Scott’s Top Ten WWE Matches Of 2002

Scott’s Top Ten WWE Matches of 2002

By popular demand, and just for the fun of arguing this sort of thing because it only takes me about a half an hour to put these things together, here’s my list of the top 10 matches of 2002, complete with my review. All of these are from the WWE, because really that’s the only promotion I’ve had access to this year. Take these with as many grains of salt as necessary, unless you have high blood pressure.

The Contenders (everything **** and up for the year):

– Chris Jericho v. The Rock, Royal Rumble 2002 (****1/4)
– Edge v. Kurt Angle, Backlash 2002 (****1/4)
– Eddy Guerrero v. Rob Van Dam, Judgment Day 2002 (****1/4)
– HHH v. Shawn Michaels, Summerslam 2002 (****)
– Edge v. Eddy Guerrero, Unforgiven 2002 (****)
– Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit, Unforgiven 2002 (****1/2)
– Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle v. Rey Mysterio & Edge (****3/4)
– Eddy Guerrero v. Chris Benoit, Armageddon 2002 (****1/4)
– Edge v. Kurt Angle, Smackdown May 30/2002 (cage match, ****)
– Edge & Rock v. Chris Benoit & Eddy Guerrero, Smackdown August 1 2002 (****)
– Edge v. Eddy Guerrero, Smackdown September 26 2002 (****1/2)
– Edge v. Kurt Angle, Smackdown October 3 2002 (****1/4)
– Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle v. Los Guerreros, Smackdown October 17 2002 (****1/4)
– Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit v. Rey Mysterio & Edge, Smackdown November 7 2002 (2/3 falls, ****1/2)
– Chris Benoit v. Eddy Guerrero v. Kurt Angle v. Edge, Smackdown December 5 2002 (****1/2)
– Los Guerreros v. Edge & Kidman, Smackdown December 26 2002 (****1/4)
– Steve Austin v. Kurt Angle, RAW January 28 2002 (****)
– Eddy Guerrero v. Rob Van Dam, RAW May 27 2002 (****1/2)
– Rob Van Dam v. Chris Benoit, RAW July 29 2002 (****)

If this year showed anything, it’s that Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit both rule, Edge was carried to the matches of a lifetime by various people, and Eddy Guerrero is the greatest midcard wrestler ever. Smackdown’s in-ring superiority over RAW was pretty clear by the end of the year, too.

And the winners are

10. From Armageddon, Benoit & Guerrero have a rare scientific classic to determine a #1 contender. The winner was never really in doubt and they did a lousy job with Benoit’s face turn so that the crowd didn’t care, but I LOVE THEM and that’s what matters.

– Eddie Guerrero v. Chris Benoit. This being built up as a match to determine a #1 contender, more or less. Eddie tries a takedown to start, but Benoit grabs the arm and brings it to the mat. Eddie reverses to a legbar. Into the corner, and Eddy chops away as Cole talks about one of his favorite meaningless topics, “personal issues”. Eddie overpowers him, but walks into a backdrop and Benoit chinlocks him. Guerrero uses a sweet judo throw to escape, and goes to a short-arm scissors. There is of course only one acceptable counter to that move in the WWE – the Bob Backlund “lift the guy onto your shoulders and drop him to the mat” counter – and this match is no exception to that rule. Even Tazz notes that. Benoit gets two and starts unloading the Canadian Physical Intensity, but so does Eddie. He quickly goes to a headscissors, but Benoit reverses him into a leglock and stomps away. Faceplant and Benoit charges, but gets dumped as a result. Eddie follows him out with a bodypress, looking to have hurt his knee on the fall. Back in, Eddie works on the knee, but Benoit kicks him in the head, which backfires as Eddie rolls him through into a kneebar. That’s some pretty sweet matwork. Eddie goes for the Lasso, but Benoit makes the ropes. Eddie stomps him down again, and goes into an inverted Indian Deathlock to keep working the leg in preparation for the Lasso. That gets two. He keeps kicking the leg to keep Benoit down, and then gets into a war of chops before opting to elbow him down instead. Wise choice. Corner splash, but Benoit goes for the crossface to fake Eddie out, and then hits the rolling germans instead. It’s a FIVE-suplexer, so you know Chris is pissed off. Benoit unloads the SNOT ROCKET OF DEATH and heads up, but Eddie foils his plan by getting up, so Benoit is like “Fuck this” and heads down to deliver another pair of suplexes instead of trying a dive. Eddie reverses a powerbomb and gets his OWN rolling germans, because Eddie indeed rules almost as much as Benoit. Vertical suplex and Eddie goes up for the frog splash, which gets two. They tumble out, and Eddie heads back in first and distracts the ref, allowing Chavo to make an appearance and put Benoit down with a beltshot. And why is there no Chavo match on this show, while I’m thinking of it? Back in, Eddie gets two. Benoit escapes a suplex, but Eddie slickly takes him down with a toehold, into the Lasso From El Paso. Benoit makes the ropes. Eddie goes back to the leg again, but Benoit chops him down with MUSTARD on it. He then gives him a powerbomb so awesome that anyone else in the promotion should be ashamed of using the move after him. Chavo tries to interfere, but gets dumped to the floor again, and Eddie chases Benoit up the ropes, only to get dumped off and hit with the flying headbutt. He takes advantage of Benoit’s shaken state, however, and rolls through into the Lasso instead. Benoit then reverses that into the crossface, but Eddie tries for the ropes. Benoit , being awesome, then switches sides to cut off the arm Eddie is using to reach. Eddie tries to roll through, but Benoit holds onto the move and gets the submission at 16:48. Now that is some Quality Professional Wrestling. ****1/4 Crowd wasn’t really into it, but f*ck them.

9. More goodness with Benoit & Guerrero, as they meet in the semi-finals of the tag team title tournament on October 17, leading to another match higher up my list. Not as long as some of the other contenders in this list, but a super-hot tag match that set the stage for more to come.

– Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit v. Eddy & Chavo Guerrero. Edge & Mysterio storm the ring and beat the hell out of the Guerreros AND God’s Team. We take a break and return with Eddy stomping on Angle, who comes back and hiptosses both Guerreros. Clothesline gets two. Suplex gets two. Benoit comes in and hammers Eddy, and gets an elbow for two. Backbreaker gets two. Angle comes back in, but walks into an elbow and gets stomped by Chavo. Lariat gets two. Benoit comes back in and gives Chavo a knee to the gut, and a nasty backdrop suplex for two. Clothesline gets two. Chavo gets his own backdrop suplex and hits the chinlock, and Eddy comes in for the beatdown. Benoit catches the crossface out of nowhere, but Eddy makes the ropes. Chavo comes back in and they exchange chops (the NERVE!), as Chavo goes back to the chinlock. The crowd seems to be torn between Benoit and Angle here. Benoit escapes the chinlock, but Eddy CHEATS TO WIN with a cheapshot, and Chavo gets two. Slingshot splash from Eddy and the Guerreros distract Angle long enough to inflict some damage on Benoit. Benoit charges and hits Chavo’s elbow, but lets him go up before hitting a superplex and making the hot tag to Angle. Monster german for Chavo, but things break down and it’s BONZO GONZO, as Benoit hits EVEN PHATTER germans on Eddy AND Chavo, and then the flying headbutt on Eddy for two. Chavo hits Angle with the brainbuster and disposes of Benoit, as Eddy gets two and heads up. He blocks the Pop-Up Superplex and hits the frog splash for two. Benoit saves with the crossface, but everyone ends up on the floor and Eddy clips Angle and hooks the El Paso Lasso. Angle reverses it to the anklelock, and Benoit prevents any chair-using by Chavo. Benoit suckers Chavo into thinking he’s on their side, and then nails him with the chair, Angle Slam, SIONARA at 10:34. AWESOME match. ****1/4

8. A forgotten near-classic from Royal Rumble of 2002 saw the Rock (in his only appearance in this list) trying everything humanly possible to turn Chris Jericho into the next superstar heel for the promotion. HHH and Steve Austin undid it all two months later.

– WWF title match: Chris Jericho v. The Rock. Jericho does some trashtalking, so Rock kicks his ass to start. Samoan drop gets two. Jericho beats a hasty retreat, and runs right into a Rock spear and ground’n’pound routine. Jericho hits the forearm and a clothesline, but charges and hits the post. Rock walks into a hotshot and Jericho kicks away and adds some CANADIAN VIOLENCE, but gets elbowed. Jericho leg lariat gets two. Suplex and the ARROGANT COVER get two. You know, he really needs to do the full spiel because he could get it over huge. Those who watched him in WCW will know what I mean. Jericho removes the turnbuckle (just in case a spare one is needed later) but Rock attacks. Jericho takes him down and tries the Walls, but gets reversed out of it. Jericho clotheslines him and pounds away, however. Jericho goes up, missile dropkick gets two. He hits the chinlock, but Rock fights free. Jericho back up top, but the Rock crotches him and chops him on top. Superplex puts both guys down. Rock comes back with the belly-to-belly for two, but Jericho bulldogs him and hits a pair of Lionsaults. ROCK IS DEAD! Oh, wait, it only gets two. Well, he’s lucky that Jericho wasn’t REALLY trying that time. Jericho argues the blatantly anti-Canadian bias issue with Earl Hebner, but gets caught in a Scorpion King Deathlock as a result. Lance Storm & Christian run in to protest Rock’s obvious use of the tights (and possibly a foreign object) while Jericho bangs on the mat to alert Hebner to the illegal submission move being used. Is there no impartial refereeing to be found? Rock, caught in his web of deceit, tries to cover up by tossing Storm & Christian out of the ring, but walks into the Jericho Bottom (a move invented by Jericho and stolen by Rock, mind you) for two. Senton sets up the Canadian People’s Elbow, but Rock kips up and tosses Jericho in dramatic fashion. Rock preps the tables, and Rock Bottoms him from one table to the other. Back in, Jericho is in trouble, but Rock only gets two. Rock Bottom is blocked and Jericho gets the Walls of Jericho, but Rock makes the ropes. I’m pretty sure he was yelling “I quit!” but that bastard Hebner ignored it. What terrible refereeing. Back to the Walls, but Rock reverses for two. Ref is bumped (good riddance), so Jericho proudly shows off his belt, and Rock’s head accidentally runs into it and knocks him out. What a klutz. Finally, some good refereeing, as Nick Patrick comes in to count two. Rock DDTs Jericho, but Patrick’s Numberic Referitis is acting up again and he can’t remember what comes after “1”. Instead of dealing with the very real and very serious condition with an open mind, Rock resorts to violence and takes out Patrick. I’m shocked and appalled. People’s Elbow, but since Rock chose violence over compassion, there’s no ref. Jericho hits Rock low, rams him into the exposed turnbuckle, and then rolls him up with his feet on the ropes for the pin at 18:41. See, a good clean, scientific win by Jericho. ****1/4 Most promisingly, whereas before the crowd would be shocked to see Jericho going over a top guy, now they’re just like “Dang, Jethro, the bad guy won”, not “Dang, Jethro, the little guy won.” Big difference.

7. Edge had his “coming out” party at Backlash in April, going from decent midcard singles wrestler into a legitimate cool dude who could hang with the big dogs. Unfortunately, his push had been stalled again due to the glass-you-know-what by the end of the year, but the potential was now there for greatness, and he may yet fulfill it in 2003.

– Edge v. Kurt Angle. I’m disheartened that Angle has ditched the Mirror Universe tights. Even worse, he now has goofy white boots with his name written on them. I believe that history has dictated that there haven’t been many significant figures in the annals of wrestling who have their name written on their boots – initials are generally fine, but actually writing the name in black letters on white boots is a bit of a wrestling fashion faux pas. Angle grabs a headlock and overpowers Edge, but gets slugged down. Edge runs into an elbow, but gets a dropkick. Flapjack and he dumps Angle with a clothesline. They brawl for a bit and head back in, where Angle catches him coming in with an Olympic foot to the face. Edge retorts with a leg lariat, but gets dropped on his head with a german suplex. Crowd doesn’t appreciate that as much as they should. Angle stomps a mudhole and chops away, but Edge returns fire. He walks into an overhead belly-to-belly, however, for two. He keeps slugging Edge down, but Edge fights back, only to get suplexed for two. Angle hits the chinlock as the announcers mock Brian Hebner’s hairstyle. Edge breaks free, but again walks into the german suplex. He retaliates with an overhead belly-to-belly of his own, however. Ooo, how Japanese – using Angle’s own strategy against him. They slug it out and Edge gets a forearm and backdrop to come back. Impaler gets two. Bulldog gets two. Whatever happened to Edge’s version of the Sharpshooter, anyway? That’s always a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Edge goes up, but Angle remains awesome and runs up for a superplex that gets two. I love that move. Anglelock is blocked by Edge, so he keeps slugging away. Edge figures out how to block the german suplex, but Angle counters his counter and finishes the move, taking it to the rolling germans to make doubly sure. It only gets two. That’s actually an awesome sequence, showing continuity within the match and psychology. Angle gets prepped, but Edge gets his own suplex for the double KO. Edge dumps Angle to buy time, and then he heads out after him with a bodypress off the top. That puts both guys down, however. Back in, Edge goes up again, and a missile dropkick gets two. Now Edge is prepped for the kill, as the KICK WHAM IMPALER is reversed to the Angle Slam, for two. Angle goes all Memphis and pulls down the strap, wrenching in the Anglelock, but Edge reverses to a rollup for two. Angle lariats him down like it’s a WWF THQ game or something, and heads out for a chair. He hits himself in the face on the rebound of a missed shot, however, and Edge gets two. And he’s still selling the ankle injury. Kudos. Spear is blocked with a kick to the face, and the Angle Slam ends it at 13:23. Easily Edge’s best match ever. ****1/4 Definitely worth renting the tape to check this one out. Another month of matches with Angle can do nothing but good for Edge’s future career.

6. Already forgotten due to the weekly nature of the show, but still a great match, Benoit, Angle, Guerrero and Edge had a four-way match to determine who faced (and in fact beat) Big Show at Armageddon. In fact, Meltzer later revealed that the booking of the match was all messed up due to squabbling by the writers, but booking strangeness aside it was still quality stuff. The booking may suck, but good wrestling triumphs.

– Fatal Four-Way: Chris Benoit v. Eddy Guerrero v. Kurt Angle v. Edge. Edge is absent to begin, due to the attack, but returns with a limp just before the match can start. Winner here gets to job to Big Show in 10 days. Yeah, this isn’t WCW at all. We come back from a commercial with the match already in progress, and Eddy pounding on Edge. Edge comes back with a backdrop on all three guys, but Eddy clips him for two. Benoit & Angle work over Edge’s knee, which allows Eddy to roll up Angle for two. Angle charges Eddy and gets dumped, and Benoit dumps Eddy in turn and goes back to Edge. Edge comes back with a faceplant for two. Eddy makes his way back in and goes after Edge again, tossing him, and suplexes Benoit into Edge’s lap. Angle attacks Eddy and gets a snap suplex for two. Eddy hammers back and gets his own suplex for two. Angle gets the overhead suplex, but Eddy counters the Angle Slam with an armdrag and a backdrop suplex. To the top for the frog splash, which gets two. Benoit hits Eddy with a german suplex and heads up for the flying headbutt, which gets two. Edge DDTs Benoit for two. Angle charges in at Edge, but gets dumped, leaving Benoit and Guerrero. Benoit gives him the rolling germans, and Edge runs Eddy over with a spear, which allows Benoit to lock in the crossface for the submission at 5:29. Angle hits Benoit with the germans, but Edge nails him with a missile dropkick for two. Benoit smartly clips Edge again, but Angle takes him down in turn and goes back to Edge. Angle Slam is countered with the Edge-O-Matic for two, but Benoit pulls Edge into the crossface, and Angle pulls Benoit into the anklelock. Ref gets bumped, allowing Eddy to sneak in and clock Benoit with the belt. Spear finishes Benoit at 7:12. So much for the lifelong dream. Angle puts Edge into the anklelock, right in the center. Edge makes the ropes, but Angle pulls him out and introduces him to the stairs as we take another commercial break. We return with Angle hammering away on Edge and a short-arm clothesline that gets two. Edge is busted open, and another suplex gets two. Angle chokes away, but Edge fights back and gets suplexed again. Angle grabs a Main Event Sleeper, but Edge fights out and gets his own overhead suplex. He fires away and gets a clothesline and backdrop to come back, and an Edge-O-Matic gets two. Angle retaliates with the rolling germans, but Edge counters with a rollup for two. Spear gets two. They reverse the finishing moves until Edge gets the DDT for two. Edge goes to the top, slowly, and fights off the Pop-Up Superplex, getting a missile dropkick for two. Angle blocks the spear with a kick to the face, and the KICK WHAM ANGLE SLAM gets two. Anklelock in the middle, but Edge counters for two. Another try at it, and Edge can’t shake him loose until finally getting an enzuigiri. He gets an Angle Slam on Angle for two. Back to the top, but this time Angle gets the Pop-Up Angle Slam for the pin at 23:15. Big Show lays him out with a chokeslam right after. This was tremendous, but I feel like I’ve seen it a million times already and Show immediately killing Angle after the win was pretty depressing. ****1/2

5. The first sign of overkill amongst the Smackdown Six saw a rematch from No Mercy where Edge & Mysterio won the tag titles from Benoit & Angle in a rare 2/3 falls match that was almost as good. The follow-the-bouncing-titles booking eventually saw the belts end up on Los Guerreros, which is where they probably should have been to start, but you could argue that Rey & Edge deserved a title reign, too. In fact, given the dearth of face teams at the moment, you could argue that they deserve another one.

– WWE tag title match, 2/3 Falls: Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit v. Edge & Rey Mysterio. Angle takes Rey down to start, but Rey grabs a headlock and runs away, while Benoit acts embarrassed for Angle. Angle decides to give Rey another free shot at him, and then lays him out. Rey pops up and hits a flying headscissors, and brings Edge in. So Angle decides to let Benoit have the honors. Edge keeps him at bay with armdrags and lays in the chops before going to the headlock. Benoit lures him into the heel corner and nails him from behind to set up a backdrop suplex. Angle stomps him down and gets a suplex for two. Benoit shows Edge the REAL way you chop, but charges and hits elbow. Edge escapes the german suplex and reverses to an implant DDT, which allows Rey to come in with a legdrop for two. He sends Benoit into the turnbuckles and the faces set up the alley-oop rana on Benoit, which gets two. Thought that would be a fall. Edge dumps Angle and goes after Benoit again, as a double-team powerbomb win the first fall at 5:57. Angle immediately lays out Rey, and gets a belly-to-belly for two. No commercial breaks in between falls, I guess. Backdrop suplex gets two. The champs work Rey over and Benoit hits him with an exploding gutbuster. Benoit works the ribs and heads up for another gutbuster, but Rey reverses to a bulldog off the top. Both guys are down, and tags abound. Backdrop for Angle, and Benoit gets tossed. Edge gets an overhead suplex and goes for the spear, but runs into Benoit’s half of the tag titles and Angle finishes with the anklelock at 9:22. Man, Edge should be more careful. Angle & Benoit argue as we take a commercial break. We return with Angle stomping the hell out of Rey, and tossing him. Back in, Rey comes back with a heel kick and makes the tag to Edge, who returns the mudhole stomping on Angle, but walks into an overhead suplex. Benoit backdrops him and gets a backbreaker for two. Into a half-crab, and Angle keeps up the punishment. Lariat gets two. Weird thing: According to a recent Observer, JR was in Cole’s ear during a Mysterio match telling him not to call him “Rey Rey”, which makes no sense to me. I mean, talk about a perfect chant for the fans. Anyway, Edge tries to go up, but gets suplexed off again by Benoit. Hot tag to Rey Rey, and he gets a dropkick on Angle and the broncobuster after a missed charge. However, that leaves him open for a german suplex by Benoit. Ah, tag team strategy. Benoit & Angle collide, however, and it’s 619 time for Angle, but he ducks. Rey bounces all over the place and uses a victory roll for the pin at 19:36, but Angle was in the ropes and they protest the decision. We take a commercial break while the ref hears arguments. So we return, and the MATCH MUST CONTINUE. Rey dropkicks both guys to start us off again, but Benoit sends him into the corner and hits him with another backdrop suplex. Snap suplex gets two. Angle & Benoit work over Rey’s knee. People are right – Benoit’s left arm is getting smaller, and that’s a really bad sign. That’s the same sign of nerve damage that led to the retirements of Arn Anderson and Paul Orndorff. For those wondering why the crossface has been looking so sloppy lately, there you go. Benoit dropkicks him in the face and chops him down, and Angle gets two. Angle clamps on a facelock, but Rey fights out and gets a DDT variation of the Rube Goldberg bulldog. Hot tag Edge, and he goes up with a flying lariat on Angle and a faceplant on Benoit. Benoit gets dumped and the Edge-O-Matic gets two on Angle. Anklelock ends that rally, but Edge counters out of it, and Rey gets a 619 from THE FLOOR, using the ringpost as a fulcrum. Unf*ckingbelievable. Benoit misses the flying headbutt, and Edge spears Angle for the pin and the titles at 24:16 (about 33:00 with commercials). Great match, although the fourth fall felt like they were a bit burned out. ****1/2 Time to retire this feud, though.

4. One of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen live saw RVD regain the IC title from Eddy Guerrero in a ladder match here in Edmonton. Notable both for the spots as much as an idiot running into the ring, the tragedy here is that mere months later the title itself was retired by HHH as a way to add heat to a feud with Kane that was dying a miserable death. Another reason to love HHH. The intention for this match was to make Eddy into a superstar, but Austin’s departure left him as another midcarder in a promotion full of them.

– Intercontinental title, Ladder match: Eddy Guerrero v. Rob Van Dam. Slugfest to start, and Rob gets a heel kick and Eddy bails. Rob misses a pescado on the way out, but sends Eddy to the post. Suplex on the railing sets up the guillotine, but Eddy sends him facefirst into the ladder and pounds away. Suplex and Eddy drops the ladder on him, thus breaking the supports already. Back in they go and slug it out again, and Eddy gets a vicious elbow. Eddy feeds off the crowd’s booing and pounds Rob down, and posts him, which is of course smart psychology for a ladder match, because that way he can’t climb. Even Lawler picks up on that. I guess Raven made an impression on him. Eddy pounds the knee with a chair, and back in he stomps away on it. Backdrop suplex counters an RVD headlock attempt, and he works RVD in the corner. Rob comes back with a monkey flip, but Eddy gives him an MDK Powerbomb and finds the emergency backup ladder under the ring. Rob baseball slides it, and follows with a quebrada onto the ladder, which pretty much takes both guys out. Benoit joins us via the crowd, with a ticket of course, and we take a commercial break. We return with Eddy ramming the ladder into RVD’s face on the floor, and back in Eddy makes a climb attempt. Rob missile dropkicks the ladder to stop that. That bump looked so nasty live, and on TV for that matter. Rob comes back as we try to start an “Eddy G” chant, but everyone else was into an “RVD” one. Rob gets Rolling Thunder on the ladder, which again looked brutal. Roy and I are valiently cheering Eddy on, though. Rob climbs, but Eddy knocks him off by smashing his face into the ladder and then hitting a sunset powerbomb off the ladder to kill Rob dead. Eddy heads up the ladder, and here’s where the dumbass fan runs in and knocks him off. We actually thought it was Steve Austin for a moment, then we realized it was just a drunken idiot. The match continues regardless, as Eddy goes back up the ladder and hits RVD with a swanton bomb from the ladder. Good god Eddy is a maniac. Eddy grabs a chair and gives Rob what for, but Rob gives him some right back and stomps a mudhole, then walks it dry by dropkicking the chair into his face. That’s one dry mudhole. Legdrop and moonsault on the ladder. SICK SHIT. Rob climbs, but Eddy yanks him down and suplexes him into the ladder, which nearly destroys another one. Ladder goes into the corner, but the fickle hand of irony sends Eddy crashing into it, and then Rob monkey-flips him into it for good measure. Looked like Eddy was about 2 inches away from breaking his ankle on that bump. Another Rolling Thunder on the ladder and superkick puts Eddy in the corner, and Rob climbs again. Eddy prevents that with a dropkick to the knee, but when he grabs the chair, it’s Van Damination. Rob climbs in the corner, but the ladder slips and he can’t frog splash him off the ladder. Earl Hebner should have helped steady the ladder there. Eddy goes up and gets dumped to cover for the blown finish previous, and Rob climbs to regain the IC title at 18:13. Messed-up finish hurt it a bit, but otherwise this was Match of the Year quality all the way, complete with sick spots and hard work on both sides of the equation. Eddy looked like a million bucks here, and hopefully he can maintain this level. ****1/2

3. A great match that unfortunately resulted in a pissed-off Edge taking me to task because I thought the initial portion of the match was pointless, thus ending our e-mail conversations. Well, you win some, you lose some. Again, the point here was to make Eddy into a superstar, and again they dropped the ball in subsequent weeks and left him floundering. Maybe next year. It remains, however, one of the greatest matches ever to air on free TV, even if Edge’s less-than-inspired feud with A-Train exposed him as a weaker worker in the long run.

– No-DQ: Edge v. Eddy Guerrero. Eddy hammers away in the corner to start and stomps him down. Criss-cross and Eddy goes down via monkey-flip as Edge goes to work on the arm. Eddy works him over in the corner to escape, and necksnaps him for two. Edge comes back with a backdrop and dropkick, and an elbow gets two. He goes back to the arm, but gets hit with an enzuigiri to give Eddy the advantage again. Vertical suplex gets two. We hit the chinlock, but Edge powerslams him, allowing Tazz to work in his “pop the hips” catchphrase. To the top, but he gets superplexed for two. Eddy beats him down again, but gets hotshotted trying a rana. Edge dumps him and they head out, where Edge finds a ladder, but ramrods the referee by mistake. Eddy counters by hitting Edge with a chair, and they head back in with the chair in tow. Eddy nails the ribs with the chair and goes up, but misses the frog splash. Not that it matters, what with the ref being legally dead and all. And we take a break. We return with a new referee as Eddy grabs a sleeper, which gives us a change to recap the action during the break. Edge faceplants Eddy for two. He goes up, but Eddy hits him with a rana for two. Another one is reversed to a powerbomb by Edge, and both guys are out. Edge grabs his trusty ladder, but gets it dropkicked back in his face. Eddy gets another ladder, perhaps an EVIL ladder, and drops Edge onto it, then puts another one on top and slingshots onto the ladders, with Edge in between. That one puts Eddy into the crowd’s good side. He gets two, although technically Edge wasn’t pinned because he was still on the ladder. Eddy sets up the ladder and heads up there, but Edge follows him up. Eddy hits the MURDERDEATHKILL powerbomb off the top of the ladder, which REALLY impresses the crowd. It gets two. That’s criminal. He puts Edge against the ladder in the corner, but charges and gets backdropped into it. How can Eddy take those bumps without dying? Edge makes the comeback by setting up his own ladder and climbing, but Eddy stops him and follows him up. Edge returns fire and hits the Implant DDT from the top of the ladder, and that finishes at 20:00. Well, I should hope so. I can’t really call it a MOTY candidate or anything because the first 10 minutes were pretty pointless with a lot of laying around, and 3 minutes was hacked out due to a commercial break, but the stuff after the break was just awesome. Probably the best TV match of the year, and I can easily see it winning Match of the Year, even though I’d still vote for Benoit-Angle over it. ****1/2

2. A true mat classic in every sense of the word, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle started a months-long feud with this match and delivered a jaw-droppingly great exhibition of WRESTLING in the purest sense. In fact, no punches were thrown in this match to my recollection. The only thing better than Angle & Benoit wrestling each other is them teaming with each other

– Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit. Let’s see if it holds up another time. Long lockup to start, and they carry it right out of the ring and back in. Angle takes him down and they do some actual mat-wrestling, jockeying for submissions, and Angle decides to go for the ropes. Angle shoots for the takedown and rides Benoit on the mat, but can’t get the anklelock before Benoit makes the ropes. Angle goes for the arm with a hammerlock and they turn it into ANOTHER mat-wrestling sequence before Angle goes to the headlock and it leads to a pinfall reversal sequence and the crossface by Benoit. Awesome. Angle makes the ropes and bails, and the crowd shows love for the match. Back in, Angle goes the cheap route and dumps Benoit, and pounds away on the floor. Back in, backbreaker gets two. Security throws a guy out, so Angle goes to a bodyscissors while the crowd gets it out of their system. Benoit breaks, but walks into a kneelift and goes down again. Angle pounds away in the corner, but misses a charge and Benoit is more than happy to give him a free ride to the other post. Backdrop suplex gets two. Benoit short-arms him as Cole & Tazz actually get a nice patter going (“Chris Benoit has like 0% body fat”, Cole notes. “I used to have that.” Tazz replies. “What, when you were two?” BURN!) . Benoit blocks a suplex, but Angle overpowers him and gets it anyway. Benoit snaps off the rolling germans out of nowhere, but Angle reverses and gets his own pair of suplexes, which Benoit reverses AGAIN and gets another one, which Angle reverses and gets another pair before finishing with a third and getting a nice round of applause. KICK WHAM ANGLE SLAM is countered by an insane german suplex by Benoit, and he goes up. Angle hits him with the Pop-Up Superplex for two (nice bit of goldbricking from Kurt). Benoit rolls him up for two. Angle takes him down into the anklelock, but Benoit kicks out of it, and they do a tombstone reversal sequence, which Benoit turns into a shoulderbreaker. Nice. He heads up (nice to see he’s not doing anything stupid like taking unneeded neck bumps sigh ) and hits the flying headbutt for two. Crossface in the middle and the crowd is INTO it. Angle then grabs an anklelock, while IN THE CROSSFACE, and they go into an awesome submission reversal sequence that I’ve never seen done before. Angle ends up with the anklelock, but Benoit makes the ropes, so Angle puts him in an Angle crossface! Benoit goes for the ropes, so Angle uses his foot to push the ropes away (an extra ½* right there), and they do a rollup reversal that ends with Benoit on top, using the ropes for the pin at 13:55. This was CLEARLY the WWE match of the year. Just filled with cool mat-wrestling and submission stuff you don’t ever see out of anyone else. ****1/2

And finally

1. As if there was any doubt, the finals of the Smackdown tag team title tournament saw Benoit & Angle forging a legend for themselves as one of the great tag teams only weeks into their formation as a team, and Edge & Mysterio keeping up every step of the way. The result is one of the greatest tag team matches I’ve ever seen, almost flawless in every way except for a slow start, comparable only to the great Midnight Express matches of the 80s. Truly a must-see match on a less-than-thrilling PPV overall and the highlight of 2002 as far as in-ring work in the WWE went.

– WWE tag title finals: Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle v. Rey Mysterio & Edge. Angle starts with Edge and dominates on the mat, then tosses him into the corner like a lawn dart. Rey won’t give him the satisfaction of tagging out, however. That’s a cool bit of storytelling. Angle goes back to it, but Rey stomps on his foot to break a go-behind, and gets a seated dropkick and a flying headscissors. He takes a powder while Angle fumes. Now Angle gets Edge, and they take it to the mat. Edge hiptosses him and dropkicks him, and Angle is still frustrated. Benoit gets his shot at Edge, and they go to the mat and trade armbars. Good stuff. Benoit works a headlock, but runs into a knee and takes a gutbuster for two. Backbreaker gets two. Edge works him in the corner, but gets chopped WITH AUTHORITY. Edge flapjacks him to stop that, and an Oklahoma roll gets two. Angle knees him in the back to turn the tide, but Edge spears him off the apron to retaliate. Rollup on Benoit gets two, but Angle gets the last laugh with a necksnap that allows Benoit to clothesline Edge for two. Dig that crazy teamwork! They work him over in the corner and Kurt makes with the choking, but Edge fights back. Kneelift gets two for Angle. Angle grabs a chinlock/bodyscissors combo to keep Edge grounded, and then a belly-to-belly. Back in the heel corner, Benoit comes in and unloads the CANADIAN VIOLENCE, and wears him out with knees to the gut. Rolling germans and Benoit stops to send Mysterio flying before heading up. Edge blocks and follows him up with a superplex, and tags abound. Rey is on fire with a headscissors on Benoit to set up a seated dropkick in the corner, and a dropkick that sends Angle out. He guillotines Benoit between the ropes, for two. Edge and Angle slug it out and hit the floor, and Benoit blocks the Rube Goldberg Bulldog and slaps on the crossface. AWESOME. Edge saves that, but Angle sends him out again. Benoit gets sent into the ropes, but the 619 is blocked by Benoit ala Smackdown, but Edge reverses THAT with a missile dropkick for two. Wild! Rey heads up but falls victim to the Pop-Up Superplex, and Benoit gets two. We go back to standard tag format again, as God’s Team works Rey over in the corner and Rey is YOUR midget-in-peril. See, that’s extended Rock N Roll Express formula, as there’s one hot tag 15:00 in, and then you switch off the face-in-peril role and do the other half of the match. Backbreaker gets two for Angle. They do a double-reversal of a suplex, but Angle gets an overhead suplex for two. Benoit gets the proverbial backdrop with icicles on it for two. Backdrop suplex gets two. More Canadian Violence (also with icicles on it, because Canada is so cold this time of year), but he charges and hits boot. Rey uses a headscissors to send him into the turnbuckles, and it’s hot tag to Edge. Backdrop for Angle, faceplant for Benoit, Edge-o-Matic for Angle, and it’s the old Chinese Fire Drill. That actually sounds like a finisher in Japan. Edge spears Benoit in the corner to set up a Broncobuster from Rey Rey, and Edge puts Angle on top and alley-oops Rey into a top rope rana. That is so awesome it should debut on Billboard’s “Things That Are Awesome” chart at #1, and the Modern Rock chart at #3. Spear gets two. Angle hits him with a german and Benoit goes for the crossface, but Edge makes the ropes. Rey breaks that up with the 619, but gets hit with the Angle Slam, and that leaves Edge and Angle. Anklelock is reversed to a rollup for two. Spear gets two. Either of those could have been the finish. Edge tosses Rey onto Benoit from a powerbomb position, but walks into the Anklelock. He can’t make the ropes, so he reverses to his own, but you’re playing with fire doing Angle’s move, so Angle reverses for the submission at 22:03 and that, ladies and germs, is YOUR Match of the Year. Hands down. ****3/4 Big ups to everyone involved.

And with that out of the way, I’ll see you again next year for the Top Ten WWE Matches of 2003!