John Carbery, Russ Morgan and Jamie Lithgow
In last week’s Top Five we listed matches which, in our opinion, were underrated including some rarely seen bouts as well as ones that are just oddly overlooked. Unsurprisingly, this week we flip that around and take a look at some of the more overrated matches in wrestling history.
5. Mankind vs Undertaker Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring 1998
This is probably the most iconic cage match of all time and will be forever remembered for Foley’s falling off the Cell which has lost none of their power to shock nearly 20 years later. However, falls aside, bell to bell it’s not much of a match. Incredible spectacle yes, but there have been better Cell matches, in my opinion, some featuring the guys in this one. Taker vs Shawn Michaels (IYH Badd Blood), HHH vs Batista (Vengence 2005), The Armageddon 2000 6 Man Cell match and HHH vs Cactus Jack (No Way Out 2000) are all superior to the KOTR match bell-to-bell but have only a fraction of the notoriety.
4. Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn at NXT Takeover Rival 2015
What a snoozefest. It seemed like they were trying to re-enact the classic Brock Lesnar vs John Cena squash massacre from Summerslam 2014 in this one but it didn’t just pale in comparison, it felt like a pound shop knock off. Owens battered Zayn, who had hardly any offence, for 23 minutes before a largely silent crowd before pinning him to win the NXT Championship in a major anti-climax. It also followed two stunning matches in Finn Balor vs Neville and Banks vs Bayley vs Charlotte vs Lynch which didn’t help matters. Yet still sections of the wrestling audience heaped praise on it and every now and then I’ll hear it referred to as a great match. It was absolute garbage.
3. Undertaker vs HHH at Wrestlemania X7
I think one of the things that will come to define the generation of wrestling fans I belong to is our love of Wrestlemania X7, which IS the greatest Mania of them all. Hands down. The Rock vs Stone Cold, the TLC Three Way, Shane vs Vince etc were pure big match magic but when some try to bolster their praise of the show by throwing Taker vs HHH in as a “classic” it always irks me. They had a fine match and were on the way to having a great one until HHH took the safest big bump ever onto a comfy foam bed, which killed the whole thing stone dead for me and many others. It’s not a bad match, but it doesn’t even come close to the quality these two would produce at Manias 27 & 28 respectively. Too often this match is viewed through rose-tinted shades.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs HHH Three Stages of Hell at No Way Out 2001
This was a long winded encounter that a lot of folks expected to be a classic, only turned out to be good, but was still discussed as a classic anyway for some reason. The match was split into a traditional wrestling match, a street fight and a cage match. The wrestling match was so-so, the street fight was good and bloody and the cage match felt unnecessary. It needed to be a decent length to accommodate the gimmicks but I think ended up sacrificing quality overall. I think if these guys had just had a Street Fight, the kind HHH turned out with Mick Foley at Royal Rumble 2000, with all the blood, bells and whistles with half the allotted time they’d have given us a much better match and one that might deserve the reputation of the one that actually happened.
1. Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart Iron Man Match at Wrestlemania XII
I’ll never understand the cult around this match when Bret and Shawn both had so many superior matches against each other. Survivor Series 92 played host to a classic Intercontinental vs World Champion bout between the two. Even their SS 97 match was better before the finish. It’s a long hour to watch. While both men are talented, neither were used to wrestling beyond half an hour on a regular basis and to make up for time they just went from one mega-resthold to another before finally kicking it into gear in the last few minutes. They could’ve spiced things up by throwing a few falls in but no, the match went to sudden death at 0-0. WWE has presented a number of Iron Man matches that have surpassed this one, HHH vs the Rock at Judgement Day 2000 was an outstanding effort, and HBK has eclipsed this match with better marathon efforts vs John Cena and others. Maybe WWF fans just couldn’t fathom that two wrestlers could go for that long after a decade of short television encounters? Either way, this match doesn’t deserve its legendary status.
5. Brock Lesnar v Triple H at Wrestlemania 29
Yikes, this match was only a couple of rungs better than the rubbish Lesnar and Goldberg served up at Wrestlemania 20. Brock coming back from UFC and basically forgetting how he used to wrestle was the formula for bad matches against the wrong opponent, this was the case with Triple H. Now, we all know Triple H has an ego and he was always going to go over on the biggest stage of them all. It was a “No Hold’s Barred” match, but it big spots early on and big resting. Don’t mention how long Kimura lock was on Brock for.
4. Kane v Undertaker at Wrestlemania XIV
Two big guys, both apparently unstoppable. This was definitely a case of I’m not selling and neither are you, with men came off looking weak in my opinion. Their “Inferno Match” was definitely a lot better. I’m not going to give Taker or Kane a hard time, as they are both fantastic in their own right. I’m not really a fan of two big men going at it and this is a good example of why.
3. CM Punk v John Cena at Money In The Bank 2011
This should have been a top drawer match. I don’t know whether it was Cena’s call to put on this shower, probably not wanting to come off looking too weak. Obviously, the result was what everyone wanted, but the match itself was full of resting on the outside. The end of the match took away what should have been a defining moment as Cena was distracted for CM Punk to hit the GTS.
2. Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart Iron Man Match at Wrestlemania XII
Billed as one for the ages and it was. The match itself is fine, but having two guys even in their prime going for an hour in a main event was a bit too much. The match had quite a few rest holds and them basically saving everything for the last 5-minute flurry. Bret and Shawn had better matches, but this was the worst and not totally their fault either. I’m glad that these days, we are basically passed these hour long matches.
1. Steve Austin v Jake The Snake at King of the Ring 1996
The immediate aftermath is what everyone remembers. Austin giving his iconic 3:16 speech is something us fans will never forget, unlike the match. Jake was well passed it and was only around to give a bit of star power. Austin, on the other hand, was forging what would be the top face of the company for the following years. Jake was selling the injury from the match with Vader earlier in the night. The 5 or so minutes this match lasted seemed like an eternity. Not pretty.
5. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs The Rock at WrestleMania XVII
I haven’t watched this match since I saw it back in 2001, but I recall my initial reaction to it being lukewarm at best. I remember thoroughly enjoying the undercard of this Wrestlemania but being left bored and then confused by the main event. I was confused because Austin appeared to turn heel but fans still cheered him, so had he turned heel or just used Mr McMahon to win the title? Maybe I need to watch this one back, but it’s the undercard that has always made 17 my favourite Wrestlemania.
4. The Undertaker vs Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIII
I remember being totally bored by this. At no point did I have that feeling of ‘this could be the moment the streak ends’. With Shawn Michaels as the referee the deck was stacked against Taker, thus he would obviously defy the odds. Throw in some false finishes and hitting an obscene amount of finishing moves and everybody will love it. Yeah, not so much…
3. Bret Hart vs The British Bulldog at Summerslam 1992
Okay, I’ve put my hard hat on and locked all my doors and closed all my curtains, here goes; I didn’t like this match as much as most people did. I’m sorry. I did like it, but I didn’t absolutely love it like a lot of people seem to. When (as an adult) I heard about the condition Bulldog was in I gained more of an appreciation for this bout, but watching as a kid I remember being a little bored at various points…… and I was a British Bret Hart fan!
2. John Cena vs CM Punk at Money in The Bank 2011
This was a good match with an outstanding backstory and white hot crowd, thus it appeared much better than it really was. In truth, both men had delivered plenty of better matches previously and most certainly since. The involvement of John Laurinaitis tainted Punk’s win too. Hell, this isn’t even the best Punk vs. Cena match. I recall them having a corker on an episode of Raw from early 2013. I believe this was the last time a piledriver, other than a Tombstone, was used in WWE.
1. Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XII
If ever a match required it’s participants to just get over themselves and think of the fans instead. I get that the story here was that both men were equally good and neither could defeat the other within the original confines of this match. Fair enough, but why make it an Iron Man match then? I twigged after 20 minutes that the score would be 1-0 and that this solitary fall would occur at or beyond the time limit. The only thing worse than a predictable wrestling match is one filled with rest holds and that lasts over an hour. Also, Bret Hart was screwed here! Why was the subject of a draw not discussed beforehand? Gorilla Monsoon literally changed the rules as we went along, to the benefit of Shawn Michaels. This was the kind of shit Mr McMahon pulled in the Attitude Era to screw Steve Austin.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.