The Top 10 Matches Of All Time
by Ryan Jalda,

#10: Bruce The Giant vs Rip Chord (September 1992, Times Of Trouble)
Bruce The Giant had been heavily hyped by SWF as making his North American debut at their Times Of Trouble pay-per-view. Nobody quite expected it to go the way it did. His opponent was the legendary Rip Chord, who had been a main eventer for SWF for over a decade, and was a multi-time world champion. Bruce entered the ring, and proceeded to batter Chord from pillar to post. His dominance was so great that Chord was limited to scoring with an eye gouge and two knife edge chops. Bruce simply shrugged off the blows, and planted Rip with a massive Choke Slam in the center of the ring for a three count. The match lasted only four minutes and fifty-six seconds.

While the match was a short, brutal squash, it was a major turning point for American wrestling. Chord left the promotion that night, and never returned; it was only years later that it was revealed he was suffering from massive drug problems, and had volunteered to get squashed so that he could go into rehab to sort out his problems. He ended up staying in rehab for two years, before reappearing in 1995 for a run with GCG in Japan. He would later join HGC in 1997, and end up as the head booker six years later. Bruce went on to have a "year of terror", in which he dominated the SWF like no other, including beating Sam Strong for the world title in 1993, a title Strong would never regain. Bruce's emergence as a dominant champion saw Strong leave the promotion he helped make famous in August 1994. Not only did this eventually lead to Strong being a key figure in the rise of SWF's biggest rivals, HGC, but it also shook up the main event scene. With Strong and Chord gone, two men who had dominated main events for a decade, a new set of main eventers led by Bruce The Giant and Christian Faith emerged, giving the SWF a much needed change.

#9: Sadaharu Jimbo & Yoshifusa Maeda vs Kazu Yoshizawa & Yoshinaka Toshusai (May 1979, GCG)
1979 was a pivotal year for Japanese wrestling, as BHOTWG were on the verge of total dominance thanks to the emergence of Elemental, while GCG were coming to the end of their time as a serious contender; just two years later Hanshiro Furusawa would take over the promotion, and unintentionally lead them to ruin.

The match itself was superb, with Jimbo (then the GCG world champion), Yoshizawa and Toshusai excelling themselves, providing career-best performances. Young Maeda also had an excellent match, although he would go on to even greater heights as a singles competitor in later years. The match was a hard-hitting strong style bout, with some near falls and brutal moves that kept the crowd at fever pitch throughout. The ending came after forty-two minutes when Maeda forced Yoshizawa to submit to a Figure Four Leglock.

This match is generally regarded as the last true great moment that the promotion enjoyed. It was the main event of a packed show, and the quality of the bout (and the show in general) gave new hope that they could rebound and take on BHOTWG again. Unfortunately it was not to be; one month after this match, BHOTWG signed Yoshinaka Toshusai away, and that was the beginning of the end for GCG's life as a major player in Japan.

#8: Sam Keith vs Mr Lucha (1984, MPWF)
At this point in time, OLLIE were the dominant force in Mexican wrestling, and had been for two decades. MPWF had opened almost ten years ago, and had managed to not only survive, but thrive. However, they were still a distant second, and nobody thought they could rise to actually seriously challenge OLLIE. MPWF decided to take a risk, and put on their biggest show ever in a huge outdoor stadium. They were relying on a few big matches to help draw enough fans to fill the arena and avoid a financial disaster. The biggest of these matches was reigning MPWF champion Mr. Lucha against a young 23 year old American called Sam Keith. Keith had debuted two years earlier, and had become insanely popular with the fans.

The match was very good, much better than was expected; while both Keith and Mr. Lucha were competent wrestlers, neither was considered a great in-ring performer. Both men raised their game, and with a hot crowd creating a great atmosphere, the match went for twenty minutes of non-stop action. Eventually Keith applied his patented Proton Lock, getting a tap out victory and the MPWF championship.

The show, mainly thanks to this match, drew 42,000 fans, and proved a huge financial and artistic success for MPWF. It gave them a huge boost of momentum, which they rode hard for the next two years until they were genuine challengers to OLLIE's position as number one promotion in Mexico. Keith would last one more year in Mexico before heading to Japan, while Mr. Lucha would eventually move to SOTBPW, and help them change the Mexican scene once again. In terms of impact though, nothing can touch this match, as it was the key ingredient in MPWF breaking the two decades of superiority that OLLIE had enjoyed.

#7: Elemental vs Stunner Okazawaya (1973, BHOWTG)
This match had little build up, and was one of the opening bouts in a relatively unimportant show. Stunner Okazawaya was a rookie with just one year of experience. His opponent was Elemental, making his debut. What followed wasn't so much a match as an exhibition; for ten minutes, Elemental performed his now trademark high-flying daredevil moves, moves that were decades ahead of their time and had never been seen before. Okazawaya was left to simply throw in an occasional suplex or dropkick before Elemental performed another amazing move. Eventually Elemental ended the bout by performing the first ever 450 degree splash off the top rope.

Although far from a competitive match, this bout had a huge impact on the Japanese wrestling business. Prior to this, Junior wrestling was relatively slow and technical-based. Elemental's performance changed all that, and made him an overnight legend. Within a year, other high-fliers were starting to appear, although none could match Elemental's awesome skill. This new masked sensation sparked a massive rise in business for BHOTWG, and many see Elemental's emergence as the key difference in the bitter rivalry between BHOTWG and GCG, hence it being called the "Elemental Era". From his debut onwards, GCG found themselves second in the rivalry, and that spelt the beginning of the end for them, as soon they crashed to near bankruptcy. As a sidenote, while completely dominated in this match, Stunner Okazawaya went on to much greater things, and was considered a legend in his own right by the time of his retirement in 2001.

#6: Eisaku Hoshino & Eisaku Kunomasu vs Hito Ichihara & Koryusai Kitoaji (August 1997, PGHW)
In 1997, PGHW had been in business for just one year, but had been building a good reputation for themselves, and were beginning to get in a position where they could challenge BHOTWG. Then PGHW owner Sadaharu Jimbo pulled off a risky move - he scheduled a PGHW show one day after a major BHOTWG event, and publically stated that they would put on a better quality show than their much bigger rivals. If they succeeded, it would be a massive boost for the smaller promotion, but if they failed then they would be in deep trouble. The show was headlined by this match, and so the pressure to put on a great match was immense.

The match was held under standard tag team rules, and had an clear dynamic to it - Hoshino and Kunomasu were the young up-and-comers who were riding a wave of popularity and were attempting to become the new faces of the promotion, while Ichihara and Kitoaji were the legends, who were out to prove that they deserved their position as promotional figureheads. What followed was a match that is widely regarded as the finest pure wrestling match of all time, with career-best performances from all four men. Nobody backed down, and the entire match was wrestled with an intensity and spirit that epitmoised PGHW. After sixty minutes of awesome wrestling, a time limit draw was called, and all four men shook hands as a mark of respect.

This incredible match topped off one of the finest pure wrestling shows ever produced, with every single match producing a fine encounter. Jimbo's promise was fulfilled, as PGHW blew away the BHOTWG show, which was no small feat given that the larger promotion put on an excellent night of entertainment themselves. This show sky-rocketed PGHW in popularity, and made them a serious threat to BHOTWG, a position them kept from that point onwards. Ichihara and Kitoaji both retired a few years later, rightly regarded as legends of the PGHW strong style of wrestling. Kunomasu left to pursue a career in the US, where he is a major player in DAVE's push to revolutionise the industry. Hoshino, who was only in his first year as a pro when this match happened, is still active to this day, and has remained with PGHW throughout, where he is one of the major players in the promotion.

#5: Nemesis vs Tommy Cornell (February 1997, Supreme Assault TV)
For one of the most influential matches ever held, this was very low profile. Held in 1997 on SWF's weekly "Supreme Assault" TV show, the match was not even announced as taking place until that very night. Nemesis was one of the hottest heels in the promotion at this time, and was being groomed for a main event run against world champion Christian Faith. Tommy Cornell was a young babyface rookie who was seen as having potential, but hadn't been given much to do other than defeat expendable midcard heels. The match was put together simply to give the two wrestlers something to do, as the main focus of the show was on a main event battle royal that neither was involved in.

What followed was by far the most violent fifteen minutes that SWF had ever seen. After brawling for a few minutes in the ring, the two wrestlers spilled to the outside, where they proceeded to brawl with incredible intensity up the aisle, across the sound stage, through the crowd, and back to the ring. By the time they reached the ring, both men were bleeding heavily from being hit with weapons, with Nemesis in particular virtually unrecognisable thanks to the amount of blood covering his face and upper body. After smacking Cornell with a vicious chair shot to the head, Nemesis ended the carnage by powerbombing the youngster through a ringside table, and dragging him back in for the win.

While the match was a superbly intense brawl, and a great match in its own right, it was the shockwaves that it caused that make it so famous. Used to seeing family-friendly entertainment, both the network and SWF were bombarded with complaints from irate viewers, while at the same time a large number of fans who were growing tired of the slow-paced matches that were usually presented to them were estatic, wanting SWF to present more of this new extreme style. SWF owner Richard Eisen was furious at the trouble this match had caused, especially as he had not been consulted about it beforehand, and it was long-standing company policy that matches could not have blood or excessive violence without his personal clearance. Nemesis was fired straight after the match after a huge backstage argument; he joined small East Coast promotion DAVE two months later, and almost single handedly turned them into a major player in the US by basing the entire product on a bloody, extreme style. Cornell was punished by being dropped into a bland opening match tag team with Phillip Roberts; he left six months later to join SWF's major rivals HGC. Seven years later he would be the owner of that promotion. As a result of the match, SWF became even more conservative, which helped them keep their lucrative TV show. This would last several years before they had to become more edgy to survive, and this type of extreme match is now a staple of the promotion.

#4: Optimus vs Elemental, Part 1 (July 1983, BHOTWG)
This match is the one that put Junior wrestling on the map in Japan. Prior to this clash, Junior wrestling was a side attraction designed to get the crowd warmed up and ready for the heavyweight to compete. Elemental had debuted ten years ago, and was already legendary. He had become the first holder of the newly created Junior title in 1981, and had never been beaten by a fellow Junior wrestler (in fact, his only defeat ever had been a pinfall defeat to world heavyweight champion Hooded Kudo the previous year). Optimus was the new kid on the block, having only debuted a year ago. He was undefeated, and was being described as the "new Elemental", hence the match.

The match was a clash of two wrestlers willing to take any risk to win, and featured some high flying top rope moves that had never been seen before. More importantly, the crowd loved this intense action, and were giving the wrestlers reactions normally reserved for the heavyweight grapplers. After twenty five minutes, Optimus missed a moonsault, which left him stunned and wide open for an attack. Elemental took the opportunity, drilling the youngster with a Brainbuster Suplex for the victory, retaining his title.

The reaction to the match was enormous, and created a massive demand for Junior wrestling from the fans. It marked the first time in Japanese history that Junior wrestling rivalled heavyweight wrestling in popularity, and was the first time that the Juniors got the same sort of respect that their heavier counterparts were used to. Seven months later the two would fight again, and use the momentum created by this match to forever establish the Junior division as a peer of the heavyweights.

#3: Tadiyuki Kikkawa vs Sam Strong (August 1995, BHOTWG)
This is probably one of the most famous heavyweight matches in Japanese history, and set a new attendance record for BHOTWG as they drew 70,000 people to see a "dream show" loaded with big matches, none of which were bigger than this main event. Sam Strong had debuted a year ago, and had quickly made his mark, defeating Hooded Kudo in March 1995 for the world title. He went into this match as the defending champion, undefeated in Japan. Kikkawa was a youngster who had been winning accolades for his brutally powerful style of wrestling, and this was both his first main event and his first world title shot.

The match was a hard-hitting physical affair, with neither man backing down for a second. Strong in particular was showing a violent side that had rarely been seen before, and was a world away from the style North American fans associated him with. After thirty minutes of brutal combat, both men went for a Lariat, and they both got knocked down and out. Kikkawa was up first, just beating the ten count. He lifted Strong to his feet, and nailed him with three quick forearms before planting the champion with a sickening Kikkawa Driver for the three count.

Kikkawa won his first world title, and went on to be the dominant heavyweight wrestler in Japan for the next decade, redefining how physical heavyweight grappling should be along the way. Strong, who has publically agreed with the many people who call this his best singles performance ever, had one further match for BHOTWG, losing to Hooded Kudo two months later. He then took some time off before returning to North America, joining HGC in a landmark big money deal in October 1996. That deal shook the US wrestling scene to the core, and led directly to the modern era, as Strong's former employer SWF had serious competition for the first time in almost two decades.

#2: Optimus vs Elemental, Part 2 (February 1984, BHOTWG)
Seven months after the first meeting of the two premier Junior wrestlers in the world, BHOTWG held a rematch. Junior wrestling was at its peak at this point, largely thanks to the initial match, and this went down in history as the first major Japanese show to be headlined by Junior wrestlers. Elemental was the defending Junior champion, and had the astonishing record of never having been defeated by a fellow Junior wrestler in the 11 years since his debut. Optimus had only one defeat since his debut eighteen months ago, to Elemental in their first encounter.

The match itself is generally regarded as the finest Junior match of its era, and was so far ahead of its time that it would still be considered a classic if held now, two decades later. For 45 minutes, the two wrestlers exchanged lightning fast aerial moves, precise technical holds and counters, and daredevil dives. Elemental finally went for a Brainbuster Suplex to end the match, but Optimus slipped out the back of the move and hit a German Suplex for the three count, ending Elemental's strangle-hold on the Junior title.

The match cemented Junior wrestling as a force to be reckoned with in Japan, and turned Optimus into a legend. The two would fight again many times, passing the belt back and forth, but nothing would match the intensity and emotion attached to this bout.

#1: Sam Strong vs Rip Chord (July 1981, The Supreme Challenge)
One year after their pay-per-view debut, SWF held a card entitled The Supreme Challenge. The main draw was the first ever match between reigning world champion Sam Strong and Rip Chord, who was making his in-ring debut. The match had been built up with a famous incident three months before; Rip Chord, who was making his debut as a special colour commentator, came to ringside during a Sam Strong match. In a shocking moment, Chord jumped Strong from behind, and used his patented DDT on the concrete floor to knock Strong unconscious. Strong, despite sustaining a serious neck injury, swore revenge, and so the match was signed.

The bout itself was solid, if unspectacular, but was boosted by an incredibley heated crowd. Strong took the early advantage, using his massive size advantage to manhandle his opponent, before Chord used cheap shots to come back. The finish is probably one of the most famous in history; Chord hit Strong with his DDT, but Sam kicked out a split second before the three count. He then fired back on the shocked Chord, hitting three successive piledrivers to get payback on the neck injury, knocking the challenger out cold for the three count to retain the title.

The show, thanks entirely to this match, was a massive success. It drew the biggest crowd in history for a wrestling show, set a record for the largest pay-per-view audience that still stands today, and is widely regarded as the defining moment in North American wrestling history. SWF used this as a springboard to massive commercial success, and virtually owned North American wrestling for the next 15 years.