Last night, Ariane Andrew became (in)famous on WWE Tough Enough when she was asked for her favorite match ever. She said Melina and Alicia Fox. Now I have been watching wrestling for over 15 years (though there were stretches where I lost interest). I’ve seen plenty of matches, too. I don’t know about this Alicia Fox-Melina match, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen better. Just in case the proverbial gun is to my head, I wanted to come up with a list of some of my favorite matches. These are by no means the best. These are the ones I would call my favorite matches. I’m not ranking these. Some of them you will agree with. Some are special to me for one reason or another.
1. Savage-Steamboat, Wrestlemania III-I remember watching this match when I saw Wrestlemania III for the first time. I had started getting into wrestling and I wanted to watch anything and everything I could find. My local video store was The Video Library, a mom and pop store back before Blockbuster ruled everything with an iron fist. They had Survivor Series ’91, Wrestlemania III and a few others. WM3 had Hogan and Andre on the cover. How could I not rent it? And of course I fell in love with the Savage-Steamboat match. It was such a tense, dramatic match. I’m sure many people would have this in Top 5 of all time.
2. Chris Benoit-Kevin Sullivan, Falls Count Anywhere Match, Great American Bash ’96-Yes, I said the name Chris Benoit. Regardless of how you feel about him, I am talking about this match, not the person who killed his wife, son and self. There was so much intensity and hatred between these two men. And this was the first fight I’d ever seen go to the men’s restroom. The best part was Dusty Rhodes on commentary. “There’th a woman in the men’th westwoom! There’th a woman in the men’th westwoom!” And then after the match when Arn Anderson turned on Kevin Sullivan, another awesome memory. When I first heard that he had died, and before I knew he was the number one suspect in his murder-suicide, this was the match I watched.
3. Stone Cold-Bret Hart, I Quit Match Wrestlemania XIII-Ken Shamrock as guest referee, Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross on commentary. This was such a hot intense feud. Bret Hart was beginning his anti-American Hart Foundation persona, and Stone Cold was about to embark on being one of the top stars in wrestling of all time. And in this fight, there was blood. The blood flowed out of Austin’s forehead like I had never seen before. And Austin never gave up, but Ken Shamrock awarded the match to Bret Hart. This was a watershed moment in the attitude era.
4. Johnny Kashmere & Justice Pain-Jun Kazai & Nick Mondo, CZW Un-f’n-believable-I’m sure most wrestling fans would scoff at this one being in my list. But this is my list. Make your own. This match had all the drama you could ever want. They were feuding factions. This was “Fans Bring the Weapons,” and wrestling fans are very creative. This was intense and bloody, very bloody. The match was everything the title says. It really was un-f’ing-believable. This put CZW on my map, love it or hate it.
5. Vince McMahon-Shane McMahon, Wrestlemania X-7-I know. This is not the most technical match ever. But there were so many storylines that were built up here. Shane had just “bought” WCW from his dad. Linda was in the wheelchair from the meds Trish was giving her. Mick Foley was the guest referee. The moment that Linda stood up, I stood up in my Arlington home for the pure emotion of it all. And if I remember correctly, there was a Van Terminator from Shane.
6. Eddie Guerrero-Rey Misterio Jr., Halloween Havoc ’97, Mask vs. Title-This is my redemption for the above two matches. The build-up to this match was awesome. When Eddie was a heel, he had no equal. He had unmasked Rey on WCW Saturday night. As useless as Tony Schiavone was, the look of disdain on his face, covering Rey with his jacket, they were both so perfect. And in this match, you didn’t know if Rey was going to lose or not. I spent the match on pins and needles waiting for the bell to ring. Out of Eddie’s and Rey’s many matches together, this one was my favorite.
7. Randy Orton-Cactus Jack, Backlash ’04-I hated the whole Orton spitting on my hero Mick Foley. And I hated it even more when he did nothing. But I read on the Internet this was Foley’s idea, and I just decided to sit back and let Foley be Foley. But we went to the PPV at the movie theater that carried the PPV’s. The match was a thing of beauty. Now, not graceful Eddie-Rey beauty, but more like a “Terry Funk-Sabu, you’re going to be able to count the number of visible tendons” beauty. When my then-fiance and I saw the thumbtacks getting laid out, we were both saying, “Oh, Foley’s going to be diving into those.” And then Orton took the bump, and our jaws both hit the floor. I had not really respected Orton yet, but when he did that, I had a newfound respect for him that I still carry to this day.
8. Kurt Angle-Rey Misterio Jr., some Smackdown-I have no idea what it was, but Angle and Misterio had the greatest chemistry together. Misterio beat him out of nowhere. And the best part of the match was the post-match interview with Angle. “I just got pinned by a 12-year-old. Some kid barely old enough to mow my lawn beat me.” Angle and Misterio had some great matches. This was just the beginning.
9. Mr. Pogo & Terry Funk-Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka, FMW 5-5-96-Yes, this match is pretty much bloody stumps galore. There was barb wire, explosives, pretty much everything you’ve always heard about wrestling but didn’t know it existed. The drama of the guys about to go into the barb wire and then stopping is so gripping. You get Mr. Pogo and his knives. Hayabusa nearly had his mask ripped off. After the match, you can hear Terry Funk repeating, “I don’t need no f***ing stitches” and insults at Atsushi Onita.
10. Kristopher Haiden, Carrion Arcane, Frankie Fisher & Matt Andrews vs. WASP, Gregory James, Seph Annunaki & James Hawke, ladder match, MPX All on the Line- This match is unique as this is the only one I’ve ever seen live. It is also important that this was the day I met the guy now dating my sister-in-law (and the way these kids talk, he might be the brother-in-law before too long), so you know there are some emotional attachments this has for me. This is what I wrote about this the morning after:
“What can you say about this match? I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a better match than this live. All ten guys gave everything live. I always praise this company for the little things. The wrestlers came out of the dressing room to watch. It reminded me a lot of old ECW when the boys all used to watch from the aisle. The only negative is that at the beginning of the fight, there was too much action going on.
“I counted the number of “Holy s***” moments for me. I had 9. There were a few that happened on the other side from where I was sitting, so I think there were a few more. At one point, we had dueling Van Terminators with ladders. There was a different spot where the two Kyles were climbing up the ladder at the same time, made it to the top and both threw baby powder at each other. It was awesome. We had Gregory James do the lucha libre plancha spot onto the 5 or 6 guys. He also did a conchairto on top of the ladder to Frankie Fisher. Haiden was already bleeding and took an insane bump onto two tables. Being that we know him outside of the business, it was difficult for my wife and some other people who knew him. It’s one thing to watch the Dudleys on Monday Night Raw back in the day; it’s another thing to watch our friend go through the tables. All I know is that my buddy took a table bump that would have made Sabu smile in approval.
“There are very few things in this business that surprise me still. I will admit I got worked when Bryan Danielson was the 7th member of Team WWE. That’s probably the last time somebody worked me that I never saw coming. Matt Andrews took the belt and the briefcase. He asked for the mic and thanked Genesis for getting him to where he was, but now that he was the champion, he was done with them. He fired all of them, climbed down the ladder, threw the briefcase on Seph and said, ‘I don’t care about this. You can have it.’
“What an insane, breath-taking main event. I guess one of the best compliments we can give the night is that my sister-in-law took her new boyfriend to wrestling for the first time last night. On the way home, he asked, ‘Do they do that all the time?’ I’ve said my peace about everything else that night. Great main event made for a great night.”
11. El Hijo del Santo & Octagon-Art Barr & Eddie Guerrero, Mask vs. Hair, WCW When Worlds Collide-I'm a total El Santo mark, so the importance of El Santo, El Hijo del Santo and his mask are so important to me. There was no greater heel faction in Mexico than the Gringos Locos (Barr, Guerrero, Konnan & Louie Spicolli). Oh, yeah, and Octagon is one of those guys I ALWAYS mark out for. There was such intensity in that match. And Eddie lost his mullet.
12. Ice Train-Scott Norton, Some episode of WCW Worldwide (I think)-Again, this is no Ring of Honor 5-star match. Nobody else probably remembers this match, but I do. The story of it was so awesome. Scott Norton & Ice Train were very similar wrestlers, and they mirrored each other. They couldn't beat the other. Since both were on the same level on the card, you had no idea who was going to win. It even went to a time limit draw, and thus was born the tag team of Fire & Ice.
13. Chris Benoit-Dean Malenko, WCW Hog Wild ’96-Again, if you are offended by me using Chris Benoit's name, I apologize. Benoit and Malenko had such an amazing chemistry. They were awesome together in the ring. First the match went 15 minutes. Then it was given 5 more minutes. Then it was given 5 more minutes. Finally Nancy "Woman" Benoit interfered and won the match for Benoit.
14. Undertaker-Mankind, Hell in a Cell, King of the Ring ‘98-I know. No points for originality. This is very well-documented. And if you've never read his account of it, read "Have a Nice Day" by Mick Foley. There were two major bumps: first was where Mick was thrown onto the table. That was planned. The second one was when the Undertaker choke-slammed Foley and the cage gave way and Foley fell to the ring. And then the chair fell on top of him. The amount of punishment that Foley took was insane.
15. Tommy Dreamer-Brian Lee, ECW Scaffold match-The Tommy Dreamer-Raven feud could not have been any hotter. With respect to Sabu-Taz, it was quite possibly ECW's biggest feud. Brian Lee was part of Raven's group in ECW and had made it his goal to end Tommy Dreamer's career. There was a rickety scaffold built over a ring piled up in tables 3-deep. There was so much drama over who was going to be the first to fall. And Brian Lee went through the tables in an incredible moment.
So, just in case Stone Cold ever asks me, I have it all written down. What are your favorites?