There are plenty of interesting wrestling matches out there. Some of them have gone on for over twenty, thirty, or even sixty minutes. Meanwhile, other wrestlers have managed to get their points across in much less time.
We’ve seen many great long matches, but what about the short ones? Are there some truly great or otherwise well-known matches that didn’t overstay their welcome?
To answer that question, I have once again found five random matches from different eras and companies to see how well they hold up today.
5. Hollywood Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior – WCW Halloween Havoc 1998
Background: As WWE began taking over WCW in the Monday Night Wars, WCW’s creative product began taking a nosedive. Desperate, the company came up with the genius idea to bring in The Ultimate Warrior to give fans a rematch of his and Hogan’s widely-acclaimed singles match from WrestleMania VI in 1990. But while wrestling fans’ memories die slowly, wrestlers’ bodies die much faster. Age wasn’t kind to either wrestler and by ’98 both of them were much worse for wear. So even though this was billed as a match almost a decade in the making, many fans tempered their expectations accordingly. Little did they know that they were in for what has since become known as the worst match in WCW history.
The match: Warrior decks Hogan to start the match. After some teasing, they lock-up and Hogan wails on Warrior with forearms. The two trade arm wringers until Hogan sends Warrior into the ropes but then Warrior lands a shoulderblock. Hogan catches a breather at ringside and then Warrior teases a test of strength. Instead, they do a standard lock-up and Hogan clubs away some more. Hogan chokes Warrior in a corner. Hogan applies a knuckle lock in a repeat of their match from WrestleMania VI which goes on forever. Warrior escapes and then a crisscross ensues. Hogan ends that with a scoop slam but Warrior bounces right back up and slams Hogan. Warrior clotheslines Hogan to the floor and then more brawling ensues. Johan ducks a clothesline, as does Warrior. But then Hogan clotheslines the referee and the shenanigans begin. The Giant (Big Show) jogs down to the ring and goes for a boot on Warrior but Warrior dodges and Giant boots Hogan instead. Warrior clotheslines Giant out of the ring and also knocks away other NWO members off the apron. He covers Hogan but the ref is still out. He goes to wake the ref up but Hogan hits first with a back suplex, only to get a two-count.
Hogan knees Warrior’s back, chokes him against the ropes and both and chokes him with his belt. Hogan lands another slam followed by two elbow drops but Warrior rolls away to avoid a third. Warrior misses a running splash and Hogan lands more punches. Warrior punches back and whips Hogan with his own belt. Warrior wraps the belt in his first and punches Hogan’s head. Warrior starts arguing with the referee and Hogan uses this to pull something out of his tights. The genius camera people zoom in on Hogan pulling flash paper out of his hand. Hogan tries to create a fireball…and misses completely. A tiny flame goes up and makes the audience groan. Warrior lands more punches followed by two diving ax handles. Hogan lands a blatant low blow in full view of the referee followed by a weak clothesline and a leg drop. Hogan misses a third because he gets distracted by someone else on the entrance ramp. Warrior starts firing up and no-sells as Hogan clubs his back. Warrior hits three clotheslines but the ref gets distracted once again. Eric Bischoff distracts the ref as Horace Hogan hits Warrior in the back with a chair which allows Hulk/Hollywood to pin Warrior to win the match.
Winner after14:20: Hollywood Hogan
Review: That was dreadful, disappointing, and filled with the kind of laziness and over-complication typical of WCW during its slow downfall. It was slow, plodding, uninteresting, and full of stalling. Both guys looked out of shape and had nonexistent chemistry. The most interesting things athletically were some basic scoop slams and the odd ax handle. The match made no sense and I’m amazed there was no disqualification at any point here. It just felt like a jumbled mess involving a bunch of people with competing ideas and a lack of cohesive vision. It was overbook, nonsensical, and full of mistakes, including one the botched fireball. Simply put, this match shouldn’t’ve ever been put together, despite the minimal effort that was put into making this in any way passable.
Final Rating: -***
4. WWF/E Women’s World Championship match: Alundra Blayze [c] vs. Bull Nakano – SummerSlam 1994
Background: WWE appeared to have some sort of working arrangement with AJW during the 1990s as several of their top wrestlers were brought to WWF/E throughout the year to try and give more credibility to their fledging women’s division. Blayze only had a handful of challengers in America so the company was ok with her defending it abroad and bringing outsiders in to fight for it. In this case, Blayze defended it against Bull Nakano, one of the most intimidating women of her era. Nakano was a monster that outweighed Blayze by at least 70 pounds. She was a big name in All Japan Women and won numerous titles and accolades over there.
The match: Nakano teases a handshake but then kicks Blayze, sends her into a corner, and lands a clothesline. Blayze escapes a powerbomb and dropkicks Nakano, but then misses her second kick. Nakano throws Blayze around the ring by her hair and lands a strike combo that ends with a running leg drop that ends with a one-count. Blayze crawls to the rope for a break to escape a chinlock but Nakano continues toying with her. Nakano sends Blayze into the ropes but Blayze counters a powerbomb with a Frankensteiner for a two-count. Blayze hits one spinkick but Nakano ducks a second one and hits a tree slam. Nakano drops her knee across Blayze’s neck and then applies a leglock, to which the crowd responds by chanting “U-S-A”. Blayze reaches the ropes again so Nakano locks in her Bull’s Poseidon finisher, which is a sharpshooter/double-arm stretch combo hold. Nakano starts pulling Blayze’s hair and choking her some more, and when she lets go her manager Luna Vachon attacks Blayze behind the referee’s back. But despite that interference, Blayze rolls Nakano up for a two-count. Nakano counters into a cross armbreaker and uses her legs to separate Blayze’s hands. Blayze rolls over for a cover but only gets a two-count. Nakano applies another armlock and sends Blayze into the ropes. Blayze hits first with a trio of running neckbreakers. She tries a powerbomb but Nakano powers out. Nakano slams Blayze but Blayze kicks out, only for Nakano to drop her again with a lariat. Nakano misses a corner charge and Blayze backslides her for another two-count. Blayze charges but runs into a powerbomb that gets another two-count. Blayze goes for a diving leg drop…and misses. Blayze kicks Vachon off the apron and lands a bridging German suplex on Nakano for the pin and the win.
Winner and STILL WWF/E World Women’s Champion after 8:20: Alundra Blayze
Review: Surprisingly good sprint of a match. Nakano played the monster perfectly and Blayze had to fight from underneath to try and win. She used her speed to get what little momentum she could and used Nakano’s own momentum against her to win the match. It was very simple, which was expected since the division wasn’t in any position to have main-event-level length. Even though the crowd reacted somewhat strongly to what was going on, there didn’t appear to be much interest on their part, and therefore not that much interest on the company’s part. Blayze was left trying to carry the entire division on her shoulders, but it wasn’t that much of an achievement when there was such a dearth of challengers.
Final Rating: **3/4
3. Two-Falls Triple Threat for the WWE Intercontinental and European Championships: Kurt Angle [c] vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit – WrestleMania 2000
Background: Jericho lost his IC title to Angle at No Way Out and failed many attempts to get it back in the weeks that followed. At the same time, both Jericho and Angle started feuding with two members of the Radicalz, who had jumped ship from WCW and were making an impact on WWE’s shows. Angle found himself involved with Chris Benoit while Jericho became involved with Eddy Guerrero, who was going after Jericho’s valet Chyna. Determined to kill two birds with one stone, WWE booked all three men to face off for both of Angle’s titles.
The match: This is for both of Angle’s titles and the first fall is for the Intercontinental title. Benoit attacks Angle before he has even entered the ring. He throws Angle into it and Jericho goes after Angle, but Angle reverses an Irish whip and ducks a clothesline that hits Benoit instead. Jericho clotheslines Angle successfully and then goes after Benoit. Angle goes after Jericho but Jericho drops him with a back elbow. Benoit sends Jericho forward into a corner and goes for a back suplex but Jericho lands behind him and dropkicks him into a ringpost. Jericho dropkicks Angle and goes for his corner triangle dropkick but Benoit trips him up. Benoit goes after Angle on the apron but then Jericho lands his triangle dropkick sending both of them to the floor.
Jericho baseball slide dropkicks Benoit into the barricade and charges at Angle but Angle counters with a flapjack. Back in the ring, Angle hits a belly-to belly on Jericho but Benoit breaks up his pin. Benoit covers Angle off a body block but Jericho breaks up that pin. Jericho trades strikes with Benoit and then goes after Angle. He climbs the top turnbuckle but Benoit knocks him off and he goes flying into a commentary table.
In the ring, Benoit gets two two-counts, one off a snap suplex and one off a back suplex. Jericho dropkicks Benoit and then hits a missile dropkick on Angle but Benoit breaks up another cover attempt. Benoit lands a single-knee backbreaker but Angle breaks up that pin. A snap suplex from Angle gets him a two-count and then Jericho hits him with a running bulldog for a two-count of his own. The two Chrises trade strikes until Angle lands a back suplex on Benoit and then Jericho lands another dropkick to stop that pin. Jericho puts Benoit in a camel clutch but stops it when he sees Angle coming in and tackles Angle. Jericho lands a vertical suplex on Angle but Benoit covers for a two-count. Angle sends Jericho into a corner but Jericho boots out. Jericho goes for a German suplex but Angle counters with an overhead suplex for yet another two-count. Angle reverses a corner whip from Benoit and sends Benoit into the same corner Jericho’s in. Jericho attempts a sunset flip on Benoit but Benoit counters with a pin, only for Angle to stop that. Angle stops a back body drop and rushes Jericho but Jericho blocks and he trades counters with Angle until Angle locks in a crossface chickenwing. Jericho’s arm drops once…twice…thr – Benoit dropkicks Angle. Benoit throws Angle into the crowd and lands a diving head-butt on Jericho. One, two, three! Benoit wins the IC Championship.
Winner and NEW WWE Intercontinental Championship after 8:13: Chris Benoit
The second fall is for the European Championship. Benoit covers Jericho right away but Angle breaks that up. Angle lands a vertical suplex for a two-count and lands a scoop slam. He goes for a moonsault but Jericho cuts him off. Jericho attempts a back suplex but Benoit cuts him off and back suplexes him. Angle attempts the moonsault but he misses. He gets a two-count on Benoit and Jericho gets a two-count on him. Jericho goes for the Walls but Benoit cuts him off and lands a kneelift. Angle slams Benoit and then Jericho fights out a corner, knocks Angle down, and hits a wheel kick on Benoit. Jericho follows with a repeating powerbomb on Angle but then Benoit hits a German on Jericho. Then Benoit hits two German suplexes on Jericho but Angle breaks it up. Bridging dragon suplex by Benoit onto Angle. Two-count. Benoit reverses an Irish whip. Jericho goes for a flying forearm but Benoit ducks and Jericho hits the referee instead. Benoit locks Jericho in a crossface. Jericho taps but there’s no ref to make the call. Benoit goes to the ref and then turns around and gets locked in the Walls. Angle hits Jericho with the title belt. Angle covers Jericho but Benoit pulls Jericho out of the ring.
Angle and Benoit trade punches and then Benoit hits another back suplex. Benoit tries another diving head-butt but misses this one. Jericho takes advantage with a Lionsault. One, two, and three! Jericho pins Benoit. Angle loses both titles without ever getting pinned.
Winner and NEW WWE European Champion after 5:39: Chris Jericho
Review: That was an interesting match full of chaos and interference. It felt a bit like a wrestling video game with all three guys trying to hit each other and break up. It had some fun moments with the suplexes, reversals, and constant break-ups, and yet the action felt very surface level and lacking in any real tension. These guys tried being creative and did what they could, but it looked like they were on different pages at a few points. It was a good idea on paper and Angle looked good by not taking any falls. They could’ve still worked some of the kinks out to make this match less clunky; then again, WrestleMania 2000 was all about getting as many people onto the card as possible so the quantity over quality approach here shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Final Rating: ***
2. ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship match: Yuji Nagata [c] vs. Masato Tanaka – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom III (2009)
Background: NJPW had a working relationship with other companies once again and brought a bunch of outsiders to wrestle their biggest stars. In this case, Nagata went over to Zero1 and won their world title. Tanaka, Zero1’s biggest star, vowed to bring it home, but beating Nagata, a former world champion in NJPW as well, was no easy task.
The match: This is for Nagata’s ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship. The bell rings and both wrestlers rush each other and trade forearms. Then they trade kneelifts against the ropes and Nagata follows with a kick to Tanaka’s spine. Tanaka bails to ringside but Nagata chases him. He teases a ringside Exploder suplex but Tanaka blocks and drives Nagata into the side of the ring. Tanaka follows with a ringside vertical suplex and then cracks Nagata’s head with a chair with such force that the metal piece seat goes flying into the crowd. Tanaka drives the edge of the chair into Nagata’s head which makes him bleed some more. Back in the ring, Tanaka hits punches to Nagata’s wound followed by a corner clothesline and a Brainbuster for a two-count. Tanaka punches Nagata’s wound and when he goes for an Irish whip. The ref checks to see if Nagata can continue and he does. Tanaka maintains the pressure with more forearms and a lariat for another two-count. Tanaka sends Nagata into another corner but this time he misses his corner clothesline and Nagata starts firing back. He hits so many forearms that Tanaka starts bleeding and then Nagata collapses from exhaustion. Nagata then fires up and hits a corner kneelift followed by an avalanche Exploder suplex for another two-count.
Nagata lands more knees and kicks until Tanaka catches his leg. Another forearm exchange ensues. Nagata hits a high kick and Tanaka follows with a running lariat. Both men collapse and then trade head-butts and more forearms. Tanaka out-strikes Nagata with one-two elbows and attempts another Brainbuster. Nagata blocks, drapes Tanaka onto the top rope, and hits a dragon screw neck whip. Brutal. Nagata goes for a Backdrop suplex. Tanaka lands on his feet and hits a sliding dropkick to the back of Nagata’s head. Tanaka hits another corner lariat followed by his Diamond Dust somersault stunner. Then he goes for another lariat. Nagata kicks him but Tanaka lands the lariat anyway. One, two, Nagata kicks out. Top-rope Backdrop suplex by Tanaka. Nagata kicks out again. Sliding lariat. Nagata kicks out once more. Yet another sliding lariat. Nagata kicks out and counters into a Fujiwara armbar but Tanaka gets a ropebreak. enzuigiri/Backdrop combo. Tanaka kicks out. Nagata hits another high kick to the head followed by another Backdrop. Then Nagata lands a Backdrop Hold and gets the three-count to retain the title.
Winner and STILL ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion after 11:41: Yuji Nagata
Review: Exciting little sprint of a match. It was just an all-out war between two guys that hit each other as hard as possible. There were no rest holds or slow periods; these two just sprinted at full speed and kept going until one of them ran out of gas. It was a bit on the absurd side, especially with Nagata collapsing mid-Irish whip one minute and then charging across the ring at full speed seconds later, but that’s pro-wrestling for you. This is the sort of match that would later become ultra-popular with guys like Ishii and Shibata who don’t bother with build or crescendos and just start at the highest ear possible. It was wild and a bit silly, but still fun to watch.
Final Rating: ***1/4
1. Stan Hansen vs Andre – NJPW Bloody Fight Series, September 23, 1981
Background: By 1981, Stan Hansen was firmly established as one of the fiercest foreigners in Japan. Vince McMahon Sr. built the legend that Hansen’s lariat broke Bruno Sammartino’s neck that story grew in Japan to the point that the biggest stars in the country were truly afraid of Hansen. But Andre was something else. This match was back when the Territory system was still alive and well and Vince Sr. loaned Andre out to various promotions. As a touring attraction, Andre was special wherever he went and few wrestlers could measure up to him. But if there was one wrestler that wasn’t afraid of the Eighth Wonder of the World, it was Hansen.
The match: Hansen rushes Andre the as the Giant enters the ring but Andre boots him back. Some intense brawling ensues and then Hansen sends Andre into a corner as the bell rings. Andre boots Hansen again and then locks in a bearhug. The crowd is insanely loud and I can’t tell which of these two wrestlers they’re chanting for. Hansen head-butts and clotheslines his way out of the bearhug and the brawling continues, until Andre head-butts Hansen’s arm and then takes Hansen to the mat. Yes, Andre the Giant is wrestling on the mat. Andre works Hansen’s left arm for a bit but then Hansen retaliates with chops using his right arm. Andre drives his hulking frame into Hansen’s arm as Hansen’s trapped in a corner but then Hansen dodges a corner charge. Hansen tries scoop slamming Andre but Andre goes back to the arm and switches from a hammerlock to what looks like a standing kimura. Hansen gets a ropebreak but Hansen takes his time letting go and then reapplies another wristlock seconds later. Andre lands an over-the-shoulder armbreaker which forces Hansen to pull Andre down by his hair. Unfazed, Andre goes back to the arm yet again and lands a vertical suplex. Andre lands some stiff forearms and then applies a chinlock. He goes for a back body drop but Hansen boots him and does a successful scoop slam six years before Hogan. Hansen goes for an elbow drop but Andre rolls away. Hansen goes after Andre’s lower back and applies a camel clutch. Andre breaks Hansen’s grip and escapes but Hansen lands more stiff elbows and kneedrops. Then the two start brawling ringside and the referee counts both of them out.
Match result after 8:26: Double Count-out
Seconds later Hansen and Andre’s manager Arnold Skaaland argue with the ref over the decision. Andre, Skaaland, Hansen, and the fans, all want the match to resume. After discussing with a ringside official, the ref announces that the match is being restarted, to the delight of the audience.
The bell rings and Hansen does an over-the-shoulder Judo throw on Andre. Hansen runs wild with his brawling until Andre gets tied up in the ropes, which makes the crowd go nuts. Andre escapes soon afterwards and hits back with strikes of his own. Andre lands some head-butts and then unties one of the turnbuckle pads. He goes to smash Hansen’s head into it but Hansen reverses that move onto Andre. Hansen misses an elbow drop and Andre goes back to the arm he worked over earlier. Andre transitions into a double-arm stretch and head-butts Hansen’s back as Hansen remains trapped. Andre switches to a scoop slam of his own but then misses a running splash. Andre lands a grounded head-butt and sends Hansen into the ropes. Hansen ducks a big boot and connects with the Western Lariat. The force from that move sends Andre to the floor and Hansen into the ropes. Andre gets back into the ring now wearing an elbow pad he didn’t have earlier. The referee tries to check it since it’s technically a foreign object but Andre’s not having it. This ref has balls of steel as he continues insisting Andre let him inspect that elbow pad. But Andre doesn’t and then lariats the referee. Hansen and Andre continue brawling around the ring as Young Lions tend to the referee. The bell is rung several times to signal the end of the match but that doesn’t stop either Andre or Hansen from hitting anything moving. It takes a long time but eventually both men leave the ring.
Result of match #2 after 4:22: Double Disqualification
Review: That was an excellent match given its parameters and limitations. All Hansen and Andre did was brawl and use a handful of wrestling moves yet they told such a great story and the crowd loved them for it. The action looked realistic, the intensity felt palpable, and the momentum shifted back-and-forth between both men. There was a real sense of unpredictability between these two men. They sold the idea that a real and genuine fight could break out at any moment and the sense of professionalism would disappear. And in terms of storytelling, Andre did something brilliant here: he went after Hansen’s left arm, which was the only effective weapon he had. By taking Hansen’s arm out, the Western Lariat hit with far less power. And yet, Hansen still managed to hit with so much force he knowns ANDRE THE GIANT out of the ring with one hit. It’s simple stuff like that which gets wrestlers over. Andre made both Hansen and his finishing move look lethal and credible. He got so upset with how things went that he chose to continue fighting wildly than follow any rules. This was a case of the double count-out and the double-DQ benefitting both guys. It fit the story and further underscored how much these two wanted to fight each other. Neither wrestler was hurt by the result and it naturally built to a rematch down the line. Much like Undertaker and Brock Lesnar did twenty-four years later, Hansen and Andre made people want to see more of them by acting like unchained beasts that didn’t care about the rules. Sometimes that sort of hit-first-ask-questions-later does more to help a wrestler’s career than just having another straightforward match.
Final (combined) rating: ****1/4