wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Top 5 08.11.10: Week 87 – Must See Matches

August 11, 2010 | Posted by Michael Bauer

Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling’s Top 5 List. What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions. Most of our topics will be based on recent events in the Wrestling World, looking at those events that make us think of times past.

So, on to this week’s topic…

Top 5 Must See Matches

This is how I described it to the 411 Staff and this is the criteria: The idea here is that you are showing someone who has never seen wrestling before some of the greatest matches of all time. What do you show them?

So what did our group of writers select? Let’s find out…

Aaron Hubbard

5. Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness (Driven) – In my opinion, a wrestling fan, even someone who is watching for the first time, should appreciate wrestling for wrestling’s sake. I do not value the opinions of ANY elitist, for any company. So I would make sure that any friend of mind who is interested in getting into wrestling receives a broader education. Indeed, this is one of those matches I’ve shown to my best friend, and he enjoyed it more than almost any other match he’s seen.

4. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Wrestlemania XXV) – Not championing the match as an all-time classic, but I find that starting from the video package to the end of the match, it is a self-contained classic. It mixes the spectacle that WWE does so well with the kind of work you would see in All Japan back in their hey-day. I think the match is epic enough that anybody can get into it.

3. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (Summer Slam 1991) – This is one of those matches that I would use to introduce “REAL” wrestling for. The story is very basic, so it doesn’t take a lot of explanation (as opposed to say, Stone Cold vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania XVII) and the match is exciting because of the in-ring action. Ideally, I would do a one-two punch of my #1 followed by this. If somebody doesn’t find SOMETHING that grips them in those two matches, they are likely permanently vanilla to wrestling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

2. The Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring 1998) – This one is more out of spite than anything. Whenever some jackass says that wrestling isn’t “real” and that they “know how to fall” (which they do, but it doesn’t make it hurt less), I show them this match to shut them up. Usually, it does. They may not ENJOY wrestling, but they at least end up respecting the risks that these men take. As it is, it’s another match that I feel every wrestling fan is obligated to see once.

1. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (Wrestlemania III) – Bottom line, every wrestling fan HAS to see this once. I don’t care what any “critic” has to say about the supposed lack of quality on this one. For SHEER spectacle and historic importance, it is a must see match. And yes, believe it or not oh hardened wrestling fans, a vanilla person is more likely to be drawn in by the spectacle and the larger than life story than the work rate or the MOVEZ.

Ryan Byers

I should note that what I’m trying to do here is not list five matches that are ***** from a pure “work rate” standpoint. Instead, because one of the things that I love about pro wrestling is variety, I’ve attempted to highlight key matches from several different genres of the sport.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

John Cena vs. Umaga (Royal Rumble 2007) – In the original draft of my list, I felt like I was really shortchanging modern wrestling, so I had to go back and add an HM for Cena/Umaga, one of my three favorite WWE matches of the last five years. I passed on including either of the Shawn Michaels/Undertaker matches just because I feel this one would have more appeal to a fresh wrestling fan, even though the HBK/UT feud was great for those of us who have watched them for years.

Dick Togo, TAKA Michinoku, Mens Teioh, Shiryu, & Shoichi Funaki vs. Gran Hamada, Super Delfin, Gran Naniwa, Tiger Mask IV, & Masato Yakushiji (Michinoku Pro “These Days”) – I

Sara Del Rey vs. Ayako Hamada (SHIMMER Volume 28) – It’s the best of joshi puroresu brought to the United States of America! If somebody tries to tell you that women can’t or shouldn’t wrestle, show them this match.

5. Ebessan vs. Kuishinbo Kamen (Pick One) – Some people will crucify me for saying it, but professional wrestling doesn’t always have to be taken super-seriously. Sometimes an easy to watch, comedic match is all that you need. If you want a good dose of wacky antics mixed in with your pro graps, there are no two better men to go to than Kiushinbo Kamen and Ebessan (the original, now known as Kikutaro). The two wrestlers began having a revolutionary series of comedy matches against one another in Osaka Pro Wrestling around 2003, and they have been having those matches on and off ever since. Granted, a lot of the spots in their later encounters are lifted from earlier matches in the series – hence my “pick one” designation – but you’re probably not going to be disappointed if you’re looking to laugh at wrestling and pop one of these in. Probably the most accessible match between the two for American fans is the bout they had for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in 2004, taped for a DVD entitled “88 Miles Per Hour.”

4. Jun Kasai vs. Ryuji Ito (BJW, 11/20/09) – Deathmatch wrestling is a little bit controversial, I know. A small group of fans love it, and there is small group of fans who seemingly go out of their way to talk about how it’s trash. My position is somewhere in the middle. There are death matches which are godawful because the men in them go “hardcore” in order to compensate for the fact that they can’t wrestle. However, there are also death matches contested between creative guys who would be entertaining wrestlers even without the barbed wire, light tubes, and razor blades. When done right, the death matches featuring those talented wrestlers can RULE. Case in point: Jun Kasai’s encounter from last year with Ryuji Ito, which was named Match of the Year by one Japanese publication. These are two of the best death match wrestlers in history, and they managed to put on a bout that featured more blood and guts than you’ll see almost anywhere else in professional wrestling that also contained more real psychology than you’ll see in the bulk of contemporary WWE matches. Plus one of the weapons used in the match was a cactus wrapped in barbed wire, and who can’t love the concept of a barbed wire cactus?

3. Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mistuharu Misawa (AJPW, 6/3/94) – In compiling a list like this, there are numerous matches that you could select featuring the early 1990s All Japan crew of Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi, Taue, Williams, and Hansen. It really was one of the most consistently excellent wrestling promotions in history. Out of all of the matches that I would have chosen to represent the so-called “Kings Road” style of wrestling popularized by AJPW, I selected this one for a few different reasons. The first is a little bit of personal bias, because it’s the first match from the crew that I saw that I can remember sticking with me. The second is the fact that, for whatever reason, I have always found wrestlers putting on epic singles matches to be more impressive than wrestlers putting on epic tag team matches, just because you’ve got to have more endurance and can rely less on things like fresh men tagging in in order to keep the crowd’s attention. The third is that, of all those men that I listed above, it was really Kawada and Misawa who had the most epic singles rivalry, with Kawada rarely pinning Misawa and chasing him literally for YEARS in order to unseat him for the AJPW Triple Crown. This wasn’t Kawada’s first pinfall over Misawa, and it wasn’t the match in which Kawada finally won the Triple Crown, but it probably was the most stiff and entertaining singles battle of their entire rivalry.

2. Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat (Chi-Town Rumble 1989) – This match was state of the art for “realistic,” athletic American professional wrestling in the 1980’s. Flair and Steamboat were obviously excellent in-ring performers in their own rights, but, when you combine their individual talents with the familiarity that can only develop between two wrestlers who have been going up against one another for nearly a decade, you get a match almost universally praised as a classic. However, an important aspect of this match that a lot of so-called smart fans often forget about his the role of the two men’s characters in making this match and this feud something special. The 1980s, especially the late 1980s, was the era of greed. Movies like Wall Street created an image of evil, wealthy high rollers that Middle America and the South in part envied and in part despised. Flair, long portrayed as a well-to-do partier, stepped into a similar role perfectly. Steamboat, meanwhile, portrayed the humble family man that people who didn’t live the lifestyle that Flair lived and was somebody that JCP fans could get behind. It worked, and it added a layer of genuine emotion to a match that was almost guaranteed to be an epic encounter.


(This is only Part 3 of the match.)

1. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (Wresltemania III) – Lame match when viewed from an athletic perspective? Absolutely. However, there is more to professional wrestling than high level athletic spots. As much as some people may attempt to deny it, pro wrestling is first and foremost a spectacle, and the whole point is to capture people’s imaginations, no matter how you’re able to do it. If you want to convince somebody that professional wrestling is and can be an amazing spectacle, there’s no better way to do it than with two of the biggest personalities the “sport” has ever seen doing battle with one another in front of 78,000 rabid fans. This match, more than any other before or since, makes wrestling look major league . . . and wouldn’t it be much better to start a new viewer off with something that makes the form of entertainment to which they are being introduced look major league?

Chad Nevett

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Fire Ant, Soldier Ant, Jigsaw, and Mike Quackenbush vs. Icarus, Gran Akuma, Amasis, and Hallowicked (Enter the Dragon) – My girlfriend still talks about how exciting and fun this match was. Lots of energy and something that a newcomer would find highly entertaining.

The Undertaker vs. Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match (King of the Ring 1998) – This is the match to show the crazy lengths that some guys will go to entertain in wrestling sometimes, while also showing an iconic and memorable match. Spectacle and horror all in one.

AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle (TNA Impact 01.04.10) – And why not show a semi-recent example of a great TNA match?

5. Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship (WrestleMania XXIV) – Three of the current top guys in the WWE in a pretty decent match. All three men delivered strongly in this match with Cena doing his regular superhero role, Triple H playing the middle, and Randy Orton acting the methodical heel. I picked this because it has all three men and I liked Orton retaining the championship. It’s as a solid example of what the WWE is about right now.

4. Edge & Christian vs. the Hardy Boyz vs. the Dudley Boyz in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match for the WWF Tag Team Championship (SummerSlam 2000) – I debated what tag match to include for a while. Do I go for a traditional one with just two teams? Do I go retro or modern? Do I try and pick one great match out of a legendary feud? Then, I thought, screw it, I’ll go with a non-traditional tag match that was just amazing. The first TLC match, the one that made sure that when people think of tag team wrestling in the Attitude Era, they think of these three teams. With all six men still wrestling, this provides the blueprint for what all of them went on to do and is just crazy good.

3. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship (WrestleMania V) – The Mega-Powers implode with Randy Savage defending his WWF Championship against Hulk Hogan. Both men sell the animosity with Miss Elizabeth adding another element to the match. Two of the most recognizable and biggest stars of the ’80s each doing what they’re best at. I always thought that Savage worked best as a heel and Hogan may have looked good against monsters, but I think he looked better against someone who was just better in the ring than he was.

2. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship (SummerSlam 1991) – This makes the list simply because it’s my favorite match of all time. Great wrestling, great storytelling, great commentary… what else do you need? I love the technical skill displayed by both men and the story as it progresses, especially when Hart kicks out of the Perfectplex. Great match.

1. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXV) – I don’t think this is the best match of all time, but it tops my list because I’ve seen the effect it had on people when it occurred. I was watching WrestleMania XXV in the local bar where I used to watch every WWE pay-per-view. Unlike most PPVs, the bar was pretty busy for WrestleMania each year with groups of casual fans, some hardcore fans, and plenty of people that went because their friends wanted to go. For a lot of matches, maybe a third of the crowd really cared what was going on, but, for this match, the entire place was emotionally invested in the action. People were cheering and groaning and oohing and awing at every move and kick out. Michaels and the Undertaker won over every person in that bar no matter how much or little they cared about wrestling and damned if that isn’t the match I’d show someone new to wrestling.

Ronnie LaFianza

With the topic being about matches non wrestling fans haven’t seen, writers are going to take different approaches to this. My approach is going to be hard hitting action and brutality. One thing you always hear from people is that wrestling is fake. So my list mainly avoids from matches with botches and goes with matches with great, hard hitting action.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

AJ Styles vs Daniels (Final Resolution 2009) – I really, really, really loved this match. The psychology was there, and you could feel that these two wanted to leave it all out there while trying to inflict as much punishment onto their opponent as possible.

Kurt Angle vs Jeff Jarrett (Genesis 2009) – Something really special happened here. These two went all out, and it was amazing. The psychology mixed with the brutality was great. You could truly feel how desperate Angle was, while Jarrett just wanted him out of his life.

John Cena vs Umaga (Royal Rumble 2007) – This was one of the most unexpected, yet awesome, matches of 2007. 2007 may have pretty much sucked for the WWE, but they started things off great with this gem. Both guys went to war and it seemed like they were literally ready to kill each other.

5. Team TNA vs Team Mexico vs Team Japan vs Team International (TNA Victory Road 2008) – Fast pace, hard hitting action has never been shown in a greater fashion. And yeah, this may be the definition of a spot fest too, but it’s a damn awesome one at that, and one of my favorites. It’s impossible not to be drawn into this match, as it’s just 12 guys amping up the work rate to 120% while moving at 90 mph. This has non stop action, and was a fantastic 25 minute opener.

4. AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe (Turning Point 2005) – When you think of hard hitting matches, there really aren’t many that surpass this. Joe’s kicks looked brutal, and the determination of Styles was unseen. This match defined TNA at the time, innovative and determined to be the best. Whenever Joe and Styles step into the ring, they always go out there ready to kill each other in the spirit of competition, and this was quite possibly their greatest showing of that.

3. Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 26) – Using the word “epic” to describe this match would be an understatement. While some people may prefer 25, I loved this match so much more. These two just put on a match that was totally the opposite of their last match, and did what no one saw coming. The desperation of both guys shined brightly throughout the match, and you could feel that if either guy lost, it would truly be the end of something special. I feel as if any fan, or non fan, could easily get into this match.

2. Mick Foley vs Randy Orton (Backlash 2004) – There’s so much about this match that I love. It’s the pretty boy heel being thrown into a cage with a tiger. There’s no escape. Orton was put to the limit, and he was almost destroyed in this match. He never came out of this match the same, and it was after this that you knew he was destined for main event status. Foley made sure that Orton was in over his head though, whether it was throwing him into thumbtacks, elbowing dropping him off the stage, or taking him out with a barbed wire bat. Nothing about this match came across as fake or contrived, and it really was something special.

1. Undertaker vs Mankind (King of the Ring 1998) – Brutality has never been shown in a greater way than in this match. Everyone already knows about all of the spots shown in this match, and Foley was immediately given legendary status for taking all of them. Showing someone a match like this really shows that wrestling may be fake, but there are wrestlers out there willing to make it seem as real as possible. Showing this match to someone who is a non fan would probably be the best, as it’s quick, but you can feel the passion of Foley shining throughout this as he was put to a limit no one knew he was capable of being drawn to.

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Michael Bauer
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