This is Part One of a Forty Part series looking at the Top Three Matches of the Year in WWF/WWE from 1978-2017.
I am starting with the year 2014. This is Part One of a Forty Part Series chronicling the Top Three matches to take place in WWF/WWE from 1978-2017 in an effort to crown the greatest match of all time. Remember how much hope there in April of 2014, Cesaro was getting pushed, Sami Zayn was an over underdog babyface in NXT, the women's revolution was starting, The Shield vs Wyatts were tearing down the house and most importantly Daniel Bryan proved dreams do come true winning the World Championship at WrestleMania XXX in a fairy tale ending. All that hope just withered away. But come celebrate the good that was 2014!
Finlay was in the midst of a feud with Bobby Lashley, but Lashley was suffering from elevated liver enzymes and so he is out and instead we get this gem. Even when their matches are unheralded you got to go out of your way to see a Finlay vs Regal bout. Not as good as their WCW wars, but this is still a hard hitting, badass affair. Now the fans do get restless and they end up chanting boring. I don't think it was due to bad workmanship per se, but the lack of a narrative. It is hard to call this a spotfest as there were almost no highspots. But there was no web between the spots. Regal was sort of playing de facto babyface, but they did not do a shine or a heat segment. They didn't get the fans invested in Regal. They went out and did a Regal vs Finlay match where they stiffed the hell out of each other. Yes, that appeals to me, but I don't think that would appeal to the broader audience. I actually thought they had a couple missed opportunities. This was during the time period where Finlay had the Little Bastard (aka Hornswoggle) under the ring. The first two times Regal got momentum, the Little Bastard was there to stunt it. The first time he was hitting Regal with a shillelagh and second time he bit his fingers. This could have led to great hand psychology from Finlay. Or they could have kept up with the narrative that Regal cant get anything going with that Little Bastard under the ring. JBL tells Michael Cole not to call him that because he may have parents. Turns out he was a bastard, the bastard son of Vince McMahon.
The finish was a typically creative, good one from these two. Finlay does his classic catch his opponent in the apron skirt. Regal comes out without one of his boots. Cole surmises that the Little Bastard must have taken it. Finaly stomps the foot and goes for the throat. Regal fires up and grabs the shillelagh. Little Bastard gives Finlay the boot and he waylays him for the win. This is a match that I clearly enjoy, but understand that it is tone deaf and lacked a narrative. ***1/2
Andre The Giant vs Killer Khan - WWF Philadelphia 11/14/81 Stretcher Match
One of the most famous matches of this era, Andre is looking to exact revenge for Khan breaking his ankle. I guess Andre broke his ankle getting out of bed so they shot an angle where Khan injured him or did they just say on TV that he did. Then on TV when Andre was giving an interview as an update on his recuperation, Khan attacked Andre with his crutch reinjuring the ankle. Here comes Andre now ready to kick some ass. No fun comedy spots. Andre here was ready to rock. Headbutts, punches, slaps and Khan could run but he could not hide. Andre just sits on him with all his own weight. Andre misses a headbutt. This is Khan's only chance. He ties up the ankle in the ropes. Khan attacks the ankle. Khan tries to have Andre put on the stretcher. Oh yeah, so they bring in a stretcher and the ref & trainer try to put the man on the stretcher. Andre ROARS back whacking Khan with the stretcher! I thought the match kinda petered out after that. Andre just sits on Khan a lot. Khan would resist getting on the stretcher. Andre would sit back on him. Andre splashes him to win. Andre definitely kicked ass. It just did not feel like that fist pumping moment. Definitely a good match, but pales in comparison of their New Japan classic. ***1/2
WWF Tag Team Champion Rick Martel & Tony Garea vs Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito - WWF Championship Wrestling 10/17/81
"RIGHT IN THE FACE WITH NOTHING BUT PURE SALT" - Vince McMahon with a ***** call
After Moondogs lose the tag belt back to Martel & Garea (couldn't find the title switch back), Albano returns with a new team this one from Land of the Rising Sun, WWF stalwart, Mr. Fuji teaming with one of the all-time greats, Mr. Saito. Martel & Saito would go onto have a classic match for the AWA World Championship in the mid-80s but here they have a fun tag team match. Martel is such a joy to watch. I really have not watch much Garea but he reminds me of an older Martel just as fired up and excited to wrestle. I loved the babyface shine. Lots of energy and excitement. Martel's crossbody was great. I thought the transition to heat was a little weak they just sort of all sudden beat up on Garea. It is a solid heat segment. I guess I was expecting more Saito like I saw in the AWA here he is much more toned down version. Wrestling more like Fuji meaning a lot more cheating. I liked Garea whiffing hard on that dropkick. Garea breaks free and tags in Martel and it is pure OUI OUI RICKY MARTEL! As much as I love FIP Martel, HOT TAG RICKY MARTEL is hard to beat. It was short but sweet. He goes up for the crossbody when Mr. Fuji hits him RIGHT IN THE FACE WITH NOTHING BUT PURE SALT! The ref, Dicky Whirly, does not see it. 1-2-3! New World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Champions. Rick Martel gives the absolute best sell job of salt I have ever seen as he is just writhing in agony. ***1/2
Sugiura was well into his 581 day reign as champion, which seems questionable, but given the roster there was not much of a choice. This was the NOAH tenth anniversary tour and they are still in a decent sized building drawing 5000+.
I loved this a lot more than expected to. Sugiura is a wrestler that usually draw apathy from me. He is undersized and hits hard. There is not much charisma from him. But at least he does hit hard. I think that adds to this match a lot. They start with a strike exchange and I eye roll. Takayama hits a dropkick to send Sugiura out the ring. I love Takayama! Wicked kneelift on the outside and then he THROWS SUGIURA DOWN ON THE TABLE! Damn! Nice baseball slide. Takayama still has it. Very similarly to the Nakamura match I just watched from 1/4/10. Takayam dominating the young champion with a brutal bruising style. I love his kneelifts. Takayama busts himself open on a headbutt. Blood is pouring from his face. Sugiura gets a human capture suplex. I could do without them trading big boots, but they are laying everything in. I thought the last five minutes were fantastic. Sugiura hits a wicked German into the turnbuckles. He finally turns the tide on the Bleach Blond Giant of Japan. Everything up to that point would sort of just phase the Big Man, this was the first time he had him reeling. Great selling from Takayama. Sugiura EARNS two more Germans, a Dragon Suplex and an Olympic Slam. Sugiura is doing a good job playing to the crowd and firing up. Takayama is selling really well. Takayama gets his big nearfalls. Backdrop driver and then his beautiful Everest German! 1-2-NO! They start punching each other in the face with closed fists. All of sudden Sugiura channels Jerry The King Lawler and unloads a can of whoop ass that had me pumping my fist. Two Olympic Slams later Sugiura retains and I am in shock that I was so excited about a Sugiura match! The last five minutes make this an easy thumbs up. I thought the first ten minutes were very good and it is always entertaining to watch Takayama beat the piss out of someone, but it was nothing special. It is the ending that makes this truly great. ****