So, you want to get into professional wrestling?
I truly believe wrestling is experiencing a boom period and now is the perfect time for new fans to jump into this crazy world. Unfortunately, there is so much history involved with it that it can come across as daunting to newcomers.
Wrestling is a lot like a long-running soap opera where the stories are never finished. Wrestlers come and go, but the industry stays intact.
This may seem overwhelming to newcomers, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to watch all the way back to the 1980s to understand what’s going on today. Heck, you don’t even need to have watched five years ago to understand what’s happening today.
While you don’t have to watch everything, there are plenty of crucial matches from the past that are perfect for newcomers to wrestling. These matches are ones that can easily invest you in the product and get you excited about what you’re watching.
I’ve compiled a list of 10 must-see wrestling matches for newcomers. The list is in chronological order with the last one on this list being the most recent one. Many of these matches are what really opened my eyes to what the industry could be at its best. On top of that, they’re just a lot of fun.
You can watch all of these matches on Peacock or try to find some of them on YouTube. Be sure to watch prior to the match as there are often video packages that add context to the contests.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Wrestlemania 3
There are a lot of great matches from the Golden Era of the 1980s, many of which involved Hulk Hogan. I chose a match that stole the show at Wrestlemania 3 instead. This battle for the Intercontinental Championship features a lot of fun, non-stop action. Macho Man is the heel (bad guy) while Steamboat is the face (good guy) and they really lean into the foundational good vs. bad. This match offers a great look at quality, technical wrestling, and how the action can grip the fan.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Wrestlemania 13
This was the match that made “Stone Cold” Steve Austin a star. Austin was the heel and Bret was the face as part of a story where Bret Hart was constantly getting frustrated with the change in wrestling. We also get a rare double turn where Austin turned face and Hart turned heel. This match also established the no-quit attitude of Austin. The image of Austin’s bloody face fighting back against Hart’s submission move is forever iconic as he would not say “I Quit.”
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs Eddie Guerrero, Halloween Havoc 1997
This match features two of my favorite wrestlers and their chemistry is on full display. This match gives fans a look at what lucha libre is all about. Rey utilizes high-flying, acrobatic moves while Eddie utilizes a more grounded approach. Eddie works well as a heel, especially when he tries to remove Rey’s mask. World Championship Wrestling was always a great place for the smaller wrestlers and this match shows why.
Mankind vs. The Undertaker, King of the Ring 1998
Wrestling developed a reputation in the late ‘90s as being edgy in both content and violence. This one shows you why. These two wrestlers meet in a Hell in a Cell match and while not much wrestling happens, some of the spots are insane, including Undertaker throwing Mankind off the top of the cell. This was the early days of wrestling really pushing the envelope and no one had seen anything like this before.
Edge and Christian vs. the Dudley Boyz vs. the Hardy Boyz, Wrestlemania X-Seven
Hardcore wrestling was prominent throughout the World Wrestling Federation’s Attitude Era (97-01). This match shows the appeal as it is a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (TLC) match. The tag team championships are hung above the ring and each team fights to retrieve the titles using tables, ladders, and chairs. These three teams always put on a show in these types of matches and this is arguably their best showing. There are so many jaw-dropping moments that make this type of wrestling a lot of fun.
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho, Wrestlemania 19
At its heart, wrestling is a unique form of storytelling. This match showcases that in an entertaining way. Shawn Michaels represents the face legend while Jericho is the jealous heel who gets compared to the legend. Jericho determines the only way he can escape that shadow is the beat Michaels. This storyline is prominent throughout with both wrestlers telling it through body language, facial expressions, and actions.
Trish Stratus vs. Lita, Monday Night Raw Dec. 4, 2004
Women’s wrestling doesn’t have a good track record. During the Attitude Era, women were reduced to eye-candy roles in provocative settings. This match is part of a larger departure from that mentality during the 2000s. Lita is the face while Trish is the heel. They put on a fantastic match that focuses on the wrestling itself, which was uncommon at the time. Lita’s in her home state so that adds to the excitement as the crowd is hot for this one.
John Cena vs. Edge, Unforgiven 2006
Wrestling is always evolving, but this match represents how it stays grounded in its roots. Cena and Edge was a heated rivalry throughout 2006 and this match was the culmination of that. This is a TLC match that is violent but not excessive. The ending spot is jaw-dropping and the final result helped build Cena further to stardom. This is a classic bad guy (Edge) vs. good guy (Cena). Edge is such a slimy heel throughout this run that it feels good to see him get his comeuppance.
Bayley vs. Sasha Banks, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn (2015)
NXT is WWE’s developmental brand and many of the current stars have made their way through here. Bayley and Sasha Banks are two huge names today and this match showcases what they could do from the get-go. Bayley plays an insanely relatable face while Sasha is a condescending heel. The crowd is particularly fun here because you can hear how much they get into the match as it wears on. Both women gave them plenty of reasons to cheer.
Sami Zayn vs. Roman Reigns, Elimination Chamber 2023
Roman Reigns is part of a storyline that is among the best in wrestling history and everyone involved has been at their best. This match was a culmination of an arc within that story that was so compelling. Sami is the ultimate face trying to take down his former heel mentor while in his hometown. The crowd was spectacular, showing how the audience really impacts wrestling. Reigns, in particular, embraced his heel persona and reacted well to the crowd. Reigns is so good at what he does because of the little things and his unique ability to cut a promo during a match, all of which is on display here. While this match is a slow burn, it’s done intentionally as the wrestlers weave a compelling story throughout the match.
The Boss Rush Podcast: The Flagship Podcast of Boss Rush Media and the Boss Rush Network
The Boss Rush Podcast – The Boss Rush Podcast is the flagship podcast of Boss Rush Media and the Boss Rush Network. Each week, Corey, Stephanie, LeRon, and their friends from around the internet come together with other creators, developers, and industry veterans to talk about games they’ve been playing, discuss video game and entertainment based topics, and answer questions solicited on social media and the community Discord.
New episodes of The Boss Rush Podcast release every Monday morning on YouTube and all major podcast applications like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Patreon supporters gain one week early access.