With the return of the NWA Crockett Cup last week, it got me thinking; What are some of the best old-school tournaments to check out?
Wrestling tournaments provide instant drama. The stakes of who advances, who gets eliminated, and who claims the ultimate prize. Some of the greatest moments in wrestling have come from wrestling tournaments. From special one-offs to a great edition of an annual tradition, here are five old-school (older than fifteen years) tournaments you should take a look at.
1. 1994 Super J Cup
The inaugural Super J Cup is considered one of the best collections of professional wrestlers ever. The field included Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Jushin Thunder Liger, Hayabusa, Dean Malenko, Gedo, and Taka Michinoku. Dave Meltzer listed the show as the best wrestling show of 1994, and he gave the finals between Wild Pegasus and The Great Sasuke a five star rating. Just for some of the matchups in this tournament, try to search some of it out.
2. 1996 King Of The Ring
The 1996 King of the Ring was the launching pad of the hottest star of the 1990s. Once Stone Cold cut his infamous “Austin 3:16” promo after defeating Jake Roberts, a star began his rise. The tournament included others, like Ultimate Warrior, Owen Hart, and Triple H. This tournament is more about the moment for Austin and the making of a legend. There’s a solid non-tournament match on the pay-per-view as well: Mankind battling the Undertaker.
3. 1998 Survivor Series Deadly Games Tournament
This show is peak Attitude Era: a battle for the vacant WWF Championship. The fourteen man tournament happened all in one night, with stars like Kane, Undertaker, and Stone Cold. In the finals, The Rock turned and aligned himself with the Corporation to beat Mankind and capture the gold. The ending was a rehash of the controversial Survivor Series ending from one year prior. The matches aren’t outstanding in quality, but it’s a fun three hours.
4. 2001 King Of The Ring
The 2001 King of the Ring is the story of Kurt Angle. The Olympic Hero wrestled three matches in one night, winning his semi-final match before losing to Edge in the finals. He then went on to have an epic Street Fight with Shane McMahon and cemented himself of the MVP of this pay-per-view. While lacking the big names of some other tournaments, the performances put in by Edge, Angle, and even Rhyno lands this tournament on the “must-watch” list. The triple threat WWF Championship match between Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, and Chris Benoit doesn’t hurt either.
5. 2003 G1 Climax
The G1 Climax tournament has become stacked with classic matches in years past. Amazing G1 matches aren’t a new phenomenon, as the 2003 edition was stacked with talent. Young versions of Japanese legends like Shinsuke Nakamura, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Katsuyori Shibata tangled with Yuji Nagata and NOAH’s Jun Akiyama. The finals between Akiyama and winner Hiroyoshi Tenzan was one of the best matches during a stretch where NJPW wasn’t putting out its best. Even in a dark time for the company, the G1 always managed to captivate and inspire.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @evangomes_. Thanks for reading!