31. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger vs Chris Benoit (Starrcade 1995)

Yes, I was disappointed with Jushin Liger’s dream match against Rey Mysterio Jr. But I went into that bout with high expectations of both wrestlers flying around the ring at 100 miles per hour. There’s Liger’s more famous opening bout against Brian Pillman, but that’s in the WWE Network’s Best 100 Matches To Watch Before You Die. His match against Chris Benoit, at Starrcade 1995, however, is a hidden gem.

This is the same PPV that has the cracking bout pitting Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjiro Otani. Benoit vs Liger opens the show, and because I didn’t expect Benoit to be doing hurricanranas and flipping around the ring, I didn’t have any preconceptions about the bout. And I loved it! The hard-hitting, ground-based Japanese style fits Benoit more than it did Mysterio a year later. And, after all, Benoit had spent his time wrestling in Japan.

This has everything you want from an opening bout: a short duration, high-octane action, and a brisk pace that never lets up. There are a few submissions here and there, but the two wrestlers are more focused kn slamming and suplexing the hell out of each other. Liger, as the more experienced wrestler, has the upper hand for the majority of the bout. He’s a step ahead of Benoit, but the latter puts up a hell of a fight.

Just like the Guerrero v Otani bout, the ending lets the two wrestlers down. After interference, a botched move ensures the three count. Its an anticlimax to a fantastic opening bout. It’s not quite a five star classic, but every opening bout should whet the audience’s appetite. It shouldn’t steal the show. But between this and the Guerrero/Otani bout, it’s hard to see any other match on the card rivalling or surpassing this kind of quality.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

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