10 OF THE BEST- December PPV Matches
By Mick Robson
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Ah, December. A time when we embrace the silly season, and everything else kinda falls into a lull. We're at work or school, dragging ourselves to the end of the year, with only the promise of presents and food dragging us through the month.
Historically, WWE has been a bit the same. Even back in the "good old days", Survivor Series was a Big 4 PPV event, and then the foot was taken off the gas for a few weeks, before the Royal Rumble/Road to WrestleMania hype kicked off in January. The weekly shows tend to be pretty "meh", especially with the strong holiday themed shows, and if you're not an American, as is the case with your writer, the annual Tribute To The Troops shows probably don't do a ton for you either. As such, the December PPVs in WWE can be a fairly inconsequential pit stop between Survivor Series and the Rumble.
I decided to look a little outside the WWE scope on this one, which means I'm spending a little of that lull between Christmas and the New Year looking at WCW Starrcade matches! Starrcade was WCW's equivalent to WrestleMania, so we should be able to find a few old school gems from both WCW and WWE/WWF in this one.
Also, for the purposes of this, NXT Takeovers don't count as traditional PPVs, so we're not counting them here. But yes, Zayn vs. Neville from TakeOver: R Evolution slaps. Moving on!
Disclaimer: 10 OF THE BEST isn't a series in strict order. It's just, as it says in the title, 10 of the best in a particular category.
Let's do this!
10- WWE Tag Team Championship Ladder Match- Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. MNM vs. The Hardys vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (WWE Armageddon 2006)
This is a match that really came out of nowhere. Armageddon 2006 was not a very strong card on paper, and the originally advertised tag title match featured London & Kendrick (or, Londrick, if you will) defending against Regal & Taylor in a standard tag match. But Smackdown GM Teddy Long came out, and in the Christmas spirit added the Hardyz, MNM and ladders to make this a spectacular car crash of a stunt show. The champs, the Hardys and MNM flew about the place with reckless abandon, while Regal & Taylor added some comedy by being out of their element and apparently afraid of heights.
This match is probably most remembered for being the match which shattered Joey Mercury's face. An instance where the carnage went too far, but the sight of Mercury's face did add a lot more gravitas and stakes to the match, especially when it forced Johnny Nitro to work the rest of the match solo, and he really stepped up in that moment. London & Kendrick retain, in what was probably the highlight of their long reign as tag champs on Smackdown.
9- WWE Championship- Edge vs. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy (Armageddon 2008)
In Jeff Hardy's second WWE run, he had a bit of a run with his brother Matt as the wildly popular and iconic Hardys tag team (dropping the "Hardyz" moniker because they're a little more mature here). Most of the time between 2006-2009 saw Jeff absolutely explode as a singles star, and it all finally came to fruition here. Edge and Jeff had years of chemistry from all their tag team battles, and Triple H also clicked really well with Jeff (they had a singles match at Armageddon 2007 that I almost put in here). After years of being at the Intercontinental/upper midcard level and just falling short of breaking through, Jeff finally did it, hitting the Swanton in a dynamic match to win the WWE Championship for the first time.
Watching Jeff raise the WWE title as a seemingly endless amount of fireworks shot off was really the perfect way to end the Armageddon PPV series, as WWE would kick off the TLC PPV events the following year.
8- Raw Tag Team Championship- The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus) vs. The New Day (Big E & Kofi KIngston)- WWE Roadblock: End of the Line 2016
This match is a prime example of why matches don't necessarily need to be 20+ minutes to be great. These guys were given 10 minutes, and went, "alright, if we've got 10 minutes, we're gonna make them the most exciting 10 minutes possible." Cesaro in particular was a man possessed, setting an unreal pace that Kofi was able to keep up with. Then Big E and Sheamus did the meaty men thing, including Big E catching Sheamus mid-Brogue Kick in a powerbomb which really didn't get the respect it deserves as an unreal display of strength by E. The finish was genius too- The Bar FAKED a hot tag from Sheamus to Cesaro, allowing Sheamus to get a quick roll up to end the New Day's then-record setting tag title reign. Just brilliant from start to finish!
7- WCW Cruiserweight Championship- Kidman vs. Juventud Guerrera vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.- WCW Starrcade 1998
Over to World Championship Wrestling for this one. Now, I'll be honest, I didn't follow WCW as it was on, I didn't have access, all my wrestling watching was confined to what I could get from the video store, which was 95% WWF/WWE tapes. One thing I have discovered, since the WWE Network has been a thing, is that the WCW cruiserweight division really carried the in-ring quality of the shows, while the main events and upper card were full of nWo melodrama.
In this case, the three way opened the show, Kidman (first name redacted) was the defending champ, and Juventud and Mysterio were LWO members, but Rey had fallen somewhat out of leader Eddie Guerrero's favour. The three men kept a crazy pace, with all 3 flying around and interacting at all times, none of the WWE trope of one man sitting out for an extended length of time. Spectacular move after spectacular move, highlighted by Kidman hitting a Shooting Star Press to the outside on both challengers. Then, Eddie interfered, but it backfired, and Kidman reversed a sunset flip to retain his title in an absolute thriller!
6- Hell In A Cell- The Undertaker vs Randy Orton- WWE Armageddon 2005
A lot of people credit Mick Foley for "making" Randy Orton in 2004. I would agree with that to an extent, but he did tread water for a little while afterwards, including an ill-fated babyface turn which killed any momentum dead. In 2005, Orton was revived with a feud with the Deadman, the Undertaker, and the HIAC was the blow-off to a feud which almost spanned the full year. After this, Orton had main event credibility, and never looked back.
There was lots of blood, lots of using a steel chair, and even Cowboy Bob Orton and referee Nick Patrick got caught up in the mayhem. It's not the greatest Cell match of all time, but it was certainly a violent enough spectacle to merit watching, particularly as it put a bow on one of the signature feuds of Randy Orton's career.
5- TLC Match- The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns) vs. Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan & Kane) & Ryback- WWE TLC 2012
The trio of The Shield made their WWE debuts at the 2012 Survivor Series, but they would not have their first official match until the TLC PPV the following month. Team Hell No were a red hot act in the second half of the year, and Ryback was fresh off a strong main event push opposite CM Punk & John Cena, so they were more than a formidable threat to the newcomers.
The Shield had to prove themselves in this spotlight, and prove themselves they did. Ambrose fought like an unhinged madman, and not in the "oh that Dean, he's so wacky!" way they would present him as later. Reigns was this truck of a dominant force, and Rollins was the real MVP, showing immense athleticism and a willingness to take risks, as he was ripped off a mega ladder through a stack of tables. Through the rubble, The Shield emerged victorious, in an instant classic that set the path for all three men to become major stars in the world of professional wrestling.
4- WWE Intercontinental Championship- Ladder Match- Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper- WWE TLC 2014
The late great Luke Harper didn't get a ton of big singles opportunities in WWE, with really only this and his Elimination Chamber 2017 match with Randy Orton coming to mind off the top of my head. Despite that, Harper/Brodie Lee is recognised as a great in the squared circle, and performances like this one are a big reason why.
Harper came in as the defending IC champ, and while perennial underdog Ziggler bumped his ass off in this one, he would ultimately prevail over the giant in a tremendous display of heart. Superkicking Harper off a damn ladder, Ziggler claimed a big victory here, a month after perhaps a career best performance at Survivor Series, he would deliver another one here with Harper and take home the gold. Definitely one to check out, especially if you're a newer fan that doesn't quite understand the praise that Brodie Lee/Luke Harper gets as a performeer.
3- WCW World Heavyweight Championship- Title vs. Career- Ric Flair vs. Vader- WCW Starrcade 1993
A lot of the matches on the list are gimmick matches- it's not just because of my personal tastes, but WWE book a lot of gimmick matches around this time of the year. But if we rewind the clock a bit more and look at WCW, they tend to take a more classic approach, which can really work when high stakes are introduced. Such was the case 30 years ago, when Ric Flair put his career on the line in a bid to take Vader's world title.
Vader was an absolute monster of a human being, and the presentation of him here, with the ever-credible Harley Race as his manager, makes you wonder how the hell he had such an underwhelming WWE run. He's both the unstoppable force AND the immovable object here, battering Flair and absorbing the return chops like they're nothing. Eventually, Flair finds a way, keeping his career alive- for a long time to come- and claiming yet another world title.
2- King of Cable Tournament FInal- Sting vs. Vader- WCW Starrcade 1992
I was going to include Flair vs. Race in the steel cage, or the Dog Collar match between Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine from the inaugural Starrcade in 1983 here, but upon double-checking, that event actually occured in late November. Damn. Have some more Vader, then.
Opposite the man mountain was WCW's quintessential good guy... IT'S STIIIIIIIIIING! (Slides Tony Schiavone a crisp $50 bill). Of course, Vader has the size and power advantage over just about anyone, but Sting, particularly in the early 90s, was more of a physical presence than Ric Flair was, and was able to take some of Vader's best shots and dish it right back, culminating in a big powerslam for the victory. Long before Samoa Joe was the King of Television, this win crowned the Stinger the King of Cable.
1- WWF Championship- Six Man Hell In A Cell- Kurt Angle vs. The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Rikishi vs. Undertaker- WWF Armageddon 2000
What's better than a steel cage? Make it bigger, slap a roof on it and have a Hell In A Cell! What's better than that? Grab six of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era, and throw them inside to fight for the biggest prize in the WWF.
At this time, WWF fans were conditioned to expect huge stunts inside/on top of the Cell, and the company delivered, having Rikishi- who DID IT FOR DA ROCK- get chokeslammed off the top of the Cell by the Undertaker. Luckily, I guess, there was a truck covered in sawdust and padding to cushion the fall. Doubt it was pleasant, though. Ultimately, after all the big stars hit their big finishers on each other, it would be Kurt Angle- the new champion and brand new to the main event scene after wrestling for about a year- sneaking a pin to retain the title. Chaos. Glorious, glorious chaos!
And that does it for our list! I didn't realise until I got started how many gimmick matches there would be! As I said earlier, WWE especially seems to load up the gimmicks at the end of the year. I did think of a couple of non-gimmick matches, such as the mini-tournament to crown an Undisputed Champion at Vengeance 2001, but honestly I don't think the matches were all that great. I looked at a few match cards to jog the memory, and even then- Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit happened at Armageddon 2002. Of course it's not a bad match, it's Guerrero and Benoit, but it's not their best match together by any means.
What do you think? Do you think some other WWE/WWF or WCW matches deserve a spot on the list? Do I deserve to get my head kicked in for not having TNA or NJPW matches on my list? Let me know in the comments of wherever you see this article! Thanks for reading!
Until next time, take care.