I recently re-watched the classic career vs. career match between then "Macho King" Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior from WrestleMania VII.
As a kid, I was a fan of both men, and remember this particular feud rather fondly.
After the Warrior outright refused to give the Macho King a shot at the WWF Championship, Savage outright cost Warrior the title at that year's Royal Rumble, essentially handing the title over to the Iraqi turncoat, Sgt. Slaughter, in the process.
After that, WWF Officials decided that the only way to settle the issue between Warrior and Savage was to pit them up against one another at WrestleMania, with the loser forfeiting his career.
While, typically, career match stipulations tend to ultimately mean nothing, as the loser will often return to action months, if not weeks, after losing said match, when you're a kid, and you've never seen the stipulation before, nor had a chance to see it stomped on and forgotten like a bad plot hole writers simply choose to ignore, assuming the audience won't notice or care, seeing two of your favorites go at it, with the loser being forced to retire is kind of a big deal.
Now, the Ultimate Warrior, while a big deal for me as a kid, hasn't aged well.
He, like the old He-Man cartoon series, or Paula Abdul records, turned out not to be nearly as awesome as I remembered them to be.
While the kid in me can certainly see how I was drawn to his colorful outfits, his charisma, and his chiseled physique, the adult in me watches his matches now and wonders how someone got as popular as Warrior did, yet did so little well between the ropes.
The man couldn't sell, at all, so anytime you see him getting beat up in the ring, you can't possibly sympathize with him, because he shows no sign of feeling pain, whatsoever.
This is contrary to a potentially similar figure in Jeff Hardy, a performer often accused of being more hype than substance, who, despite his questionable offense and well-documented personal problems, sells rather well.
In fact, the element that makes someone like Jeff Hardy perhaps one of the greatest babyfaces of our time is his ability to garner sympathy with fans while taking a beating.
Meanwhile, watching the Warrior try to sell is akin to watching a man attempt to tenderize a tough piece of meat.
Sure, the blows look effective, but the meat is essentially dead.
It doesn't feel anything, and therefore, you can't really feel sorry for the beating it's taking... unless you're vegan, and even then, you're still imagining a living creature there, which can actually feel pain.
There's also the issue of Warrior's offense, which, in the kindest of terms, was weak and limited.
Fans often criticize John Cena for having a limited, repetitive move set, to which I would generally agree.
Cena does generally go in, do his 5 spots, and call it a match.
Warrior, in the same vein, really only worked to get his spots in.
He'd go in, do a clothesline, maybe a shoulder tackle, a gorilla press and a splash, all while convulsing like he was having a seizure.
To a 9 year-old kid, that can be impressive, especially if the man looks like superhero with a Motley Crue haircut.
To a 31 year-old man, this looks like some 'roid freak in pink tights doing the running man, which, for you iPod generation folks, is a dance we used to do back in the day.
On top of that, you'd have a guy who was built like a freak of nature, muscles on top of muscles, who would work his matches gasping for air, doing rudimentary wrestling moves you'd learn in your first week of training, and not making a single one of them look like they hurt his opponent in any way.
His clotheslines barely touched, his tackles were weak, and his finishing splash looked like it did no real damage, whatsoever.
The only bit of offense that looked like it did any real damage was his gorilla press, which saw an exhausted, out of breath Warrior lift his opponent up over his head, then simply drop him.
To the casual fan, it's an impressive feat of strength.
To the fan who watches this stuff regularly, it's a botched spot.
Because you're supposed to push your opponent up into the air, move out of the way, then let him fall to the mat.
Because Warrior would more often than not be completely exhausted at this point in the match, he rarely, if ever, had the energy or the strength to finish the move properly, simply dropping his opponents down, sometimes even directly onto himself, leaving a greater potential for legitimate injury.
When it comes right down to it, Warrior either needed to condition himself better for in-ring activity, and save his energy for his finish, instead of blowing himself up on the way to the ring, or he really ought to have gone with a safer finish.
Today's WWE would have seen to that, whereas, WWE in 1991 kind of just let the Warrior do what he wanted.
I would even go as far to say that Warrior, being a prominent and memorable star in a period when pro wrestling, the WWF, in particular, was getting massive mainstream attention, setting the modern precedent in the minds of today's audiences about the nature of what professional wrestling is, actually did more harm to the Art of Wrestling than good.
When you look at everything I just pointed out, notable, observable problems that anyone who watches wrestling on even the most remote of basis could easily pick out, and it's hard to say on any objective level that the Ultimate Warrior was a good wrestler.
Yet, he was popular.
His entrance was wild and bombastic.
His outfits were colorful and eye-catching.
As a performer, he was, if anything, charismatic.
For better or worse, the Ultimate Warrior, like the Road Warriors and Luna Vachon, is the go-to archetypical pro wrestler in the eyes of non-fans.
It's the standard by which those who know nothing of the Art of Wrestling judge Pro Wrestling.
These people see an ape in tights and tassels ramble like a madman, incapable of taking a convincing beating, unable to execute anything resembling credible offense, breathing heavy throughout his fights, looking disoriented, dizzy, and tired.
Fans tend to confuse entertainment for execution, not realizing, understanding, or caring about the training or the skill that goes into a particular work.
They tend to believe that just because someone is entertaining or popular that they're particularly skilled in their craft.
No matter how popular the character of the Ultimate Warrior is, at some point, it's hard to ignore these glaring flaws without actively going into denial.
It's the same sort of denial you see in fans of Katy Perry or Britney Spears.
If you enjoy their songs, that's fine.
The songs are catchy, fun, well-produced ear candy.
At the same time, it doesn't change the fact that Spears and Perry are, in all objective terms, terrible singers, unable to carry a tune without massive coaching and studio magic.
The same can be said of the Ultimate Warrior.
Sure, he's been a part of some memorable, even good wrestling matches.
The character was a fun, energetic, superhuman madman that kids, especially, connected to and adored.
There's nothing wrong with liking the Ultimate Warrior.
Many of us do.
But just because you like the guy, or enjoy his act, doesn't mean that, objectively speaking, he was a highly-skilled professional wrestler.
And thus, we come back to the match - Ultimate Warrior vs. "Macho King" Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII, a match that, even now as an adult, I claim to enjoy.
But watching it again, just recently, I begin to wonder what it was about the match that I thought was particularly good.
It's a match that tells a very distinct story, similar to the Macho Man's match with Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III, or the Bret Hart/Diesel encounter at Survivor Series 1995, one that could only be told between these two specific wrestlers at this specific moment with these specific stipulations.
You couldn't have swapped out Warrior or Savage with anyone else on the roster at the time and still have been able to have this match at this venue with these stipulations and have it work in context.
At the same time, the story of this particular match is told as subtly as a 2x4 upside the head.
Because Warrior is so limited in the ring, and Gorilla Monsoon, as a commentator, tends to bluntly state the obvious, you get a rather heavy-handed telling of a story where Warrior and Macho Man literally throw the best they can at one another, unable to defeat the other.
At one point, Warrior looks to the heavens, asking his gods if his time has come to step aside after failing to pin Savage with a splash.
Monsoon, of course, calls this as bluntly and obviously as one can, practically putting the words in Warrior's mouth for him.
Meanwhile, Warrior can't even manage to convincingly sell doubt in his own abilities as he half-heartedly asks his gods the very questions Gorilla Monsoon seems to be asking far more passionately than Warrior does.
Once Savage misses an axe handle smash to the Warrior on the guardrail, Warrior then finishes the Macho King off with one of the biggest anti-climaxes I've ever seen in wrestling.
The Macho King crawls back into the ring, and Warrior nails him with a shoulder tackle, which sends Savage to the outside.
Warrior drags the Macho King into the ring again, and nails him with, you guessed it, a shoulder tackle, which sees Savage roll out of the ring again.
Warrior once again pulls the Macho King in the ring, and, you guessed it, hits Savage with a third shoulder tackle, and Savage rolls out of the ring.
Warrior drags the Macho King back into the ring again, puts his foot on Savage's chest, and I know what you're thinking - no way does Warrior get the win here, right?
Well, hate to break it to you, but yeah.
Warrior pins Savage with the weak pin after the shoulder tackles for 3, and thus ended Randy Savage's WWF career... until SummerSlam, when Jake Roberts crashed Savage's wedding and attacked Elizabeth with a snake.
So, here I am, watching what I would even outright admit was probably one of Warrior's better matches, against perhaps one of my all-time favorite wrestlers in Randy Savage, and being completely unable to understand what about this match, outside of Savage's performance, and the aftermath, which saw Queen Sherri berate and attack the fallen Macho King, only to see him saved by his one true love, Miss Elizabeth, reuniting the two after nearly two years of estrangement, was actually any good.
Warrior, if anything, plodded through this match, selling like a piece of beef jerky, seizing and shaking like an out-of-shape madman with emphysema, ultimately going over in one of the weakest finishes I've ever seen after kicking out of a repeated series of top rope elbow smashes that Warrior no-sold like he was hit with a dishrag.
It, in a word, sucked.
Yet, as far as Ultimate Warrior matches are concerned, it's likely my favorite.
It's a match I pull out of the DVD collection every once in a while to watch again, and again, and again, and for the life of me, I don't understand why.
Is it the prospect of seeing an all-time great managing to pull off a passable performance from one of the worst in-ring main eventers in the history of the business?
Is it the so-bad-it's-good, over the top, blunt commentary of Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon, beating you over the head with the story of the match because Warrior is so incapable of selling the slightest of emotion that you literally have to be told what it is he's feeling in order to even remotely relate to him?
Is it the aftermath, where, despite seeing the Macho King lose his career, he ultimately regained the heart of his beloved Elizabeth?
Or, is this simply an example where the booking saves the match, because, honestly, I think it may very well be.
Everyone here went into this match knowing what their limitations were, and worked around them to make a memorable moment in wrestling history.
The match, when looked at critically or objectively, is an abomination, but one that ultimately has a silver lining, leaving fans with good memories, despite its technical failures.
It's one of the reasons why fans still like the Ultimate Warrior, despite his overt and obvious flaws as a performer.
But, mostly, this moment in wrestling history will be remembered fondly because it made you care.
It took everything they had established about the characters going in and did something memorable and awesome with each of them.
It gave the Warrior a moment to question himself.
It redeemed the Macho Man and paid off the long-standing estrangement between him and his former manager, leading to their marriage at SummerSlam.
It even paid off traits for Queen Sherri, as, the moment Savage had lost, she immediately turned on him, violently at that, adding to her sort of "gold digger" mentality that would see her associate with Ted DiBiase afterwards, before going for her own personal boy-toy in Shawn Michaels.
This match represents the Art of Pro Wrestling being done right, leaving a lasting impression on its audience, connecting with us on an emotional level, allowing us to care about the people involved, and did so without having to add a punchline or a Twitter poll to engage the so-called "mainstream".