The 411 Wrestling Top 5 12.12.12: Week 199 – Top 5 Most Important Matches
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.
So, on to this week’s topic…
Disclaimer: I’m fantastically ignorant when it comes to professional wrestling history in places that are not America.
5. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff from Wrestlemania 1 – This was of course the main event of the first Wrestlemania, and the name “Wrestlemania” has been an enduring draw ever since. While this was not a wrestling classic, its importance cannot be fully measured by in-ring quality.
4. Shane Douglas vs. 2 Cold Scorpio from Eastern Championship Wrestling Supershow, Aug. 27, 1994 – The NWA has been fighting extinction for about three decades now, and a big part of the reason is that one of their last hopes for relevance was spat on by Shane Douglas and Paul Heyman. Not only was this match important for being another nail in the NWA coffin, but also it was a big part of sparking ECW’s popularity. While ECW had many creative and business problems, the promotion was no doubt one of the biggest influences in modern professional wrestling (if only all the people that were a part of it would just let it die). This match (or rather the post-match) also firmly established that the smaller promotions that will truly achieve success will be the ones to set out to reject the corporate/stale style of the national companies.
3. Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan from Starrcade 1997 – By this point there were many chinks in the WCW armor. However, as far as I am concerned, this match was the beginning of the end for WCW, and thus, the beginning of the end of there being a competitive wrestling scene in America. Customers generally get the best overall product to purchase when there is competition that forces businesses to make the best product possible. WCW running themselves into the ground was a huge loss to the America wrestling scene, and we, as fans, are still facing the consequences of their own incompetence. WCW failing to deliver a proper end to the Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan story was the true beginning of the end for them.
2. Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels from Wrestlemania 14 – Stone Cold Steve Austin made more money directly from professional wrestling than anyone else in the history of the business, and this was the match that set him up as the man in the WWF for four years.
1. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant from Wrestlemania 3 – While this will never be considered the greatest main event in Wrestlemania history, it is in my mind (though I freely and fully acknowledge that this column is very subjective) the most important match in wrestling history for the way it solidified Hulk Hogan as a mythical hero. While Stone Cold may have been the most lucrative professional wrestler, I will always contend that Hulk Hogan was the most important (unless you contend that the destruction of the territories was so hurtful to the health of the business that Hogan’s elevation was counterproductive for wrestling).
Shawn S. Lealos
5. Shane Douglas vs. 2 Cold Scorpio, August 27, 1994 – Recently, Colt Cabana beat Adam Pearce in a best of seven series that caused Pearce to toss the NWA World Championship on the ground and tell the company to go to hell because he didn’t want to represent them anymore. That seems familiar because it was done before, in a much more important match. After Shane Douglas won the vacant NWA World Championship, he told the NWA to go to hell, tossed the belt down and said he didn’t want to represent a dead company. He declared himself the new ECW World Champion and the House of Hardcore was open for business. With ECW, hardcore became popular and it changed the way professional wrestling looked from then on.
4. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage, Wrestlemania III – I am sure a lot of people will point to Hulk Hogan beating the unbeatable Andre the Giant as an important match, and it was. The event set records for attendance and it remains one of the most important wrestling cards in wrestling history. However, I see a different match as being important on this card. The WWF was almost like a live action cartoon through the first two Wrestlemanias and most people just looked at it as larger than life characters with the wrestling secondary. With so many people watching in 1987, Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage proved that a technically perfect professional wrestling match could be just as entertaining as slaying a giant. Without this match leading the way, future five-star matches with names like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect and Eddie Guerrero might have never happened. I love wrestling and this match is one of the best of all time.
3. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, Wrestlemania 13 – WCW was kicking the WWF’s butts every week in the Monday Night Wars, and the WWF needed something to spark them and give them life. That is when they received a savior in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He originally won the King of the Ring and coined his “Austin 3:16” phrase, but it was Wrestlemania 13 where he finally came to life. When he passed out in Bret Hart’s sharpshooter, two things happened. The fans turned on Hart and made him a great villain and they all accepted Steve Austin as a true badass that they cheered all the way through the Attitude Era. This match is what started the Attitude Era, which eventually killed WCW.
2. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage, Sting and Lex Luger, Bash at the Beach 1996 – WCW was always popular to true wrestling fans, but when Hulk Hogan joined WWF defectors Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, and turned his back on his fans for the first time in over a decade, WCW became the hottest wrestling promotion in the world. The nWo proved to be the catalyst to finally allow WCW to beat out the WWE in the ratings, a glory it held for a very long time. Eventually, WCW over-relied on the nWo, and by the time they realized it, they were dying. However, Hulk Hogan and the nWo proved that WCW, for a short time, had what it took to win the Monday Night Wars.
1. Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik, January 32, 1984 – The biggest match in professional wrestling history came in 1984 when Hulk Hogan pinned The Iron Sheik and won his first WWF Championship. This marked the new era for the WWF as Hogan became the biggest name ever in professional wrestling and made pro wrestling cool for the first time to mainstream audiences. Hulk Hogan led professional wrestling to prime time exposure, Wrestlemanias, worldwide acclaim and the biggest television audiences it had ever seen. Without Hulk Hogan, pro wrestling might still be nothing more than a small time guilty pleasure, and little more.
5. A.J. Styles vs. Psicosis vs. Low-Ki vs. Jerry Lynn, June 19th, 2002 To me, this is when TNA truly came to be. On their second ever-weekly PPV show, the promotion held a four-way battle to decide their first X Division champion. With four top guys going at it, we had a fine battle with Ricky Steamboat officiating. A.J. Styles would end up winning to become the first X Division Champion and in the process, began the division that would put TNA on the map for so many fans. It showed something different for the company, something fresher than what WWF was putting on at the time and how they would do their best to make it stand out. It showed the promise of TNA that still hangs around today and makes you tune in despite their problems and how one division can aid an entire company well.
4. Hulk Hogan vs Sting, December 28th, 1997: I was going to go for Bash at the Beach but decided that, in terms of sheer importance, this ranks higher. Yes, the formation of the NWO was huge but to me, the turning point of WCW was this. It was meant to be the climax of a year and a half of build, the culmination of WCW’s epic run of ratings wins, the night they would crush WWF once and for all. The only logical outcome was Sting to get a resounding victory over Hogan for the title, it was the only thing that made sense. Instead, Hogan dominated through the match before pinning Sting cleanly in what announcers claimed was a fast count but wasn’t. Bret Hart came to restart it and Sting won but the damage was done. 14 months—–14 months—-of build was flushed away as Hogan came out looking better and Sting, the man supposedly the major player of WCW, was seen as the loser. It showed WCW was just too obsessed with pushing Hogan and his lot rather than let the angle die down and heralded the beginning of their slow slide downward that would lead to WWF taking the charge and ruin one of the best builds of all time.
3. Shane Douglas vs 2 Cold Scorpio, August 27th, 1994: Yes, it’s true that by 1994 the once-mighty NWA was a shell of itself. But it still had presence and power with fans so getting a new champion was a big deal. With the Eastern Championship Wrestling promotion in Philly, the NWA hoped to redeem itself as Douglas would beat Scorpio for the title. But of course, it didn’t happen as Douglas instead cut a promo on what a waste the NWA was, a total joke and could basically go to hell. He then picked up the ECW title belt to declare himself their champion. In one fell swoop, the NWA was a loss while the newly named Extreme Championship Wrestling was the talk of the wrestling landscape. And from those seeds would grow a revolution that would change the business as we knew it and prove once and for all how you need to take extreme action to get maximum results.
2. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, November 9th, 1997: It’s arguably the most dissected and discussed match in history. To this day, fans argue as to who knew what, how much was work or real and who is responsible. Vince McMahon may not have wanted to do it but he did, double-crossing Bret Hart to get the WWF title off him before Bret went to WCW. Fans rail at Shawn for going along with it just to boost himself. And many blame Bret himself for getting so wrapped up in his character, refusing to lose in his home country and putting himself over his company. Regardless, it’s still a massive shift for the industry as it would unleash the Mr.McMahon character and the “Attitude” Era that would transform the industry forever. It also stands as the key moment of Bret’s career where things took a very sad turn but his legacy includes a match still discussed as much as when it happened and a moment that would ironically do more to help WWF than Bret’s staying ever would have.
1. Hulk Hogan vs the Iron Shiek, January 23, 1984: There is no way to deny how huge this was in wrestling history. When Hogan beat the Sheik for the title, it was a huge moment for the entire business. After two years of seeing Hogan denied the AWA belt, it was a major pop for fans to see him win here, taking to the big stage. But of course, it’s far more important than that. This was the match where WWF came to true life as Hogan would dominate as champion for four years and take wrestling to heights never before seen. The event launched Hogan but more importantly, set the stage for the glory years of wrestling that would dominate for a long time to come.
5. John Cena v. CM Punk, July 17, 2011 – Perhaps only because it’s more recent, but this match stands out to me on a number of levels. For one, you had two archetypes in this match: Cena, the clean-cut, kid-friendly invincible hero that any promotion worth its financial salt would promote the hell out of in a heartbeat, and then you had Punk, who had none of that company backing and ground his way to the top through a pure wrestling background (Athleticism, wrestling, mic skills) and was willing to leave with the championship if it would get his point of change across. The buildup included Punk’s inaugural “pipe bomb”, which actually got tried and true mainstream interest from outside the WWE. Then, the WWE, for what seemed like the first time in a long time to many, actually pulled the trigger by having Punk go over and walking out with the championship instead of taking the safe route (Cena). Albeit, it’d be a short-lived storyline with Punk’s immediate return and the “HHH COO” era, but this match had people outside of wrestling taking an honest interest in it, and that speaks volumes.
4. Edge & Christian v. The Hardy Boyz v. The Dudley Boyz – Tables, Ladders & Chairs, August 27, 2000 – Let’s face it, this match made these six future superstars. E/C and the Hardys may have already a great ladder match between the four of them, but throwing the Dudleys into the mix and making all three primary brands of wrestling weaponry available made it a high-flying, cringe-inducing, exhilarating spotfest that would only be replicated three more times, with each occasion as recklessly fun to watch as the last. Could you imagine where Edge, Jeff, Matt, Christian, Bubba, and Devon would be at this point if TLC hadn’t come to be? I certainly can’t.
3. Triple H v. Chris Benoit v. Shawn Michaels, March 24, 2004 – The “he-who-must-not-be-named” bozos can shut it right now. I get it, Benoit’s an absolute disgrace of a human being for what he did in 2007, but this is one match of his I watch to this day and with good reason. You had a man who scratched, clawed, and climbed the proverbial mountain for 18 years, seemingly falling short at one turn or another, but never giving in and went through hell at the Royal Rumble, going the distance from the #1 position to finally get his shot at the world title on the premier stage. You had the seething, physical, personal rivalry between HHH and HBK. Put that all together, and you have what many consider the greatest Triple Threat match in WWE history. The chemistry and the in-ring psychology were top-notch, but what stands out, something we now look at with a touch of tragic irony, is the ending, with the WWE and World Heavyweight Champion, two close friends, in a heartfelt embrace, showing how far they had come at that point in their careers.
2. Bret Hart v. Steve Austin, Wrestlemania 13 – What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this match? A blood-soaked Stone Cold refusing to tap and passing out in Bret Hart’s sharpshooter not only established his character as an ass-kicking, beer-swilling sonovabitch who wouldn’t stay down for anybody, but it ignited the WWE’s Attitude Era and signaled the slow, but eventual demise of WCW.
1. Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels, November 9th, 1997 – It’s funny how two of the most historically significant matches, at least in my mind, involve critical turns in Bret Hart’s career. The match with Stone Cold saw a Bret heel turn when he couldn’t make Austin submit and made Austin out to be the beer-swilling, finger-flipping antihero we love to this day. Here, we see the WWE Title ousted from him on his way out of the company to WCW by Vince McMahon, whose journey as one of the greatest wrestling villains began with the words “Bret screwed Bret” and planted the seeds for the “Attitude Era.”
5. Kevin Nash vs Hulk Hogan, Nitro, January 1999 – Why yes, that would be the Fingerpoke of Doom match, and everything about it has been done to death. Aside from the stupidity of the booking, this would also be the match that included the infamous “Mick Foley, he’ll put butts in the seats” comment from Tony Schiavone that instantly caused thousands of viewers to change the channel to Raw. Also, it reformed the nWo for the seventy-third time and showed many people that WCW had absolutely no ideas left.
4. Steve Austin vs The Rock, WrestleMania X-Seven, April 2001 – The highest point of the Attitude Era, the culmination of everything that had been building since Steve Austin took wrestling by storm and became an unstoppable money-drawing juggernaut, and possibly the best WWE PPV ever. And WWE would never reach that height again (or at least they haven’t yet). After this show, Austin made an ill-advised heel turn, the Alliance angle ran viewers off in droves, the Triple H rise to dominance after the departures of Rock and Austin turned off even more fans, and generally wrestling sank back into a niche product. But that night, when Rock faced Austin in a ***** classic that celebrated the very best of what had made WWE great, that night was magic.
3. Hulk Hogan vs The Iron Sheik, MSG, January 1984 – The great changeover to the Hogan Era, where Hulkamania erupted onto the scene and proceeded to hang around until…well, actually it’s still going strong in the Impact Zone. John Cena and Steve Austin drew more money, but before The Rock became an honest-to-God movie star, there was only one man who transcended wrestling, one man that even people who haven’t watched a second of wrestling know who he is, and that was and is the Hulkster, brother, and this is where it all began.
2. Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels, Survivor Series November 1997 – If you really need me to explain why the Montreal Screwjob is important from a historic perspective, then I don’t know what to tell you. This was not necessarily the turning point (that came in at #1 on my list), but this match was the catalyst that changed so many futures, for better and for worse, including creating one of the top heel characters in pro wrestling in Mr. McMahon, and affecting the careers of literally dozens of wrestlers in both WWE and WCW.
1. Austin vs McMahon, Raw, April 1998 – Actually, it wasn’t even really much of a match, as Dude Love ran in to kick off a feud with Austin that led to their (great) match at Over The Edge. So, why was this one of the most historic matches in pro wrestling? Simple. It’s more about the Raw that it was on, which built up to this match as the main event. This Raw is the one, which would end WCW’s 83-week win streak, and from there, well, the rest is history.
5. Mankind vs. The Rock 1/4/99 – It put butts in seats. And made a ton of home viewers switch channels from WCW when Schiavone told the home audience that Mankind would indeed win the title from The Rock. This is mostly an important match to me than overall. It’s important to me because this was the first match I watched as a full on pro-WWF fan. I don’t know if it was the match, or hearing Schiavone say what he did that did it, but I never went back to WCW after that. On Monday’s there was no more channel switching. It was RAW or nothing at all.
4. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart 11/9/97 – The one match that shocked the world and continued to push the slow simmer of the Attitude Era to a full boil. I don’t really contribute this to the full on kick-start of the Attitude Era, but a stepping-stone. We all know what happened after this, and we all know that it was the start of something huge. Not only did this become a stepping-stone for a new era, but it was also one of the biggest and most controversial topics in all of wrestling. People would bring up the screw job and it would create long debates and even heated arguments. Was it a legit screw job? Was it just a work? Even with all the “truth” from the people involved, many still think it was one of the most elaborate works in the business.
3. Hulk Hogan(mystery partner), Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash vs. Sting, Lex Luger, and Randy Savage 7/7/96 – Well, like the one after this, it’s not so much the match that mattered but the events that followed. When Hogan made his way to the ring, as a young child I thought he was going to save the day. But when he dropped that leg on Savage I lost it. That was yet another history making event that Hogan had been a part of. This super stable had just blown people’s minds and they would continue to run wild all over WCW for years. With the Outsiders coming in and putting Hogan at the helm, this was absolutely momentous. Of course, we all know the problems that followed, but had the NWO never been born, there’s a possibility that the Monday Night War would have never been as big as is was.
2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Jake “the Snake” Roberts 6/23/96 – A lot of people contribute the Montreal Screw Job to the start of the Attitude Era, but in my opinion, it was the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin that started it. Well, actually, it was more the Austin/McMahon feud that started it all, but it wouldn’t have happened had Austin not come in to his own as the Texas rattlesnake. Yeah, this happened a year before the screw job, but I think it’s what really started setting things in motion. Well, I guess had the Screw Job not happened, we wouldn’t have had the McMahon character, so we wouldn’t have had the Austin/McMahon feud, so the two are about equally responsible.
1. Hulk Hogan vs. The Iron Sheik 1/23/84 – Should I really go on about why this match is number one? Yes, I should. This match, I like to think, is the contributing factor to the beginning of the wrestling industry we have today. Hogan winning the title was the catalyst that led to the Rock n Wrestling Connection. The thing that brought the WWF to the mainstream. This match catapulted the WWF, and somehow all professional wrestling with it, in to relevant pop culture. Without this match, I’m not sure where wrestling would be today. The WWF may have never became the global powerhouse. It might have stayed as it was and we would still have the territories. Well, probably not. Vince was ambitious and, Hogan or not, would have found a way to get where he was. But that was not the case, this match happened, and the rest is history.
5. El Santo Vs. Black Shadow: Mask Vs. Mask – The Mask Vs. Mask match to this day is still considered the big money match in Mexico. The bar was set in 1952 though. La Pareja Atomica, Gory Guerrero and El Santo were in the midst of a rivalry with Los Hermanos Shadow, Blue Demon and Black Shadow. This eventually splintered into a singles feud between El Santo and Black Shadow. The culmination was the Mask Vs. Mask match that occurred in El Coliseo in Lagunilla, Mexico. November 7, 1952 was the date, fans overfilled El Coliseo and many had to be turned away. The match lasted about 70 minutes and El Santo came out on top. There was a scuffle afterwards and Blue Demon was the one to remove the mask from Black Shadow. Historically this match is important for various reasons. First and foremost, it established the importance of the Mask Vs. Mask match, once again, to this day it is still the big money match in Mexico, and this match is still heavily referenced when one takes place. The fact that money was lost since El Coliseo only housed about 12,000 people and fans were turned away, led Salvador Lutteroth to create Arena Mexico, which is still in use by CMLL and is the Madison Square Garden of Mexico. Last but not least, Blue Demon unmasking Black Shadow and declaring he would avenge his partner, was the spark that ignited the Blue Demon/Santo rivalry, a rivalry that lives on with el Hijo del Santo and Blue Demon Jr.
4. Wendi Richter Vs. Fabulous Moolah: Birth of Rock N Wrestling – It’s funny how history has a way of being rewritten. People mention Rock N Wrestling and the mind immediately goes to Piper, Mr. T, Lauper and Hogan. In reality Cyndi Lauper was brought in to work against Captain Lou Albano, who had appeared in her video “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. During a segment of Pipers Pit featuring Albano and Lauper, Albano referred to Cyndi Lauper as a “broad”. A challenge was issued for a match with each choosing a female wrestler to represent them. Cyndi chose Wendi Richter, Albano chose Moolah. The match took place on July 23, 1984 on MTV’s Brawl to End it All with Richter coming out on top thanks to help from Cyndi Lauper. This ended the Fabulous Moolah’s alleged 28 year title reign as Women’s Champion, Rock N Wrestling was born, and Piper and Hogan took over from there.
3. Ron Simmons Vs. Big Van Vader: 1st Black Champion – Technically speaking, Bobo Brazil was the first African-American champion, defeating Nature Boy Buddy Rogers in 1962 to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Unfortunately, the NWA did not recognize the title change. It wouldn’t be until 1992 that Ron Simmons would defeat Big Van Vader to become the first recognized African-American champion, holding on to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship for five months.
2. Jake the Snake Roberts Vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin: Birth of Austin 3:16 – “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!” After those words were spoken, a star was born. Not just any star though, the man who would carry the weight of the WWE on his back and bring in the Attitude Era of wrestling. Many can argue that Wrestlemania 13 was the moment that catapulted Austin to the top, now that is a fair argument. My counterpoint is simple, if Austin never beat Jake Roberts to become the King of the Ring, would the match at Wrestlemania 13 even take place?
1. Nature Boy Buddy Rogers Vs. Lou Thesz: Birth of the WWWF – Looking at it in a purely historic sense, unless you go back to a George Hackenschmidt and Frank Gotch match, very few individual matches paved the way for the Pro Wrestling we all know and love today. It’s as simple as this, Vince Sr. wanted Bruno Sammartino as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, other promoters were for Lou Thesz winning the title for a 3rd time. Either way Buddy Rogers was dropping the title. Lou Thesz became World Champion for a 3rd time, Nature Boy Buddy Rogers became the inaugural WWWF, now WWE Champion, becoming the first man to hold the NWA World Heavyweight Champion and WWWF Championship. Vince Sr. left the NWA, formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation, and the seed was planted for what grew to be the WWE. Had Bruno become NWA Champion, who is to say what the wrestling world would look like today.
5. Shane Douglas vs. 2 Cold Scorpio, August 27, 1994 – This match featured two things: the birth of ECW and the end of the NWA as a nationally relevant organization. The match itself isn’t as memorable as the post match promo by Douglas, but as the launching point for one of the most influential promotions in history, it needs to be mentioned.
4. The Rock vs. Mankind/Kevin Nash vs. Hulk Hogan, January 4, 1999 – Two matches that are inseparable from one another, because of what they meant for the two companies they took place in. On one hand, the top dog at the time, WCW, in its hubris, booked a title match between Nash and Hogan that ended in less than a minute due to a finger poke, while also mentioning the fact that the rival promotion was also airing a title change that night. On the other hand, the WWE let one of its most popular faces finally get his hands on the corrupt corporate champion, with a special appearance by a certain Rattlesnake. All of this combined to shift the balance of power towards the WWE forever.
3. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, November 9, 1997 – This match didn’t launch the Attitude Era, but it was a clear sign of the direction the WWE would head in. Out was Bret Hart, who favored the traditional style of wrestling, where good guys fought bad guys, and sides were clearly drawn. In was DX, Stone Cold, and a style where the good guys and bad guys weren’t so clearly defined. And of course, this match marked the genesis of one of the greatest heels of all time, Mr. McMahon.
2. Sting, Luger, and Savage vs. Hall, Nash, and the Mystery Partner, July 7, 1996 – For years, WCW was always a clear number two promotion at a national level. Even when they signed stars like Hogan, Savage, and Luger, WCW was seen as a clear number two. All that changed at the Bash at the Beach. Hulk Hogan coming out and joining the Outsiders turned the tide, transforming WCW from a secondary promotion into the hottest ticket in professional wrestling. WCW would ride the results of this match to a ratings success that would only be broken 2 years later.
1. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff – You can have your Hulk vs. Sheik and Hulk vs. Andre, THIS is the biggest match in wrestling. The reasoning is simple. This was the main even of the first Wrestlemania, and was expected to be the big draw. Vince McMahon had staked the future of his company in Wrestlemania being successful, so if this match failed, the WWE as we know it wouldn’t exist. Hell, professional wrestling as we know it probably wouldn’t exist. Instead, Hulk Hogan became a household name, the Rock n Wrestling Connection was vindicated as successful, and Vince McMahon proved triumphant.
List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:
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