Match Reviews: 5 Famous Under-15 Minute Matches (Hogan/Andre, Misawa/Kawada, Undertaker/Goldberg, more)

undertaker goldberg

There’s no such thing as a truly 100% perfect match. Many wrestlers have tried to find that winning formula, but no one has it down fully. Some think that a longer, drawn-out and competitive struggle is the best way. Others think the quicker and more effective win is better.

These opinions can be debated ad nauseam, but one thing’s for sure: there’ve been just as many famous short matches as there’ve been long matches.

In fact, THE single-most iconic wrestling match of all time – which I’ve included here – was short one. But once again we must ask ourselves that million dollar question: is longer better, or can one get the same results or better in less time?

Read on to find out.

5. Undertaker vs. Goldberg – WWE Super Showdown 2019

Background: This was huge. The last big dream match from a bygone era that was still possible. WCW’s biggest juggernaut against the conscience of WWE. It was hyped the moon. It was supposed to be two massive legends facing off in a titanic clash. It had as many supporters as it had detractors. Goldberg did something magical with his return matches with Brock Lesnar, so it stood to reason that, even with age and physical limitations, there was still hope that Goldberg and Undertaker could create similar magic as Goldberg had only a few years earlier.

undertaker goldberg

The match: After a long stare-down, Goldberg does Undertaker’s throat slash gesture. Undertaker answers with a punch. Goldberg bounces back with two spears. One, two, Undertaker kicks out. Undertaker counters an Irish whip and goes for a chokeslam. Goldberg powers out and sort of lands his roll-through leglock counter. Undertaker gets a ropebreak so Goldberg sends him into the opposite corner. Undertaker avoids a charge and Goldberg hits the post with his head, which busts Goldberg open hardway and causes a concussion. Undertaker hits some slow punches and shoulder thrusts, followed by Old School. Goldberg misses a chokeslam spot (can’t say I blame him, poor guy was concussed) but then the move lands moments later. Undertaker lands a Tombstone and it looks like Goldberg actually slips out and gets spiked for real. One, two, Goldberg kicks out. After some more punches, a double clothesline spot occurs. They get back up and Undertaker hits a big corner clothesline. Undertaker hits snake eyes but Goldberg answers with another spear. Goldberg tries a Jackhammer, but he’s so messed up he turns it into a REAL Brainbuster. Undertaker almost gets dropped on his head and neck unprotected. One, two, Undertaker kicks out. Goldberg tries a Tombstone but he drops Undertaker awkwardly. Undertaker hits back with a weak chokeslam and pins for the three-count and he…is…PISSED! I would be too if I was him.

Winner after 8:35: The Undertaker

Review: This is the antithesis of what I write about. I go into match reviews looking to praise those wrestlers that put tons of effort into having compelling and interesting matches regardless of crowd size or their own paydays. Watching this match I felt absolutely cheated. I didn’t watch this live, but if I ordered this at the time or worse, saw it live, I would’ve felt cheated beyond belief. I waited a long time to review this match because I didn’t want to get caught up in the cacophony of negative attitudes about it. And now that I’ve finally seen it…I wish I hadn’t.

This was irredeemably bad. It started off strong but then it went completely off the rails. Undertaker should’ve called an audible the moment Goldberg started bleeding and choked him out via Hell’s Gate. That would’ve sold the idea that Goldberg hit with so much power that he hurt himself when he missed. They could’ve spun such a sudden switch in a way that could’ve led to a justifiable rematch. Instead, we got another seven minutes of pitifully bad “action”. Undertaker did what he could and got exposed. His best matches were with guys that could maintain good pacing and keep the match’s slow even. Goldberg wasn’t that guy; he was so f**ked that the match completely fell apart. And of course, he almost killed the Undertaker with a shoot, almost literal Brainbuster.

To call it disjointed would actually be a compliment. Even the moves both guys landed correctly looked soft and lacked power. It was clear that this was supposed to be a “draw match”, i.e. once the asses are in the seats, the resulting match didn’t matter. This was a bad idea on paper and in practice, and was best saved for fans to live out in wrestling video games. I applaud both wrestlers for surviving such a sloppy and dangerous situation, but at the same time I think prostituting their respective legacies for Saudi oil money will tarnish both of their legacies for some time to come.

Final rating: DUD

4. WWF World Heavyweight Championship match: Hulk Hogan [c] vs. Andre the Giant – WrestleMania III

Background: This is THE wrestling match. For almost four decades this has been promoted as the most iconic wrestling match ever. When people that don’t know anything about wrestling are asked about wrestling, this is the match they’re most likely to recognize. WWE has promoted it as the most iconic moment in their entire history and as some kind of transcendent moment that made Hogan and André household names. The truth is that this match’s legend is highly overrated since the same spot in it happened before and it was exaggerated by Hogan himself. But that hasn’t stopped millions of people from hailing it as the magnum opus of all of professional wrestling.

wrestlemania 3 hogan andre

The match: they get into a staring contest followed by a shoving match. Hogan hits some punches and goes for a slam but Andre falls on top of him for a two-count. Hogan sells his back and Andre hits some overhand punches. Andre hits a big knee smash and throws Hogan with some scoop slams. He literally walks over Hogan’s back and then Irish whips him into different corners. There some obvious stalling from Andre here. Andre hits some shoulder thrusts and then squeezes Hogan into a corner. He lands a few head-butts but then Hogan escapes to dodge a third one. Hogan hulks up and hits some punches and running elbows. Andre staggers a bit. Hogan hits some chops and pushes Andre’s face into a top turnbuckle. Hogan charges again but runs into a big boot. Bearhug by Andre. Hogan resists as much as he can but eventually starts fading. His arm drops once…twice…thr – no, Hogan hulks up again. He punches his way out of the bearhug and hits some running shoulderblocks. He charges again but runs into a big chop from Andre. Another boot sends Hogan to the floor. Andre goes for a head-butt but he hits the ringpost instead. Hogan removes some ringside mats and teases a piledriver. Andre powers out and Hogan slowly falls onto that exposed spot instead. Back in the ring, Andre sends Hogan into the ropes but Hogan ducks a boot. Hogan tackles Andre and gets him off his feet. The crowd goes nuts. Hogan hulks up. There’s the slam heard around the world. Running leg drop. One, two, three! Hogan beats Andre!

Winner and NEW WWF World Heavyweight Champion after 12:01: Hulk Hogan


Review: This is one of the few exceptions to the rules with which I review matches. There’s no point in reviewing this match based on its action because if we did then this match would absolutely suck. But like Hogan vs. Rock, this match’s atmosphere makes it special. The crowd’s reaction to Hogan’s win almost registered on the Richter scale. It was more about the history and the spectacle than the action or the drama. The crowd was hyped for this match simply because they were so in love with Hogan as a character. He was wacky, cartoonish, and mesmerizing. Neither he nor Andre did much, but the few things they did do made the crowd go nuts. While it definitely doesn’t hold up as a contest, there’s still something magical about Hogan’s big moment. Even if WWE went on to make more money down the road with guys like Steve Austin and Roman Reigns, this match still marked WWE’s first true peak. It’s a must-see for historical reasons, even though the ten twelve minutes leading to Hogan’s big crowning moment weren’t anything special.

Final Rating: **

3. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada XIV – AJPW Champion Carnival 1997 Finals

Background: Once the 1997 Champion Carnival Tournament ended, three wrestlers – Misawa, Kawada, and Kobashi – found themselves all tied with the same number of points. To determine a winner, a play-off of sorts was announced. All three would wrestle each other in one night to crown a winner. Immediately before this match, Misawa and Kobashi went to a 30-minute draw. Now only one roadblock was left for All Japan’s perennial #2: beat ace Misawa to win the tournament and prove that he COULD beat Misawa one-on-one. Even if the victory was tainted, a win was a win to Kawada.

misawa kawada cc 1997

The match: Kawada hits some kicks to Misawa’s leg and then unloads with kneelifts. Misawa hits back with elbows but Kawada boots him into a corner. Kawada brutalizes Misawa with kicks, knees, chops, and his patented stepkicks. Kawada goes for his Folding Powerbomb. Misawa counters with a Frankensteiner, then he blocks a yakuza kick and hits a rolling elbow. Misawa hits another running elbow but Kawada blocks his follow-up Tiger Driver. Misawa blocks a rope-assisted face kick and swings for the fences. Misawa avoids one German suplex but can’t avoid a second one. He fights up and hits an elbow. But Kawada hits back with a gamengiri. Both men go down

Misawa resists a powerbomb so Kawada channels Kobashi and chops his neck. Kawada’s Folding Powerbomb lands but it only gets a two-count. Misawa hits more elbows and blocks a gamengiri but hits hurts his arm in the process. Yes, Kawada kicked that hard. Kawada rushes him and locks in the Stretch Plum. Misawa survives both it and a second Folding Powerbomb. Kawada locks in the Stretch Plum again but only gets another two-count. A third Folding Powerbomb connects. One, two, and three! Kawada pins Misawa!

Winner after 6:09: Toshiaki Kawada

Review: A solid match that’s good on its own but much better if you understand its context. This was the first time that Kawada ever pinned Misawa one-on-one. And while it wasn’t technically the cleanest win (Misawa just finished a 30-minute draw against Kobashi), it was a fairly decisive win for Kawada. The match was basically a short sampler or greatest hits collection of what these two did in their famous singles matches. It was compact and exciting. Kawada hit Misawa with almost everything he had and Misawa could barely survive, much less mount a comeback. All he hit were a handful of elbows and blocks here and there, but considering how drained he was, that’s all he could do. Misawa did a good show of selling exhaustion and trying to fight back with what few options he had, but there was just no way he could actually land any big moves of his own. For only six minutes of official match time this was great.

Final Rating: ***

2. WWE Cruiserweight Championship match: Tajiri [c] vs. Rey Mysterio – WWE No Mercy 2003

Background: WWE tried to build a cruiserweight division several times over the years. They had some decent names at first – Chavo Guerrero, Shane “Hurricane” Helms, and Billy Kidman – but it wasn’t until Rey Mysterio entered the division that it was given some semblance of legitimacy. And if there was anyone that could live up to cruiserweight expectations, no matter how lofty or unrealistic, it was Mysterio. Mysterio was especially concerned here as Tajiri cost him the title some months earlier by spitting red mist in Mysterio’s eyes.

mysterio tajiri no mercy 2003

The match: Mysterio asks the ref to check Tajiri’s mouth for mist and he shows there’s nothing in his mouth. The match starts slow with some simple lock-ups and kicks. Tajiri gets a cheap-shot in but Mysterio lands an armdrag. Mysterio goes after Tajiri’s leg, apparently having heard Tazz’s suggestions from commentary. Tajiri counters with an armbar and starts working the arm but Mysterio flips out of Tajiri’s hold. Tajiri lands some strikes but Mysterio counters with a wheelbarrow armdrag and a dropkick to Tajiri’s knee. Tajiri goes for his counter handspring back elbow but Mysterio hits first with a dropkick followed by a plancha.

Back in the ring. Tajiri cuts Mysterio off and drapes his arm over the top rope. He drives it into the ringpost and then gets a two-count. He continues to work over the arm as the crowd slowly rallies behind Mysterio. Tajiri lands a big kick and goes back to the arm but Mysterio rallies back again and lands another armdrag variation. Tajiri blocks a samurai DDT attempt and lands more big kicks for a two-count. He works the arm over some more but Mysterio creates some space with kicks, only for Tajiri to cut him off with the same.

The two fight on the second rope until Mysterio hits a head-butt and a diving tornado DDT. Tajiri reverses an Irish whip but Mysterio counters back with a springboard crossbody. Tajiri blocks a crucifix and knees forward to counter a sunset flip pin but then Mysterio reverses back. Mysterio blocks being catapulted into the ropes and lands on the apron and pulls Tajiri to the floor via headscissor. Then Mysterio lands a hurricanrana from the apron and tosses him back into the ring. Tajiri dodges another big move and goes to send Mysterio into the ropes but Mysterio counters with the 619. He goes for the West Coast Pop. Tajiri counters with a snap powerbomb for a two-count.

Mysterio dodges a snake eyes attempt into the corner. Tajiri pops him up but Mysterio lands on the top ropes and hits a quebrada for another close two-count. Tajiri counters an Irish whip with another kick to the arm and locks in the Tarantula hold. He fails a Buzzsaw kick and then goes for a sunset flip. Mysterio counters with a dropkick to his face. 619 connects, and so does the West Coast Pop. But the ref gets distracted by two fans (actually Akio and Sakoda) interfering. That distraction allows Tajiri to hi the Buzzsaw Kick and pin Mysterio to retain his title!

Winner and STILL WWE Cruiserweight Champion after 12:05: Tajiri

Review: It started off slow but it got much better towards the end. I don’t think this crowd really appreciated the matwork and limbwork here; they wanted high-flying action and didn’t get that at first. The action was crisp and smooth but it was slow by Mysterio standards. Mysterio moved like he was underwater compared to how smoothly he did stuff even a year earlier. I don’t know if he was hurt or if he was ordered to slow down by WWE’s top brass.

Either way, this was still a marked drop down from his outstanding match with Kurt Angle from SummerSlam 2002, which is one of his best matches ever. Still, the match had psychology and a story, with Tajiri playing the devious heel that created so many roadblocks only for Mysterio to jump over them in his quest for victory. Great way to open a show.

Final Rating: ***1/4

1. RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship match: Tomohiro Ishii [c] vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13

Background: New Japan built working relationships with many different companies around the world, including in the United Kingdom. With the importance of British wrestlers like Will Ospreay and ZSJ, NJPW saw the benefits of crosspromoting with Revolution Pro Wrestling (RevPro/RPW). To further this relationship, several top NJPW wrestlers fought for RPW and won their top prize, the Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion. Here, Ishii defended the title he won a few months prior against the man that many consider the best grappler in the UK, possibly even the world, Zack Sabre, Jr. In fact, ZSJ was so confident that he vowed to make Ishii tap out in sixty seconds. Let’s see if he manages.

ishii zsj wk13

The match: The two rush each other and trade quick waistlocks. Ishii powers out of an abdominal stretch and the two avoid big kicks from each other. ZSJ lands a few strikes but they do nothing and Ishii lands a Backdrop suplex. Ishii charges again but ZSJ counters into a flying armbar. ZSJ cranks it as much as possible but Ishii gets a ropebreak, shattering ZSJ’s goal of a one-minute victory.

ZSJ contorts Ishii’s arm some more and hits Danielson-style chest kicks but Ishii spits back in defiance. Ishii hits elbows out of instinct but it’s clearly hurting him. He tries elbowing with his left arm but he’s clearly uncomfortable doing so which allows ZSJ to lock in another armbar variation. ZSJ transitions into a wristlock/triangle choke combo, but Ishii gets another ropebreak.

ZSJ continues to poke the bear as Ishii starts tanking hits and gets to his feet. Ishii winds up for a big elbow but ZSJ counters into a northern lights suplex floated over into an armlock. Ishii escapes that so ZSJ applies an ankle lock. Wait, no, Ishii counters into an ankle lock of his own. ZSJ escapes via enzuigiri but Ishii hits a body block that literally sends ZSJ flying across the ring.

Ishii chops with his bad hand and hits a running lariat as ZSJ charges into a corner. He bocks a standing guillotine with an overhead throw and then lands a delayed superplex. But the second they both land ZSJ floats over into a twisting armbreaker. ZSJ follows with a twisted over-the-shoulder armbreaker and then the two avoid big kicks from each other. Ishii avoids an O’Connor roll and the two trade more holds and waistlocks until ZSJ locks in an octopus hold. Ishii starts walking towards the ropes with ZSJ’s full weight on him. ZSJ counters with a Code Red for a two-count. He hits a Penalty Kick and goes for a Michinoku Driver but Ishii blocks. Ishii absorbs more kicks to the chest and hits back with a chop to the throat. High-angle Folding Powerbomb. ZSJ kicks out.

Ishii charges for a lariat. ZSJ kicks his arm on one, ducks a second, and hits an uppercut. But then Ishii lariats ZSJ’s foot and head-butts him down. Lariato! ZSJ kicks out and escapes a Brainbuster attempt. Ishii powers out of another Michinoku Driver attempt but ZSJ applies a sleeper. Ishii escapes a bodyscissor but misses a sliding lariat. European Clutch by ZSJ. Ishii kicks out. ZSJ ducks an enzuigiri and tries more takedowns but then Ishii lands his sliding lariat. ZSJ avoids another Brainbuster and locks in a guillotine choke. Ishii powers out but then ZSJ wrestles back into another octopus hold. Then he traps both of Ishii’s arms in a double octopus hold. Then he pushes his leg into the back of Ishii’s neck and looks like he’s literally trying to pull both of Ishii’s arms out of their sockets. Ishii has no choice but to give up! There’s the bell! ZSJ wins!

Winner and NEW RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion after 11:35: Zack Sabre, Jr.

Review: Outstanding match given the time given and its placement on the card. This was only third from the bottom yet both men wrestled like this was the main-event. It was an excellent brains versus brawn story with ZSJ out-grappling Ishii at every turn and Ishii having to fight with what limited tools he had. ZSJ is such a gem to watch because he’s fantastic at slithering and wriggling his way into these torturous submissions holds that, in all likelihood, are as painful as they look. I’ve called him an unchained Bryan Danielson and that’s what he is. ZSJ knew matching Ishii’s power game was useless so he riled the wrestling fridge into charging at him like a bull. That worked to ZSJ’s favor as he countered Ishii over and over. He even took a full-power superplex and turned it into a nasty armbreaker which played into the finish. Ishii struggled to land anything. His right arm was weakened, he was awkward with his left arm, and he was too slow with his kicks. Ishii tried and tried but in the end ZSJ had too many answers for him. This match had that ideal blend of amateur wrestling and MMA-inspired realism with pro-wrestling storytelling. A clear babyface and a clear heel with opposing strategies clashing in ways that complemented each other. My only complaint is that I wish they went a few minutes longer to give Ishii an even brighter hope spot. That would’ve made him look even more valiant in defeat and would’ve made ZSJ’s win even stronger.

Final Rating: ****1/4

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.