‘Sup, Lords of Pain? It’s your friendly neighbourhood Mazza bringing you something a little different from the norm. As some of you may know, I recently finished up a series in the Forums called the Ultimate PPV. The concept was simple. Create the best card possible using WWE PPVs from each calendar month. My esteemed (esteemed means “thieving”, right?) colleague Mizfan has recently rebooted the series encompassing other companies which you can check out >>>HERE<<<. It was a really fun series to write and research and so I wanted something to fill the void. In the end, I decided that after naming the best matches of each month, the next logical step would be to name the best superstars of each month. Hardly a new concept. Dr CMV1 did an excellent version of this a couple of years back and I myself have a fairly comprehensive series where I looked at the twelve best at WrestleMania. In the name of keeping things a little different however, I decided to enlist some help in the form of ex-Main Page columnist, Prime Time, who handily is also pretty good with making banners....
Will You Stop - Mr September (CPR Productions)
Sep 6, 2012 - 1:13:34 PM
So the plan here will be pretty simple. Prime Time and myself shall be counting down who we believe are the top five wrestlers in terms of their performances at WWE’s September PPVs. I thought about concocting some kind of formula to do this but in the end I decided there were too many variables so we are basing the order off of years of watching, research and good old gut feeling. We will be taking things like longevity, match importance and consistency into account as well as pure match quality. The only real criteria that we are enforcing is that to be eligible for a place, you have to have competed in at least five matches during the month. No fly by nights here. On that note, I guess it is a good time to introduce my partner for this project, Prime Time.
Evening, all. That five September matches thing is interesting, too. Just before we start, I think it’s worth taking a minute to point out that, with the WWE only running 12 PPV’s a year for the first time in 1996, and not running one in September before 1995, that means a whole host of WWE stars weren’t eligible. You won’t be seeing Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart... and I reckon you’ll be surprised at some of the newer names that don’t enough to make the cut, too. I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you everyone who didn’t make it here... you’ll just have to read on and find out for yourself. Anyway Maz, I expect the nice people think we’ve rambled on long enough. What do you say to us getting this show on the road?
Sounds like a good idea to me. The man who comes in fifth in the quest to be Mr September is...
It’s a bit of a mixed bag for John in his six September matches and...
… woah, woah, woah. Hold your horses there, Maz. I can’t go along with you on that one, and I’ve got to throw another name into the mix here.
Ok, well let us break this down then. The leaders of this current wrestling generation do have quite a similar tale of the tape.
Interestingly, they have been in three matches together during the month. They are 1-1 in 1-on-1s with each other. The first, at Unforgiven 2007, saw Orton win by DQ in the match where Cena just went batshit crazy and wouldn’t stop punching him. It was during the feud where Randall rather awesomely kicked Cena’s old man in the noggin. The other came two years later at Breaking Point, and Cena picked up the win in an I Quit match. This was from that never ending feud in 2009 where almost all the matches absolutely sucked (the ironman being the exception that proves the rule). They were also both involved in the six-man elimination match from Night of Champions 2010 where Randy won the WWE title. It is the matches outside of these three however where you have to really try and split them. Whereas his match from last year’s Night of Champions against Alberto Del Rio was nothing to write home about, Cena’s first two September PPVs were very strong. His match with Kurt Angle in 2005 had a bit of a dusty finish, but as we will see later, that doesn’t always mean “rubbish”, and his TLC match with Edge a year later was a bit of a breakout one for both men in my eyes.
You aren’t wrong that both men didn’t ever really have their best matches against each other (even that Ironman match has some serious flaws), and I’d agree that Cena’s best September performances come early on. I don’t think I’m quite so taken with them as you, though, and I’d not go as high as ‘very strong’. Memorable, perhaps, fits better with my feelings on those bouts. Here’s the thing: in truth, I actually prefer Cena to Orton. While I’m not really a fan of the superman act, I think he is the more reliable performer, roughly a million times more interesting with microphone in hand, and a far more bankable star than Orton, who has failed to live up to, in my opinion at least, a huge proportion of the potential he seemed to have back when he was breaking out. Randal has some plus points, but the negatives outweigh them, and he’s probably the most boring main event star with the stick that I’ve ever been subjected to. That said, and after slightly burying my own argument, if we’re just looking at September, the fact is I see both of these guys as having a very mixed record. Only one of them had what I would call a very good match on a September PPV, and for me that is Orton against HBK. The thing about Randy that bugs me to this day is that he doesn’t seem to know what he wants to be - is he cocky and realistic, or cartoonish, depraved, and viper-like? - and that always comes across to me sat at home. Consequently, I don’t really believe anything he does. On that one night, I didn’t feel any of those issues. He knew what he was doing - he was Evolution’s answer to Tully Blanchard, and working with Michaels, he had the kind of night that I’ve always looked for from him since, and that he has unfortunately so rarely delivered. He’s got other decent showings in September, too, but that one was so strong that in the absence of anything quite so good from Cena I really don’t feel I can overlook him.
Funnily enough, I am generally on the other side of the Orton vs Cena argument. Your critiques are correct, and we could go on all day and night as to just why Orton has failed to portray another character anywhere near as proficiently as he did the “Legend Killer”, but that’s another column for another day. As usual, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. We will call them joint fifth for now but maybe the readers can call a winner. Hell, not that it really matters - fifth place isn’t really much to write home about! We were on the same page, however, for the top four and let us start that off with...
Well, we are kind of on the same page, at any rate. It’s kind of an unfortunate thing that we’ve ended up starting with September, because it’s not a month that I think is all that strong, and I’m vaguely aware that this series has started with me sounding like a bit of a miserable old git. Thing is, if I’m honest, I’ve never been all that taken with Edge really. What he really does have in his locker is a string of fairly decent but unspectacular performances that have helped to anchor cards. That’s probably still good enough to get him up to fourth in this month, especially with the addition of a couple of bigger matches. There’s the aforementioned TLC with Cena, which I always thought was a bigger match (and even rivalry) for Edge than it was for John, who was going to the top long-term by then regardless, and I’m generally drawn to the cage match with Matt Hardy, in one of the latter’s very rare brushes with relevance.
I am also far from a major Edge-head, but that is mainly because I think people seem to rate him at a higher level than he really achieved. In his later years he did spend a lot of time around the main event but in reality he was nothing more than a strong midcard talent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but the fact that his September record is eight losses in eight matches kind of backs up my point. That said, he was without a doubt a dependable talent and that is what is shown here. The TLC was one of his biggest career moments (if not THE biggest), but as my partner said, it has lesser importance for Cena. Interestingly he would only wrestle one more September PPV match in his career due to numerous injuries and that was as a bit-part player in the aforementioned six-man elimination from NOC 2010. It was his solid performances as a midcarder than snag him fourth spot here. As Prime said, the highlight was the excellent cage match with Matt Hardy off the back of the infamous Lita situation. Interestingly it is not his only encounter with Fat Matt in the steel as he and Christian also lost to the Hardys in a cage back in 2000. E&C lost another Tag Team Championship match a year earlier to The New Age Outlaws and he also has interesting midcard encounters against Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero on his CV. He also did the whole “Triple Crown” thing as lost the Intercontinental Championship to Christian in 2001 to go with losing the WWE and Tag straps.
I guess the defining factor behind putting him in fourth place has to be that you are hard pressed to name a bad match from him, even though of his eight attempts, it’d be very, very generous to say that even half of them were particularly memorable. That’s not something you can say of the man finishing in third, whose matches from September are generally memorable... if not always for the right reasons!
Ok, so I will be the first to tell you that the reputation Triple H has in the IWC is totally unfair and usually ridiculous. That said, if you were ever to point to a month to try and prove some of those stereotypes, it would be September. I would happily argue the reasons for all eight of his victories during the ninth month but again, that is not really why we are here. What we are looking at is how he has performed during the month. In his ten matches he has five world title bouts, and four main events. Whilst none of the matches will go down as The Game’s all time classics, most are very good and a couple extremely underrated for various reasons.
Unlike Edge, who was much more of a model of consistency, I think Hunter’s track record is very up and down. I’d credit him as one of the stronger performers in the 6-pack challenge, a type of match that could quickly descend into a mess but which actually holds up surprisingly well for a WWE multi-man match, most of which would be funny if they weren’t quite so sad. I reckon most people wouldn’t be too hard on the match with Angle, either, because at the time Hunter was one of the most critically acclaimed wrestlers in the company, working with a very promising rookie, and both the match and feud were well-received. Of course, the critics really come out of the woodwork (and if anyone remembers my spell writing back in 2003-4, they’ll know I was one of them, too) following the quad tear, and his subsequent reign as the face of RAW while ratings plummeted. In hindsight, though, that match with Rob Van Dam from 2002 holds up very well and is much better than a lot of people give credit for, and it takes Flair’s intervention to actually get Hunter the victory. In terms of his own contribution and the in-ring product, he hardly ‘buried’ Van Dam. There were obviously huge issues with the way that H was used back then, and I think the timing definitely hurt both RVD and RAW, but in this instance at least, you have to say that at least some of the criticisms aimed directly at HHH are a bit unfair. The match with Goldberg the next year isn’t very good at all, by contrast, and sparked rumours that because he had to job, he half-arsed it. Personally, I think it’s more likely, looking at his movement, that he was working hurt. The Orton match isn’t too bad, despite a flat crowd and Orton’s obvious babyface problems, and you’ve got to say that H’s performance is solid enough on that night and he does his best to make something out of the match. Since then, I’ve been sort of inclined to leave rather than take his September efforts - as I have much of his career in the same timeframe, if I’m to be brutal about it - but I’d probably throw a nod to the bout with The Legacy as one of the stronger matches of recent years. All in all, I’d say there’s just enough memorable stuff in there to give him a positive grade and counteract some of the weaker outings.
I get so mad when I think about that Legacy vs DX trilogy because it should have made Rhodes and DiBiase instant megastars, but the WWE just stopped using them once it was done. The Submissions Count Anywhere from Breaking Point was arguably the best of the bunch. A really good match where DX put over the next generation - in stark contrast to their Hell in a Cell against the McMahons and Big Show. I mean, it was fun for what it was, but when you consider the other matches Trips and Shawn have put on in the cell, it pales in comparison. Another interesting match in there is the Championship Scramble match which came during the whole Jeff Hardy grabbing the brass ring storyline; another match that is better described as fun rather than great. I will always defend Hunter’s dominance between the Austin and Cena eras but I can’t really defend the quality of most of the matches. I do believe it was down to quality of the opposition generally (hence why I defend the fact that he dominated so much) but like Prime said, the RVD match is far from bad. His first two matches, the six pack challenge and the match versus Kurt, were both strong and typical of his pre-quad tear work but there is a giant elephant in the room. That is of course the infamous match from last year’s Night of Champions. Again, I am not going to get into the whole tired “BURIED” argument here but rather say it was a pretty good match, although it definitely isn’t as epic or important as it could, or should, have been.
I’m pretty much inclined to concur with that, and don’t really have much to add. Whatever you think about the outcome, or how well the match lived up to its potential, it is hard to slate the in-ring work too much without sounding like a bit of a stuck record. Still, shall we keep this thing moving and take a look at the top two?
Why the hell not?
Jericho, for me, has some of the same stuff going on that I’d mentioned earlier with Edge. There seems to be a number of cases here where slow and steady does well in this race. Jericho leaps ahead of both Edge and Hunter, though, because I think a lot of his matches are more memorable. The first two bouts with X-Pac are probably good examples of the ‘steady’ kind, but things improve dramatically with the Rob Van Dam match from the height of the Invasion angle. The match with Flair is really storyline more than anything else, and isn’t really worth mentioning, but then things pick back up and you’ve got three pretty memorable ones in a row. I’m not a huge fan of what the ladder match has become over the past decade or so, but Jericho and Christian certainly had one of the better ones. I’m also generally not a fan of streetfights - particularly when they are ludicrously long and it becomes harder to suspend disbelief than during a Khali match - but I can tell from watching the Unsanctioned match from ‘08 that if you do like a WWE streetfight, you’d like that one. It’s not to my taste particularly, but it’s a very good example of the genre. I don’t know how much you’d say he had to do with the Championship scramble later in the night, but to be honest it was his performance in the last few seconds of the match that really gave it its headline and really rescued what I’d consider an otherwise quite dull affair. Since then he’s settled back down into slow and steady, but even then the performances have always been at least decent, and I think that is generally what you can always expect from Y2J. He’s not always going to guarantee a five-star classic, but he can deliver great matches when the time is right, and you’ll always get something watchable. He cares too much not to give at least that much, it seems.
You pretty much summed it all up there. I don’t have a great deal to add except that Jericho deserves a high spot for Unforgiven 2008 alone. Ranking the Talent didn’t exist back then but he was sure to have taken top spot if it did. The Unsanctioned match wasn’t the best encounter in the feud but was still great and an excellent storyline advancer. Another note on Jericho is that he has a positive Triple Crown in September, coming out victorious in tag team, IC and World Heavyweight Championship bouts.
He may have done very well in Ranking the Talent, but at the end of the day there can be only one Mr September, and I think it’ll come as a surprise to no-one that we’ve chosen....
Whilst Prime and I are definitely not guys who believe that everything Shawn touches turns to gold, we were both convinced pretty quickly that HBK would be taking the top spot for September. Of course, we have talked about some of his matches already, in particular his battles with Orton and Jericho in addition to DX’s fights against Legacy and the McMahons. That is only half the story though. He has a couple of fillers after his comeback against Chris Masters and Kane. There was a no-contest with The Undertaker in the build up to the first Hell in a Cell, as well as a big tag team match that saw him team with Diesel against Yokozuna and British Bulldog where the WWF, IC and tag belts were all on the line. The highlight, however, is his match with Mankind from Mind Games. When I did the best of the best of my Ultimate PPV series, the match actually took its place as my main event. Despite the fact that it had a dusty finish, it was a phenomenal encounter and great clash of styles. Add that to the supporting cast and it is easily enough to see us crown Shawn Michaels as Mr September.
Yeah, it’s right to point out that we don’t, like some, fall over our feet to praise Michaels. If you look at his record in September, there’s a few matches here that don’t really do very much for me. The first match, the ‘triple-header’ from In Your House 3, was just a bit of a mess. Not entirely his fault, but it is what it is. Then, in 1997, the match with ‘Taker was really just to build to their epic encounter in the first Hell in a Cell match - consequently, it’s a bit of a nothing-bout. After he comes back, the match with Kane, the one with the McMahons, and the one with Chris Masters, all of which do very little to propel him to this title. In fact, I guess it shows exactly how weak a month September has been for the company, caught in a post-Summerslam malaise perhaps, that the guy we’ve chosen as the best for the month has a less than 50% success rate, in my eyes at least. Still, there can be little arguing with those matches that were a success. I’ve already touched on the bout with Jericho from 2008, and the match with Orton (though I will pay credit to Shawn individually here for his work with the very green Legend Killer) as both being really strong outing, and I’d say the Breaking Point match with The Legacy plays a good supporting role to those matches taking centre stage. Finally, though, the one match that pushes him above Jericho and ensures him top spot is the match from In Your House: Mind Games, with Mankind.There are some seriously good reasons for considering Shawn’s first WWE title reign a failure, but to give him his due you have to point out some of the excellent matches he had back then. The one from the September PPV was probably the strongest, despite the finish. Not just two different styles (although with Foley in there, that was a key dynamic), but visible tactics from Michaels - an element of wrestling so often neglected in today’s WWE. I still think it’s the best match from the month of September that the WWE have put on since I started watching wrestling - and you’ve got to say, that’s a pretty sad indictment that in 15 years, probably 16 by the time Night of Champions passes, they haven’t managed to get that close to it again.
Interesting that you mention Night of Champions as clearly that could have an effect on future editions of this list. John Cena may well have a case by the end of the PPV to not only be well clear of Orton but possibly pressing for a top three spot. Whilst nobody is expecting anything of the quality of their match from Money in the Bank last year, we have seen that he works very well with Punk. And talking of old Cock Milk Punky Brewster, he too may be making a claim for the list by the time NOC is over. He missed out on the selection criteria due to having just four September matches. Ironically that is due in large part to being taken out of his World Heavyweight Championship defence at Unforgiven 2008 courtesy of a pre-match attack from Randy Orton. Add that to all the shenanigans at NOC last year and it is probably wise that Punk watches his back against Cena as he does have a history of being taken out.
Cena certainly does work well with Punk, their match getting plaudits from fans who aren’t normally interested in anything Cena does. For me, it’d have to be a hell of a match to move him too much in here, but I guess it’s possible. I doubt Punk can say the same, though. He’s got nothing I’d really consider a stand-out on his list so far, and so even if he did have a top match, he’d still need another before I’d be overly wowed by his CV. One I do remember, though, was his match with The Undertaker, where they reached, once again, for the faux screwjob finish - a move that really doesn’t work anymore. Speaking of ‘Taker, he’s one of the people to have plenty of matches without cracking the final countdown. Another is his kayfabe brother, Kane. It’s kind of strange that both Brothers of Destruction feature frequently without really making their way into either of our thoughts, eh?
Kane, unfortunately, is somebody who is likely to fall into this category quite a lot as this series progresses I would assume. He is good enough to make the cards year in, year out but rarely does anything particularly memorable. In fact he found himself more often than not in multiman affairs. His Last Man Standing match with Shane McMahon stands out, but only really because of “Simba’s” insane jump. Aside from that, his big moments all have one common factor... his brother. The Brothers of Destruction have been in each other’s business on four occasions at September PPVs. Both came out the losing side of a fatal-four-way where the Rock pinned Chris Benoit in 2000. The next year they were on the same team during the InVasion angle as they defeated KroniK for the WCW tag team titles. Kane retained his World Heavyweight Championship against Taker in a No Holds Barred match at NOC 2010 but the most intriguing crossing of paths came in 1998 at Breakdown: In Your House. The brothers challenged Steve Austin in a triple threat match for the WWF title. The finish saw both men pin Stone Cold simultaneously resulting the the title being held up.
I think September is actually a really strong month in one respect, and that is if you want to get at the heart of what stops Kane from being a top tier talent. To me, Glen is a good performer and once you strip away a lot of the crap, the character is a good one with a lot of merit to it - but it just doesn’t seem like the WWE really have much of a handle on it. His best run, in my opinion, is still the first one - certainly from October 1997 until Wrestlemania XIV, and possibly continuing on until his first WWE title reign in June 1998. In all that time, his principal antagonist was The Undertaker, but by September that has shifted and they’d formed an alliance to take the strap from Austin. He actually did quite well as a midcarder under Vince Russo as a sympathetic babyface character for much of 1999 (take a picture of me complimenting Russo, because it won’t happen often), but since then you are hard pushed to name many occasions in which the character has really had a clear drive - aside from the mask on, mask off shenanigans, it mostly seems to be constant turning, and more than that a case of falling in and out of love with this brother. The unfortunate thing is that none of the subsequent returns to that initial story have ever carried the same weight, and as a team they were nowhere near as compelling as they’ve both managed to be at an individual level. There’s a couple of bouts that really hurt his chances of making the countdown in my eyes. One is a match with Shane McMahon - I’ve always been a fan of his heel work, but in general there is a bit of ‘seen one, seen ‘em all’ about Shane O’Mac, and the Kane match came about three years after the height of his relevance. The other is the match with Kronik - I won’t beat up Adams and Clarke the way some did, because it was a stupid idea to put them with The Brothers anyway. They were the WCW equivalent of that big, dominant tag unit, and they weren’t going to suddenly become expert sellers overnight.
Undertaker is a different story, mind. Sure, he’s obviously got some of the same links with Kane and they are equally troubling for him, but I always got the sense that his weakness in this month came not from poor definition, from behind the scenes, but almost purely through an accident of the WWE calendar. It always seemed to me that in September, sandwiched as it is between Summerslam, the second biggest PPV of the year, and with a short run to Survivor Series or The Royal Rumble, that ‘Taker was usually building to something at this time of year, rather than hitting his peak. In 1996 he had a match with Goldust to break up his feud with Mankind, in 1997 he had the match that prepared the ground for Hell in a Cell a month later. You can say the same thing about his later match with Brock Lesnar, while I always thought he was a bit of an irrelevance in his efforts in between, with the 1998 match being all about Austin/McMahon, the second all about Rocky, and the third being a foregone conclusion down the card during the Invasion. Is the idea that ‘Taker was so often peaking at the wrong time to do well in September something you’d go along with?
Yes, yes I would. Not just specific to The Deadman either but I think September as a whole is full of fillers. I have mentioned the numerous multiman main events, probably used to appease those upper-midcarders who missed out on a big match at SummerSlam. You mentioned that the match at Mind Games was the best in September history but that was probably more by luck than judgement. It fits in with the whole “thrown together to kill time” category. Michaels and Foley may have made it a classic, but I think the finish really sums up how big it was to the WWF at the time.
You're not wrong about that Foley/HBK match. It was definitely a place filler, a match to kill time between big matches in their respective feuds, that ended up going very well. Still, that just adds more to the indictment that they’ve never been able to top it, if you ask me. That they managed that in what was, really, a nothing match surely means they should be capable of producing it more often in the midst of serious storylines?
Not necessarily. As football fans we have seen relegated teams play their best football once they go down. Less pressure and expectation can lead the way to better performances. To throw it back to a wrestling standpoint, a lot of superstars greatest matches won’t necessarily be in big world title matches but maybe at the midcard level. I’d say that the last match on a PPV isn’t the best match on the card as often as it perhaps should be. Most memorable, yes, but best, no.
Right, I think that is enough from us for this month. We hope you have enjoyed our look back to WWE’s September PPVs over the years. We would be extremely happy to hear your thoughts on the column. Have we overlooked somebody from a space in the top five? Do you think Michaels was the wrong choice for this month? Are there different things you’d like to see us discuss in future editions? As always, you can use the handy little comments boxes below, shoot us an email >>>here<<< or hit us up on Twitter @MazzaLOP and @LOPprimetime. We shall be back next month at some point where we will be crowning Mr October. Until then... Peace!