The Top 60 Wrestling Matches That Surprisingly Happened (60-41)

December 7th, 2011 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While in the midst of dropping the ball on their epic CM Punk story, WWE put together a match between John Cena and Rey Mysterio for the WWE title with no prior advertisement on free TV. Now, while Cena and Mysterio are not my favorite guys in the company, I can’t help but think that they screwed up by not trying to siphon money out of what could have been a major money match. Not only is Cena – the guy who claims to be an underdog – taking on someone who is actually an underdog, but the whole thing is like Hogan vs. Warrior for this generation of wrestling-watching children. More than anything else, it’s one of the few fresh matches.

I looked into it and found that prior to this, they had clashed years earlier on Smackdown for a tournament. That got me to thinking about the surprising nature about wrestling’s history. There’s always plenty of trivia to be found, no matter how long you follow it. Who knew that the tag team the Blade Runners would each go on their separate ways to become two of the most popular names in the late 80’s/early 90’s as Sting and the Ultimate Warrior? At a Tribute to the Troops show, when Steve Austin entered the ring and delivered a Stone Cold Stunner in response to John Cena giving him the “You can’t see me!” gesture, who knew that this would be such a significant footnote?

There are a lot of matches in wrestling history that fit this bill. Dream matches that aren’t in the right time frame to be labeled a dream match. One man might be in the twilight of his career, facing a new up-and-comer who’s yet to prove himself but one day will. Maybe a classic matchup will take place a decade before either man is worth knowing. Two men regularly separated by story and company may have mingled ever-so-briefly on a TV match that nobody truly remembers.

With the help of Something Awful’s Punchsport Pagoda sub-forum, I’ve put together a list of the 60 matches that make me lift my eyebrow and say, “Wow. That match actually happened.” Jobber matches, house shows, C-level shows, forgettable Raw segments and more that look more interesting in retrospect. Today we’ll start with 60-41.

I should note that while I’ve been watching wrestling forever, I don’t know enough about Japanese wrestling to include it. Granted, I have some matches that take place in Japan and even a few with Japanese wrestlers acting as tag partners, but I’m too out of my element to measure matches like Inoki vs. Sid and Great Sasuke vs. Bob Backlund. For that, I apologize.

Let’s get started.

WWF, 1997/1998

Vader vs. Rock isn’t an overly rare match as it happened three times on Raw over the course of 97/98, but there’s a generational changing of the guard that makes it feel unique. The first time around, it was Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia defending against the big heel Vader, who had Paul Bearer and Mankind in his corner. The match appeared rather even until Mankind needlessly interfered and hit Rocky with an urn, getting Rock the DQ win.

Later that year, the two faced off again, this time with Vader as the face and Rock as the heel. On one hand, Rock was distracted by Steve Austin watching the match on top of a monster truck with AC/DC blaring. On the other hand, Vader was constantly attacked behind the ref’s back by the Nation of Domination and the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust. Vader completely no-sold the People’s Elbow to the point of throwing Rock off of him and then took after Goldust, getting himself counted out.

Once again, they fought, this time as a qualifying match for the King of the Ring tournament. This time, Vader got taken out by interference by Mark Henry, who splashed him on the outside and made him easy pickings for a Rock Bottom. Rock won, making it 3-0.

WWF, 1996

This is low on the list due to its high profile nature. Austin had just won the King of the Ring tournament, coining the term “Austin 3:16” and by all means, he should be on his way to the top of the ladder. After all, isn’t that where he ended up? Yet at Summerslam, Austin wasn’t on the card. Instead, he was placed against former 2-time WWF champion Yokozuna in the pre-show Free for All. It’s a pretty weird match, all things considered. Austin was given his tournament win because Triple H shit the bed by publicly breaking kayfabe during the infamous Madison Square Garden incident so they weren’t above making Austin look weak in the face of Yokozuna. Yokozuna was nearing his final days with the company and they were really unhappy with his increasing weight problem, so they decided to make fun of it as punishment. What we ended up getting was a quick squash where Yokozuna beat the crap out of Austin and set up for the Banzai Drop, only for the ropes to give way from his size. Austin rolled him up for the pin and that is that.

They also had a match in Africa where Austin soiled his pants, which he talked about on Tough Enough.

WWE, 2006
Suggested by Cechmanek

It’s easy to forget that before he was perfection, Dolph Ziggler was part of the Spirit Squad as Nicky. If anyone, they wanted us to pay more attention to team leader Kenny, who they expected to be the breakout star. Due to some tomfoolery with D-Generation X, the Spirit Squad had to dress as female cheerleaders in skirts that were far too small to cover their drawers. While dressed like a joke, Nicky had to face legendary Sgt. Slaughter, who proceeded to lead the match with all of his trademarks. This included the trademark of running full-steam into the corner and flying out of the ring, so Nicky did get his licks in. He ended up losing because Triple H and Shawn Michaels appeared on the Titantron and held up a thong, acting like Nicky forgot to wear it, allowing Slaughter the roll-up on the infuriated cheerleader. Ziggler’s got the potential to be one of the top guys in a year or so, so this will probably seem like a bigger deal then.

WWF, 1992

I’ve talked about this back in the Summerslam Countdown, but I’m compelled to mention it here. Summerslam 1992 featured a match between Crush and Repo Man. There was no story leading into it and the match itself was nothing more than a complete squash, pushing Crush at the expense of Repo Man. There’s nothing special in that, especially because this is such a mainstream match at one of the company’s biggest shows of the year, but I didn’t realize until years later that Repo Man is Barry Darsow who is also Smash of Demolition.

At the same show two years prior, Smash and Crush were tag champs, part of Demolition. Demolition is one of the biggest tag team names in an era when tag team wrestling was at its best. The idea that they split up and within two years became so unrecognizable that they could have a match against each other with zero fanfare is unique in its own way.

WWF, 1995

At the time, Godwinn was in the midst of his big singles feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley. To build himself up for that, he had a Raw squash match with a guy by the name of Terry Richards, who would one day be known as Rhino… and then Rhyno. Godwinn handily took care of his opponent, but then Hunter appeared and Pedigree’d him on the outside before basting him with a bucket of pig slop. So hey, Rhyno came out of that one better in the end.

Terry Richards would also play the jobber role in WCW, being taken out easily by an injured Hawk on an episode of Worldwide the year following.

55) MICK FOLEY is murdered by the BRITISH BULLDOGS
WWF, 1986
Suggested by Perry Normal

This one is pretty well-known because Foley’s brought it up here and there. On an episode of Superstars, Jack Foley and his partner Les Thornton were put up against Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid. Dynamite Kid is known as being one of the greatest in-ring performers of any era with just about any of his matches being worth a watch. Unfortunately, he’s also one of the biggest villains of 80’s wrestling and I don’t mean as a performer. Guy had a Napoleon complex and it led to him being a terrible human being. Look no further than this match, where he and Davey Boy needlessly stiffed the hell out of Foley and that other guy. Well, mostly Foley. According to his autobiography, he wasn’t able to eat solid food for a while after that match. It would be another ten years before he’d step into another WWF ring.

I’d say that Dynamite Kid paid for his attitude with his paralysis, but that’s going a little too far. If anything, the perfect story of his comeuppance is the time he bullied genuinely nice guy Jacques Rougeaus and Jacques ended up knocking his teeth out with a roll of quarters.

54) UNDERTAKER vs. KANE… before they were brothers!
WWF, 1996

As lead-up to Undertaker’s title match against Bret Hart at the Royal Rumble, Undertaker had a Raw match with Bret’s former pain in the ass Dr. Isaac Yankem DDS. Yankem, also known as Glenn Jacobs, would one day find his niche as Undertaker’s more evil brother Kane. They’d fight many times, initially with Jacobs staring him down with a creepy mask. Here, it’s Undertaker with the mask. This is a wacky time for him. Due to his face being crushed by Mabel, Undertaker was wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask that looked ridiculous while the urn had taken the form of gold chains as the aftermath of Undertaker’s feud with Kama.

It’s the change of gimmick that makes this interesting. Yankem had more personality than Kane and had his acts of animated cowardice. Even then, there were spots in the match that would pop up in their future encounters every now and then. In the end, Undertaker won without many problems.

WWF, 1994

Back when Tatanka had just turned heel and joined the Million Dollar Corporation, he was placed in a Raw match against a young go-getter named Chris Canyon. Canyon was, of course, annihilated, but stuck around a little bit as a jobber. Long enough to get his ass handed to him by Tatanka again in a tag match with Bam Bam Bigelow joining the evil Native American. This time he did a lot better, actually getting the best of Tatanka for a bit and allowing his partner Barberry to take the fall. Plus he got to meet with his future BFF Bam Bam!

OVW, 2002

Years before the should-be dream match had been run into the ground so many times that people practically begged them to stop, Cena and Orton faced each other with very different circumstances. At Ohio Valley Wrestling, the former factory for churning out new superstars for the WWE, graduate Randy Orton made a final appearance. He had just gotten promoted and was about to enjoy time as a boring, smiling face. Jim Cornette, the booker and commissioner of OVW, interviewed him on his success only to be interrupted by the scummy “Prototype” John Cena. Cena got in Orton’s face over being called up to the big leagues and challenged him to a match while doing a bad William Shatner impression. The match is a bit mind-blowing, to be honest. The very idea of seeing the top two guys doing a match in a glorified indy fed without any of the infuriating in-ring gimmicks that make watching WWE difficult throws me for a loop. Cornette knows that leaving wrestlers need to leave on their back, so Orton missed a top-rope crossbody and Cena gave him the Protoplex to finish him off.

The Protoplex is a back suplex that turns into a Rock Bottom. Coincidentally, Batista used that move as a finisher when doing a WWE dark match against Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore during the same year. I was going to add that to the list, but there was nothing about it worth mentioning outside of seeing Eugene without the mentally challenged gimmick.

51) EL GENERICO vs. THE 1-2-3 KID
YouTube (highlights)

Every spring CHIKARA puts together their major 3-day tournament the King of Trios, where 16 (or 28 in one year) teams of three battle it out. The last installment of the tournament featured the inclusion of Sean Waltman, not as Syxx or X-Pac, but as the 1-2-3 Kid, a gimmick he hadn’t used since leaving the WWF fifteen years earlier. His team lost in the first round of the tournament, freeing him up for singles action for the rest of the weekend. He entered into the Rey de Voladores tournament, an 8-man tourney based on high-fliers. The second night of King of Trios would feature two 4-man matches and the third night would give us the finals.

To see indy darling El Generico face the Kid was something to behold. Not only did 1-2-3 Kid have most of the vintage look down with the clean-shaven face and classic tights (he apologized for not being able to get the mullet just right), but he performed one of his best matches in years. Hell, I’d call the finals one of the best matches of the year.

After losing the match, 1-2-3 Kid gave a heartfelt speech about how much the weekend meant to him and how sorry he was to do a crotch chop in the CHIKARA family friendly atmosphere.

WCW, 1992

Austin and Steiner are two guys who have been around for years, but finding them in the same company at the same time is easier said than done. Even when Steiner came back to the WWE for a couple years in the early 00’s, Austin was retired and only appeared in non-wrestling capacities. Back on WCW in the early 90’s, it was a different story. As part of the hype for War Games, Austin would defend his TV Championship against Steiner on WCW Saturday Night. This is really the perfect storm for wrestling when you look at it. It’s Steve Austin with a mobile neck up against Scott Steiner with a mobile body while Jim Ross and Paul Heyman are on commentary. Although it got plenty of time to breathe, the match sadly ended with a run-in with the Dangerous Alliance attacking Scott until his brother Rick ran in to help.

49) RIKISHI dominates the CENA ERA
WWE, 2002
Suggested by The Landstander

In 2002, Rikishi was becoming old hat. They had pushed him as far as they could as a face, so they turned him heel… which was a tremendous failure. So they turned him face again and kind of used him as a testing pattern who did the same Stink Face spot over and over again, but had enough charisma to remain entertaining. Still, his act was beginning to wear thin and with his refusal to lose weight, he was on his way out of the company. WWE still pushed him strongly during these days, though. First he was the very first person to defeat Deacon Batista in a really short Smackdown match. Shortly after, he and John Cena teamed up to defeat Batista and D-Von Dudley, where Rikishi again got the pin. Months down the line, Rikishi took on the newcomer Cena and squashed him twice within the month of November.

I came across a clip of Rikishi giving Cena the Stink Face. I have to admit, I laughed pretty hard when I saw someone comment, “Rikishi did it… for the Rock.”

WCW, 1990

Okay, not Undertaker per se, but Mark Calloway in a high profile battle with Lex Luger at the Great American Bash for the US Championship under the name “Mean Mark” Callous. Seeing a young Calloway wrestle without the mystique is jarring, making him appear more like Heidenreich than the Undertaker in his fighting style. Luger held him up in the Torture Rack, but the ref accidentally got knocked over, robbing us of the sight of Undertaker submitting. Mean Mark’s manager Paul E. Dangerously interfered with a cell phone to Luger’s ribs, but it didn’t get the job done. Luger fended for himself and ended up beating the pre-Phenom with nothing more than a running clothesline. Go figure.

Some TV Special, 1990
Suggested by apsouthern

I admittedly don’t know the full background to this. I saw it off Wrestlecrap years ago and it’s become somewhat popular to the point that my brother emailed it to me years after I initially saw it. Collins had some kind of special, I’m guessing on NBC, where some agents tried to come up with music video concepts. Gilbert Gottfried decided that since wrestling was popular, they’d do Collins’ music video for “Two Hearts” by having him fight the Ultimate Warrior. It cut to a dream sequence where Collins snapped his fingers and danced while dressed in ridiculous full-body tights. Next to him, the Warrior tried to keep up, but grew annoyed and spent the next few minutes beating on Collins. Or, should I say, beating on a wrestler dressed as Collins dressed as a wrestler with close-ups of Collins looking in pain. The idea was sound, but it came off a little less enthusiastic than it should have. Either way, the pairing is still notable for the outlandish factor.

Having gotten the stuffing beaten out of him by a loud and incoherent mentally-challenged guy, Phil Collins would try his revenge years later when antagonizing Timmy on South Park.

WCW, 1997/1998

Speaking of the Ultimate Warrior, one of Vince Russo’s ideas for WCW that got shot down was that he wanted to do a Warrior vs. Goldberg match. He insisted that everybody wanted it. Admittedly, I’d watch the hell out of that match because it would be a truly memorable trainwreck. It would never come to be, but we do have the next best thing. The Renegade was a guy brought in to WCW from the mid-90’s with a personality and appearance that was there to make fans think he was actually the Ultimate Warrior with a new name. Legal threats made them laze off, but Renegade stayed on the payroll for a while.

Goldberg would face the faker twice. The first time, it was an immediate Spear followed by the Jackhammer. The second time, Renegade got some slight offense in there before being destroyed by the Spear and Jackhammer.

45) UNDERTAKER vs. STONE COLD 80’s squash
USWA, 1989
Suggested by Lone Rogue

Years before one of the biggest Summerslam main events of all time and years before Jim Ross would swear that we’d look back at this matchup on Raw and consider it to be one of the all-time biggest main events, we had a masked man known as the Punisher destroying a bulky youngster named Steve Williams. No, not “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. This was Austin, who – according to the commentators – had just gotten out of wrestling school. His entire offense in this short match was nothing more than an aggressive headlock. Punisher finished him off with his jumping clothesline and a big legdrop that put Hogan’s to shame. I mean, other than having a legdrop as your finisher. That’s pretty shameful in itself.

Coincidentally, the commentators made a big deal about how Dusty Rhodes’ son Dustin was going to make his wrestling debut in the following week.

WWF, 1992

This one rules. Savage was shoved into the background for most of Michaels’ rise to the top, but there was one window where they let the two go at it. In 1992, Savage won his second WWF Championship and carried it for the summer before dropping it back to Flair. Michaels had just turned heel and was moving his way up the ladder, destined from the beginning to become Intercontinental Champion at the very least. Over that summer, WWF toured Europe and we got a couple matches of Savage defending the belt against Michaels. These matches are every bit as good as they should be and even bring some closure to the never-ending Elizabeth/Sherry rivalry. I’m wondering if this was even Elizabeth’s final WWF appearance. Definitely worth giving a watch.

WWE, 2002
Suggested by Eugene Jerome

This match happened twice with similar results. RVD defending the Intercontinental Championship and beating Perfect in a few minutes. They even featured the same ending, where Perfect would try a pin with his feet on the ropes, the ref would argue, RVD would roundhouse kick him and finish him off with a Five Star Frog Splash. This is during the glorious time when Perfect was allowed one last run with the company before he screwed it up with his own demons that ultimately killed him, but they sadly didn’t go the full Monty on this. In retrospect, this is a pretty big deal of a pairing. Mr. Perfect is one of the guys who I think of when you bring up the best Intercontinental Champions. RVD not only belongs in that echelon, but I’d consider him to be one of the last Intercontinental Champions to make the belt really mean anything. I guess it relates to how long he held onto the ECW TV title without ever making the jump to World Champ. The two of them should have gotten something better than a short match on Heat and another short match on Raw.

In the Raw match, Eddie Guerrero was on commentary, hyping up their feud over use of the Frog Splash. I guess the lesson learned is that you should stay away from pain killers and cocaine, but weed’s okay.

WWF, 1996
Suggested by Bearnt!

Ultimate Warrior vs. Kane? It happened! …sorta. During Warrior’s final WWF run, he’s most famous for burying Hunter Hearst Helmsley at Wrestlemania; an act that would ultimately bite the business in the ass. Shortly after this, he had his very first Raw match where he took on Isaac Yankem. Yankem did a big pile of nothing in this match other than sell and act afraid, having to be coaxed into the ring by Jerry Lawler. The match was kind of ridiculous. After a lengthy entrance, the match started and Warrior threw him out of the ring. They went to a commercial. Once they come back, Warrior was hitting his finishers and ended the match. This led to the Ultimate Warrior vs. Jerry Lawler feud, which is questionable when Warrior just easily took out Lawler’s bodyguard.

WCW, 1994
Suggested by MelvinTheJerk

The deeper you go with this matchup, the more interesting, tragic and maybe momentarily uplifting it feels. At the time, these two young wrestlers are on equal footing. Despite their arguably equal talent, the two would go in drastically different directions and would become like opposites in the business. Alex Wright should have been a major name in wrestling, but was repeatedly buried in a myriad of ways, including self-serving wrestlers refusing to put him over during their matches and no-selling his offense. He ended up fading away at the end of WCW. Meanwhile, Triple H would rise up to be one of the biggest names in the business, self-serving his way through many storylines at the expense of others in need of the rub. Now he’s one of the heads of the top wrestling company in the world while Wright is known as that German guy who used to do that dance.

Wright fought Jean Paul Levesque a couple times, including a match at Starrcade. Each time he won. To see the man known for being buried cleanly take down the man known for burying is kind of a nice, albeit bittersweet feeling.

Come back soon for the next 20 entries.


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4 comments to “The Top 60 Wrestling Matches That Surprisingly Happened (60-41)”

  1. Alex Wright was shoved into some pretty bad gimmicks. The Dancing Fools era was bad enough, but then they made him a Nazi. Dude basically didn’t have a chance.

  2. @EndlessMike

    At least he got reigns with the Cruiserweight and Television championships before that, and a tag title reign during WCW floundering years. Then again, he also got two opponents (Paul Roma and Hacksaw Jim Duggan) who completely no sold him at two different PPVs.

  3. Crap, just realized that the PPV matches were already mentioned. The title reigns still stand, though.

  4. Ok, I haven’t even begun reading the list but this is fucking awesome.