According to Wrebsters Dictionary, a squash is a one-sided wrestling match designed to showcase the monstrous dominance of one of the competitors and/or the inability of their opponent to withstand their beefy onslaught. Squash matches were the backbone of WWE programming throughout much of the 80s and early 90s, with a steady parade of milquetoast quivering lads being fed to established superstars in order to build their credibility as one ruff tough billy goat buff, with superstar vs superstar matches saved for bigger cards. Nowadays, with hardcore fans more invested in competitive matchups, squash matches have fallen out of favour, oft regarded as repetitive and an increasingly transparent booking strategy for less capable meatheads, but damn it, when used sparingly a good squash can create a bigger reaction and tell a better, more emotive story than a million moves of evenly-balance offence. These are the 10 Greatest Wrestling Squash Matches Ever
A few Honorable mentions first. Diesel destroying Bob Backlund for the WWF Championship would have placed if WWE had filmed it on something better than a potato, Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan at Mania 28 had an unparalleled legacy in helping to create the Yes movement, but dammit the memories still hurt, and Kurt Angle vs Roderick Strong on Smackdown, which didn’t do much from a story perspective but holy shit Kurt slaps the undisputed piss out of him. Right, onto the list proper
10. Zack Gowen vs Brock Lesnar
Oh no it’s a murder. And not just any murder, Bork killed One Leg Man in front of his one leg mam. On the 21st August episode of Smackdown in 2003, Brick Lorenzo, bad man with bad plans, proved his dominance by squash Zack Gowan, a one-legged wrestler. After getting himself DQ’d by cracking him open with a chair, Lesnar repeatedly F5s Gowan into the ring post, throws him around and does all it whilst performing a tight five set to Zack’s real life actual mum, gloating, offering her to shake his hand, all while she stands there with an ‘oh no my boy’ expression. Look we’ve all seen a look of concern from our mothers re our life choices, but thankfully not many of us have seen Brock Lesnar physically barge our mothers out the way in order to keelhaul us off a stretcher and continue the nightmare violence. Few things have made Brock seem more of a heartless, unstoppable villain and it’s not exactly a comfortable watch, but it’s damn sure memorable.
9. Honky Tonk Man vs Ultimate Warrior
The Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental title run of the late 80s is defined by two numbers: 454 and 31. He held the belt for 454 days, a record which still stands to this day, and at Summerslam 88, the first ever Summerslam PPV WWE ever produced, he lost it to the Ultimate Warrior in 31 seconds. Warriors runs to the ring and before Honky can say “well this is quite the dilly of a pickle” he’s up over Warrior’s head. A running splash later and the year and quarter long reign was over in the blink of an eye. It’s the first great Summerslam memory and one of the most enduring moments in the history of the IC title. Squash matches aren’t just an effective tool in building the myth of a monster, they can also be a jolt of unexpected adrenaline on even the biggest of cards. Speaking of…
8. John Cena vs The Undertaker
Daft, this. Also a lot of this match’s legacy has been reduced by Morbid George’s Last Ride documentary which revealed that Take Cena being an exhibition squash was a big disappointment to the deadman. Even though the newly hipped Taker and Cena could have, in taker’s words, gone full dream match length during their bout at Wrestlemania 34, evidently WWE were gunshy after Mania 33’s dodgy dogfight and had Taker drub Cena with mindgames both spooky and ooky. Considering that Taker Cena was still a dream match to many, a 3 minute match is disappointing, but it’s still a monumental piece of entertainment. The whole Cena in the crowd angle (with John utterly failing to convince as a regular person, with his regular shirt, regular jeans and regular beer), the fakeout with Elias, and then finally, the Phenom utterly triumphant, it’s all very silly, but suitably memorable for what may be the silliest and most memorable gimmick of all time.
7. Braun Strowman vs James Ellsworth
When a squash match helps create a character that people want to see more of, it’s a good squash match. When it helps create two, it’s undeniably great. For the longest time, Braun Strowman was shit, a lumber farmhand who looked like he’d been hit by lightning and pissed himself doing it, just another uncoordinated, ultimately unthreatening tall boys to join the ranks of Giant Gonzalez and The Great Khali. However, in July 2016 WWE drafted Strowman to Raw, repackaged him to have a decent haircut, and put him on a strict regime of hyper violent, hyper entertaining squash matches, against foes like the splash brothers, johnny knockout who likes big sweaty men, and of course peaking with James Ellsworth, whose beak from xmen look and his catchphrase of ‘any man with two hands has a fighting chance’, made him a fan favourite, so much so that he was a signed to a contract that culminated in him becoming the first ever Ms Money In The Bank. Sometimes dreams do come true and then Braun Strowman kills you.
6. Hiromu Takahashi vs KUSHIDA
New Japan Pro Wrestling don’t really do squash matches, especially between name talent, and especially especially on PPV. Fans expect marquee New Japan matches to be long, super competitive with a gradual build to insanity, which makes the rare New Japan squash even more effective. At Sakura Genesis 2017, Hiromu Takahashi, who is an insane, no concern for his own safety anime character who once used to be accompanied to the ring by a stuffed cat called Daryl, defended his IWGP Junior Heavyweight title against KUSHIDA. Kushida, as you probably already know, is a big deal. Hiromu Takahashi beat him in 2 minutes. What makes this match so great, aside from the stunned reaction of the crowd, was the story behind it. Takahashi’s offence was so dangerous, so unpredictable that no one had a gameplan for taking on the ticking timebomb of new japan. Still hurting from being beaten by Takahashi at Wrestle Kingdom that year, Kushida ambushes him before the bell, basically trying to beat Hiromu at his own unpredictable game. Kushida steps away from his methodical working style and it blows up in his face, eating a HORRIBLE powerbomb to the outside, two finishers and being destroyed in the time it takes to make a sandwich. Deliberate, character-focused booking and a hell of a statement.
5. Razor Ramon vs Lightning Kid
Important thing to remember, the dominant guy doesn’t always have to win his squash match for it to count. In fact, in May 1993, one of the most iconic upsets in wrestling history, as well as one of the first headline-grabbing moments from WWF’s new show Monday Night Raw took place. Razor is battling the pichu version of Xpac, the Lightning Kid, tossing him around the ring, showboating, before the kid hits Razor with a fluke moonsault for the fluke victory. Seen as a shocking subversion of what had become an already overused match type in Raw’s 4 month history, the Manhattan Centre goes BANANAS, and Heenan’s cracking voice as he shrieks ‘he just beat razor ramon’ is almost as memorable as the match itself. In fact it was so impactful that the kid’s name was changed to the 123 Kid after his three count win, and fans took to chanting 1-2-3 at Ramon. One single squash led to months of storyline and a brand new star from out of nowhere. And speaking of…
4. Big Van Vader vs Antonio Inoki
Back to New Japan we go for a squash match that was so unexpected, so shocking, and that worked the crowd so much that it started an actual riot. Japanese crowds don’t makes signs about wrestler wins or we riot, they just fucking do it. Antonio Inoki was basically the Verne Gagne of Japan. Founding his own breakaway wrestling promotion, before taking it to great success by booking himself as the top star. At the end of 1987 Antonio Inoki was two years deep into an undefeated streak in New Japan and felt his run had gone stale. To shake things up he decided to bring in a brand new gaijin monster and push him to the moon. Enter Big Van Vader, a man who wore the coolest entrance gear of all time and became a legend in japanese wrestling. How did he become a legend, in december 87, at Tokyo’s prestigious Sumo Hall, he wrestled Anotnio Inoki, the man who ten years earlier had taken Muhammad Ali to a draw, a man who had once unofficially become WWF champion by beating bob backlund, one of the most recognisable japanese athletes of all time, and vader beat him [checks notes] without Inoki hitting a single move. Hot damn. Confused and incensed at the death of their hero, fans tore up the seating of Sumo Hall leading to New Japan Pro Wrestling being banned from the venue for two years, while Vader began a run that would shift thousands and thousands of tickets for the company.
3. Brock Lesnar vs John Cena
Oh man, this match. Some fans really hate Suplex City, believing that on his worst day, Brock just turns up, performs the same exact match as he has on countless occasions – german suplex, german suplex, hope spot, counter finisher into an F5, home in time to try it out a brand new fashion look, maybe cowboy boots and a three piece suit, maybe a fucking fedora. What an odd volcano you are, Mr lesnar. And sure, there have been some bad times, but holy hell the birth of suplex city was a sheer, unexpected, industry shifting joy. Lesnar squashed John Cena in the main event of Summerslam 2014, just ate his lunch, made him a brand new lunch to say sorry, then ate that lunch too. Cena hadn’t been dominated like that since that episode of Total Divas that I saw in a dream one time. Fans LOVED it, and Brock briefly became the best thing in wrestling, and suplex city was a meta-gaming wrestling cheat code that somehow gave a brand new type of hyper-entertaining exhibition squash match. The best kind of surprise.
2. Mr Brodie Lee vs Cody
Man founds his own wrestling promotion, man becomes tentpole figure for said promotion, books himself to become champion, goes on an undefeated run, only to bring in an outside monster to mercilessly squash him. If this all sounds familiar, that’s because Cody has explicitly stated in interviews that for his match against the late great Brodie Lee on the August 22nd 2020 episode of Dynamite, he was trying to exactly recreate Vader vs Inoki. I just wish this had had a proper crowd. Oh man I wish there had been a proper crowd. Cody gets a few punches in and then… nothing. Brodie Lee shuts him down, and just BATTERS him, smashing him inside out with a lariat, purposefully not hooking the leg, and becoming TNT champion in a bonafide squash. Exceptional booking, fantastic promo after the match, a star-cementing turn that took all our expectations and ripped them apart in all the best ways. Brodie Lee will always have this night, and the only thing that keeps it from the top spot is the cruel lack of crowd, because as we’ll see, sometimes the right squash can send the crowd insane.
1. Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar
Goldberg, the Da Vinci of squash matches. No other wrestler has squash matches built so deeply and irreplaceable into their entire deal than Big Bill. In the late nineties Goldie became one of the biggest stars on the planet through a magic formula or pyro, violence and going NNNGH with your face. His squash against La Parka is a huge amount of fun, eating a chairshot to the head before La Parka does a spooky scary tiktok dance and then eats shit, his match and after match shenanigans with Dolph Ziggler at Summerslam 2019 was hugely entertaining, but it’s this match, of course it’s this match. Survivor Series 2016, after beating Taker’s Streak, squashing Cena, after dominating EVERYONE, Goldberg turned up, did a silly face, and squashed Lesnar silly. A shove, two spears, a jackhammer and Pandemonium ensued. Goldberg’s first match back, Brock’s run of dominance, it’s was so shocking that it briefly broke my and every other wrestling fan’s brain. Sure it may have led to bad things like Goldberg squashing Kevin Owens and The Fiend, but good god damn, at Survivor Series that night it was a beautiful moment of everyone coming together to rant and rave about pro wrestling still having the power to shock us to the core.
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