Not all great wrestling bouts are massively well-known.
For every classic that becomes a turn of phrase such as ‘Flair-Steamboat’, for every Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker at Wrestlemania measuring stick, there are heaps of brilliant matches that for whatever reason, are much more difficult to recall years (or even months) later.
And while the main reason these contests drift away is because the majority aren’t quite HBK-Taker or Flair-Steamboat levels, you often end up with quite the pleasant surprise if fate thrusts those forgotten battles back upon your lap one day.
And today is that day.
We asked the HOW team to offer up a bout that most fans would have either forgotten or never watched in the first place, in the hopes of making a surprisingly brilliant playlist of refreshing and wide-ranging offerings.
We think it worked. But go check them out for yourselves and be the judge. And then, share this post on social media with a hidden gem suggestion of your own.
Paul Benson: NXT house show, Bobby Roode vs Drew McIntyre
I’m an old school kind of wrestling fan. Whilst I hugely appreciate the craft of guys who flip and fly around the ring, my strong preference is something more considered, more grounded, dare I say, more realistic.
In June 2017, I was lucky enough to have a front row seat to the Leeds leg of the second NXT tour of the UK. Whilst the show itself was some way short of the first tour the year prior, the main event will live long with me. The match saw NXT Champion Roode defending his title against some guy called Drew McIntyre. Whatever happened to him?
Something about the atmosphere of the match struck me right away. Two guys who looked like traditional wrestlers in tights and robes coming face to face with a belt on the line in a darkened arena with the spotlights illuminating just the ring. The two antagonised each other and held the crowd in the palm of their hand for five minutes or so without so much as touching.
When the match did get going it was a wonderful show of classic wrestling between two powerful technicians, one a heel, one a face, working a slow paced match that started slowly and built to a crescendo and the heel showing massive vulnerability before cheating and sneakily retaining his title.
To steal a phrase from the winner of the match, it was just glorious. I’ve described it many times since as simply two wrestlers who looked like wrestlers wrestling a wrestling match. I’ll never forget it. I don’t think it exists on film but for me, it was one of my greatest experiences watching wrestling live.
Liam Happe: Superbrawl Revenge 2001, Chavo Guerrero Jr vs Rey Misterio Jr
Don’t repeat this too loud, but Chavo was the MAN in late 2000-early 2001. I mean, potentially top 10 in North America, for a little while, until WCW folded. This match is Exhibit A of this seemingly-ludicrous statement. Rey – perhaps the greatest junior heavyweight of all time – has a total off-night and Chavo carries him to a topnotch outing regardless.
Chavo would then parlay this tremendous run into cementing Shane Helms as a star before the company was no more. 2001 WCW was rather enjoyable, and Chavo was one of the driving reasons for that. Watch this Superbrawl corker with a WWE Network subscription here.
Steve Cox: Paul Diamond vs Pez Whatley, 15th March 1990
Can’t recall how or when I was watching but this show had something that really stood out to a 16 year old wrestling fan. It was the usual “jobber squash” Saturday late night tape session. The usual jobber match ensues, however, this time… it goes differently.
Pistol Pez hit his suplex finisher and pins Paul Diamond. The crowd goes wild, a teenage Stevie is dumbstruck and Pistol Pez does his victory dance. I’d never seen a “Jobber to the Stars” pick up a win before, and it totally blew my mind and stayed with me until this day.
Of course now I know Pez was a fantastic wrestler and was taken from us way too soon, but back then it had such an impression that 30 years later it’s still pretty fresh in my mind. Good work Pez, Good work.
Justin Czerwonka: Battleground 2013, The Shield vs The Rhodes Family
I was at the show and it was my favourite non-Wrestlemania weekend match I have ever seen. Loudest I’ve heard a crowd in my home city for any match. Plus, seeing Dusty Rhodes right next to me in the aisle delivering his signature elbow was great. One of the best storylines in the last 10 years or so where people got emotionally invested in it. Watch that match via WWE Network subscription here.
Matt Arnold: Royal Rumble 1990, Ronnie Garvin vs Greg Valentine
Valentine looks like a pissed-off Mr Potato Head in a blonde wig, and Garvin I’d only ever seen on a VHS recorded on Croydon’s cable access WCW show when he turned heel. But he had hands of steel.
I’ve no idea why this enthralled me as much as it did.But casting my mind back, that’s the biggest pop at a finish I ever had. And with a WWE Network subscription, you can watch that Submission match here.
Rob McNichol: Raw after Wrestlemania 25, 10-man tag
The first time I ever heard the grammatically-incorrect chant of “you still got it” was live at Raw, the night after Wrestlemania 25.How about this for a star-studded 10-man tag: Kane, Edge, Matt Hardy, Big Show and Chris Jericho v John Cena, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio… and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
This was, I believe, Ricky’s only ever Raw match, coming the night after he was part of Jericho’s three-on-one legends match at Mania, with the Mickey Rourke cameo. When Ricky got in the ring, you could see Punk and Hardy on the apron essentially breaking character, they were so excited to be in the match with this legend. With a WWE Network subscription, you can watch that match here.
Andrew Charles: Fully Loaded 2000, Triple H vs Chris Jericho
They both told a great story with contrasting styles which complemented each other. The high points of the match for me was Jericho’s cockiness giving the crotch-crop to Triple H which resulted in a thunderous Pedigree. And how can we forget Y2J putting Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley in the Walls of Jericho for a brief moment?
Triple H’s visuals of the claret trickling down his face whilst being carried out of the arena at the end of the match sums up this hidden gem of a match for me. Justin Czerwonka reviewed this show recently.
Dane Nielsen: Night of Champions 2009, CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy
I was such a big fan of them both and was desperate for Hardy to get one over on him. The feud of ‘pompous straight edge vs flawed but affable screw-up’ was just such a natural fit and it worked a charm. This match can be watched with a WWE Network subscription here.
James Carr: IYH Mind Games, Shawn Michaels vs Mankind
Not sure if it’s classed as a hidden gem anymore, but Mankind vs Michaels from Mind Games 1996 was always one of my favourites! It really elevated both characters at the time. It toughened up the perception of Shawn who was known for prancing/jumping around and showed Mankind could hang at a main event level.
Jason Auld: Lucha Underground, Killshot vs Dante Fox
NXT’s Isaiah Scott portraying a war veteran, with Fox being his former army pal back for vengeance due to a mysterious wrongdoing from their past. It was a blow off, after the former friends had cost each other opportunities and they were looking to settle the score. A ‘Hell of War’ match – essentially a three stages of hell match but with real, fiery torturous hell that would have Ned Flanders curled up in the corner.
Wonderfully set up with a meaningful story, executed beautifully with some incredible athleticism and punctuated with spine-tingly spots. I’m not a huge fan of blood and guts wrestling but when it tells a story like this does, I couldn’t recommend it more.
Lewis Brown: Pro Wrestling Elite V, Rumble match
This was at the Citadel in Ayr, Scotland. A lot of names at this event that would go on to NXT UK like Joe Coffey, Viper, Kay Lee Ray. The main event was a rumble match to determine who would face Joe Hendry for the championship. The match was amazing and built very well to Kenny Williams getting the win against all odds.
This event especially resonates with me as it’s the first time I had attended a indie show and it was also the last time I got to meet Adrian “Lionheart” McCallum before his sad passing the following year.
Marc Hemingway: WWF Wrestling Challenge, Ultimate Warrior vs Pork Chop Cash
It’s no secret about my love for Pork Chop Cash and I’ve mentioned his match against the Ultimate Warrior before, but it’s soooooo good!
Pork Chop’s on fire at the start of the match, getting a few shots in before that heel Warrior cheats and gets him to hit the IC belt. If he hadn’t done that then Cash would’ve won that bout and gone on the run that Warrior stole *STOLE* from under his nose.
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