What is the perfect pro wrestling match? It’s a question pro wrestling fans have asked over the decades and the answer changes with time.
Some people will look at Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat from Wrestlemania 3, others will say Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat at Chi-Town Rumble as the best of all time (You only have to look at one of the participants in both matches to see why these matches are so good)
Others will look at Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13 or the triple threat ladder match from Wrestlemania 2000 as matches that had the crowd on their feet.
In the modern era, people will shout up about Shawn Michaels vs the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25 and Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano at Takeover New York, both of which are indeed classics.
These are examples of great matches, but what is it about a match that turns it from a good match to a classic to, perhaps, the perfect match?
This is purely my opinion, but I feel there are a few factors to a match that can make it great.
Believe it or not, the two wrestlers don’t necessarily need to like each other. Some of the great rivalries have involved people where there was a level of needle to it e.g. Matt Hardy and Edge in 2005 or Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart in 1996.
What matters is the ability of the participants to work together for the greater good. I have had experience of working with people I’ve not been fond of, but had the chemistry in the ring to make the matches look good and give the crowd a good show
The structure is all important in any match. If you try and top load the match with big moves and lots of dynamic action, you run the risk of wearing the crowd out before you get past the start of the match.
Remember, the crowd are one of the most important components of any pro wrestling match as if they aren’t reacting to the action in the ring, what you are doing becomes pointless as you stop having a match for them and it just becomes something for you.
A great wrestling match, in my opinion, starts with a slow approach, perhaps with some chain wrestling or a feeling out process.
An example of this is Hulk Hogan vs the Rock at Wrestlemania 18, where the two stood face to face, then slowly looked at the crowd at both sides before locking up. This set up the scene as the atmosphere crackled with anticipation for what was to come.
From there, take the crowd up with a face fire, then bring it down as the heel gets on top.
Give the crowd a reason to get invested by the face having a credible chance to win the match. The reason Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano in New York worked was because you couldn’t predict who was going to win the match, as both men had serious spells on top and looked like they could win.
Another factor is the spacing out of near falls. A match with too many can spoil it as you start to think “Oh, he’ll kick out of that”. I saw a tag team match a couple of years ago with, near the end, about 15 near falls and it became boring in the end.
The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels in 2009 was a classic example of near falls meaning something as both men kicked out of the others finishers, but it was spaced out enough to get the right reaction from the crowd and the commentators. When Shawn Michaels kicked out of the tombstone, it was seen as a huge thing and everyone reacted in the right way.
As for the finish, if the drama has been built up sufficiently beforehand, the crowd will be “on its feet” for the end of the match.
Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat had sudden finishes with a small package, but got the reaction from the crowd because of how the match had built up to the crowd being loud and excited.
Sasha Banks vs Bayley at NXT Brooklyn in 2015 had the perfect end with a huge move to lift the crowd up (Sasha being flipped upside down by Bayley), then the Bayley-to-Belly to end the match.
If the crowd are reacting with noise and passion to the finish, then the people involved have done their job and had the best match they can have.
The idea of the perfect wrestling match is a subjective one and open to interpretation, but these are just a few of my thoughts on how you can have the perfect match.
Written by James Vukmirovic