Different people like different things in wrestling, some like matches to be drawn-out wars that show just how tough and well-conditioned wrestlers are while others prefer shorter matches that just get to the point whether it’s in WWE, WCW, AEW, Japan or anywhere else.
I’ve covered the former extensively for TJRWrestling and now I’m covering the latter as well.
To that end, I’ve found five more under-fifteen-minute matches from around the world and across time to see if one approach is indeed better than the other. Enjoy.
5. ECW World Heavyweight Championship match: Raven [c] vs. ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams – ECW Crossing the Line Again – February 1st, 1997
Background: Paul Heyman managed to get a small working relationship with All Japan owner Giant Baba. In exchange for his guys like RVD and Sabu working All Japan shows, Heyman needed a favor. He needed a big name for an ECW PPV and Baba gave him Dr. Death. This was a big deal because Doc had been unpinned in the United States for a decade. Yes, he wrestled mostly in Japan during that time, but it was still an impressive record. Doc made appearances stateside between his All Japan tours here and there and when he did he remained unpinned. So Heyman got Doc for an ECW show and booked him in a squash match against Axl Rotten and Doc crushed Rotten in under two minutes. After that, Doc demanded a shot at the ECW World Heavyweight Championship and champion Raven accepted, leading to this immediate impromptu match.
The match: Doc takes Raven down and brawls with him on the mat. He lands some corner jabs and shoots Raven into the opposite corner but Raven sidesteps to dodge a charge. Raven smashes Doc’s head into the steel ringpost and take a chair that a fan hands him and whacks Doc’s back with it. Raven hits Doc’s head with the chair twice and then goes for a dive from the top turnbuckle to a table setup ringside but Doc dodges and Raven hits the table instead. Doc gets revenge by cracking Raven in the head with the chair and then throws him into what’s left of the table. In the ring, Doc lands some hammer fists to Raven’s head and then the two wrestlers brawl some more. Doc reverses an Irish whip and lands a scoop powerslam for a two-count. He lands two short-range clothesline while maintaining wrist control (long before Okada made it a gimmick) but Raven ducks the third clothesline and goes for a German suplex. But Doc elbows out and lands a German of his own for another two-count. Doc follows with a top-rope diving shoulder tackle but it only gets another two-count.
Doc climbs another turnbuckle but this time Raven cuts him off. The two brawl on the second-rope and Raven lands a superplex. Raven collapses after posing for the crowd when suddenly out comes the Blue World Order. Big Stevie Cool/Stevie Richards gets in a shoving match with Raven until Doc clotheslines Raven down. Doc press slams one of the BWO guys onto two more at ringside. Stevie offers Doc the BWO shirt off his back but Doc rips it up. That leads to Stevie hitting two Stevie Kicks right to Doc’s face. Doc no-sells them and blocks the third one at first. But then Stevie ducks a clothesline and connects with that third Stevie Kick. Raven comes in and hits an Evenflow DDT out of nowhere. One, two, and three! Raven retains the ECW title and ends Doc’s decade-long unpinned streak!
Winner and STILL ECW World Heavyweight Champion after 8:27: Raven
Review: That match sucked. Doc basically spent five minutes beating the tar out of Raven and then endured some absolutely awful shenanigans from the BWO. It was dumb seeing him completely no-sell two full-power kicks to the face and then sell the third like it was death. Then Raven came along and landed one DDT to end Doc’s undefeated streak. This wasn’t competitive, engaging, or particularly exciting. But it did take place in front of the rabid ECW crowd and those guys cheered basically anything. Doc was wasted here. He was much better suited competing in ‘pure’ wrestling contests instead of being shoehorned into ECW’s grungy silliness. I seriously hope that Heyman paid Doc well for letting his meal ticket of an unpinned streak end on such a low note.
Final Rating: *3/4
4. WWE World Heavyweight Championship match: The Undertaker [c] vs. Rey Mysterio – Royal Rumble 2010
Background: To start 2010 on a high note, it was announced that a Beat The Clock challenge would take place on the January 1st episode of SmackDown. The winner would face the Undertaker at the Royal Rumble for his World Heavyweight Championship. In the first match, CM Punk beat Matt Hardy in 7:20. Then Mysterio beat Jericho in 7:19 to get the new best time. Then Batista faced R-Truth but their match ended in a draw partly due to Mysterio interfering. A rematch between Mysterio and Batista the following week ended in a draw so they had a Steel Cage match the week after that to decide a winner, with Mysterio beating Batista to earn the right to face the Undertaker.
The match: Mysterio starts with some calf kicks and punches but Undertaker grabs him and throws him to the floor with ease. Mysterio hits some shoulder thrusts and punches from the apron but when he goes to springboard Undertaker punches him and he falls back to the floor. Mysterio dodges Undertaker’s iconic apron leg drop but Undertaker lands on his feet and clubs Mysterio’s chest. This time Undertaker lands the apron leg drop with Mysterio draped over the bottom rope instead of underneath it to add extra impact to ‘Taker’s move. Undertaker goes for a chokeslam but Mysterio counters with a headscissor that sends ‘Taker into the 619 position. Rey goes for his finisher but Undertaker catches him. Undertaker goes for a Tombstone but Mysterio knees ‘Taker’s face to block it. Mysterio kicks Undertaker’s face from the mat and avoids an elbow drop. Mysterio ducks one big boot and goes for a springboard crossbody but he flies into a second boot right to the face. Mysterio escapes to ringside but Undertaker boots him there as well. Undertaker goes for a third boot but Mysterio sidesteps and Undertaker hits the steel ringpost instead. Mysterio takes a moment to recover and then lands a baseball slide dropkick to Undertaker’s exposed leg. He goes for a hurricanrana (lol, as if that would work on THE UNDERTAKER) but Undertaker catches him and lifts him up into position for the Last Ride. He hoists Mysterio up but Mysterio lands on the apron and hits an Asai moonsault.
Mysterio gets into the ring first and tries another baseball slide but Undertaker dodges it and choke-tosses him into the barricade. Back in the ring, Mysterio kicks out at two so Undertaker lands some shoulder thrusts. ‘Taker lands his lifting armdrag and throws Mysterio into the ropes. he lands more punches and hits a side slam for a two-count. Mysterio gets a sudden second wind and lands more calf kicks but Undertaker drops him with a single punch. Mysterio lands a jawbreaker out of nowhere, kicks Undertaker to block a corner charge, and then lands a running…inverted DDT?…to drop ‘Taker to the mat. Undertaker does his zombie sit-up but Mysterio has him scouted and lands a running dropkick to the face. Springboard leg drop by Mysterio. Two-count. Mysterio hits some punches and charges but Undertaker hits a clothesline. Mysterio escapes another Last Ride attempt and dropkicks Undertaker’s knee. 619 connects! Mysterio follows with a springboard dropkick that sends Undertaker into the 619 position on the opposite side of the ring. a second 619 connects. Mysterio goes for the springboard hurricanrana. Undertaker counters into a Last Ride! Undertaker plants Mysterio and gets the three-count to retain his title!
Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion after 11:09: The Undertaker
Review: Solid with a few interesting surprises but still largely predictable. Nobody thought Mysterio would win here, especially with the possibility of another Undertaker/Michaels WrestleMania match looming overhead. Not only that, but Mysterio had nothing in his arsenal strong enough to keep Undertaker down. Undertaker had Mysterio’s number the entire match. Anytime Mysterio got any momentum with a successful move chain, Undertaker dropped him with much less effort. Mysterio couldn’t lift Undertaker, couldn’t risk doing headscissors or hurricanranas, and couldn’t chop Undertaker down to size successfully (though not for a lack of trying). Mysterio busting Undertaker open the hard way and hitting two straight 619s was nice but still a fool’s errand. This wasn’t as competitive as I thought it’d be since Mysterio never came remotely close to being in a believable winning position. This was, for all intents and purposes, a squash match. It was designed to give Mysterio a title shot on paper, but it wasn’t a winnable situation for him. All in all, an acceptable match but booking-wise it was a waste of time.
Final Rating: **3/4
3. Hirooki Goto vs. Takashi Sugiura – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom VI (2012)
Background: This is another New Japan vs. NOAH match that were common all throughout the late 2000s and into the 2010s. Goto was still seen as a #3 or #4 guy in New Japan, way behind guys like Tanahashi, Nakamura, and even Shibata. But at this time, Goto wasn’t the firmly entrenched nearlyman he became later and here he actually had credibility as a threat. His opponent was Sugiura, a Kurt Angle cosplayer and one of the top wrestlers to go through NOAH in the mid-to-late 2000s. the Kurt Angle comparisons weren’t just because of looks; Sugiura barely missed the cut to qualify for the 1996 summer Olympics and thus spent a long time channeling that bitterness into his wrestling. He also hit a gorgeous Olympic Slam and actually did a better rolling ankle lock that in some ways is better than Angle’s.
The match: They rush each other the instant the bell rings and then start trading elbow smashes. Neither man goes down on some follow-up shoulderblock spots. Sugiura boots a charging Goto but then Goto winds up and lands a successful shoulder tackle. Some chain grappling ensues with Goto working over Sugiura’s leg. Sugiura tries powering out of a headlock but Goto keeps it cinched in. Eventually, Sugiura powers Goto the ropes for a ropebreak and then bitchslaps him as they have an icy stare-down. Goto snapmares Sugiura and kicks his spine. Then he charges to the ropes but runs into a kneelift from Sugiura followed by a suplex toss onto the top rope. Sugiura returns the favor with a kick to Goto’s spine and then locks in some bodyscissors to work over that part of Goto’s body. Goto gets a ropebreak so Sugiura hits some corner punches to the same ribs/gut he just targeted with that last hold. Goto tries fighting back with chops but Sugiura’s kicks to the ribs are too much for him. Goto tries fighting up again but Sugiura cuts him off with more stomach punches. Sugiura charges for a clothesline but both wrestlers hit each other at the same time several times. Sugiura hits a spinning gut kick and charges to the ropes. Goto runs after him, leading to a crisscross. Goto dodges a boot and lands a big discus lariat to drop Sugiura.
Goto begins his comeback with a corner wheel kick/Backdrop suplex combo that yields him a two-count. Goto goes for a German suplex but Sugiura elbows out. Sugiura runs to the ropes but Goto catches him and lands a bridging German right away. Sugiura kicks out at two so Goto goes for a suplex. Sugiura counters and tosses Goto forward. He hits two running corner yakuza kicks but when he charges for the third, Goto chases him into the opposite corner and hits a clothesline. Sugiura reverses another corner whip and lands another big boot. Goto tries charging out but Sugiura drops him with a spear. He goes for a running kick but Goto catches his foot and goes for a lariat. Sugiura ducks it and hits a German suplex into the turnbuckle pad. Nasty landing for Goto. Sugiura hits a corner knee strike and rains more elbows on Goto. He follows with another German and a running knee and then covers for another two-count. Sugiura follows with a bridging dragon suplex but Goto still kicks out. Sugiura goes for the Olympic Slam. Goto escapes via armdrag. Sugiura fires back with a nasty elbow flurry and Goto sinks down. The ref checks to see if Goto’s conscious and he is. A slap volley from Sugiura drops Goto and once again the ref checks on him. Sugiura picks Goto up but Goto hits a head-butt out of nowhere followed by another Backdrop. Then another one. Goto fires up and nails a huge running lariat. One, two, Sugiura kicks out. Another head-butt/lariat combo by Goto. Sugiura kicks out again. Goto hits a sick inverted spinning facebuster and then smashes Sugiura with his Shouten Kai sitout suplex side slam finisher. One, two, and three! Goto makes a heroic comeback and wins the match!
Winner after 12:35: Hirooki Goto
Review: This match started off slow with generic action but by…God did it kick into high gear at the end. It had some solid grappling and psychology early and it had a nice back-and-forth structure. From the beginning it was impossible to tell who would win. And then after some big spots in the middle things really kicked into high gear with some great near-falls. The final three minutes were absolutely nuts. Counter after counter, big move after big move, kick-out after kick-out. It was exciting and tense. Both wrestlers just kept building things up and up. I thought Sugiura had it until Goto countered the Olympic Slam with a simple armdrag. And even though Sugiura kept hitting Goto hard, Goto hit back even harder. It turned into a bomb-fest and that benefitted Goto a bit more than it did Sugiura. So for an under-fifteen-minute match without any grandeur or major story – just two guys fighting for supremacy – this was great.
Final Rating : ***3/4
2. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit – WrestleMania X-Seven
Background: Angle lost the WWF/E Championship to The Rock at No Way Out. And since he didn’t have an automatic rematch clause, he needed a new opponent for WrestleMania. Enter Benoit, who was working his way up the card again after ending a months-long feud with Chris Jericho. Angle and Benoit both considered themselves the superior grappler, but only one of them could say so definitively. Thus fans tuning into WrestleMania for something more ‘grounded’ and ‘traditional’ would have their dream match in the form of the Olympian vs. the Crippler.
The match: The two wrestlers begin with some solid mat grappling and amateur reversals. Angle double-legs Benoit which leads to more technical matwork. Benoit powers Angle into a corner and gets a clean break. Angle lands another big take-down which leads to even more mat wrestling. Both Angle and Benoit try for their respective submission finishers (the ankle lock and the crossface) but neither man can gain the advantage. Angle single-legs Benoit but Benoit traps Angle’s arm and goes for the crossface. Angle wisely reaches the ropes quickly, selling the importance of not getting trapped in that hold. Angle gets a ropebreak and then single-legs Benoit again. Benoit wrestles into another crossface attempt but Angle slides back towards the ropes before it’s applied fully. Angle recovers at ringside and when he returns the amateur wrestling continues. Angle escapes another crossface attempt via ropebreak but Benoit’s reluctant to let go right away.
Benoit argues with the ref and Angle uses that to blindside Benoit. Angle throws Benoit to the floor and shoves him into ant hard surface he can find ringside. A heaving Irish whip sends Benoit shoulders-and-back-first into the steel ringsteps and then lands a suplex in the ring for a two-count. Benoit then kicks out of a back suplex at two as well so Angle hits some punches and forearms in a corner. Benoit fights out of the corner with chops but Angle reverses an Irish whip and lands an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Angle does a short whip into another belly-to-belly but then Benoit reverses Angle’s whip and lands a short-arm clothesline. Both wrestlers fire up and trade corner strikes. Benoit reverses another whip and lands a kneelift. Benoit blocks some punches and lands a back elbow for a two-count. He lands a Dynamite Kid-style snap suplex and gets two again. Then Benoit lands a top-rope superplex. One, two, Angle kicks out. Benoit sends Angle into a corner and Angle does the Bret bump. Then Benoit lands two German suplexes. He goes for a third but Angle counters with a drop toehold into an ankle lock. Benoit crawls to the ropes as quickly as possible but Angle pulls him back. But then Benoit counters Angle and locks in his own ankle lock. Angle kicks Benoit off and goes for a clothesline. Benoit counters into the Crippler crossface. But Angle blocks it by trapping his arm next to his own face. Angle tries bridging over into a pinning position but only gets a one-count and then locks in his own crossface on Benoit. Benoit gets a ropebreak with his foot.
Angle tries another ankle lock but Benoit kicks him off, sending Angle into the ref inadvertently. Angle rushes Benoit but ends up caught in yet another crossface. Angle taps seconds later. But there’s no referee to enforce the decision. Benoit goes to wake the ref up but Angle sneaks up behind him and lands an Olympic Slam. One, two, and th – Benoit survives. Angle pulls a Kobashi and scoop slams Benoit then goes to the top rope. Diving moonsault connects with Benoit’s lifted knees. Benoit takes advantage and lands a diving head-butt. One, two, Angle kicks out. Benoit goes for another German. Angle lands a back low blow. The referee doesn’t see it. Angle tries another Olympic Slam. Benoit counters with a simple headlock takeover and goes for a cradle pin. But Angle reverses that with a cradle of his own as he grabs Benoit’s tights. One, two, and three! Angle beats Benoit!
Winner after 14:10: Kurt Angle
Review: As John Canton once said, this was like the 2000s version of Steamboat/Savage or Bret/Owen. Aside from a short ringside brawl, this was pure technical wrestling and it was exciting. It was pure competition with lots of excellent technical wrestling. the counters and reversals were important at the start of the match and at the end. Angle and Benoit kept countering and reversing each other, leaving the match at a perpetual stalemate with neither wrestler really making any major inroads. It wasn’t until the ref bump, the suplexes, and the dives that either wrestler made any headway. Benoit got the visual tap-out and proved himself the superior grappler in that moment but there was no referee to see Angle tap-out. Angle used some mild shenanigans to win the match, but those dirty tactics were barely noticeable compared to how well he wrestled and executed his moves. Seriously, Angle might be the forerunner for having the best moonsault in WWE history, whether he hit his opponent or the canvas. It was also great seeing Angle sell the urgency and danger of the crossface with Benoit’s early attempts at the move, and then for Angle to show continuity by tapping to that move almost instantly. Really a great match that’s still deserving of its praise.
Final Rating: ****
1. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Go Shiozaki – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom V (2011)
Background: This was yet another New Japan vs. NOAH match. in this one, Nakamura, who was probably the #2 or #3 guy in New Japan, took on Shiozaki, who was being groomed as the future of NOAH. Shiozaki was Kenta Kobashi’s last protégé and spent most of 2009 teaming with Mitsuharu Misawa before he died. He was very talented and respected enough to rub shoulders with the two biggest stars in NOAH history. And to continue his upward trajectory (and to honor Misawa’s memory in any way he could), Shiozaki decided to take on a pre-SWAG Nakamura at New Japan’s biggest show of the year.
The match: They lock-up and Shiozaki powers Nakamura to the ropes. Nakamura dodges a big chop and tries taking Shiozaki down but Shiozaki blocks, leading to an amateur exchange and a stalemate. Nakamura grapples Shiozaki to the mat and tries several holds but none work on Shiozaki so he lets go and steps on Shiozaki’s face. The two go nose-to-nose and begin trading elbows. Nakamura hits back with kicks and then Shiozaki blocks a kneelift and hits a back kick to Nakamura’s thigh. Shiozaki follows with chops to Nakamura’s leg and throws him to the floor. After hitting more chops, Shiozaki picks Nakamura up, charges, and smashes Nakamura knee-first into the steel ringpost. Twice, to two different posts. Shiozaki drapes Nakamura on the apron and lands a running knee to his face. Nakamura makes it into the ring after Shiozaki and gets dropkicked right in his now-badly-weakened knee. He DDT’s Nakamura’s leg and lands more Kobashi-style chops to the knee. the referee makes him back off after wrapping the bad leg through the ropes so Shiozaki walks off after slapping Nakamura’s mouth. Shiozaki lands a body rush to the leg and then locks in a punishing single leg crab. Nakamura tries crawling to the ropes but Shiozaki’s stronger and pulls him back. Eventually Nakamura does reach the ropes and tries fighting back with punches but Shiozaki drops him with more kicks to the bad knee. Shiozaki hits some corner chops but Nakamura reverses a corner whip and lands a kneelift (with the good knee). Nakamura charges (not sure why he’d so that given the damage to his leg) and runs into a big chop. Shiozaki charges into a corner but Nakamura dodges, drapes Shiozaki on the top turnbuckle, and lands another running kneelift. Nakamura follows with a kick combo using both legs (guy must have amazing recovery powers or pain management skills) and then hits even more stiff kneelifts. A trio of knees to Shiozaki’s sternum gets Nakamura a two-count. Nakamura hits more knees and locks in a front headlock and then switches to a sleeper. He goes for his inverted Exploder but Shiozaki elbows out so Nakamura kicks the back of his head. Nakamura follows with a nasty German suplex and goes for a corner running knee but Shiozaki dodges and hits a corner-hung Burning Sword downward chop. One, two, Nakamura kicks out.
Shiozaki hits a chop and then goes for a discus version but Nakamura counters with a rolling cross armbreaker. Shiozaki gets a ropebreak and Nakamura kicks that now-weakened arm. Shiozaki fires back with a lariat with that weak arm but it only gets him a one-count. Shiozaki fires off some elbows (not sure why he’s bothering using his right arm since he has a perfectly healthy left arm he could use in this case) and Nakamura fires back. Both guys hit each other with a variety of different strikes. Nakamura blocks a lariat with a kneelift. Shiozaki ducks a windmill kick and hits a thrust kick of his own. Nakamura spins around and connects with a wheel kick. Both men go down.
Shiozaki catches Nakamura’s leg on another kick, elbows the knee, and hits a cool Fisherman DDT/facebuster that also does tons of damage to Nakamura’s knees. Shiozaki locks in a modified Texas cloverleaf hold but Nakamura gets a ropebreak. Nakamura escapes a vertical suplex and lands awkwardly on one leg. Shiozaki hits a thrust kick and a flurry of rolling chops to the neck. One, two, Nakamura kicks out again. Then Shiozaki channels Kobashi and scoop slams Nakamura. He goes for the moonsault…and misses. Nakamura charges, goes behind, and lands the inverted Exploder. Nakamura charges for the Noma Ye. Shiozaki hits first with a lariat! One, two, and thr – Nakamura barely kicks out. Fisherman Buster by Shiozaki. He goes to pick Nakamura up for another move but Nakamura sinks down. The ref checks to see if he can continue. Shiozaki lifts him up and hits the Go Flasher. Suplex into an elbow drop to the chest. One, two, Nakamura survives again. Shiozaki covers again. Nakamura kicks out. Shiozaki teases a version of Nakamura’s inverted Exploder but Nakamura resists and knees Shiozaki right in the nose. Shiozaki kicks his leg to weaken his kicks. Nakamura hits a knee with his good leg. Shiozaki blocks one Boma Ye and then blocks an elbow but he still sinks down. But he can’t block anymore strikes. Nakamura charges…and connects with a Boma Ye right to the face! One, two, three! Nakamura wins!
Winner after 14:17: Shinsuke Nakamura
Review: Excellent and competitive match with a slightly weird finish. It had a fast pace, lots of limb targeting and great selling from both guys. There was great wrestling, awesome counters, and STIFF striking. Both guys left the match looking tough as nails. Nakamura tried destroying Shiozaki’s lariat arm which worked for a bit and forced him to land his trademark chops with his other arm. Meanwhile, Shiozaki all but destroyed Nakamura’s main kneeing leg, only for Nakamura to make a sudden comeback and win the match with it despite having a relatively short comeback. Shiozaki was the better wrestler here and seemed to have the match won, only for Nakamura to basically steal the win with a Boma Ye out of nowhere that, based on the match’s logic, shouldn’t have done that much damage to Shiozaki. But despite that blemished finish, the overall match was very exciting and definitely worth watching.
Final Rating: ****