Brock Lesnar’s Top Ten Greatest WWE Matches

Pure adrenaline, personified.

In 2002, the WWE introduced the world to one of the greatest pure athletes sport entertainment has ever seen. Size. Speed. Strength. Brock Lesnar was the total package and his abilities in the ring shocked and surprised as he went on to become the youngest WWE Champion ever at the age of 25 in his rookie year.

Since then, Brock Lesnar has become the only man in history to become the NCAA Division I, WWE, and UFC Heavyweight Champion. Fewer men have made a larger impact on the wrestling world despite having such a short stint in the industry. Lesnar’s original run with WWE only lasted from early 2002 until 2004. His last appearance was at WrestleMania XX.

Still in that time the Wisconsin native had some of the WWE’s greatest matches of the new millennium. No one made such an impact in just two short years, but in the beginning of 2004 Lesnar left the WWE.

After a short venture into professional football, Brock Lesnar set his sights on MMA. He remains the single most successful professional wrestler turned MMA fighter ever when he defeated Randy Couture to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion.

However, to the surprise of many, Lesnar retired from MMA in 2012 and after an eight year absence returned to the WWE the night after WrestleMania XXVIII. Since that day, Brock has been used strictly as a special attraction performer. Even though the number of matches he has had since he returned can be numbered on two hands, several of them still stand among his best.

Let’s see which feats of athletic prowess number among the “Beast Incarnates” best.

HONORABLE MENTION:

BROCK LESNAR VS. REY MYSTERIO (WWE SMACKDOWN!, DECEMBER 2003)

This was a match, on Rey Mysterio’s birthday, for Brock Lesnar’s WWE Championship.

Lesnar was in the middle of what would be his last reign as WWE Champion before leaving for almost a decade.

“The Next Big Thing” had many notably well received matches on WWE Smackdown! It really makes one realize just how vital Lesnar was to that show’s success during the 2002 and 2003 time period.

This match followed a simple, but effective, formula of playing-up Mysterio’s speed against Lesnar’s strength. Lesnar would use his power to man-handle Rey and in turn he would use his speed to wear out the WWE Champion and catch him off guard.

The  San Diego crowd was really into the match as it was one of Mysterio’s first opportunities being taken seriously in a main event setting.

Rey Mysterio’s speed was not enough to wear out the well-conditioned champion. Lesnar retained his title via submission.

Also considered:

  • Brock Lesnar vs. Hulk Hogan (Smackdown!; August 2002): How many people can you name who have defeated “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan without the aid of some sort of dusty finish? This match makes the honorable mention more for it’s spectacle factor than actual wrestling. The young Lesnar was made to look like a destructive monster against Hogan, and pinned the six-time WWE Champion completely clean.
  • Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show (Judgment Day 2003): Leave it to someone as athletic and physically talented as Brock Lesnar to carry Big Show to one of his most entertaining matches ever. Trust me, there were no arm-drags in this match, but it is way better than what we typically get out of Big Show these days.
  • Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H (Extreme Rules 2013): Only a Steel Cage match could make a Lesnar and Triple H match interesting to me. After very sluggish encounters at SummerSlam 2012 and WrestleMania XXIX, these two beasts had a very NWA-esqe Steel Cage match that would have made Harley Race proud. It was traditional. It was a brawl. It was as good of a match you could hope for between two guys like this.

10. BROCK LESNAR VS. JOHN CENA (EXTREME RULES 2012)

After spending over eight years away from the company that gave him his start, Brock Lesnar returned to the WWE the night after WrestleMania XXVIII.

Lesnar returned bigger and better than ever after having become a household name in the mixed martial arts most notorious promotion; Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Of course the first man he ran into was the face of WWE for the better part of the last decade, John Cena.

This was a big money feud and the match was set up to be a huge deal for the WWE, but there was one problem. Creatively speaking, both men really needed a strong victory here for different reasons.

John Cena had just suffered one of the biggest defeats in his career at the hands of The Rock, and Lesnar needed to be reestablished as the dominate monster he was being billed as. So the company had sort of painted themselves into a corner in which they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.

On top of this they made the match an Extreme Rules match which further cornered the company into having to have one of  the men lose despite neither man really needing to. Despite this, the match was insane.

Within moments of the opening bell Lesnar opened up Cena’s forehead after several forearm shots.

The former UFC Champion was largely the aggressor in this contest, but despite that John Cena managed to defeat the freshly returned, Lesnar. It took an Attitude Adjustment onto the steel steps to finally silence Lesnar for just him for even just three seconds.

Many argued it was the wrong call to have Lesnar lose without issue in his first big money match back in the WWE, but regardless the man looked so dominate against the WWE’s franchise player in his first match back.

Lesnar and Cena would go on to have even more high stakes matches in the WWE in 2014.

9. BROCK LESNAR & CHRIS BENOIT VS. TEAM ANGLE (NO WAY OUT 2003)

For this match, I make a few exceptions to my “rules”. It was Brock Lesnar teaming with former number one contender to the WWE Championship, Chris Benoit, taking on current WWE Champion, Kurt Angle, and his associates Team Angle, made up of fresh-faced Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. How much more wrestling talent could you fit in a single ring?

Originally, Edge was supposed to be the tag team partner of both Lesnar and Benoit, but due to injury Edge had to be written out of the match. He would not return until after WrestleMania XX over a year later.

The match was a beautiful display of athleticism, but due to the chaotic nature of a Handicap Tag Team match, managed to be more erratic than polished. This made it feel more like a really entertaining Monday Night Raw main event rather than something you would typically see on a Pay-Per-View.

I’m not sure whether that is a positive or a negative, because the action in this match is just so entertaining.

This match was sandwiched between two amazing WWE Championship matches, having occurred a month after Angle and Benoit’s classic Royal Rumble match, and month before Lesnar’s career defining moment at WrestleMania.

I feel as if Benoit and Team Angle were very much the extras in this match despite doing much of the work. This was very much a match to give fans a preview of Brock Lesnar versus Kurt Angle without having the two interact too much before the main event of the biggest show of the year.

Benoit would secure the victory despite them being a man down, but it would be the young amateur wrestler from OVW who would go on to win the WWE Championship the following month

8. BROCK LESNAR VS. KURT ANGLE (WRESTLEMANIA XIX)

As of writing, this still remains the career defining moment in the professional wrestling career of Brock Lesnar. In all honestly, it probably always will be.

Brock Lesnar, still in his mid-20s, was being groomed to carry the WWE for the next two decades. However, not long after this it seemed as if Lesnar had grown bitter of all the time he was spending traveling and the grind got too him so much that he opted to not resign after his contract expired.

In 2003, Lesnar was still in the mindset that he was going to be the one the WWE would build around for the next decade. Brock was beginning to catch on as a babyface, and in the early months of 2003 was especially over with the crowd. While this wouldn’t last long, Lesnar was extremely well liked by fans during his pursuit of WWE Champion, Kurt Angle.

Angle walked into Safeco Field in Seattle completely beat up after spending the past four years on the road, full-time. He needed time off and surgery and, as the story goes, was advised by doctors to not wait until after WrestleMania XIX to get it.

The main event of WrestleMania XIX was made up by a talented, but severely banged up, Kurt Angle and an extremely nervous and inexperienced Brock Lesnar.

Much of this “real life” back-story was largely discussed in one of WWE’s early movie projects, The Mania of WrestleMania, which documented the days leading into the nineteenth WrestleMania event.

Famously, near the end of the encounter, the challenger ascended to the top rope. Brock attempted a Shooting Star Press, a move he did sometimes during his OVW-days, but missed the WWE Champion. The Royal Rumble winner was stunned and Angle had to almost make Lesnar kick out to cover up the faux pa.

In the end, almost as if his body turned on autopilot, Lesnar rose to his feet and hit a final F-5 and won the WWE Championship.

7. BROCK LESNAR VS. EDGE (REBELLION 2002)

If you want to talk about polar opposite career paths in the wrestling business here is a prime example.

During the post Attitude Era, Edge began slowly climbing his way up the card through many injuries and setbacks. Brock Lesnar, on the other hand, went from wrestling at Ohio Valley Wrestling to dark matches to becoming the WWE  Champion within a matter of months.

Technically, this was a Handicap match which pitted the WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman battling Edge across the pond. However, Heyman’s involvement was for storyline purposes only. It added an interesting element in that it was almost a bigger handicap for Lesnar, as he could potentially lose his title without even getting pinned.

While not as “high profile” or significantly important to Lesnar’s career as many of the other contests we are taking about today, this was a great display of athleticism by two men who went on to become hugely important to the next decade of WWE history.

Edge, a popular up-and-coming babyface at the time on WWE Smackdown!, was getting one of his first opportunities to main event a Pay-Per-View event and one of his first shots at a World Championship. This was one of those matches that made the viewer suspend disbelief every time Edge nearly pinned the champion. Going into a well executed contest that pits and obvious main event talent with a middle of the card performer makes you want to believe in the underdog.

That’s what these two men did. It was seemingly obvious Lesnar would defeat the still rising star, Edge. Yet, they made you believe that Edge could somehow overcome Heyman’s pet monster and realize his childhood dream.

He actually very nearly defeated the rookie WWE Champion, but had the match snatched from him after Lesnar utilized a steel chair to retain his title.

It would be another some four years before Edge would finally complete his journey and become the WWE Champion.

6. BROCK LESNAR VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (NO WAY OUT 2004)

By 2004 rumors began circulating that Lesnar was over the WWE’s rigorous traveling schedule and was not looking to resign with the company. As such, the WWE needed to pass the torch to someone new who could be the babyface that fans paid to see when they came to taping of WWE Smackdown!

World traveled veteran, Eddie Guerrero, was chosen as the man who would unseat Lesnar as WWE Champion. Guerrero had wrestled in almost every major promotion in the Americas and had overcame the clutches of addiction. Charismatic, versatile in the ring, and (now) reliable, Eddie Guerrero was being set up for the biggest moment of his professional career.

Guerrero was so good because he could tell so many stories in the ring depending on who he wrestled. He was big enough that he could play the over-powering aggressor in a match with someone like Rey Mysterio, but agile an petite enough to play the evasive wily underdog in a match with someone like the WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar used Guerrero as a rag doll for much of the contest, but “Latino Heat” managed to ground the champion enough to keep him at bay. It would be Raw’s Goldberg that would turn the tide as the former WCW Champion stormed the ring and speared the “Next Big Thing.”

The challenger then landed a DDT onto the title and a Frog Splash to win his first and only WWE Championship.

Goldberg, who was also set to make his departure from the WWE according to the rumor mill at the time, was in attendance to start building towards their “dream match” of sorts at WrestleMania XX. It didn’t turn out that way.

However, Guerrero’s title win on this night turned out to be the greatest match Brock Lesnar never won. He’d his final WWE appearance less than two months later.

5. BROCK LESNAR VS. CM PUNK (SUMMERSLAM 2013)

It was billed as “The Best vs. The Beast.”

This is without question the greatest match Brock Lesnar has had since returning to the WWE after an eight year absence. It was also the last time we saw CM Punk go all out on Pay-Per-View before he went AWOL in early 2014.

On paper, this looks like a total miss-match of styles and characters. However, due to both men having strong ties to the on-air character of Paul Heyman it makes perfect sense to have these two tell a story together.

The punishment that Lesnar dealt out to the much smaller CM Punk was unreal. He looked so dominate against Punk for a majority of this encounter. Only by utilizing the No Disqualification stipulation was Punk able to keep up pace with his former associate’s biggest client.

Punk turned out to be the perfect opponent to really re-establish Lesnar’s physical dominance over the WWE roster. His matches with John Cena and Triple H were a much more even playing field when it came to size and strength, but Punk had to utilize a different strategy as he knew he could not match muscle with the former UFC Champion.

His ability to outwit Lesnar was the only thing that gave him a fighting chance, but  eventually his split focus on both his opponent and Paul Heyman caught up with him.

While Punk seemingly had The Beast defeated a time or two during this contest his urge to go after Paul Heyman proved to be his downfall. The distraction of the loud mouthed manager was all the edge Lesnar needed to decimate  the more tactical “Straight Edge” superstar.

Even still, the former WWE Champion looked like a badass in defeat for hanging in the ring with a man 50+ pounds more than him. Both men came out looking better than going in. That is a pretty rare thing in all actuality.

CM Punk would later get his just revenge against Paul Heyman, but only after Lesnar struck the first blow here at SummerSlam.

4. BROCK LESNAR VS. THE ROCK (SUMMERSLAM 2002)

This is the third match from the underrated SummerSlam 2002 card to make its way to the Pro Wrestling Countdown. That might be a record.

Speaking of records, not many men can say they won the biggest title in their company during their first year on the WWE roster. That is just another accolade we can add to Lesnar’s list of accomplishments.

At the age of only 25, Brock Lesnar unseated The Rock to become the youngest WWE Champion in history. A record that still stands to this day.

A lot of credit has to go to The Rock for  really guiding this match and helping Lesnar in his first ever Pay-Per-View main event match. You can clearly see that it was Paul Heyman and The Rock who really guided this match’s narrative.

Lesnar was still very much a freight train who was running through opponents in television matches in a matter of minutes. A main event match for the WWE Championship on a huge event like SummerSlam was a different kind of match for him at this point of time.

The WWE Champion and his challenger gave a very entertaining main event that somehow managed to not be completely overshadowed by the notorious Street Fight between Triple H and a returning Shawn Michaels that took place earlier in the night.

Despite his veteran instincts, The Rock would succumb to the F-5 and lose his record seventh WWE Championship to the newcomer from Wisconsin. This match really established Lesnar as the monster he had been booked as up to this point. It would be only the first notable victory of many to come for the NCAA Division I champion.

While Lesnar still had so much to learn in the ring and about the storytelling elements of a wrestling match, it can’t  be denied that he was a damn quick learner. Even still so new to the business Lesnar, and the people around him, knew how to acquiescent his positives and hide the negatives.

The fact of the matter was, by 2002 the company knew “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was hitting a breaking point both physically and mentally and could  see that The Rock was on his way to bigger and better things. So what do they do? Create a new star. That is all they could do.

It made all the sense in the world, whether Lesnar was ready for this huge push or not the WWE needed a new franchise player and this was their first attempt. I have to say, if put in the same position I might have banked on Lesnar as well.

Little did they know, Brock’s career path would have other things in store.

3. BROCK LESNAR VS. CHRIS BENOIT (WWE SMACKDOWN!, DECEMBER 2003)

I often discuss a television match as being “forgotten, overlooked, or a hidden gem,” but this match from the tail end of Smackdown’s greatest era ever is probably the epitome of all of those.

Chris Benoit had defeated John Cena to become the number one contender at the top of this edition of WWE Smackdown!

Lesnar was doing a storyline in which he was seeking to become the “greatest” WWE Champion of all time by defending his title against many different challengers. This match was made out to be a big deal and honestly I would have shilled out money to watch a contest of this caliber on Pay-Per-View. With the brand extension in effect it meant fewer events for each brand and as such the shows had to do more to keep viewers hooked.

As Benoit was wrestling his second match of the night, Lesnar spent much of the contest in firm control of the smaller and more weary challenger. Benoit’s story of fighting from underneath and trying to outsmart and out-wrestle the WWE Champion is what built the suspense in this main event.

It was a concept that would be reused for Benoit the following year at both the 2004 Royal Rumble and WrestleMania XX.

Matches like this certainly did make for compelling reasons to actually tune in. It’s just a damn shame these two couldn’t have had more one-on-one matches together or even a longer storyline. This was one of their only notable singles matches ever televised.

These two had great chemistry. Lesnar has always gelled so well with more technically sound mat grapples, and Benoit was one of the masters of that craft.

In the early months of 2004 Smackdown’s brilliant roster took many blows. Brock Lesnar left the company. Chris Benoit and Edge were both drafted to Monday Night Raw.

Later that year Eddie Guerrero would go on to drop the WWE Championship to JBL which would eventually lead to him headlining some of the worst received WWE Pay-Per-Views of all time.

2. BROCK LESNAR VS. THE UNDERTAKER (NO MERCY 2002)

Over a decade before they stood in New Orleans’s Superdome at WrestleMania XXX, these two wagged war in a battle of “new school versus old school” inside of the dreaded Hell in a Cell.

I think this would qualify as probably the most overlooked and least talked about Hell in a Cell matches ever.

It didn’t quite make the list on Undertaker’s Pro Wrestling Countdown, but it serves as one of Lesnar’s most important victories. If you can stand toe-to-toe with Undertaker and come out the other end still intact, you have something.

The great thing about this match is that both men came out looking like cutthroat badasses. Lesnar, for overcoming a mainstay WWE performer for over a decade. Undertaker, for having a match with a dominate, young, and hungry new WWE Champion even with a broken hand.

It was the perfect story for these two to tell together.

Both men looked strong at different points in the contest, but Lesnar spent a slight majority of the time seemingly in control of the match. This was beneficial in establishing him as a strong WWE Champion and leader of WWE’s “Blue Brand” while it was still in its infancy as a individual product.

Lesnar’s rise in 2002  all the way up until he decided not to resign with the wrestling juggernaut was spent building him up as  the next face of the company. Someone who could pick up were Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin left off.

The Undertaker has rarely lost without some sort of dusty finish in which he is screwed out of the victory, but Lesnar remains the man with probably more high profile victories over The Undertaker than anyone else alive.

Lesnar has always been very much the Bane to Undertaker’s Batman.

After his strong victory over “Big Evil” Lesnar’s next  rival would be someone else’s whose athletic ability has long been the subject of praise here….

1. BROCK LESNAR VS. KURT ANGLE (WWE SMACKDOWN!, SEPTEMBER 2003)

What a difference only a few months can make. This match is just about the complete inverse of their more famous main event match at WrestleMania XIX.

If you’re discussing the year 2003 in WWE history your conversation should start and end with Kurt Angle versus Brock Lesnar.

This was a marathon exhibit demonstrating just why Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar were two of WWE’s most gifted mat wrestlers ever.

On a forgotten television match on WWE Smackdown! Angle and Lesnar managed to have a 60-Minute Iron Man Match that would surpass the quality of even Bret Hart versus Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII.

It was a modern take on the Iron Man match, and one that saw both Lesnar and Angle in the reverse roles that we saw at WrestleMania XIX earlier in the year.

Angle had become the fan favorite and Lesnar had become the Vince McMahon-corporate endorsed heel.

The amount of huge maneuvers used in this match to try and simply get another point on the board border ridiculous. Angle and Lesnar were aiming for the fences every moment of this match and it made for a very tense atmosphere.

Lesnar, the challenger, spent much of the match leading the WWE Champion. If Angle had 2 points, Lesnar had 3 or 4 so really the champion was the one who spent much of this match battling from underneath, which is a great spin on the normality of the challenger being the underdog and one who has to work harder to secure the victory.

In the final moments, Brock lead the match with a score of 5 to Angles 4. The champion locked in his Angle Lock on a downed Lesnar, but the clock expired with Lesnar grimacing through the pain. Despite being the chief aggressor at the end of the match, Angle lost his WWE Championship.

I thought this was a terrifically unique ending to a title match. One which still makes Lesnar look like the better man, but also makes the former champion, Angle, look damn good in the process. This is without question one of the best matches ever contested for the WWE Championship.

It also stands as Brock Lesnar’s finest performance with a man I’d consider his best opponent.

Rob Van Dam’s Top Ten Greatest Matches

Fearless. Braggadocios. Successful.

A man so good that he has had a nickname for almost every night of the week. Rob Van Dam is like the guy you went to high school who excelled in every sport he tried his hand at, and knew how good he was.

But did that do more harm than good for his career? Much like Mysterio, who we discussed in the last edition, Van Dam has very much rested in his firm rooted laurels for much of the past decade. However, this does not discount that, during his heyday, he was one of the most popular professional wrestlers on the planet. We will discuss this theme later on throughout this entire piece.

Welcome back to the Pro Wrestling Countdown, this time we are paying homage to “The Whole F’N Show” or perhaps, now, “Mr. Pro Wrestling Countdown?”

Today we will look at a man who had matches centered around the theme of pure excitement.

Rob Van Dam has been called “One of a Kind” for his innate drive to steal the show and put on the most memorable performance on any given event he appears on. He wants to be the thing you talk about as you leave the arena and head to the parking garage to go home. He wants to be in the highlight reels and make the fans gasp in excitement.

He is a thriller and someone who takes great pride in his ability to entertain the crowd. However, Van Dam is much more an entertainer than a traditional wrestlers who uses storytelling and ring psychology.

While never the greatest ring psychologist, Van Dam was still one of the most successful cross-over stars into the WWE from the independent wrestling federation, Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Today, we will look at some of his greatest matches from both his time in the original ECW and his time as a household name in the WWE!

HONORABLE MENTION:

  • Rob Van Dam vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (ECW Hardcore TV; April 1998): If you want to understand just how good Bigelow was for how large he was, this is the match I would start with. It pained me to cut this one out as it was the beginning of Van Dam’s now historic 24-month long ECW Television Championship reign, but it just barely missed making the top ten. So much fun action, and seeing RVD work with someone much larger than him was very interesting as I’m accustom to seeing him work best with men near his size or smaller.
  • Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy (SummerSlam 2001): Only RVD’s second WWE Pay-Per-View appearance. This was a very fun Ladder match between two men who were renowned for their ability to have high octane performances and innovative use of weaponry.
  • Rob Van Dam vs. Edge (Vengeance 2006): A often forgotten match from RVD’s too-short reign as WWE Champion. While this underrated championship match had to play second fiddle to the return of the Attitude Era’s most over used act, D-Generation X. Still, Edge and Van Dam were both on a roll in 2006 and they had a wonderful match that gets no praise nowadays.

10. ROB VAN DAM VS. STEVE AUSTIN VS. KURT ANGLE (NO MERCY 2001)

10. Van Dam, Austin, & Angle.jpg

So a brawler, a technician, and a high flyer walk into a ring…

I have always had a keenness for this match if only because of the fact that the WWE put three absolute opposites in their main event. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a beer-swindling brawler. Kurt Angle, a charismatic-suplexxing Olympic Gold Medal winner. Rob Van Dam, a cocky “cool dude” with all the flashy moves.

These three had no middle ground to stand on, but still they managed to work that to their advantage. All three men played up their archetype while jockeying for the pin fall. The tension between Steve Austin, the WWE Champion, and Rob Van Dam was what really made this match.

Both men were members of The Alliance faction infecting the WWE.

Austin was it’s leader and viewed Van Dam as an up-and-coming threat to his reign.Kurt Angle was the man stepping up to the plate to bring the title back to the Vince McMahon’s company, but the twist was that Van Dam, an Alliance member, had known secret meetings with McMahon. This sent the paranoid WWE Champion, Stone Cold, into a fit that threatened the entire invasion of the WWE.

Aside from the deeper story dynamic here, the action is the real reason to go back to this contest.

Van Dam came up short, but he had one of the biggest moments in his WWE career up to that point. After this “The Whole F’n Show” went on to be one of the most popular and beloved WWE superstars of 2002 and the next half-decade until his departure in 2007

9. ROB VAN DAM VS. LANCE STORM (GUILTY AS CHARGED 1999)

9. Van Dam & Storm I.jpg

1999 was probably the best year in Van Dam’s entire career when it boils down to his in-ring work.

These two had more than just a few matches under the ECW umbrella.

Most famously, the match from ECW’s first ever Pay-Per-View called Barely Legal 1997. This match only came about after Masato Tanaka was unable to make it into the United States to make the Pay-Per-View and challenge Rob Van Dam for his ECW Television Championship.

Van Dam had great chemistry with Storm, and it was a ton of fun watching RVD adapt his style here to one that involved more holds and supplexes. There we not many times Rob Van Dam got to actually wrestle with another world class mat wrestler like Lance Storm.

In contrast, it did Storm a ton of good to face someone who moved as quickly as “Mr. Monday Night.” It made for a very exciting performance as both brought two different styles of ECW’s wrestling in one ring.

It was one of Van Dam’s most technically sound wrestling matches during his time with the extreme promotion, but not his best.

It stood out for being one of his matches that fans could point to if someone said that Van Dam was nothing more than a chair swinging stunt man. Admitted, some of RVD’s matches felt like he was only going from spot-to-spot, but when he wrestled the right person things just clicked. Lance Storm was one such person.

Unfortunately, Storm’s incomparable mat skills would not translate to success when he entered the WWE after ECW shut it’s doors.

8. ROB VAN DAM VS. CHRIS BENOIT (SUMMERSLAM 2002)

8. Van Dam & Benoit.jpg

I have been wanting to talk about this match for a long time as it is one I’ve never heard many talk about online.

Most of us know the story by now, but for the sake of those who might not, in 2001 the WWE acquired many contracts and talents from the wrestling promotions WCW and ECW who both closed.

The result was the creation of what was, bar-none, most talented and complete midcard the WWE has ever had. These two were among the performers who typically populated the midcard of WWE shows during this time, but they could also easily and logically be plugged into main events when needed.

Even though this is a celebration of the man who is “One of a Kind” I won’t blindly pretend the performer has no faults. Van Dam has never been very good at pacing his matches. He has one gear and he stays in it no matter what it is.

This means he opponents often lead the match and have to sort of pace the flow of the match around him. Benoit, of course, had no problem doing that during their match of the WWE Intercontinental Championship.

Benoit was someone who took pride in his ring work above all else. Here he spent much of the contest controlling the pace of the match by working on the shoulder of Van Dam and keeping the high flyer from using many of his aerial tricks.

Van Dam would take advantage of any opening in Benoit’s honed grappling offense and hit any manner of high impact kick, slam, or flip he could manage. Finally, Van Dam hit the Five Star Frog Splash and win the title and bring it back to Monday Night Raw.

This match was hugely overshadowed by the return of Shawn Michaels after an over four year absence later in the show. It remains an underrated, somewhat flawed, Pay-Per-View match even still. This came from the period of RVD’s where he had a ton of exciting matches in the midcard. This was one of  his best.

7. ROB VAN DAM VS. SABU (A MATTER OF RESPECT 1996)

7. Van Dam & Sabu I.jpg

One of his favorite opponents and someone Van Dam has had a long and mixed history with. “The Houdini of Hardcore” Sabu.

Before they formed an uneasy alliance as ECW Tag Team Champions in 1997 these two had a feud over respect and, believe it or not, a handshake.

Van Dam had just debuted in ECW in the early months of 1996 and the matches he had with Sabu in his first few months thereare often pointed to as the reason the Michigan native caught the eye of fans in ECW.

Despite repeatedly facing Sabu,  the cocky newcomer refused to shake the hand of the world-traveled veteran. This obviously did not sit well with the often proud and volatile Sabu.

Rob Van Dam turned heel for the only notable time in his career and enlisted the managerial services of Bill Alfonso. He often cut promos on how he was too talented to be in ECW and only wrestled the way he did to gain attention from big name promoters like WCW and WWE.

All of their matches have been discussed as some of ECW’s best mix of extreme and entertainment, but for my taste their match here at A Matter of Respect is the one that sticks out. The would later have a great match at Hardcore Heaven, but a broken really handicapped that match from making the Countdown.

There match at A Matter of Respect was a rematch from Hostile City Showdown which was one of RVD’s first major ECW events. He lost to Sabu in a No Time Limit match.

While this rematch could be a bit too much  of a spot-fest for some wrestling fans, this shows viewers why Van Dam became such a big deal in ECW in such a short amount of time.

Van Dam would win this match, and per the rules, the two were supposed to shake hands, but the cocky Van Dam refused to shake the hand of the veteran. This would be the beginnings of Van Dams tenure in ECW as a  heel.

Sabu really deserves a lot of credit for  helping establish Van Dam as huge player as he would go on to become one of ECW’s last huge stars and really the only one would find major success on a grander stage.

6. ROB VAN DAM VS. CHRIS JERICHO (UNFORGIVEN 2001)

A hidden gem among the rubble that was the bloated WCW and ECW Invasion story arc. It was R-V-D vs. Y-2-J.

No not their vastly overrated match from WWE Monday Night Raw last year, but this match. A match that was to decide the WWE Hardcore Championship of all things. This was honestly probably the best match I’ve ever seen for this championship in a traditional single-pin-fall match.

“Mr. Pay-Per-View” had only just joined the ranks of the WWE a few months prior, and after having several matches with Jeff Hardy over the title found himself representing The Alliance faction, made up of both Shane and Stephanie McMahon sponsored WCW and ECW talent, against WWE’s Chris Jericho.

It’s a very long and convoluted story,  but that’s the gist of it all.

Both of these guys seemed to have the other one scouted which shifted the momentum and story of this match several times over. That constant shift made this match feel very erratic at times. Which is perfect for a match for a championship christened with the name “Hardcore.”

This match sort  of served as a way for the WWE to continue the hilarious Stephanie McMahon/Chris Jericho feud which produced some of Jericho’s most famous one-liners. McMahon came down to the ring and distracted Jericho allowed Van Dam to  hit the Van-Terminator followed by that Five Star Frog Splash.

Despite the weak finish both the more  grounded Y2J and Van Dam meshed well here and performed  a wonderful match with only one or two awkward spots as opposed to their 2013 match on WWE Raw.

Funnily enough, Stephanie McMahon would later  briefly become Jericho’s manager in early 2002 after he became the first ever WWE Undisputed Champion.

5. ROB VAN DAM VS. CHRISTIAN (WWE RAW, JUNE 2003)

While it doesn’t seem to happen as often as it used to, at a time, WWE Raw was semi-often treated to a Ladder match.

This is by far one of the most underrated Ladder matches in Raw’s history and, not surprisingly, it was for the WWE Intercontinental Championship.

I thought these two really meshed well together in the ring. Christian had spent a majority of his time in WWE in matches that involved multiple weapons and wrestling  guys like Matt and Jeff Hardy.

So by this point in his career Christian was well prepared to have a hidden gem of a classic with an athlete like Rob Van Dam.

The only critique I have of this match was that it was a bit on the short side, but it managed to work out as a positive as it meant both “Captain Charisma” and the “Whole F’N Show” wasted no more down time than necessary providing a worthwhile main event for Monday Night Raw.

Roller coaster rides are often far too short also, but I feel that makes the brief experience that more special. Watching a Van Dam or Rey Mysterio match might often feel overly-short, but really you’re getting a far more condensed and action-packed experience.

This match got huge bonus points for an incredibly well executed finishing sequence. The timing of it all was just spot-on.

After kicking Christian off the top of a ladder, “Mr. Monday Night” scaled another ladder and performed his Five Star Frog Splash on route to winning his fourth Intercontinental Championship.

4. ROB VAN DAM VS. JERRY LYNN (HARDCORE HEAVEN 1999)

“The Whole F’N Show” versus “The New F’N Show” for the ECW Television Championship.

By this time, Van Dam and Lynn were more familiar with one another and still young enough to put on one of the definitive best matches of the year across any promotion.

While 1999 saw a shift in ECW towards a more athletic style, moving away from “garbage wrestling,” the characters were not connecting with the audience like they once were. It’s curious that one of the promotions best matches took place at the cross-roads of its own history.

This match is not as fast paced and crisp as some of their other encounters but it is a very smart match. ECW didn’t have very many technically brilliant matches that were also extremely brutal, but this is certainly one of them. It toed the line of being hardcore, but also while telling a very back-and-forth story as the momentum of the contest swayed between both men.

The ECW crowd was such an anomaly in it’s own right. They were always hot for the matches and chanted at all the right, and sometimes wrong, times. They made this match feel more big time than it already was.

Jerry Lynn nearly had the Television Champion beat here after numerous times, but came up short and became another notch on Van Dam’s belt during his 23-month long reign as the champion. It would take “The Whole F’N Show” two Five Star Frog Splashes to finally silence his challenger.

Van Dam was supposed to move up into the main event scene and begin competing for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, but an ankle injury kept that from happening and RVD had to relinquish his ECW Television Championship.

About two years later Van Dam would return to main event ECW’s final ever Pay-Per-View, 2001’s Guilty As Charged, despite being owed a huge sum of money, and had one final match with Jerry Lynn in the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

The company would hold only two more events after this. Five years later, “The Whole F’N Show” would return to that very building, but with a new nickname, “Mr. Money in the Bank…”

3. ROB VAN DAM VS. JOHN CENA (ONE NIGHT STAND 2006)

It’s really disappointing to me that hardly anything that Van Dam has done since all the way back in 2006 has managed to live up to the amazing contests he put on in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2006, Van Dam was just turning 36. By all accounts he should have only been getting better, but when some stars enter their later years they use their vast knowledge of ring psychology and storytelling to make up for it. Men like Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair understood that, some professional wrestlers just don’t have that.

Once Van Dam began to slow done he just didn’t have the ability to make fans invest into his character or the story. Still, for over a decade we were lucky enough to see “Mr. Pay-Per-View” thrill like no one else, and this is without a doubt the culmination of everything he worked for.

No matter how it turned out, no matter what people think of him now, Rob Van Dam will forever be linked to the WWE’s most sacred championship belt.

Electricity. That is the only word that comes to mind when I think of the atmosphere in the Hammerstein Ballroom as John Cena and Rob Van Dam entered 2006’s One Night Stand. The fans gave Van Dam one of the biggest ovations of his career and tossed back John Cena’s tee shirt and cap multiple times as the WWE Champion tried to toss them to the crowd.

The tension around this match was huge and it made it even more meaningful and memorable. I do have a problem with this match though. Edge’s involvement and spearing of John Cena near the end of the contest was very much unneeded.

Edge could have speared John Cena for storyline purposes after Rob Van Dam finally realized his journey to finally becoming the WWE Champion, but in the words of RVD, “whatever, dude.” The champion and the challenger had the crowd eating out of their hand for over 20 minutes and delivered a really dynamic performance that will stand as Rob Van Dam’s greatest career accomplishment.

If and/or when, “Mr. Monday Night,” enters the WWE Hall of Fame, you can bet this match will make more than a few appearances in his career tribute video. Seeing Van Dam holding the title surrounded by ECW alumni was probably the last moment in ECW’s history that did not feel contrived or phony.

2. ROB VAN DAM VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (WWE RAW, MAY 2002)

Another Ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship from a television taping. This match though, was very likely the inspiration for Van Dam’s match with Christian on Raw the year after this.

I would like to go on record and say I miss Eddie Guerrero, very much. Very, very much.

I almost want to be mad at the WWE for giving this match away on free television as it is one of the best matches to ever be televised on their flagship program, WWE Monday Night Raw.

In 2002, Rob Van Dam was one of the most popular WWE superstars on the roster. Fewer of the performers on the WWE’s roster got a more thunderous reaction that “Mr. Monday Night” during this point in his career.  He was extremely over, underexposed, and very well protected.

Guerrero was such a versatile talent in the ring, and this is a great example of that. Fans had seen Guerrero’s high flying antics and precise execution of submission holds for years in WCW’s cruiserweight division, but not often was “Latino Heat” allowed to take to the skies from a ladder.

The two both wrestled with a great amount of urgency which made sense considering that this match contained no pin-falls. Both men were so crisp and on-point with every maneuver in this match, it looked like it had been rehearsed several times over again.

The champion, Guerrero, controlled much of this Ladder match, surprisingly.  However, Van Dan hit the right spots at the right time and managed to incapacitate Guerrero long enough to secure the WWE Intercontinental Championship for a second time.

If only that pesky fan intruder had not thrown Guerrero off the ladder, literally.

1. ROB VAN DAM VS. JERRY LYNN (LIVING DANGEROUSLY 1999)

This match occurred only one month before their rematch at Hardcore Heaven 1999.

There is a ridiculous amount of division among ECW fans about which Vam Dam/Lynn match is superior. It typically boils down to this match and their match later at Hardcore Heaven. In all honesty either one could have feasibly been called number one, but for me there is something so much more special about this one.

Believe it or not, this was actually the two’s first time  ever wrestling on live Pay-Per-View, with one another.

Long before becoming a nostalgia act in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling this was one of the greatest match-ups in Extreme Championship Wrestling’s history. They both had some very entertaining matches on Hardcore TV, but none of them got this much time to really tell a story or showcase just how well they worked together up until this point.

Few other opponents have ever been able to match the pace of Rob Van Dam.

Jerry Lynn knew how to work with Van Dam. He made himself appear just as quick and dangerous as “Mr. Pay-Per-View”, but Lynn also knew when to let Van Dam be the star of the show. The two were just so inventive with the way they both used the environment around them to punish one another.

Whether it was guard rails, steel chairs, or tables.

I mean, some of the sequences and spots in this match are just so mind blowing that I had to rewind them and watch again just to see how they accomplished them. So this match had the wow factor in the entertainment department, but it also told a wonderful story. A story of Jerry Lynn, trying to overcome the ever-dominate ECW Television Champion, Rob Van Dam.

It was a struggle for him and he used anything and everything he could get his hands on to try and defeat the champion. At the end of the 20 minute time-limit, neither man had won. The referee had nearly awarded the belt to Lynn, as he was pinning RVD when the time expired, but the proud challenger wanted more time to get a definitive victory over the long reigning champion.

The fans screamed for “Five More Minutes!” The two are given five more minutes to determine the winner, but it proved to be Lynn’s downfall.

A Van Daminator and a Five Star Frog Splash, moments later, was all that the ECW Television Champion needed to retain his title from the man who went on to become his most legendary opponent.

Rey Mysterio’s Top Ten Greatest WWE & WCW Matches

Dial it up! The Pro Wrestling Countdown is back and this  time we are in the 6-1-9.

Over the past 20 years the man behind the neon-colored masks has excited professional wrestling fans across the globe like few others physically can.

The fact of the matter  is that, whether you like him or not, Mysterio has done things in the WWE ring that no one else has ever been able to pull off. That makes Mysterio far and away a once in a lifetime talent and probably one of the most overlooked performers when speaking about the most talented performs of the last two decades.

It is far too easy to seemingly cast Mysterio aside as nothing more than a wrestler who only uses spots to get through a match, and that just isn’t the case.

Rey Mysterio has been a major player in the industry for almost his entire adult life and in that time he has been apart of some of the most exhilarating matches to ever have a global viewing audience.

He is one of a kind, and it will be hard for any man to eclipse the amazing acrobatics and enthralling action that Mysterio has imposed on his opponents  in his many performances.

Now, let’s take a peak behind the mask and join us as we countdown the greatest matches in the career of Rey Mysterio!

HONORABLE MENTION:

REY MYSTERIO VS. CM PUNK (EXTREME RULES 2010)

 One of my favorite characters in recent WWE history was the heel incarnation of CM Punk’s straight-edge persona. Better known as, “The Straight-Edge Savior.”

The great thing about Punk becoming a heel character was that he could now tell engaging stories with wrestlers like Mysterio who has almost been a fan favorite for his entire career. the psychotic prophet was  a wonderful foil   for the Steamboat-esque white-meat babyface that Mysterio has been portrayed as in the WWE.

If you think about it, even John Cena has had a notable WWE  run as a heel, but Mysterio has always done the right thing and been the humble role model.

But, it does make for the perfect opponent for a really villainous heel, like that of CM Punk in 2010. They  had several memorable segments and matches, but this was probably the most entertaining and interesting of the lot.

I loved that both men had a mutual admiration for Eddie Guerrero and you can even see them pay respect to the fallen performer in this match when Punk locked in the Gory Special.  A  fitting tribute.

Also Considered:

  • Rey Mysterio vs. Jushin Thunder Liger (Starrcade 1996): The legendary Japanese wrestler, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, made off-and-on appearances for WCW during the 1990s when he was not wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Strangely, he only ever had one, now historic, meeting with the Mexican luchardor, Rey Mysterio. How appropriate is it now that it happened at WCW’s biggest event of the year? This could have, and should have been, much better than it actually was, but the two were clearly unfamiliar with one another. Still it is quite awesome to see the two legends go at it in their prime.
  • Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (WrestleMania 21): This is their older and wiser sequel to their classic 1997 match. While not nearly as fast paced as its “source material,” it stands as probably Rey’s most entertaining WrestleMania performance to date. In 2005, Mysterio got to open WrestleMania 21, in Los Angeles, with one of his closest friends and most notable rivals. “Lation Heat,” his tag team partner, Eddie Guerrero. There were a few gripes I have with this match. The two men stalled just a little too much for my liking. Also, Mysterio fiddled with his interesting, but less than practical, mask far too often for it to not be noticeable. Regardless, a fun opening bout.
  • Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton (WrestleMania 22): A hugely significant victory for Mysterio’s career and just about as good of a ten minute title match as you can ever hope for. This WrestleMania card was a bit bloated which meant the WWE was a bit strapped for time, but these three men went all out giving no breaks. This made for a near ten minute highlight real of action from all three men. 

10. REY MYSTERIO VS. JOHN CENA (WWE RAW, JULY 2011)

This has become a modern classic for Monday Night Raw.

It sort of sad but, as of writing, this has probably been the  most recent “great” match from Mysterio’s massive catalog of matches. Since 2011 he has spent a substantial amount of time on the sidelines  or teaming with Mexican wrestling superstar Mistico a.k.a Sin Cara.

CM Punk was not the only man to have a historic championship match during the summer of 2011.

During the absolute peak of the CM Punk storyline the “Best in the World” “left the WWE.” This meant we needed a “new WWE Champion.” Rey Mysterio defeated The Miz in the finals of a mini-tournament to win his first, and only, WWE Championship.

The “Biggest Little Man” was promptly challenged by John Cena, the former WWE Champion, to battle in the main event of Monday Night Raw for his newly won title.

It never occurred to me, until I re-watched this match for consideration in the Countdown, just how few times that Mysterio and Cena have had the chance to wrestle one another.

Both men have been almost exclusively babyfaces for their entire careers and have been, for almost a decade, two of the most marketable WWE personalities for children.

The champion worked on Cena’s  legs for much of the match, which worked to his advantage later in the contest. It looked like Mysterio would retain after delivering a well placed 619, but Cena countered and when Rey went for the maneuver again, Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment to win the WWE Championship.

Unfortunately Mysterio was the awkward third wheel in the Punk/Cena story that concluded the show, but his performances on this edition of Raw where tremendous.

Even his earlier match with The Miz was way better than it looked on paper. It’s just a shame that I can hardly think of anything truly noteworthy that Mysterio has done since this.

9. REY MYSTERIO VS. ÚLTIMO DRAGÓN (SPRING STAMPEDE 1997)

I know their WCW World War 3 encounter is very popular among WCW fans, but this match really is much better all around.

This was billed as a “rubber” match after these two men had had two encounters with one another on WCW pay-per-view in 1996.

The Dragon dominated much of this match using his size advantage to overpower and ground Mysterio much like many of the other members of the division did to the smaller and swifter cruiserweight. The “Biggest Little Man,” as he came to be called, could not use many of his most notable maneuvers.

This forced Mysterio to play a lot of defense, instead of utilizing his usual array of leaps and kicks. Dragon controlled much of the pace, which meant this opener moved much slower than several of the other matches we’ve talked about on this edition of the Countdown, but it was interesting to see Mysterio play the more passive opponent and work from the ground when he is so used to being in the air and bouncing off the ropes. Mysterio broke the tie and got the victory over the Japanese sensation.

These men wrestled several  wonderful matches in both WCW and WWE, and hardly ever had a bad one.

For me, this was the most interesting match of their collection and stood out among their other contests.

8. REY MYSTERIO VS. BILLY KIDMAN VS. JUVENTUD GUERRERA (STARRCADE 1998)

Three Way Dances can be one of the most repetitive and formulaic matches types if the wrong three guys are put into the mix.

Many fall into the pattern of tossing one of the competitors out of the ring so the action can stay focused on only two men, but the greatest Triple Threat matches deviate away from this formula and this is certainly one such match.

This Cruiserweight Championship match opened the WCW event, Starrcade. The cruiserweights often served as the opening performances for Pay-Per-Views as  a way to pop the crowd and build up their energy.

This was a match to be contested for Kidman’s  WCW Cruiserweight Championship.

This match featured several amazing sequences of action that just would not have  been possible without the addition of a third man in  the fray. At one point, Guerrera spring-boarded  off the top rope and delivered a hurricanrana to Mysterio who was on the shoulders of Billy Kidman.

The match was filled with fun spots like this and smooth transitions. It was not a clinic, but a  really fun opener that showed why Mysterio was the staple of WCW’s  Cruiserweight Division.

Guerrera, a new recruit of the Latino World Order, very nearly won the match after it’s leader, Eddie Guerrero, came to the ring and assaulted Kidman, but a drop kick from Mysterio gave the champion the opening he needed to retain.

After this match Guerrero challenged “the pretty boy” Kidman to a title match, which Kidman also managed to win.

7. REY MYSTERIO VS. CHAVO GUERRERO (GREAT AMERICAN BASH 2004)

This featured everything that was great about watching a Rey Mysterio match in his early years with the WWE.

I knew I wanted to a feature one of Mysterio’s matches with the younger Guerrero cousin somewhere on this edition, but I didn’t know where to fit it. Obviously, everyone mocks Chavo as being the less talented and successful of the Guerrero clan, but he without a doubt had some of his greatest matches with Rey Mysterio.

This match, serves as probably their most overlooked encounter.

After some thought and juggling I narrowed it down to this match and one of their matches from their questionable 2006 rivalry that introduced Vickie Guerrero as a reoccurring onscreen presence for the better part of
the last decade. More specifically, their awesome I Quit match that was originally here.

I mainly opted for this encounter due to the awesome ring psychology both employed here.

Guerrero was a perfect heel for the stacked 2004 Cruiserweight division, and made a very logical foil for the extremely popular WWE Cruiserweight Champion, Rey Mysterio.

Chavo worked a much slower and methodological style than we typically see in a Mysterio match but this match safely stays away from being sluggish and mundane.

They both took the time to tell a story and use injuries to put both of their chances at victory  at stake. Guerrero targeted Mysterio’s legs and Mysterio targeted Guerrero’s triceps.

Guerrero seemed to have Mysterio beat as he was preparing for the Gory Bomb but, as often happens, Mysterio pulled out the quick three count to retain his WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

The less famous Guerrero would go on to harbor much jealousy and ire for the success of Rey Mysterio over the next several years even after the passing of his beloved uncle Eddie.

6. REY MYSTERIO VS. JOHN MORRISON (WWE SMACKDOWN!, SEPTEMBER 2009)

2009 was WWE Smackdown’s renaissance. A true revival in quality television wrestling for a show that was often deprived of such. It also happened to be a year of revival in Mysterio’s in-ring work.

Not since the days of the original Smackdown Six had so many great encounters happened on WWE’s “B Show.”

I also must admit I was such a mark for John Morrison during his time on Smackdown! in 2009. He was so much fun to watch regardless of who he had a match with.

John Morrison was having excellent television matches with the likes of Tyson Kidd, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Rey Mysterio. It was the closest the WWE Intercontinental Championship
scene had gotten to looking credible again in over a decade.

In fact, this match was for Rey Mysterio’s WWE Intercontinental Championship.

Mysterio wrestled like he was still in his early 20s opening a WCW pay-per-view event. It had such a great atmosphere. “A big fight feel-” if you will.

“The Guru of Greatness” was the perfect opponent for the luchardor to have a great match with and it helped that Mysterio seemed super motivated during this time period.

This match didn’t contain as many traditional flips and high spots as you might expect, but that might have actually helped it in the long run. It was still filled to the brim with countless “ooh” and “ahh” moments.

After hitting the 619 and failing to capitalize, John Morrison, on his third attempt, hit Starship Pain on the masked man and became the Intercontinental Champion for a third time.

5. REY MYSTERIO & EDGE VS. CHRIS BENOIT & KURT ANGLE (NO MERCY 2002)

It was a perfect storm of talent, action, and storytelling.

Mysterio, Edge, Angle, and Benoit were among the many talented men brought over to the newly created WWE Smackdown! brand and without the big names of Austin, Hogan, and The Rock looming above them they all enjoyed a grander spotlight.

This was the final match in a tournament commissioned by the Smackdown! General Manager, Stephanie McMahon, to  decide who would be the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions.

This match has garnered much praise in past editions, so if you have not given yourself the time to watch it by now, you’re just robbing yourself of a good time. This is 20 minutes of some of the most interesting tag team wrestling to ever see a grand stage.

The two miss-matched tandems showed that just because they had not been teaming together for years-upon-years didn’t mean they could not exemplify what in-ring chemistry is all about.

Angle and Benoit, who had a huge amount of competitive tension against one another, would win this match and become the first ever champions, but Mysterio and Edge certainly made them earn it.

They would have their turn as champions a little over two weeks later in an equally as impressive match on WWE Smackdown!

4. REY MYSTERIO VS. DEAN MALENKO (GREAT AMERICAN BASH 1996)

It’s a rare treat anytime I can find an excuse to gush about a Dean Malenko match.

What a debut!?

This was Mysterio’s first ever match under the WCW banner and the first time the wider American audience got a chance to see what the young sensation from Tijuana Mexico was all about.

Often when a performer debuts in a new promotion it is no more than a quick affair. A few minute long promo/segment or a Squash match. This, was a more complete showcase of what Mysterio was  capable of when out in the ring with one of the greatest wrestlers in WCW history.
“The Man of 1,000 Holds” quickly targeted the arms of the newcomer and  dominated him in front  of the Baltimore crowd. He kept the challenger from taking any control at all but the 21-year old fought out of every pin and withstood every hold and slam Malenko could dream up.

The debuting Mysterio made his comeback and showed his vast resilience, but the wear and tear from Malenko was too great for him.

Rey broke away from Malenko and began to hit all the thrilling moves that had created the buzz that which allowed Mysterio to make it into one of America’s largest professional wrestling promotions. However, his momentum was stopped  dead in it’s tracks by a power bomb. With a little help from the second rope, Malenko made certain Mysterio wouldn’t become WCW Cruiserweight Champion on his first night with the company.

These two showed great chemistry with one another, but it almost seemed lost  on the very underwhelming crowd who almost seemed to not know what to make of the new masked marvel.

Mysterio would strike back on WCW Nitro winning the title in another notable match with “The Iceman” later that summer.

This match did not have a thrilling story nor did it quite captivate the crowd, but it did plainly show glimpses of what Mysterio’s character would later  become all about – overcoming any and all obstacles no matter what they are.

3. REY MYSTERIO VS. PCICOSIS (BASH AT THE BEACH 1996)

These two men have wrestled everywhere. AAA, ECW, WCW, and WWE.

They did battle all over the Americas.

The two, without a doubt, had their best encounters during their days in WCW’s fledgling Cruiserweight division.

By 1996, Mysterio and Psicosis knew one another inside-and-out when it came to putting together a match and it showed during every second of this match.

This match had some of the most beautiful luchador-like acrobatics of any match to ever take place during the duration of WCW’s Cruiserweight division, but it also had extremely smart submission holds, and exiting sequences that did not involve huge breathe taking spots.

But, it had all of that too. It was a “complete experience.” It had all the things you would expect from a match from a 21 year old Rey Mysterio, but then it had even more.

Pcicosis was very much to Rey Mysterio what Jerry Lynn was to Rob Van Dam. A really talented guy that never really “made it” and wrestled many of his best matches with a more notable name.

Mysterio, in this case, would go on to become one of the most recognizable and marketable talents under the WWE banner due to his distinctive style, apperance, and message of never giving up. Let that take nothing away from all the tremendously entertaining encounters Pcicosis had with him. The older luchador knew exactly how to make Rey Mysterio look that much better than he already was.

After a thrilling opening contest for WCW’s Bash at the Beach, Mysterio performed a Hurricanrana on Psicosis from the top turnbuckle for the victory.

2. REY MYSTERIO VS. CHRIS JERICHO (THE BASH 2009)

Rey Mysterio had been floating in an injury ridden rut, off-and-on, ever since his lackluster reign as World Heavyweight Champion in 2006.

However, in 2009, Mysterio was on top of his game again. He seemed motivated, limber, and exciting again after a couple of “down” years. I have to give some of the credit to his program with Chris Jericho that took place in the summer of that year.

If you needed proof that Chris Jericho is probably one of the most dynamic heels the  WWE has seen in the last decade his 2008 feud with Shawn Michaels would, overwhelmingly, be “Example A.” However, Jericho’s 2009 feud with Rey Mysterio is a very close “Example B.”

As I said earlier in the Countdown, 2009 was a great year for WWE Smackdown! and this feud was surely the crown jewel of that.

Jericho was on a mission to expose Mysterio as a fraud and believe his mask symbolized the lie that he thought Mysterio stood for. The two then had several very entertaining midcard matches on both WWE Smackdown! and the early summer pay-per-view events of  the year.  Jericho was, at this time, one of the most entertaining and talented performers on the WWE roster.

The two had traded victories and defeats until the met for one final match at The Bash in which Chris Jericho’s Intercontinental Championship was on the line against Rey Mysterio’s mask.

This match was their final big encounter and the one in which “The Ultimate Underdog” used “Y2J’s” obsession with his mask to defeat him and secure his second ever WWE Intercontinental Championship.

 After this Mysterio went on to have excellent matches with many of the rosters bright up-and-comers.

1. REY MYSTERIO VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1997)

“Eddie could always sense what the crowd was feeling. He knew what they were reacting to. With Eddie, you didn’t talk out the match beforehand. He would tell me, ‘just listen to me in the ring.’ That’s all I would do. I would go into the ring and have my ears open. I’d follow his lead.” -Rey Mysterio

Not only is this Rey Mysterio’s greatest match, but it could be said to be one of the greatest matches in the illustrious history of Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling.

Often in the Pro Wrestling Countdown, a majority of the matches tend towards being 30-40 minute marathons.

However, with Rey Mysterio, the matches are shorter, more action packed, and move so much quicker. Does that make his matches any less worthy of being considered for the Countdown?

Run times do not define how great a match is. The story, pacing, and the mastery of movement do. This match encapsulates everything that is great about Rey Mysterio and his talent.

This was a foregone conclusion. Mysterio and Eddie had the greatest Cruiserweight Championship match of all time, and won multiple awards for this fantastic contest.

Guerrero was at the peak of his run as a smug heel Cruiserweight Champion after defeating Chris Jericho for the title months earlier.  Like many men, before and after him, Guerrero had more fueling his fire during his match with the young Mysterio.

The man that would grow to become a close friend only wanted deeply to unmask and embarrass Rey Mysterio during their match. For a luchador, the mask is their true identity, and tearing a mask off is the ultimate form of dishonor.

Mysterio won what would go on to be the definitive match of his career, and one of the most meaningful ones as well.

They two performers would continue to work together for the next decade in both WCW and WWE until Guerrero’s shocking death in November of 2005.

The following year, Mysterio helped induct his greatest opponent  into the WWE Hall of Fame and would then win his first ever World Heavyweight Championship. He dedicated his victory to his fallen friend.

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Triple H’s Top Ten Greatest WWE Matches

A hybrid performer. A man with an old school 1960s/1970s wrestling psychology, a 1980s look, and the 1990s “attitude.” Triple H really encompasses what wrestling was all about in the second half of the 20th Century.

He is the culmination of 50 years of modern professional wrestling and whether you love him or hate him the future of the industry is now, largely, in his hands.

As easy as it is to pick on “The Cerebral Assassin” over some of his life decisions and the way in which he was booked anyone who says he was handed anything obviously does not know their history.

For 25 years, Triple H has been a part of the WWE experience.  Whether he was wrestling for the WWE European Championship with Owen Hart, mocking WWE Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter with Shawn Michaels, or main eventing a WrestleMania in some of the biggest arenas across the country, Triple H has been a constant.

He is probably one of WWE’s most important talents to never effectively be the face of the company.

He has always been a rung right below the true faces of WWE. However, his talent and understanding of ring psychology have always made him one their most important commodities.

“The Game” may be one of WWE’s most unlikable personalities, but his wrestling ability and old school mentalities in the ring made him one of the 2000’s greatest and, in a way,  most under appreciated entertainers.

HONORABLE MENTION:

THE POWER TRIP VS. CHRIS JERICHO & CHRIS BENOIT (WWE RAW, MAY 2001)

It’s really depressing that one of the greatest Tag Team matches in the history of WWE ended with one of the competitors suffering the worst injury of their entire career.

Miraculously, Triple H finished the match with a quad completely torn from his bone. He even was put into the Wall of Jericho on top of the announcer’s desk.

This match was wall-to-wall action and there was zero down time. Whether it was due to all four men being particularly motivated or the fact that the show was running long. It doesn’t matter. This is one of the most fast paced matches any of these four men have ever had and it was just a joy to watch.

Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit won the World Tag Team Championships from the duo and unfortunately Triple H would have to sit on the sidelines for the rest of the year.

He would not return until January of 2002 in which he would win the Royal Rumble match.

Also Considered:

  • Triple H vs. The Rock (SummerSlam 1998): This match gets a lot of attention among lists online, however compared to other encounters these two had later on this one looks a little duller in comparison. It was still a wonderful midcard match. These two helped one another get over and a year or two later later they would both be main eventing shows together.
  • Triple H vs. Chris Jericho (Fully Loaded 2000): I have a great fondness for this match and I think it’s one of the best matches of Chris Jericho’s career, but even still it doesn’t quite mean as much to the career of Triple H. This is still a great match. Triple H was one of the first guys to make “Y2J” look like a star.
  • Triple H vs. Chris Benoit (No Mercy 2000): A seriously underrated match from the string of matches that Triple H had in 2000 and 2001. He was on a roll and this was a gem among all of the other iconic matches he had at the time.

10. TRIPLE H  VS. JOHN CENA (WRESTLEMANIA 22)

I thought these two would have a slow and clunky main event, but they really surpassed my expectations and ended WrestleMania 22 right.

I also think, historically, this was a big night for both Triple H and John Cena. Triple H had dominated the main even scene for almost four years  when he was finally sent away by his former Evolution cohort, Batista. When Triple H returned Batista had been shipped to Smackdown! and in his place was the new face of Monday Night Raw – WWE Champion John Cena.

These two had to butt heads at some point and it came to ahead in Chicago’s Allstate Arena. The man who once ruled over the World Heavyweight Championship on Raw with an iron fist challenged the young WWE Champion for the “throne.”

It was the story of the old lion battling the new lion.

It was a great story this match told, one that we could never likely see told again. John Cena was walking in as the underdog champion. He was facing the man who had largely ruled the roost of the WWE for the past three years.

Triple H was the first man to wrestle John Cena at WrestleMania and have a good match with him. Cena was still coming into his own as a “technician” in the ring and being in the main event with a guy like “The Game” was a wise move for his first headlining spot at the biggest show of the year.

The beginning of the match effectively established that John Cena could not match Triple H’s wrestling ability and when he came back to win through sheer guts and determination it sold him as a champion even more so.

At the time it felt like the company was shoving the young Cena down our throats  but looking back 2006, and this match in particular, were pivotal in establishing Cena as the main event player he is now.

9. TRIPLE H VS. JEFF HARDY (NO MERCY 2008)

The final No Mercy event was a great one in terms of main event  matches.

Honestly, I think Jeff Hardy got more out of losing this match than John Cena did winning his match with Triple H at WrestleMania 22.

Hardy returned to the WWE in the Summer of 2006 and began building momentum, moving up the card, and drawling larger and louder crowd reactions each passing month.

By early 2008 it couldn’t be ignored any longer, Jeff Hardy was main event material. After a few speed bumps, Hardy recovered and found himself headlining pay-per-view events for the first time – with Triple H.

These two had several notable television matches  in the early 2000s, but now Hardy, while still the underdog, was on a more level playing field with one of the most consistent performers of the last decade.

If “The Charasmatic Enigma’s” match with The Undertaker in 2002 was a sign that he could be somebody in the world of professional wrestling than his WWE No Mercy match was proof that he was.

Hardy was unable to “grab the brass ring” on this night as “The Game” retained the WWE Championship after rolling up Hardy after he hit the Swanton Bomb.

This loss wouldn’t kill any of Hardy’s momentum as he went on to win the title later that year. Triple H  definitely helped legitimize Hardy as he acceded into the main event scene.

8. TRIPLE H VS. RIC FLAIR (SURVIVOR SERIES 2005)

This Street Fight from Survivor Series was truly the perfect playground for “The Cerebral Assassin” to exact his due revenge. Triple H beat the ever loving crap out of his idol, in Detroit.

In full disclosure, both pay-per-view matches these two had were extremely entertaining and engaging. I appreciate them both for very different reasons. Which is why I selected both of them separately, for different reasons.

Ric Flair, obviously, was far from his prime by the early 2000s. The veteran of Jim Crockett Promotions and 16 (21)-Time World Champion spent his final years in the WWE. Somehow the 50+ year old Flair managed to steal the show several times over  during his final run with the WWE.

While not nearly as spry as he was in his heyday, Flair’s knowledge of storytelling, ring psychology, and charisma allowed him to somehow thrive in the ring with men 20 or 30 years his junior. I seriously don’t think he gets enough credit for working as often  and as hard as he did at his advanced age.

Triple H was in control for much of this match and pretty much full-on assaulted the man who had been his mentor for almost four years.

They popped the crowd at all the right moments and Flair showed the right glimmers of hope that he might win only to have them shut down by the ruthless ruler of Evolution.

It was the classic “Sensei being taken down by his greatest pupil” story.

7. TRIPLE H VS. THE ROCK (JUDGEMENT DAY 2000)

I made mention of these two’s contest for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at the 1998 SummerSlam in the Honorable Mention section. I very nearly placed that match on the Countdown, but I decided to go with one of their matches that doesn’t get mentioned as often.

In all honesty, these two worked much better matches than the 1998 Ladder match. This is definitely a more polished match with a much better story.

When you look at The Rock and Triple H, you see two men who blossomed at the same time in the WWE. They came in around the same time and they had very parallel careers during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
They worked with one another at the bottom of the card, the middle of the card, and later main evented pay-per-views together.

Really, they were both the men who battled over who should be the “second” biggest name in the WWE.

In saying that, the 1 Hour- Iron Man match might be the single most difficult match for a wrestler to pull off.

In 2000, The Rock’s popularity might have reached it’s apex, and Triple H had one of the greatest single years a wrestler has ever had. With “Stone Cold” Steve Austin gone, these two hungry men got to fight tooth and nail for who would stand above the rest in the WWE.

This position was very nearly given to the Iron Man match between Chris Benoit and Triple H from Monday Night Raw in 2004.

Although, this match serves as one of the most underrated matches in Triple H’s catalog and serves as a shining example to how good “The Game” was back then. He was the most versatile and adaptable man on the WWE roster at the turn of the century.

Triple H would win this match and regain the WWE Championship after some unintentional help from a returning Undertaker.

6. TRIPLE H VS. RANDY ORTON (NO MERCY 2007)

2007 was a wonderful year for Orton’s character, and one the best years he has ever had in his already decade long career.

Every once in awhile, usually when the WWE roster is thin, some stars have to pull double duty on a show or pay-per-view event. At No Mercy 2007, Triple H wrestled, not twice, but three times.

Orton, who was scheduled to wrestle WWE Champion John Cena in a Last Man Standing match, was awarded the title by Vince McMahon at the beginning of WWE No Mercy. Triple H took issue with Orton being handed a title and challenged him to a match. Triple H would defeat Orton for the WWE Championship and go on to defend the title against his schedules opponent, Umaga, later that night.

The newly christened “Viper” wasn’t done. He utilized his rematch clause to make the main event of WWE No Mercy a Last Man Standing match against the WWE Champion, Triple H.

Both men were still weary from their matches earlier in the night, but that desperation they displayed with their physicality was perfect for the match type they were in.

Tooth and nail. Barely able to stand. Scratching. Clawing.

This was such a unique and interesting night for both Triple H and Randy Orton. Three titles reigns in one night? Fast title changes like this should be used very sparingly, but after a year plus of John Cena as WWE Champion this one-night storyline felt very innovative and fresh.

The final match made Randy Orton look so credible and this story arc was, for me, the one that finally solidified him as the top heel in the WWE.

5. TRIPLE H VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WWE RAW, DECEMBER 2003)

Few men have had more absolute classics than these two! I mean these two real-life best friends spent the better part of a decade  either teaming with one another or beating the crap out of each other.

SummerSlam 2002, Armageddon 2003, Royal Rumble 2004, and Bad Blood 2004 all featured classic contests from these two real life best friends.

When you take the emotion and grander out of that the best Triple H versus Shawn Michaels match for me took place on a forgotten edition of Monday Night Raw on one of final nights of 2003. Which just happens to be one of the worst years for the WWE’s flagship show – ever.

2003 was probably one of the most flat years WWE Monday Night Raw ever had as the premiere program for the company. Triple H and Shawn Michaels ended the year with a  bit of redemption and signaled that 2004 would be a much greener pasture for the show.

The “Heart Break Kid” and “The Game” battled in Three Stages of Hell and even a Hell in the Cell match, but for my taste their one-on-one matches were just better off without the bells-and-whistles.

This was classic Shawn Michaels battling Triple H when he was his most dastardly. He was the heel who did anything to win.

Leading into WrestleMania XX, many of the matches between “HBK” and “HHH” ended without a conclusion. That was the case here as Michaels had his former D-Generation X partner pinned, but it happened that the shoulders of Michaels were down also!

Triple H retained the World Heavyweight Champions, and the two would meet again at the 2004 Royal Rumble. Still, this gem from Raw is an absolute classic television match.

4. TRIPLE H VS. THE UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII)

The pacing, symbolism, and brutality that was showcased inside of that cage was unlike anything you will see on WWE television today.

Neither of these two could move as quickly as they once did, but they mask that so well by building tension and selling each move like it was a knockout blow. That emphasis made every swing, kick, and hold feel so important.

That, sometimes, is the most clear difference you see with a match between two masters.

The WWE style of wrestling is much more focused on reacting to the action than it is to the action, itself.

One of the greatest philosophies in wrestling is to make all the action in the ring mean something. Doing a double moonsault or any other insane maneuver means nothing without the proper response from the other performer.

Triple H and The Undertaker understood that and lived by that in the arena.

This was as a big of a spectacle as WWE could make it. They brought out every bell and whistle they could think of. Triple H. Undertaker. Shawn Michaels. Three of the men who defined what the Hell in a Cell match was, at the biggest event of the year.

The Undertaker defeated “The Game,” again,  at WrestleMania XXVIII and marked his 20th WrestleMania victory.

This ended their trio of matches at WrestleMania that spanned a decade and truly closed  the book on and “era” gone by.

3. TRIPLE H VS. CHRIS BENOIT VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA XX)

A main event contest truly worthy of being the showcase of WrestleMania’s 20th Anniversary. This is far and away one of WrestlteMania’s best wrestled main event matches ever.

Triple H had some of the best matches of his career with both Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit. As such, it only makes perfect sense that one of the best was a match featuring both of them.

We all know the story. Chris Benoit won the 2004 Royal Rumble and instead of challenging his brand’s champion, on Smackdown!, he challenged the World Heavyweight Champion on Monday Night Raw.

Triple H and Shawn Michaels had been feuding off-and-on for almost two years and Michaels was hungry to finish the man he once called a friend. To them, Benoit was a nuisance and a thorn in their side as they tried to eliminate one another.

These ingredients produced what is quite simply one of WrestleMania’s most physical and entertaining main events ever. The story was there, the action was there, and the moment was there.

It was everything the 20th Anniversary of WrestleMania deserved.

Triple H and Shawn Michaels both helped legitimize Benoit, who had been slowly working his way up the WWE card for almost four years.

Benoit made history, and did so by making Triple H tap out to the agonizing Crippler Cross Face.

The three men would go on to have a rematch in Canada, at Backlash, a month later which we talked about in Shawn Michaels Greatest Matches.

However, this match made Triple H’s Countdown due to the enormity of him losing the title and his willingness to put over a man who had wrestled all over the world for 20 years.

Triple H, got to give Benoit his greatest moment. Even still, that’s pretty special.

2. TRIPLE H VS. CACTUS JACK (ROYAL RUMBLE 2000)

Widely considered Triple H’s definitive classic, this match captures the number two position which might unsettle some readers who believe this was the best match he ever had.

This match sums up everything that made Triple H the definitive “man” during his 2000-2001 run. Sure Austin was the top guy and The Rock had better promos, but it was Triple H who was wrestling the best matches on the show.

This was Mick Foley’s definitive classic, and quite honestly the match that solidified Triple H as a top star for the next 15 years.

This was not quite as brutal as Foley’s matches with The Undertaker, The Rock, or Randy Orton, but that is in no way a critique on how wonderful this display of ruthlessness from both men.

At one point during the match, Triple H event gets his leg impaled!

Like a true professional, “The Game” sold it and worked the injury into the story of his match. Foley was always the man to put over the younger guys during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

If you notice, Triple H didn’t win his first WWE Championship from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He won it from Mankind. You know who else won their first WWE Championship from Mankind? The Rock.

I’m not trying to slam Austin, but more show how important Foley was to establishing two men who helped carry the roster. Foley made the future “King of Kings” look like a bonafide bad-ass in Madison Square Garden and he did it with absolute glee.

To this day, it still remains a huge turning point in the career of a man who now is instrumental in the future of WWE.

1. TRIPLE H VS. STEVE AUSTIN (NO WAY OUT 2001)

1. Triple H & Austin I.jpg

This match very much reminds me of the match between Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley in that it is a very unappreciated classic.

The Three Stages of Hell match.

A match so difficult to pull off that over nearly 15 years there has only been four of them in total. Triple H, was in all but one of those.

I have a feeling their will be some unrest with me not placing his match with Mick Foley in the number one position, but this match with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has gone so overlooked over the last two decades that it seems a crime to not finally give it the due it deserves.

The first fall was a normal Singles match. The second, a Street Fight. The final, was a Steel Cage match. The first man to score two victories, would be declared the winner. So, theoretically, if either Austin or Triple H won
both of the first two encounters there would be no Steel Cage match. Unfortunately for them, there was.

I think Jim Ross’s famous line, “this match is bowling shoe ugly,” is probably the most appropriate call to sum up there three falls of this match.

Austin won the first fall and, naturally, Triple H won the second. The Three Stages of Hell match concluded with both men, exhausted, inside of a Steel Cage. Triple H would win after only being lucky enough to collapse onto Austin after hitting a knockout blow.

Austin, and his Stone Cold Stunner, would get the last laugh, of course.

After this absolute war both men went on to headline one of the greatest WrestleMania events ever, WrestleMania X-Seven, with The Undertaker and The Rock in co-mainevents. Afterwards, they would form the Two-Man Power Trip and would run roughshod over the WWE until Triple H torn his quadricep in the match we talked about in the Honorable Mention section.

Thus, ended probably the most fruitful period of Triple H’s in-ring career.

Shawn Michaels Top Fifteen Greatest WWE Matches

Growing up as Michael Hickenbottom in San Antonio, Texas the future “Mr. WrestleMania” grew up idolizing wrestling greats like that of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. After coming through the tag team ranks of both the AWA and WWE, the newly christened “Heart Break Kid” would begin one of the highest quality singles career in professional wrestling history.

Throughout he 1990s and 2000s Shawn Michaels performed for the fans as if it would be the last time he ever stepped foot in the ring. His ability to perform was so good that it almost looked like instinct.

He might just be the most well rounded professional wrestler the WWE has ever produced. He was never the biggest draw or the greatest technical wrestler, but when it came to showmanship, match making, adaptation, and entertainment Michaels excelled on a level even other fellow greats of his time could not reach.

Shawn Michaels, more than any other performer, has appeared on multiple Countdowns, but finally we will get to look at his career exclusively and see how the matches talked about in all the previous editions stack up against one another.

This was difficult, as some of  the matches and performances talked about here are some of my favorites of all time.

Lets look back at a career filled to the absolute brim with some of the greatest professional matches ever contested in a four-sided ring.

15. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. SHELTON BENJAMIN (WWE RAW, MAY 2005)

An opening match in the 2005 Gold Rush Tournament. This was a tournament created by Eric Bischoff to crown a number one contender for the new World Heavyweight Champion, Batista.

Sometimes, when I hear praise for this match I often feel it is simply for the amazing finish in which Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music on a mid-air Shelton Benjamin who had just spring boarded off the top rope. However, I feel like, the other 15 minutes of the match were just absolute – well -gold.

The match very much falls into the same category as a Bret Hart/1-2-3 Kid or Undertaker/Jeff Hardy match that took place on WWE Raw.

A big name main event star having a match with a talented mid-card performer in which the latter loses but comes out of the match looking much more valuable to the product than before.

Shelton Benjamin spent much of the match one upping the “Heart Break Kid” by beating him to the punch as Jim Ross said. Shelton Benjamin gave Shawn Michaels everything he had. The Dragon Whip and all of his other crisp offense could not keep Michaels down for a three count.

Finally, Benjamin popped off the top rope from the outside to try and catch the veteran off guard, but the instinct of Michaels kicked in, and Sweet Chin Music finally found it’s mark.

After the match, the Texan patted the downed WWE Intercontinental Champion on the chest in a sign of respect.

14. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. STEVE AUSTIN (WRESTLEMANIA XIV)

More than any other match on this list, the main event of WrestleMania XIV is probably most famous for all the things going on behind the scenes with Shawn Michael’s injury and his miserable backstage attitude.

For that reason, and the fact that you can see Michaels in pure agony all throughout this match, I nearly left it off completely. Then I remembered how important this match really was.

This was one of only two or three times that these two ever wrestled one-on-one. It was also the visible transition from the Michaels/Hart era to the Austin era.

Sometimes I wonder what this match would have been like had Michaels not been on his way out. Still, broken back, or not, these two gave WrestleMania a great main event. This was probably the first truly successful WrestleMania main event since the end of the Hulkamania Era.

After finally winning the WWE Championship Austin took his rightful place as “the man” in the company.

“Mr. WrestleMania” may not have wanted to do the j.o.b. but he did so. He may not have been gracious about it, but in the end he put Steve over and he did it beautifully.

The crowd was into the story these two told and Austin finally got the accolades he had worked so hard for. This would be the last time Michaels performed at a WrestleMania for five years and we wouldn’t see him compete in a WWE ring at all for over four years.

He would come back to the ring in 2002, better than ever. Unfortunately, for Austin, by 2002 he had only a handful of matches left in his tank.

13. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. RANDY ORTON (SURVIVOR SERIES 2007)

This match got huge points from me for being so unique.

The gimmick for this match was so subtle, but did so much to make their encounter stand out.

Shawn Michael’s Sweet Chin Music was banned, and if he used it to try and win the WWE Championship from Randy Orton he would forfeit the match. Conversely, if Randy Orton was disqualified in any way, then Shawn Michaels would be awarded the WWE Championship. I have never been a huge fan of Randy Orton’s wrestling ability, but this has to be one of the most underrated matches in the “Heart Break Kid’s” monumental catalog of matches.

The result was Michaels breaking from his traditional formula and giving his fans a very different experience. 2007, Randy Orton was at his very best. From both an in-ring and character perspective he has never been better – before or since.

The stipulations added a great dynamic in which Orton would taunt the “Heart Break Kid” to use his superkick and Michaels even teased it several times to the shock of Orton.

Because his finishing maneuver was banded the Texas native broke out many maneuvers he did not use often and wrestled a match that would certainly look like a black sheep compared to his other lofty performances.

That is not a critique, it’s a compliment.

Despite breaking out the Crossface, the Sharpshooter, and even an Ankle Lock, Shawn Michaels could not defeat Randy Orton in Miami.

But after his defeat, Michaels got his revenge in the form of the Sweet Chin Music he had so desperately wanted t0 use the entire match.

12. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. MARTY JANNETTY (WWE RAW, MAY 1993)

I think Jannetty and Michaels just worked so good in the ring that they were better opponents than team partners. They were pretty good tag team partners too, so that sound come across as praise already.

A match so good, it won Pro Wrestling Illistrated’s Match of the Year award. An award Shawn Michaels would go on to win 11 times after winning it for the first time, here.

This will definitely be the most obscure match we will talk about today, but it still deserves to be recognized as one of Shawn Michaels earliest “great” one-on-one matches.

I have a strange love for several matches from the stretch of 1993 to 1994; the early days of Monday Night Raw.

Matches involving Razor Ramon, The Undertaker, 1-2-3 Kid (who made his debut on this very edition of Raw), Mr. Perfect, Ric Flair, Doink the Clown, Bret Hart, and many others. Watching these matches is like looking into an old toy box that was forgotten in the attic.

Shawn Michaels versus Marty Jannetty is another one of those early Raw matches that I have a tenderness for.

Marty Jannetty now joins Sabu on the list of “guys I never thought would be featured on the Countdown.” Really though, his matches in the early 1990s with Shawn Michaels were absolutely wonderful. It showed they had not only chemistry as a tag team, but as opponents as well.

This particular match was for the WWE Intercontinental Championship after Michaels had challenge a anyone to try and take his title from him and out came his former tag team partner in disguise. To the shock and chagrin of a heel “Heart Beak Kid,” Jannetty would prove to be just as formidable as an opponent.

With the help from a distraction from Mr. Perfect, the former Rocker pinned the newly christened “Heart Break Kid” and become the first man to win a championship on WWE Monday Night Raw.

These two had a ton of great television matches, but the crowd was never hotter than during this one.

11. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. CHRIS JERICHO (WRESTLEMANIA XIX)

After five long years of being away from the WWE ring, “Mr. WrestleMania” came home. And he didn’t disappoint.

Inside the enormous Safeco Field, Shawn Michaels battled Chris Jericho for the first time; one-on-one. It would be far from their last.

On a card stacked with main event caliber matches, like Mr. McMahon versus Hulk Hogan, The Rock versus “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and Kurt Angle versus Brock Lesnar, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho reminded us all that you didn’t have to be top billing to put on the match that people would be talking about for the next decade.

As I’ve talked about in the past, the brilliance of this match was that these two managed to stand out on a card dominated by stars far bigger than them.

Their chemistry was apparent and the story going into the match made it all the better. Anytime a character can come across through their actions inside the ring you know a talent is into what they are doing. Jericho played the jaded jealous former-HBK fan to a tee.

Shawn Michaels would win a very competitive and entertaining match, and got a kick to the groin from a frustrated “Y2J” for his trouble. Jericho, who wanted to step out of his shadow, failed to live up to his own expectations.

This would be far from the last time we got to enjoy these two’s ability to tell a story.

10. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. BRET HART (WRESTLEMANIA XII)

I would venture to say that no match in WWE history brings about more division among fans than this one. Is it as good as everyone says? How important was it really? Did Michaels and Hart really have one of the best WWE Championship matches or did they just manage to wrestle a 60-minute match?

My opinion of this match is that every professional wrestling fan should watch this – ONCE.

However, this has to be one of the most difficult matches to re-watch for writing purposes. What this match does do is put over the WWE Championship as the absolute biggest prize in all of professional wrestling. Few other big banner matches have put over that title’s importance like this one.

That might be why it is often in the discussion as one of the greatest WWE Championship matches ever.

The inherent problem is that a great ending to a wrestling match is one that usually comes, as WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross would say, “out of nowhere.” However, in the Iron Man match you have to find a new way to create that spontaneity so the crowd will still pop.

Michaels and Hart wrestled a beautiful match and showed that they were the most talented men on that particular WWE roster.

That was not big challenge for them, but what they could not do was give the fans a typical five star masterpiece filled with re-watchable sequences that we all love from so many of the other classic WWE matches.

This match is a very unique animal all the same.

9. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. MANKIND (MIND GAMES 1996)

This might be one of the most unappreciated classics that WWE currently has in it’s deep vaults of footage. I got to gush about this match a ton last season, but this match means very different things to the career of Shawn Michaels than it does to the career of Mick Foley

The “Heart Break Kid” might be one of the best professional wrestlers to ever live and he has given many men some of their greatest matches. In turn, those matches might not necessarily be good enough to be featured among Shawn Michaels’s greatest.

I think it should be a huge feather in the cap for Mick Foley to know that he had a match with Shawn Michaels that fans consider to be one of the Michaels’s greatest performances and not just one of his own.

This, however, is definitely a black sheep when you set it among all the other great silky smooth performances of “The Showstopper’s” career.

It is almost grungy and brutal in it’s execution, but then again this match was held in Philadelphia and Michaels was performing against possibly the most successful “hardcore” wrestler to ever live.

Michaels did not have to carry Foley to have a great match, but the two threw their wrestling styles at one another and what we got was a painting with beautiful contrast.

I absolutely adore this match and anyone who has never seen it needs to seek it out.

8. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. CHRIS BENOIT VS. TRIPLE H (BACKLASH 2004)

If this Countdown had been over Chris Benoit it would have certainly been a lot harder to not opt for the amazing Triple Threat match at WrestleMania XX.

Today we are looking at the career of Shawn Michaels and when you take the emotion out of the WrestleMania match it’s story is just not as interesting as the one that took place during the Backlash 2004 rematch.

Truth be told, they are both amazing matches without a doubt, but the role Shawn Michaels played in this one was so much more prominent. He almost felt like a third-wheel at WrestleMania, but at Backlash the fans could certainly notice him.

This match took place, not in New York City, but in Chris Benoit’s hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. At this time, the WWE’s Canadian fans were still pretty sore at Shawn Michaels for a certain event that occurred in Montreal a few years prior.

Obviously Michaels played up his heel antics and as such and it made his role in the match, and the match in general, much more interesting.

There was one point in which Michaels, accidentally, knocked out the referee and then locked in a Bret hart-like Sharpshooter on Benoit. As he has the move locked in out comes, who else, WWE Senior Official; Earl Hebner. The fans drowned the arena with “boos” of “You screwed Bret.” It was wonderful.

In a beautiful tribute to the 1997 Survivor Series, Chris Benoit retained the World Heavyweight Championship using the Sharpshooter on Shawn Michaels.

Seeing these three men wrestle together really sent your emotions for a roller coaster ride. It’s a damn shame we only got to ride it twice.

7. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. JOHN CENA (WWE RAW, APRIL 2007)

For some reason, this match elicits a lot of mixed feelings from fans of the WWE, especially online. Part of me thinks it has to do with John Cena.

Regardless, I think this is the single greatest television match HBK has ever participated in.

He had so many wonderful matches on WWE Monday Night Raw after he came back from his near career-ending back injury with the likes of Triple H, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Jeff Hardy, Mr. Kennedy, and numerous others.

I do feel, though, that his match in London, England with the WWE Champion, John Cena, is far and away his best free television match ever.

It’s so rare that a TV match between two competitors is better than one of their pay-per-view matches, especially one that takes place at WrestleMania. This was one of those cases.

They wrestled an hour long Broadway before, finally, Michaels found a brief opening.

In the end Shawn Michaels somersaulted out of Cena’s final F-U and hit Sweet Chin Music, as Jim Ross would say, “out of nowhere.” Michaels was only so lucky that when he fell it was on top of the dazed WWE Champion.

This match was not even for the WWE Championship. It was all bragging rights.

It was all based around pride and ego. WWE always puts there best foot forward when it comes to giving the overseas fans some of the best television matches of the year, and this is the chief example of that.

6. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. TRIPLE H (SUMMERSLAM 2002)

To me this match is like a bad ex-girlfriend that I can’t decide if I still want or not.

Sometimes I love it and want to watch it over-and-over again and other times I find it to be the most overrated piece of garbage I’ve ever watched.

“I used Shawn Michaels to get to the top, just like Shawn Michaels used me to stay at the top.” – Triple H

If a tag team or stable is successful in the wrestling business you can bet at some point it will break apart and it’s members will feud against one another.

Shawn Michaels and Triple H took that to a whole new level in 2002 . They met for the first time at SummerSlam and their war ragged on-and-off for the next two years.

I feel like I’m including this match here for largely sentimental reasons which I usually go against. Truth be told, it is an excellent brawl on it’s own merits, but the goosebumps I got seeing Shawn Michaels wrestle for the first time in over four years eclipsed everything else going on here.

It was simply the most unbelievable WWE comeback ever. Only a return of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would surprise me more than this did.

Shawn got the victory and came back and had a banner eight year run with WWE. Not bad for a man who had broke his back less than five years earlier.

5. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. CHRIS JERICHO (NO MERCY 2008)

The story Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho told in 2008 was almost like a spiritual sequel to their 2003 story.

In 2003 Jericho wanted to step out of the shadow of his former idol, and in 2008 he come back seeking to destroy him.

This was the most carefully told and brilliantly executed story the WWE has constructed since the end of the 20th century. Nothing else in the summer of 2008 mattered to me expect what these two were doing.

I would venture to even say the brilliance of their rivalry was even what motivated me to start writing online about professional wrestling on a regular basis.

At this point, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho knew each other well. They had wagged war many times in the past, and really, this was their final major one-on-one match together, and how apropo it was that it was in a Ladder match.

The two men, I believe, had the smartest Ladder match ever. There has definitively been Ladder matches with better spots and more sleek sequences, but no Ladder match had more logic or interesting storytelling as this one.

Chris Jericho would get the last laugh defeating Shawn Michaels in the match that he used to make himself famous.

The two would have one final match on Raw the next year, but as far as anyone, with any taste is concerned, this was the end to over five years of history.

4. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. RAZOR RAMON [TIE] (WRESTLEMANIA X/SUMMERSLAM 1995)

Both are so good, and similar enough, that I decided to cheat and give the number four position to both. I did this instead of taking up two positions with their matches because of how alike they are. So, yes, this is a cop-out.

Let me explain more why I crammed both together and didn’t leave either off.

The match from WrestleMania X is both innovative and iconic. There match at WrestleMania is clearly the more historically important match, but I still feel the SummerSlam match was worked much better. Leaving either match off would be a glaring omission for me.

They are also too similar to be given two separate individual positions like some opponents are given.

To me, Shawn Michaels established Scott Hall as an icon of the New Generation Era. I’m only sad that we never got to see “The Bad Guy” achieve more in the company that he made his name in.

Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels worked so well together, and many accuse Hall of just being so lucky to be in the ring while Michaels “wrestled a ladder.”

Scott Hall, however, was trained by Dusty Rhodes, Barry Windham, and was broken in under the watchful eye of Curt Hennig in the AWA when the two men tag teamed together.

By the time “The Bad Guy” had reached the WWE he was more than capable of keeping up with a young Shawn Michaels.

3. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. THE UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXV)

Placing this match anywhere but number one feels so cumbersome to me.

I feel as if I could very easily give this the number one position and sleep with no problem, but I still think this is the fairest position I can give it.

This was high drama at it’s finest and a shining example of how less can be more. There is “laying around” in a match and then there is selling the emphasis of your opponents blows while building the crowds anticipation. This match featured no “laying around” as far as I’m concerned. Every second meant something and contributed to the larger story the two men were telling.

To be honest there was not much story to go on as the match was hyped up. Did we really need any reason to want to see the two longest tenured WWE performers of all time duke it out in their home state of Texas at the 25th Anniversary of the biggest wrestling show of all time, WrestleMania?

No. We didn’t.

We all knew Michaels and Undertaker would give us the most well crafted piece of performance art of the evening and they still surpassed our already high expectations.

Seriously, what more can be said about this match? It has become the new age Steamboat/Savage of the modern era of WrestleMania. And yes, it gets way more credit than it probably deserves just like Steamboat/Savage did.

Fact remains, it is one of the easiest to watch matches ever and it gets huge points for being between two of my favorite professional wrestlers.

It also took place in Texas, between two Texans, at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania. How much more perfect can that get for a wrestling fan from Texas? This match was tailor made to please me.

2. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. KURT ANGLE (WRESTLEMANIA 21)

2. Michaels & Angle I.jpg

I’m not sure if it is possible to wrestle a “perfect match,” but it is damn hard to think of anything that Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels missed here.

After his two year odyssey with Triple H finally came to an end, Shawn Michaels was sort of left in limbo. Enter Kurt Angle.

The WWE Raw superstar and the WWE Smackdown! superstar met by chance in the Royal Rumble match where Angle was quickly greeted by the cold mistress that is, Sweet Chin Music.

That is all the reason the furious Olympic Gold Medal winner needed to challenge every accolade “The Showstopper” had ever collected while spending the weeks proceeding their first encounter mocking Michaels by defeating his former tag team partners and signing his entrance song with his former manager before putting her in an Angle Lock.

The two men would systematically steal every show they performed together on.

Whether it was underneath the HOLLYWOOD sign at WrestleMania 21, among the bright lights of Las Vegas at Vengeance 2005, or back “home” on the USA Network during Raw’s “Homecoming.”

They outperformed everyone. Every time. And they made it look easy.

It was on the grand stage of WrestleMania, of course, that “Mr. WrestleMania” once again showed everyone why he was the single greatest performer in WWE history. It was their first meeting, and their most entertaining meeting.

Kurt Angle would force Shawn Michaels to tap out while “the lights were on bright”, but that would be far from the end of it.

What has really always made me love this match is how Michaels adapted his style and kept up with, and even excelled in the ring with, one of the most talented ring workers in the company at that time.

1. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. THE UNDERTAKER (BAD BLOOD 1997)

You have two of the most important WWE superstars of all time in their prime. A brand new innovative Hell in a Cell match. Wall-to-wall action. An engaging storyline based around The Undertaker getting revenge against Michaels.

On top of all of that quality, we see one of the greatest debuts in WWE history with the introduction of Kane thanks to Paul Bearer.

Everything was executed to perfection in this match.

For my money, this is the benchmark that all other WWE matches should be judged against. Booking, storyline, in-ring dynamic, action, reaction, and wrestling are what make a match what it is. Even the swerve at the end with Kane was just fantastically over the top. This match hits, nay surpasses, all expectations when judging it on that criteria.

D-Generation X was just beginning to blossom and Shawn Michaels was embracing a new attitude that stood in stark contrast to the beloved “Heart Break Kid” of old.

The characters. The athletes. The wrestlers. Whatever, Shawn Michaels or Undertaker you are referring to, they gave just about as close to perfect as any WWE match has ever been.

It was a classic despite the fact that it was inside of a gimmick cage. That was just the cherry on top.

It was the “WWE Style” personified.

Undertaker went to finish off Michaels, and exact his righteous revenge, but the lights dimmed and the music of Kane sounded for the first time.

“That’s got to be Kane!” -Vince McMahon

Kane made his way to the Cell, and, to the shock of Undertaker, delivered a Tombstone Piledriver to allow the bloody WWE European Champion the victory and a chance to face Bret Hart…at Survivor Series.

Even narrowing Shawn Michael’s greatest matches down to 15 instead of ten, was extremely challenging when you consider the fact that he is second to no one when it comes to combining all the elements of sports entertainment.

Storytelling, in ring prowess, charisma, and character building are all elements of sports entertainment that Shawn mastered and combined flawlessly to become the greatest of all time.

Mick Foley’s Top Ten Greatest Matches

The sound of a car crash screeching by, followed by a roar of fans, is what you would often find on an episode of Monday Night Raw when Mick Foley made his way to the ring.

Akin more to almost a wild stunt man than a professional wrestler, the matches we will look at today will largely lack the technical finesse we might find in a Bret Hart match, but that doesn’t diminish their value.

Mick Foley was not someone you’d image wrestling a 60 minute clinic with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, but you can be damn certain that we will be looking at some of the most exhilarating and exciting matches to take place in the last 30 years of professional wrestling.

Few people on any wrestling roster anywhere could entertain and get a reaction from the crowd like he did.

Whether he was Cactus Jack, Dude Love, Mankind, or just lovable Mick Foley.

The Long Island native has had a very unique, one of a kind, career. One in which we will likely never anyone duplicate.

10. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. STING (BEACH BLAST 1992)

This was Mick Foley’s first chance competing on a large platform.

While it is certainly not a 30 minute epic, it is probably the shortest match I’ve seen that was able to be deemed main event worthy. I’d say that is the highest compliment I could give to these two, seemingly, mismatched characters.

In 1992, Foley was still very mobile and it showed in this match. Barely any of this encounter took place inside of the ring. This was Foley’s “big match” debut and while it could have been better, it was still a very important and notable encounter that remains entertaining even today.

Foley would leave WCW in 1994 and never return, unlike many other performers who jumped between the Connecticut and Atlanta-based promotions.

I think it would have been really interesting had these two met in the ring five or so years later when Foley dawned the mask of Mankind  and Sting evolved into The Crow. Regardless of the missed opportunity these two still told a really compelling story and packed a ton of heat into a very short amount of time.

It just felt incomplete, so I’m afraid I can not justify placing it any higher than this, which makes it perfect for the number ten position.

9. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. VADER (HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1993)

Like many of the matches we will talk about in the season finale of the Pro Wrestling Countdown this was a gimmick match. A Texas Death match to be exact.

Jack was actually able to dominate the then WCW Champion in the early going of this match. Within minutes both men had been busted open, but it took Vader awhile to get any upper hand on the crazed Cactus Jack.

It was matches like this in WCW that truly earned Mick Foley his reputation as an absolute lunatic. He was not a traditional professional wrestler in any sense of the word.

Jack absorbed a sick looking moonsault from Vader, and two straight steel chair shots on the entrance ramp. Still, Jack was about to come back to hit feet, but Harley Race, Vader’s manager, struck him in the leg with an electric taser, keeping him from answering the ten count.

The ending was dumb, but that was a trend that followed almost all main event matches in WCW throughout the 1990s no matter who was in charge. They had several other good matches in WCW, but never one in which Jack looked as dominate as he was here,  even in defeat.

Several years later these two men would find themselves both under the wing of Jim Cornette in the WWE. They even wrestled as a tag team for a brief time.

8. MICK FOLEY AS MANKIND VS. THE UNDERTAKER (KING OF THE RING 1998)

When Hulk Hogan slammed Andre he created aquintessential WrestleMania moment. When CM Punk sat Indian style on the stage of Monday Night Raw and delivered his worked shoot promo to John Cena and the WWE he made himself a mega star.

When The Undertaker threw Mick Foley 15  feet off of the top of Hell in a Cell it was Mick Foley who would get the credit for sacrificing his body. He gave wrestling fans one of the most “real” visuals we could ever replay.

Forget being in awe, fans the world over collectively lost it when Foley fell off and through the Hell in a Cell.

I nearly regulated this match to Honorable Mention, but when it comes to legend making matches this might be the best of all time.

It was largely made up of two major bumps that started the match, but  Foley continued wrestling Undertaker even with all of  the broken bones and injuries he had sustained during his falls.

The Undertaker, who was also wrestling with an injured foot, scored the victory. However, it would be Foley who would benefit most from this match. It was the career making moment, and within the next year he was one of the biggest stars of the WWE.

The phrase “career shortening match” is thrown around very lightly in this day and age, but I think this was one of the rare cases where that call would have been right on point.

So much has been written and said about this match, but  while it might be his greatest moment, he has had far better matches. Still, this is the one-in-a-million case when a bump largely makes a match.

“You have no idea how much I appreciate what you’ve just done for this company, but I never want to see anything like that ever again.” -Vince McMahon

7. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. SABU (HOLIDAY HELL 1995)

This will probably be the only time we ever talk about Sabu on the Pro Wrestling Countdown so please enjoy this.

These two would have looked more appropriate fighting over a rotten hamburger in a back alley. Luckily, ECW’s bingo hall was not far off.

I wanted to represent Mick Foley’s time in ECW in some way and this match up has always been a guilty pleasure for the hardcore fanatic in me.

The mad man from Japan and the insane Cactus Jack seemed tailor-made for one another, and in 1994 it happened when WCW allowed Jack to go down and work for the (then) NWA ran Eastern Championship Wrestling.

He would soon leave WCW and become a permanent part of the ECW roster and entered a feud with the “Suicidal, Genocidal, Homicidal, Death-Defying Sabu” (I had to say it, just once).

They both had many encounters throughout ECW and the NWA, but this has always been their quintessential car-crash in my opinion. This match took place during Cactus Jack’s “Anti-Hardcore” gimmick and Foley even brought out an Olympic wrestling style referee for this match in order to make it as “clean” as possible, but Paul Heyman’s 911 took care of the little well-meaning referee.

What followed that was exactly what you would expect. Broke tables, moonsaults, guard rails, loud-as-shit steel chair shots, and dangerous leaps of faith. This was E-C-F’N-W after all!

I do have to mention that the finish came way too soon and was a little disappointing after the match had been so viscous up to that point, but that always seems to be the case when these two wrestled.

As I said in the introduction, Mick Foley was no 60-Minute Man.

6. MICK FOLEY AS DUDE LOVE  VS. STEVE AUSTIN (OVER THE EDGE 1998)

This might be the most overbooked mess of match ever.

This was a  No Disqualification Falls Count Anywhere match  for the WWE Championship. Vince McMahon was special guest referee, Gerard Brisco was the time keeper, and Pat Patterson was the bell ringer. Finally, The Undertaker was also in the ring side area in the corner of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

All of these things were supposed to cater to Dude Love, who was working under the wing of Vince McMahon.

This is the best example of sloppy late 1990s WWE booking you can get. It was a damn wreck – but this time they pulled it off. Their match at Unforgiven one month prior left a lot to be desired, but adding the stipulations to their match gave the two iconic brawlers free reign to do whatever they liked.

Surprisingly they started off wrestling a very “straight” wrestling match. However, later on, as you can see above, the moved more into their comfort zone.

The ending was screwy as it gets with multiple referee bumps and outside involvement, but it was 1998. What do you expect?

Austin pinned Dude Love by slapping the lifeless hand of Vince McMahon to the mat three times. Somehow, this allowed him to retain the WWE Championship to the roar of the Milwaukee crowd.

It bordered ridiculous, and could have placed higher if some of the extra elements were taken out, but Austin and Foley had a really similar style and gelled well when the focus was on them. This match worked because no one involved took it too seriously. Bodies flew everywhere, and Austin one-uped Vince McMahon again.

5. MICK FOLEY VS. EDGE (WRESTLEMANIA 22)

“Yeah due to my own sheer chip on my shoulder, I thought I should have been in the main event of WrestleMania so I decided I would dive through a flaming table while I still had thumb tacks stuck in my back.” -Edge

This was the last lover letter from a hardcore icon.

To me, this should have been his final match ever. Edge was able to carry the broken down boy from Long Island and was finally able to give him his “WrestleMania Moment.”

I have been critical of this match in the past, but now I see it in a much better light.

I always though this match should have gone another 10 minutes or so to take it that “next level.” However, now I see this as Foley doing the best he could.

He could not give the fans a 30 minute classic at this point, but he could still manage a great match with all the action a 30 minute match might have, but in half of that time.

So maybe this match could have taken the number one position of this Pro Wrestling Countdown had it taken place a decade earlier, but what we have here is still worth giving a high place.

It means even more knowing how much this match means to Foley, personally.

Edge may have gotten the victory after spearing Foley off of the ring apron and through a flaming table, but the hardcore legend walked out Chicago knowing he finally got his moment.

This was really Foley’s final great match. His comebacks after this and his run in TNA felt uninspired and I’m sure Mick Foley would echo the same thing in an honest confession.

4. MICK FOLEY AS MANKIND VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (MIND GAMES 1996)

This match occurred just a few months after Foley’s arrival in the WWE on the day after WrestleMania XII.

One thing I think Mankind did expertly in this match is selling. While I don’t usually find it necessary to mention selling in a match this was a brilliant example of  making one’s opponent look dominate while making yourself look obstinate.

Foley sold his legs for a majority of the match after the “Heart Break Kid” focused much of his early offense on them. Foley went as far as to stab his knees with a pin to try and get feeling back into his legs. It just added another layer of storytelling to the match.

For a long time, this was one of Foley’s best matches in the WWE, and it still is, but he was able to far surpass what he and Michaels did on this night. With his former ECW colleges sitting in the front row, Mankind brought some hints of hardcore to a very stale WWE product.

This was probably my favorite match from Shawn Michaels during his first ever reign as WWE Champion and Foley’s first match worth talking about during his WWE tenure.  I think I favor this match so much because how odd of a pairing they seem to be, and how blown away I was at how well they worked together.

I wish I could have seen them wrestle on a larger scale and not just on a forgotten In Your House event.

The terribly screwy ending with Vader and Sid  kept this match from sneaking into the top three matches of the Pro Wrestling Countdown, but everything Michaels and Mankind did on this night in Philadelphia was absolutely worthy of acknowledging here.

3. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. RANDY ORTON (BACKLASH 2004)

To me, Randy Orton’s “Legend Killer” character is one of the most understated and brilliant gimmicks ever produced in the WWE. In saying that, Orton’s first true character in WWE was at it’s absolute peak when he was feuding with Mick Foley in the early months of 2004.

3. Foley & Orton IIIn the best shape he had been in almost a decade, the former three time WWE Champion came back looking for his defining WrestleMania moments at WrestleMania XX.

When his match with Evolution failed to live up to his expectations he decided at Backlash he would have another match.

But this time he would go one-on-one with the cocky young WWE Intercontinental Champion.

The match was absolutely one of the most cringe inducing matches the WWE has ever allowed on pay-per-view. Seeing Randy Orton being thrown, back first, into a pool of thumb tacks was something straight out a nightmare.

Barbed wire, tables, thumb tacks, steel chairs, and so many other weapons were used by both men. It may not have been the bloodiest match we’ve seen in WWE, but it is absolutely one of the hardest to watch.

After taking a ton of abuse from a crazed Cactus Jack, Orton managed to sneak out one final game changing RKO to “kill” the legend of Mick Foley.

2. MICK FOLEY AS MANKIND VS. THE ROCK (ROYAL RUMBLE 1999)

Much in the way that we will never see another Hell in a Cell match like the one from the 1998 King of the Ring, we will also never see another I Quit match like the one from the 1999 Royal Rumble.

The story going in was Foley, who was WWE Champion at the time, built up the fact that  the I Quit match was a match that “[The Rock] could not win and that he, Foley, could never lose.” Mankind said he had never given up and that pain was his life’s calling.

The Corporation was in full swing by this time, and The Rock was the companies top heel. So an I Quit match with the most hated man in the company going against a man who could absorbed so much punishment was really smart booking.

“The Rock is in uncharted waters.” -Michael Cole

The Rock was just beginning his accent to becoming ones of the companies most recognized stars and Mick Foley was really the buffer between he and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Rocky was sort of portrayed as the
ambitious up-and-coming main eventer who was in over his head with the hardcore, WWE Champion, Mick Foley.

The goal of this program was to make The Rock look credible against Austin at WrestleMania. It worked. It worked magnificently.

We had seen The Rock have some pretty nasty matches before, like his Ladder match with Triple H, but his match with Mankind at the Royal Rumble was something people still point to as the benchmark of brutality in WWE history.

After nearly 20 minutes of slamming one another into just about anything and everything but the inside of the ring, a handcuffed Mankind passed out on the entrance ramp. The Rock, taunting, the fans and his opponent, held the microphone down to the WWE Champion’s mouth one last time.

I’ve never known how to feel about the unique ending to this match. A sound clip of Foley saying “I Quit” was played by the Corporation while The Rock held the microphone to the lips of an unconscious Mankind. It was clever, but almost too much for me. Foley was an absolute punching bag in the match and may have taken more offense here than any other match.

But, he kept to his promise. He never quit.

Foley truly deserves a lot of credit for being the first to “dance” with The Rock as he ascended into main event status. He put him over in grand fashion, and he’d do it again only one year later…

1. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. TRIPLE H (ROYAL RUMBLE 2000)

A year later, Mick Foley would once again be battling for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.

In the same arena he watched “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka jump off the top of a Steel Cage onto Don Maraco years earlier, Mick Foley  main evented the Royal Rumble against Triple H in a Street Fight for the WWE Championship.

How could Foley ever top main eventing Madison Square Garden for the WWE Championship? This was everything he wanted to achieve when he became a professional wrestler.

Near the end of his active career, Foley wanted to go out in a blaze of glory and put over  one of the men who would carry the company for the next decade. While, Foley would not really stay away for long he did indeed
become the first man to make Triple H look like a bona-fide badass.

This match, while probably not as vicious as some of the matches we talked about earlier in this Countdown, was a Street Fight in every sense of the word.

Foley brought out the barbed wire baseball bat, mallets, steel chairs, and more. Triple H may have been out of his element compared to the sadistic Cactus Jack, but it never takes the “Cerebral Assassin” long to adapt.

Triple H, while bloodied, managed to stay in control as the match entered it’s final moments.

He back -dropped Foley on the very tacks he poured in the ring then delivered the Pedigree, but to his shock Cactus Jack was not finished. He kicked out at two!

Jack got up and charged “The Game” again, but got kicked in the gut and ate another Pedigree. This time, face-first onto his signature thumb tacks. Triple H retained as “My Time” echoed through the New York arena.

In true Cactus Jack fashion, he would get the last world by attacking the WWE Champion as he was being wheeled away. Madison Square Garden returned in kind chanting “Foley” as we faded to black.

Kurt Angle’s Top Ten WWE & TNA Matches

While the comparisons to amateur wrestling and professional wrestling seem obvious very few men have been able to make the transition to professional wrestling in the modern era.

Kurt Angle is the total package. He has athletic ability, intestinal fortitude, and is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining men considering his background. No matter if he was main evening WrestleMania or opening match, Kurt Angle made sure his performance was remembered over all others.

While the last few years have been somewhat uneventful in his career there is no doubt in my mind that there is no one who has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time as Kurt Angle.

The Olympic gold medalist has won every title there is in the WWE and TNA and will no doubt be looked back on as one of the greatest professional wrestles of the early 21st century.

In his nearly 15 year career, half with WWE and half with TNA, he has had some of the best matches in both companies history so deciding on only ten was absolutely agonizing. There are only a select few men I enjoy watching in the squared circle more than Angle and many of those men will also be talked about today.

So without further adieu I present my tribute to a man with integrity, a man with intelligence, and a man with unmatched intensity. Oh it’s true – it’s (damn) true.

HONORABLE MENTION:

KURT ANGLE VS. SHANE MCMAHON (KING OF THE RING 2001)

Leave it to Kurt Angle to get a five star match out of a man who is not even a professionally trained wrestler. Shane McMahon might legitimately be certifiable. The spots he did in matches during the early 2000s were just bat shit crazy.

Angle and McMahon had a really intense street fight that worked to the benefit of the son of the WWE owner, and showed off what the traditional wrestler, Kurt Angle, could do outside of his element.

This matches claim to fame is obviously the spot when Kurt Angle attempts to throw “The Prodigal Son” through the King of the Ring’s glass displays.

Twice he bell-to-back supplexed him into the glass only for him to fall on his head. Angle, ever determined, muscled Shane ‘O Mac through the spots and then had to wheel his delirious opponent back to the ring on a piece of portable storage.

I mean it was almost as if Angle was wrestling a rag doll.

Shane managed to finish the match and even get some offense in near the end, but an Angle Slam off of the top turnbuckle sealed his fate and allowed Kurt Angle to get a measure of revenge against the owner of the newly emerging Alliance.

10. KURT ANGLE VS. AJ STYLES (HARD JUSTICE 2008)

This was the rematch to their first encounter at Slammiversary 2008 in which Angle was seeking revenge for Styles marrying his former wife, Karen Angle.

When Kurt Angle entered TNA in the late summer of 2006 I was beyond ecstatic. I immediately wrote a short list in my head of opponents I wanted him to meet. At the very top of list was AJ Styles.

The flashy high flying style from AJ really mixed well the seemingly endless variants of supplexs in Angle’s arsenal.

Since 2006 Styles and Angle have been opponents many times over, been in an alliance together at least twice, and even won the TNA Tag Team Championship together.

However, when they meet in the ring you can expect nothing but the best match of the night. Watch any match they’ve had and you’ll understand.

In the end this Last Man Standing match ended the same way their match at Slammiversary ended, with “The Phenomenal One” once again standing over a broken Kurt Angle.

The following TNA iMPACT! AJ Styles would even win Kurt Angle’s Olympic gold medal before Angle finally got his final redemption over Styles and his (storyline at the time) ex-wife later on. The two have a very storied history now and may once again find themselves on the same side of the ring when Kurt Angle returns.

9. KURT ANGLE VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (WRESTLEMANIA XX)

The interesting thing about Kurt Angle is that when he has one great match with an opponent he seems to continue to have many more.

With almost every opponent on this edition of the Countdown I could probably name two to three other great matches Angle had with them.

However, when it comes to Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle one clearly stands above the rest and that is their match at the 20th Anniversary of WrestleMania.

This match was a heel Kurt Angle spouting nonsense about how he had to give the fans a WWE Champion that they could be proud of. He brought up Eddie’s drug and alcohol addiction and his runs in with the police in an attempt to slander him.

Guerrero and Angle have a really good mat based encounter and add in Guerrero’s catch-catch-can reversals and you get a perfect WWE Championship match.

Guerrero sneaked out the victory by loosening the laces of his boot and luring Angle into applying the Angle Lock.

One he did so, Guerrero slipped out leaving the Olympic gold medalist holding his boot in bewilderment. Angle then unwisely charged Guerrero who rolled him up and used the ropes to get a quick three count.

Guerrero lied and cheated to defeat Kurt Angle and stole the match on the grandest stage of them all. it was a perfect ending to one of Guerrero’s best matches. Often the best matches someone has are when they are putting someone else over.

Angle certainly did a wonderful job of giving Eddie Guerrero his most notable moment.

8. KURT ANGLE & CHRIS BENOIT VS. REY MYSTERIO & EDGE (NO MERCY 2002)

To put it frankly this has to be among the greatest Tag Team matches in WWE history.

I can scarcely think of a Tag Team match that’d I’d be more okay with main eventing a Pay-Per-View event. This honestly could have closed No Mercy and I doubt anyone would have complained.

Few titles active in the WWE have had as good of a start as the WWE Tag Team Championship which was crowned to the winning team of this match.

Kurt Angle, with his reluctant partner Chris Benoit, took on the babyface pairing of Rey Mysterio and Edge in the finals of a tournament to decide the newly christened belts.

2002 was truly a great year in the WWE from an in-ring perspective.

WWE was enjoying the fruits of their monopoly and the influx of ECW and WCW talent had bloated the roster so much that McMahon and his team separated their brands.

In 2002 and 2003 WWE Smackdown! truly enjoyed the better roster. This is a prime example.

While these Edge was really the only tag team specialist every one in this match used some wonderful tag team maneuvers with their partners.

The rivals, Angle and Benoit, eked out the victory and became the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions. If you hate the state of the tag team division now go back and watch every detail of this match.

7. KURT ANGLE VS. JEFF JARRETT (LOCKDOWN 2011)

Art always finds a funny way to mimic reality.

I have no problem admitting that I think Jeff Jarrett is a complete joke. He is a great storyteller and has a wonderful understanding of the professional wrestling business, but his thinking he was a star that could stand among the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair is ridiculous.

However, it would be unfair of me to slight this awesome Steel Cage match and many of his other very entertaining performances.

This rivalry is very similar to the Edge-Matt Hardy-Lita saga from 2005.

TNA turned a real life situation between Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle and spun it into a storyline. Kurt and Karen Angle did in fact get a real divorce in late 2008 and she did go on to marry Jeff Jarrett in 2010.

So in the early months of 2011 this feud was drummed up due to the fact that most of the iMPACT wrestling fans already knew about it, and the company thought it would make for good television.

So= they went ahead and made a really personal, and somewhat uncomfortable, storyline about it. It was not the best told story, but the matches these two had were better than I would have ever imagined.

Honestly though, Kurt Angle gave Jeff Jarrett the best matches of his career and I think this Steel Cage match might actually be the single greatest match of his career.

Steel Cage matches are perfect for really personal rivalries like this and I’m glad I got to watch this live.

Near the end Angle, at 42, moonsaulted off of the top of the cage and missed Jarret. I thought his career might have been over after that. It looked so nasty.

Angle fought back, but his ex-wife would be the deciding factor in this match and allowed “Double J” to escape the cage. Angle would get the last laugh months later when he defeated Jarrett and “sent him to Mexico.”

6. KURT ANGLE VS. SAMOA JOE (TURNING POINT 2006)

Kurt Angle deserves the distinction of having the greatest debut in TNA history. Not only that, but his first feud/opponent might also be one of his greatest.

There MMA style bout at Lockdown 2008 is often pointed at as their best encounter, but as time has passed I think their original series of matches aged much better. None more so, than their second encounter at Turning Point 2006.

A month earlier Kurt Angle had his first ever match in TNA at Genesis 2006.

A match in which he handed Samoa Joe his first ever pin fall loss in TNA after over a year+ of being undefeated.

Angle, having just debuted, was really able to act both like a heel and fan favorite in this match. This made it interesting as he was able to low blow and use a chair against Joe, but somehow not come off like “the bad guy.”

This match was really the Angle Lock versus the Coquina Clutch.

It was great seeing all the reversals and counters. Just seeing Angle in a new environment with new opponents really revitalized his career for the next couple of years (even though it is now stale again).

I still maintain that nothing he has done in TNA has eclipsed the excitement and hype around his first series of matches with Samoa Joe.

This is how I like to remember TNA. Before Hogan. Before Bischoff. Just the best of the independent scene meeting the most unappreciated of the WWE. It was a formula that worked. In 2006 and 2007 it was the perfect mix of both worlds. Joe vs. Angle really captured that essence.

5. KURT ANGLE VS. THE UNDERTAKER (NO WAY OUT 2006)

Its no secret. This is one of my favorite matches of all time. Being a huge Undertaker and Kurt Angle fan, this is my Holy Grail.

The action in this match speaks for itself. I honestly think it is one of the few matches I could enjoy with no commentary from anyone.

There was no in depth storyline in this feud. It was just Undertaker wanting Angle’s World Heavyweight Championship. Simple. The match these two created was off the charts awesome. Kurt Angle controlled the pace of much of the match and dominated Undertaker in the offensive.

It is such a rare thing to see Undertaker play defense for such a majority of the contest, but it made for an unpredictably exciting 25 minutes.

The ending was perfect when it could have been disastrous to the match.

Angle reversed Undertaker’s gogoplata into a pinning combination. Angle won and looked like a badass for defeating “The Phenom” without burying the challenger by making him tap out after a long match where he played defense to the World Heavyweight Champion.

Many have speculated that this was, and should have been, Smackdown’s main event for WrestleMania 22.

Truth be told, I’m glad it was the main event of No Way Out instead. It truly shined bright on this smaller card and it might have just suffered terrible time restrictions on the latter WrestleMania show.

To me, this was Undertaker’s greatest non-gimmick match. He managed to put on one of the best matches of his career even when the bright lights of WrestleMania were not on.

As much as I love “The Deadman,” we all know that he cannot have great matches with just anyone, but when the right guy comes along he can absolutely put on match of the night no problem. Angle always brought out the work horse in Undertaker.

They had many good matches, but to me this was their bets collaboration.

4. KURT ANGLE VS. STEVE AUSTIN (SUMMERSLAM 2001)

Anytime I hear Jim Ross utter the words “slobber knocker” this is the match that immediately pops into my head.

Like the last match we discussed this is a personal favorite of mine. This is one of SummerSlam’s best main events and felt worthy of being a WrestleMania main event if I am being honest.

This match occurred during one of my most loathed story arcs in WWE history. The Invasion.

In saying that, some of the matches that occurred during this nearly endless story arc are amazing. The main event of SummerSlam 2001 probably being the greatest of all of them. It was a sloppy mess of a match, but Austin and Angle made their odd mixing of styles work and the end results is really entertaining.

Austin and Angle really more or less had a brawl rather than a match, but it looked so bad ass. To me, this might even be better than the main event of WrestleMania X-Seven which had occurred several months earlier.

The only knock I can give this match is the overbooked ending in which multiple referees are knocked out and an “Alliance” referee screws Kurt Angle out of the WWE Championship.

It was all a vehicle to make Austin the most hated man in the WWE, but now out of context the ending is too much. Even with the crap ending, this match just barely misses the top three.

3. KURT ANGLE VS. BROCK LESNAR (WWE SMACKDOWN!, SEPTEMBER 2003)

Where Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart missed the mark, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle set the president for all future Iron Man matches to come.

I went back-and-forth on whether I wanted to give the third spot to this match or their more notable match at WrestleMania XIX.

Finally, I settled with their Iron Man match from WWE Smackdown! later that year. This may not be a popular decision, but for me it feels like the right one.

At SummerSlam, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar had a second match which Angle won, but not before Lesnar enlisted the help of Mr. McMahon effectively turning him heel. So going into this rubber match both men had switched roles.

Not only is this one of Kurt Angle’s greatest matches, but it might be the greatest match in WWE Smackdown! history.

It was a one hour-Broadway, the WWE Championship changed hands, and it was a match between two of the most talented and over guys in the WWE at the time.

Stuff like this is what made the Thursday night show the “A Show” during it’s 2002-2003 run.

This also marked one of the last major one-on-one matches between the two men who spent most of 2003 feuding.

I have to say, after fantastic matches at WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and elsewhere, this match on Smackdown! was the perfect ending to one of the most back-and-forth rivalries in the WWE Championship’s history.

Brock Lesnar regained the title after Angle could not secure a fifth fall to tie the two men at five falls each. If he had he would have kept the WWE Championship.

Angle had the Angle Lock on Lesnar’s foot, but “The Next Big Thing” held on long enough for the time limit to expire and take the WWE Championship off of Kurt Angle for the second time in a year.

This would be the beginning of Brock Lesnar’s final reign as WWE Champion before an eight year exile to football and mixed martial arts.

I may regret not selecting their WrestleMania match, but like an good trilogy the final act is always the most well received.

2. KURT ANGLE VS. CHRIS BENOIT (ROYAL RUMBLE 2003)

There WrestleMania X-Seven match and their Steel Cage match from WWE Raw came to mind, but those honestly pale in comparison to Benoit and Angle’s clash at the 2003 Royal Rumble.

This match is a visual and audible example of why Benoit and Angle were in a league of their own during their WWE runs. They did what so many other men could not. They made mat wrestling entertaining.

To me this looked like WWE seeing how the crowd would react to “The Rapid Wolverine” in the main event. I don’t think management was disappointed.

They both wrestled a nearly perfect match for over 20 minutes. Supplexs of every kind, chops, submissions, and more unique counters than I could possibly name. This might be one of my personal favorite WWE Championship matches of all time.

What made these two so good was their pride. They both took so much pride in delivering the best match their worn down bodies could afford. I have so much respect for them for their efforts on this night.

Angle won after slipping out of the Crippler Crossface and locking in the Angle Lock for the final time. Benoit had no choice, but to submit to the champion.

After the match the Boston crowd gave Chris Benoit, the man who lost, a standing ovation as he stood in the center of the ring. Something which is almost unheard of in this day and age of professional wrestling.

A year later Chris Benoit would be the first man to enter the 2004 Royal Rumble – and the last to leave.

1. KURT ANGLE VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA 21)

We’d hate to be predictable, but in this case we were backed into a corner with nowhere to run.

“What is your dream match?” is the question wrestling fans often ask one another.

Angle and Michaels would not have sprung to my mind, but after watching this match live I think the meaning of “dream match” was forever redefined for me.

Some professional wrestlers just step into the ring and can make anyone of the roster look a million times better than they actually are. Angle and Michaels were two of those guys.

So even though they were wrestling for the very first time, their immeasurable skill at match-making allowed them to deliver one of the most revered WrestleMania matches of the modern era.

I suppose I need to point out that this is the third time Shawn Michaels has given someone their number one match on the Pro Wrestling Countdown.

Chris Jericho and The Undertaker being the previous two. I don’t want this to take anything away from the other three men. I think it is just proof that when you put two men who are some of the best at what they do, amazing things happen.

Kurt Angle forced Shawn Michaels to submit to his Angle Lock to end the match.

This finish followed an incredible 25+ minutes of chain wrestling, reversals, moonsaults, and near falls. They would go on to have two more matches of equal quality, but nothing could recapture the magic that these two created at under the lights of Hollywood and WrestleMania.

To me, was the closest WWE has ever come to replicating something like Flair/Steamboat. Bar none this is simply one of the best one-on-one matches I have ever seen.

CM Punk’s Top Ten Greatest WWE & ROH Matches

Few men have been able to have high profile matches with as many varied talents as CM Punk has. From John Cena to Colt Cabana. From Samoa Joe to The Undertaker, and even the late great Eddie Guerrero.

CM Punk has stared across the ropes at some of the best talent the world of professional wrestling has seen in the last decade.

The past two years he has taken his professional wrestling personality to a new level. In doing so he has, and I believe many will agree with me, made himself one of the most iconic WWE performers of the modern era.

Fans of the future will look back and see Punk as one of the WWE’s greatest personalities of this time period. The same way we now look back on the 1980s and superstars like Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, and their contemporaries.  Punk has cemented his name  in WWE history forever.

It was not easy though, the young straight edge aspiring pro wrestler spent years working his ass off on the independent scene. Even after he made his debut in WWE’s revamped version of ECW he still spent the first three years thinking he could be released at any time.

CM Punk, real name Phil Brooks, did persevere through an up-and-down career and in that time has worked some of the best angles and matches I can ever recall seeing.

In the fifth edition of the Pro Wrestling Countdown we will be looking at ten of his greatest matches in celebration of a career not yet complete.

HONORABLE MENTION:

CM PUNK VS. JOHN MORRISON (ECW, SEPTEMBER 2007)

Punk has gone on record saying his matches with John Morrison were quote: “dog shit.” However, he did admit he was very proud of the final match in the series. The match was the blow off match and it occurred abruptly on ECW in order to get the ECW World Championship onto CM Punk. It was hyped up as Punk’s last chance to win the ECW Championship.

The “Second City Saint” had already been in the WWE for over a year when he faced John Morrison on this night and made some pretty big waves in the WWE. The biggest probably being getting a larger ovation than both D-Generation X and the Hardy Boyz at his pay-per-view debut, the 2006 Survivor Series.

It took CM Punk awhile to adapt his wrestling to a more, as it is called, “WWE style.” I’ve discussed this before, but  sometimes two men enter a ring and just have chemistry with one another that is out of this world, but other times the two men/women will have to wrestle one countless times to develop any chemistry in the ring.

This is the earliest CM Punk match from the WWE that I have to talk about in this edition of the Countdown, and I think it is a glimpse of him really starting to polish his work into something that allowed him to better fit among the WWE’s style.

Between these two young up and coming talents they had a really exciting television match that went un-watched by many.

CM Punk probably still felt largely out of place in the WWE in 2007, but this match is a small example of what he would go on to accomplish.

The ECW World Championship would be the first of many championships that CM Punk would go no to win in his WWE career. Punk raised the title into the air as the thunderous ECW crowd practiced chanting his name.

10. CM PUNK VS. CHRIS JERICHO (EXTREME RULES 2012)

Here we have one dream feud that really did not translate well to television. These two men should have had amazing promo duels and some really heated physical exchanges, but for whatever reason many of their encounters felt underwhelming.

Looking back, I had my hopes too high. Jericho and Punk worked their asses off to have matches that lived up to fans expectations. However, most some of their matches just did not click. They were good, but something felt like it was missing. Their chemistry seemed off, but their match at Extreme Rules I think is the exception to this sobering fact.

With a bit of an assist from a stipulation, Jericho and Punk put on a barn burning expose of brutality.

The Chicago Street Fight featured some really unique use of weaponry and some classic Jericho showboating as he tried his hardest to expose Punk as a fraud.

After using every thing in his index Jericho decide to add insult to the injury and finish Punk off with his own move, the Go To Sleep. As often happens, this did not pay off as Punk countered into the true version of the Go To Sleep and chalked up another victory as WWE Champion.

While Jericho and Punk did not seem to have the best chemistry in the ring they both still managed, due to their excellent proficiency, to pull off fun entertaining matches. 

Neither man are known for being the most naturally athletic performers, but they managed to work around that really well by having this brawl be the blow-off to their story.

Jericho was the first man that truly legitimized Punk’s now historic reign as WWE Champion.

Later in 2013 Jericho and Punk would have a notable match on Monday Night Raw and a match, again in Chicago, at WWE Payback. Both of which were much better than what they produced in this 2012 rivalry.

9. CM PUNK VS. COLT CABANA (PUNK: THE FINAL CHAPTER)

There are few performers who ooze more entertainment than Chris Jericho and The Rock.

In his final match as a member of the Ring of Honor roster, CM Punk wrestled his best friend, Colt Cabana, to celebrate all he had accomplished in ROH. Punk, who had been a pivotal performer on the roster had a WWE contract waiting for him since May of 2005 and this was his goodbye to the company that established him as one of the greatest talents on the independent wrestling scene.

A teary eyed Punk made his way down to the ring as the fans chanted his name to wrestle one last match. A Two out of Three Falls match. The two Illinois natives obeyed the Code of Honor and shook hands and even hugged before their final match.

The former ROH Tag Team champions began the contest with a few back and forth wrist locks and some campy comedy bits that felt appropriate amidst the celebration.

The jokes and  campy segments would typically work against a matches ranking, but here it fits  so well. This was not  a part of tense or pivotal engaging storyline. It was a farewell to a friend and performer who had  worked his ass off to better the company.

Punk yells at Cabana to “be serious” and Cabana responded by stomping on the toes of  the “Second City Saint.” Punk responded by hitting the Colt .45 and gaining the first pin fall of the contest.

CM Punk takes control from there and began to wear down his best friend. Cabana hit a sickening lariat and gets a quick three count before Punk could even realize what happened.

The two stared one another down as they realized they were one fall away from officially closing the book on Punk’s time in the Ring of Honor. Both guys really turned up the action and put all their effort into making the final fall feel emphatic.

To the shock of all the Chicago fans, Cabana defeated his best friend with a roll up, ending his ROH career with a defeat. Punk and Cabana hug it out in the center of the ring once more as the devote fans chant Punk’s name.

The locker room emptied and the performers take a knee to Punk, but Punk refused to have anyone kneel to him. Punk thanked the fans and the crowd gave him one final “CM Punk” chant to close his last independent show.

Almost a year later, CM Punk would make his WWE television debut on ECW.

8. CM PUNK VS. DOLPH ZIGGLER (WWE RAW, NOVEMBER 2011)

This match took place just 24 hours after CM Punk began what would go on to be his 434 day reign as the WWE Champion.

Punk and Ziggler have had many matches, including one for the WWE Championship at the 2012 Royal Rumble, but their match on Raw in November of 2011 was really just about the best television match I’ve seen Punk in. Emphasis on “just about.”

In the opening moments Ziggler and Punk started the pace slow with basic submission holds and running the ropes around each other with both men teasing big moves. After existing the ring to consult Vickie Guerrero and regain his composure Ziggler reentered the ring and take control of the contest.

The United States Champion remained in control through the first commercial break continuing to wear down Punk.

“The Best in the World,” as the Hersey, Pennsylvania crowd chanted, came back and managed a flurry of offense of “The Showoff” and just like that the control of the contest shifted. No longer being the aggressorZiggler began to resort to unhanded tactics to try and steal a victory over the WWE Champion.

Ziggler, who often states that he steals the show, stole the momentum back and remained in control for a majority of the rest of the match.

With  blood dripping from his mouth Punk reversed Ziggler’s Fame Asser into the Go To Sleep for his first victory as the reigning WWE Champion. It would be the first of many more victories to come in the next 14 months.

Ziggler and Punk were blessed with a hot crowd and given a healthy amount of time to display their ring proficiency. This is one of my personal favorite matches from Punk.

7. CM PUNK VS. THE UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXIX)

Their matches in the past have been decent, but were never very memorable. My opinion is, that Punk gave Undertaker his greatest WrestleMania match outside of the two classics at WrestleMania 25 and 26. Whatever your opinion is you have to give it up  to Punk for creating a reason to care about WrestleMania 29.

Not bad for two men reported to have been working very hurt going into this year’s “Show of Shows.”

While I would have preferred the story leading into the match to not have revolved around the real life death of Paul Bearer, it did turn out to be a fitting tribute to his legacy.

Flanked by his close associate, Paul Heyman, CM Punk made his way into MetLife Stadium in possession of The Undertaker’s urn. It  was Undertaker’s intentions to take it back.

Many believed that his 20th WrestleMania match could have and/or should have been his last.

With the match we were given, and his matches with the Shield on Monday Night Raw and Smackdown, I think he showed he still has a few bumps left  in him.

Undertaker and Punk had the match everyone wanted them to have.

Long two counts, top rope suicide dives, near count-outs, referee bumps, and multiple finishing maneuvers back-and-forth. It didn’t break much new ground in terms of originality, but Punk highlighted everything that is good about an Undertaker match.

Undertaker may be 48 years old, but even with all the surgeries and wear and tear on his body the man can still pop the biggest wrestling crowd of the year like no one else can.

The match ended with Undertaker coming out victorious in his unprecedented 21st WrestleMania appearance with a Tombstone Piledriver.

CM Punk can take solace in knowing that, even though this may not have been the match he wanted to have at WrestleMania, he still gave the fans the absolute best match he could. This has already become one of my favorite Undertaker matches from his vast catalog.

6. CM PUNK VS. JOHN CENA (WWE RAW, FEBRUARY 2013)

It is just damn near impossible to deny that CM Punk has not had some of the best matches of his career in the last few years of his WWE career  and this is another example of that.

John Cena has had many iconic rivalries as the face of the WWE. Edge, Randy Orton, Triple H, The Rock, and Shawn Michaels all number among those who have had iconic matches with the 13-time World Champion.

However, most recently, John Cena has had a long and winding, on-again-off-again, rivalry with CM Punk. Punk and Cena were considered by many as the top draws in the WWE.

While all of that is good, what really made their rivalries special was that few men in the WWE locker room can tell a story in the ring better than Cena and Punk. They both get criticism for this or that, but for my money there is no two men better on the WWE roster. They both took so much pride in delivering to the fans an exemplary show.

This match was CM Punk’s last opportunity to walk into WrestleMania and be in the WWE Championship match. Cena, the Royal Rumble winner, put up his guaranteed WrestleMania match to prove to himself and to the fans that he could beat “The Best in the World.”

Through their unforgiving cavalcade of finishing maneuvers Punk and Cena managed to put the best Monday Night Raw match I have seen in years. Even the dreaded Bret Hart-like piledriver could not put John Cena away for a three count. John Cena even did a hurricanrana for crying out loud.

Cena was finally able to shake the monkey from his back and pin the man who had eluded defeat for so long.

These two always manage to have fantastic match with one another. This display is among their very best.

5. CM PUNK VS. REY MYSTERIO (EXTREME RULES 2010)

I’ve seen all of the matches between these two, and all of them are uniquely great in their own way, but I don’t think any were as entertaining as their match at Extreme Rules in 2010.

At this time Punk was fully drenched in his crazed straight edge philanthropic gimmick. While Punk’s Straight Edge Society never really took off, his Charles Manson like cult leader gimmick is one of my all time favorites. This match occurred in the waning days of the Straight Edge Society, Punk’s cult-like stable. If CM Punk lost this match he was to have his head shaved.

For a majority of this match Punk remained in control of Mysterio using his size and his followers, Luke Gallows and Serena, to his advantage. The “Straight Edge Savior” even used a submission maneuver invented by Gory Guerrero, father of Eddie Guerrero, on the much smaller Rey.

Punk and Mysterio are both well documented for often paying homage to Eddie Guerrero and even CM Punk wrestled him a few times on the independent scene.

This to me, was a very subtle tribute from two men who had immense respect for “Latino Heat.”

Every chance, the veteran, Mysterio had to gain control of the match his efforts were trumped by the sadistic and almost reckless offense of Punk. It all played perfectly into the story of CM Punk wanting to “save” Mysterio.

Serena and Gallows’s involvement cost them eventually as the official caught the duo aiding their leader and were thrown out from the ringside area. Punk, distracted by the loss of his insurance policy, allowed the “Ultimate Underdog”  to finally take control of the match.

After the departure of the S.E.S. the submission holds stopped. It was the ninth inning and both men went all in with every big move they had in their hat. After several near falls a masked man appeared from under the ring and slide a chair into the ring. The official saw the chair and removed it, but while he was attending to that the masked man attacked the prone Rey Mysterio before disappearing under the ring.

Punk, and his maniacal smile, slide Mysterio back into the ring for his victory after a GTS. Punk and Mysterio stole the show that night in Baltimore, and finally got some time to work after a disappointingly lacking WrestleMania match the month prior.

The “Straight Edge Masai” moniker is one of my favorite gimmicks of the past decade and it really was the catalyst for Punk’s slow accent into true main event status. This match was one of the highlights of this era of Punk’s career.

4. CM PUNK VS. SAMOA JOE (JOE VS. PUNK II)

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Before Samoa Joe went on an 18 month undefeated streak in TNA and before CM Punk became the longest reigning WWE Champion in 25 years, both these men were making waves in the fledgling wrestling promotion; Ring of Honor.

Punk and Joe wrestled an hour long  epic.

I have to say that the first 20 minutes of the contest moved a  tad too slow, and had  a few cliche moments that made me cringe. I can’t fault them though. They had 60 minutes to fill. That is seriously the only nit-pick I had with this match.

This showed off the more technical-mat based style of Punk’s arsenal aside from the brawler we’ve come to know in the WWE.

Covering a play-by-play of this for the Countdown would be ridiculous, but if you’ve never watched Punk or Joe’s matches on the independent scene you should really look this up. Both men utilize some really interesting, and painful looking, submission holds as well as using moves they seemingly stopped preforming once they reached WWE and TNA respectively.

This, for me, is the equivalent of looking back fondly at an old high school year book. They may not have been as polished in the ring, but the young stars had the same amount, if not more, drive to produce an entertaining match for the fans.

Over 45 minutes into the match, with the fans chatting “R-O-H” over the rustling of their boots hitting the canvas, Punk and Samoa Joe continued to throw every punch, kick,  jab, lock, and hold they had left in them to try and finish as the victor.

Punk looked longingly at the ROH World Championship after the 60 minute time limit had expired and once again neither man had been able to best the other.

A year later Samoa Joe would begin to make a bigger name for himself in TNA while also putting the company on the map with the rest of its iconic X-Division.

While Joe was experiencing success in TNA, CM Punk would be gearing up for a long battle up the food chain in the WWE. A food chain he is now near the top of.

3. CM PUNK VS. JEFF HARDY (SUMMERSLAM 2009)

This  time in Punk’s WWE career was really when he showed his ability to get a reaction from the crowd. Punk had been a babyface for the first three years of his WWE run and  he had very nearly reached a road block. In 2009 we finally got a glimpse of the wonderful thing’s CM Punk could do with a microphone  as a heel.

Who better to be the first person to take on the smug self-righteously straight edge superstar than the often controversial Jeff Hardy?

The action here is awesome. Hardy plays up his recklessness which is a metaphor for his lifestyle, and Punk is the more conservative fighter which is a parallel to his real conservative lifestyle which excludes alcohol and drugs.

While this is not the perfect match I think the “Straight Edge Superstar” gave Hardy the best match of his career and a proper sendoff befitting of the “Charismatic Enigma.”

After a Swanton Bomb that could rival his legendary dives from WrestleMania 2000 and X-Seven, Jeff Hardy just couldn’t muster the strength to keep going.

Standing atop the ladder together one last time Punk quite literally kicked Hardy of the top of his perch and out of the WWE.

Punk and Hardy had several noteworthy matches on pay-per-view and WWE Smackdown!, but this was Hardy’s swan song. It was also their most inspired match, and gave Hardy a befitting ending and Punk, an appropriate beginning.

2. CM PUNK VS. DANIEL BRYAN (OVER THE LIMIT 2012)

I would like to first say that I know I probably could have filled half of this entire Countdown with matches between Punk and Bryan, but I am picking this match in favor of all the others.

I often make fun of this match for being the Internet fan’s wet dream match in the WWE, but they have a point. This match was probably my personal match of the year from 2012.

As the commentary team touched on in the opening moments, the story of these two performers is  really incredible. Two guys who used to wrestle in gymnasiums in front of no more than 300 people managed, through constant motivation and perseverance, to climb to the top of the biggest wrestling company in the world.

The opening moments featured back-and-forth action between the two former Indy darlings highlighted by the dueling “lets go Bryan”  “CM Punk” chants from the Raleigh, North Carolina crowd.

After delivering several kicks to his thighs, Punk began to work over  the legs of his challenger. The WWE Champion latched in several leg-centered submission based holds Bryan, who is more typically the man you’d expect to see grounding his opponent.

Bryan found  an opening and created some separation between himself and Punk, and got his first steady offense of the match.  Bryan continued to sell his leg injury brilliantly as the match progressed and gave Punk something to center his offense on, which is A+ ring psychology, kids.

Somewhere William Regal was smiling.

Punk and Bryan continued to trade  control of the match with Punk working on Bryan’s legs and Bryan working on the torso/ribs of the champion.

A frustrated Bryan was unable to get a three count and began to kick Punk. Punk caught his leg and locked in a figure four leg lock. The two competitors then proceed to slap one another in the face repeatedly in what was one of the most hilarious spots of the match.

CM Punk and Daniel Bryan once used to represent everything that the “WWE Style” was not, but over the years they have modified their styles to truly exemplify it. Punk and Bryan understand how to craft a smart, well paced, entertaining match.  What more does a professional wrestling fan need?

Near the end both Punk and Bryan were barely unable to stand and were still trying to take the other out. Punk hits the knee lift in the corner and goes for the bulldog, but Bryan turns him around into the Yes Lock. With his injured ribs Punk could not make it to the bottom rope, but Punk manages to turn Bryan over to barely get a three count.

This was just a treat for all the WWE fans who watched both Punk and Bryan start from the very bottom, and struggle to get over in the WWE. They both made it, despite their “indy stink,” and now no one can deny their talent and skill. This is one of the best WWE Championship matches in years. Seek it out if you’ve missed it.

1. CM PUNK VS. JOHN CENA (MONEY IN THE BANK 2011)

“I’m tired of this. I’m tired of you. I’m just tired. So ladies and gentlemen of the WWE Universe, Vince, John, Sunday night, say goodbye to the WWE Title, say goodbye to John Cena, and say goodbye to CM Punk! I’ll go be the best in the world somewhere else.” – CM Punk, WWE Raw July 11th 2011.

This has to be one of the most historically prominent WWE championship matches to ever take place in the WWE outside of their premiere event, WrestleMania.

I think most would agree that if CM Punk’s promo on Monday Night Raw was his career defining moment than this will be the match that defines his career.

At Money in the Bank the Chicago made Punk returned to his hometown to have one final match as a member of the WWE roster. This match was against the WWE Champion, John Cena. Cena, the wholesome company staple versus CM Punk, the former king of independent wrestling.

Punk entered his old stomping grounds to one of the most resonating ovations of his career and sat in the middle of the ring waiting for the WWE Champion as his fellow Chicago natives chanted the name of their hometown hero- “CM Punk.”

The champion started the pace of the match slow locking in basic submission holds as both men attempted to feel out their opponent. “The Voice of the Voiceless” CM Punk gained some ground as the match progressed and both men began to jockey for the  momentum. The fans responded as the match swung between Punk and Cena with cheers and boos respectably.

Punk went for a cross body on Cena, and it appeared that Cena’s knee was tweaked on the landing. The pain in the Cenation leaders leg still did not equal the pressure Cena felt as Punk began to gain more control of the match. If John Cena could not retain his title, Vince McMahon’s title, the WWE’s title, he was to be fired by the Chairman of the WWE himself.

The control of the match once again shifted to the center as both men entered the desperation state of trying to finish one another with their signature maneuvers.

The Attitude Adjustment. The Go to Sleep. The STF. The Anaconda Vice. Neither man could finish the other.

CM Punk and John Cena were locked in a crippling stale mate in the Allstate Arena.

The catalyst which broke the stale mate was Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis. Determined to keep the WWE Championship in the WWE, McMahon was going to ensure that Cena remained WWE Champion. The proud Cena refused to take an unfair victory and knocked-out out the Vice President of Talent Relations before the bell could be sounded.

This distraction gave Punk and opening for on more Go to Sleep and a three count, finally, for the victory. The crowd exploded.

John Cena, Mr. McMahon, John Laurinaitus, and even the Money in the Bank winner, Alberto Del Rio could not deny CM Punk.

The new WWE Champion made off like a bandit through the sea of his hometown fans, but not before he blew a goodbye kiss to Vince McMahon and the WWE. The importance and significance of this match speaks for itself as dose the quality of the work both men did in the ring.

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Jeff Hardy’s Top Ten Greatest WWE & TNA Matches

The lives of many pro wrestlers are often known for being filled with controversy.

For the third edition of the Pro Wrestling Countdown we will be looking at a figure in pro wrestling who brings out many passionate feelings among  fans, whether those feelings are positive or negative.

The younger Hardy brother has been perhaps one of the most controversial and, at times, difficult to love professional wrestlers the past few years. However, whether it be in the ring or in his personal life, it seems Jeff Hardy has over came every obstacle in his way no matter what challenge has been set in front of him.

Jeff Hardy’s story in the pro wrestling business started in his very own backyard. His passion shone through and his career in both WWE and TNA have been a roller coaster ride like no other. From jobbing to Razor Ramon on WWE Superstars at the age of 16 to finally winning the WWE Championship for the first time, Jeff Hardy has ascended just as many figurative ladders as he has literal ones.

Whether  you love him or hate him it hard not to respect the native North Carolinian for playing Russian Roulette with his career almost every time he enters a ring. Few professional wrestlers have taken the risks that Jeff Hardy has for the sake of entertaining the fans.

Hardy grew up loving pro wrestling and has managed to live his dream with eyes unclouded.

“The Rainbow Haired Warrior” is an enigma that is difficult to express in words. His entrance music, his face paint, his poses. Jeff incorporates all of his passions into one. Art, pro wrestling, and being a real life dare devil.

His capacity to entertain knows almost no limit, and his ability to craft a jaw dropping match has only become more refined as time progresses. Today we want to take a look at ten of Jeff Hardy’s greatest works of art.

10. THE HARDY BOYZ VS. EDGE & CHRISTIAN (NO MERCY 1999)

This was the true origin of the almost endless saga of Ladder matches that involved the Team Xtreme and Edge and Christian through the heydays of the Attitude Era. The first ever tag team Ladder match in the WWE.

What these four up and coming talents gave us on this night at No Mercy was really just a preview of what they would be giving us for the next three years.

Even without the notorious duo from Dudleyville setting up table spots these four successfully put on an extravagantly well put together exhibition of violence.

While it pales in comparison to what the four would accomplish together in later Ladder matches this one is a gem not to be forgotten. In 1999, these four men were all still relatively new to the main roster and this was the point in which these  teams began their future legacy.

While this is no where near the perfect Ladder match you can see the early innovation of what they would later accomplish on grander stages.

I really loved the finish to this match. In many Ladder or TLC matches the finishes often seem abrupt or clunky, but the end to the match was probably one of the best ever.

Jeff Hardy won this match for his team after a beautiful finishing sequence in which his brother, Matt, tipped over the ladder Jeff and Christian were standing on. Jeff, wisely, jumped to the other ladder which Edge was scaling and knocked him off shortly before securing the victory.

Once, again, this was a great match, but even so it just barely makes the Countdown.

9. JEFF HARDY VS. TRIPLE H VS. EDGE (ARMAGEDDON 2008)

This start to this match follows the tried and true formula that most three-way-dances employ. Three men start the match, and at some point someone is knocked out. The three men shuffle in an out as one man feigns injury on the outside.

To be fair, this match features all three men trading blows at one another more than a majority of other Triple Threat matches I have seen in recent years.

Despite being a bit formulaic in the opening moments, we had a lot to love in this match. Triple H and Hardy had been feuding for months. Their rivalry became even more interesting with the returning Edge stealing the WWE Championship a month earlier at Survivor Series.

Triple H played the grizzly veteran who didn’t think Hardy had what it took to climb to the top and Edge played his usual chicken shit heel who would just assume spit in your eye as look at you. Both stories intertwined to make a fairly dynamic match that much better.

Nearly 15 years after first defeating Razor Ramon via count out on WWE Superstars Jeff Hardy became the WWE Champion for the first time.

What very nearly killed this match for me was the run-ins from both Vladimir Kozlov, who attacked Triple H, and Matt Hardy, who attacked Kozlov. Overbooking like this rarely adds to matches, especially championship matches. On rare occasions they work in favor of the match, but this was not one of those cases.

Even if this match had it’s issues no one can deny the importance of Hardy’s first title win. Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb on Edge moments after Triple H hit a Pedigree on the “Rated R Superstar” and finally won the championship that had so long eluded him.

The crowd exploded and the look on Hardy’s face is one we had seen before on the  legends of yesteryear who won their first WWE Championships. A boy, achieving his childhood dream.

8. JEFF HARDY VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WWE RAW, FEBRUARY 2008)

This match occurred right when Jeff Hardy was being built up as a main event caliber performer.

Hardy had been climbing up the ranks since he began his second stint in the WWE in August of 2006, and had done a fantastic job of getting the crowd behind him. So by the beginning of 2008 his ability to get crowd reactions could no longer be ignored, and the WWE finally began to push him into matches with main event stars beginning in late 2007 and early 2008.

Hardy began working with the likes of Chris Jericho, Triple H, WWE Champion Randy Orton, and Shawn Michaels.

His match with Shawn occurred live on Monday Night Raw. In 2008, this was a dream match come true for me. Michaels was one of my all time favorites and Jeff Hardy was truly the most exciting performer in the WWE at the time.

As much as some writers of professional wrestling love filling their greatest matches lists with gimmick matches I have a huge tendency to try and include traditional one on one matches. I do this to both showcase a wrestlers talent and ability to tell a story without any sort of crutches.

Shawn Michaels job  in this match was clearly to help legitimize Hardy as a top tier talent. In early 2008 it was clear that the younger Hardy brother was in line for a huge push to the top that was going to seemingly result in his winning of the WrestleMania XXIV Money in the Bank Ladder match.

This match with Michaels seemed to be the continuation of that push. Jeff even pinned the “Heart Break Kid” on this edition of Monday Night Raw following his signature Swanton Bomb.

This push was delayed due to personal issues in Hardy’s life. However, this hiccup in the road would not slow Jeff Hardy down for long.

7. JEFF HARDY VS. ROB VAN DAM (SUMMERSLAM 2001)

I feel as if this match really has flown under the radar in both Hardy and Van Dams careers.

This contest had to be a dream come true for some fans  who were familiar with both performers. Jeff Hardy. Rob Van Dam. Two exciting and reckless WWE up-and-comers preforming in one of the most  revered and hazardous gimmick matches. The Ladder match.

Van Dam and Hardy were both well versed in the art of Ladder matches by this point and here they both crafted some absolutely unique spots that had yet to be seen in the WWE.

From the former Team Xtreme member doing a springboard moonsault on Van Dam whilst lying on a ladder to “Mr. Pay-Per-View” doing his signature Rolling Thunder onto an elevated ladder with Jeff Hardy on top of it, these two really came up with an interesting match.

This contest was one of the earliest in which fans saw an abundances of high risk maneuvers in a traditional one-on-one Ladder match.

Up until this point, one-on-one Ladder matches had been dominated by more traditional mat based performers. For the first time, two high flying devilishly quick WWE superstars were given the opportunity to display their ability one on one. Rob Van Damn and Jeff Hardy didn’t disappoint here as the crowd “oo’d” and “aww’d” at every devastating blow.

Like most gimmick matches there were a  few awkward moments when things did not line up just right, but aside from that Jeff and Rob had a encounter that flowed smoothly.

I feel like this was the precursor to the modern  traditional ladder match we see often today.

6. JEFF HARDY VS. TRIPLE H (NO MERCY 2008)

As I discussed in earlier matches on this Countdown, the year of 2008 was truly one of the best in Jeff Hardy’s career.

The “Rainbow Haired Warrior’s” 2008, while starting out rocky with Hardy’s second wellness policy suspension, really picked up when he returned. Jeff was drafted to the Smackdown! roster and this is when he really became a main event player. Eventually he found himself as the number one contender to Triple H’s WWE Championship.

Triple H taunted the “Charismatic Enigma’ by mocking his inability to “grab the brass ring” and told Hardy that he would always be a second shy of greatness. This was really the story that this match at No Mercy revolved around.

Throughout the entire contest Hardy pulled every trick out of his hat to only be outsmarted by “The Game” in the end.

The younger Hardy really controlled much of this contest. Hardy used a combination of high flying maneuvers and textbook ground based offense to try and wear down Triple H. The former D-Generation X member, however, was often able to make Hardy pay for using his high risk offense.

In the closing moments Jeff Hardy countered Triple H’s attempt at a Pedigree and hit the signature Swanton Bomb only to get rolled up by the WWE Champion for a three-count. The match was over before any of the fans realized what had happened.

The ending to this match hurt its ranking in this Countdown. This mainly because Triple H violently no-sold Hardy’s best maneuver. The action was great and, aside from the cheapfinish, Hardy looked very impressive in the main event contest.

5. JEFF HARDY VS. JOHN MORRISON (WWE SMACKDOWN!, JULY 2009)

This is one of my absolute favorite WWE Smackdown! matches.

Aside from maybe the year of 2002, 2009 was probably the best year for in-ring action WWE Smackdown! has ever had. It was blessed with a stacked main event team along with some of the most athletically gifted middle card performers.

This match was filled to the absolute brim with innovate high impact offense from both World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy and the challenger John Morrison.  The contest was for Hardy’s World Heavyweight Championship, which he had just won five day prior to this match.

The match started low-key in the beginning, but after only a few moments of back-and-forth action the match picked up and once it did it didn’t slow down until the final bell. Hardy and Morrison pulled out all of their best flashy moves while also stringing together excellent counters and reversals to keep the fans going “aww” when either competitor finally landed a big move.

Morrison, too my surprise at the time, got in a ton of offense and forced the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion to absorb a ton of punishment. That dynamic worked great in building up Hardy as a strong new champion. It put Hardy over wonderfully when he eventually came back and pinned the “Friday Night Delight” after hitting a second Swanton Bomb after his first failed to put away the “Shaman of Sexy.”

While the pacing of the match was a  tad wonky in spots this match was absolutely thrilling. This should serve as a prime example of Hardy’s ability to excite the crowd while also crafting a wonderfully action packed traditional match.

Smackdown in the Summer of 2009 was gold from an in-ring standpoint. The roster featured CM Punk, Edge, Batista, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Kane, Undertaker, Dolph Ziggler ,and many more of the WWE’s finest in-ring talent.

Jeff Hardy and John Morrison put on a great show on Smackdown! One that is for sure to go down as one of the shows greatest matches.

This would be one of the last of Hardy’s truly great television matches before departing the WWE almost a month  later.

4. “TLC II” (WRESTLEMANIA X-SEVEN)

The most famous of all train wrecks. The only thing I have done more than write about this match in the past five years is watch it. This contest has become iconic and is truly captivating in a way that no other contests in the WWE are.

There is much argument as to which of these Ladder matches is truly the best, but in all honesty all of them have similar qualities. I consider this match  the final in the epic trilogy to be the definitive one. Following their amazing displays of psychotics at both WrestleMania and SummerSlam 2000 they truly took the best things from their previous matches and doubled up on the insanity.

I really don’t like including multiman gimmick matches, however, leaving out this match would have been a glaring omission from Hardy’s greatest matches.

In some cases contests are exempt from certain rules. If any  multiman match should be allowed a pass for inclusion into the  Countdown, it would certainly be this match.

D-Von, Buh Buh Ray, Edge, Christian, Matt Hardy, and Jeff Hardy worked together to steal the show every time they were given the opportunity. These Ladder matches even won back-to-back “Match of the Year” awards from Pro Wrestling Illustrated in both 2000 and 2001.

This match is often called a wall-to-wall “spotfest,” but even if it is you cannot deny the entertainment value this still possesses. These three-teams put on the most re-watchable matches of the Attitude Era. This is the equivalent of watching a Hollywood blockbuster movie. You don’t have to take your brain to the film. Just sit back and enjoy the action.

Sometimes its okay to just enjoy the action, even if it doesn’t make any practical sense.

Every time Jeff scaled a ladder the flashbulbs began to go off in Houston’s Astrodome. They knew they were about to see something truly breathtaking.

While everyone in this match deserves credit for making it special, Jeff Hardy should get the prize for creating the majority of the show stealing moments. No one can steal a show quite like he does.

3. JEFF HARDY VS. KURT ANGLE (NO SURRENDER 2010)

I so wish these two had crossed paths more often during their tenures in the WWE.

This match is about as close to overkill as one can get without being absolutely ridiculous.  In all honesty, even this match is probably pushing the limit. However, if any match should be allowed to do this, it should be a match in which Kurt Angle’s career is on the line.

This is not a perfect match, and if Hardy wanted to he could probably top this match. However, as of right now, I think this is his greatest contest as a part of TNA Impact wrestling.

This was the most gratuitous over use of finishing maneuvers in a match I think I have ever seen, but for some reason I still loved this match.

Jeff Hardy taking on Kurt Angle sounds like a bit of a miss match on paper, but these two have had several exemplary matches under the Impact Wrestling banner. To me, this is the pinnacle of their in-ring chemistry.

The contest was largely controlled by Angle who kept Hardy grounded in between the numerous elongated sequences of high flying maneuver and pace-slowing suplexes.

This match tends to really divide fans of the online wrestling community. Some think it was vastly over the top while others defend it by saying it was a true exhibition of suspense.

The match originally ended with no winner; twice. Hardy and Angle reached the 20 minute time limit and wrestled another 10 minutes before the match was called a no-contest.

The false  ending was a bitter pill to swallow after almost 30 minutes of astonishing action, but still, this is one of Jeff Hardy’s most extravagant and invaluable non-gimmick contests. While Hardy has had some iconic Ladder matches it is impossible to overlook matches like this.

His time in TNA, while rocky, has given him the chance to really stand out as a top-tier talent.

2. JEFF HARDY VS. THE UNDERTAKER (WWE RAW, JULY 2002)

At the age of only 24, Hardy was a veteran of many Ladder matches and the WWE Undisputed Champion, Undertaker, was walking into his first ever Ladder match after a decade of destruction. So, while many looked at Jeff as the under dog, it was just as much his match to win as it was the champions if one put match experience into the equation.

In all honesty, this match probably would have made the list even without the Ladder stipulation. If it had  been a singles match I think they would have still managed to have one of Monday Night Raw’s greatest matches ever. I honestly do mean it when I say that this is absolutely one of the best television matches the WWE has ever showcased.

“The American Badass” had a great match with the young WWE Raw superstar who was, at this point,  drowning in the crowded mid-card of Monday Night Raw. Undertaker has always been wonderful at having matches with guys who are smaller and faster than he is, and this is another fine example of that fact.

Despite still trying to get over, the high flyer got huge crowd reactions every time he scaled the ladder to attempt to pull down Undertaker’s Undisputed Championship.

The drama and excitement these two managed to generate really resonated with the live crowd, and you could hear them roar after every change in momentum between the two iconic WWE talents.

A final chockslam off of the ladder ended Jeff’s chance at doing the impossible, but to me, the real story of this match took place after the final bell.

After his victory, The Undertaker mounted his bike and began to ride off with his freshly retained Undisputed Championship, but before he could reach the back the valiant Jeff Hardy got on a microphone and persisted that he was not done. Despite being nearly demolished by the punishing offense of “Big Evil” Hardy came back for more.

A seemingly extremely offended Undertaker marched back to the ring, looked into the fearless eyes of Jeff Hardy, and raised his hand into the air whilst shaking his head in disbelief calling the younger Hardy “a tough son of a bitch.”

This is what Hardy has mapped his entire career after. Fearlessness in the face of adversity.

Hardy was truly made on this night in New Hampshire.

1. JEFF HARDY VS. CM PUNK (SUMMERSLAM 2009)

Nine years after competing in the first ever TLC match at SummerSlam 2000, just a skip away from his hometown of Cameron North Carolina, Hardy returned to SummerSlam in 2009 to defend his World Heavyweight Championship in a TLC match against CM Punk.

This match was the “Swan Song” of Jeff Hardy’s career in the WWE. The final chapter in Hardy’s ascension to the top of the biggest wrestling company in the world. Finally, Hardy got to be the one to put someone over. Too long was it that Jeff had to stand in the shadow of veterans who thought they needed to carry him to a good match. In his matches with Punk, he was finally able to be the more tenured veteran who put over the man still trying to prove his worth in the company. A role the younger Hardy brother was stuck in himself for many years behind the scenes.

CM Punk, in my mind, had the perfect heel gimmick to have an engaging story with, the often controversial, Jeff Hardy. Punk had just turned heel and began using his straight-edge gimmick as a tool to draw heat from the crowds. Hardy’s devil-may-care reckless in-ring style was  the perfect foil for “The Straight Edge Savior’s” drug free, alcohol free mantra.

This match complimented both persona’s of these WWE athletes as Hardy used his usual high-risk, high-reward offense and Punk had a more conservative array of offense.

This is one of the most well done  SummerSlam main events in recent history. There were a few awkward ladder spots, like every other match of this kind, but they both did an excellent job of pacing a match that is very easily ruined by blotchy pacing.

Just before this match came to its close the WWE’s “Charismatic Enigma” beat the “Straight Edge Savior” onto the Spanish announce table. Jeff Hardy then acceded a twenty foot ladder giving the WWE Universe one final show stealing moment. Hardy landed on Punk, but seemingly did more damage to himself.

Punk and Hardy climbed the ladder one final time, but the challenger got the better of the champion knocking the World Heavyweight Champion off the WWE ladder for good.

Later that week on WWE SmackDown! Jeff Hardy and CM Punk battled one final time inside of a Steel Cage in which the loser would have to leave the WWE. Hardy lost, ending his time in the WWE.

CM Punk has gone on to become one of the biggest icons in the professional wrestling world. Many believe, including Hardy himself according to past online videos, that this was the true launching point for Punk’s career as a main event performer.

The Undertaker’s Top Ten Greatest WWE Matches

Over the past three decades there has never been a professional wrestler that has stood the test of time better than The Undertaker has. He truly is the bridge that gaps generations in the WWE. Undertaker’s gimmick was supposed to be just another goof ball, out of this world, gimmick that the WWE was making a lot of their performs use at the time. However, the man under the black hat has turned into one of the most legendary characters to ever be seen in the company.

Undertaker has endured through the years because of his ability to move around the ring like someone half his size usually would and his ability to adapt with the times. He is a cornerstone of the WWE and someone the fans truly respect. He will go down as one of the most iconic and important figures in WWE forever.

The day that Undertaker finally decides to walk away forever will truly be a turning point in the history of professional wrestling. I fear that day draws closer and closer, but I take great care to enjoy every moment we get to see “The Deadman” perform.

While most professional wrestlers tend to stick around long after their prime Undertaker has managed to keep himself around this long by working a limited schedule in recent years (and now usually only once a year) and refusing to give the fans no less than his very best every time he walks in the ring. Even if it damn near kills him. He has wrestled some of the greatest names of all time in the business and no matter what was going on in the WWE, Undertaker was always there.

He has aged like, in the words of Jim Ross, a fine wine as his ability to have terrific matches has only increased as time has worn on. So today, I will look at ten of the best matches of a career filled with legendary bouts by one of my all time favorite professional wrestlers.

Let us look at only a small portion of the legendary career of The Undertaker…

HONORABLE MENTION: THE UNDERTAKER VS. RANDY ORTON (WRESTLEMANIA 21)

The first WrestleMania match that would lead into a resurgence in The Undertaker’s wrestling ability.

Randy Orton, at the time going under the nickname “The Legend Killer,” had lain waste and spit in the face of some of wrestling’s biggest legends. From Harley Race to Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, and Shawn Michaels. The third generation WWE superstar showed he had no care for the forerunners of the professional wrestling business.

So, naturally, taking on Undertaker and his undefeated WrestleMania streak was a natural step in the evolution of Orton’s character. The match was built up very well with Orton’s father and former WWE superstar Jake Roberts pleading with him to rethink the match with the dangerous veteran.

The match was the first of many WrestleMania matches which would be centered around Undertaker’s loss-less WrestleMania record, and the feeling was at the time that Orton would end it in Los Angeles.

Even with his best efforts and fantastic match, Orton fell to The Undertaker after trying to use his signature Tombstone Piledriver. The crafty veteran reversed the maneuver into a Piledriver of his own and secured his 13th victory.

Also Considered:

  • The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania X-8): This match was better than it ever had any right to be on paper. Ric Flair was over the hill  and The Undertaker had grown a reputation as being very stale in the ring, but both men came to Toronto and put on a vastly underrated brawl that to this day remains a gem among The Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches.
  • The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar (No Mercy 2002): I always say that this is probably the most  overlooked  Hell in a Cell match in WWE history. Lesnar  and Undertaker had a blood bath, and “Big Evil” really helped legitimize the young WWE Champion as he was preparing to be the top dog on the newly established second brand of WWE; Smackdown!
  • The Undertaker vs. CM Punk (WrestleMania XXIX): After spending  almost half a decade wrestling real life best-friends, Shawn Michaels and Triple H, The Undertaker finally got a chance to wrestle someone new, a more modern WWE Superstar. That man turned out to be CM Punk, who was fresh off a groundbreaking 400+ day reign as WWE Champion. The match was incredible and stole the show, as expected.

10. THE UNDERTAKER VS. BATISTA (BACKLASH 2007)

10. Undertaker & Batista.jpg

While I mentioned Undertaker’s WrestleMania match with Batista would not be featured in this Countdown, I did however want to recognized their rematch a month later at Backlash. To me, this is the best match these two ever had.

Even their wonderful match at Cyber Sunday was unable to eclipse this one in my mind. I always thought that Batista could only have good matches when he worked with the right guy, and Undertaker really knew how to pull a stellar performance out of “The Animal.”

This was a Last Man Standing match, and I thought this was a perfect stipulation for these two to work within. Batista was selling a leg injury at this time, but I really felt like this added a great dynamic too the match and made Batista look strong as he kept getting back up before the then-count despite his injuries.

This match was all about high impact moves and using the environment to put the other man away. Announces tables, steel steps, folding chairs, and alike were used by both men to try and keep the other down for a ten count. Time after time in this match either Batista or Undertaker crawled up just a second shy of the 10 count. This, while hurting the pacing of the match, really built of the suspense and drama.

The match ended in a double count out, with a huge set piece that Batista speared Undertaker into. I felt the ending was very corny and this match might have ranked higher if it had not been plagued by these issues. However, the action that took place in this match and the emphatic scaled pacing more than makes up for its shortcoming.

Batista would finally defeat Undertaker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, later that year at Cyber Sunday.

9. THE UNDERTAKER VS. JEFF HARDY (WWE RAW; JULY 2002)

10. Undertaker & Hardy.jpg

This is without a doubt Undertaker’s best Monday Night Raw match in his storied career. It may be one of his most beloved matches as well. This match is also notable for being Undertaker first ever ladder match and I could think of few men better to bring “The Deadman” into the match than the charismatic daredevil, Jeff Hardy.

It is always a joy to see a familiar WWE superstar in a new element like this, and this is a perfect example of that. Undertaker was known for being a brawler and this I believe was a great move for him that really showcased his versatility and willingness to adapt in the ring.

This match did a ton for both performers. It put over Undertaker as a ruthless and dominate champion while also showcasing the guts, determination, and passion of Jeff Hardy. The contest was full of a lot of unique ladder spots, but aside from that the contest had a really big fight feel to it. The fans lost it when Jeff nearly succeed in garbing Undertaker’s WWE Undisputed Championship.

The match came to it’s conclusion when Undertaker finally put Hardy away with a chock-slam off to top of the ladder.

Undertaker was not done, however, as he reentered the ring and delivered a Last Ride to the high flyer.

As “Big Evil” rode his motorcycle to the back a injured Jeff Hardy proclaimed that “You haven’t broken me yet. I’m still standing” Undertaker returned to the ring once again and instead of attacking the young up-and-comer raised his hand as a sign of respect.

Jeff Hardy has gone on record saying that this was the match that truly launched his singles career, but Hardy deserves credit as well for giving Undertaker one of his best matches of all time.

8. THE UNDERTAKER VS. KANE (WRESTLEMANIA XIV)

This match is something the WWE rarely has the patience for these day. A feud with a long build-up to the first match. The Undertakers brother, Kane, made his WWE debut in October of 1997, but The Undertaker and Kane never had a single match until March of 1998 at WrestleMania XIV.

The WWE spent fives months building the suspense of the fans and constructing a story that would keep the fans interested for not just mere weeks. They put time into making the first match The Undertaker had with his brother a big deal. They waited to have the match at WrestleMania.

The art of constructing a long and interesting storyline that builds suspense and anticipation in the fans is dying. We saw a resurgence in this style with The Rock’s match with John Cena being announced a year in advance, however the story was on the back burner for a large portion of that year.

This match was built around a great, surreal, if not corny, story that boiled for months and months and the pay off, the match, made all that waiting worth it. There is so much intensity in this match. You feel every punch and it feels as if every move could shake the entire arena.

This, to me, is the greatest big man vs. big man match of all time. It is so easy for two big guys to have slow paced boring match. Several of The Undertaker’s previous Wrestlemania matches are bad good example of this.

His matches with Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, and even Sid Vicious were all pretty terrible. However, Kane and The Undertaker had a fantastic match full of high impact moves and brutal brawling action.

They also owe a lot of credit to the fantastic build up this match got and the time they had to develop the feud. Kane was viewed at the time as Undertaker’s biggest threat to date and the fact that he dominated “The Deadman” during a majority of this match really convinced me that he could be the more dominate monster.

The two did things in this match that most 7 feet tall men couldn’t dream of doing in the ring. At one point The Undertaker ran towards Kane and he caught his older brother and put him on top of his shoulders before slamming him down onto the mat.

Near the end of match Undertaker had still not been able to knock down his brother and attempted a suicide dive onto Kane who was on the outside. However, Undertaker missed and went crashing through and announce table.

The match finally ended after Undertaker preforms a Tombstone Piledriver  on  Kane for the third time. Out of all of  his Wrestlemania matches he has never taken more punishment than in this match. This is how all seven-foot giants should wrestle.

7. THE UNDERTAKER VS. EDGE (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)

This match occurred ten years after Undertaker’s epic clash with his tormented brother, Kane. This time the cagey veteran walked into WrestleMania as the main event of the stacked card for the first time in over ten years.

I really feel like this match is forced to fly under the radar of Undertaker’s other iconic WrestleMania matches with Triple H and Shawn Michaels, but this was one of the most well done main events in the past ten years of WrestleMania.

I remember being taken aback by how much offense Edge got in with little in return from Undertaker during the beginning of the contest. However, to me it really helped build up the match and aided in establishing Edge as a menacing threat to “The Deadman’s” Wrestlemania record. This really worked well.

“The Ultimate Opportunist”  had screwed Undertaker out of the World Heavyweight Championship and managed to dodge him at every turn over late 2007 and early 2008, but Edge couldn’t hide forever. Walking into WrestleMania XXIV Edge was even able to drag that Undertaker had never defeated him.

Edge threw everything but the kitchen sink at the legendary performer, but Undertaker came back at the end and locked in the Hell’s Gate after no selling Edge’s spear. This back-and-forth contest really showed off the fact that Undertaker doesn’t need a gimmick to have an engaging match.

In the end Undertaker became 16-0 and regained the World Heavyweight Championship. The two would go on to feud for a majority of the summer.

6. THE UNDERTAKER VS. BRET HART (SUMMERSLAM 1997)

Like several matches on this Countdown this match has some historical importance.

While this event is mostly remembered for the match were Steve Austin broke his neck after Owen Hart botched a piledriver the main event between Hart and The Undertaker is one of Taker’s most underrated matches I’ve ever seen as I really enjoy the way the two of them work together.

I loved Bret as a heel. It also made Undertaker that much better of a babyface. Also the spot where the Hart Foundation comes out really helps sell the fact that The Undertaker is fighting an uphill battle.

While I don’t enjoy run-ins typically it worked well to highlight this match. Hart, being the revered mat technician he is, spent a majority of the match working on the WWE Champion’s legs. This slowed Undertaker down making it more difficult for “The Phenom” to hit a majority of his finishing maneuvers.

I felt the addition of Michaels as referee was a bit unneeded and an obvious plot device, but it didn’t distract too much attention from the in-ring action until the conclusion.

The end comes when Bret spat in Michaels face leading to “The Heart Break Kid” trying to hit Hart with a steel chair and missing and hitting the champion. This of course gave Hart the opportunity to pin Undertaker and win the WWE Championship.

On this night Bret “Hitman” Hart would win the WWE Championship for the very last time and how ironic the man who helped him win it would be the same man who would take it from him. Shawn Michaels. The ending to this match lead to a number one contender ship match at Bad Blood between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in the very first ever Hell in a Cell match which Michaels would win after the debuting Kane took out The Undertaker.

After that Shawn Michaels challenged the WWE Champion, Bret Hart, at Survivor Series and the rest, as they say, is history…

5. THE UNDERTAKER VS. TRIPLE H (WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII)

Is it overrated? Yes, but so are many of WrestleMania’s best contests.

The Undertaker walked into WrestleMania XXVIII for the 20th time against Triple H, in their third ever Wrestlemania encounter. This match was made even more special with the addition of Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee and the stipulation of Hell in a Cell.

The Undertaker and Triple H are almost unarguably the most experienced WWE preforms inside the cell so I knew this mach was going to be extremely spot on.

I considered all three of their WrestleMania matches when putting together this list, and I had a very difficult time deciding on which one I wanted to showcase at the number six position. I really enjoyed their dramatic showcase at WrestleMania 27, but I felt that match was overly-long so I eliminated it first. That left me with their Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania XXVIII and their first ever one on one match at WrestleMania X-Seven.

Previously, I considered their WrestleMania X-Seven match one of Undertaker’s absolute best, but I feel after a decade the match has not aged as well as some other matches of that time. While still a wonderful match I feel like Undertaker and Triple H truly reached the pinnacle of what they could do in a ring together at WrestleMania XXVIII.

Brilliantly paced, very brutal considering the toned down era we are currently in, and a perfect conclusion to the story of Triple H and Undertaker. This match really worked perfectly for WrestleMania XXVIII and the two veterans really maximized their strengths and minimized their weaknesses in this showcase.

I will admit that this match took some time to grow on me, but after repeated viewing I see why everyone loves it so much. The “End of the Era” match was a celebration of what made the last 15 years of the WWE so special.

I honestly thought this could have been The Undertaker’s final  match and if it had been I think this would have been a fantastic way to go out.

4. THE UNDERTAKER VS. THE ROCK VS. KURT ANGLE (VENGEANCE 2002)

This match has really gone under the radar in recent years, but truth be told it is one of my favorite three way dances of all time.  In fact the only triple threat matches I like better are the Unbreakable and WrestleMania XX  triple threat matches. This match was for The Undertaker’s Undisputed WWE Championship and to be bluntly honest there is not too much of a memorable story to go along with this match. I think it is just as well as it allows you to focus on the very interesting dynamic the three employ together.

At the time The Rock had just begun his film career and was at the peak of his popularity. Kurt Angle was having some of the greatest matches with WWE’s most talented wrestlers and accomplishing more in 2 years than most WWE stars accomplish in a lifetime.   Finally,  Undertaker was the Undisputed Champion and the most physically dominate and intimidating guy in McMahon’s company.

So we have three of the greatest performers in the WWE , at the same time in the main event for the Undisputed Championship, and they bring it to say the least. near the end of the contest all three men used each other’s own finishing maneuvers after their own were not enough to win the title.

Watching the three guys go at it is very interesting as the all have very different ways of pacing a match, but somehow they all manage to stay on the same page and wrestle at the same pace. It follows the tried and true formula that most three way dances employ, but unlike others this match does not abuse that redundant concept.

I’m referring to the formula in which one competitor will get knocked out of the ring while the two other wrestlers carry on until the third rejoins the fray and knocks another man out. Rinse, and repeat, until someone wins.

That  formulaic pattern sometimes becomes distracting, but it really is not that noticeable here, and I have few problems with this match at all. It is a joy to watch, and while it has no heavy iconic story to go along with it the match is simply and entertaining back-and-forth wrestling match.

The match ended with The Rock pinning Kurt Angle after the Rock Bottom. Undertaker tried to break up the count but he was just a moment too late. The Undertaker would not hold another world championship for almost five years when he defeated Batista at WrestleMania 23.

3. THE UNDERTAKER VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA XXV)

Is this match overrated? Of course it is. Is it a masterpiece of performance art and one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time? The answer to that, is the same as the answer to the first question. So yes, this match is wonderful, but I think far too many wrestling fans fawn over it for the wrong reasons. To be honest I had a little trouble deciding which WrestleMania match I wanted to pick for the number three position in this Countdown.

Both of  Undertaker’s matches with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania are fantastic, but I only wanted to have one on this list.

The reason I went with the first match was because I genuinely thought this match had the better in-ring action, even if it did feature a few awkward botches. Yes, I know I just critiqued Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker. Don’t point that gun at me. I understand this match is special  to many people, but it is not flawless. Still, even if their rematch was a little more crisp, I thought this match was paced miles better and the Houston crowd sold this performance beautifully.

I will admit that the story and build up to the match at WrestleMania XXVI was much better and there was more emotion attached to it and I think more people cared because it was almost a sure thing that it would be Shawn’s last match. Still I stand by my decision. This match deserves to be here.

There was magic made on this night in Houston, Texas.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people who prefer their WrestleMania XXVI match due to all the emotion and hype around it because it was Shawn’s final match. However, I rarely find myself siding with the majority.

The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels not only met people’s expectations, but they blew them out of the water. On this night they stole the show and no one will be able to have a conversation about WrestleMania 25 without discussing this now iconic match.

To me this is the defining match of this era. The same way that Hogan’s match with Andre defined the “Golden Era”. Regardless of which WrestleMania match I decided on no one can argue against the fact that Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches with Shawn Michaels will go down as some the greatest matches of this decade and maybe even all time.

2. THE UNDERTAKER VS. KURT ANGLE (NO WAY OUT 2006)

In my opinion this was Kurt Angle’s last “great” match during his seven years with the WWE, and while Angle had several memorable contests with Undertaker I felt none of them could  eclipse this one.

For my money this is one of Undertaker’s greatest one on one matches ever. I think it gets some hate because it moves a little slow in the opening minutes of the match before Angle and Undertaker begin to really bring some intensity to the contest.

Both men pick a part of the body and spent the rest of the match focusing on wearing down that part of the body.

The Undertaker started working on the shoulders of Angle, but he wasn’t able to maintain control because Angle began to work on the knees on Taker. Our “Last Outlaw” would spend a majority of the rest of the match trying to keep up with the World Heavyweight Champion.

After being slowed down by Angle’s constant assault on his knees,  Undertaker spent much of his energy try to land high impact moves to put Angle away. This tactic holds Angle off, but not for long.

Every time”The Deadman” tried to hit a big move Kurt Angle would counter out of it and bring him to his knees. This is an interesting match because in most of his matches Taker is usually the chief aggressor. So seeing him play defense in this match was a welcome dynamic.

I think this was WWE’s way of building up Kurt Angle as World Heavyweight Champion going into WrestleMania 22. Which is why we saw Angle in control for so much of the match. It worked really well in putting over Angle as a dominate champion while not ruining any creditably of Undertaker.

Angle seemed to have a huge sense of pride as he had a chance to win via count out, but he made the referee stop counting and allowed the match to continue. I loved the fact that there were no swerves in this match and no none-finish as I was cautiously expected there to be.

Despite his effort to work on the knees and ankles of  Undertaker the Olympic gold medal winner could not make him tap out. Angle countered the Tombstone piledriver and the Last Ride into the Angle Lock, but “The Phenom” refused to tap out. You have to see for yourself how great some of these  sequences are.

It looked as if  Undertaker would be leaving No Way Out with the World Heavyweight Championship when he locked in his triangle chock on Angle, but Angle rolled through and got a quick three count before anyone even realized what had happened.

The dusty finish did little to nothing to affect my opinion of this match, as it made it look as if Angle escaped the lair of  Lucifer himself, unscathed. The look on the champion’s face after he realized he won supports this.

A few months later Kurt Angle asked for his release and got it. This match was really the last contest where we see a (some what) healthy Kurt Angle at his best in a WWE ring.

1. THE UNDERTAKER VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (BAD BLOOD 1997)

To me this was the pinnacle of WWE’s booking history. Everything in and around this match just clicked and fired on all the right cylinders.

This is without a doubt Undertaker’s greatest match of all time and in my opinion it is also the most well done Hell in a Cell match since the match’s creation.

This  stemmed from the outcome of the main event of SummerSlam 1997 we discussed earlier. After Michaels cost Undertaker his WWE Championship, he of course wanted revenge in the worst way and got Michaels in the first ever Hell in a Cell match at Bad Blood in October of 1997.

The future WWE legends had a mastery understanding of how to conduct a match and even in the uncharted waters of Hell in a Cell were able to put together one of the greatest wrestling matches I have ever seen.

The match set the bar high for future Hell in a Cell matches and in my opinion it has still not been topped even though it is over 15 years old.

Both men did some really revolutionary stuff in this match. Using the cage as a weapon and climbing on top of the cage was very taboo in the wrestling world at this time. 

The Undertaker and Shawn Michael’s match here was a really an important part of wrestling history also.

During the match when it looked like Undertaker was ready to put Michaels away, the lights went out and Kane walked to the ring for the first time and laid waste to his older brother. This set the stage for their match at Wrestlemania XVI which we talked about earlier.

Less than a month after this match Shawn Michaels faced Bret “The Hitman” Hart at Survivor Series in a match that would go down in wrestling history forever, but for all the wrong reasons.

Karma would catch up with “HBK” as a few months after that Shawn suffered an injury, ironically in a match with The Undertaker. The injury he suffered would (temporarily) ended his career, but also changed his life for the better.

Years later both men are now considered the most talented performers and biggest legends to ever step into a WWE ring.  Undertaker even got the honor of being the last man to ever wrestle with Shawn Michaels ending his career on a high note.

Their careers have been so similar and both men have been corner stones for the WWE, and will go down in history as two of the highest caliber performers of all time.