Kurt Angle vs Daniel Pruder
On the Nov. 4, 2004 episode of SmackDown, Kurt Angle had challenged contestants from WWE reality show Tough Enough to best him in the ring. The probable narrative was big, bad Olympian destroys a handful of green upstarts. Angle steamrolled through his first foe, Chris Nawrocki, breaking his ribs in the process.
Daniel Puder refused to be the next victim, to accept that storyline. He proceeded to write his own. After tussling with Angle for a few moments, Puder gripped Angle’s right arm, forced it into an awkward angle and by his own admission, tried to break it.
Puder said, “I caught him in a key lock, pulled him into a kimura and tried to snap his arm off.”
The referee watched as Angle’s arm went further and further the wrong way. He knew he had to do something. Disaster neared. He delivered a hurried three-count despite Puder’s shoulders not being fully down on the mat. Angle hopped up and shouted at his opponent. He berated Puder who stood face to face with him, unmoving. WWE had made Angle look dominant, a master mat-wrestler. What would it have done to his credibility to have some guy the majority of fans didn’t know beat him decisively or even worse, shatter his arm? Puder did his best to turn those few seconds into a name-making opportunity.
He was punished by backstage brass in the 2005 Royal Rumble when Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero and Hardcore Holly took turns kicking the shit out of him.
Antonio Inoki vs. the Great Antonio
Despite the names, there were no real similarities between the two Antonios. The first is one of the greatest stars in the history of Japanese wrestling, a technician and proud fighter. The second was a Croatian strongman who boasted of amazing feats that could almost never be backed up. When they met before 9,000 fans in Tokyo, Antonio refused to sell Inoki’s attacks, brushing off a drop kick and more, acting as if Inoki didn’t belong in the same ring with him.
Never known for his humility, Inoki didn’t take too well to this and when the beefy wrestler clubbed him with sloppy blows on the neck, he lost it. In a fantastic display, Inoki took Antonio down with as single-leg sweep and then proceeded to stomp him down, knocking his opponent out for real and keeping it up. His manager raced in to stop the carnage as Inoki proved that he was one guy it was never smart to try and shoot against.
Kimura vs Rikidozan
This was supposed to be seen as the duel of the century in Japan, with both wrestlers having backgrounds in martial arts, or fighting in some form. Kimura had a judo background, even inventing what we know today as the Kimura Lock. Rikidozan had a background in sumo wrestling. Their rivalry was to be booked as a series of matches, with the first scripted to end in a draw. After an errant kick to the groin, Rikidozan snapped. He unleashed a flurry of chops to Kimura’s neck and face. At one point, Kimura even turned to the referee, presumably to ask for some kind of help, only to be pummeled to the floor and kicked in the face while the ref just watched and nodded.
Somehow Kimura mustered up enough strength to stand up, bewildered by the turn of events. After the referee checked him for injuries, Rikidozan raced back in and chopped Kimura so hard in the neck that he knocked him out cold.
On December 8, 1963, while partying in a Tokyo nightclub, Rikidōzan was stabbed with a urine-soaked blade by a man named Katsuji Murata who belonged to the ninkyō dantai (Yakuza) Sumiyoshi-ikka. Reportedly, Rikidōzan threw Murata out of the club and continued to party, refusing to seek medical help. Another report states that Rikidōzan did indeed see his physician shortly after the incident, and was told the wound was not serious. He died a week later of peritonitis on December 15. It is rumored by Kimura that his murder was in retaliation for what transpired in the wrestling match.
Goldberg vs Steven Regal
Goldberg was in the midst of his historic undefeated streak in WCW and when a match was announced for Nitro in February of 1998, it seemed like it would just be another routine victory for WCW’s hottest rookie. However Steven (William) Regal decided that rather than a routine squash match, he’d test the rookie to see if he could actually hang in a match.
Goldberg seemed lost in the match, not knowing how to handle more than his usual spear and jackhammer match.
The stories vary as to if the competitive six minute match was planned or if Regal was going into business for himself. One side says Regal sabotaged the plans of a quick squash, but Regal says he was told to have a six-minute match. Either way, the fact that these two weren’t on the same page in this match shows a real struggle between the experienced veteran and the green rookie.
Bob Holly vs. Brock Lesnar
Bob Holly, if you don’t know, is known for being a rough S.O.B., and has gone overboard in the ring plenty of times. He’s even caught a bad rap for picking on trainees. The guy thinks he’s doing wrestling justice by “teaching guys lessons,” but that kind of mentality only causes problems.
Brock Lesnar was in the midst of a meteoric rise when this all went down. He was/is known for being a difficult person to deal with, so it comes as no shock that he butted heads with Holly.
Hardcore Holly decided to pull deadweight when Lesnar goes for the powerbomb (The cardinal sin of wrestling is to go stiff/deadweight), but Lesnar didn’t care at all and it resulted in this awkward landing that broke Holly’s neck..
Perry Saturn vs Mike Bell
In early 2001, Perry Saturn was set against jobber Mike Bell for a taping of the show “Jakked.” The match was going okay until Bell hit a sloppy armdrag that nearly dumped Saturn on his head.
Saturn lost it against Bell, hitting him with real blows that sent him to the outside, nearly landing on his head. Saturn then grabbed Bell and slammed him hard against the steel steps. Thankfully, Bell wasn’t seriously injured but the front office wasn’t happy with Saturn’s behavior. As punishment, the front office came up with the storyline of him getting a head injury and believing a mop was his girlfriend.
Lex Luger vs Bruiser Brody
Lex Luger always had the molding to be a wrestler with a great physique and skills but the problem was that he was pushed far too quickly by promoters trying to find “the next Hogan.” He was given the Florida championship just two weeks after his debut, never got to “pay his dues” and that led him to a big ego. But he was still going well, just signed on to Jim Crockett Promotions and ready for a grand debut as the new member of the Four Horsemen. Thus, in one of his final Florida matches, Luger was set against legendary wildman Bruiser Brody. Brody was smart in how he built himself up, going from territory to territory for big paydays and was thus not happy with the plan to lose to Luger in a cage match.
It’s hard to cut through the various stories (which include the claims of Brody having thumbtacks taped to his fingers to blade Luger) as some claim it was Luger’s fault, others that it was Brody or both were tricked by the promoter. But what fans saw was clearly Brody refusing to sell anything Luger was giving him, without a single blow even making him flinch. Luger, used to being treated as the Superman figure, was clearly lost and openly asking the ref what to do. As Brody finally unleashed an attack of stiff blows, Luger made his move. Again, this depends on how you see it; some may see Luger running off in fear while others see him just tired of Brody’s act and leaving by climbing out of the cage. Reportedly, Luger didn’t even shower, just grabbed his bag, hit the car and was at Crockett the next day. Regardless of who was at fault, it’s still a classic example of what happens when lines get blurred and a guy refuses to do the task right.
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon
Bret Hart was about to jump ship to WCW after contract negotiations with WWE went south, and he didn’t want to drop his WWE title in his home country of Canada.
McMahon, the greatest mind in wrestling, knew Shawn Michaels’ had to win the title in Canada, and did everything he could to make sure this happened. This meant Vince coming out, and calling for the bell, without Bret Hart ever actually submitting to Michaels’ version of Bret’s “Sharpshooter.”
From there, Bret Hart lost his cool, and went as far as to spit on McMahon during what was left of the pay-per-view. This is where the documentary “Wrestling with Shadows” comes in, as it gives us a view backstage where Bret becomes physical with Vince. (@ 1:27:00)