Since 2012, Pro Wrestling Examiner traveled to four different states to take in six of WWE’s premium live events to bring you an in-the-arena eyewitness perspective. This list looks at all the events that we covered in 2012 with special insights.
WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2012 / JANUARY 29TH @ SCOTTRADE CENTER / ST. LOUIS, MO
This Examiner’s tour of wrestling fandom started in St. Louis in the shadow of the famous Arch at the Scottrade Center for the Royal Rumble. The show featured several standout matches including a Triple Threat Steel Cage Match which saw then World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan escape the Big Show and Marc Henry with the title. CM Punk started his big year with a dominating victory over the always on-his-game Dolph Ziggler with the antagonizing RAW GM John Laurinitis at ringside.
The 30 man Royal Rumble match may have been widely reviewed as mediocre, but it was quite the experience to take in live. The surprise entrants like Mick Foley and Kharma provided some thrills. Foley’s Socko locking up with Smackdown clown Santino Marella’s Cobra was a fun moment. The mini-match showdown between Chris Jericho and Sheamus was an exciting conclusion to the show, with the Celtic Warrior getting one of the biggest victories of his young career.
WWE WRESTLEMANIA 28 / APRIL 1st @ SUN LIFE STADIUM / MIAMI, FL
This truly is one of the best events that any Pro Wrestling fan can see live. The grand nature of the setting that was Sun Life Stadium under a blazing south Florida sun with a world-class staging and one-of-a-kind pyrotechnics. After all that eye-candy, the ‘Super Bowl of WWE’ commenced with night full big time moments and matches. The short opening match between Daniel Bryan and Sheamus for the World title, both shocked and deflated the packed 78,000 plus in attendance. CM Punk and Chris Jericho had a hard task positioned between two other main event matches on the card, but they delivered the goods with one of the best matches on the show.
“Once in a lifetime” was the billing for the Rock vs. John Cena in the show-closing year-in-the-making main event. The pre-match performances from rappers MGK and Flo-Rida were bloated but added the always needed showbiz glitz to ‘Mania. The match itself was almost what it was supposed to be. The Great One went the distance with the 10-time World Champion John Cena, catching him off-guard with a Rock Bottom for all-important win. Not far from my section was a family of WWE fans with a young boy wearing his bright green Cena tshirt, weeping in his mother’s arms as his superhero lay in defeated. His mother ironcally was wearing a Rock “Boots 2 Asses” baseball cap.
The match that stole the show was the ‘End of an Era’ Hell in a Cell fight between the Undertaker defending his monumental undefeated Wrestlemania streak against Triple H with Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. The aura in the stadium was feverous as the cell lowered to the ring with Metallica blaring over the sound system. This was a war with WWE achieving the hard-to-reach level of disbelief. It felt like several times during this match that the Undetaker would actually lose ‘the Streak’ only for him to once again conqueror the Game. It was a very special scene to see Triple H, Michaels, and Undertaker arm and arm as they left the stadium.
WWE RAW / APRIL 2nd @ US AIRLINES ARENA / MIAMI, FL
The RAW the night after Wrestlemania is always special. It always feels like WWE is coming down from a mountain and into the valley of a new year. The Rock laid the groundwork for WWE’s biggest storyline heading into Wrestlemania 29, and that is his pursuit of the WWE Championship. Even with his sporadic appearances in WWE in the past few years, the Rock is still one of the most engaging and profound performers in Pro Wrestling. This energetic promo showed just that and left fans wanting more of the Great One.
The show saw the international mass that assembled in Miami for the ‘Mania festivities propel Daniel Bryan who lost the World title in a controversial 18 second match the previous night, to surprising heights as the ‘YES!’ chant was born. In the post-broadcast dark match which was a 6 Man Tag Team match, Bryan was the star attraction even on the heel team.
Yet the biggest ovation of the night and one of the biggest of the year was prompted by the not-so-secret return of Brock Lesnar. This Examiner was fortunate to be seated right off the arena floor right next to do an awning that covered what is called the ‘Gorilla Position’ where superstars make their last minute preparations before making their entrance. There was literally a scramble of people to hold a curtain over this area as John Cena cut a promo that was supposed to see him shake the Rock’s hand in defeat, only to get an F5 slam out of his hat by the former UFC Heavyweight Champion. This was a truly electric moment in WWE.
WWE EXTREME RULES 2012 / APRIL 29TH @ ALLSTATE ARENA / CHICAGO, IL
As if the Wrestlemania week in Florida was not enough, this Examiner brought the action back home to one of the best wrestling cities in America: Chicago. The Allstate Arena was sold-out for a big night of stipulation matches. The undercard featured Big Show losing the Intercontinental Championship in a Tables Matches and Layla returning to win the Divas Championship.In a match greatly surprassed their Wrestlemania match, Daniel Bryan and Sheamus tore the house down with a tremendous 2-out-3 Falls Match for the World title. The crowd was loud and crazed for the action which went back and forth, with Sheamus retaining the gold.
CM Punk ended his grudge with Chris Jericho in a Chicago StreetFight for the WWE Championship. In their street clothes they brawled and battered one another with kendo sticks and body slams. Even Punk’s sister who was insulted by Jericho on RAW and was seated in the front row, got in on the action by slapping Jericho. Punk fought off the ‘End of the World’ that Jericho promised, and proved why he’s the ‘Best in the World’.
In one of the best WWE bouts of the year, Brock Lesnar returned to the world of Pro Wrestling for the first time since 2004 to challenge John Cena in an Extreme Rules Match. The match tested the limits of WWE’s ‘’PG” limitations with Brock using his MMA skills that helped him win the UFC Heavyweight Championship when he bloodied Cena’s head with flurry of devastating elbows. It was early in the match and quickly showed that Lesnar now in shorts and 10 ounce gloves was legitimate in his return. The match got more intense and hid Lesnar’s apparent finesses issues with brawling and hardcore spots. The ending with Cena being victorious was a real shocker, considering that Lesnar was coming back for a big money contract.
WWE RAW / SEPTEMBER 3 @ ALLSTATE ARENA CHICAGO, IL
This was an odd event that saw WWE Champion CM Punk go full tilt with his character change into a full fledged heel. His absence from in-ring action on the show, hurt the show especially after Punk’s emotional WWE title victory at the 2011 Money in the Bank. Punk continued to turn on the WWE fans when he attacked beloved Hall of Famer Jerry “the King” Lawler. Punk closed the night by aligning himself with the forerver hated Paul Heyman after laying out John Cena. it was a night that showed if Punk was not going to get ‘respect’, he was going to be feared as the WWE Champion.
In the ring, Randy Orton was upset by Mr. Money in the Bank Dolph Ziggler in one of the best RAW matches of 2012. The match was one of the first matches in the new 3 hour version of RAW to exploit the extra TV time given to WWE to give the fans a long hard fought match early in the show.
WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 2012 / NOVEMBER 18TH @ BANKERS LIFE FIELDHOUSE / INDIANAPOLIS, IN
Maybe this Examiner got spoiled in Miami with the glamor and big lights of Wrestlemania or the hometown manic energy of Chicago, but Indy you got some work to do with developing your crowd mojo. The not-so-sold out Bankers Life FieldHouse held the Survivor Series 2012 with some notable matches. Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton outlasted all the members of their 5 man teams in a traditional Survivor Series match, with the Show Off getting a much-need win over Orton.
CM Punk scraped by once again, alluding the monster known as Ryback and John Cena to retain the WWE Championship with the game-changing WWE debut of Dean Amrbose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns who would soon be known as the Shield. It was not the most outstanding moment of the year but the with potential that all three of these young NXT superstars have, it could be prove to be a very historic if all three men can exceed the expectations that their reputations have produced.
Overall, it was a more than memorable year for this wrestling fan it was a real adventure with many miles tolled but all of them worth it for every boo and cheer in the warm glow of those bright lights hanging over the squared circle.