Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #20 Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (I Quit Match, NWA Clash of the Champions IX: New York Knockout)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v32289067?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=clash_of_the_champions&contentId=73071322&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

What do Ric Flair and Terry Funk have in common? They’ve both retired more than a few times! We’ve seen Ric Flair a lot in the Best 100…List. But Terry Funk? Terry Funk? This is his first and only entry on the Best 100…List. He’s known for his hardcore antics (often in conjunction with Mick Foley) rather than his in-ring expertise. But this match (and the feud leading up to it) is surely his finest moment in the squared circle. I’ve said it before, but Flair plays a great babyface as well as a great heel. Here, Funk plays the crazed heel, Flair plays the valiant hero, fighting for his career. What they produce is a very good, but not great, ‘I Quit Match.’
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Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #21 Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley (WWE Intercontinental Title, Hardcore Match, WWE Backlash 2004)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31345329?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=backlash&contentId=67696346&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

According to the WWE Network’s Best 100…List, this is Mick Foley’s best match. And who am I to argue with The List? Out of all the matches of Foley, is this really his best match? I’d argue that his match against Shawn Michaels is his finest in-ring work. But that’s at #44 (click here for my review). However, as a close second best from Foley, this one against Randy Orton is spectacular. Yes, it follows the beats of a usual ‘no holds barred’ Foley match, but there’s more than enough twists and turns to elevate it to something extremely special.
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Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #22 The Royal Rumble Match (WWE Title, WWE Royal Rumble 1992)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31345295?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=royal_rumble&contentId=67733236&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

I’ve never enjoyed the Royal Rumble as a match. It’s all about the excitement of who comes next, the surprise entrants, and who will win. Yes, there may be a few memorable moments (the past few years, for example, have seen Kofi Kingston avoid elimination by innovative means). The final five minutes are always tense (unless Roman Reigns is involved…). But much of the match involves wrestlers attempting to lift other wrestlers over the top rope in unconvincing ways. I can only name a few Royal Rumble matches that I’d watch more than once. The Royal Rumble 2001 is one of them. #22, Royal Rumble 1992, is now another one. But does that mean it should be in the Best 100…List?
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Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #23 The Undertaker vs. Triple H (No Holds Barred, WWE Wrestlemania XXVII)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31294205?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania&contentId=66743782&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

At #56, we saw the sequel to this match. The Undertaker and HHH fought in a Hell in a Cell, to consecrate the ‘End of an Era’ (whatever that meant!). That match was spoiled by excessive selling and a strange story being told in the ring. Here, however, the selling is just right (if a little overboard at times) and the story is solid. Out of their three WrestleMania bouts, this bout at WrestleMania 27 is surely their best… Continue reading

Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #24 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage (WWE Title, WWE Wrestlemania VIII)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31348403?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania&contentId=67734570&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

The match every wrestling fan wanted to main event WrestleMania VIII was Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair. It’s the dream match that many thought might never happen. Would Flair ever go to WWF? Go to WWF he did, but Hogan and Flair never fought on TV during Flair’s first turn in WWF. Instead, we received the awful main event of Hogan vs Sid Justice. However, we were still treated to one of the all time great WrestleMania matches: Flair vs Randy Savage. With two of the best wrestling talents ever going one on one, could we expect anything less than greatness? Bolstered by a blistering feud, Flair vs Savage was everything a wrestling fan wanted…

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Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #25 Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (WWE World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match, WWE No Mercy 2008)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31277487?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=no_mercy&contentId=66740026&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels had one of the greatest feuds of all time in 2008. Yes, it started five years before that in 2003 (culminating in their WrestleMania XIX match positioned at #76), but the feud erupted like Krakatoa in the summer of 2008. It involved a Jeritron 6000, a damaged eye, HBK’s wife and much more. The latter feud culminated in this ladder match at No Mercy 2008. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. An obvious botch midway through the match dissolved my suspension of disbelief. And, I wondered, why did two veterans have a ladder match? In a ladder match, you expect the frantic, risk-taking actions suited to younger wrestlers. I was disappointed. However, viewing it now, I see it in a better light.

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Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #26 Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (WWF Championship, Streetfight, WWE Royal Rumble 2000)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31345807?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=royal_rumble&contentId=67733314&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

​This is one of my all-time favourite matches. It  developed from  a believable and brutal rivalry between HHH and Mick Foley that really extended far back to 1997. HHH became a star and Mick Foley proved he could still put on a hell of a match after a relatively quiet 1999. We’ve already seen HHH and Cactus Jack fight in the Best 100…List (#94, click here for my review). This match is an evolution of that one. It ramps up the ultraviolence to a degree rarely seen in WWE, even back in the Attitude Era. They had a PPV level match on Raw in 1997. This actual PPV match at Royal Rumble 2000 is one for the ages. Continue reading

Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #27 Ric Flair vs. Sting (NWA World Title, NWA Clash of the Champions I)

20141106_EP_LIGHT_100best_2_home_nologo(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v32286157?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=clash_of_the_champions&contentId=73027582&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

Another Ric Flair match? Of course! He’s on the Best 100…List no less than thirteen times. That would be unlucky for some, but it’s lucky for one of the all-time wrestling greats. On this list, we’ve seen him wrestle other wrestling greats to wrestling green as grass big men (see #93 against Lex Luger, and click here for my review!). Here, he fights another fairly green man, in the guise of Sting. It’s obvious that Sting was catapulted to the top of the card due to his look, size and popularity. But not his wrestling. It’s a testament to Flair that this match is very good, but unfortunately Sting drags the contest down. He simply doesn’t have the ability to make his offence interesting for this drawn-out match.

What came first? The Sharpshooter,or the Scorpion Death Lock?

This match would benefit from a shorter duration. At 45 minutes, it’s too long for the newcomer Sting to hold his own against Flair. The constant reminder of the time (the announcer gives an update every five minutes) is a huge distraction as well. In Iron Man matches, for example, the time limit on screen is there for a reason: to count down the seconds and increase the tension as the hour/half hour passes. For this clash, the constant reminder of the time serves little purpose. There’s a time limit but do we need to be reminded of it? Why not tell us that there are five minutes left and leave it at that?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve accidentally hit rewind frequently during this match. I lost count how many times Sting went through a sequence of punching Flair in the corner and hip tossing him across the ring. In a match that went 20 minutes or so, the repeated sequence wouldn’t be so noticeable. But here, it is painfully noticeable. Sting’s limited move set harms the match. There’s only so many times that Sting can mount a comeback using the same sequence before it becomes boring.

However, the crowd go wild for everything he does. It’s a testament to not only his popularity, but Flair’s ability to manipulate the crowd as well. He sells Sting’s offence like a million dollars. We see the Flair flop and the usual Flair sequence of being whipped into the corner, going over the top, running to the next corner and being pressed off the top rope. But it’s all done to make Sting look awesome. In fairness, it often works. Flair plays the heel like no other, and this match is yet another great example of Flair at work. He cheats to get the advantage over Sting to build up the babyface’s comebacks. It’s a work of art and decreases the effect of seeing Sting repeat the same sequence over and over again.

The crowd and Ric Flair make this match special, and Sting, whilst he isn’t up to the task, is still treated like a megastar by the crowd. Sometimes it makes you believe that he’s a wrestling god. However, he still prevents the match from being a classic. Instead, it’s still a very good match that goes on for far too long. With a green big man, you make the match short. You make him batter the opponent. Let him show off his strength. At 20 minutes, this match would be great. As it is, it’s merely very good. I actually prefer another match on the Best 100…List from the same PPV over this one, the match between The Midnight Express and The Fantastics (click here for my review!). I’d also like to see a place for Ric Flair’s retirement match against Shawn Michaels on the Best 100…List as well…

VERDICT: 7/10. A potentially great match is curtailed by the inexperience of Sting and the duration of the match. However, the crowd and Ric Flair make it one to remember.

 

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 #28 CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (No Disqualfication, WWE Summerslam 2013)

Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #28 CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (No Disqualfication, WWE Summerslam 2013)

20141106_EP_LIGHT_100best_2_home_nologo(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31280129/?contentId=&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=summerslam )

Before Brock Lesnar got lazy and decided to sleepwalk his matches, his return to the WWE resulted in some memorable matches. His return match against John Cena ranks higher on the WWE Network’s Best 100…List, but for my money, this match against CM Punk is his best match since he returned. It’s just as brutal as his fight against John Cena, but the story of the match (and the story behind the match) gives every move an extra depth. It’s not just “The Best vs The Beast,” but David vs Goliath inside a square ring.

CM Punk had turned babyface in 2013 after his record breaking WWE Title reign was ended by The Rock. Before he turned face, Punk was a “Paul Heyman” guy. Who else was a Paul Heyman guy? The returning Brock Lesnar. Would Paul Heyman have to choose between the two at some point? Not really, but choose he did. At Money in the Bank 2013, Paul Heyman turned on CM Punk. After that, Heyman hid behind the monstrous Brock Lesnar on the path to Summerslam, where “The Beast” would take on “The Best” in a No Disqualifications match. Lesnar’s matches had rarely disappointed since his return. He brought a realism to the ring (thanks to his MMA experience, but mainly thanks to his larger than life look and his devastating moveset) that added extra tension to a match. When an opponent sold Lesnar’s moves, you could never be sure if they were faking it or in real pain. Against someone like Punk, almost half the size of Lesnar, that tension was multiplied.

This match is as stiff as any match you’ll see in modern WWE

Summerslam 2014 also showcased John Cena vs Daniel Bryan as the main event, which is #54 on the Best 100…List (click here for my review!). However, while that was more a wrestling contest than a brawl, Lesnar and Punk churned out a glorified brawl. It’s simply more excited and gruelling to watch. Punk shows no fear at the beginning of the bout, attempting to fight Lesnar head on, but is roughly tackled into the corner and pounded. Punk launches a high-speed counter attack, leading with a suicide dive. He leaps off every surface to get an advantage over Lesnar. Of course, Lesnar soon comes back. That’s the story of the match, Punk getting a minimal advantage only for Lesnar to quickly cut him down. It makes for a gripping match, all the more so since it’s so easy to root for Punk over Lesnar. Punk’s comebacks are paced wondrously, as are the moments where Lesnar cuts Punk down. The use of chairs is also commendable: they aren’t used to excess, but only to seal Punk’s comebacks towards the end of the match. Punk sells the beating he receives from Lesnar brilliantly, but Lesnar sells just as well.

It’s one of the few matches where I thought a bear hug was appropriate and increases the tension, rather than sapped the tension away. Lesnar impresses as much as Punk, not relying on German suplexes to carry a match but holding his own half of the match up. In my reckoning, it’s Lesnar’s last great match since he returned. He’s phoned in his matches since then, and apart from a decent Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker, Lesnar sits on his pile on cash and laurels rather than trying to create memorable matches. But here, against CM Punk, he delivered a truly great match.

VERDICT: 9/10. One of the great matches of Summerslam’s history. It outdid the main event in terms of excitement, tension and brutality. Lesnar and Punk battered the hell out of each other in a match that’s exhausting to watch (but in a good way!). Lesnar’s last great match? Probably…

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 #29 Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (Ladder Match, WWE No Mercy 1999)

Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #29 Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (Ladder Match, WWE No Mercy 1999)

20141106_EP_LIGHT_100best_2_home_nologo(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31366785/?contentId=31366785&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=no_mercy )

The Hardy Boyz and the team of Edge and Christian (along with the Dudley Boyz) reinvigorated the tag team division in WWF/E’s Attitude Era. Their willingness to be thrown off ladders and slammed through tables revolutionized the ladder match as well. Unbelievably, the first ever tag team ladder match was only a taster of the high risk insanity that the two teams would bring to the tag team division. But that taster blew my mind back in 1999. It still makes me gasp and wince almost twenty years on. This match heightened expectations for insane stunts in ladder matches that are still held today. But few ladder matches can match the insanity of the first ever tag team ladder match (and, as an aside, it led to the creation of my favourite wrestling video game, the N64’s WWF No Mercy!). Continue reading