Finlay v Chris Benoit (Smackdown!, 5/5/06)
This is one of my favourite match-ups in wrestling history and this go around might be in my top 3 Finlay/Benoit matches. In some ways it sort of feels like a test run for the Judgment Day match (which I've watched a bunch of times and probably will again pretty soon). It has the intense sense of struggle, the mean strikes, and generally feels gritty as all Hell. The opening section on the mat has Taz marking out on commentary and really does come across as being super rugged and uncooperative. 2006 is my favourite year of Finlay's career, and the more I think about it the more I'm leaning towards it being my favourite year of Benoit's as well. Felt like he was able to really stretch out with guys like Finlay, Regal and Orton and focus less on hitting all of his signature stuff (which is a "WWE Style" issue). Of course Finlay and Regal were more than happy to work this kind of match, and Orton's willingness to do the same actually surprised me when I checked those matches out, so working with them for a nice chunk of the year probably helps. Anyways, Benoit gets to work the mat like he didn't normally get the chance to, and Finlay is Finlay and fucking rocks on the mat, so all of the early stuff is great and leads to both guys getting pissed off and ready to punch someone in the ear. At some point Benoit starts bleeding from the top of his head and Finlay winds up with a bruised eye, and I have no idea how either happened. The causes could've been from a million different things, and that's usually when you know you're watching a Fit Finlay v Chris Benoit match. Also love how Finlay always manages to get across the idea that Benoit's chops are lethal and something you really want to avoid. He ducks the first one Benoit throws and nods a finger and the crowd is all "ooohhh" like "he's lucky he dodged that one." Benoit threw roughly six billion chops in his WWE career and it was something you just expected from him. Chris Benoit was a knife edge chop guy just like Ric Flair was a knife edge chop guy just like Kenta Kobashi was(is?) a knife edge chop guy. They were always over and treated as being something that'd hurt like crazy. But there weren't too many guys that managed to make them seem "special" and actually build to them like Finlay did. Benoit was really good in '06, but Finlay was the fucking man and this is up there towards the top of a best Finlay matches of 2006 list.