2005-03-10 / Arts & Entertainment

Through The Ropes

I’m all for a Constitutional amendment stating that all wrestling pay-per-views are to be offered for just a penny. I’d be a dedicated customer, buying each and every one, as I did last Saturday night when World Wrest-ling Entertainment offered its 10 greatest matches of WrestleMania on DirecTV.

The production was outstanding; although the hour PPV didn’t allow for full viewings of every match, the editing caught every high spot, and when it was over you felt as if you had watch every second of every battle. That these matches were voted on by WWE superstars gave it a genuine feel, as it wasn’t done by some marketing gurus in a stuffy board room.

That being said, the wrestlers still didn’t get it completely right. I can offer one argument about which matches they picked. The Ironman match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels from 1996, in which Michaels experienced his “boyhood dream” by winning what was then the World Wrest-ling Federation Title, was No. 1, and it shouldn’t have been.

It was a special match, and definitely the match in which the best wrestling took place. But if you’re ranking the best match, it should have started and stopped with WrestleMa-nia III, when Hulk Hogan defended against Andre the Giant in the Pontiac Silverdome.

Yeah, I understand that Hogan and Andre had a combined knowledge of seven wrestling moves between them (and that’s being generous). But folks, this match drew more than 93,000 people, setting an indoor attendance record that stills stands today. Who cares whether the quality of the wrest-ling was inferior? That match was the pinnacle of wrestling’s popularity, sport-ing Hogan’s then-four-year title reign against Andre’s 15-year path of dominance.

Their prior altercation, when Andre ripped off Hogan’s crucifix during a segment of Piper’s Pit, was one of the best out-of-ring segments wrestling has ever seen. Their in-ring skills limited, they still brought the crowd to their feet early when Hogan attempted to slam Andre, collapsed under the weight and was nearly pinned.

Not only did this match not make No. 1, but it wasn’t even ranked. It was featured in the video, but the wrestling match that defined a decade wasn’t even voted on the list by to-day’s grapplers.

I think those who voted missed the point. Yeah, the ladder match from WrestleMania 16 (No. 2), and the WM10 ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels (No. 3) helped revolutionize the business. But did any of these battles have the same impact as Hogan vs. Andre? Were any of these ladder matches, “I Quit” matches (Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart from WM13, ranked No. 6) or anything else the biggest spectacle of the year?

In WrestleMania III, Hogan vs. Andre created a stir that was bigger than the Super Bowl, the Oscars, the Olympics. For all the talk about the Monday night ratings war of the late-’90s, none of that came close to dominating the landscape of pop culture nearly as much as that one match.

The best matches are not necessarily the ones where the guys fly the highest. It’s the ones where people tug on people’s emotions so much that they sell the most tickets.

You can contact Josh Stewart at throughtheropes1@cs.com.

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