The idea for this week’s column came from a post on the official message board of this very site. Former main page columnist SirSam asked a question, and I’ve been thinking about it for a little while now. The question was simple…
“If you had a time machine and could go back in time to one wrestling show per decade what would those shows be?”
Seems simple enough.
If I could go back in time to physically attend one wrestling show in each decade, what shows would I pick? To keep it as simple as possible, I’m only going with decades I’ve been alive for, and nothing earlier than that.
Initially, it seemed like an easy decision. I simply chose my favorite match from each decade, and whatever show the match took place on would be my choice. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that might not always be the best option.
The prime example of that is WrestleMania 13. My all-time favorite pro wrestling match is Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin from that night in 1997. It would be awesome to go back in time and witness that match live and in person. That would be cool and all, but the rest of WrestleMania 13 was, to put it nicely, a six-pack of ass. I don’t want to sit through that in the comfort of my own home, with the ability to fast forward and pause things as need be. Having to sit through it in the Rosemont Horizon (now known as the Allstate Arena) and being forced to watch every second of it seems like cruel and unusual punishment.
Enough chit-chat. Let’s have some fun. We’ll start with the 1980’s because I’m older than dirt.
(1980’s) WWF Survivor Series 1987: That might be a surprise to a lot of you. Honestly, it was a surprise to me, as well. When pro wrestling in the 1980’s comes up, I think most minds travel to one of two places, depending on what you grew up watching… either the Rock-N-Wrestling Connection days of the WWF, which would help take Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania to heights never dreamed of, or to the NWA’s magical year of 1989, when it seemed like every event they had was full of matches that would go on to become classics.
While there were particular moments I would’ve loved to witness in person… Hogan beating The Iron Sheik to win the WWF Championship, Hogan bodyslamming Andre The Giant, and so on… I found myself staring Survivor Series 1987 smack dab in the face.
This was the very first Survivor Series event, so the idea of the huge elimination-style tag matches was very captivating to WWF fans. The format was so interesting that the company was able to pack more than 21,000 fans into the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield Township, Ohio for a show that was strictly elimination matches. No WWF Title match, no Intercontinental Title match, no Tag Team Title match… it was a four-match card, and it featured a whopping total of 57 on-screen performers, counting managers. Not only was the live crowd intrigued, but the pay-per-view ended up earning around 350,000 buys, which was close to the 400,000 buys that WrestleMania 3 got earlier that year after being the biggest wrestling show in the entire history of ever.
What I really enjoyed about this show was seeing how incredibly loaded the WWF roster was at the time. Let’s go over the card really quick…
– “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat on one team. The Honky Tonk Man, Harley Race, Hercules, Ron Bass, and “Dangerous” Danny Davis on the other team. Ten heat magnets in the same match.
– The next match was the women’s showcase, and while it wasn’t star-studded like the previous match or the ones to follow, it ended up being very memorable and historic all the same. The Fabulous Moolah teamed up with Rockin’ Robin, Velvet McIntyre, and The Jumping Bomb Angels (Itsuki Yamasaki and Noriyo Tateno) to face the team of Sensational Sherri, Leilani Kai, Judy Martin, Dawn Marie (not the one from ECW), and Donna Christanello. What made this match stand out was Yamasaki and Tateno. They came over from Japan for this, but they might as well have come over from the planet Melmac because they wrestled like they came from 100 years in the future. This is back when Moolah was already 126 years old, and she was still one of the biggest, and most dominant, stars in all of women’s wrestling at the time. Yamasaki and Tateno showed up at 21 years of age, and they were pulling off jaw-dropping moves that wrestling fans in America weren’t even used to seeing from men, let alone the women. They were the unquestioned stars coming out of this match, and getting a chance to witness their work in person here would’ve been a lot of fun.
– Next up was one of the greatest showcases in tag team wrestling that the sport has ever seen. The WWF Tag Team Champions, Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel), teamed up with The British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith), The Killer Bees (“Jumpin” Jim Brunzell and B. Brian Blair), The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond), and The Young Stallions (Paul Roma and Jim Powers). Opposing them were The Hart Foundation (Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart), Demolition (Ax and Smash), The Islanders (Haku and Tama), The New Dream Team (Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Dino Bravo), and The Bolsheviks (Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov). Ten of the biggest tag teams in all of wrestling at the time, all in the same match, and this was an absolute dream if you’re someone who enjoys tag wrestling. Quick tags, hot tags, double-team offense, unique finishers, and a crowd that is hot for all of it.
– The main event had to feature Hulk Hogan, of course, as Hulkamania was already dominating the world of pro wrestling, as well as the pop culture world. He would team with “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Don “The Rock” Muraco, Ken Patera, and a fast-rising newcomer to the WWF by the name of Bam Bam Bigelow. They would square off against Andre The Giant, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, and “The Natural” Butch Reed. A whole lotta big, rough, tough bastards in this one, but it was Bigelow that stood out the most. His how-the-hell-does-a-man-that-size-move-like-that offense was exciting, and he nearly overcame a three-on-one handicap to win the match for his team. He looked amazing going in, but coming out of Survivor Series, you were just sure he was going to be the WWF Champion one day.
Everyone on the show had their proverbial working boots on that night. Even the names you might not consider workhorse talents were extra motivated by the new event, the hot crowd, and everything came with it. It’s a really fun show to watch, and I feel like I could’ve had a blast being there live and in person.
(1990’s) WWF In Your House – Canadian Stampede: Full disclosure… when I started this column, my initial selection for the 90’s was ECW Barely Legal 1997. It was the first pay-per-view in ECW history, and it was a true shift in the wrestling business, as it truly looked like we were on the verge of seeing something entirely different with the rise of a third major North American promotion.
Then I went back and watched the show again.
I don’t remember when I last watched it, but it has definitely been several years. Watching it back for this column made me realize that the historical value of the show remains strong, but… uh… the in-ring quality just isn’t there. At all. There are seven matches on the main card, and while one of them (The Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada & Masato Yakushiji vs Taka Michinoku, Terry Boy & Dick Togo) was excellent, that was it.
Dudley Boyz vs The Eliminators? No, thanks.
Rob Van Dam vs Lance Storm? If I can be serious for a minute… no, thanks.
Shane Douglas vs Pitbull #2? The match would’ve been better if Shane wrestled an actual pit bull.
Sabu vs Taz? One of wrestling’s all-time greatest builds that led up to one of wrestling’s all-time meh matches.
Terry Funk vs Stevie Richards vs The Sandman? The story of a nearly 53-year-old Terry Funk doing everything he could to help ECW is legendary, but this match… was not.
Raven vs Terry Funk? Again, the story was tremendous, and those rabid ECW fans loved every moment of it, but it just wasn’t translating to any sort of in-ring action that was anything great.
From there, I was re-reading my 1980’s section of this very column, and it made me start thinking about other editions of Survivor Series, and that made me start thinking about other 8 or 10-man tag matches throughout the history of the business.
Enter… Canadian Stampede.
Fresh off of the greatest double turn that pro wrestling had ever seen, we got to see the flip side to it here, with the dastardly heels, The Hart Foundation (Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Owen Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Brian Pillman & The British Bulldog), getting a hero’s welcome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, while the face squad (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & The Legion Of Doom) getting booed out of the building for simply being alive. The match itself was incredible, but that crowd took things up several notches with how hyped up they were.
It wasn’t just a one-match show, though. Like Survivor Series 1987, this was a show that only featured four matches, but they were all good. Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley had themselves a really fun opener, also taking advantage of a hot crowd that seemed to motivate them. The Great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku, in their second mention of this entry, had a very wild 1990’s Michinoku Pro match that, on 1997 WWF programming, might as well have been a match from 2050. Yes, very similar to how The Jumping Bomb Angels looked straight out of the future at the 1987 Survivor Series. Before the main event, The Undertaker and Vader had a great hoss battle, ending up as one of Vader’s best matches, especially in the WWF.
To be involved with that crowd, and to experience the shortened two-hour runtime that In Your House events often had, but with zero “slow” parts… yeah, sign me up for this one.
(2000’s) WWF WrestleMania 17: Of all my choices in this column, none were easier than this one. WrestleMania 17, or X-7 if you’re hip AF bro, is my favorite wrestling pay-per-view of all-time. I would’ve loved to be able to sit in that endless sea of people to watch that show.
The Reliant Astrodome in Houston, Texas provided one of the more memorable venues in WrestleMania history, and the 67,925 in attendance were, perhaps, the greatest crowd in WrestleMania history.
Chris Jericho and William Regal had about as good of a seven-minute show opener as you’re going to see.
Raven, Kane, and Big Show had a great mix of plunder usage and comedy spots in their Hardcore Title match.
Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle had themselves a Match Of The Year candidate.
Shane McMahon and Vince McMahon had one of the most overbooked matches that wrestling has ever seen, but every bit of it worked, forming one of the best non-wrestler matches ever.
The Dudley Boyz. The Hardy Boyz. Edge & Christian. Tables. Ladders. Chairs. Nuff said.
The Undertaker and Triple H had one of the more underrated matches in WrestleMania history.
The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin took their rivalry to legendary heights, whipping that crowd into an absolute frenzy before things were over. I have been very vocal about WWF being in the wrong when it came to pulling the trigger on Austin’s heel turn that night, as it wasn’t even a heel turn in its most technical sense, as the crowd in his home state were strongly on his side and wouldn’t have booed him if he kicked a puppy into the 15th row halfway through the match. However, it would’ve been really cool to be in the crowd when the turn happened, just to experience things from a different angle. I don’t think there’s any way that would change my opinion on the matter, but it would’ve been worth a shot.
(2010’s) NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11: This was a tough choice. A really tough choice.
No, seriously… I probably had close to a dozen shows in this spot at one point or another as I did my research during the week.
Money In The Bank 2011 would’ve been a fun choice, with two great MITB Ladder Matches, a really good World Heavyweight Title match between Randy Orton and Christian, and, of course, the main event between John Cena and CM Punk.
Double Or Nothing 2019 was the very first pay-per-view in AEW history, and it delivered on many levels. SCU vs Strong Hearts was a super fun sprint to open the show. The Joshi six-woman tag was a tremendous way to introduce a lot of the talent to a new audience. Cody and Dustin Rhodes created an epic piece of “cinema” in a bloody battle that helped change the way wrestling fans looked at both men. The Young Bucks and The Lucha Brothers had an instant classic that made their rivalry a legendary one. Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho delivered a fun main event, but Jon Moxley’s AEW debut after the match presented the exact type of excitement and buzz that the company needed moving forward.
WrestleMania 30 was up there, as well. When I watched Brock Lesnar end The Undertaker’s unbeaten streak from the comfort of my couch, it blew my mind, so I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like to see it in person and experience that deafening silence in the immediate aftermath of the match. Of course, getting to witness the two Daniel Bryan matches and the peak of the “Yes! Movement” would’ve been a blast.
Those were just some of the options. In the end, though, I had to look at my personal “wrestling bucket list” to make my pick. I’ve been lucky enough to check a bunch of things off of that list throughout the years, but one thing that remains is to be able to attend a Wrestle Kingdom show at the Tokyo Dome. It’s not like I picked a random Wrestle Kingdom event in the 2010’s to sneak it on here, though. WK 11 was the show that featured the Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega main event that broke the internet, with numerous people calling it the best wrestling match they’ve ever seen, and even having Dave Meltzer alter his own infamous star rating scale, giving it six out of five stars, which was his all-time high in 2017.
It wasn’t a one-match show, though. The last four matches on the card all were in contention for Match Of The Year. KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi was a fantastic match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title, firmly placing Takahashi on the map as one of the best “juniors” in the sport. Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto beat the shit out of each other. Enough said. Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi had a marvelous time as dance partners, building an emotional roller coaster of a match that saw things build and build and build for 25 minutes. Then, of course, came the Okada vs Omega match, which absolutely blew me away when I watched it for the first time.
I’d get to remove a big entry from my bucket list, enjoy a trip to Japan, and witness one of the greatest final show stretches in wrestling history? I think I could find a way to deal with that.
I thought about including the 2020’s here, as… if you didn’t already notice… I am alive as a wrestling fan during the decade. It’s still too early to really make a pick, though, and then there’s that sneaky little COVID bastard that took nearly a year-and-a-half away from us and ruined chances to attend shows all across the globe. In the event I return to this topic in the 2030’s, it will be interesting to see what I pick for this decade.
Follow the rules… use each decade you’ve been alive, or at least each decade that has seen you as a wrestling fan, and name one wrestling show you wish you could’ve attended. Pretty simple. This is a topic that could, and should, provide an incredibly wide array of responses, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of your choices. As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my Weekly Power Rankings, followed by wrapping things up with my playlist for the week.
Weekly Power Rankings
Christian Cage vs Bryan Danielson: Another big in-ring week for Danielson, as you’ll see again in a bit. This was a great, pay-per-view quality match, but I like to point out Danielson’s booking at times like this. Since signing with AEW, Danielson is now 0-6-1 in title matches. Before signing with AEW, Danielson lost his last ten (I made an error in my tweet about this topic, if you saw it the other day) title matches on WWE television or pay-per-view. To find the last time he had a successful title match of any sort, you have to go back to WWE Stomping Grounds 2019, all the way back on June 23rd of that year, when he and Rowan successfully defended the Smackdown Tag Team Titles against Otis and Tucker. If you want to see his last win in a title match that wasn’t of the tag variety, you have to go back three more months, when he defended the WWE Championship against Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali in a Triple Threat Match at Fastlane on March 10th, 2019. That’s crazy, but it also shows his mindset, especially in AEW, where he probably has a shit ton of “control” over what happens. It’s probably a safe bet that he would’ve been the AEW World Champion by now if it were solely up to Tony Khan, but Danielson just wants to go out there and wrestle against the opponents he wants in the style that he wants.
Bryan Danielson vs Swerve Strickland: Oh, look, another appearance by Bryan Danielson. It wasn’t for any sort of title, so of course that means he won the match. If a match is on television or pay-per-view… and if it is not a tag match of any sort… and if there is no title of any kind on the line… he is now 37-3-1 since joining AEW. Again, I completely realize that this is Danielson’s doing, but it’s still fun to point out just how different things are when he isn’t wrestling for a title.
Cody Rhodes & Jey Uso vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn: A big-time tag match, featuring four of WWE’s Most Valuable Players over the last year-and-a-half (and longer in the cases of Jey, KO, and Sami). There were a lot of questions, going in, about who would come out on top. Many people simply assumed that the Cody and Jey pairing is a short-term play by WWE, and that the titles would go back to the full-time tag team. Well… not only did the champions retain their titles, but we also found out that Kevin Owens was the name who was traded to Smackdown for Jey Uso, meaning that Owens and Zayn aren’t even on the same show anymore.
“Hangman” Adam Page vs “Switchblade” Jay White: Two of the most dependable in-ring performers on the AEW roster went to battle here, so there’s no surprise that the match was high quality. Sure, you can complain about how the match ended, but I’m okay with non-clean finishes on television, as long as it doesn’t happen in every match. AEW and WWE can be guilty of that from time-to-time, where it seems like every match on a particular episode features a non-finish, a distraction finish, or some sort of outright cheating.
Chad Gable vs Bronson Reed vs Ricochet: I know a bunch of you were hoping for Gable to pick up the win here so that he could get another shot at Gunther’s Intercontinental Title, but I like the decision to go with Bronson Reed. It gives Gunther a new opponent, but more importantly, an opponent that he won’t simply be able to physically dominate like he does in so many of his matches. I don’t think many people are expecting Reed to win the title, but he will provide a hurdle for Gunther nonetheless, as we move to whenever the hell the champion finally drops his belt.
Carmelo Hayes vs Bron Breakker: While not quite on the level of their previous matches against each other, this was still enjoyable, made to feel even bigger with the addition of John Cena and Paul Heyman at ringside. I still don’t understand why Bron remains in NXT, as he seemed more than ready for the main roster call up after dropping the NXT Title to Melo… over six months ago. He’s pretty much just floating around, but he’s taking too many “pointless” losses. Perhaps WWE is waiting for the Royal Rumble, or maybe even after WrestleMania, but it makes it seem like they had no idea what to do with him once he dropped his title.
Kofi Kingston vs Ivar: You know, if WWE is looking for new opponents that Gunther can face, may I go ahead and recommend Ivar? The company doesn’t care about giving Gunther other heels to face, and Ivar is a surprisingly agile and athletic “big man” wrestler who could do some great things with the Intercontinental Champion. The rumors are that Ivar’s tag partner, Erik, will be on the shelf until after WrestleMania season with an injury, and the company seems to be intent on pushing Ivar as a singles competitor, anyway, so… make it happen.
Hikaru Shida: She won the AEW Women’s Title for the third time, making her the first woman to reach that mark. I’m all for it, as we’ll be able to get better matches out of the champion now.
Ilja Dragunov vs Dominik Mysterio: This may have been Dom’s best singles match. Sure, it’s not a surprise that Ilja Dragunov is involved in something good, but credit where it’s due… Dom really held up his end of the deal here. He continues to be better in the ring than many people are willing to admit.
Kris Statlander vs Skye Blue: While we’re on the subject of people who are better in the ring than people will admit… there’s Skye Blue. It seems like she’s getting better and better all the time, and she is being given more opportunities on-screen because of it.
Becky Lynch vs Tegan Nox: After being delayed and postponed for an unprecedented 318 consecutive episodes of Raw, we finally got to see Becky defend the NXT Women’s Title against Tegan. It was another “no way the title changes hands, but at least the match will be good” special, but Tegan continues to get little-to-no reaction from crowds on the main roster. WWE hasn’t given fans a reason to care about her in one way or another, unless, of course, you know her from her NXT days or her pre-WWE years. That needs to change, and change soon.
Michael Cole: He’s going to celebrate his 57th birthday in less than two months, and in his advanced age, he is becoming sick and tired of everyone’s bullshit. Both Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes have had Cole call them out during in-ring promos, and it’s a refreshing take on the medium. I hope he continues doing it with different wrestlers.
Eddie Kingston vs Minoru Suzuki: If you close your eyes and listen very carefully, you can still hear these two chopping each other’s chests. That made up 99% of this match, and it was awesome.
Adam Copeland vs Luchasaurus: I’m not exactly sure it was the best idea to have Copeland’s first AEW match be a 15-minute bout against someone who has never truly been pushed as a top-tier guy, but both men did good work here. The Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Edge was able to withstand a lot of physicality and come out on top. His ceiling in AEW will be something interesting to monitor.
Cody Rhodes & Jey Uso vs Austin Theory & Grayson Waller: Yet another “no way the titles change hands, but at least the match will be good” special. I really like the title reign that Cody and Jey are having so far. There’s really no way of telling if it will be a lengthy run or not, but I’m going to sit back and enjoy it while it lasts. On top of the in-ring stuff, maybe they’ll have more post-show press conference appearances where Jey will be drunk as all hell and being the most unserious person you’ll ever see.
Orange Cassidy: After an AEW International Title reign that lasted almost an entire calendar year, OC dropped the belt and it seemed like he was set for bigger and better things after having his profile elevated to insane levels during the title reign. Unfortunately, AEW was hit with some bad luck after Jon Moxley was injured and required an in-ring audible to have him lose the title after being the champion for only two weeks. Then, Rey Fenix had his own injury issues, as well as a problem with his work Visa, so he also needed to drop the title quickly. Now, we’re back to Orange Cassidy as the International Champion. I don’t expect another year-long reign, but it could be fun to see him elevate the title some more.
The Iron Claw: I was worried about how the movie would look, but I am pleasantly surprised after watching the first trailer. It looks like it’s going to be a good movie, not just a good wrestling movie. Three days before Christmas, in the true essence of the holiday season, one of wrestling’s biggest tragedies unfolds on the big screen for everyone to enjoy.
Tyler Bate, Butch & Ridge Holland vs Gallus: More of Bate and Butch working together, please. In fact, you could just move Bate to the main roster and have him work with the Brawling Brutes more there. That’s fine with me.
Samoa Joe vs Willie Mack: Meat. Lots and lots of meat. It’s a beautiful thing.
Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta vs Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona: Are the members of the Blackpool Combat Club heels or faces? Does it matter? It doesn’t seem to matter to AEW.
Trent Beretta vs Jay Lethal: Looks like Lethal has the RoH World Title in his sights. Makes sense. Nobody in the history of Ring Of Honor has held their World Title for more overall days than Lethal, and another reign would tie him with Adam Cole for most RoH World Title reigns with three. A lot of the best work he’s ever done came when he was in possession of the title, or at least chasing it down, so it could be fun to see him try to get it again.
This Week’s Playlist: “MONACO” by Bad Bunny… “LOS PITS” by Bad Bunny… “Talk About It” by Paul Wall, Terminology & Large Professor… “SOLDIERS STEPPIN” by Duke Deuce… “TOOT TOOT” by Duke Deuce & Young Dolph… “Gas Pedal” by Sage The Gemini & Iamsu… “WIN” by Jay Rock… “(sic)” by Slipknot… “Eyeless” by Slipknot… “Wait and Bleed” by Slipknot… “Spit It Out” by Slipknot… “Left Behind” by Slipknot… “Duality” by Slipknot… “Before I Forget” by Slipknot… “Vermilion, Pt. 2” by Slipknot… “Sulfur” by Slipknot… “Psychosocial” by Slipknot… “Snuff” by Slipknot… “La Muerte” by That Mexican OT… “Man In The Box” by Alice In Chains