Chris Benoit vs. William Regal (Velocity, 07/16/05)
Beautiful match. Pretty sure that every match involving someone getting chopped in the face is gonna make my list. This already had a really good chance of making it, but a re-watch confirms it. I really love the Finlay/Benoit/Regal dynamic where they know they're in there with another guy that loves to just let loose with hellish strikes, and the result is almost always a great match that features at least two moments of sweet brutality that's pretty uncharacteristic of WWE. This one already has the aforementioned chop to the face, and the second instance is the shoot headbutts that split Regal's forehead open. The way these two work in general, it always seems like a fight. Like a struggle. Nothing seems co-operative, but they're so good at it that it never seems disjointed, either. Nothing's given, everything's fought for. The mat work, the strikes, the holds and counters - all of it is stiff and loaded with intensity. Regal going for the STF and fighting Benoit's attempt at blocking it by using his forearms to club his ears is great, as is Benoit's quick thinking Sharpshooter to put a halt to Regal's barrage of submissions and quick pin attempts. The surfboard stretch variation is something you're not too likely to find elsewhere in this poll, same goes for the counter-counter-counter again standing sequence that ends in Benoit hitting a Dragon Suplex. I'm not sure if it was because Vince felt more comfortable letting Benoit bust out this stuff with guys that worked in WCW with him, but his matches with Regal and Finlay, and to a lesser extend Eddie and Rey, always struck me as more WCW-like Benoit performances, using stuff like the Dragon Suplex and tricked out mat work. The majority of his WWE run saw him leave some of his "WCW moves" in the holster, which isn't all that unusual for guys coming in to work the "WWE way", dating all the way back to the Crockett days, but at least it meant that side of his moveset seemed like a big deal on the rare occasions he was allowed to use it. I still want to watch their No Mercy 2006 match again to see which WWE Benoit/Regal match is the best, but right now this is either number one or two. Not as good as the Finlay matches from Judgment Day and 11/06 on Smackdown!, but this is about as close to a WWE-BattlArts hybrid as I've seen. Can't see this slipping too far below 50 on my ballot. Great match.