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Welcome to the Silverdome. A place where one man looks at the wonderful and intricate world of Professional Wrestling.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Silver Report: January 2018

I started the Silver Report a good seven years ago as my weekly round-up and analysis on "all" (mostly WWE and TNA at the time) wrestling news. Over the years, it took on different forms and lengths, but it was always a nice outlet for my thoughts on professional wrestling.

Now as my taste in wrestling has matured and my knowledge of the industry has grown tenfold, I re-debut the Silver Report. Not just as an outlet for my thoughts and opinions, but to hopefully introduce newcomers to wacky world of pro wrestling while enriching the tastes of current fans.

One of the ways I hope to achieve that goal is through the brand new Must-See Matches section at the end of every Silver Report going forward. Must-See Matches will be my curated list of the best matches for the current month of discussion. So if you don't have the time to keep up with everything going on, these are the matches that will give you the most enjoyment for your time.

Naito! You Just Made the List!

January 4th and 5th had tons of great moments for New Japan from Minoru Suzuki shaving his head to Jay White declining an offer to join the Bullet Club, but nothing was bigger than the closing moments of New Year's Dash.

After Tetsuya Naito and his stablemates in Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) dispatched Kazuchika Okada and Chaos in tag team action, Chris Jericho rushed the ring and attacked Naito. Although the attack was brief as Jericho was quickly pulled out of the ring, it was such a surprise to see Jericho since everybody thought his deal with New Japan was for just one match with Kenny Omega.

Starting this feud with Naito opens up the possibilities for Jericho to feud with more excellent New Japan talent like Ishii, Ibushi, Tanahashi, and even Okada! It's unbelievable to see the 47 year old Jericho on top of the wrestling world in 2018, but it is well deserved.

Almas and Gargano Steal Royal Rumble Weekend

It is rare to see any match in January eclipse the excellently crafted bouts of NJPW's WrestleKingdom supershow, but WWE did just that with the main event of NXT TakeOver: Philadephia. As the first WWE match in over six years to receive five stars from Dave Meltzer, Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship was nothing short of an instant classic.

Leading up to the match, it felt like such an unlikely main event. Almas had been dwelling in the obscurity of NXT's mid-card for most of his tenure, while Gargano seemed to be in a holding pattern as his feud with former partner Tommaso Ciampa was on hold until Ciampa had healed from injury.

Despite all the baggage these two had coming in, it all melted away when the match started. Almas and Gargano just work so well together as they chain their moves together like no one else in the business. The fast pace and smooth wrestling made the 32-minute long match fly by. When all was said and done, both Almas and Gargano solidified their positions as major players in the WWE for years to come.

Golden Lovers Reunite

Ever since "The American Nightmare" Cody joined Bullet Club at the end of 2016, tensions between him and leader Kenny Omega have been building. Those tensions would come to a head at the end of NJPW's second New Beginning in Sapporo event.

After Omega lost the IWGP U.S. Championship to Jay White in the main event, Cody made his move by hitting a Cross Rhodes on Bullet Club's leader. But before Cody could hit the finishing chair shot on Omega, Kota Ibushi made the save. After dispersing Cody and his fellow Bullet Club usurpers, Ibushi and Omega embraced each other in a surprising reunion of former tag partners.

While many suspected a Bullet Club implosion sometime in 2018, nobody thought it would be this soon. Plus, nobody thought we'd see Omega and Ibushi reunite as the Golden Lovers. Most of the rumour and scuttlebutt surrounding these two centered around them feuding instead of reuniting.

Although the story may end up with them fighting in the end, Omega's current ousting from the Bullet Club and his reunion with Ibushi opens up plenty of intriguing possibilities. Could we see the Golden Lovers vs. the Young Bucks in the not-so-distant future?

Tale of Two Rumbles

The 2018 Royal Rumble was an interesting show. It had arguably one of the best Royal Rumbles of all-time in the men's bout, one of the most disappointing in the first-ever women's bout, and a lot of disappointing finishes and average matches in between. While it was a better than average show, the position of the two Royal Rumble matches and their drastic difference in quality made for an uneven four plus hours.

First up, the men's bout was a high-octane affair with excellent storytelling, fun eliminations (especially Slater's elimination of Sheamus), nice surprise entrants, and an intense final 15 minutes. Its hour plus run time flew by because of how entertaining the match was. And to put the cherry on top, the right wrestler won in Shinsuke Nakamura.

On the flip side, the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble was another misfire in WWE's so-called "Women's Evolution." Although the right woman went over in Asuka, the match was full of sloppy wrestling, focused far too much on the nostalgic entrants, and criminally held its biggest surprise for the post-match theatrics.

Speaking of those post-match theatrics, what an awfully lame way to debut Ronda Rousey. Yes, it was done to protect both her and Asuka, but what was the point of her eclipsing Asuka's moment at the very end of the show? It undermined the preceding match while simultaneously teasing viewers of what we should've had.

In all honesty, I would take Asuka vs. Ronda Rousey as the final two in the Women's Royal Rumble over Rousey cartoonisly pointing at the WrestleMania sign any day.

Must-See Matches of January 

WrestleKingdom 12
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida vs. Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay - Four Way Match
Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho - No DQ Match
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito

205 Live
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali

Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia
Aleistar Black vs. Adam Cole - Extreme Rules
Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Johnny Gargano

New Beginning in Sapporo Night 2
Roppongi 3K vs. The Young Bucks

Royal Rumble
Men's 30-Man Royal Rumble

Asuka vs. Sasha Banks

Roderick Strong vs. Tyler Bate - No.1 Contender's Match for the UK Championship

Monday, January 22, 2018

Best Matches of 2017

It's been a very long time since I've written on here. Just under three years, in fact. A lot has changed in my life in the last three years, but the one constant I still have in my life — for better or worse — is professional wrestling.

2017 was one hell of a year for wrestling. Fans saw the return of an Olympic hero, the rise of the Monster Among Men, the dominance of the Rainmaker, and sheer brilliance of the Elite. It was a year of highs and lows, but those highs were among the finest wrestling has seen this decade.

In all honesty, the match quality on display throughout 2017 was nothing short of breathtaking. With so many phenomenal matches, there is no way to highlight every single match that blew away fans in 2017. So here is my list of the 12 best wrestling matches of 2017 in chronological order. If you are looking to check any of these bouts for yourself, I highly recommend subscribing to the WWE Network, NJPW World, and/or ROH's Ringside Membership.

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada 

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11

Four days into 2017 and wrestling fans witnessed the greatest match of all-time according to wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer — breaking his iconic five-star rating system. Although some might scoff at such high praise, Omega and Okada earned it with a 40-minute wrestling classic.

Starting with traditional mat-based techniques to feel each other out and slowly ramping up to the final leaping Tombstone and Rainmaker combination, it's hard for fans and casual observers not to be amazed by the titanic clash between arguably the two best wrestlers in the world today. Omega and Okada didn't just introduce jaded wrestling fans, myself included, to the glory of New Japan, it single-handedly changed the pro wrestling world as we know it. And for the better.

Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews 

WWE UK Championship Tournament Night 2

While the UK Tournament Finals between Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate gets more attention due to Bate's excellent performance as the injured underdog, this semifinal bout pitting Dunne and Andrews just edges it out in my opinion.

Dunne's gruesome joint manipulation and ground game paired perfectly with Andrews' high-flying offence and uncanny ability to reverse any move. This great clash of styles makes for a fast-and-furious 10-minute affair that easily showcased what WWE's UK Championship division can offer.

Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii 

NJPW New Japan Cup Night 2

Although this list is very Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada-heavy, you cannot understate how great of a 2017 Tomohiro Ishii had. In terms of match quality, he put on incredible matches with the likes of Zack Sabre Jr., Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, and Keith Lee. But out of all of Ishii's matches, his surprise win over Kenny Omega in the first round of the New Japan Cup is his finest.

The match was everything you want from a New Japan main event — stiff strikes, crisp wrestling, and high stakes. Don't miss out on watching this diamond in the rough.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Katsuyori Shibata 

NJPW Sakura Genesis 2017

Despite this being Okada's best match with a wrestler not named Kenny Omega, it was sadly overshadowed by the tragic end of Katsuyori Shibata's wrestling career — due to a blood clot caused by a sickeningly stiff headbutt performed during the match.

After years spent redeeming himself in the eyes of the New Japan fans and wrestlers, Shibata finally earned a chance to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Not letting this prime opportunity to dethrone New Japan's heavyweight ace Okada pass him by, Shibata brought it to Okada with stiff momentum-shifting strikes. Although Shibata's dominance eventually fell to Okada's Rainmaker finisher, Shibata won over the hearts of the wrestling faithful.

Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & The Addiction 

ROH War of the Worlds: Toronto 

Yes, I am a little biased since I saw this match live,but I can't understate how amazing it was. This six-man tag easily ranks among the best matches I've seen live and that includes the likes of Roderick Strong vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, #DIY vs. The Revival, and the 2016 Men's Traditional Survivor Series match.

From bell-to-bell, no one in Toronto's Ted Reeve Arena was sitting or silent. All six men put their all in one insane six-man tag that saw multiple Superkicks (poor Kazarian), Meltzer Drivers, High-Fly Flows, and V-Triggers. I highly recommend going out of your way to find this match — it epitomizes why pro wrestling is so much fun.

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate 

NXT TakeOver: Chicago

Although the UK Championship division didn't takeoff in 2017 like WWE had hoped for, it consistently put on the best matches of any division in the company. One match that stood above the rest, especially in the WWE, was the second match between Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate.

A rematch of their showdown in the UK Championship Tournament finals, Bate and Dunne held nothing back. From debuting new moves to finisher kickouts, the two hit each other with everything and the kitchen sink.

If you need further proof of how great this match was, just watch the Chicago crowd. Despite starting out silent, the excellent action worked up the crowd into an absolute frenzy. They even got an American crowd to chant for another country!

Kushida vs. Will Ospreay 

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 24 Finals 

Coming off of a humiliating two-minute defeat to Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi, Kushida needed to win the 2017 Best of Super Juniors tournament in order to earn a chance to redeem himself. Unfortunately for the disgraced ace, Will Ospreay, one of the greatest high-flyers in the world today and the 2016 tournament winner, was in his way.

What resulted from this epic showdown was a match that in any other year would easily be Match of the Year. Sadly, it happened in 2017, but that shouldn't discount its greatness. Kushida and Ospreay put on a 30-minute classic that perfectly mixed high-flying risks with impressive submissions, innovative chain wrestling, and intense strikes.

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada 

NJPW Dominion 2017

Going into Dominion, the anticipation for Omega vs. Okada II was through the roof. Everybody wanted to see how these two would top their six-star classic from Wrestle Kingdom — and they did just that.

Battling to a 60-minute time limit draw, Omega and Okada left everything in the ring that June evening. They perfectly built on their previous match with better wrestling, stiffer strikes, more drama, and unbelievable ring psychology. Although there was no definitive winner to the match, everybody watching knew that Omega and Okada put on the single best match of 2017 and possibly of all-time.

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada 

NJPW G1 Climax 27 Night 18

For what this third encounter between Omega and Okada lacked in length, it certainly made up for in intensity. With only a 30-minute time limit to work with, Omega and Okada came out of the gates hitting each other with their most devastating offence and they didn't let up. The match was so fast-paced and crisp that it's hard to pull yourself away for even a second.

Although Omega didn't win the IWGP Heavyweight Title by dispatching Okada this time, he brought the greatest wrestling match trilogy since Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair to a grand conclusion.

Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito 

NJPW G1 Climax 27 Finals

New Japan's annual G1 Climax tournament always delivers some of the best matches of the year and 27th iteration was no slouch. Although I do prefer Omega vs. Okada III, the finals between Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito was just as great.

Fighting for 35 minutes, Omega and Naito showed why they were the top stars under Okada by putting on one of the most high drama matches of 2017. Don't tell me you watched the piledriver off the announce table to the concrete floor or Omega DDTing Naito's head into the top of the ring post, and didn't lose your mind.

AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor 

WWE TLC 2017

As horrible as it sounds, thank you meningitis. If it wasn't for your viral infection rocking the Raw locker room, we would have never gotten the first and currently only encounter between the two former leaders of the Bullet Club. And what a match it was.

Getting just under 20 minutes, Finn Balor and AJ Styles showed up the entire WWE roster with a match so crisp and so smooth that it looked effortless. While it may not of had the emotional hooks or story-telling beats of the other matches on this list, it was joy to watch wrestling THAT good in a WWE ring.

Undisputed Era vs. Sanity vs. Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong 

NXT TakeOver: WarGames

Despite the WWE's changes to make the former WCW stipulation their own, the first WarGames in 17 years was one hell of an entertaining match.

The nine men which made up the three teams in the match gave it their all. Quite literally too considering the smashed tables, dented chairs, bruised bodies, and busted open heads left as result of all the carnage. While it wasn't the prettiest match on this list, the sheer craziness and spectacle of this car crash had me in tears from pure enjoyment.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Royal Rumble Fiasco

I am going to preface this by saying, I have watched professional wrestling for 12 years now and watched 15 Royal Rumble matches in that time.  In all my years watching, I have never seen a Royal Rumble as poorly booked as last night's match in Philly.  It's not just the fact that Roman Reigns won or Daniel Bryan was eliminated too earlier.  It's the pacing of the match, the handling of major eliminations and the need for a run-in by The Rock to "save" the match.

The match started out fine with a surprise entry of Bubba Ray Dudley and the Wyatt Family squaring off, but slowly lost its momentum when Bray Wyatt started dispatching people left and right.  While things got better when Daniel Bryan made his entrance, that only lasted 10 minutes as the moment Bryan was eliminated, the crowd and many fans at home turned on the match itself.  The atmosphere felt exactly the same as the end of last year's Rumble, but it lasted the majority of the match instead of 15 minutes.  The volatile atmosphere only got worse when Reigns came out as everybody knew he was hand-picked to win the match.  It didn't help that any of the guys people were invested in and should have been part of the final four (Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler) were nonchalantly dumped over the top rope by Kane and the Big Show.  No exciting eliminations or set-up for a WrestleMania feud, just dumped like a piece of trash by two guys that should be putting them over.  Weeks of build wasted in a matter of moments didn't help this match.

When the odds were stacked against Reigns, The Rock made a run-in to help his little cousin.  Something done to clearly win back the crowd did exactly the opposite as it made Reigns look inferior to The Rock.  Why should the audience believe in a babyface like Reigns to beat the indestructible Brock Lesnar when he needs help to eliminate Kane and the Big Show?  It's not that I'm against Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble at some point in his career.  Looking at his current in-ring ability and mic skills, Reigns isn't anywhere close to being the successor to John Cena at this point in time.  Reigns needs more time to learn, mature and organically come into the role.  Forcing him down people's throats much like WWE did with Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and The Miz will only damage Reigns in the end.

A series of unforgivable creative decisions made the 2015 Royal Rumble the worst of all-time.  WWE understood exactly what they were getting into when they booked the Royal Rumble for Philadelphia, a city filled with hardcore wrestling fans.  It baffles my mind that WWE didn't learn from last year's debacle with Batista.  Yes, the product may be targeted for younger audience, but that isn't going to get buys for the WWE Network.  The people who will buy the Network are the passionate, hardcore, "Internet" fans that WWE despises and the target audience will eventually grow into.  As seen by the CancelWWENetwork hash tag running rampant on Twitter, it isn't smart to alienate the fans which are the lifeblood of your business going forward.  Guess we're in for an interesting WrestleMania season once again.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brock Lesnar, The Conquerer

If you thought breaking The Streak made Brock Lesnar the most dominant force in the WWE, well I guess literally breaking John Cena last night at Summerslam made him a mythical titan in that ring.  While the quality of the match did not even come close to the extremely high expectations we all had for it, everyone can agree you could not keep your eyes off that massacre of a match.  Apart from a couple flurries of punches and an Attitude Adjustment, Brock Lesnar beat John Cena for 15 minutes straight.  Even after getting hit with the Attitude Adjustment (John Cena's finishing move), Brock Lesnar sat up in a very similar manner to the Undertaker and laughed like the move did nothing to him.  Much like when Brock Lesnar broke The Streak, Brock Lesnar's complete dominance over John Cena was surreal to watch.  Personally, I wanted the match to be a knock-out drag-out fight with both Lesnar and Cena soaked in blood and sweat due to the ferocity of their blows, but looking back Lesnar's dominance was the right call.  With this one match, Brock Lesnar has become way more than a dominant monster; Brock Lesnar is a god among the mere mortals that step through the ropes of a wrestling ring.  Now whoever manages to beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, be it Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt or Cesaro, will easily be made as a bona fide main eventer in the WWE.

While Brock Lesnar is a part-timer and has been a part of two of the most polarizing matches in terms of quality and result in years, he is the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and the star of WWE television for the next four to eight months.  With the right booking and creative use of talent, Brock does not need to be on every show to build feuds, hype matches and bring prestige for to the WWE Title.  There is no problem with part-timers holding the WWE Title as long as WWE Creative does not solely use video packages and solo promos as a replacement for actual interactions between wrestlers.  Although it did take destroying the old guard in The Streak and John Cena to do so, Brock Lesnar is the first legitimate monster heel the WWE has built in well over a decade and his position as such is important to the WWE and professional wrestling's foreseeable future.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Streak is Over

WrestleMania XXX has come and gone.  It was much better than yours truly initially expected following the results of Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber.  More so than in years prior, WrestleMania as an overall show was fun and thoroughly enjoyable.  There were a good number of great moments from Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock all in the same ring and Daniel Bryan's winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after having the odds stacked against him to Cesaro slamming Big Show over the top rope and The Shield's triple powerbomb on both members of the New Age Outlaws.  While a couple matches did not live up to this writer's expectations namely John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt and Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar, it was a pleasant surprise to see the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton exceed my low expectations.  Out of everything that happened at WrestleMania XXX, one moment in particular clearly defined this event and cemented its spot in wrestling history.  That moment was the end of The Streak at the hands of Brock Lesnar.

Over the course of the Undertaker's illustrious career, no accomplishment has been greater than his winning streak at WrestleMania.  As countless wrestlers fell to the Deadman at WrestleMania year-in and year-out, The Streak grew in prestige and importance.  One could easily argue that The Streak was the most prestigious and important accomplishment in the WWE and professional wrestling as a whole.  To break such an unprecedented streak would be greater than winning any match or championship in wrestling.  Considering the lacklustre events leading up to the match between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, no one could have imagined The Streak would end in that very match.  You would expect the WWE to pull out all the stops and put together some epic build for a result this monumental and polarizing to even considered.  Wrestling fans have been so invested in The Streak that it is understandable to see such a wide array of emotions come from it ending.  Being of the camp that never wanted The Streak to be broken, I am personally surprised at how well I have received it.  Even though Brock Lesnar is a part-timer and has already established himself as a premier athlete, I am perfectly fine with him ending The Streak.  Actually, having Lesnar end The Streak gives the Beast nuclear heat that will never wear off and establishes him as THE dominant force in the WWE.  Also it sets up whoever beats Lesnar next, which better be Bryan, as a bona fide superstar in the WWE.  Personally, I am bummed out that Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar could not develop into a great match.  While it was still a pretty good match at best, they could never take the match to the next level and really get our blood pumping like all of the recent Undertaker matches at WrestleMania.  Not putting on an excellent match to rival the moment of The Streak ending just made things feel surreal and uncomfortable.  The match did show that it is definitely time for Undertaker to hang up the boots for good.  People may be concerned about how WWE will book a possible Sting vs. Undertaker match for next year, but this writer would rather not see that smoke-and-mirrors show become a reality especially since neither Sting or Undertaker can perform anywhere close to the level they use to.

WWE could not rely on The Streak to solely sell WrestleMania forever; now is the time to let it go and make new selling points for WrestleMania.  To launch the WWE into a new era, it is beneficial to honour both the Undertaker and The Streak as an important part of WrestleMania and wrestling history with Raw tonight and the 2015 Hall of Fame at WrestleMania 31.  As hard as it may seem for some, the unthinkable has happened.  The Streak is over and we all have to come to accept it one way or another.  WWE took an incredible risk with ending The Streak, but the only way to know if it was truly the right call or not is to see what happens next.  Tonight's Raw is the first page of this next chapter.  Will you be watching?

Monday, February 17, 2014

End of The Silverdome?

This decision is a hard one to make, but it is time to hang up my wrestling boots for the time being.  Ever since I have gone back to school, I have severely cut back my wrestling consumption.  Before going back, I can watched Raw, Smackdown, Impact Wrestling, ROH and NXT on a weekly basis.  I consumed enough professional wrestling in a week to easily fuel this blog.  That is no longer the case.  Now I only watch Raw on Mondays, casually check the results for Smackdown every other week and read the stories from Lords of Pain that pop up on my Facebook News Feed.  Sometimes with my job, I don't even get a chance to watch all of Raw.  The WWE Network would make it easier to follow all the wrestling I want, but my family doesn't have the internet plan to support that large amount of streaming.  So that option is quite a few years away from being a reality for yours truly.  

On top of my cutbacks, I just don't have the drive anymore to write about wrestling.  In no way am I losing my love for professional wrestling.  I am just very disenchanted with the WWE's current direction.  With such a monumental event like WrestleMania XXX, I had such huge expectations for WWE to take things to the next level (say CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan in the main event).  Disappointingly enough, the WWE has resorted to bringing in the part-timers yet again to build WrestleMania around.  While it was a novel idea the first time around, that doesn't mean people will keep eating up year after year.  We need new talent and fast!  There are glimmers of hope with Daniel Bryan, The Shield, the Wyatt Family and Cesaro.  Due to the WWE's current state of pushing established stars and holding down the rising stars, it is extremely hard not to be pessimistic.  

So is this the end of The Silverdome?  Yes and no.  It is the end of The Silverdome as we currently know it.  No longer will there be any sort of regularity to this blog.  I may go back to weekly or monthly posts, but that will be in the far distant future if it ever happens.  If there is something in professional wrestling I feel compelled to write about, I will post it up here.  It may be in a weeks time or may be months from now.  Thank you to everybody for following, reading, sharing and anything else you did to support The Silverdome.  Until next time, I bid you all farewell.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Year in Review: The Best of 2013

Been a long time since yours truly last posted here on The Silverdome.  Between school and work, it has been hard to follow, more or less, write about anything in the wonderful world of wrestling.  With 2013 coming to a close, there is not much to talk about concerning major wrestling programming (Raw, Smackdown, Impact Wrestling) as big developments stall until the new year and are replaced with an unnecessary amount of holiday shenanigans.  What a better time to reflect on the year that just past both the good and the bad.

As a whole, 2013 was a very mixed year quality-wise.  While nothing is perfect, most of the great stuff about professional wrestling in 2013 came during the first eight months of the year.  Things after September could not compare to the eight months before it, but this writer will elaborate more on this point in The Worst of 2013.  The Best of 2013 did not come from the John Cena's and Randy Orton's of professional wrestling, it came from the up-and-coming stars such as the Shield and Dolph Ziggler and the true main eventers like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.  The Best of 2013 encompasses this writer's favourite matches, moments and angles of the year.  Enjoy the trip down memory lane and happy New Year!

Believe in the Shield
While the Shield debuted at the very end of 2012, 2013 was where this group made their impact.  There has not been a faction as dominant as the Shield in the WWE since the Attitude Era.  In all due respect to Evolution, the WWE's version of the Four Horsemen could never live up to their true potential due to injuries and a severely short reign of dominance.  During this full calendar year, the Shield has remained as one of the top of forces in the WWE even after dropping the Tag Titles to the Rhodes Brothers.  Aside from this faction's dominance, these three young guns have been putting on the most consistently strong performances of anyone on the WWE roster.  Any match the Shield is involved in can easily be considered the highlight of the night.  With or without championship gold around their waists, the Shield has the highest stock among any team or singles wrestler in WWE, which is incredibly impressive for three young wrestlers.

Dolph Ziggler Cashes In
Everybody was hoping to see Dolph Ziggler cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania to win the World Heavyweight Championship because it would have been an insane WrestleMania moment.  Leaving that moment until the next night on Raw, where a much bigger audience than WrestleMania is watching, was even better.  Pitting Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter against Alberto Del Rio in a Handicap Match, it seemed like the opportune time for the Show-off to cash in the briefcase.  Jack worked over Del Rio’s ankle before Alberto hooked in the Cross Arm Breaker to win the match.  Immediately following the Handicap Match, Ziggler would make his entrance to the cheers of the crowd and many fans sitting at home.  It was a short match that saw Dolph and Del Rio go back-and-forth.  There was one point where Del Rio hooked Ziggler in the Cross Arm Breaker that made this writer yell at the top of his lungs, “Don’t you dare tap, Dolph!”  Ziggler escaped the hold by twisting Del Rio’s injured ankle, which set up Ziggler to hit the Zig Zag for the win.  The crowd at the Izod Center exploded in cheers while this writer jumped out of his seat in pure excitement.  It was easily one of the best Money in the Bank cash-ins in WWE history.  In the span of two minutes, the emotions everybody watching this match went from excitement to frustration to ultimately happiness.  It was emotionally draining to say the least, but the best moments in professional wrestling are.  This cash-in was the defining moment of Dolph Ziggler's career and the moment many, including yours truly, believed Dolph had truly received the main event push he has deserved for so long.  Sadly, all great moments have to come to an end.

The Double Turn
A double turn is an extremely rare occurrence in professional wrestling due to the high level of difficulty to correctly pull off.  A successful double turn has a crowd immediately flip their allegiance between the two wrestlers in the match, while an unsuccessful double turn leaves everybody in a state of confusion.  The most successful double turn in wrestling history happened at WrestleMania 13 when Bret Hart would not relinquish the Sharpshooter he had locked on an unconscious Stone Cold Steve Austin.  The most successful double turn in recent memory occurred at WWE's first Payback PPV this past year in Chicago during Dolph Ziggler's first World Title defense against Alberto Del Rio.  Ziggler had been out of action with a concussion caused by a stiff kick from Jack Swagger.  Dolph was still suffering from the lingering effects of this concussion so Del Rio targeted the World Champion's head.  Throughout the match, Del Rio would relentlessly attack Ziggler with kicks to the head.  Ziggler tried to fight through Del Rio's debilitating punishment, but to no avail.  Despite Ziggler's heroic effort, the Show-off fell to the villainous assault of Alberto Del Rio.  Del Rio may have left Payback with the World Heavyweight Championship around his waist, but to the fans all around the world Dolph Ziggler was the real winner.  While Ziggler's title run was cut short, wrestling history was made on Father's Day in Chicago.

The World's Strongest Double Cross
News came the Monday following Payback that Mark Henry would be retiring from the squared-circle.  Henry’s hiatus from the ring during the Spring of 2013 to rest from injuries was sign enough that the World’s Strongest Man would hang up his boots.  Speaking of boots, Henry even placed his boots at the top of the stage during that edition of Monday Night Raw and came out in a bright pink blazer to give his retirement speech.  Henry’s speech induced tears, smiles and even chants as he had the audience wrapped around his finger.  John Cena, who Henry interrupted, came in to give Mark some time with the WWE Championship, a title that Henry has never held according to JBL’s commentary.  It would have been a sweet end for Mark Henry’s career, but the World’s Strongest Man does not go out with a whimper, the World’s Strongest Man goes out with a bang.  Mark Henry drew John Cena in for one last handshake and hit the World’s Strongest Slam instead.  Once Cena plummeted to the mat, the realization hit that Mark Henry was not retiring.  It was all a ploy to lure in the WWE Champion and what a great ploy it was.  In one fell swoop, WWE Creative built a credible threat to John Cena’s WWE Championship and made Mark Henry a devious heel that will sink to the lowest of lows to get his way.  Truly one of the highlights of an incredible summer for the WWE.

The Rise of the American Dragon
After the phenomenal year that Daniel Bryan had in 2012, there was no doubt that the American Dragon would be a bona-fide main eventer someday.  Bryan may not have the unrealistic build that WWE executives love, but he has something even more important-- the unanimous support of the WWE Universe.  Ever since Daniel Bryan turned face as a part of Team Hell No, the fans have flocked to him.  Just listen to the huge pop Bryan gets when he explodes into his signature offensive flurry of kicks and running clotheslines.  Just like in 2012, Daniel Bryan was the most popular superstar in 2013, even winning Superstar of the Year.  Despite being held down by Triple H and WWE Creative, Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship not once but twice.  2013 was no doubt Daniel Bryan's year.  Bryan consistently put on quality matches no matter his position on the card, made major improvements in his promo delivery and continually received the loudest reactions of anyone on the WWE roster.  While WWE tirelessly tries to push big muscular men such as John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and Batista, Daniel Bryan showed this past year that small athletic men are just as or even more entertaining to watch than the stereotypical muscular body that dominates professional wrestling.

CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
Sitting in a theatre of thirty people, this writer laid witness to the Match of the Year, the Best vs. the Beast, CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar.  The build for this match was nuclear from the very moment Brock Lesnar hit the F5 on CM Punk on the Raw following Payback.  In all honesty, I was ready to pay money to watch these two duke it out from that very moment.  As time moved closer to their meeting at Summerslam, this feud just kept on getting better and better.  The verbal duels between Punk and Heyman and the physical brawls between Punk and Lesnar were both sights to behold, but those appetizers could not hold a candle to the main course.  From the opening bell to the finishing splat of Punk's head being F5ed onto a steel chair, Punk vs. Lesnar was both physically and mentally exhausting.  Even though the major difference in size between Punk and Lesnar, the match was incredibly even.  The match could have gone either way as both men hit each other with their most devastating moves.  One of the most intense moments in the entire match came when Punk finally struck Lesnar with the GTS.  I vividly remember everyone in the theatre erupting from their seats once Punk hit the move, counting along with the referee's count and simultaneously crying out in shock when Lesnar kicked out.  CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar was the first match since CM Punk vs. John Cena from Money in the Bank 2011 to get this writer so passionately engrossed in the action happening in the ring.  For that reason, CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar is the Match of 2013.

The Brothers Rhodes
Fall was not so kind to the WWE.  The high that the hot summer months brought slowly but surely dwindled under a slew of missed opportunities.  While the fall was a long slog, there was one thing that made the slog bearable.  That thing was the formation of a tag team between the Rhodes Brothers, Cody Rhodes and Goldust.  The sons of the great Dusty Rhodes first joined forces to fight the Authority for their jobs after Triple H wrongly fired Cody Rhodes for losing a match to Randy Orton.  This feud led to an emotionally charged tag team match against the Shield at Battleground.  With the jobs of the entire Rhodes Family on the line, Cody and Goldust with some help from their father defeated the Hounds of Justice to regain their jobs in the WWE.  The good fortunes of Cody and Goldust did not end at Battleground as the brothers would defeat the Shield for the WWE Tag Team Titles in an incredible tag team main event a week later on Raw.  As Tag Team Champions, Cody Rhodes and Goldust have rejuvenated the WWE's Tag Team Division.  While other divisions in the WWE left a lot to be desired during the last half of 2013, the Tag Team Division was stealing the show.  Be it Raw, Smackdown or the monthly PPV, the tag team matches have consistently been the best part of WWE programming.  Speaking of rejuvenation, this Tag Team Title push has rejuvenated the careers of both Cody Rhodes and Goldust.  Cody has been stuck in the lower mid card limbo since losing the Intercontinental Championship back in 2012.  This push has highly improved Cody's status in the eyes of the WWE Universe and WWE Creative.  On the other hand, this push has given Goldust one final chance to prove to the wrestling world how great a wrestler he is.  Over the past five months, Goldust has made the best of this opportunity and has been the most impressive veteran wrestler on the WWE roster.  As we move into 2014, it will be interesting to see if the spike in quality brought on by the Rhodes Brothers will continue.