Fan Faves and Hidden Gems 2
I hope that you don’t mind a Part 2 to the Fan Favorites and Hidden Gems piece I posted last week. I’d planned to save it for a rainy day, but after receiving 20 more recommendations from people, I couldn’t resist temptation. I just had to copy-paste some of those links into YouTube, and take a ride on Vince McMahon’s tilt-a-whirl. Jump on!
The Rockers vs. The Orient Express, Royal Rumble 1991
This era coincides with one of my all-time favorite photos. It was taken at my local arena, where my friend and I ran into the Rockers in a hallway during a house show. They politely agreed to take photos of us each with the other. I always brag that I got the better end of the deal, having mine taken with Shawn, but the Briggs brothers will argue that a photo with Marty would be MUCH more valuable. A rare gem! You won`t be surprised to learn that I was allowed to wear makeup for the very first time that day, and my Mom “did” my hair for me. While you’re savoring those choices, also know that I borrowed my Mom’s white leather skirt and matching jacket (WHY DID SHE OWN THESE?). All I knew was that it looked just like the outfit Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ wife wore when she slapped Ravishing Rick Rude across the face. (I had different style inspirations than most girls). Hey, Shawn’s going to be on the panel at this weekend’s Royal Rumble… and I’m going to be there… let’s recreate this photo, Shawn! I’m sure my Mom still has the outfit!
A neat tidbit: The team in this match is technically the NEW Orient Express, because original member Sato left the team. He was replaced by Kato, who was Paul Diamond in a mask – you may also know Paul Diamond as the man who replaced Konnan as Max Moon! The other member of the team was named Tanaka.
Now THIS is how you start a pay-per-view. It is a humdinger right out of the gate, with both teams working lightning fast and hitting some flashy moves. Not enough tag teams today do the big double back-body drop. Shawn Michaels gets huge air on it, and it makes for a spectacular start. It doesn`t hurt (in this particular case) that Roddy Piper is on comms with Gorilla Monsoon, and Roddy is in Lunatic Mode. Adding to the chaos is the ref`s complete disregard for tag rules, and the Miami crowd losing its collective mind for every single move. They even bust out a “USA!” chant, which caught me off guard for a minute until I realized, “Oh right, the bad guys are Japanese”.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (corrupt MP3 file?), this match is made all the better by the commentary. Gorilla and Roddy discuss tag team strategy and communications, and it’s super intelligent. Roddy composes himself enough to lend excellent insight into the wrestling. And what great wrestling it is. There’s mat wrestling, martial arts, babyfaces in peril, and inventive high spots. What’s more, they`re given over 20 minutes, and as Piper raves, “THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST MATCH”! So often, the matches I held in high regard don`t stand up over time (full WrestleManias, actually). Not only is this still great fun today, but it is totally a hidden gem that I wouldn`t have sought out.
Thank you to TJR commenter Ryan for this match! As you can imagine, it`s not easy to find on YouTube; the first file includes a lot of pre-amble to the show, so skip ahead to the 5-minute mark to see Roddy kick things off in all his wacky glory.
John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Edge, Triple Threat for the WWE Championship, Raw July 2006
“You think you know me.” Oh, how I love seeing Edge pulling Lita through the smoke! That image just screams Attitude Era to me. So delightfully nasty! John Cena looks like a young thug, all in black. Rob Van Dam is deemed a home town favorite, this being Philadelphia and the home of ECW. He`s pimped out with the WWE and ECW belts stacked around his waist; that spinner belt is wack.
RVD and Cena take polite turns beating the Canadian bacon out of Edge. They briefly turn on each other, and then it turns into a three-way dance. Wow, I don`t know if any one of them was solely responsible for quilting together this match, but it`s a beaut. I’ve read about Edge saying that he was often put into the multi-person matches because he was good at memorizing what had to go down. For his part, Van Dam is showing me why people go so crazy for him now. John Cena is exactly the same as now; you can take that however you wish. But let me tell you, the action does not stop. The fans are on their feet, and there`s one kid who should have gotten a Slammy for Most Traumatized By A Pinfall.
Thank you Saif @SaifQuadri for this match! Saif was one of the first people to follow me on twitter when I started writing for TJR, and then he started an account called @SaifsArt which has caught the eyes of several WWE Superstars (including Renee Young) with his hilarious custom portraits.
The Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy – Ladder Match for the Undisputed Championship, Raw July 2002
While some good things could be said for ‘Taker’s biker gimmick, it looks to me like it weakens him here. I recently wrote that I prefer wrestlers to have their long hair back from their faces, so that we can see their expressions better. Well the Undertaker’s short hair works to his disadvantage here, and now I’m curious to watch his match back against Punk at WM 29 to see if the same is true. He doesn’t come off as so daunting with the short hair. Hardy starts the match by fooling around on Taker’s motorcycle, and when Big Evil comes after him, it almost looks comical. He’s better undead, not “Hey, that’s my bike!”
But do not mistake this critique as a condemnation of the match as a whole. Many people remember it fondly, and I actually refer to it in a column I wrote about Jim Ross’s craziest reactions. JR is at his near-frenzied best here, selling Hardy as the gutsy ladder specialist who’s actually got a chance. Jeff Hardy near bumps his fool head off, and The Undertaker doles out punishment long after he had a chance to climb the ladder for the belt. It paints Jeff as an even bigger hero, withstanding the pain and making a comeback.
There are a few YIKES moments, all enhanced by Jim Ross. He strings together many brilliant descriptions for what’s happening, and comebacks to Jerry Lawler’s empty-headed comments. Hardy is so beloved, I feel like the crowd reaction coupled with JR’s storytelling could convince a first-time viewer that Jeff Hardy is a wrestling god.
“CLIMB THE LADDER KID, MAKE YOURSELF FAMOUS!”
Thank you to Kimsan @KimsanSong for recommending this match.
Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker – SmackDown, March 2006
Here I go again, jumpy-claps all around as soon as I hear Kurt Angle’s music. I swear they learned to send him out first, because that music meant good things to come. Going through these favorite matches makes me wish more than ever that Kurt would come to WWE one last time. Then again, I haven’t been watching TNA and I don’t know if my expectations are too high. What do you think?
Look at him, gold medal swinging and giant World Heavyweight title occupying the better part of his torso. “He is the greatest pure wrestler in WWE!” proclaims Michael Cole, and for once, I’m buying what he’s selling. This is a rematch from No Way Out, and the winner will be champ going into WrestleMania 22.
And how many years has The Undertaker been getting these full-on stormy entrances? It’s truly impressive, to have had such an effect for so long. Cole does a tale of the tape, citing both competitors’ strong points, adding superlatives that again sound totally feasible because of who is in the ring.
They play it from the perspective of Angle being a submission specialist, and Taker being close behind with added power to boot. The super-partisan crowd really adds to the flavour of this match. There is no love in the house for Kurt Angle, and it fuels the Wrestling Machine. Both Tazz and Cole are super excited and engaged with this match. It’s like two fans having the time of their lives.
This match really shows the resilience of these athletes, for they do not slow down. They are both so strong and well-conditioned. So often we refer to TV matches as “PPV quality” but hey, maybe we should just amortize the costs over the course of the year. Let me know what you think about the interference at the end…
Thanks to TJR’s own @HughFirth for this match!
If you're still itching to share your favorite match that could be considered a hidden gem (i.e. not from a major PPV), drop me a line in the Comments below, or on twitter @kickyhick. I will add it to the list. If you are on twitter, be sure to follow me on the road to WrestleMania! I will literally be driving down the road to Pittsburgh on Sunday for the Royal Rumble, and roaming fees be damned, I'll try to post some pics along the way!