WWE Network is home to a plethora of matches that you should see that perhaps you have not, and a great many that you may not have heard much about over the years. Sometimes matches get lost in the shuffle. There are only so many classics that people are going to talk about time and time again, but there are some incredible matches that don't get much play.
I'm going to be here each Wednesday evening to give you five (5) under-the-radar recommendations. Maybe take you off the beaten path a bit. These may be matches that I've never seen before, haven't watched in years, or always think of when I get to searching my brain for matches I think are under-appreciated by the world at large. Sometimes they'll be stone cold classics, real legit great matches, and sometimes just cool or interesting things that I can talk my nonsense about. They may be matches you've seen, matches you forgot about, or matches you've never heard anyone say was dope and you should watch them.
I'm not really trying to educate y'all, just sharing some sweet chunks of rassles so that we can unite in peace and harmony. So let's get this party started. That's the thing Michael Buffer says if you don't pay him to say the famous thing.
As always, if you wanna talk rasslin jive, follow me on Twitter, @tapemachines.
Ricky Steamboat vs Randy Savage (WWE Old School, Boston Garden, 12/7/85)
A year and change before their legendary Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania III, with neither man holding a belt, Savage and Steamboat met in Boston. There's always the talk about Savage driving Steamboat crazy with his meticulous planning for the WrestleMania III match, and Savage doing that for big matches in general (Flair said he did the same thing ahead of WrestleMania VIII), but Savage has a lot of good matches that weren't exactly rehearsed in his garage for weeks, too. This is one of them. Yeah, this was worked on on the road, surely, but what match isn't? And Randy had good matches on things like WCW Saturday Night that certainly weren't practiced. I think Savage's rep as a worker gets too much stick from that idea. But I also don't see what's so bad about wanting to make sure the big, important match goes great. Of course, I'm not a wrestler, and I'm not the one dealing with Savage's paranoia, either, so I'm just talking out my hind-end here.
This certainly isn't as good as the Mania match, which probably goes without saying since Savage never had another match as good as that, but it's pretty damn good. These two had chemistry, and Savage's pre-main event heel act was tremendously good. He was very unique in the way he could instantly react to things like something in his brain had literally just snapped that very second.
The Midnight Express vs The Southern Boys (WCW Great American Bash 1990)
This is a super great tag match, maybe the best WCW match of 1990, and is just sort of a mildly updated version of the classic Express-Express feud. The Southern Boys were really awesome, because Steve Armstrong and Tracy Smothers were both top-notch in this time period, and the Express get a nice refreshening working with a couple guys who know how to play to the strengths of Eaton and Lane.
Early in this one, Jim Cornette asks a ringside fan, "Why don't you sit down and wipe that ugly off your face, you stinkin' pig-faced moron?" It's a fair question.
This match also features an amazing hillbilly martial arts showdown between Smothers and Stan Lane. Real life hillbilly martial arts is some true mess if you've never seen it. It almost always involves a fella high on codeine who's seen too many kung fu movies trying to throw down at about midnight eastern. Usually, he gets his ass whipped.
The Southern tag team match is the perfect professional wrestling format, and this is a primo and too often overlooked example. Way before Tracy Smothers was doing his comedy psycho redneck gimmick in the indies, and acting all "double mega mass homicide" at IWA Mid-South shows, great as that was, Tracy was just a real good rassler. He was an awesome talent and a killer tag worker. Armstrong could go, Eaton was Eaton (which is to say the best heel tag team wrestler ever), and Stan Lane knew Korean Karate. The weak link in this match might be Lane, but the weak link in great Midnight Express matches was often Stan Lane, which tells you a few things about the Midnight Express and their top opponents of the time.
If you're a dummy that will only watch one of these matches, make it this one. Genuine underrated classic.
Bret Hart vs The Barbarian (WWE Old School, MSG, 6/3/91)
I always enjoy watching Bret in singles action during the Hart Foundation days, or in this case, just when his singles push was really starting. A few months earlier at WrestleMania VII, the Foundation lost the WWF tag belts to the Nasty Boys, and then they went their separate ways, Bret advancing to what would become a legendary singles career, and Jim Neidhart not doing that. For this match, Neidhart's on commentary with Gorilla and the Brain.
In this one, Bret pits his all-round wrestling wiles and toughness against the power of the mighty Barbarian, who has Mr. Fuji at ringside since Heenan is on commentary. Fuj the Stooge is just filling in. There's some great commentary here when Hart is outside the ring and down, and Gorilla wonders why Fuji isn't more mobile, doesn't go to the other side of the ring to get some cheap shots in. Monsoon hated cheap shots, but he understood them. It was to be expected. Gorilla was no fool.
Back when I was a teen dream, I would spend countless hours screwing around on the great DOS wrestling simulator TNM7, and I noticed over time that it was pretty difficult to get Bret Hart to have less than a three-star match on there. So eventually I ran a dummy fed where I could just mess about without booking cards or losing myself in the fantasy world I was creating in my brain, and I did a "card" with about 20 Bret Hart matches against wrestlers of varying degrees of low workrate points. Bret got three stars out of everyone but Andre the Giant, and even that was **½, I think. This match reminded me of that -- not because I think Barbarian sucks, as he does not, but this is sort of seeing what Bret can do with this guy. And he gets a good match out of Barbarian, who was awesome and all, but basically never had memorable matches, if only because he wasn't in that position ever. So 1991 Bret was getting good stuff out of Barbarian. It's easy to understand how he finally got his big singles push just a couple of months later, beating Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam.
Taz vs Buh Buh Ray Dudley (ECW Hardcore Heaven 1999)
Back in The Day, I got to see this one live because my friend's mom was stealing DirecTV, so we were just watching every damn PPV in 1999, which was good fun. This was a show I was excited for in large part for the Taz vs Chris Candido match, but in typical ECW! ECW! style, they THREW THE FORMAT OUT THE WINDOW, which was very extreme, and Taz beat Candido in, like, a minute or whatever, which opened the show, then the Dudleys did some mess, and long story short, the ECW title match was changed to Taz vs Buh Buh Ray Dudley. Now, I was pretty steamed about this at the time, and I didn't quite appreciate how good this match was, but years later I thought, "I bet I'd like that match, now that I think about what it was," and indeed I do.
This is a quality ECW brawl, all bloody and chaotic, plus Taz was in his super enjoyable phase as the little angry sawed-off monster, ruling ECW with an iron fist and a variety of suplexes, tossing fatso Buh Buh around like he was poor lil' Mikey Whipreck or the like.
Kane vs Test (WWF No Mercy 2001)
Here's one for all you lovers out there who enjoy a good hoss-on-hoss slam fest. This quality in this one was a surprise 13 years ago, and it more than holds up, as the crowd is abnormally hot for a Kane-Test match, since it's on early in the card, the audience was still usually pretty strong around this time even with the invasion angle flopping around like a dying fish, and however it happened, for whatever reason it happened, Kane and Test must have looked at each other backstage and said, "Alright, let's go balls to the wall." This is an unusual amount of effort toward making a good, crisply-paced match, considering half the match is Test and the other half is Kane.
If you're maybe thinking, "Aw, this match can't be all that," well, I've probably oversold it just by putting it here, or maybe not oversold it, but at least sent your expectations too high. I stand by this being a rock n' roll collision of big buys BRANGIN' IT, but maybe if you expect it to be good, it's not as good? You tell me. This has a strong argument for title of Test's best match, in my opinion.
Watch and enjoy! Tell me what you think of these sweet, sweet gems, friends and readers.