The Piledriver Report 11.17.12: The Most Important Matches in Wrestling History
*****Finally, The Piledriver Report is back! I apologize for my absence away from 411 mania. Unfortunately, I live in NJ where I was in the heart of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath. Luckily for me, my biggest loss during the super storm was the loss of power. There are others in my town that have it a hell of a lot worse than me. My thoughts go out to them. I hope you guys missed me as much as I missed writing for you. I am glad to be back, so let’s move on to this week’s column.*****
Earlier this week, I was on a wrestling message board. One of the topics of conversation was to determine the most famous match in wrestling history. This got me thinking. Forget about the most famous match in wrestling. Instead, what was the most IMPORTANT match in wrestling history? After thinking about it, I have come up with five, in no particular order.
Honorable Mentions: Wendi Richter vs. Fabulous Moohla July 1984, New York, NY. Roddy Piper vs. Hulk Hogan February 1985, New York, NY, Hogan vs. Andre WrestleMania III, Hogan vs. Andre The Main Event February 1988, Steve Austin vs. Jake Roberts June 23rd, 1996 Milwaukee, WI King of the Ring finals, Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin WrestleMania 13, Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels WrestleMania XIV, Sting vs. Ric Flair the final Nitro,
THE BIRTH OF A FEDERATION
Buddy Rogers vs. Lou Thesz, January 24th, 1963 Toronto, Canada: For fans of World Wrestling Entertainment, this is the match that started it all. At the time, the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion Buddy Rogers was getting set to drop the title. The big question was who would win the top belt in the wrestling industry. A group of promoters wanted to see Lou Thesz capture his third NWA World Championship. However, Vince McMahon, Sr. and Toots Mondt, who controlled Buddy Rogers bookings, wanted Bruno Sammartino to win the title. After a vote, it was determined that the NWA Board would go with Lou Thesz as the new titleholder. Determined to make Bruno Sammartino a World Champion, Vince McMahon, Sr. and Toots Mondt decided to break away from the NWA, and the World Wide Wrestling Federation was born. If the board decided to vote for Bruno Sammartino instead of Lou Thesz, the course of wrestling history would be vastly different today. Would Vince McMahon, Jr. still have killed the territories? Probably, but the trip leading up to Junior’s takeover would have created an entirely different picture for the wrestling industry.
HULK-A-MANIA RUNS WILD
Hulk Hogan vs. the Iron Sheik January 23rd, 1984 New York, NY: While Hulk Hogan was already hugely popular in the American Wrestling Association, many fans point to January 23rd, 1984 as the birth of Hulk-a-mania. On that night, Hulk Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik for the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Championship. Since that time, professional wrestling has never been the same. Hulk Hogan had a rare charisma that only a select few have. Combine this “it” factor with his chiseled physique, and Hulk Hogan became a real life super hero. Aside from his physical attributes and charisma, Hulk Hogan had something that no other wrestler had before him. He had Hollywood cache. A year and a half earlier, Hulk Hogan had a role as the wrestler “Thunderlips” in the movie “Rocky III. Vince McMahon, Jr. would use Hogan’s Hollywood connections to turn Hulk Hogan into a larger than life pop culture icon. All of the stars were aligned were for Terry Bollea to become the mega wrestling celebrity “Incredible” Hulk Hogan once he made his WWF return in December 1983. Following the referee slamming his hand to the mat a third time on that January night at MSG, a legend was born, and professional wrestling would never be the same.
THE SUPER BOWL OF SUPER CARDS
Hulk Hogan/Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper/Paul Orndorff, March 31st, 1985 New York, NY WrestleMania I: WrestleMania. During the first WrestleMania, Jesse Ventura compared WrestleMania to the National Football League’s Super Bowl. Twenty-eight events later, and the description of WrestleMania as the Super Bowl of professional wrestling isn’t just hyperbole. WrestleMania really is the Super Bowl of wrestling. However, WrestleMania wasn’t the slam dunk spectacle that it is today. In 1985, WrestleMania was the biggest gamble of Vince McMahon’s early tenure as the owner of the World Wrestling Federation. McMahon booked, not only Madison Square Garden, but theaters around the country to air the event for a nationwide audience on closed circuit television. Vince McMahon put all his money into the inaugural WrestleMania event. If WrestleMania I was a success, the WWF would be on it’s way to being the number one wrestling promotion in the United States. However, if the show bombed, chances are that the McMahon’s would have lost everything, and the WWF could have gone out of business. The tag team main event for WrestleMania brought the WWF’s “Rock n’ Wrestling Connection” angle that started in the summer of 1984 to it’s climax. At the time, Mr.T and Cyndi Lauper were huge stars. Mr.T was the star of NBC’s hit action series “The A Team.” Cyndi Lauper was a Grammy award winning musician that was all over M-TV. The WWF used this Hollywood connection, to garner a ton of publicity for the event. Hulk Hogan and Mr.T hosted Saturday Night Live, and made a memorable appearance on the “Richard Belzer Show.” The WWF hyped WrestleMania like no other event before. The hype machine paid off as WrestleMania I was a tremendous success, and the rest, as they say is history. While most of the success of the WrestleMania franchise lies at the feet of Vince McMahon, if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, Mr.T, Roddy Piper, and Paul Orndorff, the institution know as WrestleMania would just be a footnote in the history of the professional wrestling industry.
N.W.O 4 LIFE
Sting/Randy Savage/Lex Luger vs. Kevin Nash/Scott Hall/Hulk Hogan, July 7, 1996 Daytona Beach, FL Bash at the Beach: In the mid-eighties, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation and Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic wrestling promotion became bitter rivals. When Ted Turner bought Crockett Promotions in 1988, most felt that Ted Turner would lead the new World Championship Wrestling into a serious fight against the World Wrestling Federation. No matter what the front office in WCW tried, they could never overtake the WWF as the top wrestling company in the United States. Even when WCW signed longtime WWF icon Hulk Hogan, the “southern” promotion still could not gain ground in the fight against Vince McMahon. That would all change in the fall of 1995. Eric Bischoff, with the approval of Ted Turner, created “Monday Nitro” to run opposite the WWF’s flagship program “Monday Night RAW.” The two companies would fight a back and forth ratings war until one magical storyline changed the tide. On Memorial Day on 1996, Scott Hall, formerly Razor Ramon of the WWF, showed up on WCW’s Nitro telecast and challenged World Championship Wrestling. The impression given was that a WWF wrestler invaded WCW to start a long awaited WWF vs. WCW super feud. Two weeks later, former WWF World Champion and poster boy of the WWF’s “New Generation” marketing campaign, Kevin Nash joined Scott Hall as an “outsider” in WCW. The two men threatened WCW on a weekly basis, while taunting the company with an unknown third member that would shake WCW its the foundation. A match was set for Bash at the Beach. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and their mystery partner against Randy Savage and homegrown WCW stars, Lex Luger and Sting. Most of the match was a handicapped match, as the two outsiders (minus their third member) dominated WCW’s top three faces. Finally, Hulk Hogan ran down to the ring to face the two invaders. Instead of fighting the two men, Hulk Hogan joined them. With one drop of the leg on Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan turned heel and the New World Order was born. The three men stood in the middle of the ring to cut their first promo as a group while garbage was thrown into the ring by the angry mob of fans. However, a funny thing happened as the days and weeks went by. The nWo became the cool and hip thing in wrestling. With the New World Order running as the hottest angle in wrestling since the mid-eighties, World Championship Wrestling was able to dominate the WWF in the ratings war. It took over a decade and a half since the WWF and Jim Crockett/Ted Turner’s promotional rivalry started, but WCW finally overtook the World Wrestling Federation as the number one wrestling promotion in the United States. The New World Order helped turn WCW from a money loser and into a cash cow. WCW was the hottest thing in wrestling. Hogan, Hall, and Nash. While the New World Order would have over thirty-five members in the group’s run in WCW, when you hear the letters n.W.o, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash are the names that immediately come to mind. It was these three men that turned the New World Order from just a standard wrestling angle and turned it into a pop culture phenomenon in the wrestling industry. No one could have known the impact that the New World Order would have on the world of wrestling before July 7th, 1996. However, after the main event of the Bash at the Beach, every one watching knew that they witnessed something that changed the face of WCW and the landscape of the WCW vs. WWF wrestling war.
THE SCREW JOB
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart, November 9th, 1997 Montreal, Canada Survivor Series: What more can be said about the Survivor Series Screwjob that hasn’t already been said? Probably nothing. Hell, I wrote a ten page article on the event, which you can download at the following web address:
We all know the deal. Here’s the short version. Vince called Bret into a meeting and asked the “Hitman” to see if WCW would still offer him the same deal that Eric Bischoff offered Bret the previous year. McMahon’s reasoning was that he could not afford to pay Hart the twenty year contract that he signed Bret to a year earlier. Bret was able to get the deal from WCW, and was off to World Championship Wrestling. There was one problem. Bret Hart was still the WWF’s World Champion. They needed him to drop the title before he left. Unfortunately for the WWF, Bret Hart had reasonable creative control for his character for the last thirty days of the contract. Hart was scheduled to defend the belt in his home country of Canada for his final defense. Bret was refusing to lose the title. For one, he was in his native land, and did not want to do the job in his home country. Secondly, he was facing Shawn Michaels. Bret and Shawn were bitter real life enemies. Shawn was already on record as saying that he would never job to Bret, so Hart didn’t feel that he should do the favor for the “Heartbreak Kid.” Michaels, Triple H, and Vince McMahon devised a plan to screw Bret out of the title. Their plan worked to perfection, and they got the belt off of Bret before he left for WCW. However, there was a backlash that was about to occur in the WWF. The fans were so angry at Vince McMahon that he started getting booed wherever he showed up. Luckily for the WWF, the fans were upset, but not to the point where they turned off their television sets. Instead, the WWF heard the fans’ voices. If the fans were going to hate Vince McMahon, the WWF was going to give the fans a reason to hate Vince. The evil Mr. McMahon was born. With Vince playing the lead heel, the WWF caught fire as the Mr.McMahon vs. Steve Austin feud become the hottest thing in wrestling. Led by McMahon vs. Austin, the WWF caught up to WCW in the ratings battle, and eventually pulled ahead to the point where they would never get caught again. The WWE’s “Attitude Era” started when Bret was still in the WWF. However, it exploded since he exited and the Mr. McMahon character was unleashed. Would the WWF have experienced the same success if the Survivor Series Screwjob never happened? I believe so, because the WWF was already headed in that direction. However, I believe that the Screwjob helped advance the “Attitude Era” because it gave us the hottest heel during the Monday Night Wars; Mr. McMahon.
These are the matches that I view as the five most important matches in wrestling history. Do you agree, or do you have different matches on your list? Leave your opinions in the comments section below.