The world is in chaos and we’re all stuck inside. Sure, WWE and AEW are still offering us new content, but if you’re looking for something else to fill your new found free time then look no further than the WWE Network.
And in case you need a little guidance the Cageside staff have picked and compiled our must watch matches!
WCW vs. nWo War Games match at WCW Fall Brawl 1996
I still love everything about this match.
The nWo was in the midst of its invasion, and this was the first really big match between the two sides. The War Games match was perfect for the story they were telling, with each side alternating entrance into the match. The nWo side had Hollywood Hulk Hogan, freshly turned heel and about to embark on yet another epic run, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and the fake Sting. The WCW side had Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, and the real Sting.
Going in, however, the nWo had made it look like Sting had turned his back on the home team, using an imposter. Luger, in particular, bought into it hook, line, and sinker, ignoring the real Sting when he said he wasn’t the guy who attacked Luger a week prior. “I looked into your eyes, I know it was you,” Lex responded.
Before the match got underway, Michael Buffer told us the nWo had three team members and a fourth we would find out when he entered the match — the assumption many would make, of course, would be that Sting would be that fourth — while the WCW side may have to go in with just three against them.
The crowd was electric for all of this. Back then, it seemed like every crowd was out of its mind for every little aspect of the war between the two sides. I know I was feeling the same at home.
One of my favorite things about it was the unabashed homerism of the commentary team. Scott Hall and Arn Anderson opened the match, with Hall gaining the early edge with some punches in the corner. When Arn countered an Irish Whip with a kick to the gut and threw Hall into that same corner to respond with punches of his own, the crowd went nuts right along with the commentary desk.
Dusty Rhodes: “Let’s go, baby, let’s go! I can’t believe I’m rooting for Double A but go on wit it baby! Go on wit it, Double A!”
Bobby Heenan: “Go, go, go, go! Rip his face, rip his face!”
I remember watching live it felt like such a big deal, and everyone involved brings it across like literally everything depends on the outcome of this one match. They managed to maintain the momentum of this all the way through the end of 1997, well over a year after it all started. I look back on this time so fondly. Pro wrestling was really special back then, maybe because I was young enough to let it be that and now nostalgia has me in its grips.
The match built to the big reveal of Sting as the fourth nWo member, but his being revealed as an imposter when the real Sting showed up as the fourth WCW member. The twist came when Sting, having proven himself, abandoned those who had abandoned him and left them to be overwhelmed by the invading force.
Perhaps that’s why this match means so much to me personally. My favorite wrestler started the character arc that I connected to so much growing up at this event, with this match. Things would never be the same again.
John Cena vs. Cesaro for the United States Championship on the June 29, 2015 Raw
Everything about Cena’s U.S. Title Open Challenge run is aces. Watching reactions to him shift from “polarizing” to almost universally beloved on the strength of matches against underutilized Superstars and new faces - many of whom smarks like me spent the previous decade watching in places like Ring of Honor - was amazing. Cena’s career is amazing start to finish, but a lot of adult fans welcome him in The GOAT conversation because in his late 30s, when he could do pretty much anything he wanted in wrestling, he decided he’d put on 20 minute bangers with guys he hoped could replace him.
Sure, Cena still won (LOL). But he was so generous in these matches and feuds. Not everyone he faced went on to become a main eventer, but you’d be hard pressed to pin that on Cena. This was the opposite of the Nexus program (although there was a Wade Barrett match in it).
While the sports entertainment buff in me will always have a soft spot for the Seth Rollins/Jon Stewart stuff, the signature feud of this run was Kevin Owens. The NXT champ told Cena where he could stick his “veteran advice”, and it felt like the wrestling world changed. It didn’t, of course. This is still WWE. But I still get chills thinking about that Pop-Up Powerbomb.
That’s part of why this is my pick. KO teases facing Cena before their scheduled match at Battleground, and joins commentary for the match. Put a mic near Owens, and I’m paying attention. He also crashes the match and denies us a definitive winner, which nine times out of ten would bug the crap out of me. But here it really worked, because no good would have come from seeing Cesaro take a clean loss.
For me, Cesaro is on a list with names like Curt Hennig, Eddie Guerrero and Daniel Bryan. There’s not a match you could book him in that I wouldn’t watch. This one didn’t lead to a WWE title run, but it helped cement the Swiss Cyborg as someone who should always be on our screens. There’s a line from here to the Sheamus feud, and The Bar, and all the great tag matches with The New Day & The Usos. It goes all the way up to The Artist Collective, one of my favorite things on WWE programming today.
Cena offered some, so Cesaro went and got some. And we’re all the better for it.
Rev. Claire Elizabeth:
CM Punk vs. John Cena (c) (WWE Championship, Money in the Bank 2011)
Yeah, yeah, it’s an obvious choice, but it’s a special one to me. It was the first time I really learned just how magical pro wrestling could be for me.
See, back before I got my little hormonal imbalance corrected, I got terrible migraines. Ever since I was seven years old, I’d get one and it generally meant game over for my day. When I was a child, the frequency wasn’t so bad, but you fast forward to my twenties and I was getting migraines four to five days a week, and my life became a slice of Swiss cheese, dotted with trips down the agony hole.
And indeed, that was the state of my life when I got back into pro wrestling in March of 2010, stubbornly trying to claw out space to enjoy myself opposite the migraine beast. Immediately I latched onto CM Punk as my guy (indeed, him singing Happy Birthday at Rey Mysterio’s daughter was the first thing I saw in my comeback), and hung on every turn, from the dissolution of the Straight Edge Society through to his (excellent) run on commentary, to the New Nexus...
...and of course, the Pipe Bomb.
Needless to say, I was blown away, and immediately knew I had to deviate from my normal policy and buy Money in the Bank to support my dude.
The day comes.
I am ready.
I sit down in front of my TV and... migraine city, population me.
Okay, okay, the moment has been prepared for, I have meds that usually help at this point in my life. I take them, and the night kicks off with my other boy, Daniel Bryan, winning the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank briefcase, and I am elated... but the headache is not responding to my meds.
The night continues, it’s a great show, I’m loving it but my headache is only getting worse as we slide into the main event. Punk comes out to This Fire Burns for the last time, my heart is soaring but my eye is screaming agony. He and Cena lock up and... my pain melts away.
This is no obscure classic. Y’all probably know the beats of the match, the hard fought back and forth as Punk takes everything Cena has to give and throws his best out in return, through to Mr. McMahon trying to screw him but John refusing to accept that kind of win, to the Go to Sleep that won it and the way our new champ took newly minted Mr. Money in the Bank Alberto Del Rio out with a high roundhouse kick to escape through the crowd before heading home and putting the title belt in his fridge.
Honestly, I like their SummerSlam and 2013 pre-WrestleMania Raw encounters more as far as strict match quality goes, but for the emotion of the night, for the sheer healing power of pro wrestling, CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011 will always be my favorite WWE match.
Cain A. Knight:
Super Crazy vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri, Mexican death match, ECW on TNN (January 2000)
This match is a wonderful showcase for why Yoshihiro Tajiri was one of my favorite wrestlers in the final two years of the original ECW. He and Super Crazy were newcomers to ECW in early 1999 and had a series of solid matches against each other where they both got over with the ECW audience without relying on the typical blood and guts wrestling style that the promotion was well known for. But Tajiri really took off later in 1999 when he grew a bit of facial hair and turned into a sadistic heel.
This Mexican death match aired in January 2000 and proved that these guys could flourish in a hardcore environment. Tajiri’s personality and charisma really shine through in this fight. The way he mocks Super Crazy and the fans while taking such joy in torturing the poor guy is tremendous.
Tajiri comes off like an unhinged psycho in this one, sending steel chairs sliding off a table and dangerously launching them right into some audience members, and then gleefully taunting said audience members. He stomped his victim through a table, bit off a chunk of skin from his head, and wiped the blood on his own chest after giving it a taste. I think he tries to impale SuperCrazy with a wrench at one point. This guy is sick and depraved, and loving every second of it.
This match will show you why Tajiri is such an entertaining wrestler. And Super Crazy is really good too! This isn’t a four star epic that goes 20+ minutes, but it’s a very fun match that is nothing like the current WWE style, and you should check it out.
Eddie Guerrero vs. JBL for the WWE Championship at Judgement Day 2004
CW: Head shots & blood. So much blood.
This is my go-to “the world is trash & I need an escape” match. JBL is so easy to hate. He’s corporate america personified. He’s everything wrong with he world while Eddie is a man of the people. Sure he may lie, cheat and steal, but it’s in a fun Robin Hood way! He’s one of us!
It’s a classic tale of good versus evil, and boy is it cathartic.
Before the match starts JBL opens with a super generic racist rant insulting the crowd for speaking Spanish and making lewd comments about Eddie’s mom. Eddie responds by coming to the ring with a look on his face that can only be described as “I will destroy you and everything you love.” JBL is shook.
The match starts off basic enough with Eddie attacking JBL with his furious fists, but soon it slows down a bit in pace allowing for JBL to get the upper hand. It’s nothing too fancy, but everything is done with such purpose and vitriol that you can feel the hatred seeping through the screen.
And then JBL gets a chair and all hell breaks loose.
With one extremely nasty shot to the head Eddie is busted open and a veritable river of blood starts to flow from his face. It’s immediately apparent that Eddie bladed too deep and that he shouldn’t be bleeding that much, but does it stop Latino Heat? OF COURSE IT DOESN’T! IT HARDLY SLOWS HIM DOWN!
Once Eddie is busted open this match transcends from a good match to a legendary match. Eddie just won’t give up! No matter how hard JBL hits or how much blood Eddie loses he refuses to give in to the evil that is JBL. Eddie has the crowd eating out of his crimson hand.
The commentary for this match captures the mood perfectly when Cole screams, “It looks like an art canvas. But that’s not paint. It’s BLOOD!” And while Mr. Cole is technically correct, it’s not paint, his instincts are dead on because it is ART.
Watching this match always gives me hope. If Eddie can kick out of the clothes line from hell after losing practically all the blood in his body then anything is possible. Viva La Raza!
Manolo Has Pizzazz:
Last Man Standing for the World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto del Rio vs Big Show (c) on SmackDown (Jan. 11, 2013)
Picking a favorite match is tough. My subscription to the WWE Network has come and gone over the years. Every time they pull me back in, there is always one specific match I watch on the first day. Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. If you want to relive the unstoppable force versus the immovable object, then I recommend jumping in with, “Andre’s final thoughts before facing Hogan,” to get the full build of the drama.
Most fans have already watched that epic encounter several times, so I want to provide a different pick. Staying in the vein of Hogan vs Andre, I’m going with another match that I love. That would be Alberto del Rio versus Big Show in Last Man Standing for the World Heavyweight Championship on SmackDown (Jan. 11, 2013).
Some of you might be rolling your eyes at the idea of del Rio and Big Show having a superb match. This is no joke with my pick, but you already knew that, perros. They told an outstanding story. The drama of this bout puts me on the edge of my seat every single time. It could be argued as the best match of both their careers.
The set-up came as Big Show was running rampant in true giant mode. He picked on del Rio’s little buddy, Ricardo Rodriguez. Alberto came to Ricardo’s aid to cement his turn as a babyface. Believe it or not, Alberto was actually super over with the fans for this match.
The excellent contest told the timeless tale of an underdog conquering a giant. Big Show was a dominant force, while Alberto’s heart carried him through to beat several 10-counts in Last Man Standing rules. Alberto persevered to chop the giant down. The beginning of the end even had a callback to Hulk vs Andre, whether it was intentional or unintentional, when Big Show banged his head by accident. Once Alberto finally got Big Show down for the count, the crowd erupted. Fantastic!
Those are our must watch matches! What are yours?