A while back I took a look at my favourite video games of all-time and I enjoyed the process, so I decided to give it a bash with wrestling matches as well. Of course I’ve watched a lot more wrestling matches in my life than I have played video games, so this list was slightly harder to dwindle down to 25.
There’s always a chance that as time and my own personal tastes change that this list might look a little bit different, but as of early 2020 these are my personal 25 favourite wrestling matches. Please note that the reasons for these matches finding their way onto the list aren’t solely down to actual match quality, with some of them making it more for sentimental reasons than anything else.
Please feel free to share your own personal favourite bouts in the comments section as I work my way each week to the #1 slot.
WWF WrestleMania X – 20th March 1994
Razor Ramon Vs Shawn Michaels
Last week I closed us out with a great pure wrestling match from WrestleMania X and this week we will look at an amazing brawl from the same show, as Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels revolutionise the ladder match and set the bar for every 1 v 1 ladder match going forward. Contrary to belief, this was not the first ever ladder match in the WWF, with Michaels and Bret Hart actually having a great one with one another back in 1992. However, this was the one that brought the match to prominence, and it’s still a fantastic match to watch to this day.
You could have this match today and it would still be one of the best matches on any given show. Not only does it have big spots of people falling off ladders, but it also has sustained selling and a genuine intensity to it. Razor’s contribution is often unfairly downplayed when it comes to this match. Yes, it is Michaels who takes the bigger bumps, but Razor plays his part well and doesn’t look out of place in the same ring with Michaels at all.
Ultimately it was Michaels who came out of this one the bigger star, even though he eventually lost, with his splash from the top of the ladder in particular becoming a scene that was replayed on WWF/E television for many years to come. I think it might genuinely be impossible that anyone who is reading this article won’t have seen this match, as it almost always finds its way onto compilation DVD’s due to being such a great match. I still love going back to watching it and think it’s a genuine classic.
WWF WrestleMania VII – 24th March 1991
The Ultimate Warrior Vs “Macho King” Randy Savage
This match is not only possibly the greatest match of Warrior’s career but you could also argue that it would be near the top for Savage as well, as he busts his backside in what he perhaps genuinely thought was his final match at the time. What I love so much about this match is that Warrior not only walks to the ring instead of his usual sprint to highlight how intense he is, but he actually shows self-doubt at one stage when he can’t put Savage away. The fact that Warrior honestly starts to doubt whether he can win is such a great touch to the narrative, as it’s something you’d never expect from a character like his.
Savage is superb in this one, going out of his way to be as despicable as absolutely possible. He goes the whole hog in trying to get Warrior over too, by allowing Warrior to kick out of a glut of elbow drops and letting Warrior get the eventual match winning pin fall by standing on him. I really love the finish, as Warrior just keeps shoulder charging Savage until he just can’t go on anymore. It’s a flat finish in a lot of ways, but that’s kind of the point. The only way Warrior could end the career of a man like Savage was to literally drain him of every ounce of fight he had left in his body. The ending is perfect for the story both men are telling.
And if the match itself wasn’t great enough, the post-match angle where Savage reconciles with a tearful Elizabeth is a WrestleMania Moment™ before such a phrase even existed. This match is just fantastic and I love it mightily.
WWF WrestleMania VIII – 5th April 1992
Macho Man Randy Savage Vs Ric Flair
Randy Savage’s story arc from WrestleMania V all the way up to WrestleMania VIII is one of the best in WWF history. Top of the world as WWF Champion, Savage’s jealously and paranoia caused him to blow apart The Mega Powers team with Hulk Hogan and also caused him to cast aside Elizabeth for the much more evil and skankier Sensational Sherri. However, it wasn’t until he reconciled with Elizabeth that he was finally able to get to the top of the mountain again, as a direct result of defending her honour against the slimy Nature Boy.
Flair’s constant claims that Elizabeth used to be with him before getting together with Savage was great stuff, as you could see that Flair was having an absolute blast with it all. “She was MINE before she was yours” became an often repeated line long after the feud had come to its conclusion. And it all plays into the match as well, where Savage comes out of the traps at 100 miles an hour in a quest for revenge, which leaves Flair bleeding and on the back foot. However, Flair is also able to make that work to his advantage, as Savage eventually tires due to over exuberance and pure rage, which allows Flair to start picking him apart.
When all looks like it is lost, Elizabeth comes down to ringside to provide Savage with moral support. Despite having Savage all but beat, Flair just can’t resist hot dogging now that Elizabeth is at ringside, and that momentary second of Flair just being Flair allows Savage to catch him with a roll up to take the title. Elizabeth doesn’t even need to get physically involved either. Just by merely existing she creates the opening Savage needs to prevail after years of not being able to win the title without her in his corner. If that isn’t great story telling, then I don’t know what is.
WWF Over The Edge 1998 – 31st May 1998
Guest Referee: Vince McMahon
Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Dude Love
This would probably be my favourite example of the WWF Attitude Era “Main Even Style”, as Austin and Dude Love engage in a gripping soap opera that mixes in ring action with brawling, heel antics and just general chicanery in order to create a thrilling narrative. The story of the match is that Vince McMahon is a biased referee who wants Dude to win, so he does everything he can to try and stack the deck against Austin, including changing the rules on the fly and just outright refusing to count at one stage when Austin has it won.
This infuriates the Milwaukee crowd and successfully causes them to root for Austin to overcome the unfair situation he finds himself in, giving what would already be a hot match even more excitement. Austin has at least one ally however, as Undertaker comes down to ringside in order to force McMahon to at least not go completely over the top with his antics, an angle which is eventually paid off when Taker destroys McMahon stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Briscoe to a huge ovation from the crowd.
Dude Love takes his trademark big bumps here as well, as everything is done to make Austin look like the conquering hero as he valiantly battles the odds to retain his Title. Watching this match, where they do everything remotely possible to make their top star look strong, makes this match feel like something from a bygone age when you consider just how often the current WWE makes its top stars look like chumps. Thankfully they seem to be at least making a genuine effort with Drew McIntyre right now, but this match should be required viewing for the WWF writing team so that they can see how a top babyface should be booked.
WCW Starrcade 1993 – 27th December 1993
Ric Flair Vs Big Van Vader
Noted wrestling writer Scott Keith summed this match up best with the following;
“This is like watching someone fight Undertaker in Wrestlemania 2000 with the difficulty set on Hard.”
I personally can’t think of a better description of this match. Flair gets absolutely walloped here, but he defies the odds by continuing to survive as Vader brutally and mercilessly pummels The Nature Boy in front of his own hometown. The reaction from the home crowd for every Flair hope spot is incredible, as you can almost feel their desperation and elation. This is how you book a Monster Vs Gutsy Underdog match, as Flair never gives up and just keeps pushing as hard as he can to get a foothold in the match.
When Flair finally gets Vader down and drills his leg with a chair, the building roars its approval as the fans start to believe their hometown hero might just be able to come out of the contest with Vader’s WCW Title. Many others have tried to recreate this match (Most notably Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow at ECW November to Remember 97) but they have invariably come up short when put up against this wonderful slice of storytelling. If you want to know why so many wrestling fans hold both of these men in such high esteem, then this would be a great match to watch. Vader is an impeccable monster and Flair is a superb babyface fighting from underneath.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. Hopefully I’ll see you all next week when I cover matches 5 to 1!