We are at the stage now where I feel confident putting top 10s together without feeling that a couple of the matches don't quite belong. This list will also take full advantage of the 'one match from a feud' rule to prevent this list from being all Ric Flair.
10. Ric Flair vs Sting - NWA Starrcade
This isn't the best of the Flair vs Sting matches, and Sting's selling is a bit off, but it is still a really fun match that serves as both the main event of the show and the final of a one night tournament. It is easily the best match of the night and is worth checking out on the WWE Network if you have some spare time.
9. Rick Rude vs Ultimate Warrior (WWF IC Title) - WWF SummerSlam
Rude was one of only three good opponents for Warrior in his entire career and this was an improvement over their match at WrestleMania V. This is by no means some kind of all time classic but it was the first time that Warrior had put on a really good match, something that would only happen three more times. Rude was an excellent heel throughout his career and it made him a wonderful foil for the company's next big thing.
8. Genichiro Tenryu, Samson Fuyuki & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Masanobu Fuchi & Yoshiaki Yatsu - AJPW New Year Giant Series Day 17
I only discovered this match while doing some research for this list and I am very glad that I did. The whole match is wrestled at a pace that was rarely seen in the 80s, and it turns what is a relatively throwaway 6-man tag into something far greater. If you can find this match I would highly recommend checking it out, as I can no longer find the video I watched.
7. The Brain Busters vs The Rockers - WWF on MSG Network
This match took place on the same card as a Hulk Hogan vs Big Bossman cage match that was the first wrestling match I ever saw, when it was released later in 1989 on a Best of Hulkamania video released by SilverVision. Good memories. This match is far superior to that one. These are two of the best tag teams of the 80s, arguably in history, and they put on a great match here. When you look back at the Brain Busters, the similarities to the Revival are massive, they even look alike. You can check the match out for yourself here.
6. Lex Luger vs Ricky Steamboat (NWA US Title) - NWA Great American Bash
This is one of the best 10 minute matches that ends in a DQ that you could ever hope to see. It is that rare time when a DQ finish doesn't take away from the match at all, and in fact it actually enhances the finish and plays into the story that they were telling. Steamboat was on another planet when he was at his best and Luger plays his part really well too. What is crazy is that this is only the third best match on this show. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.
5. Jushin Liger vs Naoki Sano (IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title) - NJPW 13th July
This match was excellent and would have been rated higher if it had had a slightly higher quality finish. Both men get the chance to shine and show off their athletic prowess. You get the high spots and innovation that was typical of Liger's matches from the time and it is a perfect example of why he is so respected in the wrestling world. Shame about the finish.
4. Road Warriors, Midnight Express & Steve Williams vs Fabulous Freebirds & Samoan Swat Team (WarGames Match) - NWA Great American Bash
I love a WarGames match, for the most part. This one may not have the name value of some of the other matches but it still has that dirty brawling feel that is such a hallmark of the early WarGames matches. The crowd is hot for this throughout, there are some great moments, and it was the match that proved that WarGames could succeed without Flair or Dusty. You can watch it here.
3. Genichiro Tenryu vs Jumbo Tsuruta (Triple Crown) - AJPW Super Power Series Day 18
This match is fucking superb. In many ways it was the precursor to what would be the structure of AJPW main events heading forward into the 90s, and that era was one of the best in wrestling history. This match is stiff but still technical, and it is structured beautifully. The way they build to the finish ensures that the crowd stays fully invested throughout, and peaks at the right time. This would have easily deserved to be match of the year if it wasn't for Ric Flair. You can watch this classic here.
2. Ric Flair vs Terry Funk (NWA Title, I Quit Match) - NWA Clash of the Champions 9
The Tenryu vs Tsuruta match is probably a better match than this but I have a soft spot for this one as it features two of my favourite wrestlers putting on a classic. These two had two great matches in 1989, the first of which was at the Great American Bash, which you can watch here, but it was the second match that was the superior of the two. It features great psychology throughout, with both men showing how far they were willing to go to beat the other and win the NWA Title. Everything feels important and it is one of the most well structured I Quit matches ever, even though it took place years before the WWF would implement the stipulation. To this day it remains the standard for the stipulation, with the possible exception of JBL vs John Cena. You can witness it for yourself here.
1. Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat (NWA Title) - NWA Chi-Town Rumble, NWA Clash of the Champions 6 & NWA WrestleWar
I am just going to include all three of the matches from the trilogy here as they are all stone cold classics that every wrestling fan should see, and they all work as part of a larger whole. The feud was based around Steamboat being the typical family man and Flair being the playboy, and it was very effective. The first match took place at Chi-Town Rumble in front of a hot crowd and saw Steamboat come out on top, taking Flair's title in the process. It is a superb way to kick things off. They needed to up the ante for their second match and they went with a 2 out of 3 falls stipulation. There is an argument to be made that this is the best of the three matches, but it is unquestionably a perfect second act in this story. The finish left enough contention to demand a third meeting. That third match took place at WrestleWar. It is the perfect way to finish the trilogy too, with the psychology and selling being off the charts. Steamboat keeps fighting but in the end his body gives way on him. This is the prototype for great wrestling storytelling, with the two of them starting as enemies and ending it with a new found respect for one another. A trilogy of masterpieces.