Best WWF Matches Of The Late 80's/Early 90's
May 29, 2006 by Jacob Sutton
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The late 1980s were a great time in WWF history. The colourful characters were great and people really didn't expect much going into PPVs. And it was very rare that they would smack each other with chairs or be involved in pathetically fake bloodbaths. The following are in no particular order but they are some matches that either helped the careers of the participants or they are just popular.
Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, WrestleMania III ----
Many fans regard this as the best match of what I think is the best WrestleMania yet. It was a great back-and-forth bout that didn't need tons of stage blood or a shot with a myriad of sledgehammer shots to get the crowd into it. The crowd were transfixed during this Intercontinental Title match. Everyone remembers how vicious Savage was back in 1986/7, he was a great heel, and fans liked him anyway. Savage used the ring bell then, and he was going to use it again until George "The Animal" Steele intercepted it and pushed him off the top rope, giving Steamboat the win and the IC Championship. Savage went on to become a face soon after, leading to a great run in 1988 as WWF Champion. Steamboat lost the title to Honky Tonk Man and nothing really happened for him in WWF so he left in mid-1988.
Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage, WrestleMania V ----
This friendship gone bad lead to a spectacular main event at 'Mania 5. The gist of the story is that Savage accuses Hulk Hogan of fancying Elizabeth. The feud simmers at Royal Rumble '89, where it looks certain that Savage is going to give Hogan a much needed slap, but it doesn't happen, until a month or two later. The feud carries on and at WrestleMania V, it is a brilliant match including blood and sweat, and perhaps a little tears. Savage beats the hell out of Hogan, just like Andre, Bundy or Piper did, but still, like that long list, ended up losing to Hogan after that boringly repetitive Leg Drop of his. Savage went on to his second year of main eventing, this time brawling against Hogan rather than Ted DiBiase the year before.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude, WrestleMania IV ----
This was the final bout in the 1st round of the infamous tournament, and one which was a great match-up, quality wise at least. The fans didn't seem to like it but they didn't seem to enjoy any match on that entire card (bar the main event). Despite having "The Snake" in a sleeper hold for over a minute in the match, neither man could pull of the win and it counted as a draw, meaning both men had ruined their chances of prevailing in the tournament. This match really showed that they could both go for at least 15 minutes, and it elevated both of them, Rude even to main event status and a programme with The Ultimate Warrior (who was rapidly rising through the ranks) in 1989, and Jake went on to a great feud with Andre The Giant.
Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, April 1989 ----
These two always did have a fabulous chemistry in the ring. Whenever they got into the ring, you knew you were up for an old-school technical classic. And this match, broadcast on a Saturday Night's Main Event was no exception, a brilliant technical seesaw, which lead to a 20 minute time limit draw, which, even with that result, failed to upset the fans as they couldn't take their eyes off of the action. Both stars were high on the rise at this point, and "The Hitman" was teaming less with Jim Neidhart and becoming a little more of a singles wrestler, perhaps preparing him for one hell of a career in the 90s, which turned out superb. And Mr. Perfect possessed superstar talent and selling ability teamed with his great charisma, he could have made his way to the main event whenever he wanted.
WWF/NFL 20 man Battle Royal, WrestleMania 2 ----
This match was a typical example of one of the riskiest matches in the WWF at that time. It featured a wide range of wrestlers, from veteran Bruno Sammartino to the master technician Bret "The Hitman" Hart, who was up-and-coming at the time (1986), and there was also NFL Football stars such as Bill Fralic and William "The Refrigerator" Perry. Andre the Giant, though, the true master of the battle royal to this day, would emerge the victor, last eliminating Bret Hart to win the event. This elevated Bret Hart's career though and The Hart Foundation soon found themselves Tag Team Champions.
Andre the Giant vs. The Ultimate Warrior, November 1989 ----
This match was not a classic by any means, but the fact that Andre allowed someone as cocky and hypocritical as the Warrior to slam him and make him look weak is beyond me, but that proved that Andre the Giant was one of the best sportsmen in the game. This match, for the IC title, sees Andre get slammed, knocked down with one clothesline (something which wouldn't have ever happened a couple of years before) and beaten by disqualification, which of course, the fans loved. Andre's WWF career was nearing the end, and he jobbed to the next WWF Champion, and it was the first of many, some even lasting a matter of seconds. All I can say is, Poor Andre. But it was good for The Warrior.
The Royal Rumble Match, 1989 ----
The 1989 Rumble was the second annual event, but the first Rumble to feature 30 wrestlers (the '88 edition only included 20). The match was a real drama, which saw wrestlers last extremely long amounts of time, Ted DiBiase supposedly "bought" #30 but it didn't pay off anyway, Jake Roberts caused Andre the Giant to eliminate himself after letting Damien loose, Hulk Hogan "accidentally" eliminated Randy Savage showing the beginning of their hot feud, and Virgil was thrown over the top rope even though not participating. The final two were Big John Studd (who had not been in the WWF since early 1987) and Ted DiBiase. John Studd easily disposed of DiBiase and won the Rumble. I feel that DiBiase's talent was wasted, but as the man who returned, it was fairly obvious he would win. And DiBiase put on one hell of a performance the next year in the Rumble.
Hulk's team vs. Andre's team, Survivor Series '87 ----
This match was the main event of the first ever Survivor Series, and it did one major thing that WWE never seems to do nowadays. Hulk Hogan, as all of you know, the WWF Champion at the time, Hulkamania running wild, was eliminated halfway through the clash, if only by count-out after battling off King Kong Bundy and the One Man Gang, this was something the WWE wouldn't ever do nowadays. They would be too scared that the fans would get bored. It actually put Bam Bam Bigelow over a hell of a lot, as at the end it was left with him against Andre, The One Man Gang and King Kong Bundy, and he toppled both OMG and Bundy and he tried to fight Andre but failed and Andre was announced the "sole survivor" but Bigelow was given a huge load of credit for the match, but it failed to do much for his career and an injury in 1988 put him out of the WWF for a half-decade.
Ted DiBiase vs. Hulk Hogan, November 1987 ----
This is another example of the Federation's attitude towards The Hulkster.
'Sure he's great, but not invincible. That's just not possible'. This is conveyed here again, as Ted DiBiase, fresh with new gimmick "The Million Dollar Man", convincingly put on a great performance against Hulk Hogan in this 15 minute long match. DiBiase's incredible charisma and psychology made this match a classic, even though it's not overly well-known. DiBiase, with help from soon-to-be buddy Andre the Giant, who had just returned after taking months off after WrestleMania 3, appeared and headbutted Hogan leading to a count-out victory. But this was the first of many bouts between the two in Nov. '87, one of which leading to a convincing pinfall victory by DiBiase, much to the fans shock. DiBiase was a great wrestler, and it was a travesty he was never given the WWF Championship.
The Colossal Connection vs. Demolition, WrestleMania VI ----
This match, like some others, is no wrestling classic. But it did elevate careers, Demolition anyway. Haku had to wrestle the whole match himself because of Andre's poor health at the time. But Demolition beat Haku and The Giant for the Tag Team Championship, making Demolition three time Tag Champions. And as a bonus to the fans, Andre The Giant split from Heenan's stable and became a face, only the thing is he never wrestled in front of a camera again, which I find strange. Demolition would go on after a month or so to turn heel themselves and fight The Hart Foundation at SummerSlam '90 in a solid match-up, which also made the PPV debut of Crush.
Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog, SummerSlam '92 ----
This match was held in Wembley Stadium for that year's SummerSlam. It was an extremely long card, and this match was right at the end, obviously because The Bulldog was English. It was a very long gruelling bout for both participants, and it was very even in the way that kick outs, power moves etc. were concerned. Both men were popular, but of course, the fans booed "The Hitman". The match culminated with The Bulldog capturing the Intercontinental Championship in London. Plus the fans were happy to see Diana Hart, Bret and Davey Boy embrace after the bout. It was a great end to a mediocre card. The Bulldog's star rose from the title reign, but only held it for a month or two and soon disappeared from the WWF, and Bret Hart was given the WWF Championship after only a couple of months.
Hulk Hogan & Andre the Giant vs. King Kong Bundy & Big John Studd, November 1985 ----
This match was a double-barrel feud type match. Andre was feuding with Studd and Hogan was just starting a feud with King Kong Bundy that eventually lead to WrestleMania 2. The match was a good display for the crowd, who weren't expecting much going into it. It was a brawl through and through for the time, with poor selling, hard shots, powerful moves etc. It was also a reasonably good display from Andre The Giant, showing that once, he could wrestle brilliantly and even towards the end he still had that mystique about him and such psychology. For people who only saw Andre towards his bitter old late 87-91 years, watch this match.
By Jacob Sutton
No offense, but you should have said Best matches/Matches that elevated careers. Anyway, quite a few of those matches were awesome, especially Savage Steamboat. I can't beleive you didn't list any from Shawn Michaels. Here are some you should have included: Michaels vs. Ramon Ladder match at WMX, Santana vs. Michaels at WMVIII, WMIV Battle Royal (Bad News Brown won and Bret Hart smashed the trophy, classic), 92 Rumble, and others. But beside that, nice job on telling about career launching matches. Good read.
Matt Matt wrote:
Great column.The rivalry beetween Randy Savage and Steamboat Dragon gave me the chills.I had chills all through that match they had at Wrestlemania 3.
Paul Sheridan wrote:
Dear Jacob -- While I enjoyed the article your reference to "pathetically fake bloodbaths" seems to imply you believe the blood in wrestling to be fake. Is this the case or am I just interpreting it the wong way. I have to agree with you on the Ricky Steamboat/ Rndy Savage match. A truly great demonstration in athleticism and ring psychology.
Anthony Walton wrote:
Okay, yes, there were lots of good matches back then, but don't think for a second that the blood is fake. Also, it gave off the feeling that you were another whiny IWC smark who wishes for the "good ol' days" but really, what was so good about Hogan doing the same shit and having to watch cartoon characters and even more sterroid addicts than today" Also, I'm a bit mad that you didn't have any HBK matches, since his were usually the best. He stole the show at WMX w/ his match w/ Razor.
I just want to ask one thing, can every columnist on this site quit complaining about the WWE, they put on better wrestling than they did in the back then, and it's a lot more entertaining.
Robert W. wrote:
I enjoyed the column, but Bret Hart never wrestled Mr. Perfect on an episode of Saturday Night's Main Event. All of their matches in 1989 were at house shows.
David Vera wrote:
Good column. I like the fact that this column made DiBease the most underappreciated wrestler during that era! But anyway, I like the Steamboat/Savage match but to be honest, it was good but overrated. Sorry, but that isn't Steamboat's best match, his matches with Flair were better but good match with Savage in WM 3, the match of the night. I don't like the fact that none from HBK were in here and the WM13 match between Austin vs.
Bret. I would think it's based on opinion on what was the greatest match ever. But there are tons of matches in the 1990's there we good in WWF.
Joe Aguinaldo wrote:
Excellent article....I love stuff like this...also, I like the choices on this list....especially the Steamboat vs Savage match and Hart Vs Bulldog match...two of my fave matches from the WWE.
However, I can't believe you didn't put the Hogan Vs Iron Sheik Match in this list. Granted, Hulkamania started in the AWA but this match made put it in the national spotlight. Not only that but to me, the Hogan vs Sheik match is the first shot by VKM against the old wrestling establishment.
Other matches I thought might be on this list
Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior - WM skydome - at the time, it was a babyface v babyface match which was rarely ever done...and not only that it was the two biggest starts (both literally and figuratively) in the WWF. Not only that but one of the few times Hogan put anyone over clean.
Royal Rumble 92 - Flair wins title. Not only that but look at the participants in the ring...Hogan, Savage, Justice, Bulldogs, Santana, Michaels, IRS, DiBiase, Von Erich, Piper, Slaugher, Iron Sheik....you'll never have a match with those kinds of names in the ring at one time ever again.
Hogan vs Orndorff - 'The Big Show' in Toronto, Exhibition stadium - was at one time, the biggest drawing card.
Hogan and Mr. T vs Piper and Orndorff - not the greatest match in the world but it was the first WM main event and should be listed as an important match.
Jose Aguirre wrote:
I have to agree with Anthony Walton because although the 80's maybe were the golden days of wrestling they're gone. Sure the 80's had good matches but most of them were boring, compared to some of the matches of today.Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio matches are way more intresting than Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan or Jake the Snake vs. Rick Rude. I also have to agree with the comment of bashing WWE/TNA because I am guilty of bashing TNA and I'm becoming a basher of WWE, I don't want to turn out to be a little bitch just like a lot of people who are on this site.
Tony Francioni wrote:
I really enjoyed this article and enjoyed all of those matches from yester year.
I always thought the NFL/WWF Battle Royal was overlooked. It was a great match to see legends and guys no one remembers(Ted Arcidi and the Golden Boy).
I think the list needs to include Bret Hart v Mr. Perfect at King of the Ring 93
The 1992 Royal Rumble(with Flairs victory)
Piper's team vs. Rudes team at 1989 Survivor Series(One of Hennig's best matches)
I would like to add another match(and I know I will take heat for this)
No Holds Barred Hogan/Beefcake v Savage and Zeus ---
Like it or not it was a good one
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