The Maverick: I never thought I'd see the day. Back in the Oratory's cataclysmal of days antiquated, when I was no more than a youthful reader, and DRQ was the guy scribing the very best columns this side of professional journalism, I literally dreamed of partaking in a joint column with the man you know as DRQ. And now I'm here, and what a letdown it is : ) . Only joking llama man, it's a pleasure, I am humbled by your odour
presence. Today DRQ, tomorrow John C, the day after tomorrow the WORLD!!!
Hysterics aside, the premise of this column came to me the very same night as I conjured up the ideas of The Best of WCW
, Pulp Fiction
and The Seven Deadly Sins of WCW
, where I had an ejaculation of ideas (if you will). So what exactly is this joint column about? Apart from usual Oratory-fest of llama jokes and cheap plugs to previous columns, you are gathered here today to thumb over DRQ and my own opinions on The Greatest Individual Performances in Wrestling
. The list your about to read is in no particular order, with my partner in crime mulling over five performances, and me doing exactly the same. Sounds like fun, eh? The stage is yours, monkey bumper!
drq: My odour
presence? Does it really smell that bad...? As my longtime fellow orator mentioned above, we've gathered here today to shine our own bizarrely colored spotlight on what we consider to be the five greatest individual performances in wrestling history. What follows is not exactly what I'd call a surprising list; instead a thorough one, provoking you to realize just why everybody did like that Mankind character so much, and why Shawn Michaels still stands out amongst the throngs of long, blonde haired wrestlers in the WWF.
No matter the era, pro wrestling has always been dominated by the individual. While tag team wrestling most certainly has its own spot in the scheme of things, the real draw, the money maker, is that Men's World Title match. Thus, an athlete is almost completely free to carve his own niche in the scheme of things. Whether he soars or whether he falls is almost completely in his own hands. Listed below are athletes who did more than just soar; they shone head and shoulders above the rest.Shawn Michaels versus Sid @ The Survivor Series 1996
The Maverick: There's a difference, you know, between great individual performances and great carryjobs. But as you'll see the pattern emerging as this column elapses, there is an overbearing link between the two. Anyway, when you're talking about carryjobs, how can you not mention Shawn Michaels, and specifically this match? Sid, by his own recognition, is void of actual wrestling talent, skill and understanding, and admits himself he lives and dies in the wrestling ring by two assets: his charisma and his psychosis. But he is nothing, absolutely zilch without an opponent willing to sell his crappy offence, and carry the match to keep it from being as apathetic and sluggish as most Sid matches usually are.
In this case back at the 1996 Survivor Series Shawn Michaels makes Sid look a million dollars, all the while carrying the match to make it the highlight of Sid's career (I know that's not saying much) and if only for a while, made Sid look worthy of the faith the WWF showed in him (as he was crowned WWF Champion that night). And while Sid plays off Shawn's performance, pulling his preverbal socks up as to not look completely out of place, make no mistake about it, this is Shawn's show. The "Heart Break Kid" pulls off one of the greatest individual performances ever, and does the unthinkable, carries Psycho Sid to produce a great entertaining match.Shawn Michaels versus Steve Austin @ Wrestlemania XIV
drq: Without question, one of the most important matches in history, on the largest stage in the world. With the recent loss of Bret Hart to the competition, an overwhelming sense of impending doom in the locker room, a career-ending injury suffered by the current World Champion, and a long string of losses in the Monday night wars hanging over the WWF's head, there seemed only one real option. They needed a new top star, and they needed one fast. Fortunately enough, Steve Austin was riding an unfathomable wave of popularity going into the year's biggest event. With fans ready to accept him in the main event and the idea of "striking while the iron's hot" certainly at the front of the bookers' minds, only one major hurtle remained; Michaels himself.
Without question one of the greatest performers in the history of the business, the Heart Break Kid was also infamous for his poor backstage attitude and unprofessional disposition when it came to doing the job for competition. Only one year before, Michaels (possibly the biggest name in the federation) had been forced to sit out of Wrestlemania for those very reasons. As luck would have it, however, any and all worries were quickly forgotten as HBK not only laid down for the Rattlesnake, but did so in a manner which would cement Austin's slot in the main event for the rest of his career. Shawn didn't pout, do the deed and stalk to the back. He knew this was possibly his final match on the big stage, and decided to do the right thing in the WWF's hour of need. Though he was clearly suffering from the very outset, Shawn swallowed both his pride and his pain for the good of the company. Despite the years of trouble he'd given the federation, what he gave with his final ounce of effort more than evened the score.Ric Flair @ The Royal Rumble 1992
The Maverick: You can't have a list of greatest individual performances without mentioning this man, the man. Ric Flair has had a handful of majestic performances throughout his established career which has spanned decades, but perhaps the greatest (and most obvious) is his showing in the yet unparalleled Royal Rumble of 1992. Credit to Vince McMahon (or whoever was booking at the time), that they allowed the '92 Rumble to be Flair's show, and without doubt this really was Flair's show. The "Nature Boy" drew number three and some sixty minutes later after disposing of The British Bulldog, Kerry Von Erich, The Big Bossman and Sid Justice along the way, Ric Flair was declared winner and in turn WWF Champion. His best WWF performance, and maybe the best performance of his career, and when you're Ric Flair, that's saying a hell of a lot.Mick Foley versus The Undertaker @ the 1998 King of the Ring
drq: Just how far would you go to capture your lifelong dream? Would you risk the use of one of your limbs for a grasp at something you've always imagined calling your own? Would you do something both mentally and physically tortuous? On that spring night in Pittsburgh, 1998, we found out just how far Mick Foley was willing to go for his dream; a shot at the top in the WWF. And, in one short instant, we saw the true definition of the phrase "WWF Desire," long before Creed's music was gracing the McMahon airwaves.
There's no doubt this match is among the most overrated of all time. Without those fleeting, brutal spots, this encounter was truly forgettable. But from the moment the Undertaker takes hold of those brown sweatpants and begins to lean, your heart begins to race. You know it's coming, and no matter how many times you've seen the replay on RAW or any other program remotely associated with WWF television, a shiver runs down your spine as JR shouts "He's been broken in half!" In a few short minutes, Mick Foley captured his own dreams and helped launch the WWF to a high it's only now coming down from. He became a legend in just one night, through what's undoubtedly one of the most memorable individual efforts of all time.Shawn Michaels versus Kevin Nash @ Good Friends, Better Enemies
The Maverick: Shawn Michaels makes the list, and not for the last time. These two had already produced a fine display at WrestleMania XI, in a match that even amassed the PWI's 'Match of the Year' docket, but this match, and (more specifically to this column) this performance vastly surpasses their previous outing. This was just before Nash was due to depart from the WWF, and with a ton of help from his buddy (off-screen at least) Shawn Michaels, used his last PPV match to showcase his talents to the wrestling world before signing with WCW.
Shawn did all you could ask of your best friend, he took a stiff pounding with nasty forearms and brutal punches, took two stubborn chair shots and to top it off got powerbombed through the announcers desk. And do you know how Kevin Nash repaid him? With a little more brutality and stiffness, just for fun. Savage match, in which Shawn bumps like a clown in a mental home, destroying his body for our entertainment. One of the best carryjobs in wrestling history, and one of the most dynamic awe inspiring performances ever.Jumbo Tsuruta versus Mitsuharu Misawa on June 8th, 1990
drq: In the dictionary of wrestling terminology, the phrase "to put over" would be accompanied by a still from this match. A former Olympian, Tsuruta was possibly the biggest name in all of Japan at this point, though his star was slowly fading. Opposing him, Mitsuharu Misawa had just begun a fiery rush for the sky, shedding his old skin as Tiger Mask II and quickly evolving into the complete package he is today. Misawa's improvement hadn't gone unnoticed by the bookers, and by the time the 6/8/90 match was arranged, it was clear that he would be their "chosen son" for the next generation. Certainly, this must have been a bitter pill for Tsuruta to swallow, especially when you consider the number of great matches he still left in his aging body.
But instead of hanging his head and jeopardising the career of a relatively unestablished youngster because of his own worries, Tsuruta took the challenge presented by Misawa and met it head on. He took just as much as he gave, and when the dust had settled Misawa had not only won the match. He'd hung with the biggest star in the nation from beginning to end, earning the victory without a shadow of doubt. Jumbo had gone out of his way to make sure this wasn't seen as a fluke, and the success of his effort was never so apparent as it was throughout the rematch three months later. Fans were no longer questioning Misawa as a main eventer, they were rocking and rolling with every exchange. On June seventh, Mitsuharu Misawa was just a new name with potential. On June ninth, he was the man destined to carry Japanese wrestling into the next century.. and Jumbo Tsuruta deserves much of the credit.Triple H versus The Rock @ Judgement Day 2000
The Maverick: I've already talked about this particular bout when discussing Triple H's Top Ten Greatest Matches, where I (rightly or wrongly) placed it at number four. While it may not be Hunter's best match in my eyes, it is without doubt his best performance, and one of the greatest individual efforts of all time. Part of Hunter's fantastic five PPV matches of 2000 (v. Cactus x2, v. Jericho, v. Benoit), Triple H versus The Rock in this 60-Minute Iron Man Match was the surprise hit of the year, as there was a deep sense of foreboding within the internet community prior to the match. Nobody I knew thought this would be a good match.
As corny as it may sound, it wasn't a good match; it was a great match. The WWF took a huge chance on these two, as in an era where attention spans were at a minimum and actual wrestling was secondary to entertainment, The Rock and Triple H captured the fans' imagination for all of sixty minutes and produced an excellent entertaining matchup. While The Rock deserves credit, as he pulled off the greatest performance of his career, Triple H is the reason why the chance paid off so well. Hunter pulls out all the stops, debuting new moves and innovative spots and using some great psychology to keep the fans interested. An important contest in wrestling history, as these two proved fans are still interested in wrestling matches, and lengthy wrestling matches at that, under the right circumstances and correct application.Ric Flair at any point in 1989
drq: Talk about your landmark years. When Ric Flair walked in to 1989, he was already at the top of the world. He'd successfully defended his World Title against up-and-coming Lex Luger at the biggest PPV of the year, he'd claimed his spot at the head of the booking department, and his biggest political threat, Dusty Rhodes, was WWF-bound. From the outside looking in, it must have seemed as though Flair had peaked. But, as the old adage has it, looks can be deceiving. Not only did the booker-man top his previous year's worth of achievements, he set the bar to such a height that it seems almost unreachable, even today. A listing of his feuds in the last year of the '80s reads like a who's who of the NWA's major stars. Sting, Steamboat, Funk, Muta... they were all on the opposite side of the ring at one point or another, and the matches would always exceed the expectations. Now, granted, Flair had some of the best talent in the world opposite him in the ring, but it does take two to tango. While Ricky Steamboat fell to depths in the WWF after his legendary series with Flair, the Nature Boy stood high with continuing matches against Terry Funk. When the matches against Funk had run their course, Muta and Sting were there to pick up the slack. The phrase has been overused, but with good reason; in 1989 Ric Flair could carry a paper bag to a ***** match. If that's not a supreme individual performance, then I don't know what is.Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker @ Bad Blood 1997 IYH
The Maverick: So I think we've established Shawn Michaels at very worst as a contender for greatest wrestler ever, if not the very best. The acknowledgement Shawn receives as one of wrestling's cardinals is made more impressive, when you consider Shawn was at his wrestling prime headlining with the likes of Diesel, Vader and The Undertaker. No disrespect to those three individuals, but the main eventers after them (see Austin, Foley, Triple H) were far more talented, and without question better workers. Perversely those "big men" often brought out the best in Shawn, and Shawn definitely brought out the best in them. Michaels was probably at his paramount when he was bumping his ass off to make his opponent look good, and there's no better example than this encounter with The Undertaker inside (the very first) Hell in a Cell at Bad Blood.
Unquestionably one of the greatest matches of all time, Shawn bumps and blades beyond the call of duty, and then bounces and bleeds a little more. Ultimately, this may have been the match that ensured Shawn's career would soon come to an abrupt end (I know his match with The Undertaker 3 months after this encounter sealed the deal, but this match didn't do his troublesome back any favours whatsoever), and in the long run the effort can't be considered worth it. But it's just one of many matches where Shawn proved he would do anything and everything to make his opponent look good, no matter how phlegmatic they actually were. This is a terrific match, one of the best in wrestling history, and a Herculean effort and performance by Shawn Michaels.Chris Benoit on three consecutive days in May, 2001
drq: I'd think it's a pretty foregone conclusion to say Benoit brings out the best in almost everyone he's opposing on any given night. Whether it be against Steve Austin and Bret Hart or Sid Vicious and Billy Gunn, Benoit has the ability to make just about anyone watchable, no matter the circumstances. When "The Crippler" has a good day, it's certainly reason to stand up and take notice. So when he put on a superhuman show in late May of 2001, opposite the best the WWF had to offer, it was like they were giving away free candy in the streets.
Over the course of three nights, Benoit wrestled a total of seven falls. He partook in one straightforward wrestling match, three tag team matches (winning the Tag Team Championship along the way), a submissions match, a ladder match and a TLC match. Opposing him at various points were Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, Triple H, Edge, Christian, X-Factor, the Dudley Boyz and the Hardy Boyz. To say it was a talented roster would also be a foregone conclusion. Yet, the thing that sets this effort apart from all the others isn't the fact that Benoit even attempted to take on such a maniacal workload. It's that he did so, and nearly every match was progressively better than the last. He put in the same kind of neckbreaking effort in that final TLC match that he did in the first fall with Kurt Angle. The sheer ferocity of his determination resulted in his being off the active roster for upwards of nine months. That's dedication to the viewing audience in my book, and a downright superhuman effort in anyone's opinion.Conclusion
The Maverick: So there you have it, Shawn Michaels, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, a little more Shawn Michaels, Jumbo Tsuruta, Triple H, Ric Flair, um... Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit and two of the biggest fans calling the action. I hope we gave you some insight into the elect performances ever in the business, or rekindled memories for those who lived through recent wrestling history as fans, or at the very least you learnt nothing but somehow managed to have fun along the way. I still have plenty of good jokes at DRQ's expense that I didn't get to use, so who knows, maybe we'll team up again someday in the future and I can tell the one about the llama, the Irishman and DRQ! Anyway, procrastination is the thief of time, therefore I'll wrap my half of this column up forthwith with the wise words; the world is round, you can't get pregnant from a toilet seat... and Shawn Michaels was actually pretty damn good! Good night, and Q... its been a pleasure.
drq: Gah, I can't even begin to imagine the punchline of that aforementioned llama joke... let's all hope it's safe for my virgin ears. So yeah, like Mav mentioned, this was pretty much the HBK show... and not without good reason. The man's carried more matches to fame with his own perspiration than perhaps anyone else in the world. But alas, like any list, this one is completely open to interpretation. Chances are your thoughts and candidates vary wildly from our own, and not without good reason. I'm sure I speak for Maverick as well, when I say we'd love to hear your lists, complaints, compliments or inane banter... just hit us up with the e-mail link. We're nice enough guys, and we promise not to bite. Well... I promise not to, anyway. It's been real, and on behalf of my partner in crime, Mr. Maverick, I'll say thanks for joining us and we'll see you next time.
until next time, take it easy...
Mav and the Q