Wrestlemania is no longer just a one day epic event – it’s grown into a whole week of promotional wrestling, and one gigantic weekend of pro wrestling, both within and outside of Vinny Mac’s realm. Independent companies from around the world now conjugate in whichever city Wrestlemania is held in that year, and put shows on from Friday to Sunday to please the thousands of fans that flock to watch a bit of graps.
But with 99% of the attention focused on WWE through these three days, let’s pay tribute to those that put on incredible shows away from the biggest show of the year – here are the Top 10 Wrestlemania Weekend Matches That Happened Outside of WWE.
To qualify for this list, the match must have taken place at an event within the same city as a Wrestlemania, or shown on US television on the same day as Wrestlemania in direct competition with it. That means shows in Japan, the UK, and elsewhere that just happen to have taken place on the same weekend as the biggest show of the year don’t count.
10. Ric Flair vs. Sting: NWA Clash of Champions 1988
Let’s start off with the match that made Sting a star. At the first Clash of Champions event, which went head-to-head with Wrestlemania IV, Flair put over one of the brightest young talents in the business at the time. Sting dominated the majority of the match, with plenty of time to shine, but it’s obvious that Flair is the one carrying this clash. Sting was still relatively inexperienced at this point, but Flair was just so damn good with his selling, he made Sting look amazing in this true classic.
9. The Hardys vs. Young Bucks: Ladder Match: ROH Supercard of Honor 2017
In 2016, we saw The Young Bucks compete in Ladder War VI, and it was one of the craziest matches of the year. Well, the Bullet Club members certainly didn’t disappoint in their next epic ladder match in which they faced their childhood heroes and the hottest duo in professional wrestling, The Hardys.
The two teams traded some of the most brutal and incredible ladder and table spots seen since Wrestlemania X-7. By the end of this one, the legendary brothers were well and truly broken after all the insane punishment they endured. What makes this bout even more impressive is that just one night later, Matt and Jeff both turned up at Wrestlemania as surprise entrants into yet another tag team ladder match, and it created one of the greatest moments in Wrestlemania history.
8. Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: EVOLVE 58 2016
Two of Britain’s best exports over the last ten years mixed it up in Dallas a couple of years back, and the result was superb. Technical wizard, and newly crowed New Japan Cup winner, Zack Sabre Jr. attempted to keep the high-flying Ospreay down throughout the match. From time to time, Ospreay would escape ZSJ’s clutches to attempt some ridiculously athletic springboard move, only to be caught into another submission once again. In the latter stages, the action really picked up, with the chemistry bubbling between these two. Given just how good they both are in this match, it’s no surprise how far they’ve come in the two years since.
7. Ring Of Honor El Generico vs. Kevin Steen: ROH Supercard of Honor 2012
El Generico and Kevin Steen seemed destined to share a ring together for the rest of time, that is until Generico left pro wrestling to run an orphanage in Mexico. Despite not being as emotional as their unsanctioned match at Final Battle, or as spectacular as their legendary Ladder War, Steen vs. Generico was always a guaranteed show stealer.
This brutal brawl is an awesome spot-fest from beginning to end, like only these two men could do. Only two foes with this much love and simultaneous hatred for each other could attempt to kill one another in the way that they do, with insane moves such as a Michinoku Driver on the entrance ramp, and a Springboard Senton through a table. A fantastic story about violence and hatred….it’s just a shame Jimmy Jacobs had to interfere and ruin the ending.
6. Ring Of Honor Bryan Danielson vs. Roderick Strong: ROH Supercard of Honor 2006
Unfortunately, this technical masterclass wasn’t quite as good as it should have been. Right before this match, a five-star classic took place (that we will talk about later), and totally burnt the ROH audience in attendance out. They weren’t prepared to stick with a epic, lengthy showdown between two of the best young wrestlers in the world at the time, but Bryan and Roderick were so good, they couldn’t help but put on a fantastic showing, regardless of the situation.
5. Austin Aries vs. Nigel McGuinness: ROH Supercard of Honor 2008
Although their match from the previous year at Rising Above is held in higher regard, this rematch is still an absolute masterpiece of indie pro wrestling.
Aries and McGuinness told an amazing story in this Supercard of Honor brawl through a flurry of aggression and passion. Aries brought the fight to Nigel, yet McGuinness used dastardly tactics to overcome Aries’ fire, like the true villain that he was. Both competitors targeted limbs as they strove for a submission victory, and then played-off some spots from their previous match towards the end to help build tension and drama. Oh, and it’s worth watching for Aries’ brutal suicide dive alone.
4. Davey Richards vs. KENTA: ROH Supercard of Honor 2009
Three years after they first clashed, Davey Richards and KENTA, now better known as Hideo Itami, decided it would be nice to try and destroy each other two days before Wrestlemania XXV.
Initially, Richards brings the fight to KENTA with brutal strikes, yet KENTA totally shrugs off Davey’s efforts, responding with strikes and holds of his own to show who the master of this match truly is. Featuring some dangerously stiff blows, a nasty Falcon Arrow to the ringside floor, and amazing synchronicity, this is a painfully good war to watch.
3. Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: WWN Mercury Rising 2016
Before the biggest Wrestlemania of all time, Chris Hero and Zack Sabre Jr. put on a physically punishing fight that far exceeded anything we saw in AT&T Stadium that weekend.
Hero and Sabre had an insane amount of chemistry together, putting on renowned clashes in PWG, IPW, Evolve, and WXW. On April 2nd 2016, Hero and Sabre carried on their indie feud with an extremely vicious, torturous affair, which is now available to watch for free on YouTube.
Initially looking as though it would be a technical exhibition, Hero quickly turned it into an exchange of strikes, a fighting style that he is most comfortable with. Although he is known as a submission master, ZSJ wasn’t afraid to throw hands and kicks against the far bigger Hero, and what followed was almost thirty minutes of flurrying elbows, uppercuts, knees and kicks, with submissions and holds mixed in there from time to time.
If you want to see a man almost get murdered from a multitude of elbow strikes, look no further.
2. CIMA, Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi vs. Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito: ROH Supercard of Honor 2006
And now for possibly the most beautiful spot-fest you will ever see.
During Wrestlemania weekend in 2006, Ring of Honor gave an opportunity to six stars of the Dragon Gate promotion from Japan, which they grasped with both hands and slammed into the mat. The American audience, as well as viewers around the world, all had their minds positively blown by the DG cruiserweight style exhibited in this chaotic blur of wrestling moves.
If you’re looking for psychology and storylines, look elsewhere – this is just six extremely talented men doing ridiculous displays of athleticism and skill. This truly is one of the most insane matches to grace a wrestling ring on American soil, and you’ll find it impossible to pick a favourite moment/move from it. There’s a reason why this six-man earned a five-star rating, and was voted WON’s 2006 Match of the Year.
If you just want to lay back and say, “Jesus Christ!” for twenty minutes straight this Mania weekend, this is the spot-fest for you.
Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher – WWN Mercury Rising 2015
BxB Hulk, Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi vs. CIMA, Dragon Kid & Gamma – DGUSA Mercury Rising 2010
BJ Whitmer vs. Jimmy Jacobs – ROH Supercard of Honor 2007
Austin Aries, Claudio Castagnoli, Delirious & Rocky Romero vs. CIMA, Dragon Kid, Ryo Saito & Susumu Yokosuka – ROH Supercard of Honor 2007
Colt Cabana vs. Homicide – ROH Supercard of Honor 2006
CIMA, Dragon Kid & Ryo Saito vs. Genki Horiguchi, Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi – ROH Supercard of Honor 2008
Johnny Gargano, Kota Ibushi & TJP vs. Marty Scurll, Tommy End & Will Ospreay – WWN Supercard of Honor 2016
- Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat: NWA Clash of Champions XI 1989
On April 2nd 1989, the NWA decided to go head-to-head against WWF’s Wrestlemania V with a show of their own on the very same night, which would feature the second match in one of the most legendary trilogies in the history of pro wrestling. Whilst more people witnessed the Mega Powers implode that night, the match that stole that Wrestlemania weekend was certainly Flair vs. Steamboat.
After putting on an instant classic in Chicago two months prior (which features in my list of my Top 20 Five-Star Matches), Steamboat and Flair faced-off once again, this time with a 2/3 Falls stipulation to help try to pry away a few of those Wrestlemania viewers. What happened on April 2nd was simply an exhibition in beautifully crisp pro wrestling. At close to an hour in length, this isn’t an easy bout to sit back and relax with. This is a back-and-forth war that never reduces in pace, tension or excitement, always flowing well throughout.
With a surprise pin for the first fall, a drawn-out, slow-paced build to a submission second fall, and a classic, fire-fuelled babyface comeback for the final fall, it’s storytelling at its finest in pro wrestling, and it’s a five-star classic that still holds up today.
If you’re looking for a classic alternative to WWE this Wrestlemania weekend, look no further than two of the greatest of all time.