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Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan
And thus I end this portion of the road to WrestleMania XXX with one of the best matches of 2013, one of the best in Raw history. The fine folks of Dallas obviously weren't spoiled enough earlier in the year with another ****1/2 best Raw match ever candidate between John Cena and CM Punk. Nope, they needed another one between the other half of the big four full-time stars of 2013.
I had positive vibes coming out of this match, and now with WrestleMania XXX on the horizon, I certainly feel justified with how much I loved this match on first viewing and with a rewatch.
D-Bry completely outclassed Orton in the first few minutes, reinforcing that he is better than the Authority's chosen golden boy. He went to work on Orton's back at first, which Orton sold, but they never went back to it, so it never became an important part of the story, which is fine. It wasn't devastating enough that moving on would have a negative impact on the match.
D-Bry also started working on Orton's left leg, which would pay off as the match progressed. D-Bry was of course completely engaging while being on offense in this match, whether it was his top-notch submission work or crowd-popping strikes. However, Randy Orton is still Randy Orton, an 11 time WWE/World Champion, so this was certainly not gonna be a squash. He got some leverage on D-Bry, planting the former WWE Champion on his belly and then stomping on the left arm. D-Bry's selling of this was magnificent in his verbal screaming, body language, and facial expressions.
However, D-Bry is one of the absolute best in the game, so he managed to keep the match interesting with his hope spots, including an attempted suicide dive. Orton however would step aside, leaving D-Bry to land on his right shoulder. This would NOT become the story of the match, but I must note that I sure hope all these suicide dives don't leave Danielson with long-term shoulder damage down the road, he seems like one of the decent human beings in the business.
D-Bry would continue selling his LEFT arm that Orton had damaged earlier in the match, and Orton kept going back to work on it. But D-Bry would manage to get the upper hand, left arm be damned, using his strikes (and the crowd reaction that comes with them) to gain momentum. Perhaps my favorite moment in the match is Orton attempting a Thesz press, only for D-Bry to duck underneath Orton, grab the left leg he had been working on earlier, and lock it in a half crab! Amazing storytelling here.
By this point in the finishing stretch, it became obvious that Orton wasn't gonna be able to shut the critics up on this night, and he blatantly low-blowed D-Bry for the DQ. Cena came down to ringside, only to get struck in the head with one of the title belts, leaving Orton standing over both to close out Raw. I LOVED that finish because it only made D-Bry even more of a legitimate star in the company, and I suspected that it would lead to him being the WWE Champion again shortly after this. And I'm probably right about that too. This match worked on almost every level. ****1/2
I barely remember this one, so I'm not sure it's going to be placing. What I do recall is that Bryan deviated from his formula and Orton was rather good (!). Load of time and some vicious limbwork made for a pretty darn good TV match.