Top 5 All-Time Great Inter-Generational Wrestling Showdowns
The last time Chris Jericho competed for a promotion other than WWE, he was a 26-year-old Canadian cruiserweight from Winnipeg, Manitoba making waves in WCW with cocky promos and signature submissions. At that same juncture in 1999, Kenny Omega (a.k.a. Tyson Smith) was a hockey-playing, wrestling-loving Canuck teen in the suburban town of Transcona just outside – you guessed it – Winnipeg, Manitoba. National bragging rights will certainly be on the line when the two improbably meet at New Japan Wrestling’s show of shows, Wrestle Kingdom, this coming January 4th in Tokyo.
The blockbuster bout, which was announcedearlier this month, also represents the latest in a continuum of sports-entertainment clashes that pit an archetypal icon (Jericho) against a younger competitor in the prime of his ability and popularity (Omega). Part dream match, part passing of the torch, Y2J vs. The Cleaner has all the makings of a May-September pairing from heaven, and if history is any guide, it should coast into instant-classic status. For proof, here’s a select handful of similar inter-generational showdowns featuring opponents at least a decade apart in age (with competitors’ ages at the timeoted) that remain streaming favorites and set the bar Jericho and Omega hope to raise.
The Clash: Hulk Hogan (48) vs. The Rock (30)
The Clash: Terry Funk (50) vs. Cactus Jack (29)
The Setting: International Wrestling Association Duel of the Wilds, January 8, 1995, Saitama, Japan
Signature Moment(s): Terry Funk getting tossed into a corner table booby-trapped with barbed wire and explosives comes to mind, though Foley – inscrutable behind a crimson mask – delivering an elbow drop off the top of a ladder has a certain lasting, brutal inelegance.
The Victor: Cactus Jack
The Clash: The Undertaker (37) vs. Jeff Hardy (24)
The Setting: Monday Night RAW, July 1, 2002, Manchester, NH
Signature Moment(s): Hardy springboarding off a prone ladder over the top rope onto ‘Taker, a defeated Hardy doing his best Elton John by wheezing, “I’m still standing,” ‘Taker raising his young opponent’s arm in approval-sealing disbelief.
The Victor: The Undertaker
The Clash: Ric Flair (39) vs. Sting (29)
The Setting: WCW Clash of the Champions, March 27, 1988, Greensboro, NC
Signature Moment(s): Flair stumbling midway through his trademark “up and over” and tumbling to the outside, Flair refusing to submit to the Scorpion Death Lock as time expired, Wonder Years teen star/Eric Bischoff’s future business partner Jason Hervey looking on flustered from the judges’ table.
The Victor: Draw (Ric Flair retains World Heavyweight Championship)
The Clash: Shawn Michaels (41) vs. John Cena (29)
The Setting: WrestleMania 23, April 1, 2007, Detroit
Signature Moment(s): A bloodied Michaels pile-driving Cena onto the ringside steps, an in-agony Michaels relenting to the STF, a prideful Michaels refusing Cena’s patronizing good-sportsman handshake.
The Victor: John Cena