Just Business: The Penultimate Sunday Column - The Top 12 Matches of My LOP Journey

Just Business: The Penultimate Sunday Column – The Top 12 Matches of My LOP Journey

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Just Business: The Penultimate Sunday Column – The Top 12 Matches of My LOP Journey

For those who may not yet be aware, a few weeks ago I announced on social media my decision to permanently ‘retire’ from both column writing and podcasting about professional wrestling after Royal Rumble 2020.

The reasons for this are numerous, but most pertinent has been the realisation of how rapidly and unmercifully I have fallen not just out of love for the professional wrestling of the moment, but into active dislike of it.

It is particularly because of the latter that I have come to realise my original plan would no longer work. It had been my intention not to ‘retire’ until after Royal Rumble of 2021, and to carry on for one more full year writing my ‘For Your Consideration’ columns (of which considerably more were planned) and recording the newly reformatted Sports Entertainment is Dead. By the halfway point of that year I would be aiming for my second book, all about exploring the New Generation Era, to be released and, come the following January, I would step away.

All of this has been permanently shelved. The thought of most of it fills me with anxiety and, when such becomes the case, it is time to draw the curtain.

This does, sadly, mean that I will be limping away from my journey here at Lords of Pain with more of a whimper than a bang, but all of my energies are now focussed on achieving other dreams. Whether it be for this, our front page, or in our Columns Forum, by the time I retire I will have been writing at LOP for twelve years, and there isn’t a minute of it I would change – but nor is there a minute more of it I have left to give that I would rather not be giving to achieving that next elusive goal.

I can, however, make the best of my exit over this next final month of mine at LOP. There will still be a final run of six episodes of Sports Entertainment is Dead set to air starting on the first Wednesday after the New Year, and there are still two final columns left for me to write. This is the first of those, and the penultimate piece of my LOP library.

The topic seemed like a clear choice.

Any New Year is a moment of reflection for most, and in the world of wrestling it usually comes with a raft of debate over which matches were the best of the preceding 12 months. This being the final year of the current decade also means that debate has, quite inevitably, extended to debate over which matches were the best of the preceding ten years. What kind of wrestling columnist, retiring or otherwise, would I be if I did not have my say on the matter?

Uniquely for me, though, my own moment of reflection extends even further than the past decade. I wrote my first column for Lords of Pain’s Columns Forum in January of 2008, still a fresh-faced first year university student. In that sense, my LOP journey has been a vital part of my entire adult life to this point and it seemed only appropriate, in recognition of that fact as that very same journey comes to a close, to share with you, not my top ten matches of the last ten years, but rather the top twelve matches of the last twelve years.

It has been a time of massively significant change for me after all, and no matter how I might currently feel about professional wrestling there is no denying the fact that it was my constant companion throughout that time.

As with all lists, this is terribly subjective and likely to be demonstrative of how completely and entirely out of sync I am with the wider wrestling world. These are intensely personal choices (so expect a lot of the Shield boys!), my favourites rather than my picks for ‘the best’ and I have no doubt many, if not most of you will passionately disagree. And that’s no problem at all – in fact, you should let me know your own choices in the comments at the bottom of this column alongside your thoughts on my own!

One final word before I jump in. I must confess, as a list of my favourite twelve matches of the last twelve years goes, this one isn’t strictly representative. There are a number of high profile omissions that would otherwise sit quite high in such a ranking – I have, however, chosen to omit some here that might otherwise have made the list because I will instead be writing about them in my next and final column, and I didn’t want to cover the same material twice in my last two pieces here at LOP. As a result, keep an eye out for those unnamed cuts to instead make an appearance in my final ever column after Royal Rumble 2020.

So, here it is then. My penultimate column. My name is Samuel ‘Plan, and these are my top twelve matches from the twelve years of my LOP journey!

12. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Monday Night Raw / Smackdown Live, 18-19 July 2016

I did warn you there’d be a lot of The Shield…. Inevitably, I start this list off with my favourite professional wrestler of all-time and my favourite professional wrestler of the last twenty years not called Bret Hart, vying for the top prize in the company on the eve of (and night of) the second ever Brand Extension in a pair of liquidly wrestled, intensely competitive affairs that sees the first end in controversial fashion before dovetailing almost directly into the beginning of the second.

That’s really why I’ve cheated here and lumped both bouts in together. These were my favourite television matches of that given year, and I cheated in exactly the same way when naming them as such three years ago. In fact, it may be that the reason I apparently always feel compelled to commit such an underhanded tactic is the same reason I adore them both so much. On individual terms, I would still contend they stand up as two of the strongest TV bouts of WWE’s last ten years, with both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose putting in, almost effortlessly, some of their best work between the ropes with one another. Together, though, they form a highly dramatic roller-coaster affair, both characters playing deeply to the types that suited them so perfectly, all the while surrounded by the coincidental timing of momentous history.

Never watch these in separate sittings. Watch them together, as one. Not only will you see the surely accidental but no less perfect manner in which the two blend visually and narratively, but – and, yes, it’s cliché to say it – you’ll see a WrestleMania main event worthy outing between the two top names of their generation.

11. Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown in a Traditional 5 on 5 Men’s Elimination Survivor Series Match, Survivor Series, 2016

One of the unexpected pleasures of my LOP journey has been the witnessing of something of a rebirth for what I had previously always seen as the ugly forgotten step-sibling of the Big Four. 2016 was the year that rebirth began in earnest, one of the painfully few positives arguably wrought by the otherwise irreparably disastrous Second Brand Extension.

Shifting to a Brand vs. Brand theme for the Series had always been the move that made sense – so naturally it had also always been the move WWE never made. 2016’s inception was immensely entertaining at the time, the central conflict represented in a number of creative ways that went beyond a simple Champion vs. Champion format the company later adopted. It was this sweeping, near hour-long epic that stood then and remains now as the crown in the jewel of the 2016 Series’ success.

Other Traditional Series bouts have proven more enduringly popular, perhaps most notably 2014’s version, but for my money none of them can hold a candle to this leviathan tapestry of ring warfare. Progressing current storylines, feeding off of long-standing character arcs, showing an awareness of roster positioning otherwise too sorely lacking in contemporary pro wrestling, all the while compiling these facets like building blocks on the road to a best-in-genre showcase that summarised many of the prevalent issues that had been defining the product for the preceding three years, it was an awesome undertaking and an awesome achievement.

There’s a reason I officially named it my 102nd WWE Match To See Before You Die.

10. The Shield vs. Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley, The Shield’s Final Chapter, 2019

The manner in which Dean Ambrose departed WWE at the beginning of this year, characteristically dropping an anarchic grenade into the middle of the wrestling world in the process, felt odd then and, for a WWE fan born and bred, feels odd still now. I know the majority opinion is that Jon Moxley is the man they want, but there won’t be a day goes by I won’t sorely miss the Lunatic Fringe.

And contrary to the folkloric idea that seemed to develop towards the tail-end of the man’s WWE stint, Ambrose was a giant of his time with a hugely accomplished resume to his name who helped reshape the company’s present when it desperately needed to be reshaped. As such, he deserved an emotional send-off. The one he got was depressingly typical in its passive aggression – especially if the backstage stories Moxley has shared since he left are to be considered true – but on screen at least it proved beautifully poetic nonetheless.

The last decade houses every Shield match ever, so it might seem odd that my favourite (outside of one key omission to be discussed in my final piece) has been my go-to here. After all, this was no major event, just a simple one hour Network special. The opposing team was perhaps the least convincing ever put before the Hounds of Justice. The reunion that transitioned Ambrose back into a hero after his betrayal of Rollins had, in more ways than one, very little time to breathe so as to be anywhere near as effective as Rollins’ own quest for forgiveness two years prior. The match itself wasn’t even among their most innovative, instead playing out like a glassy-eyed nostalgia trip through the Best of The Shield.

But the thing is, the best of The Shield is the best of The Shield, and that’s some pretty damn good stuff. Knowing it would be the last time we would see them together, and knowing what Roman Reigns had just overcome, and knowing where Seth Rollins was headed, and knowing that Dean Ambrose was leaving – spice up a Best Of with that kind of context, and you get a moment in time.

9. The Bar vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the Monday Night Raw Tag Team Championships, Summerslam, 2017

The work put together by The Bar and the Hounds in the summer of 2017 was of a high quality in its own right. Was it the best tag team wrestling of the decade? Quite probably not, in terms of minute to minute action and pervading legacy anyway. Was it the most emotionally impactful? Of that, I have absolutely no doubt.

When Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose chased, captured and defended tag gold together two years ago they proved that tag team wrestling can be as heavily founded upon character development and long running arcs as any other form of wrestling; that, even on WWE’s main roster, it can have emotional heft and a sense of wider purpose beyond just being that wildly entertaining, high octane slice of ring action in the middle of a big show. I dare say this is no revelation to any fan with one eye on wrestling’s past, but to a contemporary audience – to a post-modern audience – it’s an important lesson worth demonstrating.

And what a demonstration it was that we got. Seemingly out of nowhere, Rollins and Ambrose floated naturally into one another’s orbits on weekly television resulting in a series of compelling, frankly tear-jerking encounters that saw the rift Rollins caused in 2014 healed in slow, painful and fractious fashion, eventuating in an overwhelming fist bump and a wild, action-packed, optimistically uplifting box office tag team bout on a Big Four pay-per-view.

It would prove to be a story about the difference between brotherhood and friendship. The Bar operated like a well-oiled war machine, wily, capable and physically imposing. By contrast, Rollins and Ambrose operated like clumsy brothers, inelegant, sometimes inefficient, but always around when they needed to be. As such, what you had in this tag team encounter was an Era-defining relationship captured, explained and defined in a nutshell.

8. Charlotte vs. Asuka for the Smackdown Live Women’s Championship, WrestleMania 34, 2018

Can you really talk about the last twelve years without mentioning the Women’s Revolution? No you can’t, and frankly you shouldn’t. WWE is professional wrestling to the wider world, whether that’s a fact that sticks in the craw or not, and as such their presentation of women’s wrestling, whether it was behind the times or not or as genuine as they sold it or not, was hugely important when it came to the perception of the wider world. And from the moment it begun, one question hung over the head of its history – would women’s wrestling in WWE ever find its way to that Holy Grail territory of the main event of WrestleMania?

The answer, as we now know, was yes. It should be “Yes, but.…” As in, “Yes, but it happened one year too late.” It was my passionate belief in 2018, and after the over-written and anticlimactic mess that proved to be WrestleMania 35’s main event, remains my passionate belief now as we head into 2020 that it was Charlotte and Asuka’s historic first encounter that should have been the first women’s bout to headline the Showcase of Immortals.

Everything about it screamed its case for deserving such a reserved spot. It had the weighty might of history behind it. It had the undiminished shine of a virginal experience for both competitors. It had the aura of a years-long undefeated streak and the star power of the most prolific female champion of the contemporary age. It crossed boundaries and language barriers and brands. In the end, it would even prove to have both the requisite quality and the memorably shocking conclusion.

I know some have always felt mildly let down by the affair. It’s a short, sharp and punchy piece for one of such epic proportions, and one that ends with just as short and sharp a shock. These are the reasons I love it as much as I do, though. It’s an all-business affair put together by two broiling performances from two truly gladiatorial competitors who are both almost literally shaking from the tension and anticipation. It has all the confidence of knowing the weight of its own occasion, is executed with much the same confidence and, ultimately, proves after the fact that WWE were forever-more fated to never be anything other than unfashionably late with their first women’s WrestleMania main event.

7. Edge vs. The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship, WrestleMania XXIV, 2008

Rewinding the clock back twelve years puts into stark perspective just how much has changed since I first started at LOP. Back then, I knew very little, relatively speaking, about professional wrestling. I was as likely to tow some folkloric line as the next wrestling fan was, had done little in the way of exploring what I liked and disliked beyond WWE and was generally historically ignorant.

I did, however, absolutely love that year’s ‘Mania headliner between Edge and the Dead Man, and looking back on it now I am pleased to know that not every idea I had twelve years ago was a daft one. The match remains as enjoyable to me now as it did then, I am pleased to say. So much so, in fact, that it may just swap places with my next entry on any given day.

There is, however, something tragic in the fact this very well may be the best of The Undertaker’s latter-day post-modern Streak matches. It sits largely forgotten, or at very best chronically unchampioned, overshadowed by the more verbose Tetralogy (being The Undertaker’s bouts against Shawn Michaels and Triple H at WrestleMania in the years that followed) and, later still, the earth-shattering conquest of Brock Lesnar.

In spite of that, it remains better than most of those aforementioned, far more infamous encounters, and most certainly better than any Streak match that came before it – and Batista set a high bar in that regard just twelve months before Edge came out to raise it. But raise it, he did. Steeped in a year’s worth of character development for the defending champion, window dressed with the trusty old arcs of partisan authoritarianism and built on a foundation of exhilarating counter-wrestling, Edge and The Undertaker did that year what many others would seek to follow thereafter, but did so with poise and an intelligent eloquence few others would prove able to match. That it’s a match that seems so unashamedly delighted to subvert expectations too means it wears a smile as deliciously evil as that of its central antagonist.

Oh, and there’s also that Charles Robinson moment. I can never grow bored of that.

6. Triple H vs. The Undertaker in a No Holds Barred Match, WrestleMania XXVII, 2011

I have both written and podcasted at length in the past during my time here at LOP about what I have come to call ‘The Tetralogy’ – the four matches that The Undertaker wrestled at WrestleMania between 2009 and 2012 against Shawn Michaels and Triple H. As was recently confirmed by the Dead Man himself, it was always my belief the four formed a single overarching narrative, but it was this third chapter in particular that won my heart.

It is worth me noting at this stage that one of the reasons I have fallen so deep into dislike for contemporary professional wrestling is because of the mountain of bad habits and poor practice we see on a regular basis inside of the ring. It is also worth noting I have, quite purposefully, not revisited any of these matches before writing this column, instead relying on my long-established feelings towards those selected. The reason for this is, in recognition of the former point, I fear I might fall out of love with them if I do give them a fresh watch. The highest odds of that happening would undoubtedly be with this particular encounter.

It has always been divisive, with many decrying a number of the creative choices made by the two competitors, but it has always been my opinion that no criticism can be levelled at this match that cannot be levelled at the other three component parts of the Tetralogy. They are, in some ways, the pinnacle of the in-ring Epic that, today, is very much in the ascendancy. In the confines of that genre definition, though, I believe this is the match that did it best. So much so, it is one of the foremost exhibits that helped shape my opinions on professional wrestling as performance art today.

Every element of this monolithic war of attrition directly contributes to the story being told – from the false finish to the body language, from the original choice of entrance music to the lyrics and images of the pre-match hype package. I could write at length dissecting it. Here, I will simply state that I have known it to be a compelling and affecting parable of arrogance, vanity, mortality and our own darkest natures.

5. Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Roadblock, 2016

Exploring further my comments made earlier about my preference for Dean Ambrose over Jon Moxley, I would say this is the match that most succinctly demonstrates why. While the wrestling world at large might clamour for the Jon Moxley who puts people through glass tables and wields barbed wire weapons to bloody effect, and while even the man himself would seem to demonstrate a preference for a hardcore edge, the reason I fell in love with Dean Ambrose was because of his habit of putting together a library of work that would have me naming him a latter-day Bret Hart; and, given the Hitman was for a long time my favourite ever wrestler, that’s quite the notation.

Ambrose was a deeply unfashionable wrestler during his stint in WWE, doing better than anyone the kind of ring work that has long since proven to be too patient and slow-burning for a contemporary audience. While I cannot talk to the general reception of this absolute classic between Ambrose and the man he should have last eliminated that year in the Royal Rumble Match, Triple H, I can say it is quite possibly the most accomplished piece of work in a WWE library overflowing with accomplished pieces of work from the Lunatic Fringe.

Ignore the commentary track if you can, which even by WWE standards is especially bad here, and instead focus on the cerebral and mature ring work, that collectively tells the story of an insurrectionist mistakenly evaluated and deeply underestimated by the Cerebral Assassin as a directionless mad man, who proves to be as fiercely intelligent and dangerously capable as the defending champion himself. The results are a delight to watch play out over a long thirty minute chess match, that weaves in a breathless false finish (likely bred by a mistake, but one that remains dramatically effective nonetheless) and ends, in a complementary fashion, with the legendary Cerebral Assassin panicked and scrambling to survive.

Survive he does, of course, much to the detriment of the company. It was clear in 2016 that WrestleMania Season that year should have been Ambrose’s to own, and it has only become more painfully clear such was the case with every day that has passed since. In some parallel universe, this outstanding masterclass of professional wrestling headlined the Showcase of Immortals instead, and those that live in it should know I am infinitely jealous that they got to witness that.

4. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Royal Rumble, 2015

I may have found myself in the position I currently find myself in when it comes to my feelings towards professional wrestling much sooner than I have if I hadn’t been gifted the amazing experience of discovering Seth Rollins and watching his journey over the course of his time on WWE’s main roster unfold as it has. Sat right in the middle of that journey, like a shimmering jewel, is this soft redefinition of the Triple Threat Match that headlined the first pay-per-view we UK fans got to watch on the WWE Network. I watched it live.

What a rush it was. It’s easy to forget, this far out from when it did work, that once upon a time the idea of the Brock Lesnar we are now soul-crushingly familiar with was effective, in no small part because it felt like it had a purpose and an end-point. This Triple Threat helps substantiate that. The lustre has faded for more ardent critics of recent Lesnar experiences, but taken on its own terms at the time it was wrestled I find it difficult to deny its brilliance.

That brilliance, as loathe as I am to now admit it, is derived largely from the presentation of Lesnar’s character. Whether it is the teamwork between Rollins and John Cena born from the desperation of their situation, or something more precise like the rapid-fire AAs the Beast endures halfway through the run-time, seeing Lesnar appear so unstoppable in the context of a three man dynamic helped create relentless drama that felt undeniably original.

To call it a roaring success would be an understatement quite honestly. More than one comparable match thereafter would be built around the same concept – of an unstoppable monster at the heart of a multi-man axis being taken out before the others race to the finish as fast as they can. Most of the matches that have followed that formula have done so to considerable success, too. But this was the match that laid out the blueprint, and as such deserves its place as the most important Triple Threat since WrestleMania XX. Or, at the very least, my favourite.

3. Seth Rollins vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship, Backlash, 2018

Another of the sadly too few joys I have been witness to these last twelve years in pro wrestling has been the rejuvenation of the Intercontinental Championship. Most frequently, and not entirely undeservedly, laid at the foot of The Miz, the truth is that the ‘Interconti-naissance’ has been a group effort stretching all the way back to 2015, when Kevin Owens took the championship from the woeful Ryback. Since then, it has been a steady and unrelenting upward climb for the title, most notably including the likes of Ambrose, Miz, Ziggler, Bálor and, of course, Seth Rollins.

Yep, I’m still banging on about the guy, and this time I’ve a hill to die on too: Rollins’ run as Intercontinental Champion in 2018 was the best in this last decade, quite possibly in the last two. I would certainly contend it to be the fruition of all the work Rollins was able to build on the back of, including that of the first pay-per-view challenger he would defeat while defending the then white strap.

I know this will prove to be a contentious statement, but I think memory already plays tricks on the wider fan base when it comes to Rollins’ run. His final feud as champion, opposite Ambrose, was received in lukewarm fashion. His long-running feud with Dolph Ziggler encompassed other titles on the way, and lasted a length of time considerable enough to obscure smaller programmes that preceded it. These two rivalries seem to have provided the pervading legacy of Rollins’ run. But alongside them we saw Rollins slide between brief and effective fortnight long programmes, sometimes on TV, sometimes on PPV, sometimes crossing both, that included better than expected efforts alongside the likes of Finn Bálor, Elias, Bobby Lashley, Jinder Mahal of all people and even a shockingly excellent Ladders Match in the Middle East. This not even counting the ‘Of the Year’ contending bouts opposite both Ziggler and Drew McIntyre too.

It was this legacy effort opposite The Miz at Backlash that took centre stage of the run, though. A compelling, dramatic, intelligent piece of work that sought, like so much of Rollins’ work, seemingly to straddle the border between the post-modern and pre-Attitude ring fashions, and on this occasion at least getting it absolutely spot on. It would prove a near instant classic, helping transform Rollins into the company’s hottest star that spring and summer while also providing Miz a respectful tip of the hat for the consistently outstanding work he had put in to get the defended championship to that point in its life-cycle. The image of the live audience on their feet beckoning their hands frantically in the air to encourage Rollins to reverse the Figure Four Leg Lock will remain burned into my mind’s eye for a long time to come.

Truly, a classic.

2. Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston for the WWE Championship, WrestleMania 35, 2019

This year’s WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania, sadly, may go down as a historical blip thanks to the outrageously unceremonious manner in which the company decided to brush Kofi Kingston’s title run aside in return for yet another lamentable Lesnar experiment, while at the same time once again forgetting Bryan was once their hottest act this side of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Such chronic failure of roster positioning is one of the most fundamental issues destroying the company.

Regardless, events since in no way diminish the accomplishment of Bryan and Kingston that night. It resulted from a bizarre coincidence of history that saw Mustafa Ali suddenly side-lined with injury and Kingston parachuted in as a direct replacement. Ironically like with Bryan before him, the situation transformed Kingston into the hottest act in the company and eventually led to an immortal showdown at this last year’s ‘Mania.

The match was a showcase of why Bryan remains one of the foremost professional wrestlers on the planet today, and why Kingston had been championed by his friends, fans and New Day brothers so vehemently as a talent long-since deserving of this exact opportunity. I remember being utterly blown away by the bout on the evening, with attention shown to the most minute details in a labour of love rarely seen among today’s rampant scramble to earn star ratings from rabid crowds and critics.

The quality of the match itself would be enough to warrant it a place on almost any list like this alone, but there is something far more important, far more vital to recognise. I cannot, nor would I ever pretend to be able to reckon with exactly what this match and Kingston’s victory meant for those professional wrestling fans who found previously inexcusably absent representation from it, but I can recognise the sentiments expressed by those who were able to reckon with it as being deeply powerful and emotionally transcendent. I am sure history will debate what this victory for Kingston did, or perhaps more heartbreakingly did not lead on to, but for this column I can say it is beyond debate that, on that night, Kingston demonstrated acutely the kind of transformative power professional wrestling can still have for people.

To me, this was one of the most sublimely wrestled matches and effectively told stories of the last twelve years. To others, it was, quite simply, More.

1. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose in a Ladder Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Money in the Bank, 2015

Back in the summer of 2015 I was riding high as a wrestling fan. My favourite professional wrestler was the defending World Champion, was headlining every pay-per-view, was anchoring every episode of television and I was able to watch it all unfold in real time on the WWE Network. Then, right in the middle of it all, right as I thought I couldn’t possibly be loving my life as a wrestling fan any more, something even I thought I would never experience happened quite impossibly: I saw a Ladder Match and I immediately fell in love with it.

It has been divisive since the moment it concluded to heap praise on the Ladder Match wrestled between Rollins and Ambrose at Money in the Bank 2015, and it is another example of a match I dare not revisit with my current mentality because I am not arrogant enough to assume it is an unblemished piece of work – indeed, I can already think of a couple of points working against it. It is, however, to my mind, as close to an unblemished piece of work we’ve seen in the ring these last twelve years. I have no qualms in stating that outright, even if I am in a minority of one, because I utterly adore this bout.

Rollins vs. Ambrose has solidified itself in my mind as one of the greatest stories ever told in WWE, and quite possibly my own absolute favourite. Quite apart from the narrative cohesion that has propelled their ever-changing relationship through the years, the library of work that can be put to its name is flabbergasting. But between the accomplished singles bouts, the unlikely genre redefinitions or the general effortless brilliance of their chemistry together and apart, this Ladder Match stands as their masterpiece.

The divided reception to it did not surprise me at all. Fans today, after all, expect a certain sort of thing when sitting down to watch a Ladder Match. Built into the semantics of the stipulation now are notions of multiplicity, action at the expense of intelligence and a rampant pace overflowing with content. Rollins and Ambrose provided none of that, guaranteeing at the same time that the popular audience would likely reject it but I would likely fall head over heels in love with it.

This is a Ladder Match founded on smart psychology, with every action explaining itself away and every big moment emphasised all the more because of their relative scarcity. It pulses with the unspoken hangover of emotion that followed these two characters whenever they crossed paths, interwoven with the complexities of the immediate narrative regarding the Authority’s crowning of Rollins and Ambrose’s quest for vengeance, all the while providing a vital allegory on the unfair brutality of the real world and the cruel evenness of chance.

From any perspective – genre, narrative, action, character, stakes – it excels. This is pro wrestling as performance art. And, popular choice or no, this is my absolute favourite match of the twelve years of my LOP journey.


What are YOUR thoughts on any or all of my top twelve matches from the twelve years of my LOP journey? And if you had to pick your own since 2008, what would they be? Sound off in the comments below, over on social media or by joining LOPForums today! And be sure to join me after Royal Rumble 2020 for my very last column here at Lords of Pain.


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