5 Best Wrestling Matches of 2001
2001 was another dominant year for WWE, and marked both one of its biggest triumphs and biggest failures, all at the same time.
On one hand, the Monday Night Wars were finally over. Vince McMahon purchased WCW, and folded soon as well. This left WWE with literally no major competition in the United States. He didn’t have to worry about any foreign countries competing with him either, as all Japan’s top three wrestling promotions were all struggling with their own issues.
On the other hand, with no competition to bring out the best in everyone, things took a weird turn in WWE. The first half of the year was still crazy awesome, as all five of the best matches of the year took place during the calendar’s half. But then things took a huge turn, as WWE’s creative heads made one of the biggest creative mistakes of all time: The Invasion storyline.
That storyline was booked in the worst way possible. Even though there were some great matches strewn in there, none of them felt like the dream matches that could’ve been if WWE managed the storyline better. The top wrestlers of the WWF/E did not face off against the top stars of WCW and ECW; it was midcarders and ‘lesser’ stars from these two other promotions that were expected to beat WWE’s biggest stars. It was executed so poorly that bona fide WWE stars had to ‘jump’ to the Alliance to make it believable that WWE could somehow lose these big ‘company vs. company’ matches.
That said, WWE was running on all cylinders during the first half of the year, as seen with the absolutely spectacular matches put on at the time. What’s most impressive is that most of the matches on this list were not singles matches and weren’t composed of the company’s top stars. Instead, most of them were made up of rising stars and tag team specialists, most of whom would later become top stars in WWE as the years progressed.
All five of these matches are legendary for their raucous crows, brutal action and memorable moments. In fact, at least one of them is widely lauded as the greatest moment in WrestleMania history, at least until that point.
So which (WWE) matches were the best of the year? Read on…
#5 Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit – Ladder Match – Royal Rumble 2001
As bitter rivals (at this point), Jericho and Benoit kept reversing each other’s biggest moves and scouting the other before a big move was hit. At one point Benoit attempted a suicide dive and Jericho blocked it by hitting Benoit in the head with a chair. It was a clever spot at the time, though seeing it now does affect the visual a bit in retrospect. Going into this match, Jericho and Benoit absolutely hated each other but also knew each other’s moves perfectly. That’s why they were able to block each other and come up with so many crazy moves in this phenomenal match.
Jericho also tried some crazy spots of his own, including a submission hold on the top of the ladder, and even tried to climb the ladder with Benoit pinned under the ladder’s legs. But Benoit still managed to work his way out of these tough situations, because he was a technical wrestling master if nothing else.
Benoit even showed his sheer craziness and determination by hitting a diving headbutt off the top of the ladder, which was an insane move, even for that period. In retrospect, it’s moves like this that actually damaged Benoit’s brain, so watching it is a bit more sickening than it would be if Benoit’s actions hadn’t occurred.
Nevertheless, this is an awesome match between two true workhorses that set the bar very high for WWE’s matches in the months to come.