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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Ten Greatest Matches This 'Ole Kayfaber Has Ever Seen
July 6, 2004 by Ryan C. Nehlen


Now, I am only 20 years old, and therefore, not exactly the greatest expert on the Kayfabing Days of Professional Wrestling. However, as a student of pro wrestling history and lore, I feel that it is my duty and, dare I say, my RIGHT to post the ten greatest wrestling matches I have ever seen.

Call me crazy, but I would rather watch Ric Flair wrestle Ricky Steamboat for an hour than see Mick Foley fall off a cage. I would also rather watch Superstar Billy Graham battle "Da Brun" than sit through five minutes of a Rock promo. Now that I have offended everyone in the world, here is my list of favorite confrontations:

10. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (WWE Wrestlemania XIX 2003) -Nothing truly fancy here, was there" No fire or explosions or even death-defying shooting star presses. And yet, a masterpiece of ring work and dedication to excellence. From HBK's return to the time I stopped watching wrestling (recently), I have never been more impressed with a constant, spell-binding performer. And, as we know, Y2J rarely disappoints.

9. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (WWF SummerSlam 1991) -This match, which saw the late, great Curt Hennig lose his coveted Intercontinental Title to Bret Hart, is another example of straightforward, ring-excellence. Considering Mr. P. was working with a bad back, I right now declare Curt Henning the greatest mid-carder and the greatest seller in WWF/E history. Because Bret Hart's name will pop up a few more times in this list, I won't go into too many details, but these performers brought great pride to the somewhat diminished Intercontinental Title.

8. The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team (WWF Wrestlemania 2 1985) -Keep your Dudleys, your Hardys, and for God's sake your New Age Outlaws, and give me the Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid) and the Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake) any day. With the exception of the Hart Foundation, these were the two greatest teams of the 1980's, and their clash at Wrestlemania 2 was not only wonderfully wrestled, but exciting and gratifying. I believe that the Dream Team is the most overlooked Tag Team in WWF/E history, and who can forget the lovable Ozzy Osborne cheering the Bulldogs as a head butt collision between Dynamite and Valentine bagged the Dogs a well- deserved Tag Team crown.

7. Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle (WWE Royal Rumble 2003) -Do I really need to explain myself here" I love old-school "rasslin", but nothing got me more pumped in the last few years than watching Benoit and Angle suplex each other to death. The reason this particular match sticks in my mind is that Benoit lost fairly (tapping to the inverted Ankle Lock) and still came within hairs of winning the title he so plainly deserved.

6. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (WWE RAW 2004) -I forget the specific date, but it was the night that HBK and HHH wrestled a spectacular and grueling 40-minute match that ended in a draw after Shawn collapsed on his old friend and teammate. Say what you will about Triple H...the man is Ric Flair, Harley Race and Billy Graham combined...and let's see Steve Austin or Goldberg put on that kind of a show for 40 minutes. As for Shawn...we've been over his talent, and he's not done in this countdown.

5. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (WWF Wrestlemania X 1994) -I never was a big Owen Hart fan, and still don't consider myself a great admirer. However, the man knew wrestling as well as his older brother, and these two proved it in perhaps the most technically exciting and enthralling exhibition bout in wrestling history. Owen's clean victory over Bret was hell for the fans...but any wrestling fan knows that the good guy can't, or at least shouldn't, always win. Bret might have had the better sharpshooter, but I have never seen a more perfectly executed piledriver, courtesy of the King of Harts.

4. Ric Flair vs. Harley Race (NWA Starrcade 1981) -Mankind falls through a cell and the fans think that God Almighty has arrived on planet earth. Regardless, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match between Flair and Race is what steel cages were meant for. I absolutely love Flair's shriek of agony when Race lands a second-rope head butt...forehead to forehead. Many people cringe about wrestling Bob Holly or, God forbid, Goldberg, but I think Harley Race was the kind of guy who would break your skull open as long as it was selling tickets. A man's man to be sure. And Flair" God, will we ever see another quite like him"

3. Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (WWF Wrestlemania III 1986) -This one has been done to death, but isn't it worth it" If only for George Steele's comic interference (decades before Eugene's "slow" gimmick is what packed the aisles), this match was more than a physical masterpiece, it was the conclusion to a great story. A simple story involving Savage's menace and Steamboat's purity: Good vs. Evil. And boy oh boy, can Steamboat nail an arm-drag take-down or what"

2. Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat (NWA Clash of the Champions 1989) -Wow. I was never a big Steamboat fan either (I preferred Hogan and Warrior and Piper...even though none of them made my list), but this 50 plus minute, two-out-of-three falls championship bout is why we are all grateful that pro wrestling evolved from big guys punching to smaller guys wrestling. **CHEAP PLUG** This match is on Ric Flair's DVD, a true wrestling fan's dream come true. **END OF CHEAP PLUG** Steamboat's double-arm chicken wing lock made my mouth hang open, and I actually groaned in disappointment when the colorful Nature Boy lost the match only minutes from its time limit. True wrestling magic.

1. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (WWF Wrestlemania XII 1996) -When Flair and Steamboat wrestled almost an hour, people weren't surprised. However, when the glitzy and glamorous WWF, which reveled in behemoths beating on other behemoths for almost 15 years, presented the first ever Iron Man Match, people were skeptical. Who wants to watch an hour of wrestling" Especially between two little guys like Hart and Michaels. Jeezly Crow, folks, this one had it all. I was disappointed with Rock vs. HHH in their Iron Match, and fell asleep during Angle's and Brock's, but Shawn's dedication and brilliance matched perfectly with Bret's technique and aggression. As a kid, I wanted the Hitman to win, but watching it now, I am in no way upset when Shawn lands that Chin Music (which Bret took like a man) and scored that three count. My favorite match that I have ever seen.

I am sure this list will change once older wrestling DVDs and videos become public, but for now, this is a 20-year-old Kayfaber's opinion on the greatest matches of pro wrestling. I hope I have not offended anyone, except for Rock fans, Austin fans and anyone who thinks that pro wrestling is just as strong today as it was in the 70's, 80's and 90's. That being said, I cry your pardon and hope that we can all live together peacefully and harmoniously in a world of Brunos, Flairs and Hitmans. Peace out.

by Ryan C. Nehlen..


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