Iron Man Alumni: Part 1
In a matter of days wrestling fans around the world will be treated to another installment of the Iron Man match. At WWE Bragging Rights John Cena will challenge WWE Champion Randy Orton in a sixty-minute Iron Man match with the title on the line, as well as Cena’s future on the Raw brand. The rules of the Iron Man match involve two wrestlers going at it for a designated amount of time, in this case sixty minutes, without stopping. At the end of that incredible hour, the man who walks away with the most decisions over his opponent is declared the winner. In the case of the upcoming Bragging Rights match, there will be no disqualifications or count-outs, meaning that the only way to gain a decision is by pinfall or submission. The Cena-Orton Iron Man match promises to be a classic of our generation. There are no two better performers in WWE right now that could successfully pull this match off from all angles be it skill, endurance level, and crowd reaction, etc. Look back at different match stipulations in wrestling history, no match carries with it the emphasis on wrestling ability combined with the promise of something special than the Iron Man Challenge. However, this did not just happen overnight. For years great performers have stepped through the ropes and made the name Iron Man mean something.
Triple H vs. Chris Benoit (c) for the World Championship, 2004
If there was any wrestler in the past decade best suited for the Iron man match it was Chris Benoit. This particular bout took place not on pay per view but on an episode of Raw. The intensity of Benoit matched up against the strategic Triple H made for one great championship match. After putting on a great wrestling exchange, these two gladiators escalated their intensity that turned into an all-out war. The end of the match saw the interference of Evolution as they took out Benoit only for Eugene to make a surprise appearance and destroy Triple H with a steel chair. As the last seconds of the match counted down, Benoit fought and crawled his way to cover Triple H and gained one last fall to up his opponent, with whom he was tied. It was yet another classic championship match during the 2004 for reign of Chris Benoit.
Triple H vs. The Rock (c) for the WWF Championship, 2000
It’s hard to believe that the World Wrestling Federation would have tried a sixty ?minute Iron Man match during the Attitude Era when fans? attention spans lasted little longer than five minutes. Not only that, but as a fan I worried that these two didn?t have the ability to put on an hour long match. Yet this fight at Judgment Day in 2000 not only met expectations, it made for the one of the most exciting finishes of the year. The match started out with Rock moving very quickly. Jerry Lawler did a great job in his commentary that Rock needed to slow down and pace himself to make it through the match. The match waged on and told a story. HHH and Rock used this match to prove why they were now the top two stars of the company. As the end neared, interference ran wild as the McMahons and DX jumped in. Suddenly, the Undertaker made his much anticipated return after being out of action for nearly eight months. He cleaned house of DX and the McMahons before giving Triple H a Tombstone. The problem was that there was still one second left on the clock when Triple H’s head hit the mat. With Rock and Triple H tied at decisions, Taker had just inadvertently had Rocky disqualified and cost him the championship. The finish made for great TV as tension built between Rock and Taker as they found themselves on the same side in a war against Triple H and company. Judgment Day was the beginning of a new turn for Rock and Triple H. After this match, Rock would regain the title from Triple H and go onto have some of the best matches of his career with Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. Triple H would step out of the title picture of the time being and wage war with Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle.
Ravishing Rick Rude vs. The Natural Dusting Rhodes, Beach Blast 1993
This match was for the vacant United States Championship after Rhodes and Rude had a controversial finish some weeks prior. This particular Iron Man bout was before WWF’s use of the sixty-minute time allotment as the combatants were only given thirty minutes. Rhodes came out to his old WCW theme music, ?Well they call him the Natural? and locked up with Rude. Now this match was by no means a classic if you were to judge it by today’s standards. However, it was still a solid match in which the great Rude elevated Rhodes without losing to him. The match ended in a draw with each man having one decision over the other. Crowd dynamic played an interesting role in this match. Rude was one of the greatest heels yet was favored over Rhodes. Once Rhodes’s music began playing during entrances the crowd began to boo. Rhodes did get a good amount of favor back when he performed Rude’s bump and grind at one point in the match. The Iron Man stipulation worked well for this bout because it gave time for the mid card to shine. In the following weeks, both competitors went to greener pastures as Rhodes finally captured the U.S. title and Rude went on to defeat Ric Flair for the International Championship.
Ravishing Rick Rude vs. Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, Bleach Blast 1992
Steamboat and Rude had been feuding for months for the United States Championship. When they stepped into the ring against each other at Beach Blast, Steamboat had the opportunity not for the title, but a future title shot down the line. That rule may have irritated some fans. Some may have also been flustered when Rude was disqualified for giving Steamboat a knee drop off the top rope only to see Steamboat dish out a superplex with no repercussions. All silliness aside, these two put on a great show. Rude gained a pinfall after lifting his knee from the corner to a charging Steamboat. Part of what makes the Iron Man stipulation so special is the feeling that any move may gain a wrester a decision. While you know the match will go on for a specified amount of time, you still have the feeling that anything can happen. The last ten minutes were fast-paced and thrilling to watch. Steamboat was caught in a sleeper hold only to push back and force Rude to pin himself, giving Steamboat a one-fall advantage with thirty seconds left. Rude went nuts throwing anything he could at Steamboat to gain just one more fall to tie the score, but Steamboat persevered, hanging on for the last few seconds and winning a future championship match against Rude.
With the Rick Rude’s Beach Blast performances, the Iron Man match was a recognizable stipulation that would make its way to pay per view and television once again, allowing men such as Triple H, the Rock, and Chris Benoit to partake and wrestle some of the classic matches of their careers. Yet in between the Beach Blast shows and Triple H’s outing in 2000, there was an Iron Man match that made it way to the biggest stage in professional wrestling-Wrestlemania and set the standard for all Iron Man competitions that would follow.
Thank you for reading. Please join us for part II next week of Iron Man alumni.