51. Big Van Vader (c) vs Stan Hansen (IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match, NJPW 12/6/1990)

The first clash between Vader and Stan Hansen for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship was marred by Vader’s grotesque eye injury. All kudos to Vader for still carrying on and having an entertaining match. But it felt like a taster of the brutality the two brawlers were capable of exacting on each other. A number of months later they engaged in another war, where no eyes were ripped out of their sockets. And it’s really very good!

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50. Big Van Vader (c) vs Stan Hansen (IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match, NJPW Super Fight, 10/2/1990)

Vader held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship three times over the course of his career in NJPW. And his first reign lasted over a year! But perhaps no defence of his World title is more renowned than this one, against Stan Hanson. I’ve seen plenty of wrestlers injured during a match, but the injury Vader suffers during this match has to be one of the most grotesque ever suffered by a wrestler. While the injury gets all the attention, the two still manage to have an entertaining match.

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49. Big Van Vader and Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow vs The Steiner Bros (IWGP Tag Team Championship Match, NJPW Master of Wrestling, 26/6/1992)

There are plenty of Vader matches to choose from on NJPW World. From his awful bout against El Gigante (the blame wholly on El Gigante there) to his classic 1996 bout against Antonio Inoki, I’ve experienced Vader’s highs and lows. But I did not know he was in a tag team with Bam Bam Bigelow! They were the IWGP Tag Team Champions for a time…and who did I see they fought against? The Steiner Brothers! But my expectations were a little too high…

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48. HHH vs Chris Jericho (Last Man Standing Match, Fully Loaded 2000)

Ahhhh, I remember this match well. Triple H was at his peak, and Y2J was coming into his own, after finding his feet in the WWF. This match was a high point for Jericho after his brilliant feud with Chris Benoit (who?!?!?). Although HHH didn’t hold the WWE Championship, this match felt like the most important match on the card. The involvement of Steph, and Jericho’s continued insults directed at her (Trashbag ho, etc…) gave the match more intensity, than say, the bouts between The Rock and Chris Benoit (who?!?!?), or the Undertaker vs Kurt Angle. However, at the time, I was a massive fan of HHH (who doesn’t love a great heel?), so I was fully rooting for HHH in this bout. Who wouldn’t want to destroy a man who was continually calling their wife awful names?

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47. The Sandman (c) vs Cactus Jack (Barbed Wire match for the ECW Championship, ECW Barbed Wire, Hoodies and Chokeslams 1995)

I happened to come across another barbed wire match whilst perusing ECW matches on the WWE Network. Rather than Sabu or Terry Funk, this was pits ECW World Champion The Sandman against none other than Cactus Jack! This was two years before that bloody, ultraviolent match. Sabu tore his bicep open, and in the end both ended up so entangled in barbed wire that they could barely finish the match. How does this barbed wire match compare to that one?

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46. Josh Alexander vs Tomohiro Ishii (Impact World Championship Match, Impact: Under Siege 2022)

A question that has always intrigued me in qrestling is : what makes a great wrestling match? Is it the build? Is it the right balance of in-ring psychology and pacing? How much do you have to be invested in the characters to care about the match? I thought that a problem I’d have watching NJPW World is that I don’t know most of the wrestlers. I’ve watched a few Okada matches, and whilst finding them enjoyable, they haven’t blown me away. Do you need investment to enjoy a wrestling match? Or can you just appreciate the art?

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44. Vader vs Antonio Inoki (NJPW Wrestling World 1996)

Vader had one of the all-time great debuts in wrestling history when he battered Antonio Inoki in a couple of minutes in NJPW. I greatly looked forward to their future matches…and the first two that are on NJPW World left me disappointed. However, almost eight years after Vader’s debut, he fought Inoki in an incredible match. Inoki at 52, Vader with an injured shoulder (on his way to debuting in WWF as well), met one last time…and it is a must-see bout!.

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43. Vader vs Antonio Inoki (NJPW 7/29/88)

Vader’s NJPW debut saw him demolish Antonio Inoki in under five minutes. What a perfect way to debut a monster heel: have him easily defeat the company’s top babyface! Of course, the babyface has to get his/her revenge…in their rematch, it ended in a lacklustre countout, following a decent match. I expected so much more…so instantly watched the third match between them (well, the third match on NJPW World). And while better than their second match, this one still remained in the ‘average’ zone of quality.

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42. Vince McMahon vs Stephanie McMahon (‘I Quit’ Match, No Mercy 2003)

For me, the best WWE ‘I Quit’ match is probably Rock/Mankind, closely followed by Flair/Foley. But the worst one? Cena’s ‘I Quit’ matches aren’t any different from his ‘Last Man Standing’ matches, but they are, on the whole, entertaining. I haven’t seen Backlund/Hart from ‘Mania XII, but another sprang to mind last night. Vince McMahon vs Stephanie McMahon in the first ever ‘I Quit’ match.

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