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1 company, 1 year, 5 incredible matches


tiger_rick

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So what are the best five matches you've seen from any one company in a single calendar year? No Meltzer snowflakes just your gut feeling. I'm going to try and set a bench mark.

 

WWF. 1997.

 

IYH FInal Four: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin vs. Undertaker vs. Vader

 

Born out of the controversial finish to the Royal Rumble when Austin cheated and upgraded to a WWF Title match when Shawn Michaels lost his smile, this is up there with the epic 1992 rumble story and the Undertaker/Michaels finish in 2007 (?) as the best action you'll ever see in a battle royal setting. It's hard to think of anything involving Bret & Austin that isn't brilliant but throw in the revitalised Taker and Vader's best performance in a WWF ring by fucking miles and this is incredible. I won't spoil it for anyone with the Network who hasn't seen it. I remember it's about 45 minutes long but it absolutely flies by.

 

WrestleMania 13: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin

 

Hard to say anything about this match that hasn't been said. The more I think about it, the more I think this might be the best match in WWF/E history. Or in all of wrestling. It's famous for the fabulously executed double turn which is easily one of the best in-match stories they've ever told but when you add in Austin's blade job that creates incredible visuals particularly when he's fighting out of the sharpshooter which is as iconic an image as you'll see and the fact that their work is absolutely flawless. This is simply brilliant.

 

IYH: Canadian Stampede: Hart Foundation vs. Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & LOD

 

The intertwining stories they were telling at the top of the card in 1997 were incredible. This was USA vs. Canada, Austin vs. Bret, Austin vs. Owen, Bulldog vs. Shamrock and Goldust vs. Pillman all wrapped into one super-heated match. The action is non-stop, Austin & Owen being "injured" adds depth and the finish goes over huge. Will we ever see to this extent again a babyface celebration for what are technically the heels? I'd have this up there in terms of best straight multi man tags with the 10 man on Raw just after the Radicalz debut.

 

SummerSlam: Bret Hart vs. Undertaker

 

This was an unexpected cracker because Taker & Bret didn't have the best chemistry for whatever reason. This is ace though. Obviously it has a fantastic build, intriguing stipulations and it beautifully set-up the HBK/Taker feud and the formation of DX which in turn led to the creation of Kane and HBK coming full circle to face Bret at Survivor Series. The match itself has everything. Smooth work, flawless transitions, Bret drawing heat, interference that adds to the atmosphere rather than over-shadowing everything and the genius finish which is executed magnificently. A little thing about this match but when Bret tries to throw the chair out of the ring, it hits the ring post. This little detail is brilliant because if he'd missed the post, the finish is fucked. But nor does he risk making it look like he's not trying to get rid of the chair. The special guest referee was completely overused during the subsequent few years but is criminally underused now. There's a fantastic line from JR when HBK's pyro is going off "WWF referees are all going to want their own pyro from now on".

 

Before the match Bret asks for the Canadian national anthem which draws decent heat. Got me thinking,did anyone ever request the US anthem in Canada during the feud? That would have been off the charts.

 

IYH Badd Blood: HBK vs. Undertaker (Hell in a cell)

 

These two had outstanding matches at WM two years running. Neither as good as this. It's got literally everything. Great build. Super heated feud. Novel gimmick. Brilliant action. A massive spot (pre-Foley). Michaels being a fucking cunt. JR's superb indignation. Blood. Brutality. One of the company's most memorable debuts leading to a genuinely gut-wrenching finish. It's not quite as pure as Bret/Austin but it's right up there.

 

So there are my five. Look forward to someone topping them. Any company. Even that Japanese stuff we all love here!

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Can I just steal your exact list please?

 

17 year old me was SO ANGRY with Shawn Michaels for the finish of the Summerslam title match, 35 year old me still goes "you fucking dick Michaels" when I see it. That's quite something.

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I was the opposite to your reaction. I was fully, wholeheartedly behind Michaels through that 'angle'.

Absolutely tremendous stuff by Michaels.

 

1997 was the year for me that wrestling became less Nick Jr and more HBO. Ricks list is wonderful.

I also loved 1998 so I'm going to fuck off and think of a list.

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It's too long since I've seen most of them to make this more than a list-o-mania, but All Japan had an amazing run of five main events on Budokan Hall shows in 1994. Kawada-Hansen in the Champion Carnival final, Kawada getting his shot against Misawa in a match that regularly appears in 'best ever' discussions, Misawa dropping the title to Steve Williams, Williams defending against Kobashi and then Williams dropping the title to Kawada.

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I will preface this by saying I have gaps where I stopped watching wrestling and I don't look back on things I had to watched back with quite as much fondness.

 

So I went with 2002 in no particular order-

 

Benoit vs Eddie Armageddon-

 

This might be there best singles match on the big stage ,Benoit had to win hear but the got a good back and forth technical match with a nice clean finish

 

HHH vs HBK-There is a defo Smackdown 6 theme with my other choices but this one is different and possibly my favourite. Brilliant story , genuinely didn't know how HBK was going to do hear and as the 1st wrestler I really adored t I was worried he would break apart. I great blood feud with the right winner and a after match beating that made Triple H look like a right old fanny

 

Benoit and Angle Vs Los Guerreros Smackdown- I don't hate Chavo by stretch but I'm shocked he can appear in any off my favourite of anything lists, he truly is to the Smackdown 6 what Pascal Cygan was too to Arsenals invincibles. Great back and forth match really highlighting everyone's strengths. It's amazing to think we were getting matches of this quality regularly on Smackdown at the time.

 

Eddie G vs RVD Raw ladder match- By this point it maybe apparent how much I love Guerrero but at this time I may off loved RVD as much. He was still fresh too me as I hadn't watched any ECW at the time except a tape off the original Barely Legal I had just bought. It probably most famous for some trumpet of a fan interrupting who was fucking lucky they didn't use him for Frog Splash practice. It was a good show piece for both and was the closest they had come to making the IC title feel important for a while.

 

Benoit vs Angle Unforgiven-

This match was very short if I remember correctly, was aso pure a wrestling match as you are ever going to get in WWE. Very submission/ ground based with very little punches thrown. Was so unique to me and I really don't know if it could off done with any other guys . They finish the match with a great series submissions with Benoit winning with a roll up with really fit in with the match and was the 1st time I seen him as a top level (not talent wise placement wise)

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The year isn't even over and New Japan have already had ten or twelve incredible matches. And it's weird for me because I never used to like New Japan. And one of those matches has AJ Styles in and I never thought I'd say that...

 

Anyway, five of the best...

 

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi (Wrestle Kingdom 9)

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada (Wrestle Kingdom 9)

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs AJ Styles (G1 Climax)

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kazuchika Okada (G1 Climax)

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura (G1 Climax)
 

 

And just below those...

Togi Makabe vs Tomohiro Ishii (Wrestle Kingdom 9)

Tomohiro Ishii defeated Tomoaki Honma (New Beginning In Sendai)

KUSHIDA vs Kyle O'Reilly (Best Of The Super Juniors Final)

AJ Styles vs Kazuchika Okada (Dominion)

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The year isn't even over and New Japan have already had ten or twelve incredible matches. And it's weird for me because I never used to like New Japan. And one of those matches has AJ Styles in and I never thought I'd say that...

 

Anyway, five of the best...

 

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi (Wrestle Kingdom 9)

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada (Wrestle Kingdom 9)

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs AJ Styles (G1 Climax)

 

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kazuchika Okada (G1 Climax)

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura (G1 Climax)

 

 

And just below those...

 

Togi Makabe vs Tomohiro Ishii (Wrestle Kingdom 9)

 

Tomohiro Ishii defeated Tomoaki Honma (New Beginning In Sendai)

 

KUSHIDA vs Kyle O'Reilly (Best Of The Super Juniors Final)

 

AJ Styles vs Kazuchika Okada (Dominion)

Also worth mentioning Ishii/Honma from the G1 as well as Ishii/Elgin

 

I'm a big Ishii fan obviously but those two matches both stood out to me as absolutely shit-hot for different reasons. Elgin gets some heat on this board but that was the match I was looking forward to from the moment I heard he was in the tournament, and it delivered. What NJPW can do with its midcard, which is what Ishii basically is, is just stunning

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Also worth mentioning Ishii/Honma from the G1 as well as Ishii/Elgin

 

I'm a big Ishii fan obviously but those two matches both stood out to me as absolutely shit-hot for different reasons. Elgin gets some heat on this board but that was the match I was looking forward to from the moment I heard he was in the tournament, and it delivered. What NJPW can do with its midcard, which is what Ishii basically is, is just stunning

 

Oh, absolutely. Ishii is basically Ryback. Imagine that. Actually, I wonder if you could take that further...

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Also worth mentioning Ishii/Honma from the G1 as well as Ishii/Elgin

 

I'm a big Ishii fan obviously but those two matches both stood out to me as absolutely shit-hot for different reasons. Elgin gets some heat on this board but that was the match I was looking forward to from the moment I heard he was in the tournament, and it delivered. What NJPW can do with its midcard, which is what Ishii basically is, is just stunning

 

Oh, absolutely. Ishii is basically Ryback. Imagine that. Actually, I wonder if you could take that further...

 

Is Naito The Miz? Dresses weirdly, does his little routine before he's ready to fight. Gets genuine heat etc.

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Also worth mentioning Ishii/Honma from the G1 as well as Ishii/Elgin

 

I'm a big Ishii fan obviously but those two matches both stood out to me as absolutely shit-hot for different reasons. Elgin gets some heat on this board but that was the match I was looking forward to from the moment I heard he was in the tournament, and it delivered. What NJPW can do with its midcard, which is what Ishii basically is, is just stunning

 

Oh, absolutely. Ishii is basically Ryback. Imagine that. Actually, I wonder if you could take that further...

 

Is Naito The Miz? Dresses weirdly, does his little routine before he's ready to fight. Gets genuine heat etc.

 

In his position on the card, I guess he's more Ambrose? Goto is Reigns, Shibata is Orton. Tanahashi is Cena, obv. Okada is Rollins. Styles... Lesnar?

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I'd say Okada is like if they tried to do anything good with Orton nowadays. Shibata's more like Cesaro, on the cusp a lot of the time, an afterthought the next day, with the audience largely won over, put in a workrate feud with Naito to get him out the way for a bit, kinda comparable to the Owens feud.

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SummerSlam: Bret Hart vs. Undertaker

 

This was an unexpected cracker because Taker & Bret didn't have the best chemistry for whatever reason. This is ace though. Obviously it has a fantastic build, intriguing stipulations and it beautifully set-up the HBK/Taker feud and the formation of DX which in turn led to the creation of Kane and HBK coming full circle to face Bret at Survivor Series. The match itself has everything. Smooth work, flawless transitions, Bret drawing heat, interference that adds to the atmosphere rather than over-shadowing everything and the genius finish which is executed magnificently. A little thing about this match but when Bret tries to throw the chair out of the ring, it hits the ring post. This little detail is brilliant because if he'd missed the post, the finish is fucked. But nor does he risk making it look like he's not trying to get rid of the chair. The special guest referee was completely overused during the subsequent few years but is criminally underused now. There's a fantastic line from JR when HBK's pyro is going off "WWF referees are all going to want their own pyro from now on".

 

I wanted to touch on the greatness of this match for a little longer because as well as the awesome angle which looked like everything had been booked into a corner until the trap door ending was revealed, the actual story of the match was as far from an Undertaker match as you could have expected at the time.

 

Bret worked on Undertaker for pretty much the whole contest and was never really in any danger of being beaten.  Yes, Undertaker got in some flurries and had Bret in some trouble on a couple of occasions but he never delivered a sustained beating or any real comeback before the finish.  Instead, Bret was having trouble beating Undertaker rather than Undertaker having the tools to beat Bret.  Even with the distraction of having Shawn as the referee, Bret always appeared to have the win in the bag.

 

God damn, that match is great.

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WCW in 1992.

 

Its easy to forget how revolutionary Brian Pillman vs Jushin Liger from SuperBrawl was in 1992. The vast majority of fans had never seen anything like it and it simply blew people away. They worked it brilliantly too, with enough amazing modern spots to get people excited but with enough selling and story-telling that it still worked for the more old-fashioned fan too.

 

Pillman's match with Tom Zenk at WrestleWar is a forgotten gem. It's not as flashy as the Liger match from a few months earlier and its overshadowed by the WarGames match from an hour or so later, but viewed in isolation today, it's brilliant. I love the overriding story that they are former partners who knew each other inside-out so kept countering each other or going for the same move.

 

The WarGames match from the same show is often listed as one of the greatest matches of the 90s and it still holds up today as a cracker. Great performances from everyone involved, lots of blood and amazing crowd heat.

 

The Rick Rude vs Ricky Steamboat Iron Man match from Beach Blast is tremendous fun and so well booked with Rude getting a 2 fall advantage only to let it slip away. The desperation that Rude sells in the closing minutes is fantastic.

 

Finally, Vader's WCW title win over Sting at The Great American Bash is an awesome display. When viewed in the context of the time it has even more impact. In early 90s WCW, main-event faces just did not lose cleanly, yet here Vader goes over in such dominant fashion the crowd are pretty much stunned. It's a tremendous performance from both men too. Sting and Vader had great chemistry and would go on to have an equally good match a few months later at Starrcade.

 

Despite being a bit of a mess behind the scenes, and a commercial disaster, WCW had a lot of artistic success in 1992.

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WWF 1994 for me.

Razor v HBK at WrestleMania X

Bret Hart v The 123 Kid on Raw

Owen v The 123 Kid at King of the Ring (one of the best sub-5 minute matches ever in my opinion)

 

Diesel & Shawn Michaels v Razor Ramon & The 123 Kid on The Action Zone (epic 20+ minutes match)

 

Bull Nakano v Alundra Blayze from SummerSlam (not as good as their Raw match in 95 in my opinion but an absolute revelation at the time - especially considering Blayze had been fannying about with the Leilani Kai's, Debbie Combs and Luna Vachon's of the world prior to that (not a knock on those ladies either, just that they were all past their best and could not hold a candle to Nakano)


 

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