Hello there! I’m back again with another match list, as this time out we’re taking a look at my Top 10 Favourite Matches of 2000. 2000 was a year dominated by one man and one man alone in the form of Paul “Triple H” Levesque, as he started the year in a great match and then was part of another great match to close it, with many other classics nestled in-between. That’s not to say 2000 was all about The Game, as there are a couple of ECW matches here as well as one from WCW, but he ended up featuring in 60% of the matches listed here, which is one heck of a return.
Little Guido and Tony Mamaluke Vs Mikey Whipwreck and Yoshihiro Tajiri – New York City, New York (25th August 2000)
These two teams had back to back great matches on the 25th and 26th of August at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, with the first one on the 25th being my pick of the two. Mamaluke in particular is fantastic in this bout, as he takes some incredible bumps and tumbles all over the place in an effort to make the attacks of Mikey and Tajiri look as punishing as possible. The crowd really adds to things as well, as they are hugely into the bout and their excitement gives the contest an electric atmosphere. This isn’t an especially long match, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a high octane thrill ride filled with hard hitting offence and wild double team moves, and required viewing if you haven’t seen it before.
Scott Steiner Vs Bill Goldberg – Buffalo, New York (17th September 2000)
Steiner was on a roll in 2000, with his Big Poppa Pump character really connecting with WCW’s dwindling audience and his psychotic suplex antics leading to some very believable looking matches. Goldberg made the perfect foil for Steiner due to his size, athletic ability and legitimacy. Few men were big enough and strong enough that they could believably oppose the musclebound Steiner in the fan’s eyes, but Goldberg met the required criteria and the two men had good chemistry in the ring with one another.
What makes this match such a spectacle is that both men throw one another around with alarming ease, which isn’t something you saw happen to either man that much during this time frame. The crowd really gets into the action and the match successfully presents the “big match feel” that pro wrestling so often strives to attain. WCW was on its last legs in 2000 and was sadly out of business by the time 2001 rolled around, so we never got to see a proper pay per view follow-up to this fantastic bout, but this contest certainly left everyone wanting more, especially as Steiner managed to pick up the win, leaving more on the table for the heroic Goldberg to come back and get his revenge.
Triple H Vs Chris Jericho – Dallas, Texas (23rd July 2000)
We hit our first Triple H match of the list, as he does battle with Chris Jericho at the Fully Loaded pay per view event in a Last Man Standing match. The concept of a Last Man Standing match is pretty simple; you knock your opponent down and if they can’t get back up by a count of 10 then you win. You can keep them down via whatever means you please as the match has no disqualifications or count outs, leaving you free to bash them with weaponry or fling them through ringside furniture to your hearts content. This fit Chris Jericho’s plucky underdog good guy character of the time pretty well, especially as he entered the match with injured ribs, thus giving him an even bigger mountain to climb.
Chris Jericho found himself in a feud with Triple H as a result of constantly insulting Triple H’s wife Stephanie. Triple H of course came to his wife’s defence, even though the fans enjoyed Jericho putting the snotty cow in her place, and it led to some great matches between the two. Triple H and Jericho did not get on in real life at the time of this feud, but that didn’t affect their efforts inside the ring. Both Triple H and Jericho were professional enough to put any personal conflict they might have to one side when it came to entering the ring, and it led to classic contests like this. Triple H is excellent as the overbearing bully whilst Jericho is equally great as the gutsy fighter who won’t give up, with both men coming out of the bout stronger than when they came in as a result.
Chris Benoit Vs Triple H – Albany, New York (22nd October 2000)
Whereas the match with Jericho was mostly an intense brawl, Triple H’s battle with Chris Benoit at the No Mercy pay per view event was no less intense, but it was instead built around both men working holds on the mat in a technical wrestling contest. The build-up for the bout featured a clever story point where Benoit would constantly trap Triple H in his punishing Crippler Crossface submission hold, with Triple H never quite being able to get out of it. Thus the match all builds to whether Triple H will be able to survive and even possibly escape the hold should Benoit be able to apply it during the course of the bout.
Triple H had a brief spell in 2000 where he started wrestling as a good guy, so he spends a decent amount of time in this match on the defensive, and he does an excellent job in that regard, especially when it comes to selling Benoit’s precise and vicious attacks. Benoit always brought great intensity to his wrestling and his matches often had an air of legitimacy to them. You could believe that Benoit was actually trying to out-wrestle his opponents. Being that Triple H dedicated himself to the old school elements of professional wrestling and modelled himself on the likes of Harley Race and Ric Flair, his style meshed well with Benoit and it led to them regularly having great matches together. This bout is no exception to that.
Triple H Vs Rikishi Vs Kurt Angle Vs The Undertaker Vs The Rock Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin – Birmingham, Alabama (10th December 2000)
This match saw six of the top stars in the company all getting put into the dreaded Hell in a Cell cage at the Armageddon pay per view event, with only one of them being able to leave the cage as the WWF Champion. Kurt Angle entered the bout as the current Champion and spent most of the match getting clobbered by all of the other competitors, which was usually what happened when he defended the belt during his first reign. The Hell in a Cell cage was bigger than the average cage, but there still wasn’t a tonne of room in there, so that led to the WWF getting creative so that things didn’t get too cramped in there.
Vince McMahon was against the match happening in storyline, so at a crucial stage of the match he comes down in a truck with designs of tearing the cage down whilst the match is still in progress. Vince ends up failing in his goal, but he does succeed in removing the door as well as leaving the truck behind him when he and his stooges are dragged away by security. With the door removed from the cage, all six men are able to wander out and start fighting all over the arena, including in the entrance area where a number of cars and oil drums can be found. The move the match is perhaps mostly known for is when Rikishi and Undertaker climb up to the top of the cage and Undertaker flings Rikishi off the roof onto the truck that was left behind by Vince.
Thankfully for Rikishi there is a crash mat hidden under some hay on the truck that breaks his fall, but it’s still an impressive stunt for a man his size to take and it adds to the continued trend of Undertaker causing all kinds of mayhem within and around the Hell in a Cell. Rock and Austin end up doing battle inside the cage at one point, with the crowd getting excited by the action, and in the end everyone is either banged up or outright bleeding. This match not only has great drama and action but it also has no shortage of star power on display for good measure. Armageddon is kind of just a one match show, but what a match it is!
Justin Credible Vs Steve Corino – New York City, New York (26th August 2000)
Credible was a controversial choice as ECW Champion as he had mostly been known as an under card star in the WWF and the ECW crowd had never really taken to him as a top star in the land of extreme. Credible was a very good wrestler inside the ring though, and when put up with other good wrestlers like Corino he could be relied upon to deliver the goods within the ring. Corino had originally entered ECW as a whiny anti-extreme bad guy, which had succeeded in instantly making him one of the most disliked guys in the company. However, in the summer of 2000 ECW decided they would try and make Corino a good guy, and against all odds it actually worked.
Corino went from one of the most hated men in ECW to one of the most beloved, with the fans fully behind him as he challenged Credible for the Title here at the Hammerstein Ballroom. What followed was a thrilling contest, as both men traded victory attempts and Corino got closer than perhaps anyone else had to dethroning Credible. Sadly ECW made the decision to keep the Title on Credible, when a victory for Corino would have potentially made him into the next superstar they desperately needed. Every time I watch this match I always hope the ending will be different and Corino will leave with the belt, but sadly it never happens. The match is still fantastic despite that though and possibly ECW’s last ever top drawer classic.
Triple H Vs Cactus Jack – New York City, New York (23rd January 2000)
From the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York we move just down the road to the much bigger Madison Square Garden for a battle between Triple H and Cactus Jack. Jack had returned to the WWF earlier in the year when Mick Foley decided that he needed to bring out the big guns for his feud with Triple H after being unable to defeat him whilst under his Mankind persona. Triple H’s reaction to the return of Cactus Jack was fantastic, as he looked genuinely shaken, whilst Foley was tremendous as he removed his Mankind mask and revealed his Cactus Jack shirt underneath his torn and bloody Mankind outfit.
The match itself at the Royal Rumble pay per view was a brutal war, with weapons such as barbed wire, chairs and thumbtacks getting used. Triple H ended up bleeding a gusher, whilst Cactus took a heck of a lot of punishment as well, including vicious chair shots and two spills onto the thumbtacks. All these years later this bout remains an intense violent battle that has withstood the tests of time. I still remember seeing it for the first time all those years ago and being blown away by the action on display. I don’t think I had ever seen a match quite as violent as this one before and even all these years later some of the action here is pretty gruesome.
The Rock Vs Triple H – Louisville, Kentucky (21st May 2000)
If proof was ever needed that The Rock was actually a good wrestler and not just a charismatic guy with a body, this match would likely be Exhibit A. Both The Rock and Triple H were at the height of their powers during this period, and this was one of the two classic matches that defined their rivalry, with the first being the month prior at Backlash (which we may or may not get to in a bit…)
Rock and Triple H had been feuding with one another dating all the way back to 1997, with their rivalry moving from the Intercontinental ranks all the way up to the WWF Title. Going into the Judgment Day pay per view event in Louisville, Rock was the Champion and Triple H was in the unusual role of challenger. The two men were booked in an Iron Man match, which is a contest that lasts for 60 minutes, with the person who holds the most falls at the bouts conclusion being declared a winner. It was often a style of match that really challenged a wrestler’s ability, as filling an hour and keeping it exciting is a difficult task.
What I like so much about this Iron Match is that both men aren’t afraid to actually drop some falls to one other during the hour long contest, which in turn makes the match far more interesting than the hour long battle between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII, which ended 0-0. What is so great as well is that some of the pins come from the type of moves and holds that perhaps wouldn’t lead to a finish normally such as DDT’s, Piledrivers and Sleeper Holds. This has the effect of fans actually caring about pin fall attempts from normally innocuous moves, as it is established early on that these moves can actually lead to falls in this contest.
Indeed, at one point Triple H hits the Rock with his regular running high knee, a move he has never beaten anyone with as far as I can recall, and the crowd buy that the resulting pin attempt might actually lead to a three count due to both men already establishing that literally anything can lead to someone getting pinned or submitted. There is also some really clever subversion in the battle as well, such as Triple H getting himself intentionally disqualified via a chair shot, only to then pin the still groggy Rock following it, which is something you couldn’t do in a normal bout because the disqualification would lead to the immediate end of the contest.
The biggest compliment I can give this match is that it doesn’t actually feel like it lasts for an hour. In fact, during a recent viewing of the contest, commentator Jerry Lawler stated that the two men had reached the half hour mark of the bout and my first thought was that he must have made a mistake because it did not feel like the match had been going for that long. This is ultimately what you want the case to be when it comes to a longer bout, as you don’t want it to feel like its dragging. Thankfully this bout not only doesn’t drag but it is also a supremely entertaining bout between two of the best in-ring performers of their era.
Edge and Christian Vs Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley Vs Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy – Raleigh, North Carolina (27th August 2000)
These three tag teams had raised the bar once again at WrestleMania back in the spring when all three of them had gone at it in a crazy ladder match for the Tag Team Titles. With the SummerSlam event on the horizon, it was decided that all three teams (along with Matt and Jeff’s buddy Lita) would raise the bar once more in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. The concept of the match was brutally simple. The Tag Team Title belts were to be hung above the ring and the ringside area was to be filled with tables, ladders and chairs (oh my!). The wrestlers were tasked with grabbing the belts by using a ladder, with the chairs and tables there to be added tools of destruction for the wrestlers to implement misery upon their opponents.
What followed was a match that somehow even exceeded the crazy action that was found earlier in the year at WrestleMania, with the addition of Lita and the special weaponry around the ring adding an extra element of madness to proceedings. The moment the match is possibly most known for is when D-Von and Jeff both dangle from the belts at one stage, a stunt made all the more impressive when you consider that poor D-Von was absolutely petrified of heights but still bravely got up there. As someone who doesn’t like heights either, I don’t think I could be convinced to do something that nerve wracking, but that’s why D-Von is a manly man and I’m a cowardly dweeb I guess.
Triple H Vs The Rock – Washington, DC (30th April 2000)
Like the previous match, this one has a very fond place in my heart, although it is for different reasons. This one is in there because I was very much behind The Rock at the time and really had gotten sick to the back teeth of Triple H’s dominance at the top of the card, so Rock’s victory was like a release valve for the whole fan base as Triple H was finally defeated. He’d of course win it back again a month later, but for a while The Rock was the Champion and because he hadn’t had the belt for nearly a year at that point, seeing him wear the gold really freshened things up.
What made it all the more memorable for me was that it was the first ever live WWF Pay Per View where I stayed up to watch the majority of it, owing to it being on terrestrial television station Channel 4 and not on satellite channel Sky Sports. Channel 4 actually used to show anime late night as well, so I was treated to Fist of the North Star and then Backlash, which made it one of the more exciting Sunday nights I’d experienced in a while!
The match itself is just fantastic example of storytelling, as The Rock battles not just Triple H but the entire McMahon Family, with the odds stacked against him like never before. When things look their bleakest, Rock finds solace in the unlikely form of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who returns from neck surgery to blast The McMahon-Helmsley Faction with chairs, allowing Rock finally bring an end to Triple H’s reign. What’s also great is that it’s not just Rock who gets revenge either, as Linda McMahon gets to shove Stephanie down as payback for receiving a slap from her daughter on a prior show and referee Earl Hebner gets to settle an outstanding score with Triple H by counting the winning pin fall.
The explosion from the crowd when Hebners hand hits the mat for three is one of the loudest I can ever recall, as you can tell that they were desperate to finally see Triple H dethroned and were delighted to be there live when it happened. Going in to the show I certainly thought that Triple H would leave with the belt, just because it was Backlash and I couldn’t see them changing it on a B Show when Triple H had already retained it at WrestleMania, but thankfully I was wrong. This would be one of the rare examples of where the money was actually in the chase in the WWF, as denying the fans their satisfaction at Mania actually led to a great buy rate for Backlash. It helped that Rock had actually been Champion before and was already established as a top guy, so they could get away with screwing him like that, which was a lesson they didn’t seem to learn for the future.
I still remember going on a family excursion to Wales following this show on about 3 hours sleep (Thankfully there was no school the next day) and being both exhausted from lack of rest but also kind of energised due to being so jazzed about how great the show was and how cool it had been to see Rock win the Title like that. Sometimes it’s just nice to see the hero win and the villain vanquished, and I love the fact we got to see it here. It would have been so easy for the WWF to think that they could screw Rock yet again and stretch his Title win out to King of the Ring or something, but they decided to reward the fans who cared enough to order/watch a B Level pay per view by giving them a Title change, and I think you’d struggle to find someone who would say they were wrong to change the belt here (Although I’m sure there’s some of them out there)