This is a list. A list of ten pro wrestling… Moments in time? Spots? Matches? This entire piece has kind of evolved into such a strange history of Gary LaPlante, Dave Walsh and Jason Nawara’s pro wrestling fandom that it was decided that the best title for this list would be simply; Ten Pro Wrestling Moments That Blew Our Minds.
Take a journey with us from the macabre to the marvelous. From Tokyo to Pittsburgh, let’s get to it.
10. Shoji Nakamaki defeating Hiroshi Ono in the first thumbtack match Jason had ever seen
The Undertaker chokeslamming Foley onto thumbtacks to finish the infamous HiTC match was the first time I ever saw thumbtacks used in a match, but this was the first, actual, thumbtack match I ever saw. This was the match that made me realize that there was a whole new world of wrestling in the Japanese deathmatch. Sure, we’ve all seen Mick and Terry Funk fight in Japan, but there were plenty of amazing wrestlers who did a lot of ****ed up shit that simply don’t get the praise they deserve. Shoji Nakamaki and Hiroshi Ono are two of them. This match has great pacing and psychology that really sells the wild finishing spots at the end. I guess beyond the wrestling lingo and smark-dom, this match changed the common office thumbtack for me forever, and that’s why it makes the list.
9. Gary: Hardy Boyz/Dudley Boyz/Edge and Christian TLC Wrestlemania 17
My wrestling fandom as a young lad was odd. I never liked the wrestlers a 11 year old should’ve. I wasn’t a Stone Cold fan, didn’t like The Rock, hated Hogan. My favorite wrestlers as a kid was always a mix of guys who could flat out go in the ring and guys who took insane bumps. So seeing as the early 2000’s were littered with TLC matches filled with guys who could go and did take insane bumps. I was trembling with excitement. At the time I was a huge Jeff Hardy mark because well… He always took insane bumps and like I said that was cool to 11 year old Gary, hell that’s cool to 23 year old Gary. What happened in the 2nd “official” TLC match in the history of the WWE blew little Gary’s mind as Edge speared Jeff Hardy as he was dangling by the very belts held over the ring. Each time I watch it, I discover new things, look at the faces on the refs, they are trying to stay in character yet have a look of utter concern on their face. Also the more I watch this, the more I hate the crowd reaction, for all the talk of the Attitude Era having the best crowds, this reaction sure does disappoint.
8. Walsh: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi
Yes, another Japanese match. Also yes, another spot involving Mitsuharu Misawa. The dude looks unassuming, barely ever shows any emotion when he does anything, but he’s been involved in some of the craziest spots known to man. The moves that he’s been involved with aren’t about dropping someone from great heights onto their back, but instead doing moves that are considered too dangerous for WWE (such moves are medical liabilities and cause problems for them and their insurance). The Tiger Suplex is a dangerous move. It involves setting up like a german suplex, only double underhooking both arms, then essentially dropping them on their neck/back of the head. In the ring it’s a bad ass enough move, but outside of the ring on the concrete? Ouch. So why not off of a ramp where it’s even more difficult to protect the guy taking the move? I’d argue that this is one of the craziest, most dangerous spots of all time considering that there is just about no way to protect the guy taking the suplex and Kobashi lands right on his head. The fact that Kobashi didn’t break his neck right then and there is incredible, probably a testament to all of that muscle that he was packing throughout his entire career. This was without a doubt one of the best matches to be produced under the Pro Wrestling NOAH banner and one of the best matches of 2003, if you like wrestling even a little bit and haven’t seen it you probably should check it out.
7. Gary: Shane McMahon death drop
2001 sure was a good year for ludicrous bumps in the WWE wasn’t it? Shane O’Mac is a guy who should have never stepped inside of a WWE ring based on hiswrestling ability, I don’t think anyone can argue that. With that said, few people at the level of charisma and willingness to do things that no one else would. Two things that are needed when you lack traditional wrestling skills. Truth be told I almost put Angle delivering a belly to belly suplex with a broken tailbone through glass to Shane but this one just barely edged it out for me. This was apart of that awful invasion angle where Shane bought WCW from under his father and The Big Show was pissed about something so he threatened to go to the WWE, even though technically he was wrestling for the WWE since you know… WCW wasn’t a weekly program anymore. Yea it was as awful as it sounds but it gave us one of the coolest bumps ever.
6. Walsh: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa
Dear god, this match. This was shaping up to be not only a great match, but one of the best matches between All Japan legends Kawada and Misawa. Their legendary clash on 6/3/94 has itself become a meme among hardcore wrestling fans for how often the date “6/3/94” is touted whenever best wrestling matches of all time comes up. This, sadly, is not a list of the best wrestling matches of all time, but the top terrible wrestling spots that blew our minds.
The two men knew each other so well that it seemed that they could do anything together in the ring. They could, honestly, unless Toshiaki Kawada broke his goddamned arm, which he did. What’s crazy is that the match went on and they still did some crazy, crazy things after that. If you don’t know much about Japanese wrestling, especially the 90’s All Japan, know that it was stiff as hell and a lot of it was an arms race to perform the deadliest head drops in the world.
The spot in question happened when Kawada (yellow and black trunks) was set to powerbomb Misawa (green and white trunks), Misawa was to go for a counter into a hurricanrana, only for Kawada to hoist him back up into a powerbomb for a near fall spot. Well, Kawada had a broken arm and he did his best, but Misawa didn’t have the leverage to sit up, so through a horrible timing error Kawada ended up falling to his knees and dropping Misawa right on his head. This spot is iconic now and there has always been some discourse as to how “botched” this really was, but it’s hard to watch no matter what, especially knowing that Misawa would die in the ring in 2009 after taking a rather routine backdrop driver that ended up breaking his neck, seeing him die in the ring (although pronounced dead in the hospital, it was widely believed that he died in the ring). Watch the full bout between Kawad and Misawa here.
5. Jason: Vic Grimes and New Jack in the Danbury Fall
This was the only time in my life where I thought I ordered a snuff film on PPV. At ECW: Living Dangerously 2000, we saw Vic Grimes and New Jack climb up about 20-25 feet in the air, and just… Jump. The spot itself wasn’t anything too spectacular in its origins – a couple of tables, a fall. But it was the execution that will melt this spot forever into my mind. New Jack and Vic Grimes ****ed up, plain and simple. Vic Grimes allegedly froze up while on the scaffold, that wasn’t fit to work a bump mind you, and New Jack decided it was best to just leap and pull Vic with him.
Everything about the spot is botched to a scary degree. New Jack lands feet-first on the table, Vic lands on him and crushes his head into the cement below. These men should be dead. I suggest you watch the spot and then follow it up with New Jack’s scary, scary shoot interview on the whole thing.
4. Walsh: Vader vs. Stan Hansen
If you only know Vader from his WWF runs in the late 90’s you don’t really know Vader. Even if you saw Vader from his WCW run earlier on, you don’t know Vader. The same can be said about Stan Hansen, who had a few okay runs in the United States, but the bulk of his career played out in Japan, where he was a legend and was making more money than top wrestlers in WWF and WCW at the time.
Basically, what I’m setting you up for here is that both Vader and Stan Hansen are insane, the stiffest of the stiff and toughest dudes that modern professional wrestling has seen. As you can probably tell, I’m not one for the garbage wrestling spots, but instead I’m all about the more physical, hard-hitting stuff. Vader vs. Stan Hansen from February of 1992 is brutal in so many ways. The first is that early on in the match (about 2 minutes in) they get into a slugfest, notice when Vader is pushing Hansen into the corner and the ref has to break it, it is widely theorized that one of Hansen’s shots at this point broke Vader’s orbital bone. Throughout the next few minutes you see Vader rip his mask off and multiple times push his eye back into the socket.
What’s crazy is that the match keeps going and it doesn’t get any less stiff. In fact, Vader is PISSED and he stops pulling his punches. The match isn’t much to speak of, it’s actually not a good match at all, but it’s legendary for its brutality and shows how tough both men were.
3. Jason: Super J-Cup ’94
Everything about this show blows my mind to this day. Maybe I’m just a huge Great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku mark, but the Super J-Cup in 1994 is nearly impossible to deny. Jushin Liger, Wild Pegasus (a prime Chris Benoit), Dean Malenko, Hayabusa (who will always be the best WCW vs. NWO character for me), Black Tiger, Ricky Fuji… It’s one of, if not the best show ever. This show introduced an entire world of technical wrestling that I didn’t know existed, all at lower weights that were rarely showcased in North America. I realize now that this list is kind of coming apart at the hinges as far as a moments, spots or whatever the hell this list is, but for a moment in time, no one can really beat this great spectacle, Super J-Cup ’94.
Here’s 20 minutes of highlights from the show.
2. Gary: Everything that has ever happened in CZW
We were at Middleeasy had numerous debates on if we should include this into the list. Ultimately we decided.. well if you can’t tell on what we decided, then you’re a silly person. CZW is a local promotion out Philadelphia. The reason read we initially hesitated to put this on the list is that it’s close to BME Pain Olympics than it is to actual wrestling. Ultimately we came to the decision to mention it and while these spots aren’t as visually appealing as some of the stuff in the WWE. While it’s not as physically impressive as the strong style stuff out of Japan. It’s some of the most absurd stuff that has ever happened inside the squared circled, words can’t do it justice and I’m not even going to try. WARNING: This is extremely graphic and disturbing.
1. Walsh: Undertaker vs. Mankind – June 28, 1998
Mick Foley had been known the world over for doing crazy things to himself to get a crowd to pop. His early days of WCW were all about pushing the limits and usually him taking crazy bumps (for the time) onto the outside of the ring. I mean, his “finisher” if you can even call it that, was the Cactus Elbow, which was an elbow drop from the apron (or higher) onto an opponent on the ground. There was no real purpose for that, in fact, you can’t pin a guy outside of the ring, it just seemed to hurt himself a lot more, which the audience ate up.
He went on to Japan where he honed his craft of just taking needless amount of punishment in matches that legends like Bret Hart and Ric Flair scoffed at, noting that the matches had no flow or purpose outside of visceral thrills. This all led us to June 28th, 1998, though. Mic Foley had been doing well in WWF at the time. His Mankind character was doing pretty well, he was thrust into big feuds and was over with crowds. That’s all that a wrestler could want, right?
So when he stepped into the Hell in a Cell with the Undertaker in 1998 it seemed like everything had come to a head. This was the ultimate in Mic Foley daredevil stunts (although you could argue his unprotected chairshots against the Rock were just as bad, although not such a crazy visual) and in fact, it was hard not to imagine that he was literally dead. Mic Foley didn’t die in that Hell in a Cell, but dear god did it look like he did a few times. This was one of the few times where I was watching a match in WWF and had to stop and ask, “wait, did they plan that? There’s no way.”
Just brutal. Anything that can make you suspend your disbelief is masterful.
I’ve seen this a million times. Each time I see it happen. I know it’s going to happen and it’s still shocking to me. Foley’s willingness to put his body on the line, sacrifice his health finally gave him his moment. Sure he’s been in great deathmatches with Terry Funk. He’s out on great hardcore matches with nearly everyone but up to this. He didn’t have that single moment in time where everyone looks back at and points to saying “now that’s Mick Foley!” Jim Ross calling it was perfect, the bump itself was… well, I’m sure if you asked Mick he’d say it wasn’t pretty but it was damn near perfect. This defined Mick’s career and effectively ruined every Hell in a Cell match from there on, good job Mick.
I missed this live when it happened. Probably the first time I missed a WWF (at the time) PPV in months, if not years. For the first time in my life, I ordered the replay of the PPV during the Tuesday night replay slot.
Since missing it the first time, I’ve made up for watching the match dozens of times. It’s telling that Foley has a Wikipedia entry that’s longer than his first ten years in the business just about this single match. Fifteen years later, and Foley is still good.