WWE: Ranking the Pay-Per-Views of 2012
As the WWE gears up to kick off its 2013 pay-per-view calendar with the Royal Rumble later this month, let’s take a moment to reflect back on the pay-per-views of 2012. Like any year in professional wrestling there were the ups and the downs. With 12 events in 2012 not every pay-per-view delivered on its cost, but last year did have its standouts that were worth the price.
2012’s schedule saw a solid mix of the usual classic events like SummerSlam, Survivor Series and of course, WrestleMania, along with modern pay-per-view favorites such as Extreme Rules, Money in the Bank and TLC.
With Capital Punishment from 2011 replaced by No Way Out in 2012, and no overly ridiculous match-specific events such as 2010’s Fatal Four-Way, the year had a solid schedule. As for the content of these individual events, let us now take a look at the best and the worst. This is my ranking of the WWE’s pay-per-views from 2012.
12. Elimination Chamber: February 19, 2012
The year’s second pay-per-view provided an extremely below-average quality event.
In a bout for the United States title, Justin Gabriel tapped-out to Jack Swagger in just over three minutes. The Divas at least received more attention with Beth Phoenix retaining the title against Tamina Snuka. A definitive highlight of the night was seeing Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s daughter actually get a match on pay-per-view.
The two signature Elimination Chamber matchups were also very disappointing. Although the WWE Championship Chamber did claim the match of the night, it lacked anything overly notable. Chris Jericho’s elimination courtesy of CM Punk saw him knocked unconscious in a fall out of the chamber in a very ambiguous manner.
At over 30 minutes in length the World Heavyweight Championship Chamber match was a very tedious match that was hard to get into. Whereas the WWE title match featured big names like The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, the Heavyweight Chamber disappointed with The Great Khali and Santino Marella.
Both matches saw the champions, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, retaining the titles despite the odds. In fact, all four titles defended that night were retained. It is bizarre that the Elimination Chamber is promoted as the last obstacle for champions to overcome to make it to WrestleMania, and yet a title hasn’t changed hands in the Chamber since 2010.
The main event of the evening saw John Cena rise above the hate to defeat Kane in an ambulance match that was all gimmick and no substance. In all, Elimination Chamber was an unnecessary filler pay-per-view. It was apparent that the WWE was preparing for WrestleMania and Elimination Chamber suffered because of that.
11. Royal Rumble: January 29, 2012
The trend seen at Elimination Chamber was the continuation of a bad start to the year that began at the Royal Rumble.
The promotional poster featured Santino Marella, which adequately summed up the whole event: a little bit of comedy without much wrestling substance. That is exactly the event we got, with a couple of short and pointless matches serving as filler until the Royal Rumble match itself.
The night opened with Daniel Bryan retaining the heavyweight title in a 10 minute cage match. He escaped to overcome the Big Show and Mark Henry. Later Brodus Clay would squash Drew McIntyre and eight divas paraded around in what was apparently a tag match.
Kane and John Cena’s rivalry saw a mere 10 minute fight to a double count-out and so it was the WWE Championship match which stole the dim spotlight. CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler put on a match befitting of their reputations as two of the best in the WWE; however, the downside was that John Laurinaitis served as the special guest referee.
The Royal Rumble match was rather bland and only really redeemed by some amusing moments and guest entrants. The Cobra of Santino Marella and Mick Foley’s Mr. Socko faced off at one stage. Guest appearances from “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Kharma and The Road Dogg helped pad out the hour.
After the whole commentary table tried their luck in the Rumble, it came down to Chris Jericho and Sheamus. Entering as number 29, Jericho promised the end of the world as we knew it, which turned out to be him putting Sheamus over in the mildly suspenseful conclusion to the match.
Overall, the Rumble was barely any better than Elimination Chamber.
10. Over the Limit: May 20, 2012
Over the Limit was the first pay-per-view to feature the online exclusive pre-show, which saw Ryder take on the "Big Red Monster" Kane in a losing effort. The pre-show went on to feature an impromptu battle royal that was won by a returning Christian. With the choice of a shot at either of the two minor titles, Christian would go on to defeat Cody Rhodes for the Intercontinental Championship later in the evening.
Although the card was full in match quantity, the quality said otherwise.
The Miz somehow got squashed by Brodus Clay, and Kamacho would also get squashed by Ryback. Layla defeated Beth Phoenix to retain her title while Kofi Kingston and R-Truth retained the tag titles against Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger.
The highlights from Over the Limit came in the form of the two major championship matches. In a fairly solid fatal-four-way bout, Sheamus held on to the Heavyweight title against Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho.
The show-stealer however came from Daniel Bryan and CM Punk.
In their near half-hour match, which many have called 2012’s best technical display, Punk overcame Bryan’s arsenal of submission holds to retain the belt. It was then absolutely appalling to see John Cena face off against John Laurinaitis as the main event. Perhaps it was slightly amusing that the WWE actually thought they could sell Big Show’s obvious heel turn as a shocking development.
9. Night of Champions: September 16, 2012
Night of Champions is the night each year where every title is on the line; although, it is not the only night. Every pay-per-view should see all titles defended and Night of Champions at least always provides that. 2012’s incarnation saw the ring and ramp adorned in pink, in support of Breast Cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. John Cena even debuted his “Rise Above Cancer” attire for the occasion.
It is debatable that the whole breast cancer display was more for positive media attention due to Linda McMahon’s eventually unsuccessful Senate Campaign, than it was for charity. All it really did was take the focus away from the wrestling event at hand. Perhaps it can be forgiven, as the “Wrestling God” John Bradshaw Layfield returned to commentary that night to replace Jerry Lawler after his heart attack.
The pre-show featured a battle royal where the winner received a shot at the United States title later in the evening. Ted DiBiase made his return from injury in the battle royal only to be quickly eliminated and not seen since. Zach Ryder would claim the victory, only to be promptly defeated by Antonio Cesaro on the main card.
The opening botch-ridden bout featured Sin Cara against Rey Mysterio, Cody Rhodes and the defending Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a fatal-four way match. The Miz held on to his gold, while the mismatch of Kane and Daniel Bryan picked up the tag belts off Kofi Kingston and R-Truth.
Eve would also defeat Layla for the Divas title after having the No. 1 contender Kaitlyn taken out backstage. It was extremely poor of the WWE to have promoted Kaitlyn for the event only to pull her last-minute. Especially, when for a full month beforehand it was suspected that Eve was supposed to be the challenger.
If fans actually cared for the Divas division, then they were robbed of the match they had paid for.
Sheamus overcame Alberto Del Rio to retain the Heavyweight title in their prolonged mediocre feud. Things picked up when Dolph Ziggler took on Randy Orton in a great 20 minute wrestling display. The main event featured CM Punk and John Cena in a contest that was a potential for match of the year. With the superstars kicking out of their opponents finishers twice, as well as a plethora of other moves, the match ended in a double pin and draw.
The main event helped to somewhat redeem a very disappointing pay-per-view.
8. SummerSlam: August 19, 2012
SummerSlam is supposed to be the biggest party of the summer, and if it actually was, then 2012 had a pretty average summer. The Pre-Show provided a strong beginning that saw Antonio Cesaro save the United States Championship from the joke that is Santino Marella.
The main card opened with a very solid match from Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler; however what followed quickly became wrestling mediocrity. In a collection of short matches, Daniel Bryan overcame Kane; The Miz retained the Intercontinental title against Rey Mysterio; and the Prime Time Players were unsuccessful in obtaining the tag titles from Kofi Kingston and R-Truth.
Alberto Del Rio challenged Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Title but came up short in one of the evening’s better matches. In what should have been the main event CM Punk defeated both the Big Show and John Cena in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship.
Like the rest of the card, it was entertaining, but nothing special.
The night ended with the much-hyped match between Triple H and Brock Lesnar, which couldn’t quite live up to the expectations set for it. As a standard match-up it failed to compare to Lesnar’s return match with Cena earlier in the year. SummerSlam had some solid matches, but was an overall average pay-per-view.
7. Survivor Series: November 18, 2012
While the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam failed to provide what has come to be expected of the “Big Four” pay-per-views, Survivor Series took a step back in the right direction, albeit after a slow start. The night began with a pointless tag match in the pre-show between 3MB and Team Co-Bro, before the show opened with Team Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara facing Team Prime-Time Players in an impromptu traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match.
Eve would later face and defeat Kaitlyn in a decent seven minute Divas title match that breathed some life into the division. Antonio Cesaro and R-Truth’s United States Championship match could have been so much more than the disappointing bout they delivered.
The second traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match pitted Dolph Ziggler’s team against Mick Foley’s team. Despite the fact that there was nothing really riding upon the match, it was a strong bout that was stolen by the sole-survivor, Dolph Ziggler. Finally getting to see Ziggler begin to go over as Mr. Money in the Bank and a future World Champion, instead of being buried, made the match worthwhile.
Big Show and Sheamus II provided another excellent contest that ended with the Big Show retaining the Heavyweight title through the disqualification technicality. The evening’s main event was rightfully the WWE Championship triple-threat match between CM Punk, John Cena and Ryback.
The standout moment came from the debut of the Shield: young talent in the form of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. The imposing stable would send Ryback through the announce table with an assisted powerbomb which aided Punk in retaining. Such a strong ending helped to boost an all around decent pay-per-view.
6. No Way Out: June 17, 2012
It was good to see No Way Out back on the pay-per-view schedule for the first time since 2009. Once Brodus Clay had defeated a fleeing David Utunga through countout in the pointless pre-show, the fairly solid main card commenced. Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler’s opening Heavyweight title match provided a solid start to the event, despite Ziggler taking the place of a sidelined Alberto Del Rio.
Santion Marella and Ricardo Rodriguez immediately bought the strong opening down with a tuxedo match that completely ignored Santino’s United States title. Further low points in the evening included Ryback squashing two nobodies in a handicap match; Sin Cara defeating Hunico in an inconsequential bout; and Triple H making an appearance just to cut a promo to build his rivalry with Brock Lesnar.
In the match of the night Christian retained the Intercontinental Championship against Cody Rhodes. The tag team division also saw some spotlight with a fatal-four-way match to determine the No. 1 contenders for the tag titles. Layla would also defeat Beth Phoenix to hold onto her title in a strong showing for the Divas Division.
The should-be main event was the WWE Championship triple threat contest between CM Punk, Kane and Daniel Bryan, which featured some prancing from AJ Lee and nothing overly special. The closing bout pitted the Big Show against John Cena in a steel-cage with a whole lot of stipulations.
If John Cena lost, then he would be fired.
But if Big Show lost, John Laurinaitis would be fired and the era of People Power would come to an end. Vince McMahon also sat ringside in a desperate attempt at ratings to watch Cena escape the cage and put Laurinaitis through the announce table to send him off in an entertaining bout.
5. Hell in a Cell: October 28, 2012
Typically the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view has been a not-so-good event due to it containing several Cell matches that do nothing but tarnish the legacy of the steel structure. However, in 2012 there was just the one Hell in a Cell match and so the focus of the night was back to wrestling and not destroying a legacy.
Randy Orton would defeat Alberto Del Rio in the night’s opening bout which was followed by the final of the month-long tag team tournament. The Rhode Scholars challenged Team Hell No for the belts, and while they claimed the victory through disqualification, the tag team gold eluded them.
It was great to see the tag division get such focus with the tournament and Hell in a Cell furthered that with a bonus tag match that pitted Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara against the Prime Time Players.
Another of Hell in a Cell’s strong aspects was that every title was on the line; just as it should be on pay-per-view. Kofi Kingston retained the Intercontinental Championship against The Miz; Antonio Cesaro retained the United States title against Justin Gabriel; and Eve retained against Kaitlyn and Layla in the Divas’ best match of the year.
The Big Show defeated Sheamus to gain the World Heavyweight Championship in a show-stealing performance that surprised everyone and started one of the best feuds of the year. The main event Hell in a Cell contest was initially CM Punk against John Cena, but the company’s poster boy was sidelined by injury and relegated to appearing in the pre-show.
It would be Ryback that stepped up to the plate to a mixed reaction from fans. After months of squash matches and botches, the world was uncertain if Ryback would be ready for the main event. While he didn’t screw up, he didn’t stand out either.
While the Cell match itself was nothing memorable, the controversial ending sure was.
The match official Brad Maddox hit Ryback with a low blow and followed it with a quick assisted three count on Punk’s roll up. Ryback would take out his anger on Maddox and also hit Punk with a shell-shocker on the roof of the cell. While the Hell in a Cell match isn’t what it used to be anymore, the pay-per-view incarnation last year was at least a quality event.
4. Money in the Bank: July 15, 2012
What began as a yearly match at WrestleMania 21 has now become a fan-favorite pay-per-view tradition each year, and 2012 delivered the goods in many aspects. The tag division received some spotlight with both a pre-show bout, featuring Hunico with Kamacho against R-Truth and Kofi Kingston. Primo and Epico faced off against the Prime Time Players later in the evening.
There was some pointless filler in the form of Ryback defeating Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks as well as a six Diva novelty tag match. The rest of the card made for a decent pay-per-view. Dolph Ziggler would overcome seven other men to earn the Money in the Bank contract in the traditional ladder match. It was great to see the talented young “show-off” all but secure a future world championship.
The second Money in the Bank ladder match and main event was somewhat redundant. By only including former WWE Champions there was no chance for any up and coming talent to break out of the midcard. John Cena would claim the victory through the briefcase’s handle breaking off, but it was nice to see The Miz make an unexpected return.
In the major title matches Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio had a strong showing for the Heavyweight title, despite the lackluster feud surrounding the bout. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan stole the show in their half-hour no disqualification WWE Championship match that also had AJ Lee as the special guest referee.
3. TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs: December 16, 2012
Of all of the WWE’s modern pay-per-views based around matches, TLC is by far the best as it allows for four different and unique contests. TLC as an event has always delivered, especially in the titular TLC match, and 2012 was no different.
In the pre-show, Naomi came out of nowhere to earn a shot at the Divas title in a battle royal. She would then lose to Eve later in the evening, but it was nice to see a fresh face in title contention. The proper card opened with Team Rhode Scholars defeating Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara in a tables match to become the No. 1 contenders for the Tag Team Championships.
Antonio Cesaro retained the United States title against R-Truth and Kofi Kingston also retained the Intercontinental Championship against Wade Barrett. An impromptu six-man tag match saw 3MB defeated by The Miz, Alberto Del Rio and The Brooklyn Brawler, who made a surprise appearance.
The TLC bout was originally slated to be CM Punk and Ryback for the WWE Championship, but with Punk out injured it became The Shield against Ryback and Team Hell No. It was the first TLC match to be decided via pinfall or submission and it truly stole the show. The young talent of The Shield earned their place in the WWE with excellent spots and overall excellent choreography from all participants.
It truly was a piece of art.
In a chairs match, The Big Show utilized a mammoth chair to overcome Sheamus for the Heavyweight title in another of their feud’s classic matches. The main event saw Dolph Ziggler defending his Money in the Bank briefcase against John Cena in a ladder match. Cena seemingly had the victory until AJ turned on him, allowing Ziggler to capitalize and keep his contract.
TLC ended the pay-per-view calendar with a bang.
2. WrestleMania XXVIII: April 1, 2012
It is the grandest stage of them all: the yearly wrestling extravaganza.
Almost 80,000 fans packed out Sun Life Stadium for the four-hour super-show. All of the grandeur makes WrestleMania a very special event every year, but it is the quality of the wrestling behind it all that truly determines how great an event is.
WrestleMania XXVIII did not fail to provide.
In the little-seen DVD-exclusive dark match, Primo and Epico defeated Tyson Kidd with Justin Gabriel, and the Usos, in a triple-threat tag team match for the titles. Although only a short match, it remains the tag division's best showing for the year, which is why it was a shame that it missed out on the main card. Especially when Brodus Clay wasted 10 minutes dancing.
The event opened with a very disappointing 18-second match where one of the best tacticians Daniel Bryan lost the Heavyweight title to Sheamus. It may have made for a WrestleMania moment, but a 20-minute match from the two would have been much better. Kane and Randy Orton put together a solid singles match for the occasion, and The Big Show defeated Cody Rhodes for the Intercontinental title.
The Divas division had nothing worthwhile for the evening, other than a publicity stunt.
Instead of defending the title, Beth Phoenix teamed with Eve to lose to Kelly Kelly and the journalist Maria Menounos. The WWE tells us we shouldn’t try what we see on their programs at home, but any random journalist can get in the ring and defeat a champion apparently. If the division wasn’t already buried this would have put it underground.
From there things would truly start to shine. The Undertaker defeated Triple H to go 20-0 at WrestleMania in the “End of an Era” Hell in a Cell match. The show-stealing performance gained many match-of-the-year awards and a group hug from the two and Special Guest Referee Shawn Michaels provided for an emotional moment following the match.
After Team Johnny defeated Team Teddy in an average match that ushered in the era of People Power (which must be why the Hell in a Cell match was the end of an era), the WWE championship was defended in a wrestling clinic. CM Punk forced Chris Jericho into submission after 20 minutes of counter-grappling and pure wrestling.
To end the night the face of the PG-era, John Cena took on the staple of the attitude era in The Rock. The “once in a lifetime” bout took almost half an hour of pre-match build up to finally get started, but it did not disappoint. The over 30-minute bout lived up to the hype and saw the Rock standing tall over the franchise player.
1. Extreme Rules: April 29, 2012
WrestleMania may have the overall production value on its side, but its content just wasn’t quite on the level of what we got on Extreme Rules. What we got at WrestleMania’s fallout pay-per-view was technical, edgy and extreme. The night had the overall package.
Prior to the main show, Santino Marella quickly disposed of The Miz to retain the United States championship. Other forgettable low points from the night saw Dolph Ziggler getting squashed by Brodus Clay and Ryback defeating two nobodies. There may be two of them, but two multiplied by zero still always equals zero.
The show started with a very solid Falls Count Anywhere match from Kane and Randy Orton that saw the Viper come out on top and set the stage for things to come. Cody Rhodes later regained the Intercontinental title from the Big Show after forcing him to stumble on the apron and step through a table.
To follow up their shameful match at WrestleMania, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan were given a two-out-of-three falls match for them to shine. The contest more than made up for WrestleMania with an excellent wrestling display that concluded with Sheamus retaining the Heavyweight title. In the Divas division Layla made a surprise return to defeat Nikki Bella for the title and went on to carry the division for most of the year.
In another WrestleMania rematch, Chris Jericho and CM Punk put together an excellent Chicago Street-Fight that even topped their WrestleMania bout. Amongst a collapsed announcer table, chairs, kendo sticks, alcohol and fire extinguishers, Punk once again reigned supreme.
The main event saw Brock Lesnar return to devastate John Cena in a bloodbath, well, at least the PG-era equivalent. Although Cena picked up the victory, Lesnar went over as a beast and fans were on the edge of their seats wondering whether there was actually supposed to be blood or not.
Reality and kayfabe further blurred with Cena’s ambiguous post-match promo about being injured and maybe needing to take time off. Cena never ended up going anywhere, but regardless, everything came together at Extreme Rules for 2012’s best pay-per-view event.
Other than WrestleMania, there was an extremely poor showing from the WWE’s “Big Four” pay-per-views in 2012. The year started off very poorly with the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, but picked up in time for WrestleMania and Extreme Rules.
After that, things went back downhill again with Over the Limit. The WWE didn’t really find their footing again until later in the year with Hell in a Cell and TLC, although Money in the Bank provided for a solid event.
Overall, of their 12 events, only around half were truly worth the cost, with the other six falling short of what pay-per-views should be. That’s my opinion at least.
Be sure to sound off in the comments on whether or not you agree and let us know what your favorite events were in 2012.
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