Harley Race VS Loch Ness (aka Giant Haystacks)
Harley Race is heralded as one of the greatest of all time. Ask anybody in the business. But even for a legend like he, even for an eight time NWA World Champion, how in the name of hell does he overcome a mountain of a man like Giant Haystacks?
Well, I'll tell you. When he was 17 and breaking into the business, Harley Race had to be the handler of one Happy Humphrey. That man was only 6"1", but 803lbs. Race had to lay out a tarp in a field while Humphrey stripped down and hose the motherfucker off because it was the only way Humphrey could get clean. He had to scrub dude. Point is, he knows the ins and outs (more than he ever wanted to, believe me) of gigantic human beings. Add that to the fact that he's Harley Fucking Race, one of the toughest son of a bitches to lace up a pair of boots and a veteran with a career unlike any other, and you get a Lumberjack Match without the Lumberjacks, because this tree is coming down! Awesome though he was, Giant Haystacks falls to the erstwhile King of pro wrestling in a slobberknocker.
Daniel Bryan VS Antonio Inoki
Holy. Shit. Two absolute masters of the mat from two different eras and two different sides of the globe. (Not only that, both had a "Final Countdown" that was an important part of their careers; Inoki billed his last four years of matches from 1994-98 as "The Final Countdown", and the song of the same name was Bryan Danielson's theme song on the independent circuit.)
I can not understate the monumentality of this match. I've seen Inoki do battle with the likes of Bob Backlund, Billy Robinson, Tiger Mask IV, Dory Funk Jr., Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan. (He beat Backlund for the WWF title (not recognized by the company), ended up at a 1-1 tie in an hour long match with Robinson, smoked Tiger Mask IV, went a 1-hour draw for the NWA title with Funk and using a great bit of cunning, got Andre counted out. Strangely enough he got knocked the fuck out by Hulk Hogan and was unable to continue.) Thing is though, as a westerner, I had to look those up on YouTube because I realized, I'd never seen Antonio Inoki wrestle before. I had to take a crash course.
After doing so, it's kind of hard to justify putting over Daniel Bryan, despite feeling he's the best active wrestler there is. Inoki had deceptive quickness despite his style dictating everything be ground down to a methodical pace. He has more than 40 years experience. He is also the suavest looking motherfucker in the history of professional wrestling (those SIDEBURNS!). Being 6'3", 240lbs of pure muscle, he would have the strength advantage. (Dude head-scissor take-downed Andre The Giant by flipping the motherfucker over his head. Kayfabe or not, that's power.) His ability to grapple, and more importantly against a technician like Bryan, to countergrapple was off the chain. He seemed a little blindsided by Tiger Mask IV because of the cruiserweight's speedy, high-flying attack, but a) He still won in 6 minutes, and b) was in his 50's already. This is about wrestlers in their prime. Inoki's bout with Billy Robinson proves he could match quickness for quickness. He also has a background as a shoot martial artist & mat wrestler.
What does Daniel Bryan have to compete with that? First of, when his offense gets going, he's a fucking BUZZSAW. Multiple backflip dropkicks in the corner, dives through the ropes, kicks that will collapse every part of your upper body and submission holds that can be clamped on at any and every angle. He made The Big Show tap out to The Yes Lock recently. This man is the size of Big Show's LEG. He also is the ultimate pro wrestling underdog. His ability to overcome odds like no other man his size has cemented his legacy.
Speaking of legacies, Daniel Bryan has five world titles to Inoki's two. On the surface, yes, this means nothing. Bryan's title reigns in the WWE have been a joke because they can't fucking book the guy for some reason; compare that with Inoki winning the title from Backlund and becoming only the ninth WWF champion EVER and the first ever New Japan champion, seeing as he founded the fucking promotion. However, Daniel Bryan's title run as Ring Of Honor World Champion is the best of the bunch. He was constantly defending the thing against the likes of Samoa Joe, Kenta Kobayashi, Roderick Strong, Lance Storm, Nigel McGuinness, Alex Shelly, AJ Styles, Chris Sabin and Austin Aries. He is tied for the most successful title defenses of that belt in the company's history.
The match I keep coming back to is Inoki's one with Hogan, though. Hogan beat Inoki by overwhelming him. Inoki could crank it up in spite of his preferred pace of a Sarlac (taking 30,000 years to digest you, wear you down, then finish you when he's good and ready), he kept up with Hogan move for move until Hogan had to turn up to about fifteen to beat him. Daniel Bryan can go Super Saiyan on a motherfucker for forty minutes straight if he has to. His whole style is be as rabid as possible and don't let up.
This is the hardest match I've had to do in this tournament. My gut says Inoki, but I know Daniel Bryan could beat him. I'm going to have to call this a draw. After seventy five minutes of the damndest back and forth contest you ever did see, both men are so spent that the referee painstakingly counts to ten, and neither man stirs as they drown in fatigue and a lake of their own sweat.
"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes VS Tito Santana
The American Dream VS The Mexican American Dream. Two Hall Of Famers, but Dusty just has so much more than Tito. Tito would have the speed, stamina and perhaps technical ability advantage, but Rhodes has about 50 pounds on him, strength and three runs as Champion of the World iif yew weel to his credit. Decent bout, but Dusty wins without a Dusty finish.
A.J. Styles VS "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers
I thought long and hard about this one, too. Two amazing talents, two consummate world champions, but I've gotta go with A.J. There could be a bit of a bias, seeing as I just watched Styles tear the fucking house down with ACH on Ring Of Honor's 13th Anniversary Show, but thinking about the moves, the championship pedigree, the athleticism and the endless list of talent A.J. has beat over his 17 year career, it's enough to overcome the technical expertise, psychology and experience edges Rogers would have. This would be a dream match (that would probably disappoint, given how their...sorry, but I have to say it...Styles Clash...), with A.J. Styles advancing to the round of 44.
Harley Race defeats Loch Ness
Daniel Bryan and Antonio Inoki battled to a Draw.
Dusty Rhodes defeats Tito Santana
A.J. Styles defeats Buddy Rogers
Come on back for Brackets XIII-XVI!