Best of the Best of Threes
By Michael Dworkis
Lots of responses to last week’s column about tag teams in sports-entertainment history. Some great fan comparisons were sent in, so here are a few of them:
“If I were to compare the Dudley Boys to any team it would probably be a mix of the Hart Foundation, for their teamwork and ability to work well together and Demolition, who had the same smash mouth, in-your-face intensity in the ring.” -- Jay Rogers
“The Dudleys are by far the best team, reminding me of Demolition. London and Kidman are Strike Force 2004. La Resistance could be the Quebecers reincarnated.” – Cory Chagami
Many responses came in about La Resistance being the new Quebecers (see May ’04 Raw Magazine’s Fantasy Warfare) or like Jacques and Raymond Rougeau.
Additionally, many of you think that Kidman and London should also be compared to the Rockers. True, Michaels and Jannetty brought new novelties to sports-entertainment with high flying antics. In a way, Kidman and London do the same thing, combining cruiserweight capabilities with technical tag team finesse.
All right. Onto this week’s lesson…
This past Thursday we saw a phenomenal best-2-of-3-match between Eddie and Angle. I’ve seen a lot of best-of-threes, here’s some that came to mind after watching the clinic that Eddie and Kurt put on Thursday. Ok, Luther Reigns did interfere and lend a hand to Angle, but you have to admit it was a great match nonetheless.
Thanks to writer Brian Solomon, I was able to dig up some interesting notes about best-2-of-3-fall matches. Most major world championships were determined in best-2 out-of-3-fall matches until the 70’s. From the beginning of wrestling history, many matches were always a best-2-out of-three falls, simply because that is the way things were run. It was also the way for grapplers to exhibit their skills, and prove why they were the best. Beating someone in one falls is the norm nowadays, but if they could do it twice, then that showed toughness. It certainly explains the need for a 2-out-of-3 fall match for Kurt and Eddie. They both have one win over each other, so what better way to settle the dispute of “who is tougher?” than with a match where you have to beat your opponent not once, but twice.
Here are some examples of classic matches where the only way a rivalry could be concluded would be in a best-2-out-of-3-falls match.
Let’s go back to April 2, 1989. It is WCW’s Clash of the Champions and Ric Flair is the challenger, facing Ricky Steamboat for the NWA title. The entire match lasted nearly one hour. The two began the match with a lock-up, but no punches or kicks here. The match went directly to the mat, as each man tried to find a window of opportunity to get that crucial first fall. Soon enough Flair and Steamboat were cracking each other with the hardest chops they could throw. Steamboat gets the edge and levels Flair with a dropkick. Flair tried to recover, but Steamboat takes down Flair to the mat, again trying for an early pin. However, later on, Flair gains momentum and goes for the Figure-Four, but Steamboat counters with an inside cradle, but “the dirtiest player in the game” reversed the rollup into his own, and Flair takes the first fall. Now Steamboat was in trouble, all Flair would need is one more to regain the title. Now Steamboat tried a different tactic. He decided to play the submission game, by wearing down Flair’s legs and back area. Most now Steamboat for using suplexes and slam moves, but now Steamboat had Flair disoriented and Flair was now in trouble, as Steamboat locked on Flair’s own Figure Four Figure Four. Flair was able to break the hold, but the champ continued the assault, attacking Flair’s back with elbows and locking on a Boston Crab. When Flair escaped that hold, Steamboat used a move rarely seen nowadays, a Double Arm Chicken Wing that Flair was unable to escape and had to submit. Flair turned it up from here. With the score 1 to 1, Flair viciously attacked Steamboats leg, dropping down with elbows and knees, kicking it repeatedly. Flair locked in the Figure Four, but Steamboat made it to the ropes. However, the damage as they say… is done. Steamboat limping throughout the rest of the match, playing extreme defense to thwart Flair’s attempts at another Figure Four. Steamboat makes a comeback with a flying body press and now the race is on for that final fall. They slug away at each other, chops, punches, kicks, everything. With every assault, the crowd erupted, knowing the match could end at anytime. Flair gets the upper hand and drops Steamboat. Flair goes up the turnbuckle, but Steamboat has enough in him to launch Air Flair off the top. Steamboat once again locks on the Double Chicken Wing, but his leg gives out and he falls, taking Flair with him. Steamboat holds onto Flair, and both of their shoulder’s are down, and the ref counts to three. The crowd cheers as the ref raises Steamboat’s hand, unaware that Flair’s leg was under the bottom rope, leading to a rematch between the Nature Boy and Ricky Steamboat. Little known fact, play-by-play was done by none other than Good Ol’ Jim Ross, and color commentary was done by Terry Funk.
Next year, at SummerSlam 1990, the Hart Foundation went up against the fearsome team of Demolition members Smash and Crush for the World Tag Team championships in another classic best-of-three falls match. The Foundation were looking to regain the championships they lost back in October, and after ten months, they finally became number one contenders, getting their chance. Bret and Jim started off with the match in their favor, isolating Smash and keeping him from tagging out. The Foundation work down the arm and back, but Smash overpowers Bret at one point and tags out to Crush who was not a happy camper. Crush catches Bret while executing a body splash, but is turned into a powerslam. Crush beating down Bret, while “the Anvil” has to watch. Crush hammers away at Bret until Bret sneaks in a rollup, but Crush easily kicks out. As Crush is dazed, Bret makes the tag to Neidhart, but that allowed Crush to tag Smash back in. A brawl breaks out with Demolition gaining the upper hand by sending Neidhart to the outside, and Bret is double teamed, and is hit with the Demolition Decapitation, a backbreaker/elbowdrop off the second (or top) rope combination, resulting in Demolition winning the first fall. Demolition wasted no time at all pounding on Bret while his partner struggled to get back to his feet. After three minutes of being double-teamed, Bret and Smash collide with a double clothesline. Bret able to roll over makes the much needed tag to Neidhart who proceeds to clean house. After another minutes of brawling, Smash falls prey to the Hart Attack (Neidhart holds opponent in a front waist lock while Bret hits a running bulldog clothesline), but does not get the pin when Crush pulls the ref. However, the tables are turned when the ref disqualifies Crush, for too much interference, culmination when he pulled the ref away. It’s all tied up now, as the third and deciding fall gets underway. Shortly in, the third member of Demolition, Ax snuck down to ringside, and hid under the ring. As Bret had the match in hand, Smash rolled to the floor, and switched place with Ax when no one was watching. Ax then took control, but Demolition’s plans were once again foiled when the Legion of Doom showed up. Ax and Smash confront the L.O.D. and pier six brawl erupts with all the teams. During the fray, Bret rolled up Crush to win the World Tag Team Championships for the second time.
This next one should be familiar, it was a match between The Rock and Triple H that took place (drum roll…) six years ago! July 26, 1998 the event was Fully Loaded was the date, the Civic Center in Fresno, California was the place and it was for the Rock’s Intercontinental Championship. The stipulation was that there was a thirty minute time limit. Additionally, each man had their own team to back them up, as Rock has the Nation of Domination and Triple H had DX waiting backstage for the first sign of trouble. The best way to describe this contest would be as an all out war between the two factions. Early on, Mark Henry assisted the Rock, but soon Triple H had help from Billy Gunn. Soon, D-Lo Brown, Godfather and the rest of DX came running. During the melee, the Rock hit the Rock Bottom on Hunter to pick up the first fall. The referee is then KO’ed via chair, and then Triple H takes the next fall after Chyna hit the Rock with a DDT on top of the chair. The brawl does not stop for a moment. Triple H hits the pedigree, but time runs out before he can make the pinfall. This match ended in a draw.
SummerSlam 2000, Chris Benoit was up against Chris Jericho in a best-of-three-falls match. No titles on the line, just a contest to see who the better man was. In previous pay-per-views, Benoit and Jericho faced off in regular one-on-one matches for the Intercontinental Championship and a submission match at the 2000 Judgment Day. Early on, this match spilled to the floor where each man rammed each other into the ring post and steel stairs. Both Benoit and Jericho fought like their lives depended on it. Benoit took control and locked Jericho in a brutal variation of an STF, but the cunning Jericho turned Benoit around and was able to execute the Walls of Jericho. The crowd jumped at this quick reversal, but Benoit got out of the predicament. As both men got up, Jericho grabbed Benoit in a rear-waist lock and launched Benoit backwards with a German suplex. Jericho cinched up Benoit, but Benoit, unfazed by the assault dragged Jericho down to the mat and locked in the Crossface. After moments of struggling, Jericho tapped out. After the bell rang to start the second fall, Benoit immediately put the hold back on. It appeared Jericho was about t tap again, but he managed to reach the ropes this time. Jericho and Benoit chopped away at each other. Benoit appeared to take control until Jericho came back with a hard clothesline and then took his turn beating down Benoit. Benoit reversed a waist lock with a go-behind, as he lifted Jericho for a German suplex, Jericho rolled over, taking Benoit with him and turning Benoit into the Walls. Benoit was inched from the bottom rope, but Jericho pulled him to the middle of the ring. Nowhere to go, Benoit tapped. One to one. Tension mounted, anticipation building with every passing moment. It became apparent that no matter who controlled the match, a quick reversal could turn the tide. Benoit and Jericho knew this. Benoit slugged Jericho, Jericho kicked Benoit, Benoit chopped back, Jericho fires back with a closed fist, Benoit blocks and delivers a big kick to midsection, doubling Jericho over. Benoit set up for a huge powerbomb, but Jericho avoided it and rolled up Benoit for two. Benoit went for a rollup, but Jericho got the shoulders up. You could hear the gasps from the crowd each time someone kicked out. Benoit then levels Jericho to the mat, and makes the sign – moving his thumb across his neck – for the top rope diving head-butt. Benoit ascended the corner, but Jericho played possum and leapt forward, dropping Benoit onto the top. Jericho, with all his might leapt onto Benoit’s shoulders and flung him down with a tremendous hurricanrana. Jericho only got another two count. Jericho maintained his momentum with a clothesline, flying hell kick and then splashed with the Lionsault! One… Two… NO! Benoit kicked out, and the fans were in disbelief. Jericho chopped away at Benoit who was beginning to recover, Jericho went for a rollup, but Benoit reversed it, but held the bottom rope to score the amazing three count! Hey, a win is a win.
How did these stack up with Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero? What were some of your favorite best-of-three-falls matches? Click here with your picks.
This class is over… Pencils Down.