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Top 3 Matches To See Live


Jiji
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Okay, it's the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest matches in the history of professional wrestling (and the two year anniversary of my #1 choice! *happy surprised Michael Scott face*). Watching it back tonight, I found myself asking "which three matches from all of wrestling history would you want to see live, not knowing the results going in?" So what special matches that you love to bits, were huge moments, and would add another level in seeing them live would you pick? 

  1. Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Omega (June 9, 2018, NJPW Dominion for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title): This feels like a lifetime ago now. A lot can change in two years. The perfect culmination of the best singles feud in the history of wrestling with my current favourite finally winning the belt from his white whale. It's in my opinion the greatest match of all time and I would rather this over any other match. I was on the seat of my couch the entire final 15-20 minute stretch living and dying with every momentum swing. So many callbacks and homages that Omega does better than anybody today. The emotion for me in this one is unrivaled. Omega's selling of frustration, exhaustion, and just barely holding on to his belief that he could finally do it was just the tops. Okada's is the King and at the end of the best title reign of all time. He sells accumulated damage to perfection here. Desperate to hang on, the maintaining of the wrist that spelled the end for everybody up to this point is finally broken along with his record reign. 
     
  2. Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (June 9, 1995, All Japan for the Unified Tag Title): The best tag match ever, the culmination of a style as well as the peak of 4 legendary careers in one match. I have no problem if people say this is the GOAT. Misawa was a God here and it took an extended 10 minute sequence of virtual 2v1 action with Kawada & Taue busting out all of the violence they can muster, including the apron nodowa otoshi. Both this and the match above have so much context. I feel like I've done something wrong by not watching all of the big build up matches because I'm going on my strained recollection of all the events.  You have the Rise of Taue in the CC, going to a draw with Misawa in the group stage and pushing him to his all in the final, the debut of the apron nodowa otoshi in the tournament to establish it as something not to be fucked with, the broken orbital bone, the borked leg/knee of Kobashi, and Kawada's frustration never having pinned his rival and constantly coming up short against him. Nobody in wrestling mixed amazing, realistic personalities into wrestling matches and evolved them over time better than these guys. Nobody. There are phenomenal North American storytellers and masters of psychology that play their character to a T, like Bockwinkel, Lawler, Bret. But, these guys did it and EVOLVED constantly. There is something different about this style and these group of wrestlers from anything else. It's like they existed in their own realm. They would rarely fall into pro wrestling tropes, which always made it weird for North American cartoony guys like Boss Man when they came in (but fuck did he adapt and brought his working boots). North American wrestling rarely has character development in a match. That's for angles and promos. The story you tell is most often static and two dimensional. You're the chickenshit heel, the white meat babyface, the grizzled vet, etc. You can go from one to the other but rarely do you evolve and become three dimensional like these guys did during a match or series of matches. Right from the off, the crowd's reactions are like they're watching something special and fully recognize it. Each wrestler is treated like a rock star. Misawa is their guy but they were ready for him to fall and for Kawada to have his moment. This style relies so heavily on weaving long-form narratives and punctuating them with trademark signature and dangerous moves. They knew the context of every big hold and what it meant as well as the story of each man, so they booed the Holy Demon Army for taking the easy way out by attacking the knee of Kobashi or eye of Misawa. But they also appreciated their resolve to finally beat Misawa. And they finally do it and in the process paint a picture worthy of hanging in fucking museum. Kobashi crawling to Misawa, hand outstretched just a foot away, helpless to watch a God fall. It doesn't get much better than this. 
     
  3. Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Kenny Omega (January 4, 2017, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title): Maybe outside of the Daniel Bryan stuff of '13/'14, this started the peak of my emotional investment as an adult wrestling fan and not just a jaded, cynical asshole. They took what Tanahashi had built and took it up another level or two. 

Honorable mentions to Kawada vs. Hansen from '92, Hokuto vs. Kandori I, Mankind/Taker Hell in a Cell, Luger vs. Hogan '97, and Goldberg vs. Hogan '97. The latter two were so fucking awesome to watch as a kid. I hate on Hogan but the one benefit to his politicking and rarely losing clean is that when he lost it mattered and it felt like an occasion. I can't even imagine being in the crowd for the HIAC match. I didn't intentionally mean to pick the three matches I can consider to be the best but they're the ones I'm most invested in and are pure greatness.

So, what do you got?!

Edited by Oyaji
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Top of my head: 

1. Andre vs. Hansen

2. Villano III vs. Atlantis (Mascara Contra Mascara) 

3. Eddie vs. Rey, Halloween Havoc

Of course everyone would want to see their favorite match live and that is my #1. #2 had HUGE stakes and an incredible crowd. #3 also had huge stakes and was two guys at the height of their powers. If I really looked hard at my top ten or so from individual countries maybe I could change this, but top of the dome, I think it's solid. 

EDIT: Man you can really go down a rabbit hole thinking about this one. I mean, who wouldn't have wanted to see Atsushi Onita vs. Terry Funk live? 

Edited by Curt McGirt
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All of those would be absolutely immense. Andre/Hansen would be like watching Godzilla and Mechagodzilla throw it down in person. There haven't been many more rabid crowds than the one for the mask match. The third is just a perfect pro wrestling match in every sense between two who were the best of their archetypes. And yeah, some of the wilder FMW stuff would be so cool to see live.

Other matches that would be great to see live: Awesome/Tanaka ECW, WarGames '91, Rock/Hogan.

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I'll get in on this before it inevitably gets mentioned: Cena-Punk from MITB sticks out in my mind as an answer to this. Punk was running red hot. The walkout angle was semi-credible at the time. That Chicago crowd was heated. And no top WWE babyface has ever known how to play that go-away heat as selflessly and not take it personally like John Cena. 

2 & 3 will take more thought. But that may be my easy #1.

Edited by West Newbury Bad Boy
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@Oyaji: Great picks. FYI, you have the wrong year for Kobashi/Misawa vs. Kawada/Taue. It's 1995 and not 2018. We all know the year it's from such is the universal acclaim for said match. It's something that two of the best matches ever went down on the same date, the 9th of June.

My first two picks are easy: Kenta Kobashi/Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada/Akira Taue from AJPW on the 9th of June 1995 and Bret Hart  vs. Steve Austin, WWF WrestleMania 13. Why? Those matches fight it out for my Greatest Wrestling Match of All Time, nothing else comes close to those two. Clear distance between them and the rest. The story told in both, a knackered Kenta Kobashi trying to protect his tag team partner and in the latter, the famous double turn with the most iconic wrestling finish ever.

Off the top of my head my third pick is either Daniel Bryan overcoming all the obstacles to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXX vs. Batista and Randy Orton or to experience The Undertaker's Undefeated WrestleMania Streak ended by Brock Lesnar earlier on the show. I'm tempted to pick that even though the Streak should never have ended and it's the most shocking thing I've seen in all my years watching wrestling.

Edited by The Natural
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I don't think I'd want to be at a modern Mania (or Mania III) just because it's too big. That seems to defeat part of the performance of being there live.

Curt took VIII vs Atlantis already so...

1. Furnas/Kroffat vs Kikuchi/Kobashi, 5/25/92. There aren't a ton of 90s Japan matches I have a strong emotional connection to as I got to so many of them so late in my watching, but the crowd in this match is one of the best of the era and that would be a hell of a thing to experience.

2. Santo retirement match: El Santo, Gori Guerrero, El Solitario Y Huracán Ramirez Vs El Signo, Texano, Negro Navarro Y Perro Aguayo 9/12/92: Lots going on here. Getting to see Perro and the Missionaries in their prime. Getting to see Santo at all. The match itself is a lot more violent than you'd expect and surrounded by a ton of pomp and cicrumstance.

3. Blood in/on the Sand: Midnight Rockers vs Doug Somers/Buddy Rose 8/30/88: The surreal setting of the Vegas AWA tapings to see a match so good and so bloody and so full of heat. I almost went with the Portland Buddy Rose face turn instead, but I'm a lot less drawn to 1983 Portland than I am 79-81 Portland.

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I'm with Mark in as it changes fairly frequently. Hansen vs Colon in Puerto Rico is suddenly up there in my head, for instance. The Ron Simmons WCW title win in Baltimore too, but I'll stick with my list.

That said, there's also the "matches of relatively low importance that were not taped that I'd want to see live just so I could get to see them" which is a very particular category for me, as I feel like we have to have some sense of what we'd be seeing. That is, no Santo vs Black Shadow apuestas match from 52 or whatever. Again, there needs to be a personal connection. These are relatively all low salience affairs.

1. 3/8/80 Portland: Andre The Giant & Roddy Piper vs. Butch Miller, Luke Williams, Buddy Rose & Sam Bass in a handicap match. This was the Saturday night show, as opposed to the Tuesday show (3/4) which didn't have Bass. That sounds tighter and I'd probably like it more but Tuesday shows weren't taped and Saturday ones were so I have a better sense of this one. We have a lot of the Saturday shows but we don't have this. 

2. 9/29/2000 CMLL: 67th Anniversario: Leyenda de Plata finals: Negro Casas vs Dr. Wagner, Jr. This, to me, feels like the biggest Casas match that we should, by all rights, have, and just don't. You have to imagine they went pretty hard given the setting, but it just didn't seem to air on TV due to Olympics or something else.

3. 1989 WWF: Rockers vs Fabulous Rougeaus in a 60 minute Marathon match. The big question is which one though. They ran it 7 times. The first (8/4) has a real advantage as it was in Montreal and you have to imagine the Rockers were de facto heels there, but between that and the fact that it was the first one they did, I can't imagine it was as good as the later ones. It probably had the best heat though. Being from MA, I'd be inclined towards the one at the Boston Garden (9/9). Last one (11/17) was in West Palm Beach and I doubt that was the best even if they had the most time to develop it by then. Some of these followed the 1 minute Warrior vs Andre matches so that might have affected the crowds. There's always Philly (8/19) too, which had Hogan vs Savage on top and probably had a good crowd. I guess in the end I'd go with Montreal. It was the first time they did it and probably the most special.

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I want to keep Wrestlemania 30, since I was actually there. And of course, I'd change my mind a dozen times over a dozen days. But:

Misawa vs Tsuruta 6/8/90

I already feel I've made a mistake not picking one of the six-man tags that led to this, or came out of it. Those were, of course, great matches with great crowds. But this too is a great match with a great crowd--"great" doesn't do them justice--and it is unique in seeming historical while it happens. The second Spartan X kicks in and the crowd erupts in MI-SA-WA it seems like they know, and they know because they've decided to manifest their want in the universe. (And if the story of Baba changing the finish because of how over Misawa seemed day-of is true, then they basically did.) I mean, I can't know that the people there felt that way, but it feels like it in hindsight. And if I could know, and be a part of it, and not guess--and maybe stick around in Tokyo and catch some tags, but I'd pay for them in order not to violate the rules of this thread--then I think I'd have to do that.

Hashimoto vs Takada 4/29/96

This is, I think, the peak of Dome-stuffing King of Sports era New Japan. When Hash lands his first flush leg kick, and Takada looks just the slightest bit worried, and Hash nods "yeah, you should be" without really nodding at all, and the crowd just erupts... I feel like most great Dome matches would actually be more fun to watch anywhere else. But these guys fill it with their broad-strokes macho "legitimacy", which of course they were not, though of course it doesn't matter. Pro wrestling is believing in the fight and fighters you're watching, even though you know better, until you don't actually know better. 

Hokuto vs Satomura 4/29/01

I need a Hokuto match on this list. This is, of course, not her best--though it is great. I think it functions as a kind of companion piece to my first choice, though. That felt like a beginning--this, an ending. Not just for Hokuto's career, but for Joshi as a significant mainstream strand of wrestling in Japan. There are a million factors and timeline complexities, and so it's too simplistic--even flat out wrong--to say this match marks a clear change in direction. But wrestling is also about making symbolic realities real. And so there's a kind of present-tense nostalgia for a thing not yet entirely past, that seems worth presence.

Edited by Beech27
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The Texas street fight between Onita & Goto vs. Kurisu & Dragon Master from FMW -- I'm a big FMW  and Onita fan and this was a WWC heated wild bloody brawl that would have fit in perfectly in Puerto RIco. I've seen a ton of those heated wild bloody brawls already live in Puerto Rico, so seeing the setting take place elsewhere would have been great.

Atlantis vs. Villano III mask vs. mask match -- I love a big lucha de apuestas and this is one of my favorites ones ever. You get mask tearing, blood, one of the hottest crowds ever and a ton of drama.

Sting's Squadron vs. The Dangerous Alliance WarGames match from WCW WrestleWar 1992 -- I've never seen a WarGames match live and this is one of the greatest ones (if not the greatest one) ever. Tons of blood and brutality in the cage with one of the most heated crowds ever.

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Yeah, this is tough. I can immediately think of like 50 matches that would fit the bill. I’ll just go with the literal first three to pop into my head. 
 

1. Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard - I-quit cage match

This goes towards Matt’s idea that your favorite match is one you’d want to see live. 
 

2. ROH vs. CZW - Cage of Death

That crowd, on that night, is as insane as any I have ever seen. The place comes friggin unglued when Homicide finally makes his entrance. Would have loved to be part of that. 
 

3. One of the 90 minute draws Windham and Flair did. None are on tape and Windham is my favorite ever. 
 

Honorable mention, I guess, but I would have loved to see any big Lawler main events from the MSC. Nothing specific. It just would have been cool to be part of that crowd. 

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So basically, we need the holodeck ASAP. If I get a kick out of watching two poorly animated sprites working a match in Fire Pro, I think I'd never leave a VR program that could immerse you in classic matches from the front row. 

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Man, I just wish I was there for the first Lucha Underground Grave Consequences match.  I started going to tapings the show AFTER they taped that one.

Here's me in the casket

 

Edited by Tromatagon
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1 hour ago, Shane said:

Yeah, this is tough. I can immediately think of like 50 matches that would fit the bill. I’ll just go with the literal first three to pop into my head. 

2. ROH vs. CZW - Cage of Death

That crowd, on that night, is as insane as any I have ever seen. The place comes friggin unglued when Homicide finally makes his entrance. Would have loved to be part of that. 

Great fucking match. To me, that's the best match in Ring of Honour history.

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oh man, great question!

3. Wanderlei Silva/Kazushi Sakuraba (Pride 17). MMA, i know, but i was SO f'ing hyped for this matchup. Saku was/is one of my absolute favorite fighters. He'd already been beaten by Silva, but this was for the championship and Saku always came back better. Spoiler alert, he once again didn't win. but what a war. 

2. Hell In A Cell:  Undertaker/Shawn Michaels - i was in AWE of this match when it was debuting. the insanity of a cage match so brutal, there was a top on the cage! (i hadn't grown up watching NWA, so the only WarGames matches i knew at that time were the '95-'97 ones.) This, plus the debut of Kane, would've been incredibly memorable to have been in person for.

1. ECW Barely Legal - ok this one's cheating, but it's not specifically about the matches. It's about the atmosphere. i never made it to an ECW show (damn that whole being too young and living in the midwest thing!) but this seems like the most interesting choice. If i had to choose just one match from the show, it's gotta be Sabu/Taz.

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My personal Top 3. WM 30, Kofimania, Joe vs Necro 1 🙂

 

Those would be the matches I would want to witness in person, preferablly near front row for all except Kofimania, where in truth I would want to be with Shad and MVP and all dem.

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I feel like mine are pretty boring:

KDX vs Sasuke Army 10/10/96 - Just one of my favorite matches, half an hour of non stop action and cool spots.

Vader vs Hansen 2/10/90 - The eyeball match.  Two of my favorites beating the absolute shit out of each other.

Low Ki vs Red 9/18/01 - Insanely hot crowd seeing an indy dream match a week after 9/11

I would maybe trade one of the last two for either Hokuto/Kandori or Hokuto/Kong.

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3 hours ago, Edwin said:

The Texas street fight between Onita & Goto vs. Kurisu & Dragon Master from FMW

Dammit, it's my job to pimp that match! No fair haha

This brings up a question though. If you're in the crowd, you want to be able to see the match. Your perspective is not of a camera crew, you want clear visibility, and a chaos match without a Titantron is... problematic. That knocks off a lot of wild brawls to me. Preferably something like that should be contained in a cage for the viewer in this case. Which is why Magnum/Tully is a perfect choice.

Edited by Curt McGirt
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13 minutes ago, Curt McGirt said:

Dammit, it's my job to pimp that match! No fair haha

This brings up a question though. If you're in the crowd, you want to be able to see the match. Your perspective is not of a camera crew, you want clear visibility, and a chaos match without a Titantron is... problematic. That knocks off a lot of wild brawls to me. Preferably something like that should be contained in a cage for the viewer in this case. Which is why Magnum/Tully is a perfect choice.

I saw Vordell Walker and Jesse Neal have a pretty wild heated arena brawl a couple of months ago at a USA Pro show which I believe @Tim Evans was at also and it was a blast.

As a kid, we had tons of these in Puerto Rico as I mentioned in the previous post. The entire mayhem and having to run around the venue was part of the fun, so I can't imagine how awesome it must be to see that Texas street fight while running in the crowd to catch a glimpse of Kurisu hitting Onita with a boot in the head while avoiding getting hit with a chairshot by accident from Nagasaki who's swinging wildly at Goto.

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Two other low key matches that I love to bits and have MOLTEN crowds are: Tanahashi/Ishii from the 2013 G1 at Korakuen and Tatsuo Nakano vs. Masakatsu Funaki from UWF in Hakata Star Lane. OH, and Akitoshi Saito vs. Maso Orihara from early days NJPW/WAR feud. 

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