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Biggest Matchups In Wrestling


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What are the biggest matches in wrestling history? These are not the matches with the best workrate, nor are they necessarily the highest grossing or best drawing matches in history. I am talking about the matches that paired some of the most significant wrestlers in history.


In compiling this list, I took the top ten wrestlers from John Molinaro's book, "The Top 100 Pro Wrestlers Of All Time." It is subjective, but it is a decent list, and I think it does the job. For those who have never seen it, the top ten are Ric Flair, Lou Thesz, Rikidozan, Antonio Inoki, Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, El Santo, Giant Baba, Steve Austin and Buddy Rogers. For rankings, I am looking for match quality, significance, and overall satisfaction. In occasions where they wrestled more than once, I chose the most noteable match.


1. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant

March 29, 1987 - Wrestlemania III


The epitome of a big time match. Two legends competing, with a storyline to match, in a big stadium filled to capacity and a hot crowd to boot. To top it all off, a clean ending.


2. Lou Thesz vs. Rikidozan

October 6, 1957


These two legends fought to a 60 minute draw in front of 27,000 fans in Tokyo. The match drew an 87.0 tv rating in Japan, and is often cited as a critical event in the establishment of professional wrestling in that Nation.


3. Ric Flair vs. Antonio Inoki

April 29, 1995


170,000 fans attended this event, although many say the North Korean authorities ordered fans to attend. Still, that is a massive crowd. Inoki defeated Flair in this bout. Did these two ever wrestle outside of this show?


4. Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair

July 17, 1994


The first nationally televised match between these two (they wrestled a match shown on the MSG Network in 1991). Both starred for their respective promotions in the 1980s, but when they competed in the WWF in 1991-92, they somehow never wrestled a major match. This feud marked one of the surest money-makers in wrestling history, but for some reason it lacked the massive appeal it should have held. As Loss noted in a thread months ago, Flair just didn't seem like FLAIR.


5. Hulk Hogan vs. Antonio Inoki

June 2, 1983


A famous match in wrestling history. According to some sources, Inoki needed to take several months off, so a worked-shoot angle was booked where Hogan clotheslined Inoki on the ring apron and Inoki could not continue. It was considered a major upset at the time.


6. Lou Thesz vs. Buddy Rogers

January 24, 1963


NWA promoters, wanting to get the title off Rogers, booked this match as a one-fall affair, and booked their shooter to make sure everything went to plan. Thesz won without incident, but Vince McMahon Sr. and other promoters used this opportunity to claim the title change was invalid because it was a one-fall bout, and create their own version of the World championship with Rogers as champion. Rogers lost the new WWWF championship a few months later to Bruno Sammartino, in a one-fall bout.


7. Ric Flair vs. Buddy Rogers

July 9, 1979


Promoters booked these two in a three match series, billed as the battle of the Nature Boys. Flair defeated Rogers, building his name as he rose to championship status.


8. Antonio Inoki vs. Andre the Giant

June 17, 1986


A match most U.S. wrestling fans do not know exists. A year before bowing to Hulk Hogan, Inoki earned perhaps the only submission victory ever won against Andre the Giant.


9. Andre the Giant vs. Ric Flair


This match finished third in PWI's Match of the Year poll in 1976. Does anyone have any other information on this match?


10. Steve Austin vs. Ric Flair

June 3, 2002


I believe this is the only televised match between Austin and Flair, although both wrestled at the same time in WCW twice. This match included a few odd stipulations and run-ins from Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. The stipulations died when Austin walked out of the company the next week. Won by Austin.


In some ways, this illustrates the difficulty in matching up the very best wrestlers. Hogan/Flair at Wrestlemania VIII did not occur in part because Hogan did not want to job to Ric Flair on his way to retirement. Only Thesz/Rikidozan matched both wrestlers in their prime, and even that ended in a time-limit draw. Flair was nearing his prime when he wrestled Andre, but Andre was the clear star in '76, and never jobbed anyway.


I also find it intriguing that these matches, with the exception of Hogan/Andre and Flair/Inoki, do not represent the top drawing matches in history.

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I love the topic but by listing those matches, you kind of answered the question yourself.


However, I can add a few matches that were pretty significant looking back.


Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa 6/8/90

--- The passing of the torch of the biggest wrestler of 90s All Japan and the biggest wrestler of the previous decade. Jumbo would avenge the loss but Misawa was going to be the man in very short time.


The Rock vs. Steve Austin - Wrestlemania X7

--- I list this because Meltz asserts that this Mania was the largest grossing show to date and it should have been just another peak in the company's history. Instead it set the groundwork to the end of the Boom and years of nonsensical and bad booking. It could be argued the match was also the best of both mens' careers. I wouldn't agree but it could be argued.


Giant Baba vs. Harley Race 11/07/79

--- Baba won the title clean in the ring and gave All Japan the NWA title. It didn';t last long but if Baba is top ten, Race can't be far behind.


Hulk Hogan vs. Sting Starrcade 1997

--- Sting isn't one of the biggest stars in wrestling history BUT this match could have put a satisfying end to the NWO, made WCW a stronger brand and made Sting the biggest star in wrestling at that point. Instead we get a hokey finish and see the company begin to crumble.

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You can come up with plenty of matches by reaching outside of the top ten. I thought about doing a list of significant matches, but I think I would display my ignorance if I reached too far.

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From Cawthon's Site:


Steve Austin pinned Ric Flair in an 'old time wrestling match' with the Stunner at 14:31; prematch stipulations stated that Austin could not punch Flair, the loser would become the servant of the winner, and that if Austin won he would come off the bench and if he lost he would be indefinately suspended; both Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero interfered mid-way through the bout

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The Rock vs. Austin WM 17 is the biggest match of all-time.

What's your reasoning?
900,000+ buys maybe.
Mania 21 got 1.1million buys.


I guess that makes Batista Vs HHH the biggest match of all time using your logic.

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Guest MJHimJfadeaway23

The Rock vs. Austin WM 17 is the biggest match of all-time.

What's your reasoning?
Cause they made more money in one night for the WWE than any other match in professional wrestling history.


I'm looking for Dave Meltzer's exact numbers, but they are astronomical.

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Guest MJHimJfadeaway23

"Even though his run was short as compared to the others, just because it was so huge, Austin would probably be in the top rung. He and Rock did $42.56 million in one day, and even adjusting for inflation, that's probably more than most did in half their careers."



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There's definately some justification for it. Huge crowd, good buyrate, hot match, etc. If I expanded to the top 20 when I make the list, Rock/Austin and Rock/Hogan would have been candidates. That both wrestlers are seemingly out of the game four years later hurts its overall impact.

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Guest Some Guy

There's definately some justification for it.  Huge crowd, good buyrate, hot match, etc.  If I expanded to the top 20 when I make the list, Rock/Austin and Rock/Hogan would have been candidates.  That both wrestlers are seemingly out of the game four years later hurts its overall impact.

I don't think that crediting the crowd size to teh Austin/Rock match is accurate. The show was sold out before any match was announced. "Wrestlemania" sold out that building, although fans knowing that Austin and Rock were going to be on the show, no doubt drove ticket sales.
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