Saturday, 28 January 2012

Wrestling Matches To See Before You Die - Classic WWF Edition

After a recent trip to the bookshop I happened to see a series of books titled “1001 Movies To See”, “1001 Songs To Listen To”, “1001 Games To Play” Before You Die. That got me thinking…and well the title of the article speaks for itself. I was going to make it 1001 Wrestling Matches but then I realised I hate math and this way there’s no limit on the matches I get to include. I was originally going to keep it to just one entry but I’ve decided to split it all up into different sections. There will be a good few more videos for different eras and different companies. Feel free to suggest matches of your own in the comments. Below is the video for the Classic WWF, meaning from the 80s to 1997. Obviously this is just matches that have actually been filmed.

Sgt Slaughter vs The Iron Sheik (Boot Camp Match):
Sgt Slaughter of course was a classic All American Face and the Sheik was the classic Evil Foreign Heel, so as the laws of wrestling physics dictate they obviously had a big feud. They had many matches throughout 1984 before eventually culminating in a special Boot Camp Match that took place in a sold-out Madison Square Garden. In case anyone is a bit confused it’s pretty much a hardcore match though obviously not quite as intense as some of the ones Attitude Era fans are used to. It’s still worth a watch purely for the crowd’s involvement and to see how hardcore matches were back then. This type of match was a real treat for the fans and the two guys bounced well off each other to produce a pretty entertaining brawl.

Roddy Piper vs Jimmy Snuka:
I definitely wanted to include both of these guys on the list but as I wasn’t around in the 1980s I can’t say I have any nostalgic memories to tell me which match to choose. Indeed I looked through a lot of matches featuring these two and it was pretty hard to find one that didn’t end in DQ or count-out but the one I ended up choosing does have a count-out ending. Even so it still is a pretty good match and it has Lou Thesz (he of the Press fame) acting as the special referee. You really do need to see Roddy Piper in action as he was the original dirty heel. All his punches and forearms look like they would hurt and he just oozes the persona. Jimmy Snuka on the other hand was your proper high flying face. His moves don’t look like much today but they got the crowd going back in the day. Even with a count-out ending it’s still really entertaining.

Hulk Hogan vs The Magnificent Muraco [Steel Cage Match]:
Sorry, the name got spelled wrong in the video. The Magnificent Muraco was one of many challengers Hulk Hogan had to face in his reign of dominance in the months after the first WrestleMania. Muraco would headline three shows at Madison Square Garden challenging Hogan for the title before eventually their feud came to a climax in a cage match. As with the Boot Camp match, the cage match might be boring to some people today but it is useful to see what cage matches were like back in Hogan’s days. At the time this would be highly anticipated and it’s certainly a bit fresher than Hogan’s typical singles match routine. If you can stomach the “Hulking Up” then you’ll probably enjoy this one just fine.

Bret Hart vs Ricky Steamboat:
Now this is a match I specifically tried to find. Bret Hart is…well…Bret Hart and Ricky Steamboat is truly the ultimate babyface. I wanted so badly to see a match between them and I was happy as a clam when I found it. This match is truly everything you’d expect and hope for from this pairing. Great psychology and storytelling by Bret Hart and athletic manoeuvres from The Dragon. Dream match potential fulfilled, to say the least.

 Randy Savage vs Jake Roberts :
This is another recommendation from WWE’s Best of the 80s DVD and the bout in question comes from Saturday Night’s Main Event in December of 1986. Not being well schooled in exactly how things were back then, I was left a bit confused as to which of the men was face or heel but I copped on eventually. This is another match that doesn’t exactly have the best ending but the calibre of the work before it outweighs the end. You’ll certainly be enjoying the Macho Man’s first match on the list and yes you will get a featured cameo from Jake’s snake whose name I didn’t catch.

Hart Foundation vs British Bulldogs:
Two dream teams having a dream match you might say. Of course the British Bulldog would make it to my list a couple of times, what with him being my fellow countryman and actually being successful in WWE but I’ll hold my hands up and admit I didn’t know he was in a tag team until I started researching for this video. I did however know all about the Hart Foundation because any wrestling fan who doesn’t is just plain ignorant. What else can I say about this match apart from it was great which is why it’s on the list?

Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat:
Well this one was a no-brainer. Ask any old school wrestling fan what their favourite match was and 80% of them will respond with this encounter from WrestleMania III. Indeed ask any 90s wrestler and they’ll reference this as the match that helped inspire them. Obviously the match had a lot of hype to live up to when I checked it out but it most certainly delivered. Macho Man and The Dragon had insane chemistry and their match stole the show that night. Hell, if people are still raving about it over 30 years later then you know it’s must-see.

Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant:
This will be a head-scratcher to some and a no-brainer to others. Neither man in this match is exactly renowned for technical skill (or charisma in Andre’s case) but this encounter, from the same event as the previous one, is certainly sealed in the back of many 80s fans’ minds. You don’t exactly see a great display of technical wrestling but you do see a good story being told and of course the iconic moment of Hogan body slamming Andre with the crowd on their feet. It’s been said that once Hogan did that, he had it made as a star and he couldn’t be touched.

Bret Hart vs Randy Savage:
It’s Hit Man vs Macho Man in this classic from Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1987 and we have the Macho Man playing a face role to combat the storybook evil Canadian, the first lady of wrestling Miss Elizabeth at his side. This match does not, as my introduction may have implied, feature swashbuckling, damsels in distress or fire breathing dragons (Jim Neidhart was never actually proven) but it does feature a fine combination of technical wrestling and crowd-pleasing spots. Think of it as vital homework for the new generation of wrestlers-to-be.

Randy Savage vs Ted DiBiase [Steel Cage Match]:
Mr Savage really does keep popping up on this list doesn’t he? Well it’s for justified reasons as anyone watching these matches in their entirety will agree. Here he tangles with the Million Dollar Man in a rematch from their much hyped feud. Obviously it doesn’t feature the emotional impact of Randy Savage winning the title but as a cage match it offers more thrills and comparing it to the Hogan/Muraco cage match you can see the steady evolution in terms of hard-hitting spots. I certainly enjoyed it more than their WrestleMania match anyway.

The Brain Busters vs The Rockers:
Aha, do we see a familiar face? This is Shawn Michaels before he became the Heart Break Kid and his old buddy Marty Janetty. Back in the day The Rockers were one of the ultimate face tag teams, with their loud ring gear, enthusiastic entrance and flashy crowd-pleasing moves. Here you have a nice and long well-storied match with the classic Ricky Morton storytelling at play but it’s done in a great way and showcases The Rockers nicely. The finish is a thing of beauty as Michaels lands a splash off Janetty’s shoulders for the win.

Randy Savage vs Hulk Hogan:
Fans of the Hulkster may be a little annoyed that he hasn’t appeared on this list as much as Randy Savage has so far but I am basing the matches off my personal enjoyment and how influential they were. Here from WrestleMania V we see a personal favourite of many. Though not as breath-taking as Savage’s match from WrestleMania III it definitely gives the crowd their money’s worth though personally I wasn’t exactly rooting for the same guy as them. The clip I used had an awful blooper over the finish so it didn’t make it to the video but you all know what Hogan’s leg drop looks like anyway so no harm done.

Bret Hart vs Mr Perfect:
Now we take a close look at one of the original arrogant heels in Mr Perfect, father of the nothing special Michael McGillicutty. We also get a gander at Bret Hart in his face persona, complete with giving his pink shades to a random little kid in the front row. You’re probably all bored of me describing technical skill and great ring psychology by now but it’s there in the match and naturally it’s enjoyable. It is Mr Perfect after all.

Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon [Ladder Match]:
You all knew that the only way Scott Hall was getting onto this list was the first ever ladder match. Yep, at the tenth edition of WrestleMania WWE offered us an innovative match where a title belt was suspended above the ring and the only option was to climb a ladder and retrieve it. I had been told that since I’ve been spoiled with many TLC matches that I’d find this one boring but I was happily surprised with it and found most of the spots to be entertaining in their own right, and even more so if you think that the fans in attendance had never seen a TLC match before. And yes, HBK does drop an elbow from the top of the ladder while his pants are down.

Owen Hart vs Bret Hart:
 This is another no-brainer for old school wrestling fans. As someone who knew all about the Harts I was excited to see Bret and Owen face off when I started making this video and, like the WrestleMania III match, this had a lot of hype to live up to. And yet again, the hype was matched. Some have called it the Greatest opening match in WrestleMania history. Watching it back I couldn’t believe it was an opening match as it was main event quality in my opinion. Other people have said that wrestlers in training should study this match so as to grasp psychology better which I whole-heartedly agree with.

British Bulldog vs Owen Hart:
Obviously anything following the Hart vs Hart match is going to seem like something of a letdown but I myself was curious to see a match between Owen and Davey-Boy so naturally this King of the Ring qualifier from Raw in 1996 made the list. I’m not sure if this was a face vs face match since they did shake hands at the start but Owen eventually played the heel, judging from how aggressive he got. Once again the ending was less than satisfactory but once again the work before that eclipsed it. Anyone wanting to see these two face off should check it out. And the original Diva Sunny is at ringside and plays a role in the finish as well.

Stone Cold vs Bret Hart:
Here’s another classic you’ll probably have heard a lot about but not had the chance to look at. I assure you, it’s a match you should devote your attention to. Here is a young Steve Austin in his prime, before a neck injury left him a repetitive brawler. He’s pretty fun to watch in the ring at this point in his career and of course working with Bret Hart is a real treat for anyone. What makes this match famous is the well-remembered face heel double turn. Bret Hart went into the match as a respected face and left WrestleMania as a gloating winner while Stone Cold entered as a punk-ass redneck and exited as a huge fan favourite. And hey the ring work ain’t too shabby neither. And yes that is Ken Shamrock as the special guest referee.

Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker [Hell In A Cell]:
At the event In Your House: Badd Blood, WWE fans saw the introduction of a revolutionary gimmick match – the Hell In A Cell. Shawn Michaels had the honour of competing in the first HIAC match in addition to the first Iron Man and Ladder matches and it seemed like this wasn’t his night as the Undertaker was really keen on delivering as much punishment as possible both inside and out of the cell. Unlike cage matches and hardcore matches, the HIAC has held up really well over the years and the first one is just as exciting as some of the modern day ones (maybe because the cell isn’t so high that the wrestlers can actually take bumps off it). And yes this is the famous debut of Kane that everyone was raving about.

Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels:
When it comes to a big feud or a series of matches, only one will be represented (unless there’s a variation in the angle of course) so there’s no other way to represent the HBK/Hit Man feud than with the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Bret Hart’s contract with WWE was set to expire after the Survivor Series PPV in 1997 and he was expected to appear with rival WCW. Now as Hart was the reigning champion, Vince didn’t want a repeat of another incident where WWE Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze showed up on Nitro and dumped the title belt in a trash can live. The original ending to the match was meant to be a double DQ with the Hart Foundation interfering and Bret claims he would have forfeited the title the next night on Raw. However that wasn’t the case as the referee calls for the bell when Bret Hart is in the Sharpshooter and he never submits. At the time the ending was a huge cop-out to the fans but these days it is legendary in itself and in my opinion only makes the match even more must-see. You’ll see that this is a fitting end to the old school WWE edition of this video and next we move on to the infamous Attitude Era.

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