The Mean Special Edition: Top Ten Matches Of 2001

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “Two columns in one week? We usually get like one a month. Morse’s girlfriend must have dumped him or something ” Well no, my girlfriend and I just enjoyed a great little vacation to New York, but still, I do have a good amount of free time over the holiday season (and besides, these “Special Editions” are pretty darn easy to do).

You’re probably going to read somewhere between forty and fifty “top ten matches of the year” lists (hundreds if you’re a message board regular), but this being The Mean, this being my column, this is unique. If you’re a longtime reader of The Mean, heck, if you’re a guy who just started reading last week, or even if you’re just a wrestling fan, you know that mark fans and smart fans obviously have very different likes and dislikes. I’ve demonstrated the aforementioned point several times by examining individual wrestlers, but the same of course if true of matches. For smart fans, every technical detail of a match, from the psychology to the selling, needs to be one hundred percent flawless in order for the match to get that coveted five star rating; marks on the other hand will sometimes just sit back and enjoy The Big Show tossing The Hurricane around.

So I present to you (as always, in my humble opinion) four top ten lists for matches in the year 2001: the mark list, the smart list, the mean (which may or may not end up being ten matches), and then of course my own personal top ten (did you really think I wouldn’t include that one?). Without further adieu

The Mark

10-THE GIMMICK BATTLE ROYAL (Wrestlemania XVII)

A guilty pleasure for all old-school fans that may not have watched wrestling since they were kids, and also a treat for those who have slowly evolved into smarts, giving them a chance to turn back the clock. Sure the in-ring action was slow, but between the entrances, the enthusiasm of the participants, and the dream nostalgia commentary team of Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan, this was pure unadulterated fun.

9-“LINGERIE MATCH” TORRIE WILSON vs STACY KEIBLER (No Mercy)

Speaking of guilty pleasures what fanboy didn’t get excited about watching the gorgeous Torrie and Stacy stripped down to their bare essentials? Some smarts decried this as a “waste of time” and “gratuitous T & A,” but you didn’t hear too many casual fans complaining

8-STEVE AUSTIN, THE UNDERTAKER, KURT ANGLE, CHRIS JERICHO & KANE vs BOOKER T, DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE, THE DUDLEY BOYZ & RHYNO (InVasion)

The Invasion angle was a giant flop on most fronts, but at least in the beginning, at least some fans were genuinely excited about the “dream match” concept. This match, coming right off the “ECW Invasion,” was a winner for longtime casual viewers. Plenty of names and plenty of action sealed the deal.

7-THE ROCK vs BOOKER T for the WCW World title (Summerslam)

After five long months of waiting while he filmed “The Scorpion King,” The Rock returned to pay-per-view and was greeted by an enthusiastic fanbase. When the “People’s Champion, finally ” came back to wrestling and beat Booker T for his first WCW title, there was rejoicing amongst the people.

6-THE ROCK, THE UNDERTAKER, CHRIS JERICHO, KANE & THE BIG SHOW vs STEVE AUSTIN, KURT ANGLE, ROB VAN DAM, BOOKER T & SHANE MCMAHON (Survivor Series)

Without the cynical drag of the internet decrying the horrid nature of the Invasion angle every five minutes ring in their ears, this was truly a monumental occasion for some fans. This, plus big stars like Rock, Austin, Angle & RVD who mark fans love and the popular “Survivor Series” elimination format, created a money-maker for the WWF.

5-THE ROCK vs CHRIS JERICHO for the WCW World title (No Mercy)

A great feud that was built perfectly on WWF television; add to that the fact that these men are maybe the two best talkers in the WWF, each brimming with charisma, and you had an entertaining match that anybody could enjoy.

4-THE ROYAL RUMBLE

Always a winner with the marks, the Royal Rumble match this year was particularly strong. Big stars like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, and others, plus surprise entrants from The Big Show to Drew Carey, and some unique portions like the “Hardcore” segment, made this a memorable Rumble.

3-TLC II (Wrestlemania)

For the third time, The Dudley Boyz, Edge & Christian, and The Hardy Boyz put their bodies and their careers on the line with tables, ladders, and chairs to entertain the fans. For people who are impressed by something as simple as Jeff Hardy’s normal Swanton Bomb, the aforementioned move off a twenty-foot ladder through a table was enough for a standing ovation (in their living rooms no less!).

2-STEVE AUSTIN vs KURT ANGLE for the WWF title (No Mercy)

After the traumatic events of September 11, this match was exactly what wrestling fans needed and the WWF delivered. These two have had better wrestling matches, but perhaps no more memorable moments than Olympic hero Angle winning the big title in his hometown and draping the belt over one shoulder and the American flag over the other.

1-THE ROCK vs STEVE AUSTIN for the WWF title (Wrestlemania XVII)

Take the two most popular stars in the WWF, toss them into the same ring at the year’s biggest event, throw the World title on the line, and hype to the moon: a surefire recipe for success. No matter how this match ended, marks were pumped for it from the minute it was announced.

The Smart

10-STEVE AUSTIN vs CHRIS JERICHO vs CHRIS BENOIT for the WWF title (King of the Ring)

Longtime dream for internet fans as not one, but two of their boys got a chance at the big time in the main event. Unfortunately there were a few dark spots on an otherwise good match, including some sloppiness and a minor injury to Austin in addition to a major injury to Benoit.

9-KURT ANGLE vs CHRIS BENOIT 2/3 Falls pinfall/Submission/Ladder match

A very good match on an otherwise unmemorable pay-per-view; hardly the best of the best, but two of the best pure wrestlers of all time going at it in three styles made for a good show.

8-CHRIS BENOIT vs CHRIS JERICHO Ladder match for the WWF Intercontinental title

Yep, these two again, doing their take on that old classic and constant crowd-pleaser: the Ladder match. Fans who had gotten used to the spot crazy TLC matches got to see an innovative and different type of match thanks to the chemistry and storytelling ability of the two Chrises.

7-THE ROCK vs STEVE AUSTIN for the WWF title (Wrestlemania)

A good old-fashioned slugfest dripping with intensity; most workrate freaks were able to turn the other cheek due to the sheer energy generated by this one.

6-THE ROCK vs CHRIS JERICHO for the WCW World title (No Mercy)

Culmination of the first phase of a great feud that had internet fans drooling. Nice action-packed match with the guy the smarts wanted to see (Jericho) going over, even if it was under somewhat dubious circumstances.

5-TLC II (Wrestlemania)

A lot of times the smart fan will complain about “aimless spotfests,” but TLC II didn’t even give those guys a chance to catch their collective breath and complain. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who didn’t enjoy the meticulously planned lunacy of TLC II.

4-STEVE AUSTIN vs CHRIS BENOIT for the WWF title (Smackdown, 5/01)

A nicely tucked away little main event between two great workers; the match took place in Canada, giving Benoit so much heat that it boosted the match from good to great.

3-STEVE AUSTIN vs KURT ANGLE for the WWF title (Summerslam)

The technical masterpiece that showed how good Angle has become, and how good Austin still is; a screwy finish, but one of the most physically grueling matches in some time.

2-STEVE AUSTIN & TRIPLE H vs CHRIS JERICHO & CHRIS BENOIT for the WWF Tag Team titles (RAW, 5/01)

The internet has a collective orgasm as their two favorite sons get to go over the WWF’s big boys and take home the Tag Team titles in an exciting battle. It looked as if it would signal the start of a new era, but unfortunately injuries to HHH and Benoit stopped things before they could really get started.

1-TRIPLE H vs STEVE AUSTIN 2/3 Falls standard/Street fight/Cage match (No Way Out)

After HHH proved himself one of the best brawlers in the game with his 2000 wars with Cactus Jack and then a tremendous technical wrestler in the Iron Man match with The Rock, in 2001 both he and Austin showed they could go all styles; there was very little this match did not have.

Ok, let’s give this a shot

The Mean

The two lists share three matches, so let’s do the math and figure out The Mean top three

3-THE ROCK vs CHRIS JERICHO for the WCW World title (No Mercy)

2-TLC II (Wrestlemania)

1-THE ROCK vs STEVE AUSTIN for the WWF title (Wrestlemania)

Technically the top two were equal, but since TLC was a gimmick match, I went with Rock/Austin as number one. Now based on what matches certain fans might tolerate from the other’s list, here’s how I think the full list might play out

The Mean

10-CHRIS BENOIT vs CHRIS JERICHO Ladder match for the WWF Intercontinental title (Royal Rumble)

9-STEVE AUSTIN, THE UNDERTAKER, KURT ANGLE, CHRIS JERICHO & KANE vs BOOKER T, DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE, THE DUDLEY BOYZ & RHYNO (InVasion)

8-STEVE AUSTIN vs KURT ANGLE (Summerslam)

7-TRIPLE H vs STEVE AUSTIN 2/3 Falls standard/Street fight/Cage match

6-THE ROYAL RUMBLE

5-STEVE AUSTIN vs KURT ANGLE (No Mercy)

4-STEVE AUSTIN & TRIPLE H vs CHRIS JERICHO & CHRIS BENOIT for the WWF Tag Team titles (RAW, 5/01)

3-THE ROCK vs CHRIS JERICHO for the WCW World title (No Mercy)

2-TLC II (Wrestlemania)

1-THE ROCK vs STEVE AUSTIN for the WWF title (Wrestlemania)

Sound about right?

Anyhow heh heh my own personal list

Ben’s List

10-THE GIMMICK BATTLE ROYAL

Great idea, do it every year!

9-SHANE HELMS vs SHANNON MOORE (Nitro, 1/01)

One of the few gems from the dying WCW was the man whom I still love and enjoy today as The Hurricane: the former Shane Helms. This match which kicked off the new year for the promotion was a bit spotty, but it was damn cool!

8-CHRIS BENOIT vs CHRIS JERICHO Ladder match for the WWF Intercontinental title (Royal Rumble)

7-STEVE AUSTIN, THE UNDERTAKER, KURT ANGLE, CHRIS JERICHO & KANE vs BOOKER T, DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE, THE DUDLEY BOYZ & RHYNO (InVasion)

Yeah pier-six!

6-TLC II (Wrestlemania)

5-THE ROCK vs CHRIS JERICHO for the WCW World title (Vengeance)

I earned so much respect for Y2J being able to go out and demonstrate such incredible stamina; and I always love The Rock’s intensity, but nobody brings it out better than Jericho.

4-STEVE AUSTIN & TRIPLE H vs CHRIS JERICHO & CHRIS BENOIT for the WWF Tag Team titles (RAW, 5/01)

3-THE ROYAL RUMBLE

2-JEFF HARDY vs ROB VAN DAM for the Hardcore title (InVasion)

The match that made wrestling fun for me again, and I can watch it over and over again.

1-STEVE AUSTIN vs KURT ANGLE for the WWF title (Summerslam)

Just the best technical match and sickest physical match I’ve seen in so long; it was an adrenaline rush just to watch.

Well, be on the look out for more of these lists than you can wave a club at the next couple weeks. Hopefully you enjoyed these, and hopefully you’ll have a Happy New Year!

In the mean time, thanks for reading