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Sorry Randy: Our Picks For Greatest Match Ever!

What with all the hype that surrounded the recent Edge-Randy Orton Backlash encounter (‘the greatest match ever’), and all of the intense debate it generated, we here on the Sports Obsessive team thought we’d put together a list of our own personal takes on what we feel is the real greatest match ever.

Let us know in the comments what your picks for the greatest match ever are!

TLC II: Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz (WrestleMania 17, 2001) – Chosen by Greg Bender

Edge is about to leap at a dangling Jeff Hardy

Take three of the best tag teams ever and in their primes no less (Edge & Christian, the Hardy Boyz, and the Dudley Boyz), hold the match in front of 67,925 raucous fans, have it called by the legendary Jim Ross and the best talker in the business in Paul Heyman, focus the match on each team’s signature choice of weapon, include interference by each of the team’s allies (Rhyno, Lita and Spike Dudley), perform jaw dropping spots like Edge spearing Jeff Hardy off a 20′ ladder while Jeff is hanging in the air with the titles or Matt Hardy and Bubba Ray Dudley crashing through four tables off a 20′ ladder from inside the ring, and make it for the Tag Team titles.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tables, Ladders, and Chairs 2, the greatest match of all time. Was it pure wrestling for the wrestling purists out there? No, it was not, but that doesn’t mean TLC 2 was any less entertaining and death defying. On a night capped off with a shocking heel turn by Stone Cold Steve Austin, TLC 2 was rightfully the show stealer of WrestleMania 17.

Unsanctioned Street Fight: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (SummerSlam, 2002) – Chosen by James Corcoran

Shawn Michaels drops a flying elbow on a prone Triple H

On August 25th 2002, ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels and ‘The Game’ Triple H, brought us a SummerSlam match that I would regard as ‘The Greatest Match Ever’. The tag line to this match was ‘Best Friends, Now Bitter Enemies’ and there could not have been anything more accurate during that time period.

The saga started off with a promo by Triple H on an episode of Raw prior to SummerSlam. Triple H was stood in the ring, then a bloodied Shawn Michaels, who had been attacked by a mystery attacker in the parking lot. A pixellated clip from CCTV went on to show that it was Triple H himself who attacked The Heartbreak Kid’. At this point, I was 12 years old and I had an inflatable Triple H punching bag in my house, its safe to say that the 12 year old James had it out with that inflatable punching bag in HBK’s defence. Your welcome, Shawn.

This was an unsanctioned match, with the referee, Earl Hebner, only there to count the pin fall. The importance of this match was immense, given that this was Shawn’s first match back in WWE after he retired in 1998 due to drug issues and a major back injury. Michaels wasted no time in proving that he hadn’t missed a beat, as he brought the attack to the devilish Triple H and in a matter of minutes Shawn had propelled himself over the top rope with a diving attack onto ‘The Game’. Meanwhile, Triple H was pulling out every trick in the book to get one over on his former best friend, without success: Shawn picked up the victory in this classic in triumphant fashion, countering a pedigree with a roll-up.

In later years both Triple H and Shawn Michaels spoke candidly about this match. The two had not spoken for many years until one day Triple H picked up a call from Shawn, who had become closer the his spiritual side and had become a born again Christian. Michaels wanted one more match in the WWE and Triple H would have been the only man for the job. To me, this match is truly ‘The Greatest Match Ever’.

2 Out Of Three Falls: Ric Flair vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat (Clash of the Champions VI, 1989) Chosen by Chris Flackett

Ric Flair locks a sleeper on Ricky Steamboat as referee Tommy Young checks the champ

Often hailed as one of the best series of matches between two performers in wrestling history, the ’89 trilogy of classics between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat saw the pair not only engage in this, arguably the best match of the three, but also the greatest match of all time.

There are two main schools of thought regarding pro wrestling: the first being that it’s about the characters first and foremost, and Sports Entertainment; the second is that, although a work, it can still be an athletic, sporting affair, with smooth and pure technical wrestling on display and a real competitive edge (think the general Japanese style of wrestling). Flair and Steamboat proved that the latter was very much a valid type of wrestling in an increasingly cartoonish grappling landscape (and I say that as a fan of Hulkamania!)

The 2 out of three falls stipulation gave the match a natural beginning, middle and end structure that played well to the story being told. Flair reversed a small package; Steamboat took the second to even the score with the chicken wing (and it’s not often you saw Flair tap!). By this point, both men are exhausted, having stiffed each other thoroughly with chops and continuously countered each in other with beautifully smooth wrestling sequences. But the pace doesn’t let up – the title means that much to both of them.

Even the ending, although not clean, is excellent in that it leads into the third and final match in the series. Steamboat applies the chicken wing, they fall to the mat, the ref counts three but Steamboat had his shoulder up. 2-1 Steamboat! Except the ref didn’t see Ric’s foot under the rope. It’s excellent storytelling through excellent wrestling and remains, to this day, the greatest match ever.

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin (WrestleMania 13, 1997) – Chosen by Guest Writer Steven Metcalfe

Bret Hart has a bloody Steve Austin in a sharpshooter, as Ken Shamrock looks on

You might not be surprised to find Austin vs. Bret at WrestleMania 13 featured on a list of wrestling’s greatest ever matches. It frequently appears in such lists across wrestling media. What else can be written about this match that hasn’t been said? The answer; not a lot, other than a personal love letter.

There are many elements that make up professional wrestling; drama, athleticism, story, characters and their development, technical skills, brutality etc. For wrestling to be enjoyable at least one of these elements to be exemplified. Great wrestling contains a few of them. Austin vs Bret contains them all.

Yes, individually these elements have all been done better elsewhere; hell, Hart and Austin themselves had an arguably better technical match at Survivor Series 96′. But have all these individual elements been achieved at such a high standard in the same match? I would argue no. The match is a Bret-led masterclass in storytelling and psychology, while the chair shots etc. are brutal, but not reckless. The blood, though admittedly gruesome by today’s standards, does add an additional layer of drama to the match. The use of Shamrock as guest ref is utilised at the right time i.e. after the bell has rung. Though the double turn has been over egged in subsequent years (Austin was fairly over by this point and Bret was on the road to Heelsville), we do see some of the audience changing perspective through the match and even more when the Hitman backs down from Shamrock.

This is a match that ticks all the right boxes, and I firmly believe that this classic stands up to this day. At any rate, it’s better than Edge vs. Orton…

Hell in a Cell: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (In Your House: Badd Blood, 1997) Chosen by Conor O’Donnell

Both Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker lie prone and battered on the mat as we look at them through the roof of the cage

The greatest match ever? One cannot simply pick just one. Well, if I had to pick one, it would be the Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker at Badd Blood: IYH 1997. Sure, there are standalone matches with bigger spots, more emotion, and better ring work. But the inaugural Hell in a Cell match trumps other legendary matches in storytelling. Say what you want about the WWE, they have told many of the best stories on the national scale.

Shawn and Taker were so masterful with this match, Mick Foley felt the only way to top it was to nearly kill himself in the next Hell in a Cell match. I doubt other great matches mentioned here on 25YL also debuted a new character. Kane managed to be a mainstay for over 20 years. His backstory was deep and the promos by Paul Bearer were the best of his career. This feud was crafted at the perfect pace while humanizing the Undertaker. At the same time this match helped created a new match/brand that WWE would overuse to this day.

2 Out of Three Falls: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega (Dominion, 2018) Chosen by Andrew Stewart

Kazichuka Okada and Kenny Omega prepare to square off

If you ask ten people what the greatest wrestling match of all time is, you will more than likely receive at least eight different answers. With something as subjectively entertaining as pro wrestling, I was racking my brain in the search for objectivity. Some of my favourite matches are not great WRESTLING matches. Hogan vs. Rock brings a tear to my eye; it’s not great wrestling. Lex Luger nearly soiling himself in a steel cage with Bruiser Brody brings a tear or two from laughter. Purely based on technical in-ring work and long-term storytelling though, I think the greatest match ever is Okada vs. Omega IV.

Okada vs. Omega II, which ended in a time limit draw, is probably my personal favourite in the series. Yet the fourth match was able to reach a height I wasn’t aware even existed at the time. Including entrances and extemporaneous pomp, this match goes close to ninety minutes. That is absolutely absurd in the modern era. The magic of professional wrestling is rooted in suspension of disbelief, and if you followed the rise of Omega and The Elite from 2016, you felt every blistering moment of this epic. The men in the ring give everything they have to this match. The physicality is New Japan Pro Wrestling at its best. With two of the most protected finishing moves in the business, the close calls and near falls literally have you on the edge of your seat. In the end, the man who I vehemently believe is the greatest active professional wrestler on the planet became the true King of Sports.

Written by Sports Obsessive

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