7 Secret Versions Of Classic WWE Matches

Featuring the *****1/4 version of a rare-in-itself main roster classic.

CM Punk Dolph Ziggler HIAC

The non-existent chapter select function and inexplicable search algorithm aside - if you type in ROCK AUSTIN, you aren't directed to the WrestleMania X-Seven main event but rather ROCK star Shinsuke Nakamura Vs. AUSTIN Aries, for f*ck's sake, f*ck your marketing - WWE's Network is wonderful.

It doesn't merely track history, it actively curates it; the recent discovery of the Bret Hart Vs. Tom Magee Holy Grail presented to subscribers the secret history of WWE in addition to its on-demand library of endlessly consumable content. The WWE Network is a manifest, affordable, black market wish list that enriches our understanding of a past once thought impossible to recover.

That aforementioned match was once considered the collector's item among the most ardent of hardcores. Bret Hart is just tremendous in his performance; mastering the space between moves in such a way that it framed his soft, goosesh*t-green opponent as a force of nature without barely executing any, this discovery didn't just satisfy an itch on an unreachable area of the back; it afforded Bret, grimly downtrodden in later life, a euphoric last-minute karmic pinfall.

Cameras were not present at several of the following tentative experiments, sadly - but the beauty of the Network is such that we don't have to stop believing.

7. The 1987 Royal Rumble Match

CM Punk Dolph Ziggler HIAC

The WWF debuted the Royal Rumble match in 1988 as part of a televised special on the USA Network.

Ahead of a meeting with Dick Ebersol, Pat Patterson pitched a variation on the standard battle royal to Vince McMahon. To circumvent the mass of static flesh, Patterson's creation would see two men start the match, with the remaining field entering the ring at timed intervals, thus substituting minutes of tedious non-action for calculable drama. That way, when the field fattened out, the sense of anticipation would sustain the interest of the crowd throughout the epic duration.

Vince McMahon didn't green-light the pitch with a booming "That's such good sh*t"; instead, he casually dismissed it as "stupid" before failing to improve on the idea and running with it, anyway. He trusted Patterson's genius at a time when he was more receptive to collaboration.

The WWF tested the concept the year prior in St. Louis. CBSSports later collated an excellent oral history of the first, underwhelming-at-best experiment. Featuring just 12 men undirected by the absent Patterson, the talent had no idea how to work the match, and the crowd had no idea how to react to it without the visual countdown cues and the unflappable Howard Finkel's famous breakdown of the convoluted rules.

One Man Gang won the first-ever Rumble, but doesn't have much recollection, suppressing the memory alongside that time he was made to perform as a deeply problematic white black man.


Former Power Slam Magazine scribe and author of Development Hell: The NXT Story - available NOW on shop.whatculture.com!