Match Reviews: 5 Famous Under-15-Minute Matches (Goldberg/Lesnar, Ibushi/Kendrick, Dragon/Mysterio, more)
A great match doesn’t have to go on forever to be considered a great match. Sometimes the shorter ones are the better ones. Whether it’s because the wrestlers are better at getting their point across or because the circumstances around the match require less time instead of more, it’s unfair to automatically see a short match and dismiss it.
That’s why I have found five more under-15-minute wrestling matches from around the world to share with and review for you, the dear readers of TJRWrsetling. Many fans have praised these short matches, so let’s see how well they hold up.
5. Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg III – WWE WrestleMania 33
Background: Goldberg beat Lesnar at WrestleMania XX in one of the worst matches in ‘Mania history. Over twelve years later, Goldberg returned and manhandled Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016. He was going through this ‘old gunslinger coming back for one last fight’ story and it was going well for him. At Fastlane 2017, Goldberg squashed Kevin Owens in 20 seconds to win the Universal Championship. As for Lesnar, he needed to redeem himself in this match after being embarrassed so badly and his aura of invulnerability had been shattered after several years of careful booking and build.
The match: Lesnar blocks a kick and his German suplex #1. Then Germans #2 and #3. Goldberg hits back with a Spear! Followed by Spear #2. Lesnar rolls to the floor but he finds no safety there. Spear through the barricade. Goldberg tosses Lesnar into the ring and goes for the Jackhammer. Lesnar blocks and goes for the F-5. Goldberg escapes and hits Spear #4. Jackhammer connects. One, two, Lesnar kicks out. Goldberg charges for Spear #5. Lesnar leaps over Goldberg and Goldberg eats turnbuckle. Lesnar manhandles Goldberg with six more Germans for a total of nine. The crowd charts chanting “ten”, but they’re not chanting for Tye Dillinger; they want a tenth German. Lesnar obliges and drops Goldberg with that tenth German suplex. Lesnar follows with the F-5 and pins for the pin and the win! Lesnar wins the title and avenges his humiliating losses to Goldberg.
Winner and NEW WWE Universal Champion after 4:45: Brock Lesnar
Review: A very fanservice-heavy match that played to both wrestlers’ strengths and concealed their weaknesses. It was short, explosive, and to the point. Both guys only hit signature and finishers and nothing else was needed. Goldberg hit hard but Lesnar hit harder. That’s all that was needed to put this feud to rest once and for all.
Final Rating: **3/4
4. ‘Hangman’ Adam Page vs. Minoru Suzuki – NJPW G1 Climax 2018
Background: This match took place during the G1 Climax. Page was still a lower-carder who was far beneath other foreign wrestlers like Kenny Omega, Michael Elgin, and Jay White. Page sought to change that by sending a message to the rest of the wrestlers in his tournament block. But time was running out for him to do so. Going into this match, Page only had two wins: one against Bad Luck Fale (who was lower on the card than he was) and one against Togi Makabe (who was a number-filling veteran that no one expected to win). Page’s opponent in this match was a much bigger threat than either of those two: Minoru Suzuki, New Japan’s feared ‘murder grandpa’ with a sadistic streak a mile long. Page was young and hungry while Suzuki was ornery and cared less about wining and more about getting opportunities to hurt people.
The match: Page boots Suzuki and throws him into the barricade as the bell rings. He goes after Suzuki’s second El Desperado as well and drags Suzuki towards the top of the entrance stage. Then Page climbs onto it and hits a quebrada onto Suzuki and Desperado on the floor. Page throws Suzuki into the ring and pins for a two-count but Suzuki counters the pin with a kimura lock out of nowhere. Page gets a ropebreak but Suzuki takes his time letting go and stomps on Page’s wrist. Suzuki drags Page way out into the stands as the ref deals with Desperado. Suzuki smashes a regular chair into Page’s arm and then pulls a piece of the steel barricade and places it on top of Page. He smashes the chair into the barricade into Page’s arm, and then smashes another piece into Page’s back. Suzuki goes after the ref and starts squeezing his arm but the ref won’t disqualify Suzuki for whatever reason. I guess the G1 really has to have only clean finishes. Page hobbles over but Suzuki boots him and hits him over the head with a water bottle. Page enters the ring at the count of fourteen and gets right in Suzuki’s face. Suzuki hits a barrage of strikes and sends Page into a corner but Page bounces out with a clothesline. He hits more forearms and goes for a back body drop but Suzuki stays on the ropes and lands another big kick. Page hits back with elbows and running corner clotheslines, and then dodges another boot and hits a dropkick. Then he deadlifts Suzuki into a bridging wrist-clutch fallaway slam but only manages a two-count. Meanwhile Suzuki is absolutely PISSED OFF. He eats some hard punches from Page and then smashes him with stiff strikes of his own. Suzuki follows with a corner boot and a snapmare/PK combo for another two-count. Then Suzuki locks in a scissored armbar but Page wisely gets a ropebreak ASAP.
Suzuki trash-talks Page and Page hits back with forearms and then spits on Suzuki. Page returns the trash-talk and braces for Suzuki’s next attack. Suzuki obliges and lands nasty elbow strikes. Page sinks down and ends up on the apron. Suzuki charges but Page goes for his buckshot lariat. but Suzuki ducks and locks in a sleeper. Page tries backing into a corner but it’s no use. Suzuki switches to his Gotch-style piledriver. Page resists so Suzuki lands more strikes. He charges…and runs into a Misawa-style rolling elbow and a superkick. Page charges but Suzuki pulls the top rope down and both of them end up on the apron. Suzuki lands a gut shot and charges…right into a Buckshot lariat. Page goes for his Rite of Passage back-to-belly piledriver but Suzuki counters with another sleeper. Page’s arm falls one…twice…no he still has life left in him. Suzuki switches to the GSP again. But Page counters and hits his Rite of Passage piledriver. One, two, and three! Page beats Suzuki!
Winner after 12:05: ‘Hangman’ Adam Page
Review: Fun little underdog story with Page overcoming Suzuki and proving him wrong. Page started the match firing on all cylinders because he knew that was needed to beat Suzuki. Suzuki brought things back to his side with his simpler smashmouth style and his punishing submission holds. It looked like Suzuki was going to win, but then he got cocky. He started mocking Page and Page just fired up. He had a short but believable comeback as he hit Suzuki as hard as possible and overcame everything Suzuki threw at him. It was a little bit wacky at first and Page struggled a bit to sell his struggle until the final few minutes. But the story was done properly with Page really shining. He entered this match as a lower-carder that was hard to take seriously and left looking like much more than that.
Final Rating: ***
3. Ultimate/Ultimo Dragon vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. – WCW World War 3
Background: Dragon won the J-Crown from the Great Sasuke a month earlier and defended all eight of those belts in this match against Mysterio. However, Dragon had two more belts at the same time. For a short period, Dragon held all eight belts representing the J-Crown plus the NWA World Middleweight Championship and the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. That made Dragon the most decorated wrestler in history as he carried and defended ten titles simultaneously (except for in this match).
The match: This is for Dragon’s J-Crown Championship (so, eight of his ten belts). Mysterio dodges some spinkicks and then escapes a chain grappling sequence. Dragon takes Mysterio down with and starts working over his arms but Mysterio escapes and goes after Dragon’s legs. Dragon counters back and hits a slam/elbow drop combo for a two-count. Dragon applies a chinlock but Mysterio escapes into an armlock, only for Dragon to Dynamite Kid his way out of it. They crisscross and dodge each other several times, leading to a stalemate. Dragon lands a kick combo and goes for a corner whip but Mysterio reverses. He sends Mysterio onto the apron and hits a triangle dropkick that sends Mysterio to the floor. Mysterio gets back on the apron and Dragon tries to suplex him into the ring but Mysterio lands behind him. Dragon goes behind Mysterio and lands a bridging German suplex for another two-count. He sends Mysterio into the ropes and hits a free fall drop, followed by a spinning Atlantida backbreaker. Dragon follows with a rib breaker and a single leg crab to further target Mysterio’s back. Dragon follows with a powerbomb but only gets a two-count. Then he reverse throws Mysterio into the top rope for yet another two-count. Dragon follows with a spinebuster/giant swing combo and then a fisherman buster, all of which yield a two-count. Then Dragon hits a Brainbuster but Mysterio still kicks out. Dragon tries again but this time Mysterio counters with a cradle pin for a two-count of his own.
Dragon locks in a heel hook and when Mysterio literally kicks out Dragon drops him with a Tombstone Piledriver. One, two, Mysterio continues to kick out. Dragon dropkicks him to the floor and mocks him with a fake 619. He hits a dropkick through the ropes, skins the cat, and jumps to the floor and lands on his feet. Mysterio tries taking advantage but Dragon sends him into the steel barricade. Dragon’s not finished. Tombstone on the ringside mats. So that’s where Okada got it from. Dragon’s still not done. Plancha onto Mysterio from the ring to the floor. Dragon throws Mysterio into the ring and sets him up on the top turnbuckle. Then he goes behind him and spins around into a super hurricanrana. One, two, Mysterio reaches the ropes. Dragon with a running Ligerbomb. Mysterio kicks out again. Dragon sends Mysterio into a corner and charges but Mysterio gets a boot up and hits a wheel kick. Mysterio follows with a double-springboard moonsault press for a two-count of his own. Dragon reverses an Irish whip but Mysterio skins the cat to land on the apron. He follows with a shoulder to Dragon’s gut and a springboard dropkick to the back of Dragon’s neck. Dragon falls to the floor and Mysterio dives onto him with a triangle splash. Mysterio throws Dragon into the ring and lands a springboard sunset flip for a two-count. Dragon hits back with a jackknife cover and gets a two-count once again. Dragon charges but Mysterio cartwheels into a spinning Frankensteiner of his own for another close two-count. Mysterio attacks first but Dragon counters with a bridging dragon suplex. Yet another two-count. Dragon tries another powerbomb but Mysterio does a Yoshi Tonic into a sunset flip for another pin but Dragon kicks out. Mysterio elbows out of a rear waistlock and goes for the West Coast Pop. But Dragon catches him and hits a slingshot Ligerbomb. One, two, three! Dragon wins and retains all eight of his titles!
Winner and STILL J-Crown Champion after 13:48: Ultimate (Ultimo) Dragon
Review: There was something a bit off with this match. I think that they wanted Dragon to look as dominant as possible since he held eight title belts at once. Because of that, this match came across as a protracted squash instead of a competitive match. Dragon just spammed move after move after move but Mysterio kept kicking out. I was expecting a big comeback from Mysterio but Liger just kept cutting him off and then landed a surprise powerbomb out of nowhere to win the match after being in control for 90% of it. And yet the action was crisp and smooth and both guys looked amazing here. Mysterio was solid as an underdog and took an incredible amount of punishment. He had a great hope spot and shined as a babyface but Dragon was simply one step ahead of him. A great opener, but far from the best of 1990s Mysterio.
Final Rating: ***3/4
2. Kota Ibushi vs. The Brian Kendrick – WWE Cruiserweight Classic quarter-final round, August 26th, 2016 (aired August 31st, 2016)
Background: Kendrick and Ibushi were two of the 32 wrestlers that qualified for WWE’s famous Cruiserweight Classic tournament. Ibushi defeated Sean Maluta and then Cedic Alexander to reach this quarterfinal match while Kendrick defeated Raul Mendoza and Tony Nese to do the same. Ibushi was the odds-on favorite to win this match (no surprise there; Ibushi has long enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for being both incredibly athletic and batshit insane), but he was simply here as a competitor. If he won, he won. If he lost, he lost. No big deal; he’d have no trouble finding steady work anywhere. But for Kendrick, this tournament meant more than that. He was already 37 years old and his career was starting to wind down. His future looked anywhere from uncertain to downright bleak, and he wanted to finish it on a high note. For him, this tournament was do or die.
The match: The bell rings and Kendrick bails to the floor off a cheap-shot. Kendrick tries more mind games but Ibushi catches him and lands some nasty body blows. They trade waistlocks and Kendrick charges but he runs into a big roundhouse kick. Kendrick falls to the floor and then eats a golden triangle moonsault from the top rope by Ibushi. We’re less than two minutes in and Ibushi has already hit a nasty kick and his trademark moonsault. Ibushi tosses Kendrick into the ring but Kendrick rolls out on the opposite side to catch his breath. Ibushi goes after him but ends up caught in Kendrick’s trap. Kendrick smashes him into the barricade and traps his ankle in the guardrail. Kendrick goes for a count-out win with Ibushi stuck and unable to escape. Except Ibushi does escape and then lands a springboard dropkick on his deceitful opponent for a two-count. Ibushi lands more stiff kicks and then charges but Kendrick ducks and sends Ibushi onto the apron. Both guys end up on parallel side of the apron near one corner and Kendrick hits first with a neckbreaker on the top turnbuckle.
Kendrick rushes Ibushi but Ibushi hits a shoulder thrust. But as Ibushi re-enters the ring Kendrick hits a nasty kick of his own for a two-count. Kendrick follows with a cravate hold and Ibushi tries to escape via scoop slam but Kendrick rolls through to maintain the hold. It takes several stiff knees before Ibushi can escape that hold but Kendrick lands a follow-up neck throw and an elbow. But Ibushi fires back with a standing dropkick to shut Kendrick’s momentum down. Both guys take time recovering and Ibushi runs into a boot from Kendrick. Kendrick charges but he runs into a powerslam and then eats a second-rope moonsault press. One, two, Kendrick kicks out. Ibushi lands a KENTA rush, Kendrick avoids a kick to the head, Ibushi goes for a standing moonsault, and connects…with Kendrick’s knees. Kendrick capitalizes with a cradle but only gets a two-count. Kendrick lands a thrust kick to create some distance and both wrestlers use that time to recover.
The two go back-and-forth with elbows and then with kicks. Kendrick lands the Sliced Bread/Shiranui and covers but Ibushi kicks out. Kendrick pulls Ibushi up to the top turnbuckle with a rear naked choke but Ibushi elbows out and hits a backflip kick. Then Ibushi pulls a page out of his WK9 match with Nakamura and lands a German suplex over the rope and into the ring. one, two, Kendrick kicks out. The crowd’s split between both guys as Ibushi goes for a powerbomb. Kendrick resists, and then escapes and goes for another over-the-back choke throw but Ibushi lands on his feet. But Kendrick tries again and this time locks in the Bully Choke. Ibushi fights through and escapes with elbows. Kendrick charges but Ibushi sidesteps and dumps him against the ropes. Ibushi goes after Kendrick but Kendrick does the same.
And here it comes.
Kendrick hoists Ibushi onto his shoulders. Into the torture rack position. And then spikes him on his head! BURNING HAMMER! Burning f**king Hammer! Kendrick covers. One, two, and thre – NO, Ibushi survives the granddaddy of all finishing moves!
More desperate than ever, Kendrick rushes Ibushi and hits forearms to Ibushi’s neck. But Ibushi powers up and hits another stiff roundhouse kick and then lands a wheelbarrow piledriver. One, two, Kendrick kicks out. Ibushi drags him into position and goes to the top rope. Phoenix Splash misses. Kendrick locks in another Bully Choke. Ibushi rolls over into a pin. One, two, Kendrick escapes and walks into another roundhouse kick. Ibushi follows with a Last Ride Powerbomb. One, two, and three! Ibushi wins and advances to the next round of the tournament.
Winner after 13:58: Kota Ibushi
Review: Absolutely ludicrous match. It was an insane bomb-fest that was expected of Ibushi, but I didn’t think that Kendrick could get to Ibushi’s level. But as Bryan mentioned on commentary, Kendrick has a lot of heart. He went through absolute hell trying to beat Ibushi. He was so desperate to have one last hurrah in the ring that he busted out all the stops…including the Tsar Bomb of professional wrestling, the Burning Hammer.
But the match was more than just that one famous spot. Kendrick was thrown to the wolves and had to adapt quickly to Ibushi’s punishing strong style. But where Ibushi focused on flash and high-spots to fit with the theme (and name) of the cruiserweight tournament, Kendrick went in the opposite direction and focused on substance. He used classic psychology and logic to target Ibushi’s surgically-repaired neck. He kept trying to get under Ibushi’s skin with cheap tricks in the vain hope of getting an easy win. He tortured Ibushi with punishing holds and softened his neck up whenever possible. So when Kendrick landed that Burning Hammer, it should’ve been the end of the match. Not because that move is truly special or because it’s Kobashi’s signature move. But because there was nowhere else to go from there. It was impossible to escalate the match any further beyond that point. And then Ibushi made a quick comeback with his trademark explosive speed and moved around way more quickly and smoothly than expected of someone that just got dumped right on his head.
In hindsight, Ibushi winning here was the wrong call. Not only was his comeback and subsequent win hard to believe given how much punishment he took, but Kendrick ended up wrestling on WWE programming afterwards anyway. From the direction the match went in, it should’ve been a cathartic redemption story for Kendrick that saw him really have that one last run. Instead, he lost and Ibushi lost in the following round and then went back to New Japan where he did stuff like this on the daily. Still, this was an awesome match, especially for one condensed into under fifteen minutes. Ibushi has many matches like this one that go longer, so seeing him play his biggest hits while condensing it into something a bit more palatable was refreshing to say the least.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Also, here’s a great post-match interview with Kendrick and Bryan discussing this match and what potential future awaits Kendrick. It’s especially great because there’s a sense of realism in Kendrick’s emotion, which is nice because it makes his struggle feel more real and relatable.
1. Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW Dominion 6.22.2013
Background: Shibata and Goto were close friends from high school that both wanted to become pro wrestlers. Shibata debuted four years before Goto but once Goto debuted the two of them hoped to achieve their shared dreams. Then Shibata left New Japan in 2005 and went on to become a failure in MMA. When he returned, Goto was the first to express disgust and frustration over Shibata’s betrayal. He left when it suited him and now he thought New Japan would embrace him with open arms. Goto wanted to teach Shibata a lesson but Shibata wasn’t going to lie down and accept this. Sure, they were friends, but there were professional issues between them that needed to be resolved first. And Goto had other professional reasons to want to beat Shibata as well. Goto was turning into this perpetual nearlyman and kept seeing one wrestler after another come in and then surpass him. He couldn’t let Shibata to the same.
The match: Both wrestlers are rearing to go. The bell rings and Goto drops a running Shibata with a lariat! Stiff elbows by Goto followed by a corner lariat. Goto hits some mid kicks and charges but Shibata drops him with a kneelift. Shibata goes for a stiff roundhouse kick but Goto ducks it. Shibata hits more stiff kicks to send Goto onto the apron. Goto dodges another running kick at the last possible moment and falls to the floor.
Shibata throws Goto into the ring and hits mid kicks of his own but Goto asks for more. a particularly nasty one catches Goto near his throat and he collapses, causing the ref to check on him. Goto starts stirring so Shibata hits a Russian leg sweep into a kneebar. Goto floats over to get a ropebreak but Shibata still has control and goes for a Figure-4 leglock. Goto uses his free hand to block the full application of the hold, but not for long as Shibata has too much leg strength for Goto to resists. Goto answers with stiff slaps to Shibata’s jaw but Shibata doesn’t just no-sell them; he demands that Goto hit him harder. Shibata tightens the figure-4 but somehow Goto pulls both himself and Shibata to the ropes to break the hold.
Shibata hits some calf kicks and elbows but Goto hits back with elbows of his own. Shibata continues his assault until Goto’s resolve is broken and he sinks into the corner. Shibata hits more elbows and then lands his patented running corner dropkick. Goto tries hitting a Backdrop suplex but Shibata cinches in a deep headlock. Yes, a simple headlock is believable as a dangerous move in this match. Shibata keeps the headlock applies after Goto tries shooting him into the ropes so Goto crawls to another set of ropes to break this hold. Goto reverses a corner whip and goes for his wheel kick/bulldog combo, but Shibata stomps on his head before he can complete the bulldog. Shibata goes back to the headlock. Goto counters with a successful Backdrop suplex. Both men collapse.
Shibata elbows out of a rear waistlock, ducks a rebound lariat and lands a boot, but then runs into another lariat from Goto. Goto follows with an Olympic Slam for a two-count and then attempts an ushigoroshi. Shibata escapes and tries a German suplex but Goto elbows out, only to be trapped in a Backdrop suplex from Shibata. But Goto bounces right back up and hits another Backdrop of his own. And then Shibata does the same. Goto staggers to his feet and lariats the back of Shibata’s head. Shibata hits a Pélé kick. Both men collapse again.
Shibata gets up first, hits a stiff slap, and demands that Goto hit him back. Goto obliges and back-and-forth they go. They hit each other as hard as humanly possible until both go down yet again. Both start getting up at the same time and trade elbows. Shibata hits a stronger combo and lands another stiff kick. Shibata pulls Goto to his feet but Goto lands a huge head-butt. Then he pulls Shibata up but Shibata head-butts Goto. The ref starts counting and Shibata gets up first at seven. Running boot to the face by Shibata. Running lariat by Goto. Neither man so much as flinches as they keep smashing into each other. Boot. Lariat. Shibata’s next boot brings Goto to one knee but he catches Shibata’s foot. Discus lariat. Shibata kicks out. Running penalty Kick by Goto. Followed by an Inverted Shouten spinning Olympic facebuster. Goto covers but Shibata kicks out again. Goto goes for the regular Shouten. Shibata lands behind him and applies a sleeper. Goto reaches the ropes but Shibata answers with another stiff kick and a Backdrop. Then Shibata hits a Death Valley Bomb and an ushigoroshi of his own, and then locks in another sleeper. Goto starts fading and sinks down to the mat. Shibata props him up in a seated position…and knocks him into oblivion with a Penalty Kick. One, two, three! Shibata wins!
Winner after 13:16: Katsuyori Shibata
Review: Awesome Strong Style hossfight of a match. This reminded me of Shibata’s 2013 match with Ishii, which is the standard-bearer for under-15-minute matches. This match was a bit longer and had a bit more downtime than the Shibata/Ishii match, but this was still absolutely insane. They packed tons of punishing offense and drama into such a short timeframe. The match just flew by and the crowd was nuts for it. Both wrestlers sold incredibly well and conveyed the idea that they were both in immense pain yet had the iron will needed to persevere. The spotlight was on Shibata here as he brought both a sense of realism and a willingness to dive into the more surreal side of pro-wrestling. On the one side, he used his submission expertise and punishing strikes so well that Goto looked like he might’ve been knocked out or hurt for real but didn’t want to quit because he’s such a fierce warrior. On the other hand, Shibata was willing to play Goto’s game and trade Backdrop suplexes and no-selling spots to show that he wasn’t a one-trick pony. Shibata came across as an absolute menace here while Goto tried his hardest to whether the storm but failed at the very end. It was a titanic struggle for both guys as they both wanted to prove who was the bigger man and the better wrestler. And did I mention that these two are friends?
This is a genuine MOTYC must-watch match that makes the NJ World subscription all the more worthwhile.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.