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Quintessential HHH performance and a wonderfully woven story of the B+ player slaying the man who kept holding him back. How many people lost their shit to Bryan kicking out of that Pedigree? Just such good stuff. I don't think I'd have it in my top 100 but if I break down why I just cannot give reason. It had good work and it had a phenomenal story. I think I need to rewatch this.
WWE Title Shot Match
Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan
The PPV matches kick off with the primary match of the evening, obviously to make sure the winner would have time to rest for his earned spot in the main event. Stephanie McMahon introduces her husband, who has an awesomely OTT entrance, sitting on a throne and dressing like Shao Khan, just completely saying through this sequence that he thumbed his nose at his scheduled opponent for the evening. In contrast, D-Bry came out with the long hippy hair, bushy beard, and just regular gear, truly setting the story for anyone not familiar with the events that led to this dream match.
D-Bry's left shoulder is heavily taped due to the damage inflicted upon it the past couple months. Before the opening bell, the Authority have an intimate kiss, completely rubbing it in that they're happy and successful, then HHH looks at the former WWE Champion ever so smugly. The Game offers a handshake, which D-Bry obviously rejects by kicking the hand and trying to get this matchup over early with a schoolboy pin. D-Bry goes on a fury, but HHH takes a quick powder to ensure no momentum is built.
HHH looks to cut off D-Bry's superior technical wrestling and striking, but D-Bry cuts him off to regain momentum, making HHH's cut off merely a hope spot and then gets a headlock takedown. He easily gets out of HHH's head-scissors as fans of the indy scene during the 2000s had the pleasure of seeing him do on a nightly basis. HHH during a headlock gets D-Bry in a corner and goes after the left arm, but D-Bry doesn't allow that to go on long at all, unleashing more furious kicks to the crowd's delight. But HHH catches the left leg and drops it STO style, showing off why he has such a cerebral reputation.
However, even that doesn't really go anywhere for the time being, as D-Bry prevents HHH from dragging him into a corner for more limb work. He charges at the first-ballot HOFer multiple times, including doing a front flip off the top rope which looked to be a bad landing for someone with a well-documented injury history. As D-Bry continues owning HHH, Steph attempts to verbally troll him, knowing damn well her husband is getting his ass kicked so far.
HHH crotches D-Bry as he goes for another top-rope move, finally gaining some significant heat over the former multi-promotional champion. He follows that up with a charge to knock D-Bry down to the floor in front of the commentary tables. He attempts a Pedigree on one of those tables, but D-Bry blocks it and fights back, only for HHH to grab the severely pained left arm and slam it onto the table!
At this point the commentary team, which has often been justifiably criticized, did a phenomenal job in selling HHH's craftiness. JBL in particular really put over the brilliant bluffing HHH pulled on D-Bry, going after the left leg early to make it seem like he wouldn't target the left arm. This was critical in showing that while the stakes were incredibly high and the emotions going into this even higher, this was also a matchup of two of the most gifted in-ring psychologists in the history of the business.
HHH of course became merciless on D-Bry's left arm, slamming it down with various moves and locking submissions aplenty, including a modified London Dungeon. But even THAT is short, as it looks like D-Bry is about to regain momentum when he throws off HHH to the outside and goes for a tope suicida, only to get cut off by the Game before flying through the ropes. HHH gives him a Hammerlock Backdrop Suplex on the apron, and D-Bry's audible screams of pain are sensational just like his classic against Randy Orton in Dallas a few months earlier. Stephanie chimes in with "you mess with the bull, you get the horns," then kisses her gloating husband. Awesome.
D-Bry of course follows up his sensational screams of pain with sensational selling outside the ring, struggling to get up and break the ten count. In yet another highlight of the match, one that shows what an excellent student of the game HHH is, D-Bry finds himself in one of his own established finishers, that being the Crossface Chickenwing. Fantastic poetry while also causing further pain to the damaged left arm and shoulder.
As D-Bry is losing consciousness, the crowd rallies behind him, hoping to not see him pass out. HHH then further shows off his experience and studying habits, locking on the Crippler Crossface, reminding all technical wrestling fans of an even sexier dream match we sadly never got to witness. D-Bry reaches the ropes, only for seconds later to get that left arm slammed down with an arm twist on the mat. The Game goes to work with punches in the corner, and D-Bry attempts to fight back to no avail as the audience is trying to give him adrenaline. They exchange more punches, with a crowd reaction reminding me of Rock vs. Hogan and Austin Aries vs. CM Punk, and this time D-Bry is able to regain the heat with a running forearm straight to the face.
That though is also short-lived, with us bearing witness to yet another display of brilliance from HHH. When D-Bry goes for his turnbuckle backflip spot, HHH stays in the center of the ring, not allowing D-Bry to get behind him. I can't recall any of D-Bry's most reputable opponents on the indies ever scouting this out, nor any of his prior opponents in WWE either. That moment of brilliance doesn't get much though, as D-Bry blocks a German Suplex and unleashes a couple of his own. HHH blocks a third and goes for the Crossface Chickenwing, but D-Bry intelligently sees it coming this time and blocks it, only to get dumped on his head and shoulders via a release Butterfly Suplex. Hey, if you're gonna do head drops and other risky shit, THIS is the show to do it on.
D-Bry blocks a Superplex attempt to the crowd's delight, landing a Sunset Flip Powerbomb for a great crowd pop and slowing down the Game's momentum. HHH goes to recover in a corner, so D-Bry goes for this routine three running heel kicks, but the third, much like Cena, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, and Nigel McGuinness had done in the past, countered that with a beautiful lariat. When they both get up, HHH goes for another Pedigree, but D-Bry blocks that and goes for a jackknife pin for two, then follows that up with a kick to the head.
At this point the crowd is starting to get incredibly excited, sensing that their chosen face of the company was gonna finally humble the Authority. But a diving headbutt is blocked with a knee to the face, and HHH then locks on the Crippler Crossface again. It should be obvious at this point that this match was a partial tribute to a man that had a significant impact on both men's careers, one by working with him, the other being inspired and heavily influenced by him.
This second Crippler Crossface was a sight to behold, as HHH made sure to block D-Bry's eyesight during a portion of the submission. D-Bry rolls back but HHH keeps it locked on, remembering the same thing had happened to him a decade earlier and learning from it should he ever be in the opposite position. D-Bry rolls back again though and goes for a pin attempt false finish, then gets the Lebell Lock on, a moment we had been waiting to see for many, many months! As a receipt, D-Bry makes sure to block HHH's vision, and Stephanie has to audibly coach HHH to make him aware of how close he is to the ropes.
With HHH on the outside getting nursed by Steph, D-Bry hits two tope suicidas, then follows that up with a missile shotgun dropkick in the ring. He kips up to another great crowd pop, and then sucks up whatever pain he's feeling to land furious kicks to the chest and a final kick to the head as the crowd pops yet again. More than 20 minutes into this classic, both men are exhausted and the crowd expresses their happiness watching this unfold.
D-Bry goes for the Busaiku knee, but this is the Cerebral Assassin he's facing. In a match in which HHH likely brought forth the most brilliant game plan of his career, there was no greater display of his scouting techniques than taking D-Bry's momentum and turning it into a spinebuster that certainly had Arn Anderson popping backstage. HHH goes for the Pedigree and the thrid attempt's the charm, but that's nothing more than a phenomenal false finish as the crowd is going apeshit. D-Bry pulls out the small package, but that's another false finish unlike his ROH days.
HHH shows his frustration, almost getting DQ'ed for not breaking his punches in the corner. He then goes for another Pedigree, but D-Bry flips him overhead and keeps the butterfly position for another great false finish pin. HHH rolls D-Bry over with the arms still butterflied, but D-Bry dead-weights him, so HHH knees D-Bry in the face a few times for good measure and to display his frustration. Another Pedigree attempt though is countered as D-Bry gets out of it and lands a roundhouse kick, but a second roundhouse kick is ducked. HHH looks to go for an Atomic Drop or backdrop suplex, but D-Bry flips back to land on his feet, then finishes off the Game finally with a Busaiku knee!!!
Steph's facial expression is priceless, the facade she and her husband running for months becoming exposed on the grandest stage. The crowd is of course ecstatic and D-Bry is exhausted as he celebrates. Steph walks over to slap him, leaving him to be attacked from behind by HHH. The Game slams the damaged left shoulder on the ring post, then smacks it with a steel chair, completely embarrassed as the Authority try to mask it with smugness and their underhanded corruption. D-Bry goes into the main event with the odds only stacked against him even more.
For many years, the thought of Triple H vs. Bryan Danielson had always intrigued me, dating back to the latter's days on the indy scene as he showed why he was clearly the best in-ring wrestler this side of the Pacific. I had always imagined they would have at least very good chemistry, as both are master storytellers and HHH has proven to be more than capable of working a great technical wrestling match when the time calls for it. And when the fantastic SummerSlam 2013 ended, I was excited to know this match would be taking place on this night.
That this match almost didn't happen despite the lack of an emotionally satisfying conclusion as 2013 ended, only for a series of game-changing events to take place in order for it to do so, makes me feel like it was truly fate that this dream match was destined to take place at such an important landmark event.
But did this match live up to the expectations I had? To be brutally honest - it shattered them. Due to the storyline, I went into the Superdome expecting this to be more of a sports-entertainment style that favored HHH's routine. That element was obviously utilized to its fullest potential, but these men also managed to add in the sizzling technical wrestling that I always saw them pulling off together should they ever face off. In addition, the commentary for this match deserves an ovation of its own, as JBL, Michael Cole, & Jerry Lawler did a great job in putting over the emotions, work, and story being told in the ring. Stephanie was a delightful wrinkle as well, adding further heat with her presence, trolling, and mannerisms as she rooted for the love of her life.
This was a jaw-dropping roller-coaster that more than lived up to its storyline as well as its position as the most pushed match going into this show. This was a back-and-forth nailbiter with amazing counters, outstanding submission wrestling, and incredible storytelling. I also loved this significantly more than The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber 2014. The only nitpick complaint that keeps this from being a flawless masterpiece is that they had to hold back just a teeny bit for obvious reasons.
But make no mistake: I look forward to the eventual rematch at some point, as I know they have a perfect match in them; and this is a work of art, easily in the top three matches I've ever seen live, right behind the pieces of perfection pitting D-Bry against Roderick Strong at Vendetta and HHH against Undertaker inside the Cell at Sunlife Stadium. ****3/4
I love me some Daniel Bryan, but I was pretty surprised at the time how much people liked this. I thought it was a nice little ***1/2, ***3/4 bout, and the best of the night by far (I hated hated HATED the three way main event to the point I think it was close to a DUD, as it was everything I hate about WWE wrestling), but I guess what "hurt" it for me (I mean, I likes the match, I just don't see it at an all time level) was that the finish was very obvious and they never convinced me otherwise (keep in mind that i'm easy to fool, because I get wrapped up in suspension of disbelief pretty easily). The big peak is the Pedigree kickout, but again, I was expecting that. I don't know. This is something I'll give a rewatch to. In real time, it didn't thrill me.
You have a lot more faith in WWE doing the right thing than I do. I know I went in with the expectation that Daniel Bryan should (and probably would) win, but there's HHH's ego and a slew of creative faux pas from the promotion that kept that negativity looming in my mind. When he hit the pedigree I was about done. Then Bryan kicked out and I lost it.
Not ashamed to admit they had me suckered in like a baby.
Not ashamed to admit they had me suckered in like a baby.
...and that is probably the key difference in simply enjoying this match, or seeing it as an incredible match.Rah wrote:You have a lot more faith in WWE doing the right thing than I do. I know I went in with the expectation that Daniel Bryan should (and probably would) win, but there's HHH's ego and a slew of creative faux pas from the promotion that kept that negativity looming in my mind. When he hit the pedigree I was about done. Then Bryan kicked out and I lost it.
Not ashamed to admit they had me suckered in like a baby.
I am also in the belief this is a good match but not a great match. I think HHH's performance is a bit overblown here due to him not slowing the match to a complete crawl with his usual boring big match heat segments. Doesn't necessarily mean I thought he was incredible in his control segments here tho. Plus, I also knew Bryan was always gonna win here (the 3-way main event is a different story). The transitions were well-timed tho.