By: Andrew Lister
Welcome to the first installment of a new articles series, Tuesday Top Five! From time to time I'll be coming up with a Top 5 spanning a number of geeky topics. This week, we tackle the world of professional wrestling.
The WWE Network is the greatest (legal) way to reconnect with the days of wrestling past. Sure, the Network is great to see all the new superstars of NXT, keep up with the soon-to-be far too many PPV events a year, or watch original programming featuring the stars of WWE’s past. However, my favorite thing to do when I have free time is to go back and relive some of my favorite WWF events from the 80s and 90s.
SummerSlam is right around the corner, and if you’re not as enthused about this year’s card, why not go back to a simpler time and watch the matches that make up the very best of the early years of WWF SummerSlam instead! Keep in mind, this list only includes events from 1988-1994. Click the button below to see our Top 5.
Honorable Mention - The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs The British Bulldogs (1988)
I wanted to include this match on my Top 5, but there so many great matches that bumped it out. I was never much of a fan of the Rougeaus, and I was a bit too young to really experience much of Davey Boy and The Dynamite Kid as a tag team. That being said, this is true tag team wrestling!
You have two teams that just don’t like each other. They didn’t need a title to fight for. They just went all out. This was the first match of the very first SummerSlam, and it holds up to any tag team wrestling match today. Combine the power of the Bulldog, the technique of The Dynamite Kid and put it against the sneaky antics of Jacques and Raymond, and we have a really fun match.
At first the match is mostly dominated by The Bulldogs, but after six minutes of being pummeled and arm dragged, Raymond turns the tide by pulling Davey Boy’s leg from the outside. The Rougeaus then take their own turn dissecting The Bulldog’s leg. Overall, the pace kept up with a nice flow of fast, hard-hitting moves and technical mat wrestling.
The match’s end is what stands out the most to me as it ends after 20 minutes of solid wrestling in a time limit draw. Not only do we never see this anymore, thus eliminating a finish (God, I sound like Jim Ross), but it allows the heat between both teams to continue going forward. And if you know anything about these two teams, The Dynamite Kid and Jacques Rougeau had their share of problems behind the scenes.
WATCH THIS MATCH ON THE WWE NETWORK (Time Stamp: 3:00)
#5 - Shawn Michaels vs Mr. Perfect (1993)
1993 wasn’t a great year for wrestling, and the main event of this card, Lex Lugar, who has just gotten off the Lex Express, taking on Yokozuna should tell you something about the types of matches the WWF was presenting back then.
Hidden at the early parts of this card is a match featuring two of the best wrestlers of all time. Shawn had just acquired the young Kevin Nash as a bodyguard and was really getting into his Heartbreak Kid heel character, and he was riding high as the Intercontinental Champion. He would face off against Mr. Perfect to determine “The Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All Time.”
Yes, this match did end in a countout victory for HBK, but this was also a time when the Intercontinental Championship meant far more than it does today. The IC strap was for the real work horses of the company. As you might expect, this was a true classic that deserved a much higher spot on the card.
A mix of technical wrestling, high flying, and pure one-upsmanship, revisit SS ‘93 for this match alone.
WATCH THIS MATCH ON THE WWE NETWORK (Time Stamp: 27:00)
#4 - Demolition vs The Hart Foundation, 2 out of 3 Falls (1990)
These are easily two of the greatest tag teams of all time. At this time, Demolition was one of the most dominate teams of all time. They still hold the record for the longest tag title reign in the WWE (Suck it, New Day). They were up against the underdogs The Hart Foundation, who would make their mark on history this night.
Due to a bad reaction to seafood (listen to their interview on J.R.’s podcast), Ax (Bill Eadie) was forced to step away from in-ring action. They added in Crush (Brian Adams) to give them a seemingly unnecessary advantage of having three guys. Going into the match, Bret and The Anvil didn’t know which two of the team members would be in the match. It would end up being the Harts vs Smash and Crush.
Another great thing about this match was the fact that it was contested with 2 out of 3 falls rules. This added a level of strategy that a regular tag match would have lacked. The first fall went to Demolition after hitting their tag finish, The Demolition Decapitation. The Harts would eventually come back and hit the Hart Attack, but Crush tackled the ref, earning a DQ fall for the Harts.
During the third fall, Ax came to ringside and hid under the ring. Near the end of the match, he switches with his partner Smash and takes over on Bret Hart. Smash comes back out a bit later to double team Hart and swap with Ax, but out of nowhere comes the newly hired Legion of Doom to spoil Demolition’s plot. The distraction allows Hart to roll up Crush and earn them their second tag team title reign.
This would be the last time Demolition would hold the belts, and it would begin the last title run for The Hart Foundation. This is a must-watch match for any fan of tag team wrestling.
WATCH THIS MATCH ON THE WWE NETWORK (Time Stamp: 37:00)
#3 - Ravishing Rick Rude vs The Ultimate Warrior (1989)
During an event where Hulk Hogan and the worst barber ever took on Macho Man and the worst movie villain named after a Greek God, I’m surprised there was anything worthwhile. That being said, we got an amazing match between Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior!
The build-up to this match spanned over seven months. In today’s wrestling, we’re lucky to get a full month’s worth of storytelling. Their feud included Warrior actually losing his Intercontiental Title months earlier at Wrestlemania V. After having to endure the entire Heenan family being thrown at him, The Warrior would get his chance to regain his title from Rude.
The awesomeness begins with another batshit Warrior promo and goes on to a match that the fans eat up, and for good reason. You could tell this was the true height of The Ultimate Warrior’s popularity as the arena was electric throughout. Did I also mention that Rick Rude was the master of amazing wrestling trunks? The crying Ultimate Warrior on Rude’s crotch is disturbing and beautiful.
The Warrior isn’t exactly the best wrestler, but Rude really carries him through a fantastic match. Today’s heels need to pay attention to Rude’s psychology and selling in this match. There are ways to make a match against an unstoppable face compelling, and this is it. The match ends a bit strangely with Roddy Piper getting involved and mooning Rude, and Warrior wins back his IC Title. For real, go watch this match now.
WATCH THIS MATCH ON THE WWE NETWORK (Time Stamp: 59:00)
#2 - The British Bulldog vs Bret Hart (1992)
Many wrestling fans would call this the greatest SummerSlam match of all time. While I do really enjoy this match, I wouldn’t quite go that far. The event and match was a huge deal for many reasons, however. It was one of the few early events that took place outside the United States, being fought at Wembley Stadium in England. On top of that, this match for the Intercontinental Title would go on AFTER the World Title match between Macho Man and The Ultimate Warrior. Tell me another time something like this has happened?
The fan favorite in this match was indeed The British Bulldog, who was competing in front of his home country to try and win the Intercontinental Title from the red hot Bret “Hitman” Hart. This was also a rare match between two babyfaces. Hart did the right thing throughout this match and took on the role of a heel by some of his tactics to help put Davey Boy over that much more.
As could be expected, the match was highly technical for the first half. Looking back on this, I would have thought Bret would run circles around The Bulldog, but it was really a great back and forth match. I’m not a huge fan of Bret Hart, but he knew how to work a match and make his opponent that much better.
The second part of the match devolved into a more roughneck, intense style. After over thirty minutes of non-stop wrestling, The Bulldog wins by reversing a sunset flip. Yeah, a fucking sunset flip reversal brings the fans to their feet. See, you don’t have to keep using your finishers five or six times to have a good wrestling match.
If you’re too young to know about this match, do yourself a favor and watch this amazing bout to see the significance the Intercontinental Title once had. Hell, IC title matches made it three times onto this list!
WATCH THIS MATCH ON THE WWE NETWORK (Time Stamp: 2:11:10)
#1 - Bret Hart vs Owen Hart, Steel Cage Match (1994)
While there are few matches that could match Davey Boy and Bret Hart, I can easily say that the biggest thing that puts Bret Hart and Owen Hart above it is the story that the two brothers told going into the match. Between the recap of the Hart rivalry, the pre-match interviews, the cage match itself, and the fallout, more than forty minutes were dedicated to these two men, and rightfully so.
Once again, this match was nearly a year in the making. Giving two wrestlers enough time to tell a really compelling story pays off as shown in this match. With their entire family in attendance, these two would put everything on the line not only for the WWE World Title, but to end their sibling rivalry. The cage served not only to keep Bret and Owen in the ring; it was more to keep the rest of the Harts at ringside out.
This would be one of the few times Owen would be given a legitimate run at the World Title, and he would make the most of that opportunity. The in-ring chemistry between these two was more than apparent throughout this bout. Owen showed a real nasty, physical style, really bringing the fight to his brother early on. As the jealous younger brother, Owen had much more to prove, and his willingness to use the cage itself as a weapon really fueled that angle. Bret was a bit more reluctant to hurt his brother, doing what he had to do and leaning a bit more on technical wrestling. That being said, both did fall to a good ol’ brawl from time to time.
In typical steel cage fashion, we get a lot of time spent with one wrestler trying to escape the cage, only to be caught just in time by the other. This can at times be a bit overdone in some matches, but not so in this one. Anytime Owen got over the cage, the crowd erupted in shock. When both brothers would fight near the top of the cage, you feel a sense of unease and panic that they just might really hurt one another.
The ending involved both Harts hanging on the outside of the cage, but Owen gets tangled up in the bars, leading to Bret dropping to the floor. After the match, The Anvil got involved, beating down Bret. This then led to the rest of the Hart family trying to storm the ring as well.
The feud was far from over at this point, but the match will go down as one of the best in both the Harts’ careers. Even though Bret Hart would retain the title, it is truly awe-inspiring to watch Owen keep pace with his older brother and push him to his very best.
WATCH THIS MATCH ON THE WWE NETWORK (Time Stamp: 1:22:40)
Next week there will be another Tuesday Top 5 article, this time focusing on The Top Five Most Interesting Anime Villains! Let us know what you think about my rankings in the comments below!
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