Call me Mary J. Blige, because I’m looking to have no more drama in my life.
After sandwiching three Running Diaries between a couple different columns about the behind-the-scenes and not-so-behind-the-scenes drama going on in AEW, I just want to write something that isn’t so serious. A few weeks back, I penciled in an idea for this week’s column… writing about the night that Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack live on Monday Night Raw, as this past week was the tenth anniversary of that event. With everything going on in AEW, I scrapped that idea. That’s too much “bad” stuff, and that can really work on your mood, you know?
Strangely enough, this not-so-serious column came to be because of the oh-so-serious stuff going on in AEW.
In my last column, I talked about the possibility of CM Punk being fired for what happened last week. One of my long-time readers messaged me and we started talking about what we could end up missing out on if Punk does, in fact, get fired. He mentioned that he does think Punk should be fired, but selfishly, he hopes Punk can avoid getting his pink slip for one reason and one reason only… Punk and Kenny Omega are his top two all-time favorite wrestlers, and therefore, seeing them face each other is the biggest “dream match” he has. Obviously, the chances of that match taking place are incredibly slim if Punk leaves AEW.
That got me to thinking about some of my own “dream match” scenarios, and that’s what I wanted to talk about this week.
Lord knows there’s a million of them, so I wanted to set some “rules” to this exercise, in an attempt to narrow my list down. The rules will be as follows…
- It’s okay if the wrestlers have faced each other before, but only if their circumstances were greatly different at the time of their match(es). For example, when The Rock was really early on in his days as Rocky Maivia, he had a singles match against Bret “The Hitman” Hart, but never faced Bret again after that. Needless to say, Rock would go on to achieve much greater things in his career, so a “dream match” between The Rock and Bret Hart would be eligible to be included here.
- It will be very difficult, but I’m going to try and make sure wrestlers are only included once. It would be too easy to have 29 Bryan Danielson matches, 32 Shawn Michaels, 25 Ric Flair matches, and so on.
- I will narrow it down even further by picking a wrestler from a specific year of their career. For example, if I use Ric Flair, it would probably behoove me to use the 1989 version of him, which is when many people feel was his best in-ring year.
That’s it. Remember… these are MY “dream match” scenarios. Your scenarios might be very different. That’s fine. Also, if you don’t see Wrestler A anywhere on this list, that isn’t me saying that Wrestler A sucks or isn’t worth being on a “dream match” card. There’s only so many open spots, and some people are a lot easier to pair off than others are. Finally, the matches are going to be listed in no particular order. Enough jibba jabba. Let’s get things rolling…
The Undertaker (1997) vs Sting (1997): I don’t think this is going to be much of a surprise to anyone. If you were to ask 100 different wrestling fans to make a list like this, you’d see Taker vs Sting on at least 83 of those lists. Sting clearly had better in-ring years than 1997, considering the fact that he didn’t have a match that year until Starrcade on December 28th. However, when you talk about Sting in 1997, you think about him being “WCW’s answer to The Undertaker” in many ways. If you’re looking at these matches and also thinking about the build for them leading up to some mega pay-per-view, this could be incredibly entertaining, but also incredibly unique. The Undertaker, of course, was already deep into the supernatural phase of his career, and this was right after Sting went from being “Surfer” to “Crow” in his feud with the nWo and the WCW roster. You’d be looking at promos by The Undertaker, silent responses (or lack thereof) from Sting. Taker would “carry” the verbal part of the build, but as we saw for OVER A YEAR, fans loved Sting so much that it didn’t matter if he was doing any talking or not.
The New Day (2017) vs The Fabulous Freebirds (1983): When I first started watching wrestling, The Fabulous Freebirds consisted of Michael “P.S.” Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, and Jimmy “Jam” Garvin. For this, I want to take it back to the original trio lineup, when Buddy “Jack” Roberts was the third member years before Garvin came along. I’ve been fortunate enough to go back and watch a lot of their older stuff well after the fact, and I’ve loved so much of it. 1983 was such an important year for the Freebirds, as they were feuding with the Von Erich family in Texas. If you know your wrestling history, you would know that feuding with the Von Erich family in Texas during the 1980’s was as good as it gets for heels, because those were some of the best reactions you were ever going to get when it comes to heel heat.
I put these squads together because I think they match up really well. Hayes can handle any promos in the build to the match, while Roberts is the “workhorse” of the group and Gordy is the big badass that is looking to destroy his opponents. On the other side, there’s a much more even split when it comes to charisma and mic skills, but you have Xavier Woods as the main “talker” of New Day, Kofi Kingston as the “workhorse” of the group, and Big E is the big badass that is looking to destroy his opponents. The namesake of the “Freebird Rule” against the team that helped to make it famous again decades later.
The Young Bucks (2021) vs The Usos (2022): Two of the more exciting tag teams of this generation, and they just so happen to be two sets of siblings. While Matt and Nick Jackson aren’t twins like Jimmy and Jey Uso are, they might as well be with the in-ring chemistry that they’ve built up. This is the kind of match that could go in multiple different directions and still be successful. Both teams have shown they can fly high, but they can also get down and dirty if they need to. Let these two teams go at it, and you’re going to see some of the most unique and spectacular tandem offense, counters, and reversals you’re ever going to see in tag wrestling.
Bryan Danielson (2014) vs Kazuchika Okada (2017): If you’re looking to find the best in-ring performers of the last 20 years, there might not be anyone with better cases to make for themselves than these two. In 2017, when Okada stepped into the ring for singles competition, you could pretty much set the bar at four-stars and go from there. One of the absolute hottest stretches of matches I’ve ever seen from one wrestler. Danielson’s 2014 was also unlike anything I’ve ever seen, with the “Yes Movement” captivating the world, both in and out of the sport.
I don’t even need any real build for this. Just give them 30+ minutes to work with, and you’re going to get yourself a Match Of The Year classic. What more do you need?
Man, I’m still really upset that injuries prevented us from possibly seeing these two face each other at Forbidden Door back in June.
Brock Lesnar (2014) vs Vader (1993): I’ve already mentioned what Bryan Danielson was able to achieve in 2014, but what about Brock Lesnar’s 2014? He beat the shit out of The Undertaker and put an end to Taker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Then, four months later, he looked like an otherworldly force, dominating John Cena for 16 minutes to win the WWE Title. It was one of the most remarkable performances I’ve ever seen, especially in a major title match on a stage as big as SummerSlam. Lesnar only wrestled four times in 2014, but it was a 12-month stretch where it didn’t seem like there was anybody that has ever walked the planet who could defeat him.
In 1993, Vader was helping build a name for himself as one of the most dangerous, and feared, men to ever get into the wrestling business. In late-1992, he would gain a level of infamy after nearly killing enhancement wrestler Joe Thurman after a chokeslam and then a powerbomb both had Thurman land awkwardly, breaking (or spraining, according to Vader) his back in the process. 1993 saw Vader terrorize Mick Foley, first breaking his nose and busting him open to the point where Mick needed 27 stitches, and then, only a couple weeks later, powerbombing him onto the exposed concrete floor. I can still hear the sound of Mick’s body and skull smacking the floor, giving him a concussion and numbness on the entire left side of his body.
Two of the scariest, meanest, most dominant looking men in wrestling history. Get the ambulance ready.
Eddie Guerrero (2004) vs Shawn Michaels (1997): 2004 was a great year for Eddie Guerrero. For years, he had been viewed as one of the best wrestlers in the business, but 2004 was the year when he would finally reach the mountaintop, defeating Brock Lesnar to become the WWE Champion. He was able to blend his in-ring and his character work, becoming one of the more popular acts in the business in doing so. His redemption story made the whole thing better, as he was able to bounce back from battles with addiction and almost losing his family because of it.
Then… we have Shawn Michaels in 1997. By all accounts, including his own, the Heartbreak Kid was a complete and total mess backstage. He was battling addiction problems of his own, but his demons were causing him to act out, as well. Even his closest friends backstage would go on to tell tales of how difficult he was to be around. What saved him in the eyes of Vince McMahon was his in-ring work. He was still one of the best wrestlers alive at the time, capable of having a great match against any, and every, opponent he faced.
Taking someone that beloved and that good in the ring, and putting them up against someone that hated and that good in the ring… there’s a lot of magic that can be made there. It’s pretty crazy that these two men have only been in a match together on two occasions… the 2003 Royal Rumble and the 2005 Royal Rumble. Actually, let me rephrase that. The only two times that these two men have been in the same match lineup was the 2003 and 2005 Royal Rumble. I say it that way because, in 2003, Michaels was eliminated from the Rumble well before Guerrero entered the match, and in 2005, Guerrero was eliminated less than one minute before Michaels entered the match. That means they have never officially been in the ring together. Insanity.
The Rock (2000) vs Roman Reigns (2020): We could very well be seven months away from seeing these men face each other in a match. For this column, I want to use the 2000 version of The Rock. He had plenty of big years with the company, but 2000 was when he was basically forced to place the WWF on his back. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would leave in November 1999 to have neck surgery, so it was only natural that Rock would step up and help fill the void at the top with Austin gone. Rock would help the company continue making money like never before, all while having some of the year’s best matches with a variety of opponents from Triple H to Chris Benoit. Before 2000, he was already a three-time WWF Champion, but those reigns came when he was a heel and a clear second to Austin, title or no title. Now, he was able to reach the top as a face without having to worry about Austin lurking around. There were a lot of questions about what would happen to the WWF product with Austin out for so long, but Rock was able to answer those questions pretty quickly.
I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but Roman Reigns is in the middle of a pretty important title reign. When this column sees the light of day, it will mark the 745th day as champion for Roman. You could go with 2020, 2021, or 2022 for Reigns in this match, and you wouldn’t be wrong, no matter what. Personal preference is the only reason I’m going with the 2020 version. It was the beginning of his switch to heel, performing better than most people thought he could in the role. One of my favorite stories in recent wrestling history, with some of my favorite matches in recent wrestling history, are what we got with Roman and Jey Uso in the last few months of 2020. Absolutely brilliant work from both men, from Jey trying to break out of the “tag guy” stigma to Roman practicing his acting chops at Hell In A Cell, when he broke down crying after being confronted by a returning Jimmy Uso, only to attack Jimmy and use it to get Jey to verbally quit and lose their match.
All of this would be enough for something epic if there was no family ties between them. The fact that both men are members of the legendary Anoa’i family tree only adds numerous layers of intrigue. Who is the REAL “Head Of The Table” here?
Bret Hart (1994) vs Kurt Angle (2001): There were a few years I could’ve chosen for Bret. There was 1991, when he first broke out as a singles star. 1992 was when he broke the “glass ceiling” and went from a midcard champion to winning the WWF Title for the first time. 1995 saw him in a seemingly endless streak of random matches and feuds, all of which he shined in. 1997, of course, saw a legendary heel turn and a tremendous run as heel until he left the WWF after the Montreal Screwjob. I went with 1994 because of his level of quality over quantity. 1994 saw one of his lowest year-end totals of matches wrestled of any year he spent in the WWF, but there was so, so much to love. He won the Royal Rumble (with Lex Luger), which came after his brother, Owen, turned heel on him. The feud with Owen was an all-time great one that saw multiple Match Of The Year candidates. Out of nowhere, he had a Match Of The Year candidate with The 1-2-3 Kid on a random episode of Raw. There were also some good matches with a returning Bob Backlund, of all people, although I will freely admit those Backlund matches aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. This was the year he really solidified his status as one of wrestling’s all-time best technicians.
Kurt Angle, on the other hand, came into the WWF in 1999 and picked the sport up quicker than almost anybody in history. He was such a natural, and his rookie year of late-1999 to late-2000 was incredible to watch. A European Title win, followed by an Intercontinental Title victory three weeks later. He was crowned King Of The Ring in June 2000, and he capped it off by winning the WWF Title three weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of his first televised match with the company. By the time 2001 rolled around, he flipped a switch and elevated himself to a different level entirely. Even at that early stage, he was already one of the best pro wrestlers in the world. 2001 saw Kurt have great matches with Triple H, The Rock, Chris Benoit, The Undertaker, Christian, Shane McMahon, Booker T, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam, and anyone else he faced on that LOADED WWF roster.
The only switch I can think of here… and it really does make sense when you think about it… would be using the 1997 version of Bret Hart. I don’t think you’re going to get the same overall match quality from the 1997 Bret that you would from the 1994 Bret, but the story of “American Hero” Kurt Angle (after he turned face in 2001) taking on “Canadian Hero” Bret Hart (after he turned heel in 1997) would be so much fun to watch unfold in the build for the match. I’m still sticking with 1994 Bret here, simply because I’ve typed multiple paragraphs, but I’m definitely second-guessing myself now.
Sasha Banks (2016) vs Mayu Iwatani (2020): These two women combine to weigh a total of 230 (listed) pounds. You wouldn’t know it by watching them wrestle, though. They’re both known for bumping their asses off, taking (and dishing out) more punishment than their frames would suggest, and for carrying themselves as mega stars.
If you’re going to get one thing with Sasha Banks, especially in big matches, you’re going to get someone who wrestles with a gigantic chip on their shoulder. More than just about any other wrestler of her generation, you can see that she takes it upon herself to go out there and steal the show when she wrestles. It makes her matches feel bigger, more important, and more must-see. She is a huge fan of the women’s wrestling scene in Japan, so being able to step into the ring with a woman who many are already calling the best female in-ring performer to come from that scene means one thing… Sasha is going to treat this like it’s a WrestleMania main event.
Using the 2016 version of Sasha only magnifies my points here. She was still fresh off of being called up to the main roster after a legendary run in NXT, and she was involved in a lot of major moments that involved the aforementioned chip on her shoulder. Her first WrestleMania, her first WWE Women’s Title reign (and second and third and fourth reigns), a great feud against Charlotte Flair that included the first women’s Hell In A Cell match, a really fun Falls Count Anywhere match, and a 30-minute Ironwoman match. She’s going to be super hungry, so I had to include this particular year of hers.
FTR (2022) vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987): Do you like technical wrestling? Are you also a fan of tag team wrestling? Well, have I got a match for you! From the moment you saw FTR debut in NXT, you knew that they were a major throwback to a bygone era. Damn near from the start, the comparisons to the days of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard in the Four Horsemen began.
So… why not have FTR face Arn and Tully? It makes sense to me. Let’s take the current day FTR, who have competed in no less than FIVE potential Match Of The Year candidates as a team (to go with a handful of great matches as singles, including one against each other). We’ll place them in a match against the 1987 version of Arn and Tully, and in that year, we got them participating in the NWA’s Great American Bash shows that saw them being in War Games matches regularly. I could’ve used the 1988 version of the team, when the War Games tours saw them doing a stupid amount of matches. In the span of six weeks over the summer of 1988, the Horsemen wrestled in 11 War Games matches. Think about that for a minute. This is back when two teams of five competed in the matches, and all ten men would be bleeding buckets before the match was over. Now imagine them doing that 11 times in six weeks. In the end, I went with 1987 because it was a full year of greatness from Arn and Tully, while 1988 saw them jump to the WWF in September, and they didn’t have a great first few months there.
This is another match that features a style of wrestling that isn’t for everybody, and I get that, but this is my column. Deal with it. You’ll have your chance to share your “dream match” scenarios later.
The Steiners (1992) vs The Kings Of Wrestling (2006): Unless you’re of a certain age, you might only know Rick Steiner as “Bron Breakker’s dad” and Scott Steiner as that guy from the “Steiner Math” promo and whose muscles made him look like a cartoon character. As soon as Scott made his debut in the NWA in 1989 (older brother Rick had already been with the promotion for a couple years), the duo set the wrestling world on fire. Both men used their real-life amateur wrestling success in the pro world, and they used it very well. 1992 was when they were really being viewed as one of the greatest tag teams to come along in years, and Scott was being looked at as someone who could really succeed as a singles star if it ever came down to it.
When Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, the Kings Of Wrestling, began to appear regularly for Ring Of Honor, they began to capture attention of fans around the world. They were both very good technical stars, and Claudio was able to add his superhuman strength to the mix, and they found tremendous success together. It was a similar formula to Rick and Scott Steiner, with the combination of technical prowess and the love of throwing other grown human beings around like sacks of potatoes. I’m putting these two teams together because I feel Hero and Castagnoli could “return fire” on Rick and Scott, so to speak. A match between the two teams should be very, very physical, and very, very fun.
The Briscoe Brothers (2007) vs The Dudley Boyz (2001): When it comes to Jay and Mark Briscoe, you could pretty much pick any year that they spent as a tag team. They’ve been that good for that long. I picked 2007 because they were really able to branch out and do a lot of different things that year. To go with their usual greatness in Ring Of Honor, they traveled to Japan and did two one-month excursions for Pro Wrestling NOAH, one in January and one in July. They also had some hardcore-style matches against Necro Butcher and Mad Man Pondo for Full Impact Pro, as well as several sprints with teams from Dragon Gate sprinkled throughout the year. They won NOAH’s GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles in January, and also won the RoH Tag Team Titles twice, and that’s to go with them coming into 2007 as the FIP Tag Team Champions. Success followed them everywhere they went, no matter the company, no matter the style, and no matter the opponents.
There were a lot of teams I could have placed in a match with the Briscoes, but I would love to see them go up against the 2001 version of Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley. Two burly badasses that were more than able to handle opponents of various in-ring styles. The tag team scene in the WWF in 2001 forced teams to do that. One night, you’d be wrestling Edge and Christian and would need a particular strategy to compete. The next night, you’d be facing APA, and on the next night, you’d be facing the Hardy Boyz. Kaientai. Kane & The Undertaker. Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit. Right To Censor. Chuck Palumbo & Sean O’Haire. The list goes on and on… it was a jungle out there in that scene. Even though Bubba and D-Von don’t look like Jay and Mark, both teams have a variety of styles that they can either use or defend against, making this a match that could look different each time you saw it.
Becky Lynch (2019) vs Bull Nakano (1991): Why 2019 for Becky Lynch? She had just been dubbed “The Man” and organically became, arguably, the hottest act in all of wrestling. She was SO over in every building WWE ran at the time. It was crazy to watch. I don’t need any further reason than that. You would be making a mistake if you did a list like this and couldn’t find a place for 2018-2019 Becky Lynch.
Older fans will recognize the name Bull Nakano and remember her for her time with the WWF in 1994 and 1995. That was a fun, albeit brief, run. In the years since, I’ve been able to go back and watch a bunch of her pre-WWF stuff, though, and that’s what I’m picking for her here. 1991 was a really good year for her. Working for All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling, she was a monster at nearly 200 pounds and was able to throw opponents around with ease. Her first match of the year, against Akira Hokuto for Nakano’s WWWA World Title, is one of my favorite women’s matches ever. If you care about this sort of thing, Dave Meltzer gave the match five stars, and he would toss stars around for a lot of her matches in 1991. Like I said, she was a monster, plain and simple. The WWWA World Title reign I just mentioned lasted for a total of 1,057 days because of how unstoppable she was.
Taking one of the greatest monsters in women’s wrestling history and lining her up against one of the most wildly popular babyfaces in women’s wrestling history… it makes too much sense to not do it.
Ric Flair (1989) vs Triple H (2000): This is where one of my “rules” for this column comes into play. We’ve already seen Ric Flair and Triple H face each other. In fact, we’ve seen them have six matches from 2002 to 2007. However, those matches all featured a still good and still entertaining, but certainly past his prime, Ric Flair. Replacing that version of Flair with a version that was at the top of his game makes a match with Triple H very different.
Ric Flair in 1989 was something special. Even at 40 years old, when a lot of people thought he was almost done with his career (LOL), he was the best in the business. He had a match trilogy with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat that many fans feel is the greatest match trilogy in wrestling history, but I believe Flair and Steamboat have both said that their house show matches at the time were even better than what was on pay-per-view. From there, Flair went right into two great singles matches against Terry Funk, which sandwiched two tag matches (with Sting) against The Great Muta (one with Funk and one with Dick Slater). He closed the year out with two really good matches at StarrCade, with the first being against Lex Luger and the second being against Sting.
On the other side, Triple H in 2000 was someone that would’ve kicked his own mother down a flight of stairs if it meant getting more heat. This was the beginning of “The Game” and his transition away from D-Generation X, and the rise of his reign of terror with Stephanie McMahon in the McMahon-Helmsley Faction/Regime/Era/Whatever You Called It. He set out to make himself one of the most hated men in wrestling, and he succeeded in doing so on a weekly basis, all while having great matches with the likes of Cactus Jack, The Rock, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and more.
I like the idea of taking that particular Ric Flair and putting him up against that particular Triple H.
Rey Mysterio (1997) vs Rey Fenix (2021): When I first saw Rey Mysterio do what he does best, I remember thinking that I had never seen anything like it. Before him, I didn’t exactly have a lot of experience when it came to the Lucha Libre side of professional wrestling. Seeing him perform was so different and so special. He was so much smaller than his opponents, many of whom weren’t exactly the largest people in the world to begin with, but you would swear that Rey knew how to fly.
In the decades since Rey became a household name, there have been numerous other wrestlers given the “next Rey Mysterio” tag, sometimes unfairly. If you ask me, I don’t think anyone has ever come as close to being the “next Rey Mysterio” as Rey Fenix has. All you have to do is watch one match of his and see where the comparisons are coming from. The ease in which he flies around the ring can be breathtaking.
If you put the 1997 Rey Mysterio and the 2021 Rey Fenix in a match against each other, it would be like getting a front row seat at a Cirque du Soleil show.
Steve Austin (1998) vs CM Punk (2011): Remember when we thought WWE was actually going to give this match to us? We got a couple hints at a possible match between Punk, the Straight Edge Superstar, and Austin, the beer swilling Texas Rattlesnake, and all that came from it was a promotional interview (conducted by Jim Ross) between them for the WWE ’13 video game. That was such a weird segment, with Austin portraying this crotchety “old timer” that, from the beginning, didn’t want to be there and certainly didn’t want to put the new generation of wrestlers over, while champion-at-the-time Punk standing up for himself and what he referred to as “his locker room” of wrestlers. It was meant to be a regular interview, but Austin was in 100% “wrestling promo” mode, voice raised several levels and using one-liners. At the time, all of it seemed cool, but I don’t think the segment has aged well over the last decade.
I do think this could be a banger, though. Austin was already on his meteoric rise to the top of the wrestling world, and 1998 was when he officially reached the top, winning the WWF Title for the first time. Punk in 2011, of course, was delivering the WWE version of the “Summer Of Punk” and having him drop “pipe bombs” on people. Two “anti-hero” wrestlers who, despite those tendencies, were as popular as it gets. A lot of people would prefer to lean more into what I said earlier, with Punk’s Straight Edge side going up against Austin’s borderline alcoholism, and that’s certainly not bad. The promos for that would be a lot of fun. I just don’t think it’s 100% necessary to make this something special to watch unfold.
John Cena (2015) vs Samoa Joe (2006): There have been a lot of good years for John Cena, both from a win/loss point of view and a match quality point of view. I’m picking 2015 for him because it is when he really signaled a shift in his matches. Prior to 2015, Cena was the ultimate “WWE Guy” with how he would wrestle, as well as who he would wrestle. Although he had wrestled “independent wrestlers” before 2015, that was the year when wrestling those types of wrestlers really saw Cena adopt their style in an attempt to keep up. When you’re facing the likes of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, Neville, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro, you’re going to get circles run around you if you don’t change things up.
Those “independent darlings” I mentioned are all world class performers in their own right, but man… Samoa Joe in 2006? That’s a different type of beast altogether. He had a big 2005, including a legendary match with Kenta Kobashi in Ring Of Honor, but 2006 saw him really look like of monster. He was riding an undefeated streak in singles competition since he debuted for TNA in the summer of 2005, but he looked dominant during the streak. He was mowing through opponents of all shapes, sizes, skill levels, and positions on the card. When he was the RoH World Champion, he looked unstoppable, but of course, that was on a much smaller scale. While TNA wasn’t selling out 50,000-seat stadiums, they were still on regular television and pay-per-view, which meant far more fans were watching Joe beat the hell out of people.
A story can also be told about Cena and Joe being friends in real-life and how they basically came up in the business together. In 2000 and 2001, both men were training at California-based Ultimate Pro Wrestling, which was seen as a developmental territory, of sorts, for the WWF. There could be some really good promos that can be told because of their history together.
Chris Jericho (2001) vs Kenny Omega (2017) vs AJ Styles (2016) vs Seth Rollins (2015): I will be completely honest with you here… you could mix and match dozens of different wrestlers for the final lineup here. Before I started writing this column, I created a list of wrestlers I wanted to include. As I started pairing people off, I would eliminate them from the list. Matches continued to be made, but the list remained long. Eventually, I reached the point where I only wanted to make another match or two, or else I would have gone WAY too long with the column. That meant there would be so many names left off the list. Not only would there be a shit ton of names left, but most of those names would have several years you could choose to represent them. I pretty much forced myself to take four names and throw them into a match together. It’s the kind of WrestleMania-style match where there are just so many talented names on the roster that you have to create a random multi-person match just to fit people on the card.
At various points, all four men in this match could claim they were the best wrestler in the business, and the years I picked for them were, in my opinion, their strongest cases for that crown. Jericho’s 2001 saw him break into a super crowded main event scene in the WWF, where he was surrounded by some of the sport’s biggest names of all-time, and not only did he make it, but he thrived. Kenny Omega’s 2017 was when he went viral for not only helping to break Dave Meltzer’s star rating scale, but for seemingly adding a Match Of The Year candidate to people’s lists whenever he had a singles match. AJ’s 2016 saw him answer a ton of questions about whether or not he could succeed in WWE after spending years of excelling just about everywhere else in the world of wrestling. Seth’s 2015 was full of those “chip on the shoulder” matches, coming off of his heel turn to end The Shield the year before, where he was out to prove that he wasn’t the “third wheel” of the group after everyone had already marked Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose for huge singles success.
As I said, you could remove anybody from this match and replace them with countless others and still do great in this spot.
Mankind (1998) vs Jon Moxley (2022): If you know anything about Mick Foley’s career, you would know he was doing crazy bumps damn near from the beginning. It was his way of standing out when his physical traits couldn’t do that immediately. Obviously, we’re still talking about him to this day, so you have to say that his strategy paid off.
People had seen Mick do some wild and crazy things during his career, ranging from some maybe-not-the-smartest-idea bumps in WCW to his maybe-not-the-smartest-idea Death Match career in Japan, but his arrival in the WWF was when most of the wrestling world was truly introduced to him and the lengths he would go to entertain. 1998 was a special year for that. In February, he and Terry Funk, as Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, respectively, were locked in a dumpster and pushed SMOOTH the fuck off of the Raw stage by the New Age Outlaws. That couldn’t have felt very good, even with the dumpster miraculously being full of trash bags of packing peanuts. If you scroll through his matches for the year, you’ll see a ton of “Falls Count Anywhere” or “No Holds Barred” or “Steel Cage” or “Hardcore” or “Ladder” attached to them. However, none of that compared to what happened to him on June 28th of that year, when he faced The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match that will probably be talked about 100 years from now. The bumps that he took that night, planned and unplanned, are the stuff of legend. It showed that he would do anything, and put his own body through anything, to achieve what he set out to do.
Fast forward to Jon Moxley in 2022, who is willing to do the same thing. Mox is willing to wrestle in matches that feature all types of weapons, and he’s willing to bleed buckets on a regular basis to show the wrestling world that he really and truly feels he is the best in the business right now. We’ve seen Mox put his body through hell, and not just in front of 20,000 fans at AEW pay-per-views. He’s more than willing to do it on independent shows in front of much smaller crowds.
You can look at other matches on this list, or on your own lists, and say things like “oh, that would be crazy!” With this match, however, you might actually be dealing with crazy. Twice.
Randy Savage (1992) vs Randy Orton (2004): It might seem random, and in a way, I guess it is, but I like the pairing here. Orton was running wild with the “Legend Killer” gimmick here, and he was growing into someone who you just knew was going to be a major player for years and years to come. 2004, of course, was when he really started to fulfill those prophecies, starting with impressing the world during his feud with Mick Foley, and then by defeating Chris Benoit at SummerSlam to become the youngest World Champion in WWE history. His level of intensity was really becoming off-the-charts, and as shown in that feud with Mick Foley, he also fed off of other people’s intensity well.
There haven’t been many people in the history of wrestling who are more intense than “Macho Man” Randy Savage. I chose 1992 for Savage because of the right mix when it comes to him being a “legend” to Orton’s “Legend Killer” and also still being one of the top workers in the world. He didn’t wrestle a ton in 1992, but there was still a lot of quality. If you wrestle the Ultimate Warrior and can have a universally loved and respected match, you’re pretty good. Randy Savage was able to do that TWICE, and one of those matches came in 1992. I can’t help but to think of the promos that this version of Savage could cut on the Orton from 2004, but at the same time, I’m excited about the potential promos that Orton from 2004 could cut on Savage from 1992.
What say you, ReaderLand? You’ve read my list of “dream matches” in pro wrestling, but now I want to hear from you. I want to know what you think about the matches I’ve listed here, but I also want to know about some matches that are on your list. You don’t have to include specific years if you don’t want to. Drop me a line in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Bryan Danielson vs “Hangman” Adam Page: These guys are three-for-three when it comes to delivering instant classics against each other. It’s good to have pay-per-view main event quality matches on free television. The only gripe I had here was something completely out of their hands, and that is Chris Jericho accidentally giving the result away in a backstage interview earlier in the night. These two were competing to earn the right to face Jericho in the next round of the tournament to crown a new AEW World Champion. During Jericho’s interview, he mentioned that he was going to beat Danielson again to move on to the finals of the tournament, and sure enough, Danielson won this match. It happens, so I’m not knocking Jericho for it. I’m just saying that it took any potential drama out of the outcome here.
- Brawling Brutes vs Imperium: Six men that are not only more than capable of beating the hell out of their opponents, but enjoy doing so? Sign me up. The beauty of a six-man feud like this is that you can run things back in different variations for a longer time before you wear things out. There are a lot of potential matches to have here, and they’ll all hurt to watch. Again… sign me up.
- Johnny Gargano vs Chad Gable: This is one of those situations that you’re either going to see as a win/win situation or a complete mistake, depending on how you view things. On one hand, Chad Gable looked great in a lengthy match, even in a loss, and he definitely deserves to be pushed more and taken as a legitimate threat. Then, on the other hand, you have the returning Gargano needing such a long match to put Gable away after Gable has been made to look so bad for so long on the main roster. I really enjoyed the match, and I do like the fact that Gable looked so strong. It’s just unfortunate that WWE keeps booking themselves into situations like this.
- Pretty Deadly vs The Creed Brothers: For the one millionth time, the Creeds are main roster ready if they can have the right “mouthpiece” for them. They’re so much fun to watch. You know what, though? I think Pretty Deadly might be ready for the main roster, too. Such a fun cage match, with both teams playing to their strengths.
- Carmelo Hayes vs Solo Sikoa: We thought we were going to see Melo defending the North American Title against Wes Lee. That would’ve been a banger of a match, of course, but there’s a lot of extra intrigue in what we ended up getting. Melo vs Solo was really, really good. Don’t get me wrong. The intrigue is adding yet another title to the ranks of The Bloodline. Roman Reigns, The Usos, and now Solo Sikoa are all champions under the WWE umbrella. No pressure, Sami Zayn, but you’d better find a way to beat Gunther, Bobby Lashley or Bron Breakker soon.
- Wheeler Yuta vs Daniel Garcia: Yuta had a good run as the RoH Pure Champion, but it was a good time to give Daniel Garcia the win. One, he was the overwhelming crowd favorite in his hometown of Buffalo. Two, it adds to the story of Garcia being torn between being a “wrestler” and being a “sports entertainer” these days. Three, there never is a three. Four, he just deserves to be a champion because he’s been doing such great work. Mommy Jericho did a great job of looking pissed off while watching Daddy Danielson congratulate their son on winning his new title.
- Kevin Owens: The man is working on another level with his promo work these days. He is able to get so passionate and so real, for lack of a better term, when he gets on the microphone. In another world, his fiery call for Austin Theory to stand up and prove everyone wrong could’ve been the catalyst for a Theory face turn after he did just what Owens asked him to. That’s how good this promo was, and that’s also how good Theory was in standing there and reacting to it.
- Claudio Castagnoli vs Dax Harwood: At the end of the year, when you think back to who had the best 2022 when it comes to match quality, please don’t overlook Dax Harwood. In FTR, he might have participated in the three best tag team matches of the year (two against The Briscoes and one against The Young Bucks). As a singles competitor, he probably has five or six matches now that I would probably rate at four stars or higher. Considering he has only wrestled seven singles matches this year (I haven’t seen his match against Rocky Romero for NJPW Strong yet), I’d say that’s some amazing consistency in his match quality. He’s having a fantastic year.
- Matt Riddle vs Finn Balor: For now, I’m glad to be wrong about the direction of The Judgment Day. Like a lot of you, I didn’t expect much out of them once Edge and Rey Mysterio defeated Finn Balor and Damian Priest at Clash At The Castle. I was worried that they would almost be swept under the rug and moved back down the ladder. Adding Dominik Mysterio, of all people, has really helped to right the ship since then. The “relationship” between Dom and Rhea Ripley is really interesting to watch unfold, and both of them are putting in some great character work. Dom really might be Eddie Guerrero’s kid. His heel work is very reminiscent of some of Eddie’s heel work. Anyway… my point was that The Judgment Day aren’t quite dead yet. Another good match involving one of the group members.
- Drew McIntyre vs Solo Sikoa: A good main roster debut match for Solo Sikoa. Shenaniganery or otherwise, he was able to hang with one of the top wrestlers alive today for over ten minutes. The match was also one of those instances where a screwy non-finish actually made perfect sense. You can’t have Solo lose his debut, but it would also behoove WWE to keep McIntyre strong and to not have him lose multiple matches in a row. At the rate they’re going, Drew needs to be strong for another match with Roman Reigns at some point.
- Death Triangle vs Best Friends: I don’t think there was any doubt who was winning this one as soon as the match was announced. It was still a lot of fun, as expected. My other gripe is something that CM Punk mentioned in the All Out media scrum, and that is AEW’s constant desire to cater to the “smart” fan and nobody but the “smart” fan. Imagine watching All Out and seeing The Elite win the Trios Titles and CM Punk win the World Title, and not be privy to the behind-the-scenes bullshit, only to watch Dynamite and have the company explain precisely zero to you. About anything. Why are Death Triangle and Best Friends competing to become the Trios Champions? Why is there a tournament to crown a new World Champion? There were a lot of confused people watching Dynamite, and that confusion never left for the entire episode. I understand that there’s an investigation going on right now, with potential legal issues in the mix, so it’s not like Tony Khan can come out and say “These fucking assholes ruined their chances in this company with their juvenile actions after All Out so all of them are stripped of their titles and suspended indefinitely!” That’s fine, but say SOMETHING.
- MJF’s “Face” Promo: At some point… maybe soon, maybe way down the line… MJF is going to be a face. That is something nobody thought they could say about him at one point. Feuding with CM Punk has allowed MJF to have multiple opportunities now to basically test the waters for a potential face run. This promo was one of those opportunities. He was super over in his home state of New York, and the Buffalo crowd was eating out of the palm of his hand while he did his thing. One day, folks. One day.
- Edge vs Dominik Mysterio: Hey, another match with a screwy finish that made perfect sense! Dom gets heat, as does the rest of The Judgment Day. He also looks good in a match against a member of the WWE Hall Of Fame. He’s still not ready to be defeating an 11-time World Champion, though, even with outside interference. So far, in the infancy stages of Dom’s heel run, everything is being handled correctly.
- Darby Allin vs Sammy Guevara: I liked the match. Clearly, since I have it included here. There was just… something… missing for me, and I have no idea what it was. I don’t know if it was that my expectations were too high, or that it was on a taped episode of Rampage, or whatever else. Maybe it was just me being down on Rampage, as a whole, although I certainly don’t appear to be as down on Rampage as Tony Khan is. You create a tournament to crown a new AEW World Champion, and you completely stack the tournament in favor of Dynamite? Dynamite got Danielson vs Page, plus they’re getting both semifinal matches, and the finals. Rampage got Darby vs Sammy and nothing else. Why even bother giving Rampage anything at that point?
- Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky: Congratulations to the brand new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions! Now, like seemingly every other reign that these titles have seen for the last couple years, I fully expect some sort of bullshit to come along and cut this short. The titles aren’t quite cursed or anything. They’re just floating out toward an island of irrelevancy. I do have faith in Dakota and Iyo adding prestige to the titles, even though they’re still a hastily thrown together team like almost every set of champions in the three-and-a-half year history of these belts have been. On the bright side, Aliyah is no longer one-half of the champions. As I’ve said, I’m sure she’s a nice woman and all, but she had no business being any sort of champion on the WWE main roster.
This Week’s Playlist: “Love” by John Legend & Jazmine Sullivan… “Outside” by Bryson Tiller… “Ghetto Superstar” by Roddy Ricch, G Herbo & Doe Boy… “Can You Stand The Rain” by New Edition… “Can You Stand The Rain” by Boyz 2 Men… “Can You Stand The Rain” by Josh Vietti… “Sin After Sin” by Alter Bridge… “Ground Zero” by Parkway Drive… “Reckoning” by Smash Into Pieces… “Paper Tigers” by Nonpoint… “Tonight” by One Morning Left… “The Absence Of Light” by The Wise Man’s Fear… “Selfish” by PnB Rock… “You” by Jesse Powell… “Murder” by UGK… “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” by UGK & Outkast… “25 Lighters” by Lil Keke, Fat Pat & DJ DMD… “Tops Drop” by Fat Pat… “Sittin Sidewayz” by Paul Wall & Big Pokey… “There They Go” by Obie Trice, Eminem, Big Herc & Trick Trick… “40 Oz” by D12… “(sic)” by Slipknot… “Psychosocial” by Slipknot… “Good God” by KoRn… “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus… “Often” by The Weeknd… “I’m So Into You” by SWV… “Right Here (Human Nature Radio Mix)” by SWV… “Anything (Old Skool Radio Remix)” by SWV & Wu-Tang Clan… “Can We” by SWV & Missy Elliott… “Da Dip” by Freak Nasty… “Tootsee Roll” by 69 Boyz… “Dazzey Duks” by Duice… “Don’t Stop The Rock” by Freestyle… “Human” by The Human League