The WWE has certainly had its ups and downs since the calendar has hit 2012.
We have seen the successful returns of superstars such as Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar and Tensai (previously known as Albert or A-Train), and the rise of young guys who have really made their impact on the company like Daniel Bryan. But along with that, stars whose stock seemed to have been rising—Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and Zack Ryder—is now fading away.
WrestleMania was considered to be a huge success both in terms of quality and revenue, but the other four pay-per-views have been inconsistent.
One thing that has been consistent, though, is that already only five months in, there have been several great matches in the WWE in 2012.
Here is my list of the top 15.
Note: Some of the matches can be seen in full, while others only have highlight videos. Remember, all of this content is owned by the WWE.
Singles Match: Smackdown, May 18th
In what seems to be a recent trend, the WWE has been giving away some pretty long matches on TV recently, specifically on Smackdown.
The Big Red Monster's return has been up and down, but this was one of his best matches since returning, and it really showed that when given the right opponent, he can still bring it in the ring.
Kane made a point early on to go after the ribs of CM Punk in this match, and Punk did a great job selling it throughout. The match had several near falls and some cool spots by both competitors.
The ending to this match was good as well, as it didn't make Kane look weak by having him get pinned. Instead, Daniel Bryan got involved by attacking Kane with a chair and framing it on CM Punk, which caused The Big Red Monster to lose it and demolish Punk, furthering the feud between Punk and Bryan at Over the Limit.
No Disqualification Match for the WWE Championship: Raw, April 16th
In the midst of his feud with Chris Jericho over the WWE Championship, CM Punk entered into a mini-feud with Mark Henry, which saw him defend the title against the World's Strongest Man for three weeks in a row.
In the first encounter, Punk was counted out; in the second, he was disqualified. Both were losses to Henry, so neither saw Punk lose his title.
As a result, the third and final matchup was a no DQ, no countout matchup for the title.
Like his match with Kane, Punk proved that he is fully capable of putting on a great show against a big man, as he and Henry had a very solid match.
The two made good use of being outside of the ring, even incorporating a steel chair, which Punk used while diving off the top rope to secure the win.
While the result was never really in question (Punk already has his match booked at Extreme Rules with Jericho), it still told a good story and had a great finish.
Singles Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Smackdown, January 6th
At age 47, Booker T proved in his feud with Cody Rhodes that he still has what it takes to put on a show.
After losing to Rhodes at TLC, Booker knocked off Rhodes on Raw, which set up the third and final installment of their feud on Smackdown for the belt.
Booker didn't show any signs of ring rust, and he and the young Rhodes showed some very good chemistry in the ring.
The match started slow but really picked up towards the end, including a great false finish when Booker hit the Scissor Kick on Cody.
Singles Match: Raw, March 12th
This was a very good television match with two of the WWE's best up-and-comers, who showed what they can do in the ring when given a decent amount of time to put on a match.
Sheamus was still riding high off of his momentum of winning the Royal Rumble, which would eventually lead to him winning the World Heavyweight Championship in just 18 seconds at WrestleMania.
The match's highlights included Ziggler sneaking underneath the ring apron to sneak-attack Sheamus and Ziggler's awesome sell of the Brogue Kick, which ended the matchup.
The only negative was that WWE decided to have an interview between Josh Matthews and Daniel Bryan in the middle of the matchup, which took away from the flow of the match.
Triple Threat Tag Team Match for the WWE Tag Team Championships: Raw, February 27th
I really wanted to include a tag team match on this list, and in my opinion, this one featuring three of the top tag teams in the WWE right now was the best of 2012.
Primi and Epico did a really good job as champions despite not always having television time, and now Truth and Kingston are deserving champions.
Having these three teams as well as the emergence of up-and-coming teams like The Uso's, Darren Young and Titus O'Neil and Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks have helped bring the WWE's tag team division closer to relevancy.
Considering the prowess of the four superstars going against them, it was fairly surprising that the WWE believed in Primo and Epico enough to have them keep the belts here, but it did help them get over as legitimate champions.
All six men are very skilled in the ring and the match featured some great back-and-forth action, highlighted by Kofi Kingston's double boom drop, and a fun finish that saw Swagger lock in the ankle lock, Kofi hit the Trouble in Paradise and finally Primo sneak in for the backstabber to get the win.
For some ridiculous reason, after the match, Kane came in and attacked everyone, which took away from the match overall.
Singles Match: Raw, January 30th
Randy Orton's character bores me, but there is no doubt he is one of the best workers in the business, so when put into matchup with another one of the best in-ring performers in the company in Dolph Ziggler, it was a recipe for an excellent TV matchup on Monday night Raw.
Ziggler was on the heels of his WWE Championship feud with CM Punk and Orton was still in the midst of his rivalry with Wade Barrett (which we'll see more of later on in this list), so they were both given ample time to look solid in this matchup before the Viper put it away.
Fatal 4-Way for the World Heavyweight Championship: Over The Limit, May 20th
This match had pretty much everything you could want from a Fatal 4-Way: lots of back-and-forth action and near finishes.
It was hard to see any of the three challengers actually taking the belt from Shemus, so the result wasn't all that surprising, but it was still an excellent multi-man PPV match.
In my mind, Jericho was the standout of the match, and it's a shame WWE chose him to take the pin over ADR.
Singles Match for the WWE Championship: WrestleMania XXVIII, April 1st
Although it is the lesser of their two contests from this year, in my opinion, CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho on the grandest stage of them all was still an amazing match.
As you would expect from a WrestleMania championship match (although Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan didn't seem to get the memo), there were several false finishes and lots of action-packed moments.
The two really showed why they are in the conversation for being "best in the world," as they seamlessly played off each other to create a fantastic technical wrestling match.
No DQ Match: Smackdown, February 3rd
Although this match didn't quite stack up to their brawl from two months earlier, which resulted in having Orton written off TV for a little while, this one was still very well done and made good use of the No DQ rules, which is where the Viper is really at his best.
In my mind, this was likely the best television match so far this year, as the rest of the matches on this list come from pay-per-views. It is a shame that Barrett is hurt because he would likely have feuded with Sheamus for the World title if he was on Smackdown right now.
Extreme Rules Match: Extreme Rules, April 29th
Upon returning to the WWE, Brock Lesnar was instantly inserted into the main event at the next WWE PPV, Extreme Rules, against the company's top man.
There were several questions as to whether Lesnar still had what it took to bring it in a WWE match eight years after originally leaving the company, but this match proved all the doubters wrong.
While admittedly one-sided for the majority of the bout, Lesnar looked completely dominant and fit the monster heel role he was placed in. He debuted his new submission finisher, the Kimura (which he would later use to kayfabe break HHH's arm), tied Cena up in a chain and had a pretty awesome spot where he jumped off the steel steps as a springboard to knock Cena out of the ring. Very early in the match, Cena was busted completely open, which made it even better.
Although Super-Cena returned in the end to pick up the win, it was still an extremely entertaining match, and a very successful return to the ring for Brock.
Chicago Street Fight: Extreme Rules, April 29th
Even greater than their WrestleMania bout, the Street Fight between CM Punk and Chris Jericho at Extreme Rules was an unbelievable contest that put a fitting end to their epic rivalry.
While the match at WM highlighted their technical prowess, the match at Extreme Rules was just pure entertainment with some amazing spots, including CM Punk using a fire extinguisher to break out of the Walls of Jericho, Jericho hitting a codebreaker on a steel chair to Punk and, the highlight of the match, Punk's flying elbow to Jericho on the announce table.
Simply put, this was one of the best No DQ-type matches in a long time, and it ended what was the rivalry of the year thus far between CM Punk and Chris Jericho.
Singles Match: WrestleMania XXVIII, April 1st
Its hard to argue that the main event of WrestleMania 28 wasn't the most publicized match in the history of the WWE.
John Cena vs. The Rock had been in place for a year, and for the entirety of that year, WWE was hyping up this matchup as the biggest of all time.
The match wasn't the best of all time, but in my mind, it did live up to the hype. No one expected it to be the most technically sound contest; after all, Cena is hardly known for that, and The Rock hadn't been in the ring in years other than one match at Survivor Series.
Still though, it was highly entertaining and was a match that the WWE could be proud of main-eventing the most-watched WrestleMania of all time.
Rock really didn't miss a beat in his return to action, and Cena showed once again that, given the right opponent, he really can wrestle.
No doubt it was the environment that made this match one of the year's best over anything else. But still, it is a must on the list of matches of the year so far in 2012.
Two out of Three Falls Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Extreme Rules, April 29th
Daniel Bryan and Sheamus were expected to be given the opportunity to show what they had for a massive audience at WrestleMania in a match for the World Heavyweight Championship. What they got instead was an 18-second squash.
However, the two wrestlers did get their chance to shine at Extreme Rules, and shine they did. In a night filled with great matches, this one was the best. Bryan was nearly flawless in the ring, and Sheamus showed he is more than capable of pulling off a high-quality one-on-one match.
It was refreshing to see these two take over as two of the new faces of the WWE, and they put on a great performance. The two out of three falls stipulation added an extra bit of intrigue to the feud as well, and the match really stole the show at the WWE's first post-WrestleMania PPV of the year.
Singles Match for the WWE Championship: Over the Limit, May 20th
After Punk ended his feud with Chris Jericho on top, and Bryan stepped away from the World title scene, the WWE decided to cash in on Bryan's increasing popularity and immediately start up a feud between the two for the WWE championship.
While the move seemed a little odd considering Bryan is still technically a Smackdown superstar (as if that matters anymore), and the feud seemed to come out of nowhere, one thing was for sure—when these two stepped in the ring at Over the Limit, it would be an excellent wrestling match.
The match was an indy fan's dream: two former ROH stars battling it out for the WWE's grandest prize. It was fun to see these two, who have known each other for so long and have each paid their dues, finally getting their moment in the spotlight (although it was not the main event, for whatever reason).
The athleticism and pure wrestling skill of these two is absolutely off the charts, and they showed off those qualities in this match. There was all kinds of fun submission maneuvers, reversals and kicks that these two brought to the match and in terms of pure wrestling ability, it was the match of the year, by far.
The finish was a little screwy, but it allows the feud to continue, which I am a huge proponent of.
Hell In a Cell Match w/ Shawn Michaels as the Special Guest Referee: WrestleMania XXVIII, April 1st
I won't say that this was the greatest match of all time, definitively, but in my mind, it absolutely must be in the conversation.
What these three were able to accomplish in this match was the epitome of what professional wrestling is when its at its best. Everyone knew The Undertaker would eventually win and increase his WrestleMania win streak to 20, but it was how we got there that made this one of the best matches ever, and easily the best match of 2012.
The story these three put on was off the charts, and for once, the use of the Cell was more then just a gimmick; it actually added a whole extra part to the match. Michaels served his purpose as referee without stealing the spotlight, and, admittedly, even I thought maybe, just maybe, The Dead Man's streak was over when he was hit with a Sweet Chin Music and Pedigree back-to-back.
This is one match where watching the highlight does not do it justice; however you can watch the match in its entirety. It is an absolute treat and really pulled the whole night together.
Thanks for reading, and if you're keeping track, that's five of the top 15 for CM Punk, three for Orton and Ziggler and two for Sheamus, Bryan, Cena and Jericho.