7 fantasy hardcore matches
There is a certain degree of spectacle behind most dream matches: Fans imagine potential WrestleMania main events and epic showdowns between everlasting icons that may have happened if time and space didn’t stand in the way.
These dream matches are not those kinds of dream matches.
Instead of headliners on The Grandest Stage of Them All, we pitted today’s Superstars against a rogues’ gallery of grunge-rock sadists, inbred brawlers, and one intelligent monster in the kinds of ghastly fistfights that could have occupied their own bizarre subsection of tape-trading websites during the late ’90s. And not only did we schedule the matches, but — because we’re serious nerds — we booked the venues, too. We dropped John Cena in the middle of the snakepit that was the ECW Arena in 1997, and sent Dean Ambrose to Japan’s Korakuen Hall — the site of history’s grisliest bloodlettings.
Yeah, we called them “dream matches,” but, in reality, these are nightmares.
Daniel Bryan vs. Bruiser Brody, Chain Match
Daniel Bryan was the underdog when he walked out of the unforgiving Texas sun and into the just-as-unforgiving Sportatorium on that June afternoon. Being at a disadvantage was nothing new for him, but Bryan couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy. That night, he was up against Bruiser Brody — a man who never took on an opponent without leaving his plasma splashed across his flesh like some medieval warrior. Worse yet, he was facing him in a Chain Match.
Bryan got what was coming to him against The Intelligent Monster — a massive kneedrop raised a welt as big as a doorknob on his forehead, and when Brody dumped him over the top rope with one of his nasty boots, Bryan lay on the floor half-alive as teenage girls screamed out their shrill twangs. He was done for, but when Brody draped Bryan over his back and began his march around the ring to touch four turnbuckles in succession — the caveat of the Chain Match — Bryan slapped every buckle Brody did. When they approached the fourth and final corner, the unbreakable “Yes!” Man flipped himself over the back of his massive foe and slapped the final pad.
Brody raised hell when he realized what happened, but that was all right. Bryan’s bruises would fade. The glory would remain. — RYAN MURPHY
Cactus Jack vs. Dean Ambrose, No-Rope Barbed Wire Match
Inside Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall, the capacity crowd watched in anticipation as the crew removed the ring ropes and replaced them with lengths of piercing barbed wire, the perfect environment for minds as twistedly creative as those belonging to The Lunatic Fringe and Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy. A sense of impending danger filled the room as the two wild-eyed gaijin entered, Cactus carrying a barbed-wire bat and Ambrose snaking through rows of quietly respectful audience members.
The feeling-out process alone was captivating. Zeroed in upon Cactus Jack’s and Ambrose’s desperate facial expressions, photographers’ cameras flashed as the warriors struggled to shove each other’s countenances into the wire. But the real fireworks hit the first time Ambrose sidestepped an attack, and the man from Truth or Consequences, N.M., went flying into the jagged steel.
After that initial meeting of flesh and wire, the big hits came steadily before the match ended with a modified DDT onto “Barbie.” Whether it was be Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds or Cactus’ double-arm variation, is known only to the 2,000 fans in attendance — and those around the world who coughed up $20 to watch a scrambled, third-generation VHS recording months after the fact. — JOHN CLAPP
Brock Lesnar vs. Vader, Last Man Standing Match
Calling this Thanksgiving night 1992 collision a car crash is underestimating the carnage that took place in Atlanta’s Omni when Brock Lesnar fought Vader in a Last Man Standing Match.
Fans were silenced as the two monsters stared each other down. You could hear a pin drop as each grappler contemplated his first move. It wasn’t long before Lesnar and Vader unloaded, clobbering each other with haymaker after haymaker. The sickening sounds of bone cracking against bone echoed throughout Atlanta as the two superheavyweights slugged it out.
It should be no surprise that the war between Vader and Brock Lesnar could not be contained in the squared circle. The combat spilled out onto the Omni’s floor, where anything that wasn’t anchored to the ground came into play. Tables, chairs, ringside barricades, and even a television camera, all became dangerous weapons.
In the end, the combination of Brock Lesnar’s punching power and ground game proficiency was just too much for the furious Mastodon to withstand. Fans were stunned as Brock Lesnar hoisted Vader onto his shoulders for an F-5 that shook the Omni to its foundation on his way to a victory. — BOBBY MELOK
Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins vs. The Dudley Boyz, Tables Match
The streets of Queens, N.Y., were frigid the night of March 13, 1998, but the action inside the Elks Lodge — a.k.a. ECW’s Madhouse of Extreme — was anything but when The Shield battled The Dudley Boyz in a Tables Match.
Flanked by their brothers, Bubba Ray & D-Von received their standard TV-14 introduction courtesy of “The Quintessential Stud Muffin” Joel Gertner. The moment that “Sierra, Hotel, India, etc.” blared over the speakers, however, the attention turned toward Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins, standing high above in the Elks Lodge balcony.
Once the bell rang, the extreme fans had ample opportunity to chant “E-C-Dub.” Rollins darted across the ring, taking out The Dudleys’ considerable ringside entourage with back-to-back tope con hilos. Bubba Ray & D-Von, on the other hand, saw it as an opportunity to temporarily incapacitate Reigns with double-team moves straight out of Dudleyville.
Rollins’ unreal agility and reflexes enabled him to escape The Dudleys’ multiple attempts to put him through a table, buying The Architect enough time until The Powerhouse recuperated and reentered the ring. To chants of “Mess him up, Roman, mess him up!” — or something like that — Reigns speared Bubba through a table in the corner. Simultaneously, a reenergized Rollins leapt high in the air and drove D-Von’s skull through a table with Peace of Mind as Joey Styles belted out, in astonishment, “Oh my god!” — JOHN CLAPP
The Usos vs. Rob Van Dam & Sabu vs. Edge & Christian, TLC Match
This clash among three of the most daring tag teams had the WWE Universe buzzing for days before the opening bell even rang. No one was sure what to expect as the highflying Usos collided with the extreme pair of Rob Van Dam & Sabu and the chair-wielding duo of Edge & Christian in a brutal Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match.
While the death-defying Sabu was right at home in the chaotic stip, his reckless attitude resulted in his crashing through one too many tables, leaving RVD all by himself. Though “Mr. Monday Night” is quite adept with a steel chair, Edge & Christian pounced on him like rabid wolves once they realized his partner was out of the equation.
With the extreme duo on the sidelines, Edge & Christian felt like they had the championships all but wrapped up — that is, until they came face-to-face with The Usos. The twins used the ladders to their advantage, taking Edge & Christian out with a double-dive off the top of twin ladders, leaving Jimmy & Jey with plenty of time to scale the ladders and claim the WWE Tag Team Titles for themselves. — BOBBY MELOK
John Cena vs. New Jack, Extreme Rules Match
Things were rough for John Cena before New Jack even entered the ECW Arena. The infamously hostile Philadelphia fans welcomed the WWE Superstar to The City of Brotherly Love by pelting him with whatever they could get their hands on — nickels, crumpled soda cups, even a John Cena action figure.
By the time Ice Cube’s “Natural Born Killaz” hit and New Jack rushed out from the back with a shopping cart full of plunder before him, Cena had grown accustomed to dodging weapons. Still, there was no avoiding the toaster oven, the crutch and even the pizza cutter (!) that The Original Gangsta assaulted the former WWE Champion with.
When Cena was dragged into the audience, the fans seemed to punch and kick the Superstar as much as New Jack did. He was finished before Jack laid him across a table, climbed up to the stage where Joey Styles was calling the action and then leapt from the towering platform and crash-landed directly on Cena’s ribcage.
The dive took its toll on both men, but in the time it took the ECW madman to pull Cena back into the ring, the Cenation leader had gained enough energy to hoist Jack up in a fireman’s carry and put him back down with an Attitude Adjustment. Cena got the three count and escaped the ECW Arena in the middle of a mob of Atlas Security Guards. The match was over, but a riot in Philly was just beginning. — RYAN MURPHY
Bray Wyatt vs. Raven, Dog Collar Match
With images of Harley Race and Pat O’Connor running through their heads, the old-timers in the front row of St. Louis’ Scottrade Center had to remind themselves of what was written on the marquee. They weren’t prepared for this.
Standing in opposite corners were two equally deranged and charismatic forces: Bray Wyatt and Raven. As WWE officials affixed dog collars around the combatants’ necks with the hurried nervousness of a man trying to tame a wild pit bull, an eerie smile crept across The Eater of Worlds’ face. The eternally mopey Raven, on the other hand, sized up the length of chain — approximately 15 feet long, more than 50 pounds — that connected him with “The Man of 1,000 Truths” and envisioned how he’d implement the weapon.
Surrounding the ring, meanwhile, were two groups of similarly plain-clothes-clad crushers. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan had Wyatt’s back, while Raven’s Flock — a menagerie including Kidman, Saturn and Sick Boy, among others — fell in line behind their leader.
After weeks of mesmerizing yet foreboding interviews conducted with Wyatt and Raven, it was finally time for the cults of personality to clash, and clash they did. The chain gave Raven just enough slack to shoot Wyatt into the ropes and then nail him with a drop toehold onto an open steel chair. Though Raven’s plea of “Quote the Raven, nevermore!” was met with groans, the Scottrade Center began ramping up a verse of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” That gave Wyatt the support he needed to rebound, use the chain to bring Raven in close proximity and hit Sister Abigail for the three-count. — JOHN CLAPP