Sasha Banks and Bayley are having a 30-minute Iron Woman match at the next NXT special, and my body is all the way ready. It’s the first Iron Person match in NXT history, but WWE has had a history of them that have all been important landmarks in the company. Each match featured top generation-defining feuds, so it’s a huge deal that Sasha and Bayley are having one. Because, let’s face it, they represent the new golden age of women’s wrestling.
To commemorate the match, let’s look back at WWE’s Iron Man match history. What was great, and what wasn’t?
5. Triple H vs. Chris Benoit – This was a weird match because we’d been trained to just accept that Triple H was a ring general and was the best in the business. Also, we were trained to treat Iron Man matches as if they were some magical classics. So, things felt really bizarre as we witnessed an hour-long match that was boring as sh*t. This match told pretty much the exact same story as HHH’s Iron Man match with The Rock, but it was way worse. This was basically the same as reading a book about an hour-long match. To make things worse, we got a screwy ending featuring… Eugene. Chris Benoit’s title run was a great moment (AT THE TIME), but his title reign never really amounted to much beyond that. This match pretty much put the end to his momentum. An hour-long, slow, plodding chore of a match.
The match is presented in YouTube music mash-up form so you won’t have to watch the whole thing. I did that so hopefully you won’t have to go through that.
4. John Cena vs. Randy Orton – Hey, what makes a decade-long feud of damn-near a hundred matches even more exciting? An hour of two guys we don’t want to see wrestle anymore. This is a match in the same way that Transformers is a movie; sure, it fits the confines of its genre, but it’s really just about seeing sh*t blow up. Literally. There’s actually an electrocution spot here that results in a fall. Cena and Orton couldn’t wrestle a straight-up hour-long match (they might be able to now, coincidentally), so we got bells, whistles and an episode of 24 instead of an actual match. Yes, it’s entertaining. But is it really even a match? It’s more WWE on ice. Or wrestling Medieval Times. At least when you watch it, you won’t be bored.
3. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart – This is the first of its kind and possibly the most over-hyped match in WWE history. I hate this match. It’s 20 minutes of a great match stretched out for an hour. The last 20 minutes are up there with anything you’ll see in wrestling, but the first 40 minutes are armbars. Seriously. Armbars. I don’t know if Hart and HBK were pacing themselves out of fear they wouldn’t make it for the whole 60 minutes, or if they just hated each other so much that they couldn’t come up with a chemistry to put on a classic. Whatever the case, this is a hard match to watch. It didn’t help them that they opted to go without a fall for the whole match. And it’s obvious that they weren’t going for a fall, so the drama dissipates when there were about 15 minutes left.
It’s a shame that we never got a great match from Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. This was their chance to set the standard for the best match of the decade, and they fell short. Still, at their worst, they can put on a match that’s better than most. Sorry, everyone whose matches are worse on the list.
2. Triple H vs. The Rock – Triple H and The Rock could never be Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels in the ring, but they followed the legends with a superior match. The backstory is that Triple H wanted to sabotage The Rock by going behind his back to lobby for the Iron Man match while Rock was filming a movie. That way, he could expose Rock as a lazy non-worker or something. Scandaloussssss. However, Rock came to battle. The difference between these two and HBK/Hart is that they could channel their hatred for one another into a match that seemed like a fight.
This was also the origin of the “let me get disqualified so I can weaken the other guy and get some cheap pins” psychology, which is goddamn brilliant. HHH hit The Rock with a chair that got him disqualified, but he was able to score some pins by focusing on the dazed Rocky. The pinfalls really amped up the drama because you didn’t know when they were coming, and every move seemed like it could change the course of the match.
Unfortunately, the worst part of the match came at the end when we got a schmozzy win, thanks to the debut of the American Badass Undertaker taking out DX. Classic Attitude Era finish aside, we still got a tremendous match featuring a top-five rivalry of all-time.
1. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar – This match isn’t even fair. The two best athletes in wrestling history tear it up for an entire hour and it was incredible. The only problem was that this happened on Smackdown, so it was broken up by commercial breaks. That really threw the momentum off at some points, but the guys were able to pull together a absolute classic. The psychology of heel Brock Lesnar is off the charts. He’s a heel not because he has to be, but because he’s just sort of a dick. Sure, he could have a true competitive match with Kurt Angle and try to see who the best man is — hell, he’s beaten Angle fair and square before — but why do that when you can just cheat? Brock used the HHH tactic of getting himself disqualified just to weaken Angle and get the upper hand. The submission psychology added so much to the match as each guy had to decide if they wanted to fight to break the holds or submit so they can actually make it to the end. As a result, neither guy loses anything by submitting.
The match looked like a real sporting event because Angle and Lesnar approached it like a real event. Which is why it’s even more diabolical and infuriating that Brock felt the need to cheat. Heel work 101, kids.