Features

15 Surprising Matches That Happened On Christmas Day

Wrestling Christmas

All Elite Wrestling will air their 21st edition of Rampage this weekend, featuring a monumental TNT Championship clash between the champion, Sammy Guevara, and the challenger, Cody Rhodes; the very first match that aired on AEW Dynamite back in October 2019. This episode will air on a Saturday, rather than the typical Friday timeslot, meaning the special Holiday Bash episode of Rampage will be broadcast on Christmas Day.

AEW President and CEO Tony Khan revealed the big news to Brandon F. Walker on an episode of Rasslin’:

“I said, we’ll be on Long Island, will do Winter Is Coming in Dallas, Holiday Bash in Greensboro across Dynamite and Rampage, which is a special Christmas night Rampage. We’re not going to be on Friday night, Christmas Eve. Rampage is gonna end up being on Saturday night on Christmas, which is fun, has some great wrestling on Christmas for everybody. Then the final Dynamite ever on TNT will be on December 29 in Jacksonville, Florida at Daily’s Place.”

Wrestling on Christmas Day was effectively a tradition throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, most notably in World Class Championship Wrestling through their annual Christmas Star Wars events. Everyone from Bob Backlund, Bruiser Brody, Ted DiBiase, and The Road Warriors to, more recently, Kota Ibushi, Chris Hero, AJ Styles, and The Lucha Bros has laced up their boots on 25 December, but which matches surprised us the most, for one reason or another?

Dick Murdoch vs. Ted DiBiase – NWA Western States (1978)

Ted DiBiase

Contested for Ted DiBiase’s NWA International Heavyweight Championship, “The Million Dollar Man” and Dick Murdoch wound up going to a sixty-minute time limit draw on an NWA Western States event inside Amarillo, Texas’ Sports Arena in 1978. This meant that DiBiase held onto the strap, ultimately going down as having the sixth-last title reign before the title was retired three years later.

What’s so notable about this is its aforementioned time limit draw. Back then, these such draws were common if a promoter didn’t want their champion to lose their title, while also wanting to protect their challenger, too. Thus, draws were brought in. The impeccable sixty-minute draw, as executed by Adam Page and Bryan Danielson on the recent Winter Is Coming special of AEW Dynamite, would be repeated just three years, in 1981.

There, it would be Sgt. Slaughter and Blackjack Mulligan Jr. going the distance for the former’s NWA United States Heavyweight Championship on a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling card on Christmas Day.

André The Giant, Stan Hansen & Tito Santana vs. The Great Kabuki, The Masked Superstar & The Super Destroyer – Georgia Championship Wrestling (1982)

Andre The Giant

On Christmas Day in 1982, one side of the ring, somehow, contained André The Giant, Stan Hansen, and Tito Santana as a single unit. It’s crazy to look back upon, given the importance the former two have gone on to have within wrestling. In his own right, though, Santana is a credible performer, too, but between André and Stan alone, there are reigns as WWF World Heavyweight Champion, All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown Champion, WWF World Tag Team Champion, All Japan Pro Wrestling World Tag Team Champion, and everything in between. They are two bonafide legends of the industry.

Together, with “El Matador”, the dream trio defeated the equally-as-stacked squad of The Great Kabuki, The Masked Superstar, and The Super Destroyer, doing so in the latter half of a Georgia Championship Wrestling card. It’s a shame that footage of the bout is seemingly non-existent; although this came before both André and Hansen exploded in mainstream popularity, it’d still be surreal to witness.

Hulk Hogan vs. Jesse Ventura – American Wrestling Association (1982)

Jesse Ventura and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon

Similarly to the previous match, Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura’s AWA clash from the same Christmas came before “The Immortal” became the Hulk Hogan we all know. There was no Hulkamania quite yet, no red and yellow t-shirts being torn apart, and no André The Giants being bodyslammed, however, the future WWE Hall of Famer would indeed tangle with Ventura on Christmas Day forty years ago.

Low-quality footage of the match has been uploaded to YouTube by the user The Bionic Elbow, where you can see Hogan entering in a black t-shirt with simple white lettering; this, in itself, is enough to deem the match surprising. The twelve-minute match was nothing special, with a lot of stalling and rest holds on Ventura’s part, with the match ultimately ending in a double disqualification. It’s not worth your time, but if you fancy a spot of Christmas Day grappling to get yourself in the mood for AEW Rampage, then fill your boots below!

The Fabulous Freebirds (Buddy Roberts & Terry Gordy) vs. The Von Erichs (Kevin von Erich & Mike von Erich) – WCCW Christmas Star Wars (1983)

Von Erichs Christmas

One of professional wrestling’s most generational rivalries, The Fabulous Freebirds vs. The Von Erichs has provided us with countless memorable clashes over the years, at least two of which occurred on Christmas Day.

At 1983’s Christmas Star Wars event, promoted by the Von Erich family’s World Class Championship Wrestling promotion, Kevin and Mike von Erich battled Buddy Roberts and Terry Gordy of the Freebirds clan, doing so in a No Disqualifications, Losers Leave Town contest. The lack of disqualifications was effectively pointless, as the match was actually fought as a standard tag team match, with Kevin and Mike ultimately departing with the victory intact following an exquisite sunset flip attempt on Terry Gordy for the three.

The full event can be found on YouTube via the user, Classic Wrestling stuff, with entrances beginning at around one hour, three minutes, and twenty-five seconds into the below video. Given that it’s the full card uploaded, not just this surprising contest, it means you can also indulge in such yuletide classics as Mike Reed vs. The Mongol, and The Missing Link vs. Johnny Mantell. That’s Christmas wrestling for you!

The Fabulous Freebirds (Buddy Roberts, Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy) vs. The Von Erichs (Kerry von Erich, Kevin von Erich & Lance von Erich) – WCCW Christmas Star Wars (1985)

Michael Hayes Fabulous Freebirds

The saga between the Freebirds and the Von Erichs wouldn’t end there, though, as the two units did battle once again two years later, this time in a six-man Lights Out match during the 1985 Christmas Star Wars event. The official, era-defining feud is said to have formally concluded over Thanksgiving Year in 1984, though, when Kerry von Erich and Michael Hayes did battle in a Loser Leaves Town bout, won by the former.

Taking place this time at the poorly-attended Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas, the bout served as the main event for the evening. The audience roared insults at Michael Hayes, who later missed an up-kick to the throat to take the world’s wildest back bump, almost as if Lance von Erich had slid in a banana peel. A simple inside cradle would do the job on Hayes, the von Erichs winning over the Freebirds once more.

As above, YouTube user Classic Wrestling stuff has uploaded the eleven-match card in full, with the Lights Out contest beginning at the one hour, thirty-four minutes, and twenty-four seconds mark of the video below. Now that we’ve seen a handful of Lights Out contests in All Elite Wrestling, there is a stark contrast between those, and the Lights Out matches of the ’80s, but alas, it served as another fine battle between the two Hall of Fame units.

Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage – WWF House Show (1985)

Randy Savage & Hulk Hogan

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s wild that Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were randomly headlining a World Wrestling Federation house show on Christmas Day 1985, as just a few years later, they’d do the same thing in the main event of WrestleMania V. Here, though, there was no implosion of The Mega Powers, just a standard WWF World Heavyweight Championship defence by Hogan.

Sadly, footage of the match is seemingly non-existent, but you can imagine how a Hogan vs. Savage 1985 bout would go down. Atomic Legdrops, diving elbow drops, and everything in between. Hulk retained the strap, naturally, as the original era of Hulkamania had only begun in January 1984. In this reign as WWF’s top champion, he still had a further three years to. “The Macho Man”‘s time would come soon, though, just not here.

He, too, had some other business to attend to, such as his enchanting run as WWF Intercontinental Champion that led to his iconic WrestleMania III showdown with Ricky Steamboat. The rest, however, is history.

Rick Martel vs. Stan Hansen – American Wrestling Association (1985)

Stan Hansen

On the same Christmas Day, the American Wrestling Association hosted an event that featured a rather unusual clash.

Emanating from the St. Paul Civic Center in Minnesota, the nine-match card would be main evented by Stan Hansen colliding with Rick Martel with the AWA World Heavyweight Championship up for grabs. What’s perhaps crazier is that the champion coming in wasn’t the master of the Western Lariat, but rather the future Strike Force member. When discourse opens for Rick Martel discussions, most recall him as “The Model” and/or the partner of Tito Santana; very few remember him being the top face of the AWA.

Martel would remain the champion, too, as he defeated the Hall of Famer via disqualification, though he ultimately lost it to Hansen just four days later, thus ending his 595-day reign as champion. Martel’s reign, surprisingly, puts him down as the third-longest AWA World Heavyweight Champion ever; he sits behind only Verne Gagne at 2,625 days, and Nick Bockwinkel at 1,714 days. How’s that for a forgotten face of WWF’s Golden Era?

Abdullah The Butcher vs. Bruiser Brody – WCWA Christmas Star Wars (1986)

Bruiser Brody

One year later, during the 1986 Christmas Star Wars event for the World Class Wrestling Association (the renamed WCCW), a truly random match occurred between Abdullah The Butcher and Bruiser Brody. Granted, both are known for often going to the extreme during their bouts (Brody’s wild use of a chain was one of his character traits, after all), but still, it’s not really a match you often think about.

Nonetheless, they did indeed do battle thirty-five years ago, doing so in a Loser Leaves Town Steel Cage match that actually headlined the card. Abdullah came away with the win in a near-fourteen-minute clash, sending Brody packing from the company… for the New Year’s period. He returned to competition on 2 January, 1987, defeating The Grappler in his “return” bout, if you can even call it that.

It’s worth noting that, perhaps, Abdullah vs. Brody wasn’t even the most surprising or noteworthy contest from this card. Earlier in the night, Scott Casey wrestled Black Bart in a Loser Rides A Mule match. These Christmas Day cards seriously get weirder as time goes on.

The Midnight Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Shawn Michaels) vs. The Original Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey & Randy Rose) – American Wrestling Association (1987)

The Rockers

Given how much fame – both good and bad – Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty received upon signing with the World Wrestling Federation, it’s easy to forget that it’s not where they started their career as The Midnight Rockers. That was actually in the American Wrestling Association, where they debuted as The Midnight Rockers in February 1986.

During a 1987 Christmas Day AWA card, Michaels and Jannetty would compete, challenging The Original Midnight Express (so, the pairing of “Loverboy” Dennis Condrey and “Ravishing” Randy Rose) for their AWA World Tag Team Championships. Again, no match footage is available for the contest, though you can imagine given the star power involved that the clash was a true Christmas Day classic.

It may as well have been, anyway, as the bout went to a thirty-minute time limit draw, meaning Condrey and Rose clung onto their titles for another day. Well, another two days, anyway; The Midnight Rockers usurped them as champions just two days later in Las Vegas, continuing this apparent tradition of wrestlers retaining their respective championships on Christmas Day, only to drop them within the week.

Flyin’ Brian vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger – WCW House Show (1991)

Brian Pillman Thumb

In the early 1990s, it wasn’t entirely uncommon to see Japanese megastars crossing the pond to World Championship Wrestling. Both promotions were partnered through a working relationship, which resulted in such events as the inaugural 4 January Tokyo Dome show and the infamous Collision In Korea two-day event that was the subject of a season three Dark Side Of The Ring episode.

In 1991, it would be the legendary Jushin “Thunder” Liger who came to WCW, where he not only challenged Flyin’ Brian, a.k.a Brian Pillman, for the company’s World Light Heavyweight Championship, but he also dethroned the future “Loose Cannon”, becoming the second champion under the title’s inevitably short lineage.

In the same vein as the random Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage clash from Christmas Day 1985, match footage of this bout is seemingly impossible to find, but given that Liger and Pillman helped define the light heavyweight division (and, arguably, the historic legacy of the style in North America) during their SuperBrawl II epic the following February, it’d easy to assume this, too, was a classic. It remains one of the legendary Liger’s best ever matches in North America; certainly for WCW, anyway.

Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Kensuke Sasaki vs. Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas – World Championship Wrestling (1992)

Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat

The following Christmas, Jushin didn’t have quite as much championship (or indeed Christmas) luck, as he and Kensuke Sasaki failed to capture the NWA/WCW Unified World Tag Team Championships from the odd pairing of Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas in the main event of a WCW house show in Jacksonville.

The two duos’ Christmas Day showdown marked the first in a series of title defences for Steamboat and Douglas against Liger and Sasaki over the festive period, with a further three outings going down on 26, 27, and 29 December in St. Petersburg, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, respectively. 28 December, for what it’s worth, is exempt due to that being the day of Starrcade, where Liger participated – unsuccessfully – in a Battle Bowl qualifier.

Still, to this day, it’s intriguing to see such a stack of big-time Japanese talent on North American wrestling over the Christmas period. This particular house show also had The Great Muta and Masahiro Chono on the bill.

The Gangstas (Mustapha Saed & New Jack) vs. The Rock N Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) – SMW Christmas Chaos (1994)

New Jack

Smoky Mountain Wrestling was a wild promotion. Case in point; it featured The Gangstas vs. The Rock N Roll Express on its Christmas Chaos card in 1994, where Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson captured the former’s SMW Tag Team Championships on the headline attraction of that year’s five-day Christmas Chaos series.

Again, no footage is available online seemingly, but on paper, it’s extremely random. On one hand, you’ve got The Gangstas, one of wrestling’s most renowned tandems for being absolutely nuts, New Jack in particular. Jack was the epitome of Extreme Championship Wrestling, so much so that he and Mustapha Saed are often forgotten in the conversation for the greatest ECW tag team. Opposing them, you had The Rock N Roll Express, essentially the polar opposite of Jack and Saed in every respect. Morton and Gibson are recognised today as one of the greatest teams to ever do it, but opposite The Gangstas, they were literally, in no way, the same, other than the fact they were both tag teams.

It must’ve been a genuine Christmas Day treat just to see all four guys in the ring together, and then again on the other four days of the Christmas Chaos tour. Day five saw D-Lo Brown as a Gangstas member for the evening, while Bobby Blaze joined The Rock N Roll Express’ side.

Kota Ibushi vs. Shuji Ishikawa – DDT Never Mind (2004)

Kota Ibushi

Kota Ibushi vs. Shuji Ishikawa from Dramatic Dream Team’s 2004 Never Mind event is surprising for no other reason than it came during Ibushi’s debut year within professional wrestling. “The Golden Star” had only debuted the previous July, losing to KUDO on a 1 July card inside Tokyo’s legendary Korakuen Hall.

The ’04 Christmas Day clash marked Ibushi’s twenty-sixth as an active wrestler. As a Christmas gift, he defeated Ishikawa, who himself was just a year and a half into his professional career (he debuted 8 May, 2003 vs. Seiya Morohashi, for those interested), in a ten-minute affair. Again, though, footage is hard to come across, sadly. A shame, as it would have been delightful to witness Ibushi before he became the machine he is today.

Looking back, it’s staggering to see the sheer success achieved by Ibushi. Though he’s currently out injured after suffering a freak accident in the G1 Climax finals vs. Kazuchika Okada, Kota is recognised as a pillar of modern Japanese wrestling, often producing at least four-star classics vs. Okada on New Japan’s annual marquee events. Once he’s fit and healthy, expect this level of performance to continue.

Bobby Eaton vs. Ricky Morton – Southern States Wrestling (2006)

Ricky Morton

In hindsight, Ricky Morton wrestling in 2006 shouldn’t be deemed a surprise, given that he was performing suicide dives and slingshot Canadian Destroyers on Inner Circle members as recently as a 2019 All Elite Wrestling pay-per-view. Nonetheless, his ’06 Christmas Day outing vs. Bobby Eaton is indeed surprising.

Going down at a Southern States Wrestling show, Morton and Eaton’s clash would be contested as a Bullwire match (presumably, it’s similar to a Barbed Wire match), which only adds to the surprise. Granted, neither was exactly in their peak anymore, but still, you don’t expect such classic wrestlers of the pre-1990s and beyond to be wrestling gimmick matches in the 20th century.

Ricky Morton won the needlessly barbaric match, some twelve years before he and Rock N Roll Express partner Robert Gibson was inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame as part of the 2017 inductee class. Perhaps on a future Christmas Day, Morton and Gibson can do battle with The Midnight Express once more in a Barbed Wire Massacre.

Penta el 0M vs. Rey Fénix – The Crash (2017)

Fenix and Penta

Nothing too surprising about this, really; it just seemed nice to include, given how much of a banger it presumably was.

On Christmas Day 2017, Penta el 0M and Rey Fénix, the current AEW World Tag Team Champions as The Lucha Bros, contested one of their many, many brotherly love battles for Mexico’s The Crash promotion.

It served as the main event of a four-match card, with Flamita, Daga, and Jack Evans also competing across the event, hailing from Ecatepec, Mexico.

As is common throughout this feature, no match footage is easily obtainable, but it’s not required, really. The pair have done battle almost everywhere they’ve competed, even in one of their current home promotions, All Elite Wrestling. It’s not exactly difficult to imagine how the match played out.

AEW Rampage will air on Christmas Day (Saturday, 25 December), beginning at 10 pm EST (3 am on Sunday, 26 December for UK viewers), with a card featuring Cody Rhodes challenging Sammy Guevara for the AEW TNT Championship and the second match for Team Taz’s HOOK, as he battles Bear Bronson of Bear Country.