John Carbery, Craig Wilson and Jamie Lithgow
Today we return with a ‘Top Five‘ piece, the first of 2017. In the first of a two-parter, we look at some of the most underrated matches in wrestling. Next week we follow up by looking at the most overrated bouts. But, today, it is all about the underrated ones. Without further ado…
5. Edge and Christian vs The Dudley Boyz at Royal Rumble 2001
Any wrestling fan who was fortunate enough to live through the attitude era no doubt remembers the wars between E&C, The Hardys and the Dudley’s fondly. Their Ladder, Table and TLC matches are some of the most famous tag team matches of all time and deservedly so but this encounter from January 2001 has always been one of my favourites and a match that never received as much love as I thought it should’ve. Without Matt and Jeff and the furniture to play with these two teams were left to craft a regular match and they turned out a blinder. As the first match on the show they got the card off to a hot start and the quality just climbed from there. A hidden gem well worth seeking out.
4. Too Cold Scorpio vs Shane Douglas at ECW A Matter of Respect 1996
I’ve never heard anybody sing the praises of this match so when I popped in the DVD of this event in the mid-2000’s it knocked me sideways. A near 30-minute slow burn match which combined brawling with the technical skill of Douglas and the high flying ability of Scorpio that builds to an exciting crescendo. Two months later both of these wrestlers would be involved in a much more well-publicised match at Heatwave 96, a four-way dance also involving Chris Jericho and Pitbull 2, so maybe that’s why it’s been somewhat lost to time. I don’t think the show itself is available on the WWE Network, but if you can find it another way it’s worth your time.
3. Bull Power (Vader) vs Otto Wanz at CWA 1989
I’m sure this match is very well known among Austrian and German wrestling fans, but until I was in my 20’s I didn’t know there had been a pro wrestling scene there well into the 1990’s. Otto Wanz, who allegedly purchased and AWA World Championship run from Verne Gagne to get publicity for himself in his homeland, was the biggest babyface star in the region. As a booker, he saw potential in a feud between himself and a young Leon White, who was a killer, monster heel from the start. The match I’m discussing here took place on 22.12.1989 and is available to watch on youtube. It’s a brutal, stiff and emotional monster brawl that doesn’t have the kind of acclaim it deserves. That it takes place in front of a massive audience makes its obscurity all the more puzzling, an underrated classic that I implore you to watch.
2. Bret Hart vs British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith at WWF In Your House 5, December 1995
Their match at Wembley Stadium at Summerslam 92 deserves its acclaim but this match from late 95 deserves to be much more well known that it is. A dramatic, technically thrilling, blood-soaked classic for Hart’s newly won WWF World Heavyweight Championship against the man who beat him in the most famous match of both their careers. This was the return match we wanted from SS 92, it’s just a shame so few people even know it happened at all.
1. DDP VS Sting on WCW Nitro 4/26/99
This match could very well be the best WCW World Championship match of 1999 and thanks to the toxic television environment it took place in, it’s largely forgotten. Sting and DDP had a classic championship match in the middle of the show, a perfectly pitched back and forth encounter with Sting picking up the win after nearly 25 minutes of non-stop action. Later that night DDP won the title back from Sting in a hasty 4 way also involving Kevin Nash and Goldberg which essentially made their earlier match pointless, but it was certainly not worthless. If WCW had only presented matches like this on PPV for logical reasons instead of presenting tiresome, nonsensical garbage 1999 would’ve have been a nadir they’d never they’d never recover from.
5. Mr Perfect vs Tito Santana Saturday Night’s Main Event 07/28/90
Say “Mr Perfect Intercontinental Defence” and most fans will talk about the classic match at SummerSlam 1991 between Perfect and Bret Hart. But a match that gets nothing like the attention it deserves is Mr. Perfect’s defence of the Intercontinental title the previous summer against Tito Santana on Saturday Night’s Main Event. The current champion and a former champion put on a back and forth clinic in the ring in one of my favourite Mr. Perfect matches.
4. Undertaker vs Edge at WrestleMania 24
If you talk to many wrestling fans about the matches of The Undertaker and Edge at WrestleMania then you tend to hear the names Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley, respectively. In fact, for two consecutive years the Undertaker would have back-to-back classics with Shawn Michaels. However, one of my favourite Undertaker matches is his bout with Edge at the 23rd instalment of WrestleMania. That ‘mania gave us the emotional rollercoaster that was Michaels vs. Ric Flair, however, for me, the twenty minute plus Taker vs Edge match was the stand-out for me. Going into this show, very few would have much in the way of expectation to this. The build-up wasn’t anything like what had gone before and has come since for The Undertaker and most of the focus was on other aspects of the show. This allowed these two to tell a fantastic story culminating in Edge tapping out to then yet unnamed ‘Hell’s Gate’.
3. Dean Malenko vs Scotty Too Hotty at Backlash 2000
While Scotty too Hotty stretched out a lengthy WWE career from the late 90s into the early 00s, he’s remembered more for ‘the worm’ and dancing than he is for stand-out matches. However, this bout is an exception to that rule. In this 4-star 12-minute match, Scott Taylor tries to regain the title he had lost a few days earlier on Smackdown. He would, ultimately, be unsuccessful but was able to show doubters just how good a worker he was with this good little match against Malenko, a superstar who deserves some credit for the quality of the match too.
2. Bret Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid on Monday Night RAW 7/11/94
The match was for Bret’s title and, on paper, most people would have thought this was going to be a quick squash match and an easy retain for Hart. Instead, the underdog in 1-2-3 Kid put on one hell of a show, highlighting how good a worker he was. and gained the respect of the fans that night. Over the course of 15-minutes, this one told a hell of a story and shows why the WWE put so much trust in ‘The Hitman’ at the time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the better matches in the history of Monday Night Raw.
1. Diamond Dallas Page vs. Randy Savage at WCW Great American Bash 1997
This was one of the best matches of 1997 that I’ve only discovered since I got the WWE Network – was never a WCW guy. It is very clear that DDP and Savage had a very strong chemistry in the ring and thus brought it during this match. Throw in an intense build-up in the lead up to this one, then this falls count anywhere match. It showed that Savage still had it but also made it clear that Page had it too and he would go on to be one of the better workers, and most popular acts, in the final few years of WCW’s existence.
5. The Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada and Masato Yakushiji vs. Taka Michinoku, Terry Boy and Dick Togo at ECW Barely Legal 1997
Spotfest! Barely Legal was a really good show and this is my favourite match from it. There’s next to no ring psychology or selling, but in the context of an ECW show this match is perfect light entertainment before getting back to the serious business of jumping through tables.
4. John Cena vs. Christian vs. Chris Jericho at WWE Vengeance 2005
Over the last four or five years, John Cena’s matches have evolved from being surprisingly good to having high expectations. Take his US Open Challenge as an example. He had some cracking matches with the likes of Neville and Cesaro that most people assumed would just be TV filler. These days, though, most fans know – whether they want to admit it or not – that John Cena usually delivers the goods. However, that was far from the case in 2005. Despite having a more universal fan approval rating, Cena’s matches weren’t half repetitive and dull. Step forward Christian and Chris Jericho. This match is exactly what it sounds like; two experienced pros helping to make the younger superstar look as good as possible. Mission accomplished…lol Cena wins
3. Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe, and Lioness Asuka vs.Alundra Blayze, Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari at Survivor Series 1995
A good match from WWE in 1995, and it’s a women’s match?! No, I’ve not just made this up and/or gone crazy. This four on four Survivor Series elimination match featured the Fed’s Alundra Blayze and Bertha Faye as team captains, with the other six ladies brought in from All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling. Granted, six of these performers were not employed by WWE, it still boggles the mind to think that this match took place in 1995. In other words, three and a half year before Sable vs. Tori at Wrestlemania 15! Vince, what the hell happened?! To give this match a more accurate perspective, it’s still miles better than the women’s elimination tag bout from the 2016 Survivor Series and is probably one of the best traditional Survivor Series matches full stop. The one downside to this bout – other than the casual sexism from Mr Perfect and Vince McMahon on commentary – is probably Bertha Faye. That said, she was barely in the match so was obviously aware of her limitations.
2. Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels on WWE Raw, May 2nd 2005
An underrated Shawn Michaels match?! Well, it’s a hidden gem from a random episode of Raw in 2005, so how can you rate something you can’t recall? Anyway, this was a first round match in an eight man, one night, number one contender’s tournament. If you have forgotten about this match then watch it, your mind will be jogged by that finish…
1. Bull Nakano & Akira Hokuto vs. Mayumi Ozaki & Cutie Suzuki at WCW World War 3 1995
Anything WWE can do, WCW can do better. A week after WWE presented the surprisingly good women’s elimination tag match at Survivor Series, WCW presented this two on two tag bout at World War 3. For added spice, this was a cross-promotional affair with Nakano and Hokuto representing NJPW’s women’s division while Ozaki and Suzuki represented All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling. Without making allowances for gender or time period; this was a fantastic tag team match by any standards. With Nakano (significantly) and Hokuto (slightly) larger than their more petite opponents, the match-up was perfect with plenty of suplexes, high flying and surprisingly stiff strikes.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.