It’s weird being the friend who’s into wrestling. Everybody says it’s fake, they openly mock your fandom, and they can’t fathom why you would ever watch WWE matches.
And if you’ve ever tried to get them to try to watch Monday Night Raw, you get more of the same.
You’ll probably never get your friends to be outright wrestling fans. It’s not in the cards. But, you can give them a window into why you’re passionate about it and why you’re a fan. If you can show them one great match, you can save yourselves the mockery when you buy your SmackDown Live tickets.
Here are five great WWE matches you can show to those friends that love to dump on wrestling.
5. Loser Must Retire: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho King Randy Savage, WrestleMania VII
As WWE matches go, this one is sure to tug on the heartstrings of your most cynical wrestling-hating friends. You can’t watch this match without getting emotionally invested.
One reason it’s a good match to show a non-fan is that it has recognizable names. A non-fan may not know a headlock from a hammerlock, but they’ve heard of Randy Savage. They’ve heard of the Ultimate Warrior.
Then you add the stipulation layer on top of it. The loser of this match must retire. Whoever looks up at the lights for the three count does so for the last time.
(Don’t tell them Savage returned less than a year later – hang onto that credibility while you can!)
But there’s yet one more layer. Savage’s former manager and the love of his life, Miss Elizabeth, is in the crowd watching. And the announcing from Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan won’t let you forget it. Oh, and by the way, the match itself is pretty good, too.
Warrior isn’t the best worker in the world, but Savage got the absolute best out of him. The action is heated, the crowd is hot for it, and the storyline stakes are always front-and-center. But it’s the end of the match that will hook the coldest of wrestling haters.
Savage loses the match, and his valet, Sensational Sherri, goes absolutely ballistic. It’s bad enough that Savage lost the match. Worst yet, the loss forces him to retire. And worst of all, his manager is literally kicking him while he’s down. Elizabeth can’t take it anymore, and she rushes into the ring to chase Sherri off and save her man.
It’s a great story, all told within a 20-some-odd-minute match. Savage lost the war for his career, but he won back the heart of his true love. There are better WWE matches on a technical level. But there are none better when it comes to sheer emotion.
4. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 25
WrestleMania season is like Christmas to a wrestling fan. The non-fans in your life probably find you absolutely insufferable from January through the end of April. Of all the WWE matches from WrestleMania‘s long history, this is the one that will make the haters “get it.”
Again, you’ve got at least one recognizable name. Everybody knows the Undertaker. And a lot of them have at least heard of Shawn Michaels.
There isn’t anything but the Undertaker’s streak up for grabs, but the stakes of the match don’t matter. The action in this match is so intense, and the twists and turns in the final 10 minutes are so incredible that it’s impossible not to suspend your disbelief.
About halfway through the match, there’s a spot where the Undertaker, who’s nearly 7 feet tall and almost 300 pounds, takes a suicide dive at Michaels over the top rope. At the very last second, Michaels pulls a cameraman into his path, and this giant completely wipes himself and the poor schmuck out.
And it’s this moment where your buddy will look to you and ask, “That part was real, right?”
For that one second, it makes all the crap you’ve taken over the years for loving these WWE matches worth it. Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker will take them on a 25-minute ride, and for the briefest of moments, they will be a wrestling fan.
3. WarGames Match: Pete Dunne, Ricochet, and War Raiders vs. The Undisputed Era, NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2018
Okay, full disclosure. Of all the WWE matches on this list, a non-fan isn’t going to know a single person in this one.
And it won’t matter. The point is, this is the match that’s got the best chance of shaking the “this crap is fake” mentality. A lot of die hard wrestling fans might choose one of the older WarGames matches from the ’80s, but that’s a huge mistake if you ever want them to watch another one.
Those of us who already love wrestling might long for the days of blading and blood-soaked matches, but we’re obviously predisposed to that type of scripted violence. It’s going to be overkill for a newbie. If anything, it’s going to make them hate it more.
The match at WarGames 2018, though, that’s the three-ring circus of WarGames matches. It’s athletic and brutal, awe-inspiring and cringeworthy, it’s got it all.
You have the Undisputed Era, collectively probably the smarmiest and most hateable group of heels in wrestling. On the other side of the ring, there’s Ricochet, who hangs in the air like a real-life superhero. At his side is Pete Dunne, a legit tough guy who will break fingers if he has to. And with both of them are the War Raiders, a pair of giant, hairy behemoths who could crush you to death with their stomachs or flip and fly like cruiserweights.
If you have buddies who love to shout about it being “fake,” this one stands a pretty good chance of shutting them up.
2. Last Woman Standing Match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (C) vs. Charlotte Flair, Evolution 2018
“Wait, chicks do this, too?”
First of all, tell your friend to stop using words like “chicks.”
Now focus on breaking the stereotypes of women’s WWE matches the company spent about 15 years reinforcing. This will break any notions they’ve heard about evening gown matches or bra-and-panties matches. With this match, they’ll come in seeing Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair as “chicks.” They’ll come out of it looking at them as wrestlers.
Lynch and Flair spend the entirety of this match just completely tearing one another apart. Again, it isn’t bloody or overly brutal, but it is one of the most physical women’s matches that any wrestling company has ever presented.
And the story of the match is great. You don’t necessarily have to have seen the whole feud play out from it’s beginnings at SummerSlam 2018. Lynch and Flair were best friends until Lynch turned on Flair. Simple.
The rules of a Last Woman Standing match are also pretty simple: You win when your opponent can’t answer the referee’s 10-count.
Two simple concepts executed flawlessly. There’s a point near the end of the match where Lynch buries Flair under everything that isn’t nailed to the floor. She puts her down on the outside and starts piling on chairs, desks, anything she can get her hands on. And the look of sheer terror on her face when Flair rises like the Terminator is priceless.
If there’s a match that will help them look at wrestling differently, in more ways than one, it’s this one.
1. WWE Championship Match: Stone Cold Steve Austin (C) vs. Dude Love w/ special referee Vince McMahon, Over The Edge 1998
It goes without saying that all WWE matches are scripted. Hell, everyone’s favorite movies and TV shows are scripted. You will not find a better-scripted WWE match than Steve Austin vs. Dude Love from Over The Edge 1998.
Odds are your wrestling-hating friends aren’t up on the story going into this match, so watching the prematch video package will help a lot. It tells the story of Vince McMahon, the owner of WWE, absolutely hating the idea of the beer-swilling, bird-flipping Steve Austin as his company’s standard bearer.
So he grooms down-on-his-luck Mick Foley into the perfect corporate champion, Dude Love. And to ensure Austin loses the championship, he makes his stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco the guest ring announcer and timekeeper, respectively. Then, to seal the deal, he names himself the special referee.
Austin and Foley could have a fantastic match with no long-running story at all. But it’s all the added elements that make this one special.
The turning point comes about seven minutes in when Foley hits Austin with a foreign object outside the ring. Vince, horrified, realizes that if he disqualifies Foley, the title can’t change hands. So he has Patterson “remind” the audience that there are no disqualifications in the match.
Later still, Austin and Foley battle out into the crowd and into the aisle. Once again, Vince realizes that, as the referee, he’s supposed to count both guys out. Again, the title can’t change hands that way. So Patterson “reminds” the audience that falls count anywhere.
Spoiler, Austin overcomes the odds and retains the title, so that alone makes it a feel-good match. On a deeper level, it’s a great example of a scripted pro wrestling match being unpredictable.
Despite all of that, though, odds are that all the great WWE matches in the world aren’t going to change a non-fan’s outlook on pro wrestling.
They’re still going to give you crap about buying Austin t-shirts or Randy Savage DVDs. You’re still going to take ribbing about how fake and stupid wrestling is.
In the end, though, any one of these WWE matches will make them say one thing that will vindicate you.
“That one match you showed me was pretty cool, though.”
All images courtesy of WWE.