Maybe it’s me, internet wrestling websites. Maybe there’s something I’m not understanding about what constitutes a 5-star match. Maybe my unsophisticated brain will never truly grasp the majesty of a 15-second sequence that seamlessly flows from a Lou Thesz press-into-a-fireman’s carry-into-a-kimura lock….OR MAYBE THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN, DUDE!
What follows are selections from my personal list of 5-star matches. My criteria? Whatever produced a moment that I’ll tell my kid about. My qualifications? I’m a guy that got completely hooked on the WWF during its mid-80’s heyday and still have a box full of those big rubber action figures in my closet. I’m a 32 year-old man who still giggles at the word “Orndorff”. I’m a dork, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s do this.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant: Wrestlemania III
A match that garners little respect from experts, who deem it to be “plodding” and “seriously, seriously PLODDING”. After watching it again, I can’t even disagree.
Why am I still giving it 5 stars? The build, starting with Andre’s return from suspension to his classic Piper’s Pit turn on Hogan to the face-to-face contract signing, was so electric that the match itself could’ve been a spelling bee and felt like a satisfying payoff. Instead, it featured “The Moment”. Even today, they’re the three little words that you can say to a non-wrestling fan and they’ll know what you’re referring to: Hogan. Slams. Andre.
We’ll be talking about this match in 25 years. That’s not a 3-star accomplishment, brother.
(Special mention goes to the untouchable Bobby Heenan, who took a guy with the mic skills and mobility of a drunken Orson Welles and built a story that almost 100,000 humanoids paid money to see the conclusion of.)
The First Undertaker Match You Ever Saw
Chances are, it was against some hapless goof like Jim Powers or Pez Whatley. Whoever it was, that image is etched in your brain 100 times more clearly than half of the matches that usually qualify as 5-star classics.
Unlike 99% of wrestlers who take a while to grow on you as characters, from the second he stepped through the curtain, you were scared s***less of The Undertaker. He made you question the science behind what your eyes were seeing. Good lord, he’s WALKING ALONG THE TOP ROPE. He’s putting guys in body bags AND ZIPPING THEM UP ALL THE WAY. He’s….EXTREMELY TALL. My 8 year-old brain couldn’t process any of this, least of all how his opponent would live to return the next week to get manhandled by Dino Bravo.
Randy “Macho Man” Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior: Wrestlemania VII
This match gets 5 stars for what happens after the final bell.
Until Wrestlemania 7, women audiences were about as coveted by the wrestling industry as cooler heads prevailing. Their main job requirements were providing eye candy and occasionally serving as a human shield.
Cue Miss Elizabeth rescuing a defeated Savage from the blows of his then-manager Sensational Queen Sherri and their subsequent reunion. The moment was capped by an embrace and Savage chivalrously reversing roles and holding the ropes open for Elizabeth.
To this day, it might be the only moment that was directed solely at the WWF’s female audience and, more than that, felt like it was written by its female audience. A conflict that was settled without words or blows. For a few glorious minutes, an industry that had, since its inception, crapped on the role of women in society paused and pulled out a metaphorical folding chair for them.
You’re going to tell me that El Mysterion vs. Mr. Dropkick III gets 5-stars and this doesn’t? Insane.
Hulk Hogan vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage: Wrestlemania V
For me, it’s tight between this and Hogan/Andre for the best build-up of my lifetime. I mean, this ball got rolling over a year earlier on Saturday Night’s Main Event with Miss Elizabeth frantically dragging Hogan down to the ring to save Savage from The Honky Tonk Man and The Hart Foundation. It continued through the formation of the Mega-Powers and Savage’s title win at Wrestlemania 4 (featuring Hogan lighting the feud’s dynamite with his subtle ass-grabbing of Miss Elizabeth during the celebration).
The match itself is great, with Savage working his usual frenetic mid-to-late-80’s pace that I need an oxygen tank just to write about. Add to it some Hogan blood, which wasn’t incredibly commonplace at that point, and you’ve got 5 big stars o’ fun.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the ol’ comment section, Gorilla!
Husband. Father to one girl and one beard.. ’80s wrestling geek.