The last 12 months in the WWE have certainly been interesting. Following a year that saw only CM Punk hold the WWE title, 2013 has featured five different men with the belt. Daniel Bryan has elevated himself into the top tier of WWE superstars, and new wrestlers like members of The Shield and the Wyatt Family have emerged as major players in the company.
At the 2013 Slammy Awards, the WWE named The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 29 “Match of the Year.” While that may have been the most hyped match this year, there were many other moments that surpassed it.
Below are the five best WWE matches of 2013.
5) CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (SummerSlam)
It’s not often that the match itself is able to live up to one of the biggest feuds of the year. The match between Punk and Lesnar, however, did just that.
When Punk returned from his two-month hiatus, it was only a matter of time before Paul Heyman turned on him, setting up a match between Lesnar and the self-proclaimed “Best in the World.” Heyman ended Punk’s title hopes by interfering at Money in the Bank, and the fight was on from there.
Of any big match in 2013, this was one of the most difficult to predict. Both wrestlers utilized the No DQ stipulation effectively, with Punk taking a chair to the face of Lesnar from the top rope, and Lesnar ending it with an F5 that saw Punk land on the chair. Punk appeared to have the victory in hand, but was distracted when he decided to take his rage out on Heyman.
4) John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan (SummerSlam)
In 2013, no WWE superstar was more beloved than Daniel Bryan. The former indie wrestling star’s popularity reached a fever pitch in July when John Cena chose him as his SummerSlam opponent when he the entire Monday Night Raw crowd was chanting for him to get a title shot. Bryan’s rise to stardom culminated with his match at SummerSlam.
While Bryan’s quest to become the WWE’s No.1 wrestler has been derailed by poor booking, it would be hard to overlook this great match with Cena. He defeated Cena clean, which is a rarity these days. Bryan even debuted his new finisher, after having won most of his matches with the Yes! Lock. He lost the title after a few minutes when Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank contract, but when Bryan got the pin, he may have been the most popular wrestler in the past decade.
3) CM Punk vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania 29)
There was never much thought heading into the match that Punk had a chance of ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak. Once the bell rang, however, both performers made the audience feel like anything could happen.
Punk proved why, when he’s a heel, he’s the best bad guy in the business. Punk taunted the legend by hitting him with Old School, and his elbow to the heart of the Undertaker, who was laying on the announcer’s table, may have been the spot of the night. The Deadman ended up winning with a Tombstone, but the outcome seemed in doubt when Punk nailed The Undertakeer with the urn, thanks to the assistance of Paul Heyman.
The Rock vs. John Cena was the last match of the night, but Punk vs. The Undertaker was the true main event of WrestleMania 29. The crowd of over 80,000 people wasn’t nearly as into any other match on the card. From the entrances until the final bell, this one stole the show.
2) Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. The Shield (Battleground)
The match was the one bright spot on the worst Pay-Per-View of the year. After Cody Rhodes had been fired by Triple H, and Goldust failed to win his job back, The Authority gave the brothers one more chance.
With Dusty Rhodes at ringside, not only did Cody regain his employment, but Goldust earned a contract, as well. The duo defeated the stable that has dominated the WWE for a year. Cody hit Seth Rollins with Cross Rhodes to end it, as Dusty hit Dean Ambrose with a Bionic Elbow and Goldust took out Roman Reigns.
No match in 2013 evoked the emotion of this one. Watching the family embrace in the middle of the ring, followed by old and current superstars walking out to congratulate them was easily a top five moment of the year.
1) John Cena vs. CM Punk (Raw, Feb. 25)
The best match of the year didn’t take place on a PPV, but on a Monday Night Raw between Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania. Punk had just lost his rematch to The Rock for the WWE Championship, and Cena was ready to get his redemption after winning the Royal Rumble. Cena, though, being the ultimate babyface that he is, gave his biggest rival one more chance to earn a spot in the main event of the year’s biggest show.
The two wrestlers showed why they’ve been the top superstars in the WWE for the past few years. The match lasted nearly a half hour, featuring moves rarely seen on television anymore. In addition to both men kicking out of the other’s finisher, Cena hit Punk with a powerbomb, followed by Punk nailing Cena with a piledriver. Cena eventually put Punk away with an Attitude Adjustment, which was preceded by a hurricarana.
Rarely does the WWE give away match of such importance between its top stars on free TV. A title wasn’t on the line, but Cena and Punk provided more excitement than any two performers were able to in all of 2013.