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Five matches that shaped your wrestling fandom


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This topic is more than a little inspired by the podcast My Perfect Console - basically, the premise of this is that guests choose five games that they would like to immortalise on a fictional games machine - generally games that shaped them. 

I'm going to take that premise and apply it to wrestling. Choose five matches that shaped your wrestling fandom. I'd originally planned to call the topic 'My perfect wrestling card' in reference to the podcast, but the matches don't necessarily have to be 'perfect' - just that they've impacted you as a fan in some way. 

It could be that they made you fall in love with a certain wrestler, or a style of wrestling. Maybe it's a match that gave you an emotional reaction that you revisit when you've had a shit day, maybe it's the first match you saw live - tackle the challenge in any way you like. 

I'll add my picks later, so the initial post isn't overly long. 

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Posted (edited)

I will try to come up with more, but RVD and Sabu vs Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki from ECW Heatwave 98 is a big one for me. It wasn’t the best work from any of the four involved but I thought Hayabusa was the coolest wrestler I had ever seen. He remains in my top 5 favourites of all time. Sent me down the tape trading route and led me to Toryumon, which I then watched religiously for a number of years, and more broadly got me into exploring Japanese wrestling as a whole. 


Edited by JLM
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1. Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar - No Way Out 2003

I was in my first flush of "smart fan", holier than thou, knowing everything that went on and above being worked. Fuck all that off, by the time this match ended I was literally jumping off the sofa and cheering, and I don't think wrestling had ever got me that invested before. It completely undercut all my teenage know-it-all smugness and had me reacting the way you should.

2. Terry Funk vs. Sabu - ECW Born To Be Wired 1997

I was a Terry Funk and Sabu fan before I ever saw them wrestle, because I first became aware of them through a combination of Have A Nice Day and photos in magazines, and was fascinated by them just by reputation. Foley's book has a lot to answer for, as it was the first real indication to me that wrestling was a bigger world than just WCW and WWF with ECW nipping at their heels, that there was mad deathmatch stuff in Japan, indie wrestling in America, and that ECW sounded a lot more interesting than how it had previously appeared to me. Before I knew about tape trading, before I found the IWA: Japan Deathmatch tournament on video, I had to rely on downloading the grainiest of Realplayer video files of single spots from deathmatches, and hoping that my local HMV would get in ECW videos/DVDs this week. One time, they had this - the Barbed Wire match, which by then I had heard all about, but still wasn't prepared for. It was an eye opener, and one of a handful of shows that made me a complete ECW mark for years.

3. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper - Wrestlemania VIII

Limiting myself to one Bret Hart match, it has to be this or the 'Mania match with Steve Austin, and I go with this one because it's a finish I've personally ripped off when putting matches together at least three times. It's a little hokey, but it's solid wrestling storytelling that will always stick with me.

4. "Cyanide" Sid Cooper vs. Sammy Lee - World of Sport

When I first started getting into World of Sport, it was the usual technical wizard suspects that hooked me - the Johnny Saints and Jim Breakses. Now, I see this as just about a perfect wrestling match, the way Cooper, as all good World of Sport heels could, switches from clown to vicious bully in an instant, how he stooges for Sammy's offence, and does everything to make the new youngster look like a megastar. It's a perfect heel and a perfect babyface, and a near enough perfect match for my tastes.

5. Meiko Satomura vs. Emi Sakura - EVE She-1 2017

This was around the time I started going to EVE every month; I had gone for the first time earlier in the year because they'd booked Meiko Satomura and, having missed out when they booked Manami Toyota prior to that, I figured I would drop everything to go. They also had Emi Sakura on that card, who I was a big fan of when I watched Ice Ribbon years earlier, but I hadn't seen her since. I didn't know that I would end up seeing both wrestlers so many times that I lost count, and wind up on conversational terms with them both, they, Meiko especially, may as well have been mythical beings at this point. This was from the first She-1 tournament, four shows across two days, and both women also had great matches with Viper over the course of that, but this was the one I'd been waiting for. I never want to go back and watch this again, because in the room it was phenomenal, the energy was incredible, they were both busting their arses to put on a genuinely great match, and both wrestling like the other wrestler owed them money. It's probably no longer the best match I've seen from either woman, but at the time it was as good as any match I had ever seen, and the crowd made it even better, so much so that I had to go outside to get some fresh air afterwards.

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Just... five?

OK, I'll come back to you on these. I'll restrict them to standard singles or tags, even though that's not really fair to Flair.

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Posted (edited)

I’ve gone for “these aren’t the best matches and they’re not my favourite matches but they’re five matches with a special place in my heart” as my metric.

Undertaker vs. Mankind, Hell In A Cell

I didn’t watch it at the time. For years, all I had seen of it was the clip of the first fall from “don’t try this at home”. But as a newly re-hooked fan in late 2000, I read the section of Have A Nice Day Foley wrote about this match again, and again, and again. I couldn’t believe it had really happened, that wrestling could be this spectacular.

TLCII, Mania X7

Then I saw this - and it was the ultimate stunt show spectacular. Having been desperate for Summerslam 2000 to be my first ‘PPV’ (I think it was on Sky Sports, I think you could see the first hour on one of the free channels because I’m sure I saw at least up to X-Pac vs Road Dogg) I didn’t convince my parents in time. So this was my first TLC match. I didn’t convince them for Mania either and I’d borrowed the tape off my friend David. I must have rewound Bubba and Matt’s big table bump dozens of times.

Jonny Storm vs Teddy Hart, TNA

The first match I saw on the first show I watched on the test broadcasts for what became The Wrestling Channel. My first steps into a larger world. Twenty years on, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t stand up - it was only about three minutes and it’s Teddy Hart, for Bret’s sake - but it was like nothing I’d seen before.

D’Lo Brown vs Sheamus vs Assassin, Dan Fitch’s first show

I’d been to WWE live before this show in October 2005, but I hadn’t experienced just how fun wrestling could be live until this match, where the crowd just LOVED D’Lo. Constant “D’Lo is a legend” chants for him, and I don’t think it was an ironic hijacking thing, I think it was genuinely an audience who knew they’d better recognise. It’s the second most memorable part of that show behind a guy from Gateshead who was booked on the opening cruiserweight six way that was meant to showcase Spud, but who blew everyone’s minds. From this show he went on to FWA, then within a couple of years wrestled El Generico in PWG, then went over to Dragon Gate, then WWE, and now he’s wrestling Okada on PPV. PAC has been my favourite since this show. 

Stadium Stampede, All In London

I couldn’t believe my wife was willing to come to a wrestling show with me. I had no expectations she would stick around longer than the first match. But her reactions to the cooking skewers, to OC getting beaten up, to SUUUUEEEE arriving… she stayed for the entire show. This match didn’t make her a fan but I think it’s the match that made her understand the appeal of this stupid wrestling thing.

Edited by HarmonicGenerator
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Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker - Hell In a Cell

After hitting that age when I had to concede that wrestling wasn't actually real and losing interest, this was the match that brought me back into it. There was none of the hokiness of the early 90s, and it was (at that time) the most brutal match I'd ever seen. This was closer to a live action movie than 

Bret Hart vs Mr Perfect - Summerslam '91

In my first period of fandom, I thought Bret was one of the greatest, and I thought that Hennig was a mouthy cunt that needed his head kicking in, so this was the match I was wanting see, and it didn't disappoint. 
Matches like this are why the IC Championship held more prestige than the World Championship for me.

Owen Hart vs 123 Kid - KOTR '93

I probably consider this one of the top ten matches of all time. The chemistry between Owen and Waltman is as good as anybody's, and they're just hitting everything perfectly. It's probably the greatest case study of how you can all your shit in, and more, but not have it descend into a meandering spotfest. Everything just follows on in a believable way, and the winner could have been either of them.

Kurt Angle vs Shane McMahon - KOTR '01

I can still remember the edge-of-the-seat excitement we had watching this for the first time. I genuinely thought Shane was going to get crippled or actually die. 
Kurt was brilliant by this point, and Shane was probably at his athletic best, throwing some nice looking armdrags and suplexes throughout the match. 

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I’ve got it down to 9. It’s pretty difficult choosing 5 and trying to choose between which were pivotal in terms of shaping my tastes vs telling a chronological story in terms of how my relationship with pro wrestling changed. To be fair, the shifts in what made a pro wrestling match appeal to me or not would probably take 10 matches to cover alone. It’s been more than 30 years man and boy, after all…

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Rob Van Dam vs. William Regal (Wrestlemania 18)

I’m not sure how many wrestling fans can trace their fandom back to match one, but that’s something I’m fortunate enough to be able to do. I’ve told the story before, but I started watching wrestling after buying a Smackdown videogame in Woolworths, and getting this for free. This was the first match on the card. It wasn’t my favourite match at that event (Undertaker vs. Ric Flair blew my mind) – but if my first experience of watching wrestling hadn’t been good, I might have switched off and given up on it. The match was a clash of styles, but it was good – and it immediately hooked me in. RVD’s athleticism blew my mind, and Regal played his part extremely well. I’ve never actually rewatched it, as I don’t want to ruin the perception I have of this match – but this is where it all started.

Kurt Angle vs. Brian Kendrick (5-minute challenge, Smackdown 2003)

I started watching wrestling television when I realised Smackdown aired on Sky One on a Saturday morning. The show had loads of great matches in that era, and it was a very easy watch. For whatever reason, the most memorable for me is this match – the premise being that Kendrick had to survive 5-minutes with WWE Champion Kurt Angle in order to earn a WWE contract. He fails, but this still one of the best short matches I’ve seen; and packs in a lot of action and story into its short running time, as Angle toys with his prey, before Kendrick mounts a surprising comeback – coming close to pinning Angle. With seconds to spare, Angle finishes the job. It took me on an emotional rollercoaster, and had me believing that the impossible was indeed possible – and that Kendrick might actually win. This is first wrestling match that gave me goosebumps, and the moment I went from casually enjoying to truly loving the sport. 

Brock Lesnar vs. Eddie Guerrero (No Way Out 2004)

This was the first time ‘my guy’ became WWE Champion. When I started watching wrestling, I very quickly gravitated towards Eddie Guerrero. He’d been the person I loved to play as in the Smackdown videogames, and I was really curious as to what he was actually like as a character. Turned out that he was great in ring, charismatic and genuinely funny. I willed him on, cheering as he won the US title; feeling desperate to see him break the main event scene. I didn’t expect that to happen – and when it did, wow. I hoped that he’d win this match, but never expected it – even now, the match has aged incredibly well – and that end sequence is just masterfully booked. Michael Cole and Tazz really lift the match with some tremendous calls, that just make the whole thing even better. 

John Cena vs. CM Punk (Money in the Bank 2011)

This was a difficult one for me – I’d started to fall out of love with wrestling at this point, and I needed something to hook me back in. The rise of Daniel Bryan was what kept me, but the starting point was undeniably Cena vs. Punk. I wasn’t – for want of a better term – ‘an internet fan’ at this point; not outside of recaps, at least; and I didn’t fully understand everything Punk said in the infamous Pipe Bomb promo. But I knew it was a big deal, and it really did con me into thinking he’d gone off script. I was totally compelled by the whole storyline, and had no idea what would happen when the bell rang on the match. The atmosphere was electric, the match was exciting – and the finishing sequence was incredible. I remember finishing the match, desperate to see what would happen next…and it was a little underwhelming, but I kept watching; only for Daniel Bryan to become my next ‘guy’. Had this match and storyline not happened, I think I’d have – at the very least – taken a break from watching, perhaps given up entirely.

Hangman Page/Kenny Omega vs. The Young Bucks (AEW Revolution 2020)

Once again, in the late 2010s, I’d fallen out of love with wrestling. WWE was dealing with the worst of Vince McMahon’s booking, and it just didn’t make me feel the way it once did. Then AEW came along. I wanted to love AEW – but the first few shows (pre-Dynamite) were a mixed bag; with standout moments and abysmal pre-shows. Even the first few Dynamites were mixed, before it found its groove. For me, 2020 and 2021 AEW is one of the best runs of any promotions ever, with great wrestling and compelling long-term storytelling, the best of which was the rise of Hangman Page – someone who had initially been written off as boring on these very forums. But once he discovered who he was as a character, he became one of the most complicated and interesting characters in wrestling. This match blew my mind – it told a brilliant story, enhancing what was going on behind the scenes – and it was a tremendous match on top of that, easily the best tag match I’ve ever seen. The dynamic between all four wrestlers was brilliant, and Hangman became a new kind of babyface – a flawed human being, who you willed on to overcome his demons and do the right thing. He remains, in my opinion, the most well-thought out wrestling character around. 


An honorable mention goes to Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes at Wrestlemania this year. I very nearly included it – at the moment it feels like my favourite ‘Mania main event ever, but I think a bit of time needs to pass before I consider it for a list of this nature – if I still feel the way I do about it right now, it’ll almost certainly bump one of the matches from here. I’m a big fan of Triple H’s booking, and the way that match integrates story probably makes it a good representation of my current tastes. 

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1 hour ago, RedRooster said:

I’m not sure how many wrestling fans can trace their fandom back to match one,

👋 I can. Excluding matches mates had on when I was round their house but not actually watching, the first match I actively watched was Koko B Ware vs The Model from WrestleMania VI. It's not on my list for "shaped" but it was the first.

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I think most of the influential matches would be in aew. When I used to watch wwe is didn't really understand the dynamics of wrestling and how it really worked.

I think the young bucks v page and omega was my favourite aew match up until osprey v Danielson the other day.  Since them I have become a big fan of tag team wrestling.

I think recently I learned what makes a match food but also the subjective nature of wrestling. I saw the triple h v undertaker match from wrestlemania and I didn't like it. Its generally considered a very good match. But I personally didn't like it. Its not that I'm wrong or anyone is wrong Its just personal taste. If you like that kind of style you probably would really like it.

One match that is influential for me was arcade anarchy a few years ago. I think had that match had a better story behind it and had it been with some bigger names it would have been more highly regarded. So it shows how important the story behind wrestling is 

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Posted (edited)

The Match That Started It All

OK, I’ve told this story a dozen times. My mate Simon was into the WWF - trading cards, tapes, Superstars on his Game Boy, a small collection of Hasbros, everything. I didn’t get it, my dad had told me it was fake, and despite my primary interest being cartoons about robots battling for the future of Earth or talking turtles, this meant it was a waste of time watching. Simon handed me a tape from his sisters video shop one day and said “Just watch it” with wisdom beyond his years - we were still in Cubs, for context. The tape was WrestleMania VI. I’ve also recounted how the colours, music, overall presentation etc made me realize early on this was something I was going to enjoy. And by the time Demolition made their entrance, it wasn’t getting switched off before the end. I’ve probably shared that watching the Harts smash the Bolsheviks I decided Bret “Hitman” Hart was the coolest cat alive, and might even have known then that he was going to be my favourite. Ultimately (no pun intended) it’s possible that if the show hadn’t delivered a memorable main event, that it might have been a fun one off viewing that at least stopped me taking the piss out of Simon for watching the fake fighting. Instead, it put an exclamation point on three hours that changed the course of my life* forever.

(1) Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior


To understand the impact this match had, it's worth pointing out that as a video shop tape, it came in a video shop box so I didn't know what "WrestleMania VI" was going to involve until I pressed play. The opening had Vince McMahon immediately do a voiceover so iconic in my brain that I reckon I can recite it verbatim ;

Upon the examination of the galaxies of space, images begin to appear. Images of strange and powerful forces. But of all the forces in the universe, the two most powerful…. HULK HOGAN….. and THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR…. prepare to explode! Champion vs champion, title for title! It’s the ULTIMATE CHALLENGE, it’s WrrrrrestleMANIAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!

... you're going to have to tell me if any of that isn't correct. I was absolutely SHOOK when I saw this ; I knew from all the trading cards and toys etc that "Hulk Hogan" and "Ultimate Warrior" were two of the biggest characters and immediately I learned that they indeed had wrestled each other, and I was going to see it. When Gorilla informed me that the Hulkster was putting his title up against the Intercontinental title, I didn't really know what it meant, but it sounded like each man had a prestigious belt, and just like happened in the boxing, this was going to be for both. Without knowing anything about the WWF, I knew this at least SOUNDED like a big deal.

With that powerful intro, midway through the tape there were duelling interviews from the men involved. I say interviews, but really they were monologues. First Mean Gene introduced Hulk Hogan, "the greatest World Wrestling Federation Champion of all time", who gave a typically Hogan promo ;

"You know something, Mean Gene? You don't have to remind me and my Hulkamaniacs that at Skydome we're gonna face the Ultimate Challenge, brother. When we crossed the border from the United States of America to Canada, I was hovering over Skydome, brother. I saw what was beneath me, man. I saw the greatest arena of all times, where the Ultimate Challenge will take place and as we landed brother, nothing but stark raving Hulkamaniacs were there to greet me at the airport. Nothing but positive vibes, man. Hulkamania is running wild like it's never ran before! But the Ultimate Warrior, you must realize that when you step into Skydome, when you feel the energy that's gonna run wild throughout the arena, those are my people. That's my energy, brother. 

And Ultimate Warrior, this is where the power lies, man, and the power of the Hulkster, the largest arms in the world and once I get you down on your knees, Ultimate Warrior, I'm gonna ask you one question, brother. I'm gonna ask you: do you want to live forever? And if your answer is yes, Ultimate Warrior, then breathe your last breath into my body. I can save you. My Hulkamaniacs can save you. We can turn the darkness that you live in into the light! We can save all your little Warriors with the training, the prayers, and the vitamins, but I got to prove one thing to all my little Hulkamaniacs out there, it's not whether you win or whether you lose, the only thing that matters is what kind of winner you are or what kind of loser you are and Ultimate Warrior, I sure hope you're a good loser, brother. Whatcha gonna do at Skydome when the largest arms in the world and Hulkamania destroys you?!!"

.... I mean, Jesus Christ. Immediately they cut to Sean Mooney with the Intercontinental champ who scowled "YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A NORMAL!!" before ejecting Sean and going on to growl, without a microphone required in his face ;

"Hulk Hogan, I must ask you now as you asked me. Do you, Hulk Hogan, want your ideas, your beliefs to live forever? For Hulk Hogan, in this normal world, physically none of us can live forever. But the places you have taken the Hulkamaniacs, the ideas and beliefs that you have given them can live through me, Hulk Hogan. That is why I breathe. That is why the Warriors have come. Hulk Hogan, there are ones that question where you are taking them. Do you no longer want to walk or step into that darkness? Hulk Hogan, the darkness I speak of is nothing of fear. It is about the beliefs...of accepting any and all challenges at the cost of losing everything, Hulk Hogan. You have lived, Hulk Hogan, for the last five WrestleManias for this one belief. Now, Hulk Hogan, I come to take what you believe in further then you ever could.

I come, Hulk Hogan, not to destroy the Hulkamaniacs and Hulkamania. I come, Hulk Hogan, to bring the Warriors and Hulkamaniacs together as one as we, Hulk Hogan, accept all the challenges with all the strengths of the Warriors and the Hulkamaniacs together. Hulk Hogan, the colors of the Hulkamaniacs are coming through the pores of my skin...and Hulk Hogan, when we meet, Hulk Hogan, I will look at you and you will realize then that I have come to do no one no harm, but only, Hulk Hogan, to take what we both believe in to places it shall never have been!"

... I mean, I nearly misinterpreted Warrior as a villain here, such was his treatment of the inoffensive Mooney and shouty scariness. But his words sounded like he wanted to create a new and better world for both his followers AND the Hulkamaniacs if one of them was going to fall (and clearly he was suggesting Hogan was going to fall) so.. maybe not? But... fuck. The tape cut to The Rockers making their entrance but... Jesus wept, I doubt I thought about much more than the main event collision for the next ten minutes or more. You know that South Park where they do the wrestling pastiche and it's all about the orphan lost in the woods or whatever, nothing to do with matches, and people are saying "This is the best wrestling I've ever seen?" It's the truth! Here were these two massive blokes telling me their story and we were still quite a few minutes away from the actual match coming on.

When the match itself came, I was off the charts excited. Presentation was amazing. Both wrestlers entering on their own power without using the little carts immediately them both seem a bigger deal than everyone that had come before. 65,000 Canucks making noise and waving giant cardboard Warriors, Hogans or waving banners, the way Fink boomed "the Intercontinental Champion" and then "the WORLD Wrestling Federation Champion" made me feel both prizes were worth fighting for. The call was fantastic right from the start with Monsoon pointing out the Warrior running to the ring, Jesse Ventura convinced that was a mistake and that the wise experienced head of The Hulk took his time. That would continue throughout, with both debating experience for Hogan vs youth for Warrior, comparing the use of weardown holds by each (a chinlock by Hogan, a bear hug by Warrior). The action would be considered basic by today's standards but for two blokes never lauded for "storytelling..." this match told you a story. They used the test of strength, which in most matches ever I think of as a colossal waste of time, but here it looked like a genuine tussle. The two men traded big bombs and fought for who was stronger and who could wear the other down. There are multiple things in this match which were intensely dramatic for me, as my first main event, that I'd never quite see the same again. The ref bump was completely unexpected and I didn't have a clue what was going to happen without a ref. Hogan did a reasonably short leg injury bit, and again I was on the edge of my seat. Hogan's elbowdrops looked like they'd kill you, a belly to back suplex from him looked as impressive as the moves that ended several of the other matches on the tape, Warrior's double axe-handle off the top was sold by Hogan like they were lethal. I'd later come to learn that a Hulk Hogan match would tend to follow a formula, but this was a true back and forth. The foreshadowing shot of Hogan on the floor clinging onto Warrior's foot as Jim just stands there breathing in the adulation from his fans was incredible, and when he pressed Hogan over his head I lost my mind. The last minute of the match is a treat, even without knowing (as I didn't) how Hogan's finishing sequence usually goes down. I was exhausted and bewildered when Warrior won, and as long as the celebrations and fireworks and closing shots of Hogan going down the aisle in the little cart seemed to last, I simply didn't want it to end. I just didn't want "WrestleMania" to be over and have to go back to reality. I suppose, in a way, I never did! Between intro, interviews and match itself it played out more like a movie than a wrestling match. Does it hold up today? Probably not. But it's remained one of my favourite matches, even long after I discovered indies, Puro, "workrate" and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't matter compared to telling a simple story like Hogan and Warrior did.


* This is not an exaggeration. Wrestling directed me to travel and to friendships, one of which moved me from the Midlands to the North West and led me to a particular job offer, and it’s at that job I met the woman I’m marrying in a few weeks time.

Edited by air_raid
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Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior - Wrestlemania 6

As a kid we didn't have Sky and little to none of my mates watched it either. When I was maybe 7 years old the local video rental shop shut down not long after a Blockbuster opener across the road and they sold all their ex rental VHS for 50p each. My Mum let me get a WWF Colisseum Home Video with that match on it. I was never into comic books but that match must have been what fans of those imagine Batman vs Superman to be. It was such an unbelievable spectacle and I was hooked.

Sting vs Big Van Vader - WCW unknown

Still without Sky my wrestling fandom was restricted to magazines, figures and the occasional VHS picked up at car boot sales. However WCW Worldwide was on ITV Saturday afternoons and it was must watch for me every week. I have vivid memories of a Sting vs Vader match across two rings - to this day I don't know what the event was but the two rings, Sting's colourful attire and Vader with his mask and power were absolutely mesmerising.

HHH vs Cactus Jack - Royal Rumble 2000

I fell away from wrestling around 10/11 and football took over. As I went into secondary school I missed the peak years of the monday night wars. I still didn't have Sky and again none of my friends were wrestling fans. Then by chance I sat infront of two lads in maths who were talking about wrestling and the Royal Rumble being shown live on Channel 4 that weekend. I stayed up and it blew my mind. It was worlds apart from how I remembered wrestling to be. The entire show was fantastic with that topping it off for me. I'm still to this day best mates with one of those two lads from maths. Many a fantastic memory of watching wrestling together, going to shows together ranging from FWA to Wrestlemania, our backyard days and he went onto flirt with a real career in wrestling having matches against the now Finn Balor and Jake Roberts amongst others.

ECW Living Dangerously 1998

I can't narrow it down to one match but after RR on Channel 4 my interest was sky high again. I was back at the car boots hoovering up every bit of wrestling stuff I could find. I don't remember having ever heard of ECW and when I saw the VHS on a table with barbed wire and New Jack then the names of Al Snow, Taz and The Dudley Boyz on the match listing who I was now familar with from RR and Sunday Night Heat, I gave it a go.

I watched the entire PPV absolutely glued to it and ECW immediately became my favourite promotion.

Nick Mondo vs Wifebeater - CZW TOD

My peaked interest in wrestling coincided with the explosion of the internets availability and popularity. I became aware of the UKFF and an entire new world of wrestling. I checked out CZW which was popular at the time and this show and match in particular blew my mind.

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The Match That Made Me Care Who Won

So, to follow neatly on from the last entry, I went back to Simon’s house not long after and told him I enjoyed Mania VI and did he have any other tapes from Wendy he’d finished with and I could have next - he did, and that night I took home 4th Annual, 5th Annual and 6th Survivor Series, again in unmarked boxes with no clues as to the content. This time I immediately made scart to scart copies (6th/1992 I still have, and it still plays) and watched in the process. Having been dimly aware of the (stripped down version) of a Survivor Series match from Super WrestleMania on the SNES, the intro again made the show look gigantic and the format gave a totally different vibe to Mania - later, I’d be disappointed that the “Grand Finale Match Of Survival” was a one off. As an adult I realised it’s not ideal to beat nearly the whole roster on one night, but as a kid I thought it was cool. But then there was a lot I didn’t get yet - the intro made me think Hogan and Earthquake were co-captaining a team initially. The tape was a real favourite for many years thereafter and featured the first match I got really into from the point of caring who was going to win. It affected me so much I started a thread based off it in 2012 then reposted it into a Survivor Series Memories thread in 2018 - I lift much of what’s written below from that original post, apologies if you’ve read it before.

(2) The Dream Team VS The Million $ Team

(Dusty Rhodes, The Hart Foundation & Koko B Ware VS Ted DiBiase, Rhythm & Blues & a mystery partner)


Just to give you the background to this - it's about Bret Hart. As I've mentioned numerous times, I got into wrestling by watching WrestleMania VI. Now, the Harts had kind of grabbed me by looking the business both prior to and in the process of smashing the Bolsheviks in 40 seconds. In addition, Bret looked captain cool-as-fuck pinning poor Boris. He convinced me that he and the Anvil were the real deal.

The next chance I got to see the Harts was this tape. Having figured out that this was not longer after WrestleMania VI and we were still in 1990, it didn’t surprise me to see the Foundation come out with the belts as I knew they beat Demolition at SummerSlam 90 thanks to one of Simon’s trading cards. The Dream Team were obviously going to be my favourites up against the Million Dollar Man who was clearly a shit, even if I’d not been a fan of the cheating Dusty did at Mania (thank you, Jesse Ventura). The match seemed to take on extra meaning for Bret when Roddy Piper on commentary poignantly told us that his brother Dean had passed away the day before, and expressed his admiration for Hart's professionalism, and that he had dedicated the match to Dean. The Dream Team really had their backs to the wall from the outset with the debut of the then-terrifying and enigmatic Undertaker (who even then I knew was a big deal) and as the match wore on they ended up down to three-on-Bret after Undertaker pinned the American Dream himself. Obviously at that point, Bret's goose seemed cooked.

Suddenly the odds were reduced when Undertaker got himself counted out, deciding that it would be fun to beat Dusty's fat ass all the way up the aisle, and who could blame him for that. Hitman was still severely disadvantaged having taken a bit of a kicking, but he caught a quick one by reversing the Hammer's attempt at the Figure 4 into an excellently executed small package to further reduce the arrears.


That still left Bret, who had taken a fair amount of abuse from Valentine, Taker and Honky, against the wily veteran DiBiase who was relatively fresh. Remember, this isn't five time WWF Champion Bret Hart, the "best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be." This is Bret Hart of the Hart Foundation, one half of the tag team champions. He was never going to beat a top player like the Million Dollar Man, was he? Right from the off Bret was like a man possessed, rocking Ted with an atomic drop that sent him spilling to the floor and then a pescado - the first time I'd ever seen a wrestler dive over the top rope to the floor. It impressed the hell out of Piper too. Ted recovered however and lay a beating on Bret, but the rally soon came.


When he snatched this backslide out of the corner, I thought he had the bugger. He didn't seem to have that lethal killing blow like a DDT or a Rude Awakening, but he could do it with wrestling. He could catch his opponent with technique, like Mr Perfect did with the Perfect-Plex. I thought he had him here. After that, Bret played possum feigning an injury - a moment of ingenuity I had never seen - and wrapped up DiBiase with an O'Connor roll and again, I thought he had him. He'd outsmarted the evil bastard. I thought he had him, but he didn't.


Then suddenly, Virgil grabbed a hold of Bret, and I feared the worst. The bodyguard would be the undoing of Bret, as he had been of Neidhart earlier in the match, and Jake the Snake at WrestleMania. Bret evaded the knee strike from DiBiase and grabbed a snug schoolboy. THIS WAS IT! They had toyed with my emotions perfectly - I knew this was it. From the jaws of defeat Hitman had snatched victory....


... but it wasn't to be. DiBiase kicked out. We had a pendulum backbreaker and a second rope elbow, and my God, Bret had convinced me he could do it. And in the very next spot, an exhausted Hitman went for a crossbody, which Ted rolled through and hooked a leg, locking fingers tightly, from which Bret could not escape.


Bret's instant reaction at the time was to visibly exclaim "Fuck." Which as a child, I didn't notice, but as an adult, I really have come to appreciate. It's not audible, so nobody need get too offended, but the astute adult viewer will have spotted it, and it makes it seem a little more realistic because, well... you would feel like that, wouldn't you? I was crushed. Bret had won me over as a hero in showing spirit when the odds where against him and then pushing such an established technician and sometimes-main eventer to the brink, but in the end it was a bridge too far. It was obviously an important lesson that not all stories have a happy ending, but I felt awful. Not just because the guy I wanted to win didn't, and that the underdog didn't quite prevail, but I felt bad FOR BRET, despite him being "just a character in the wrestling."



In hindsight, Bret came out of the match looking a lot stronger in defeat. This was a match that proved, certainly to me, that he had the fire and (subtle) charisma to make people care and get behind him on his own two feet. He was the master at that, was Bret. He knew the real value in the match was that it doesn't matter if you win or lose, just how good you each look. It would happen to him again later on, when even in dropping the title to Smithers at SummerSlam 92, he sent out the clear message - put me on last, give me twenty minutes or more, and I'll give you a main event calibre match. I won't let you down. And to my mind, he never did.

Of course, wrestling Bret was when Steve Austin fully, completely transformed from foul-mouthed anarchic ass-kicker to the hardest bastard you'll ever see at WrestleMania 13 in defeat, and I genuinely believe that in the WWF title match at Survivors 92 (one of my favourites) Bret and Shawn Michaels had the kind of match that might have opened some eyes to Michaels' main event potential, even in defeat. It was Hulk Hogan (ironically enough) that put it best as I quoted in my last entry : "It doesn't matter whether you win or whether you lose ; the only thing that matters is what kind of winner you are, or what kind of loser you are."

Bret Hart : the courageous loser. Brought a lump to my throat. He was my guy from that moment on, and forever would wrestling be better when I had a dog in the fight.

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Posted (edited)

The Match That Suspended My Disbelief 

I’m probably going to talk more about concepts and background than the match itself here, you’ll understand why. OK… so, suspension of disbelief is a concept in fiction simplified to “you make stuff up, it has to be believable” by Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct (not that I’ve ever seen it, you are assured). In essence, the reader or viewer must allow themselves to believe (even on an unconscious level) that what they’re reading or watching is real for the sake of entertainment. Now, in pro wrestling, you’ve probably already conquered the biggest barriers to “believing” bell to bell in order to become and stay a fan to begin with, that being (a) the competitive aspect is predetermined and the action choreographed, and (b) the moves the wrestlers do (some more than others) are dependent on co-operation you wouldn’t get if it were real. However, the biggest barrier a lot of the time is that in the big picture beyond the actual match, for “smart” fans like your writer, is the awareness of writers/bookers and an overall storyline arc or “direction.” It’s not exclusive to the medium, of course - increasingly in film franchises with a “universe” you give zero chance of a major hero dying before the big ensemble “end of phase” film, or if a film does so well they green light 2-3 more films, you know the protagonist isn’t dying any time soon, so it’s hard to become invested in their plight. However in wrestling it’s harder still ; if you follow the sport online it’s near impossible not to stumble upon what “the plan” is thanks to Meltzer and others, even if the on screen story hasn’t given away where they’re going. You end up writing off certain matches with stakes as foregone conclusions, virtually not worth watching, because you already know who’s going to win, either because of lazy writing or you just know. Examples are multiple Royal Rumbles from the mid 90s onwards, or times Roman Reigns has had to earn or defend a title shot for Mania 31, 32 or 34. Indeed, knowing what they’ve lined up for WrestleMania in advance brings me nicely to my next example.

(3) Kurt Angle v Chris Benoit (Royal Rumble 2003)


Let’s head back to the summer of 2002. A face to face occurred at Vengeance between Kurt Angle, who was going for the WWE title on the night, and Brock Lesnar, who’d already earned a title shot for SummerSlam. Now Angle didn’t end up winning the title at Vengeance but soon after the NEWZ!1 sites started telling us that in all likelihood WWE had decided Angle vs Lesnar was “the plan” for WrestleMania XIX. The months wore on, and that reporting seemed accurate as events played out ; Lesnar would win then lose the title to Big Show and in the process be betrayed by manager Paul Heyman, then Kurt won the title and ended up managed by Heyman. Going into the Royal Rumble, the road to WrestleMania was lit up with neon ; Lesnar would wrestle Show first, needing to win to gain entry to the Rumble itself. The idea of anyone BUT Brock winning the Rumble was laughable at this point in the story, and it seemed nonsense that he’d challenge anyone but Kurt. So when Angle vs Chris Benoit was confirmed for the PPV, it was easy to dismiss it as a defence for Kurt to get out of the way before the real build could begin.

I’ll preface talking about the match itself by saying, at the time Chris Benoit was my favourite wrestler. What he did and how he met his end probably makes reading a lengthy description of his matches uncomfortable for some, but sufficient to say at the time, going for the big belt, I would have loved to see him win it, but he wasn't going to. Even disregarding the factors that always had and always would convince me the company would NEVER put their World title on a man with his limitations, there was less than zero % chance that they would upset the apple cart of the obvious ironclad plan that paved a road to Angle vs Lesnar at Mania, with Lesnar both regaining the title and getting revenge on Heyman, the architect of his downfall. Though of course, there would have been time for "The Crippler" to win the title and lose it back to Kurt inbetween, neither me nor any of my mates watching gave any chance to that happening either. The pair had a match that was both technically good and unlike some of their previous meetings, played out in front a crowd that got into it rather than responding with polite murmurs of appreciation, as had plagued some of their earlier meetings (and indeed, a lot of Benoit matches). There was, as expected, a frequent exchange of Ankle Lock and Crippler Crossface predicaments with each reaching the ropes or reversing their way out. I couldn't pinpoint the moment where somehow the two wrestlers made me forget "the plan" but somehow, they did. At the point at which Benoit springs back to life after seemingly being down and out and locks in the Crossface for what ends up the final time... I'll be honest, I was on the edge of my seat and I was UTTERLY convinced that Benoit was about to win the WWE title. "Tap you bastard!" I shouted at the screen, it was embarrassing. Eventually, heartbreakingly, Angle wriggled free into an Ankle Lock. Benoit resisted but, and for the first time, Angle applied the "special occasions only" (for a while, anyway) grapevine on the mat, and with no way out, Benoit submitted. Losing nothing in defeat, even by submission, he famously got a standing ovation after the match.

I'm not going to dwell on Benoit himself, but this match stayed with me and was, for the next four years, probably my favourite match. It reminded me of the power of great professional wrestling, that as "smart" as I thought I was, and as much as I "knew" what the company had lined up for "the plan" - when the wrestling is good enough, I could still let go and enjoy myself, and trick my brain into thinking it's a real sporting contest and not a pre-determined work of fiction.

Edited by air_raid
Threw your Lego in the lake, why'd you go and do that for
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