Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley - WWE Backlash 2004
My first time seeing this match. I took a break from wrestling during 2004 and 2005, so a lot of stuff in that time period has gone by un-watched. I've been slowly getting through the highlights of both of those years though, and this week I came across this match from Backlash 2004.
I actually stumbled upon this match after reading a conversation as to how many great matches Randy Orton has had in his career. Not many in my opinion especially when you consider the hype that surrounded him for years (and still does to a small degree). This match may well be his finest though, as he stood toe-to-toe with an on-game Mick Foley in a barbaric, but highly entertaining bout.
There's simply so much to like about this match. The way Mick Foley came out all guns blazing, the way Randy took a long time to adapt to Foley's chaotic style, the nicely laid out spots, and the great pacing that went along with it. I'm still a firm believer that hardcore matches can be extremely hard to pull off. It's not just about how many crazy spots you can do, but rather where and how often you use them.
This match does a great job of giving each big spot time to breathe. The fans were given the right amount of time to take in the big spots, before wanting even more. The spots we're treated to of course, are gruesome and engaging. The moments involving the barbed wire baseball bat, the tables beside the titantron, and the dreaded thumbtacks are all pretty much perfect, which in turn is thanks to Orton and Foley's excellent chemistry together. This is one of the best hardcore matches WWE have ever done. 9/10
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit - WWE Armageddon 2002
One of the great things I've noticed about the Smackdown Six's matches is that they were never afraid to work matches to their liking. This is no more evident than during Eddie and Benoit's match from Armageddon in 2002.
In what normally would have been expected to be a close matchup, Chris and Eddie change things up a bit as Guerrero relentlessly goes after Benoit in an attempt to ground him for the entire bout. This makes for really engaging stuff as Benoit desperately tries to build up some momentum, but only goes so far as Eddie continues to work heavily on the left leg of Benoit.
Technical matches like this don't always work, but due to how over they were at the time, and also to the various spots they smartly placed throughout, both guys were able to get the crowd heavily invested in this match. This in turn made everything that things that much more exciting, as we saw a human game of chess between both men unfold in front of a enthusiastic crowd.
I try to leave out spoilers of my reviews, but I feel it necessary to spoil it here as it really exemplifies just how smart a match this was. With both guys desperately trying to get their submission moves in, Eddie reaches for the bottom rope to stop Chris from putting on the Crossface, thus inadvertently opening up the opportunity for Chris to switch sides and successfully apply the Crossface using Eddie's free arm. Truly great stuff. 8/10
Kazuchika Okada vs. Prince Devitt - NJPW Kizuna Road (2013)
An awesome main event here from New Japan's PPV last month. It was a match I was really looking forward to, with both men on a great roll as of late, and in the end the match didn't disappoint at all.
It was a more back-and-forth contest if anything, but I think these suited both men extremely well. Devitt occasionally worked on the back of the neck of Okada, but for the most part this was two guys looking to grasp the upper hand with each piece of offence they could hit. This all made for some really fast paced stuff, and some really great spots and reversals.
I also quite liked how they handled the interference from Devitt's posse, as I feel at times they can be too much of a factor in his matches. With this one though, we got a really good moment dedicated to their interference as they looked to take out Okada while the ref was down. Once that was out of the way we were back to Devitt and Okada trading blows, with the best moment of the match coming at the very end when both guys put on a wonderful sequence filled with really great reversals.
Given more time I truly think this could have been an even better match, but despite that both men were given enough time to work up a highly exciting match with some really good action and a great climax. One of the finest matches of the year. 9/10