Last week, writer Max Landis released a video titled Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling on Youtube. In it, he talks about his passion for wrestling and storytelling while also talking about the career of his favorite wrestler, Triple H.
Since the video came out, I’ve had co-workers and friends ask me about wrestling. They know me as the pretty avid wrestling fan and Landis’ video portrayed wrestling in a pretty interesting light to them. Some even asked for matches that I would recommend as someone who’s never seen wrestling. It got me thinking, and I compiled five matches that I think fit that description. Some may wonder why some classics didn’t make the list but there’s a good reason. There are some amazing wrestling matches out there that I don’t think work for beginners. These matches I think have the perfect blend of action, emotion, storytelling, and pacing, and each represent a different facet of pro wrestling.
The Main Event
WWE Money in the Bank 2011
WWE Championship Match: John Cena (Champion) vs. CM Punk
In 2011, most of my wrestling friends moved out of town. I would try and get some people to come over to watch a Pay Per View show, but for the most part, wrestling was a hard sell. Despite being the hottest thing in wrestling, CM Punk’s WWE contract was ending as he heading into Money in the Bank. Tired of the nepotism and snubs from his colleagues, he was leaving the company with his final match being for the WWE Championship in his home town of Chicago. CM Punk wanted to not only prove that he was the best in the world and win the title, but also to win it from WWE’s franchise player, John Cena.
For some reason, I couldn’t get cable, so I begged to be able to watch it at a friend’s house. I even offered to pay for the whole PPV. The show was pretty solid, but the main event between Cena and Punk became a modern classic and I was completely hooked. After the show was over, my friend enjoyed the show so much that he wanted to watch WWE Raw the next night. I’ve been watching wrestling at his place off-and-on ever sense.
The Triple Threat Match
WWE Royale Rumble 2015
WWE Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins
This is the most recent match on this list, and so far I’ve seen this match at least five times. What’s great about Triple Threat matches is that it is constant action. One person gets tired, they roll out, and the match still goes on strong.
While Brock Lesnar as WWE Champion has been pretty fun, this match is the pinnacle of his title reign so far. In this match, Brock is like the final boss of a video game. Toward the end, he goes into full-on “god mode.” That’s not to take away from Cena or Rollins’ performance. As much hate Cena gets, the guy knows how to get a crowd going and Rollins is a great up-and-comer who really shines. I feel this match is the closest representation of when I was a kid and I would make matches with my wrestling figures. Just incredible.
I wish that Brock Lesnar could be champion for years.
The Other Company
TNA Unbreakable 2005
X Division Championship Match: Christopher Daniels (Champion) vs. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles
While most people know WWE, not many know about Total Nonstop Action. While WWE matches tend to follow the same formula, TNA tried to break that mold with the X-Division. Featuring fast-paced, high-flying competitors, the X-Division was the crown jewel to TNA with the tag line: “It’s not about weight limits, it’s about no limits.” The best match in the history of TNA, the triple threat for the X-Division title, was amazing. TNA later shied-away from what put them on the map and became just another bad wrestling program. This match still reminds me of the potential TNA had.
The Women’s Match
WWE NXT Rival February 11, 2015
NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte (Champion) vs. Bailey vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Women’s wrestling has always had a stigma against it for essentially being the bathroom break during the show. I remember growing up and loving matches that had all-time female greats like Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, Molly Holly, and more. Something happened, though, in the 2000s. WWE started to move away from female athletes and moved toward eye candy. These new women were not wrestlers or characters, they were objects. Every once and awhile we would get someone great like Beth Phoenix, but they were always put to the back burner for the sexy model.
NXT is changing that.
NXT is WWE’s farm league of next generation of stars. While WWE has floundered for months, NXT has been a shining example that WWE can get something right, and there is no better example than the women’s division. It’s really refreshing to see fully-fleshed-out female characters that are not damsels, tools, or degraded like the main WWE roster of women.
Bailey is a great person who sticks to her convictions of being a strong role model to younger fans, Charlotte being the daughter of Hall-of-Famer Ric Flair lives up to the name, Sasha Banks plays a great villainous foil and Lynch is fun as the wild card.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the whole match, but if you have Hulu plus, you can find the match there at the 1:02:00 mark.
The Hardcore Match
WWE Wrestlemania 22 2006
Hardcore Match: Mick Foley vs. Edge
The only version of this match I could find, is one with the Spanish announcers dubbing it, luckily it’s a hardcore match so you’ll just be focused on the carnage.
Hardcore matches are matches that use everything and on some occasions, even a kitchen sink. Armbars and wristlocks are traded in for chairs, tables, ladders, kendo sticks, tacks and more.
At Wrestlemania 22, Edge fought Foley in a pretty insane match that pulled out all the stops. I’m not even going to talk about what’s in that match, just watch it. That’s kind of the fun about hardcore matches is that it’s like opening a present; you don’t know what you’ll get.
Fun fact, I was there with a group of friends and eagle-eyed readers can spot me a couple times in the crowed.
While most people know WWE, the independent scene of pro wrestling is something that’s pretty spectacular. I wanted to highlight two companies that have a pretty big Youtube presents and are defiantly worth checking out.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
This is my favorite wrestling company right now. Running out in Reseda, CA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla host shows bi-monthly out of American Legion Hall with some of the biggest talent in wrestling. What I love about PWG, besides how it distills everything I love about wrestling into one great company, is that with a small venue it creates this super-intense atmosphere where the crowed is into everything. What’s also cool is a lot of current WWE Stars have come through PWG’s doors. Side note, both videos highlight a tag team called The Young Bucks, they are the greatest tag team in the world and I love them.
Imagine a wrestling company that combined Japanese, European, American and Lucha styles of wrestling and infused it with comic books and video games. That’s Chikara Pro.
Based out of Philadelphia, Chikara pro is wrestling at its most ridiculous. This company has featured the following:
- Time traveling Egyptians
- Alternate time lines
- Evil insect overlords
- Time traveling knights
- Kaiju monsters
- Evil ice cream men
- A swamp monster
- Mind control
- the actual death of characters
- evil amulets
Known for more of its comic book style, Chikara hosts also some of the best athletes in the world with its biggest show of the year, King of Trios, a 16 team 3-person tournament to crown a king (or queen) of trios.
The featured match has current WWE superstars Cesaro and Luke Harper in Chikara’s first ever Cage match to settle a yearlong grudge. While Chikara wasn’t the first independent company I got into, it was the first one I fell in love with.