Moments of dejection, elation and survival were the centerpieces of WWE's best matches in October.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust's journey from the unemployment line to champions dominated the month's greatest hits. Alberto Del Rio appears several times as well, as either a predator or a man toppled by a returning Superstar.
Both Battleground and Hell in a Cell had its disappointing bouts, but these two pay-per-views also gave fans reasons to cheer, to be awed, to be sucked in.
SmackDown, Raw and NXT offered its own memorable clashes. These matches are ranked here based on the entertainment value of the stakes, story and in-ring action. Bonus points are awarded for star power and being on a bigger stage.
The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes and Goldust on the Oct. 7 episode of Raw was one of many examples of the excellence displayed when these guys go to battle, but it's wasn't quite as thrilling wrestling-wise or in terms of story as their best work.
Goldust and Seth Rollins put on an impressive showing on Main Event from Oct. 23. Other matches in this feud topped it, though.
Damien Sandow vs. Alberto Del Rio was one of the highlights of the Oct. 11 SmackDown. Leo Kruger and Antonio Cesaro put on a lengthy, engrossing bout on the Oct. 9 edition of NXT.
Big in-ring moments and moving narratives edged these out, however.
What was supposed to be a warm-up match on the SmackDown before Battleground turned into a contest worthy of a pay-per-view.
Alberto Del Rio sought a victory before his match with Rob Van Dam while Dolph Ziggler wanted to pick up momentum before taking on Damien Sandow. Even adding in Del Rio and Ziggler's recent history, there wasn't all that much on the line or a story to help make the result more significant.
It was the in-ring action that powered this.
A frantic energy and pace made for an exciting bout. Both men turned the ring into a gallery for their athletic moves, countering each other and feeding off a great chemistry.
In terms of wrestling alone, this was one of the month's best matches, but a lack of stakes beyond wins and losses and no buildup before it has it slide down the list.
WWE's go-to formula for great matches right now is to throw in either Daniel Bryan, The Shield or Cody Rhodes and Goldust. This match has six of those men so the results were not surprising.
While not as emotional as the other Rhodes brothers versus The Shield offerings, the action between the ropes was so enthralling in its chaos that it has to be recognized.
An exciting pace throughout, action on the outside of the ring including Roman Reigns hurling Rhodes into the barricade and the intensifying enmity between these enemies made for a match more than worthy of the main event. Had this been on a bigger stage with more of a specific story leading up to it, this would challenge for one of the top spots on the list.
Many fans rolled their eyes in response to how Battleground ended, but it began in superb fashion.
Alberto Del Rio and Rob Van Dam utilized the Hardcore match rules to put on a stunning, violent performance. Van Dam was clearly willing to risk everything for the World Heavyweight Championship, leaping onto ladders and holding nothing back.
Del Rio thrived in the kind of match that Van Dam had more experience in. He looked every bit worthy of holding his title.
The stiffness of the kicks thrown by both men and the sense of desperation woven into the match made it one of Del Rio's best yet. The tease that Ricardo Rodriguez may turn on his Van Dam only added to the drama.
What hurts this bout, leaving it out of the top five, is that WWE did a poor job in building up this match. Van Dam's ECW experience was not emphasized enough and the two rivals didn't clash enough before this bout, verbally or otherwise.
Damien Sandow's cash-in on John Cena was WWE's equivalent to Dexter, a highly entertaining show with a horrid ending.
When Elena Gorgan writes on Softpedia.com of that show's finale, "The ending was messy because it didn't stick, it didn't feel believable," she could just as well be talking about Sandow vs. Cena. Taking issue with the ending is not being anti-Cena, it's opposing the idea that a one-armed man wins this fight.
Cena's vulnerability after his speedy recovery from surgery and having survived Alberto Del Rio the previous night made Sandow's pre-match attack an expected, but exciting move. He battered Cena's arm with every weapon he could find and then cashed in his Money in the Bank contract.
The match itself was thrilling.
Sandow tore at Cena's arm, zeroing in on that weakness. Cena fought on with a limp limb at his side. Like when Del Rio delayed Dolph Ziggler's eventual Money in the Bank win, there was a sense of doubt created here, suspense increasing with ever minute the match went on.
Sandow's best match of his career, one where Cena did a stellar job of selling at some points, could have resulted in a career-making moment for "The Intellectual Savior." Everything leading up to the disappointing ending earns this bout its spot here, but the ending drags it down several spots.
From The Usos' entrance to the moment where Cody Rhodes pinned Seth Rollins, there was an electric energy about this match.
The tag team championships felt hugely important with how hard these guys went after each other. Both The Usos and The Shield had a claim as the No. 1 contender to the titles and seeing Rhodes and Goldust fight them off was one of the highlights of Hell in a Cell.
The wrestlers did well to build toward the climax, an ending sequence where every team seemed milliseconds away from victory.
The in-ring action here was among October's best; only bigger moments and more moving stories from other bouts keeps it away from the top spots.
Fans thought they saw Sami Zayn finally dethrone the smug Bo Dallas as NXT champ, but it was only a mirage.
The peaks and valleys of this match include Zayn getting a three-count, only to have NXT General Manager, John "Bradshaw" Layfield overturn the decision. Zayn, along with the audience, had to restart emotionally.
Dallas' resilience and Zayn having to pull out everything from Dallas' own move, the spear, made for one of the most exciting NXT matches all year. This had everything a fan could ask for in terms of in-ring action and the story was one that had been well-built beforehand.
Transport this to a pay-per-view main event and replace the NXT title with the main roster version and this challenges for the top spot, not settling for the top five.
WWE certainly could have hyped this match a lot more, but Alberto Del Rio and John Cena delivered once the bell rang.
Cena made his return just two months removed from triceps surgery. Del Rio played the role of predator and merciless strategist perfectly opposite a warrior who outlasted him.
It was a story of one man looking to survive and the other looking to turn Cena's weakness into a torture device. This bout had drama in excess, forcing the audience to slide to the edge of their seats. The World Heavyweight Championship not only changed hands, but went to a star many believe will greatly impact the title.
The only thing dragging this clash down a few spots is too little buildup beforehand, the episodes of Raw and SmackDown before it more focused on Daniel Bryan, Triple H and the Big Show.
This is how a great Raw is supposed to end. This is how to make a title change feel significant.
It's not often that a match on free TV gets so much buildup, but it was one over a month in the making.
WWE had consistently built on the story of Cody Rhodes getting fired. One week, Goldust tried to get him his job back and failed. The Rhodes brothers ambushed The Shield, the next.
This tag team title bout followed an emotional victory at Battleground, offering Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins another chance to squash the Rhodes brothers.
The talent of the four men involved backed up this thrilling story with great ring work. Brawling fused with athletic displays to create a masterpiece.
Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan gave fans the best match of their rivalry.
Some fans will find the ending upsetting, Bryan once again getting screwed out of the WWE Championship, but this was every bit as personal, intense and dramatic as was expected.
It was Bryan's first time in the Hell in a Cell and he showed off a fierceness that rivaled Orton's. A succession of suicide dives sending "The Viper" into the cell wall and a superplex onto a small mountain of chairs made for memorable in-ring action.
Shawn Michaels was the latest obstacle to Bryan's quest for gold. He added a dramatic element to the match even before his match-altering superkick.
Had Bryan won here, capping off a long period of frustration, the resulting feeling would catapult it to not only the top spot on this list, but to many fans' short lists for best matches of the year. Bryan's failure tempers some of the awesome action that led up to it.
Everything that made Cody Rhodes and Goldust winning the tag titles an incredible moment was at work here as well.
The long, excellent buildup to this battle made the wrestlers' job easy. The Rhodes family, Dusty included, were fighting for their livelihood. Should The Shield win, the Rhodes clan would be banned from WWE for life.
We see wins and losses all the time, and even championship matches are a common occurrence, but a match this dramatic is a rare treat.
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Rhodes and Goldust put on an excellent match in terms of in-ring action. Their chemistry was excellent, Goldust looked fantastic and The Shield continued their run of home runs in big moments. Throwing in Dusty hitting Dean Ambrose with an elbow was a great touch.
It was the emotion of the match that made it October's best.
Seeing Dusty and his sons celebrate with tears in their eyes is the kind of moment that makes watching hours and hours of mediocre wrestling well worth it. This was WWE at its finest, fusing theater and sport to ensnare the audience's attention.