Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #35 Cactus Jack vs. Big Van Vader (Texas Death Match, WCW Halloween Havoc 1993)

20141106_EP_LIGHT_100best_2_home_nologo(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31307261?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=raw_replays&contentId=67079426&watchlistAltButtonConseries text=)

Whenever you hear of Cactus Jack fighting Big Van Vader, the first thing you think of (probably) is Jack losing his ear during one of their matches. That’s just a hint of the brutality that their matches conjure up. Mick Foley’s ‘Greatest Hits and Misses’ DVD started with a match between the two wrestlers. I was convinced #35 was that match, which I thoroughly enjoyed on first viewing. Sadly, it was not. #35 has all the hallmarks of brutality that you’d expect from Cactus Jack and Vader, but is ruined by an asinine gimmick. I’d heard of a Texas Death Match before but had never seen one. It sounded silly on paper, but is even sillier in execution.

It’s a stupid combination of a normal match and a Last Man Standing Match. First, a wrestler has to pin his opponent. Then there’s a thirty second rest period. THEN there’s a count of ten. If the opponent doesn’t get up during the ten count, he loses the match. Simply writing it down seems ridiculous! Even commentator Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura questions why there is a rest period after the pinfall but before the ten count. It just doesn’t make sense! That’s all I could think of when either Jack or Vader got the pinfall. Both the rest period and the ten count take all excitement out of the match. Why not just have a straight Last Man Standing match?

Could Jack lift Vader up this easily?
Could Jack lift Vader up this easily?

Unfortunately, the gimmick reduces the hard work both wrestlers put in to the match. As always, Jack takes some crazy bumps throughout. Vader is typically stiff and hard hitting, once again showing why he was one of the best big men in the wrestling business. There’s more back and forth action that you’d usually get from a Cactus Jack match. Jack would be the one receiving the majority of bumps, but he manages to suplex Vader more than a few times. This is something else that bothered me. Jack doesn’t look strong enough to suplex Big Van Vader! He executes a vertical suplex and a back suplex in quick succession. Could he actually lift him with that much ease? Yes, it’s a minor thing, but it’s something that stuck with me, even more than the silly gimmick.

There’s enough blood and brutality to satisfy any wrestling fan who likes the hardcore side of things. Chairs are liberally used throughout. Both wrestlers find themselves slammed on the steel ramp. One particularly arresting image sees Vader rising up out of a grave near the entrance. There are some big, crazy bumps. But all the hard work is taken away by the silly gimmick. I can’t emphasise how much it detracts from the match. The finish, like many of the finishes of the WCW matches on the Best 100…List, is even sillier. As a whole match, it’s not worthy of being on the Best 100…List. Yes, Jack and Vader work hard and put on an impressive hardcore match, but the details spoil everything. I’d prefer to watch the match from Foley’s ‘Greatest Hits or Misses’ DVD (Cactus Jack vs Big Van Vader, WCW Saturday Night 4/17/93).

VERDICT: 6/10. If this was a normal ‘Last Man Standing’ match, it would easily be an 8/10. But the silly Texas Death Match gimmick dulls everything around it. Not only that, but the finish is yet another joke.

Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s ‘ 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die’ List? Leave your thoughts/comments below!

Click here for my review of #36 Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair (Loser Leaves Town, WWE RAW, January 25, 1993)

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