A great wrestling match on TV is distinct from a great TV wrestling match, to which there is a real art all of its own.
It is not necessarily an attraction. It often functions to build to an ending without acting as the ending itself. It's a match that drives storylines or deepens the audience's investment in a performer, consciously or otherwise, to catalogue their career.
It's the perfect platform on which to get a talent over in spirited defeat, since the televised stage does not carry the stigma of the big show, the failures on which are magnetised.
AEW has consciously used this trope to inform the push of Darby Allin, who earned a very early shot at Chris Jericho's World Championship. He lost, but got himself over as a gutsy babyface who kept fighting underneath (creative and vicious) heel cruelty. He also lost to Jon Moxley, but the level of his opponents, and the limit to which he took them, indicated to the audience that he was a future star. With a strategic panache, Allin, over as hell, won his first AEW pay-per-view match.
The classic TV match is a chapter. Sometimes it's an angle and barely even a match. Sometimes, yes, it is just 15 minutes of life-affirming electricity.
The TV match, at its best, is a journey that enriches the destination.
10. Randy Savage Vs. "La Parka" - WCW Monday Nitro, July 7, 1997
A masterclass of production and long-term booking in unison, WCW, operating with incredible inspiration and attention to detail, put La Parka over in the pre-match by highlighting his recent chair-based assaults.
Everything was in place was to be as it seemed. This was more of a con that it was a match, but what a work it was.
The commentary team was in on the genius of the bit - gleefully so, in the case of Tony Schiavone. Mike Tenay made sure to gently remind the audience that La Parka was stockier than WCW's class of luchadors, to further drape the cloak of illusion - but it was no stretch, and he framed it not as exposition but an illustration of the test facing Randy Savage.
"They have succeeded in causing mass confusion throughout our television programmes," said Tony Schiavone of the nWo, deftly foreshadowing the story and justifying the babyface's ruse.
"La Parka" countered Savage with a roll-up, but this was mostly a very brief and decisive phase of offence, the detail in which was fantastic. Savage, over-powered, spent an age on the top turnbuckle, arrogantly luxuriating in his superiority before dropping the elbow. His sell-job of the counter was fantastic. He looked goosed, spitting out teeth where on the turnbuckle he had spat as a gesture of disrespect.
"La Parka" nailed him with the Diamond Cutter before unmasking as Diamond Dallas Page in one of the greatest and most innovative turnabout-is-fair-play babyface moves ever - a euphoric scene, given WCW's heat-dominated '97 TV.