and storied rivalry with Edge and Christian.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels
Most men will go to desperate lengths to defend their wives, even if that means neglecting the dispiriting call of oncoming retirement from the squared circle in exchange for "one more match." Now, I know that retirements are generally about as permanent as a Kardashian marriage in professional wrestling (see: this guy), but nothing can give a legend on the level of Shawn Michaels that old spark again like an enemy's fist connecting with his woman's face. When Chris Jericho mistakenly sucker-punched The Heartbreak Kid's love Rebecca during a heated confrontation at Summerslam, it was on like neckbone, and this no disqualification brawl was scheduled for Unforgiven as a result. Both fighters signed a pre-match agreement stipulating that neither would be able to press charges against the other or the WWE after the carnage, and with good reason. Tables, fire extinguishers and other assorted goodies came into play during the madness as the two master storytellers duked it out in a clash for the ages. The only downside was the somewhat weak ending... oh, and Lance Cade was there, too.
WWE Championship Tables Ladders & Chairs Match:
Edge (c) vs. John Cena
Yes, this is the second John Cena match to appear on this list. And yes, it's number one. For all the hatred I possess for the man, I must say that when he's in the ring with the right opponent, Cena has the ability to sway even the most headstrong adversaries of his "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect" way of life... whatever that means. In perhaps the most gratuitous garbage wrestling contest in all the WWE -- the Tables, Ladders & Chairs match -- Edge agreed to defend his WWE Championship against Cena, and in Edge's hometown of Toronto, no less. This was the match that Edge had never lost and one that Cena had never competed in before, which, using wrestling logic, could only mean that Cena would emerge victorious. Both warriors took their share of lumps, crashing through tables, absorbing chairshots, and tasting the ladder various times throughout the match. In the end, Cena delivered an Attitude Adjustment to Edge from the top of the ladder through two tables and retrieved the belt to become a three-time WWE Champion. That's all the ass-kissing I can dispense. Savor the flavor, Cena, 'cause it sure as hell ain't gonna happen again.