The Contentious Ten 03.26.12: Top 10 Personally Rewatched Matches
Posted by Michael Ornelas on 03.26.2012
From the Rock vs. Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIX and Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan on the first episode of NXT to HHH and Shawn Michaels' Unsanctioned Match at SummerSlam '02 and more, 411's Michael Ornelas counts down the top 10 rewatchable matches of all-time!
Hello my friends and fellow wrestling fans! I am Michael Ornelas, returning to 411 and filling in for Nick Bazar, and THIS….is the Contentious Ten.
So first off, and this probably isn't something many of you care about, but it's meant a lot to me: the reason I've been gone from 411 for the past six months is that I've been pouring my heart and soul, time and effort into making a TV show/web series "Shenanigans" as I prepare to move out to Los Angeles in two months to chase the dream of becoming a successful TV writer. If you have a moment to check it out, "like" the Facebook page for it at www.facebook.com/shenaniganststv. I have to thank Nick, Greg DeMarco, Mathew Sforcina, and even Tony Acero for plugging my show and giving me the opportunity have it featured in their columns which get lots of hits (well…except for Tony – does ANYONE actually watch NXT? Other than me…). Anyways, before I move onto the list, here's our latest episode (our next one comes out April 1st).
ALRIGHT enough of shilling my non-wrestling work. Let's get down to it. This week I wanted to choose a very subjective topic so I can share my wrestling tastes and hear about yours in the comments. I've gone with the top 10 personally rewatched matches. These are the matches that, despite knowing the outcome, you find yourself viewing over and over and over. They are the matches that for some reason or another, have found a place in your heart. It could very well be that you own one wrestling DVD and it's all you have available, or you're like me and have over 500 shows and there are still some sentimental or just cool matches that you revisit. So without further ado, here's the list of matches that I get the craving every now and then to pop in and enjoy for the n-teenth time!
Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega (PWG 100 – April 12, 2009)
I love the dramatic aspect of building and escalating to a climax in wrestling. It's what draws me in to the industry as a whole. But this was the first straight-up comedy match I ever saw. I've been watching wrestling since 2001 (WWE), then followed Jeff Hardy to TNA (I was 16 when that happened), and finally got into the Indies in the summer of 2009. I watched PWG 100 and absolutely loved Kenny Omega as the comedic relief to Bryan Danielson's straight man. Eventually, Bryan came around and equaled the goofiness and used it to his advantage when he was able to lock in the Triangle Choke to win the bout. But this match had some of the most ridiculous comedy spots I'd seen in a wrestling ring. There was a thumb war, there was arm wrestling, and there was even a round of singing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. It may be a little goofy for some fans' tastes, but whatever, it was all about fun, and I love rewatching this hilarious encounter.
The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Speed Muscle (TNA iMPACT! – June 12, 2008)
This isn't the best match in TNA history – it's far too short for that consideration. The Joe/AJ/Daniels triple threats are great, Joe and Angle had some fantastic matches together, and most of the early X-Division stuff is better than this, but this was my first exposure to the Japanese style of wrestling (or at least that I was able to recognize). This match was so fast, I thought I was watching it in fast-forward. Well, I actually was accidentally as I hit 1.5x speed on VLC, but damn! Even when I slowed it back to normal, it was such happening at such a fast pace! I love this match when I have a wrestling fix and lack time. Every time I see it I'm amazed and it's easily the TNA match I've seen the most.
2 out of 3 Falls Match: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat (NWA Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin' Cajun – April 2, 1989)
Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat absolutely owned 1989 by having a series of championship matches that many felt all achieved a ***** rating. I'm in that camp. This was the first of those three matches that I personally ever saw (as the Chi-Town Rumble wasn't on Flair's first DVD set), and I was blown away. I've always liked 3 Stages of Hell matches, but hadn't seen many 2 out of 3 Falls matches that didn't change stipulations from one fall to the next. This made me prefer the gimmickless match as they managed to tell a fantastic story with their actions and selling in this match. The fact that the falls were won by non-established finishing moves of each men gave this match a very realistic "anything can happen" feeling. I actually think both of the other two matches these men had in the series were better matches, but for reasons I can't explain, this is the one I find myself constantly in the mood to watch again.
The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WWE WrestleMania XIX – March 30, 2003)
The greatest WresteMania rivalry of all time (in my opinion) came to a close at WrestleMania XIX when Stone Cold Steve Austin quietly had his last match and The Rock finally got his big win over Austin. For all of their matches, Austin was a white hot babyface, while Rocky played the definitive heel for two of the three encounters (with X-7 being a battle of the top stars more than a face vs. heel match). Hollywood Rocky of '03 was my favorite incarnation of The Rock as a heel, so I ate this match up. Rock wearing Austin's vest for a good chunk of the match was always something I dug in this match, and the sheer number of finishers made this a pretty epic battle. Their X-7 match was technically better, but I absolutely love this match every time I watch it, which is at least once a year. This is an effortless match to rewatch for me.
Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE NXT – February 23, 2010)
Daniel Bryan has been one of the better parts of the WWE for the past few years when it comes to his work. He had a bumpy start and the booking around him was questionable for awhile, but the one thing that's not been questioned is his in-ring ability. He had one of the best debut matches I've ever seen, and it was against the World Heavyweight Champion at the time, Chris Jericho. WWE could have squashed him that night, but they chose to have him look competitive with one of their top guys. I love this match because you could tell that such a small portion of the crowd actually knew who he was. He got very little reaction when he started the show, he didn't exactly hit a home run in his first promo in the ring with The Miz (although it wasn't terrible), and he still got a small reaction when he came out for his match. But despite a lack of mic time that prevented him from connecting with the crowds for his first year and a half, Daniel Bryan earned the crowd's approval with what he does best: wrestling. Bryan is SO good at telling stories between the ropes, that pretty much every WWE crowd he's wrestled in front of over the past two years has reacted significantly stronger to him after his matches have ended. The fact that I've been a fan of the guy since before he came to WWE and that I was rooting for him on his debut is probably the main reason that I watch this match so much. Oh, and that suicide dive that absolutely destroyed Bryan's ribs.
Ken Kennedy vs. Eddie Guerrero (WWE SmackDown – November 11, 2005)
We all grieve in our different ways. Some people have a hard time watching matches that include wrestlers that have passed -- specifically ones that they were big fans of. I can go either way on that issue, but in Eddie Guerrero's case, he's just too good NOT to watch. I try to watch matches with Guerrero in them as often as I can, but the bout of his that I find myself flocking to the most is his last match ever. I know that may be a bit eerie, but it encapsulates him so well. This was just coming off a face turn after a summer as a dastardly heel who sunk to unprecedented lows to get one over on his rival and former best friend, Rey Mysterio. Now he was toying with Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship as a "changed man". Well rumor had it that he was in line to win the title from Batista in the near future, but unfortunately he passed away before that could come to fruition. So why do I watch this match? It's certainly not a classic, hanging out somewhere between two and three snowflakes. I watch this match because simply put: it makes me smile. Seeing Eddie lying, cheating, and stealing was fun. The chair shot on the mat, tossing the weapon to an opponent, and lying down just as the referee turns around to discover the scene was always great. Eddie peeking his head up to wink at the crowd just gets me every time. I was fortunate enough to meet Eddie for...MAYBE a minute at a signing the weekend of WrestleMania XX and he was just such a kind individual. Despite the people operating the signing trying to rush me, Eddie made sure that he interacted with me (and I wasn't saying much because I was a starstruck high school freshman). He got me out of my shell, took a picture with me, and shook my hand before going to the next person in line and that made such an impression on me. Seeing that Eddie went out with a match during which he was able to have FUN meant a lot to me. THAT is why I gravitate toward this match.
Superkick is Banned Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton (WWE Survivor Series – November 18, 2007)
This. Match. I love this match. I think it's one of the most underrated matches of the past decade, as it just doesn't get mentioned enough. The way Shawn Michaels had to dig through his repertoire to pull out moves other than his tried and true Sweet Chin Music made for a very entertaining story. Randy Orton was no slouch either, and this was back in the day before he was regarded as very good in the ring. The ending of "HBK's instinct almost caused him to Superkick Orton and then before he even realized what's happened, he's eaten an RKO and got pinned" is just badass. Whenever a deliberate mistake is worked into the story of a match AND it's executed well, it really stands out to me. This match never gets old to me because it's just fun seeing Orton compete with an unarmed Shawn Michaels, and HBK still almost emerges with the championship.
Unsanctioned Fight without Honor – Mask vs. Ring of Honor Career: El Generico vs. Kevin Steen (RoH Final Battle – December 18, 2010)
This match ended a year-long feud that set the Indies on fire in 2010. It was all about El Generico breaking out and standing up for himself against his former tag team partner who claimed he was just holding him back. I actually recapped this show for 411 as it aired and I gave this match *****. I stand by that rating as I've seen the match several times and I still hold it in the same regard. Generico finally hit his BRAINBUSSTTAAHHHH on Steen, and the ending mirrored the post-match happenings of their tag match at the previous year's Final Battle. The run-ins of Colt Cabana and Steve Corino also played into the story and managed to not muddle the match at all -- a rare feat in today's wrestling landscape. This match is all-out hell, with lots of weapons and blood, something I'm usually not too into, but this match does such a great job at utilizing them (and the story behind them is so strong), that it doesn't feel gratuitous and dumb. A contradiction to my tastes that finds its way into my top two choices as well.
Hardcore Match: Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack (WWE Backlash – April 18, 2004)
So while I'm not usually a fan of the hardcore, deathmatch style, I love a good blood feud that culminates in a weapons-heavy match. I just don't like the CZW/ECW "weapons for the hell of it" atmosphere. Mick Foley and Randy Orton had a fantastic feud heading into WrestleMania XX, but when Orton embarrassed Foley where it all began again, Cactus Jack figured he'd pay the Legend Killer a visit. This resulted in arguably the best hardcore match in history, as Orton became a man on this night. Before this match, he was an overrated pretty boy in the fans' eyes who got his spot because of his lineage. After this match, whether you were a fan of his or not, you respected Orton. From the RKO on Barbie, the bump off the stage, or the shirtless back bump into thumbtacks, this bout was about as violent as they'll allow in WWE. They even teased fire, which has only happened a couple times on WWE programming, and (to my knowledge) had never happened prior to this match. This is unanimously considered to be Orton's "star-making performance" and may be Foley's best match since his official retirement twelve years ago (although his WrestleMania 22 match is up there as well). When I feel like seeing some violence, this is the match I go to.
Unsanctioned Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (WWE SummerSlam – August 25, 2002)
I didn't start watching wrestling until 2001, when I was 12-going-on-13. My older brother was a huge wrestling fan during the Attitude Era, but my parents deemed the content "too inappropriate" for someone my age at the time. My only real exposure to wrestling was word of mouth about D-X and Stone Cold Steve Austin by my brother. That and video games. So when my brother got War Zone, Shawn Michaels was my favorite character to use. So fast forward to 2001, and Michaels is nowhere to be found, yet I still hold him in high regard. I didn't know what I was talking about as I'd never seen a match of his, but I called him my favorite wrestler. When he returned in 2002, it was the most I'd ever marked out. I finally had the opportunity to see my favorite wrestler perform and see if he really lived up to my brother's hype. I wasn't disappointed, as he (along with Triple H) delivered what is arguably my favorite match of all time. Ten years later, I'm a much smarter, more mature, and analytical wrestling fan, and this is still my favorite match. Shawn proved on this night that he hadn't lost a step. This match may be the best example of story-telling in a match that I've ever seen. There's obviously a bias in that statement, but due to the miraculous nature of the circumstances surrounding this match, it is easy for me to watch this repeatedly and not tire of it.