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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Greatest Matches
April 10, 2006 by Ciaran Cunningham


I've been a wrestling fan for close to ten years now. And it's been only in the last two or three years that I have referred to myself as a "smark". I've understood the talent and everything that goes into a great match. I have looked back on the years of wrestling that I have watched with new eyes, studying matches and seeing why "this match" was better than "that match". So this article being my first, is going to be on what I like to talk about the most when I talk about wrestling, what I think are the greatest matches in wrestling and why.

Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels - TNA Unbreakable 2005. - What's great about the TNA crowd, is that they have the ability to give a match that little bit more chemistry, much like the ECW crowd did. And this was the first time that I had noticed the crowd emotionally evolve along with the match. Around the halfway mark the fans broke into a chant of "this is awesome". And while watching this match you could not help but think "yeah they are right, it is" and sitting up and taking notice. It was an outstanding match, lasting twenty three minutes, the three men battled back and forth with excellent exchanges, innovative moves, near falls and perfectly timed big spots. By the seventeenth minute the crowd were hanging on every move. The finish where AJ Styles won with a roll up happened just as the match intensity peaked, perfect timing. After the match the crowd were chanting "match of the year". It was damn hard not to argue with them.

Chris Benoit vs. William Regal - Brian Pillman Memorial Show 2000. - The 2,000 fans in attendance that night did not expect much from this match, and from the start were not that interested. The two men started off slow and stuck to the plan even as chants of "boring" could be clearly heard. But as it went along it gathered steam, the two men were engaged in a tough technical brawl, that was paced perfectly. When the match ended the whole arena including the backstage area were on their feet cheering. Its been said that the WWE use this match as an example when teaching their students on how to pace a match.

Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk 2 - ROH 16/10/04. - A rematch from June 12th this match is memorable for three reasons. First, this was a fantastic match. The first half was a technical war with submissions and reversals dominating the match. Then the pace quickened with Joe and Punk locked in a stiff hard hitting match. Which brings me to my second point. Around the 40 minute mark commentators Jimmy Bower and Mark Nulty told the fans that they thought this match "speaks for itself" and abandoned commentary to watch the match along with the rest of the fans. And the third reason this match is memorable is because along with their first encounter this match lasted an hour. And also along with their first match it ended in a draw, leaving the fans in attendance begging for more.

Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka - ECW One Night Stand 2005. - As I sat watching One Night Stand enjoying the show as if it were a living memory, music started playing that rung a bell instantly "now who's that again"" I asked myself. Then a familiar 6'6 frame stood atop the stairs. It was Mike Awesome, "oh this match should be good"! Knowing the history Mike had with ECW and WCW I thought that on a ECW PPV he would be keen to regain face. I was right. "Who is he facing"" was all I could think. Then it happened. The best thing that could happen, Masato Tanaka made his way to the ring. Now I'll tell the truth I had almost forgotten what Mike could do in the ring. I had seen him in WCW but to be fair he was not at his best there. But almost right away WCW got it's ass kicked again, Awesome flew, he flew over the top rope with his back straight and hit Tanaka with a forearm. "WOW" was all I said, the picture of a 6'6 frame sailing over the top rope to the floor as if it were easy is something to see indeed. But very quickly the realisation that this was no normal match set in as soon as Tanaka got nailed with a power-bomb of the apron through a table. It was a spot fest. With the hardest chair shots and crazy high risk bumps that ended with a second awesome bomb over the top rope. Indeed it was more of a spot fest than a match but it was highly entertaining spot fest.

Eddie Gurrerro vs. Rey Mysterio Jr - WCW Halloween Havoc 1997. - Eddie was the perfect heel in this match. He looked dangerous. And brought an intensity to the ring that night that I don't think he had been able to regain with Rey in their matches in WWE. Rey showed the world what he could do in the ring, when that style of wrestling was becoming popular. The match oozed style. And had a great finish. Latino Heat was a good gimmick, but this was the Eddie that I wanted to see in the WWE.

Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles - TNA Turning Point 2006. - Styles and Joe put on a show in this match. Fans knew that the two men could put on a hell of a performance, after Joe's outstanding matches in the PPV's leading up to Turning Point, and AJ's track record, this was going to be something special. It was special all right. Not only was this one of the best matches in TNA's history, it showed that both men could turn it up a notch and produce a match and style different from what fans had seen before. This was a brutal match. For nineteen minutes they chopped and kicked each other, nailing huge innovative spots with perfect pace. The match started normal enough, with Styles going head first into Joe not letting him get a chance to counter. But that game plan did not last long. Out of nowhere Joe slapped AJ in the face, Styles backed off but Joe was right there and unleashed five of the most vicious stiff kicks to the chest. They were unbelievable. Next Joe took AJ by the legs and swung him head first into the guard rail, hit a one legged drop kick and a brutal leg sweep. But Styles came back. He hit Joe with a fantastic moonsault from standing to the outside. In the end Joe choked out AJ for the win and his first X Title, this was a great show of viciousness and brutality, that again left the fans begging for more.

by Ciaran Cunningham ..


Kris wrote:
With all due respect, I'm not sure that this column has the appropiate title. Maybe Post-1997 Greatest Matches, but you insult the 100 years of the business before 1997 with this column. Even Post-1997 Greatest Matches as a title would garner you some negative feedback, but it would be more appropiate.

Matches like Steamboat-Savage, or even the Hart-Micheals Ironman Match, told a much greater story than any match you listed here.

I understand you've been a fan for only 10 years, which explains the lack of older matches, however, it would be like me saying that the Montreal Canadiens team today is the greatest, simply because I never saw Maurice Richard in his glory days. I believe this is the best analogy to explain my problem with this article.
Steven Pozaryck wrote:
Yeah, I'll have to agree with Kris on this point. These were great matches, but they weren't the greatest. If you want to see some of the greatest matches, buy the Bret Hart DVD. He had two great ones with The British Bulldog, Steve Austin and Owen Hart. Plus, the Hart-Michaels Iron Man Match was great and Steambot-Savage at WM 3. And if you're looking for rivalries that will almost always result in great matches, one need not look further than Bret-Owen, RVD-Lynn, and Steambot-Flair. The matches you listed were good, but they weren't the best. Just my opinion. Nice job.
Ktrainham wrote:
COME ON! Are you serious" Even if you have only been a fan for 10 years you should have listed better matches than that! Not saying that all were not good matches but do you only watch TNA" Theres this guy on Raw named Shawn Michaels you should check him out. HBK/Angle, HBK/Jericho, etc. Obviously your just a Total Nonstop Annoying fan who thinks Somoa Joe is God. Well, keep on enjoying the WWE rejects and Ill watch real entertainment!
Steve H. wrote:
Agreeing with a bit of feedback you've already recieved, for me, the greatest match of all time was at WM3 between Steamboat and Savage for the IC Title. The story had been built for months, Savage was hated (yet respected) by fans, and Steamboat was over. The crowd were going nuts. And all of this could have been main event anywhere else! The action was seamless - a hundred and one near falls - ref goes down - Savage hits his finisher - Steamboat over comes all odds. The greatest match I've personally ever seen, and not a chair shot in sight... Swaying slightly from your column subject, the reason some matches are so great is that they have time to build. The classic Savage/Steamboat gained momentum for weeks, in the days where there were not monthly PPV's. Goes to show maybe we don't need monthly extravaganzas"
Matt Matt wrote:
Im glad someone brought that subject up.There is one match no one i talk to remembers.Think back to Owen Harts death,on WCW Nitro Bret Hart and Chris Benoit had an Owen Hart dedication match.The match was really great,and I think everyone who watched that got the best of both wrestlers.You can find this match on Bret Harts 3 disc DVD
destrothers wrote:
Two of the best matches of the last ten years were last year at WM and summerslam, one being Angle-HBK and the other being the ladder match between Rey and Eddie. Angle and HBK wrestled their asses off, and as far as telling a story( as ridiculous as the story about Dominick being), they told a helluva story with the ladder match. A couple of matches that were Great but many forget about was the one at Superbrawl 91 with the Steiners and Sting/Luger, which was voted match of the year by PWI, which was great because in that day it was rare to see two fan favorite teams go at it. The other being the classic 1995 encounter with Shawn Michaels and Owen Hart when Owen hit him with the enziguri kick and put him out in his first match back from being 'beaten' by nine thugs in an 'alley' if some don't remember, exquisite storytelling at its finest if i've ever seen it.

As far as whole PPV's go, the Great American Bash '89, WrestleMania X, and WrestleMania X-7 has such good matches it's a toss-up to figure out which was the best match within the respective PPv's.(WrestleMcMania XIX wasn't too shabby, either).
Debonaire wrote:
Trying real hard not to rip Samoa Joe here, so I'll offer one of my favorites instead. 1992 Survivor Series, World title match between World champ Bret Hart and I C champ Shawn Michaels. Both champions were fresh off of their title victories and had gone relatively unproved in their respective title reigns. Shawn went from opening pay-per-view's to IC champ in a mere six months and Bret was given the task of trying to create a championship legacy after Hogan.(i realize there were a few champs between bret and hulk, but neither savage or flair's were anything resembling long term in content). I don't think the expectations were very high for the match and thats part of what made it so good. Being a child at the time, all world title matches seemed to be big guys tossing chops and bodyslams. And I walked away from the Bret vs. Shawn match knowing Bret deserved the world title, and believing Shawn would win it someday. Who'd have thought how it would end up"
GatorBait96 wrote:
Are you kidding"! This column is a disgrace to pro wrestling. Any of Samoa Joke's matches couldn't hold a candle to these greats. Steamboat-Savage @ WM 3, Bret Hart-Chris Beniot on Nitro. Those have been listed already in you feedback. How can you have a list like this without including prob the greatest wrestler of all time, Kurt Angle. First off, dont forget Bret Hart-Owen hart at WM 10 and their match at SS 94 in the steel cage. TLC 1 and WM 16. Kurt Angle-HBK, the 92 Royal Rumble match was awesome. Rock-Steve Austin at WM 19 was pretty good. Best match I have seen to date has to be Kurt Angle-Chris Beniot at the Royal Rumble in 03.
israel yarbrough wrote:
If you wanna talk about greatest matches might i add on Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes Steel Cage Match Great American Bash 1986 where Dusty won the Title for the third time. How about the memorable Dog Collar match (some of you might be too young for that one) between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Greg the Hammer Valentine. Or maybe the "I Quit" match (aren't most I Quit matches top notch) between Ric Flair and Terry Funk in 89. Not trying to be an NWA fanboy (or whatever you call it) or anything but i think there are wayyyy more memorable and better matches to talk about then what happened within the last ten years in one or two promotions. What makes the promotions that shine click are the matches that they hold so there has to be memorable matches from all of the promotions that are at least semi-big time. No one mentions the Edge-Christian vs. Hardy Boyz TLC match either why is that" By the way this is ya boy Mista Mista over here i'll check back in with yall another day.
John A. wrote:
I don't fully agree with this column. Sure those matches were good and good to mention good matches from the modern era. I personally think that the IC-title match from WM 3 was far from the greatest match, but that's nowdays. At that time it sure may had been. With Kris I agree, you could've named this column "Greatest matches since 1997" or such. Then maybe you wouldn't get so much heat. At the end I have a small shoot to do for a few guys here:

GatorBait96 and Ktrainham, you guys obviously are just another WWE n00bs, who can't stand anything else but WWE. Those lame "Total Nonstop Annoying and Samoa Joke" phrases say it all And Ktrainham(whatever name that is): It's SAmoa Joe, not Somoa Joe. I know it's hard to write when you're under heavy Indy-hater angst. Your kind should learn to respect the other peoples taste and shut up if you haven't got anything intelligent to say. Learn something here: Not all (mostly not any nowdays) great matches happen in WWE. That's only a pure face fact. Can you really call Taker vs Mark Henry entertainment" It was pitifull, since Taker is a legend and Henry 500 pounds of sh*t. If you want "entertainment" then watch WWE. I watch wrestling, spelled W-R-E-S-T-L-I-N-G. And that really good wrestling happens mostly only in the Indies nowdays. No disrespect to Chris Benoit though. HBK may put together a good match but he's past his prime already.If you'd put him to the ring with Samoa Joe, Joe'd chop him into pieces in no time. Ktrainham, the guys in TNA you call WWE-rejects are there now because they got sick of WWE's crappy politics and such. They were not allowed to get their chance so they went to another promotion who gave them it. Sh*t happens if WWE doesn't know what to do with their talent.
John Nelson wrote:
Come on! Is EVERYBODY going to talk about Savage and Steamboat, Michaels and Hart"!" This sounds like an issue of Entertainment Weekly where anytime they would do a top 100 list, they always take safe choices. Beachboys and Beatles for rock, Goldfinger for Bond, Simpsons for TV when it is way past it's glory days in other words, nothing new, just same old stuff you could see or hear anywhere else! I WORSHIP the One Night Stand match with Tanaka and Awesome, it had my pick as match of the year. Samoa Joe IS an awesome performer, why isn't HE headlining more of TNA impact instead of Jeff Jarrett" Jeff Jarrett WTH"! Hell Impact does have some great performers and a lot of the castoffs from WWE Rhyno in particular are awesome! now they have a chance to get noticed better. I appreciate this article for at least bringing something new and fresh to the table. Not the same old stuff.

On the other hand Shelton Benjamin is providing some good wrestling and his match with Hass a week or so ago was great. Shawn Micaels is still putting on quality products as well as Kurt Angle as his match with Taker at No Way Out was spectacular. WWE however is NOT the end all of wrestling. Half the guys they push like that Masterpiece guy have such little talent and are awful, he gets pushed cause he can deliver a promo. Hass got cut cause his delivery of promos stank like a sock, nevermind that he's a small guy who can do some great moves in the ring. Big guys with promo power = ratings. Hell even Rob Conway wasn't too bad before they banished him to Heat for whatever reason. Oh and am I alone in thinking Candice Michelle is as boring as a bowl of oatmeal" Yeah, go home daddy, your nothing special. Mickey James at least has some skills in the ring AND is cute.

People love those old matches for what they were, great wrestling and while I've never seen them, I am sure their pretty good but can we move past them" WWE isn't the place for wrestling anymore, its on TNA. Lets put it this way, why the hell did we see Saturday Night Main Event again" Ten to one says we wouldn't have seen it if TNA wasn't cutting into their sagging ratings. Let WWE continue to push Cena and give airtime to that prick Edge and his sex with Lita. Great thing for little kids in the audience to see by the way. TNA is wrestling and action, not lewdness and crap and no I'm not a TNA fanboy and I've never seen ROH but I know a better quality product when I see it.
Simeon Hubbard wrote:
Hey guys, Bret Hart/HBK WM 12 and Steamboat/Savage WM III ARE some of the greatest matches in the history of pro wrestling, but here are some other great matches that I would consider the greatest matches: ---- Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff-Steel Cage Match which is what I consider the greatest match in the history of Satuday Night's Main Event. ---- HBK vs. Shelton Benjamin Round 1 of The Gold Rush Tournament from RAW May 2, 2005 that match was INTENSE and AWESOME. ---- Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Heavyweight Championship from WM XIX, 2 men w/amateur backgrounds and it had some impact and intensity. ---- AMW vs. XXX 6-Sides of Steel from Turning Point 2004-This was AWESOME! ---- Also Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog-Summerslam 1992 for the Intercontinental Heavyweight Title ---- Ric Flair vs. STING-The Great American Bash 1990 for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship ---- Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Gaint-The greatest Match in professional wrestling history ---- Hulk Hogan vs. GOLDBERG-WCW Monday Nitro July 6, 1998 for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship ---- Well I have more to come later on.
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