It’s safe to say that we’re currently experiencing one of the most extraordinary eras of our lives. Having to self-isolate within our own homes for a number of weeks with little to no social contact is something that is going to wear down our collective mental health and eventually put us in a situation where we need a bit of a pick-me-up. Throughout my 25 years, there have been several occasions where wrestling has been there for me, whether that be to pass the time or to give me a bit of escapism.
Once again, the world can turn to wrestling as we build to the historic WrestleMania 36: a pre-taped, two-night event hailing from the WWE PC. However, before we get to the ‘Grandest Stage of them all’, we’d like to recommend 10 wrestling matches for you to chow down on during your quarantine. We’ve chosen a range of different matches from various promotions, each deserving a little more credit than they get. So if you’re a veteran wrestling fan or simply looking for something different during these dark times, we’ve got your back.
Please share your own personal recommendations in the comments section below. The wrestling fanbase may not always come across like the most positive bunch of fans, but we can surely transform into a loving, caring community when the chips are down. Look out for one another, take care of yourselves and let’s deliver a collective finger-poke of doom to COVID-19.
10. Kurt Angle vs The Undertaker – No Way Out 2006
Arguably the greatest championship match to ever take place on a Road to WrestleMania, Kurt Angle, newly dubbed ‘The Wrestling Machine’, defeated Mark Henry for the World Heavyweight Championship in early 2006. Angle was thrown into the deep end as he approached WrestleMania 22 and was pitted against a formidable opponent in The Undertaker.
Surprisingly, WWE didn’t want to book this match for Mania itself. Both were respected main-eventers and could have easily carried a 20 minute title bout on the biggest card of the year. Instead, WWE put their eggs in Rey Mysterio’s basket, as he was heading towards his first major championship win after winning that year’s Royal Rumble.
Fortunately, Angle and Taker still delivered on this incredible dream match. Their chemistry is second to none thanks to their years competing in various feuds throughout the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras, and they once again stole the show with a fantastic back-and-forth contest. This could easily be cited as Angle’s last best WWE match before leaving the company and seeking new fame in TNA.
This could have easily gone either way, but the right man won in this instance. Undertaker then went on to battle ‘The Worlds Strongest Man’ Mark Henry in a Casket Match, while Angle defended in a triple threat against both Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton.
9. Keith Lee vs Matt Riddle vs Jimmy Havoc – Riptide: Point Break
The truly bizarre triple-threat, 2-out-of-3 Tables match between NXT’s Keith Lee, Matt Riddle and AEW’s deathmatch connoisseur, Jimmy Havoc is a match that fellow CV writer Sam Preston has recommended highly. Riptide Wrestling is best known for its cinematic approach to in-ring presentation, filming in such a way that it sets the promotion apart from every other on the British indie scene. Riptide have also managed to secure some impressive bookings in the past few years, including the three highlighted in this particular match.
An argument has been made for this year’s WrestleMania to be shot in a very similar way to that of a Riptide match, adopting the smoother camerawork to help highlight the athletic feats on show. It would certainly allow for WrestleMania to regain some of its grandeur despite having to emanate from the WWE PC.
Anyway, back to the match at hand. This is a great exhibition for all three superstars, who naturally gel with one another thanks to their juxtaposing in-ring styles and aesthetic. The added stipulation of a two-out-of-three tables match adds to the intrigue and makes for a really fun match.
Honestly, I couldn’t recommend Riptide enough. Big things lie ahead for the Brighton promotion.
8. Killshot vs Dante Fox – Ultima Lucha Tres
A match of the year candidate of mine from 2017, the very brutal War of Hell match that pitted former war buddies Killshot and Dante Fox against one another in front of the bloodthristy believers of Lucha Underground. Take away the fantasy narrative and kayfabe-heavy world of LU, this match was an unbelievable deathmatch by today’s standards. It not only included some cringe-inducing hardcore spots, but also delivered a fantastic wrestling match to boot.
This match took the wrestling world by surprise as the main event of the first episode of the Ultima Lucha finale. This storyline simmered as part of the mid-card scene for the best part of the season, and this match was treated as the climax of their former friendship turned bitter feud. I tip my hat to both men for going all-out for this match, shredding skin and spilling blood across the temple.
Just to add to the expert storytelling of Lucha Underground, on the following episode, Killshot and Dante Fox teamed as part of a Trios Championship match. Battered and bruised from the previous night’s antics, they still went on to win the damn match. Even though LU has since gone under, this match stands the test of time as one of their greatest.
7. Chris Hero vs Tommy End – PWG: Don’t Sweat the Technique
This match between two future NXT veterans comes from one of my favourite PWG events: Don’t Sweat the Technique. This particular event featured not only this hard-hitting banger, but also a fantastic grapple-fest between Matt Riddle and Kyle O’Reilly and an insane main-event title match between Zack Sabre Jr. and Roderick Strong. If I could recommend just one event in this list, it would be this one.
But to narrow that whole card down to just one, I’d have to choose End/Hero. Both respected indie stars at this time, they delivered a spectacular wrestling bout with stiff strikes and plenty of chain grappling. It’s a true testament to the diverse skill-set both these men have and also a key example of how great of a promotion PWG was, and continues to be.
In case you weren’t sold on Aleister Black or Kassius Ohno in WWE/NXT, then this match should hopefully win you over. They once again tussled during Aleister’s opening series of matches in NXT, which was a great match in of itself, but I’m not sure they ever met their standards set in PWG.
6. Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomohiro Ishii – G1 Climax 23
Easily on a list of best matches from the past decade, Shibata vs Ishii has forever been revered as one of the greatest performances from both men’s respective careers, and perhaps one of the greatest G1 Climax matches to date. Two of the stiffest wrestlers in the world absolutely laid into one another to the delight of the respectful NJPW audience.
The annual G1 tournament is best known for putting wrestlers through a hellish month’s worth of grappling that can either make or break a performer. Some men are quickly put on the sidelines with untimely injuries while others consistently deliver high-quality matches that puts them at the top of the roster hierarchy. Shibata and Ishii gave no caution to the wind to injury and battled like it was their last.
There was a key story being told from start to finish; who could come out on top as the top slugger of NJPW. It’s a thrilling contest from the moment the bell rings, if you’re a fan of a more shoot-style wrestling match then this should be first on your watchlist.
5. Pete Dunne vs Tyler Bate – Press Start 5
Weeks following their instant classic at NXT: TakeOver Chicago, Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate battled once more in a sensational rematch with a slight twist. This particular contest from Attack Pro Wrestling has become somewhat of a cult classic, pitting two very high-profile performers against one another in a match where their roles were completely reversed.
I’m going to have a crack at explaining the very convoluted, Christopher Nolan-inspired narrative behind these shenanigans. Basically, Chief Deputy Dunne of the Anti-Fun Police took control of the mystical Gamecube that somehow controls the Attack Pro Wrestling universe. Dunne, and his buddy Santos, altered the world under his own image of NO FUNAHH. This led to some discontinuities of sorts, meaning that the lives of Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate were spliced together, seemingly trading their gimmicks and wrestling styles to produce two alternate versions of themselves.
You with me?
Regardless of inter-dimensional issues, Bate and Dunne absolutely killed it in their Chicago rematch. Despite not having the allure of the WWE cameras to push them further than ever before, they performed to the same level of standard that they won the world over with at TakeOver.
We don’t deserve this match, for so many different reasons.
4. Zack Sabre Jr. vs A-Kid – Total Rumble 8
Taking a dive into Spanish wrestling will likely lead you to a match featuring recent NXT UK signee, A-Kid. His work, alongside Carlos Romo as part of Team WhiteWolf, has been heralded by many as wrestling that you shouldn’t sleep on. Quite possibly his most credited match to-date was his 5* encounter with Zack Sabre Jr.
For many, this was quite the unassuming place to find a match of this quality, but for those in attendance, they made it seem like A-Kid vs ZSJ was WrestleMania worthy. These two delivered some of the smoothest and most exciting technical wrestling this side of Dean Malenko.
This match almost comes across like something out of the octagon, mixing MMA style submission wrestling with some good old fashioned fisticuffs. Definitely give this one some time, then go ahead and check out A-Kid as he ascends through the ranks of NXT UK. He’s something special that WWE shouldn’t let slip through their fingers.
3. WALTER vs Timothy Thatcher – PROGRESS Chapter 62
Luckily I managed to track down a link to this incredible singles match, which you can find here. It took me a while to narrow down a recommendation for PROGRESS, but I finally concluded on this cracker between RingKampf pals WALTER and Timothy Thatcher. These two brutes have gone on to have other classics in companies such as PWG, but none grasped me more than their battle at PROGRESS: Chapter 62 for the Atlas Championship, which for those who don’t know, is basically a reverse Cruiserweight title, exclusively defended by hosses.
WALTER and Timothy Thatcher absolutely tore the roof off of The Electric Ballroom, leaving fans bewildered after 20 minutes of hard chops and false-finishes. I believe that this is some of RingKampf’s best work collectively, and that includes WXW. These two set the bar for big men in BritWres and established themselves as individually two of the best wrestlers on the scene.
WALTER has of course gone on to NXT UK title fame and Thatcher is close behind awaiting his debut. If you need something to whet your whistle from two big bruisers, then this match is a must.
2. Generation Me vs Motor City Machine Guns – No Surrender 2010
Quite possibly the biggest failure in the history of TNA/Impact Wrestling was how they completely dropped the ball with Matt and Nick Jackson. A team that would go on to revolutionise tag team wrestling across the world started off as the humble Generation Me, putting on a selection of great matches that kind of went under the radar. Amongst that, a series of matches with fellow tag team aficionados – Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley – would help put them on the map for years to come.
In my opinion, we’ve been living in an absolute golden era of tag team wrestling with the likes of The Young Bucks, The Briscoes, The Revival, Aussie Open and The Undisputed Era all delivering unprecedented standards for tag teams across the world. This match helped kick-start that era with some of the most intense sequences seen festering in the times where Hulk Hogan lorded over TNA like some sort of menacing baron.
I’m glad to see at least Alex Shelley being given some worldwide love, thanks to his recent run with Kushida in the NXT Dusty Classic, but it’s time to give the spotlight to Chris Sabin too, as together, they helped establish The Bucks, as well as several other teams during their run as one of the top teams in Impact.
If you like fast-paced tag bouts with a tonne of fun spots, then this is certainly for you.
1. John Cena vs CM Punk – Money in the Bank 2011
I say this without an inch of hyperbole; this match changed my life.
The year was 2011, and my love for wrestling was running on empty. I was reaching that pivotal point in my teenage years where I was deciding whether professional wrestling was still for me, or whether it was time to move on and find a new hobby. Thankfully, the feud between John Cena and CM Punk was there to draw me back in and set me on the path to becoming the wrestling editor for Cultured Vultures.
In terms of wrestling, this match is perfect. In terms of storytelling, this match is perfect. In terms of TV drama, this match is perfect. There is nothing that can take away from the magnitude of this match. It helped rejuvenate WWE at a very crucial time, it helped pave the way for independent wrestlers that have since become mainstream attractions, and it helped redefine professional wrestling.
Occasionally, I like to remind myself of just how great this match was, and I believe that everyone would benefit from taking a trip back to Money in the Bank 2011 while we’re all in need of a little inspiration. It just has that historic vibe that few matches achieve nowadays, the hot Chicago crowd knew they were watching something important and responded to it in kind.
Critics around the world still tout this match as one of their absolute favourites, and I’ll do the exact same here in this article. Again, this match changed everything for me and I’m eternally grateful to everyone involved in the match for making it so.
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