TCAW Classic Match of the Year Part 3: Top 5 Matches of 1986

We are heading into what could be classified as the Flair years, as he will probably feature in the next few lists.  

5. Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes (NWA Title, Cage Match) - NWA Great American Bash Tour Day 12

Over the years Rhodes and Flair were the perfect foil for each other, the working class hero and the brash playboy. This was the payoff to a story that was built for roughly a year. The crowd is fully behind Rhodes here and the two of them play it out beautifully. Even the ring announcer seems to show his delight at Rhodes upsetting the odds and regaining the title. You can watch the match here

4. Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta vs Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (NWA International Tag Titles) - AJPW New Year Wars Super Battle Day 25

There is something about the old All-Japan tag matches that makes them stand out from the other tag matches of the time. Maybe it's that they feel real or maybe it's just the fact that the talent was better. Either way, this was great. The crowd was white hot and the ring work was well done. Choshu goes in to the match with a taped up midsection and Tenryu and Tsuruta use that without qualms, making Choshu the sympathetic face. You can check it out for yourself here

3. Curt Hennig vs Nick Bockwinkel (AWA World Title) - AWA Championship Wrestling

Here we have a pre Mr Perfect Hennig and a past his best, but still very capable, Bockwinkel. This is a case of the TV show being entirely taken up by this one match, as it goes to a 60 minute draw. They work the formula expertly though, building as they go along and working over the limbs to effect a submission. The intensity ramps up towards the end and both men are wearing the proverbial crimson mask. It's a really well structured match that I encourage everyone to check out. Part 1 of the match can be found here, with the second part here.

2. Akira Maeda vs Tatsumi Fujinami - NJPW IWGP Champion Series Day 25

This match has a very UWF/MMA style and as such it comes across as pretty real. This is highlighted by a kick near the end that busts Fujinami open hard way. This isn't pretty or clean but it is brilliantly done. The finish may put a few people off though. You can judge for yourself here

1. Ric Flair vs Barry Windham (NWA Title) - NWA Battle of the Belts 2

For my money this is right up there with the best feuds of the 80s, just a smidge behind Flair vs Steamboat. This match has a great crowd throughout and that helps to push it to another level. Windham plays the babyface to perfection here and Flair is typical Flair. As was customary at the time, both men bled to establish that this was a big occasion. This match is really the blueprint for the mid-80s wrestling spectacle, complete with disappointing finish. Don't let that put you off though. You can check out the match here.