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.

Bret Hart’s Top Ten Greatest WWE & WCW Matches

There  are only a handful of men in the world who can lay claim to be a defining talent in the history of professional wrestling.

Men like Buddy Rogers, Gorgeous George, Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair, and Hulk Hogan. Men who have truly carved their name into the most prestigious monument of this unique form of entertainment. The few who stand above the many.

Bret Hart, the eighth child of wrestling legend Stu Hart, earned his place among these names through unparalleled devotion to his craft and a learned ability to pull the people in no matter what the situation in the ring was.

Bret Hart’s accolades in the professional wrestling business are too great too number or list, but sufficient to say he lived up to his nickname “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be.”

For almost 15 years Bret Hart worked tirelessly in the WWE to prove that he was one of the greatest of all time.

Few performers worked as hard as Hart or took as much pride in their work. Wrestling over 200 dates a year for over a decade and a half has given Bret a huge catalog of matches to decide from. For that reason I have limited the field down to his time spent in the WWE and his short tenure in WCW.

In this edition of the Pro Wrestling Countdown we will be looking at ten of the greatest matches in an attempt to convey the message that Hart truly was one of the best of all time.

Honorable Mention:

BRET HART VS. DIESEL (SURVIVOR SERIES 1995)

This is probably the best match I have ever seen Kevin Nash, also known as Diesel, have a part in. That was one of Bret Hart’s greatest attributes. Making a match that doesn’t look so good on paper truly shine in the ring.

That is largely why I placed this match here. He was often forced to work with some less than stellar opponents. In an interview once a wrestling commentator said:

“…if you look at the WWE in the first half of the 1990’s every match worth watching had either Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels on one side of  the ring.”

As sad as it is to admit this man was not far off from the truth. Save a few exceptions Hart and Michaels were challenged with doing the best with the fellow talent available to the WWE’s ever shrinking budget.

Diesel was walking into Survivor Series as the 3rd longest reigning WWE Champion of the proclaimed “Modern Era” of the title. Even with his title reign now being over 300 days long he still had to defeat one of the greatest technicians in the company under no disqualification rules which would prove no easy task.

The stipulation certainly helped Diesel in this match and disguised his limitations in the ring and only made Hart that more exciting.

The only knock I can give this match is that it  is a tad slow but many Hart and Diesel match can be criticized of being slow. This only slightly deserves that criticism.

The match came to an end after the WWE Champion kicked Hart off the apron through the Spanish announcer’s table and then threw the challenger back into the ring to  finish him off. He went for the Jackknife Powerbomb, but “The Hitman” got the roll up to become the WWE Champion.

This would set up the main event for WrestleMania XII and the 60-minute clinic from Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. WrestleMania XII would also  be one of the last times wrestling fans saw Diesel before his defection to WCW as he became the fifth man to fall to The Undertaker’s undefeated streak.

I really included this match as an example of all of Hart’s matches with “big men.” He often had competitors with limited ability and this really shows have good Hart was at putting on a good show no matter who stood across the ring.

10. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (SummerSlam 1994)

I would point to this performance if I wanted to give someone an example of how great a Steel Cage match can be if the right two competitors are in the ring.

It also has to be the most well done brother vs. brother feud I’ve seen. It is just such a great story. One brother not wanting to live in the other’s shadow. It is often botched though, but the story here worked so well. Owen made me believe he truly hated his brother.

What I loved so much about this match is that Bret and Owen brought  logic to a match that often is absent logic. They spend so much time trying to escape the cage viva the door and then over the cage walls even when
there was little hope that they will not get caught by the other man. I think it plays up the desperation that this stipulation match should have; especially from Owen Hart.

At WrestleMania X Owen finally defeated his older brother and by doing so he thought he had moved out of his shadow for good. However, later that night the older Bret won the WWE Championship and once again reaffirmed that he was the better brother.

A few months later Owen Hart won the King of the Ring tournament replicating the feat his brother had accomplished a year earlier.

At SummerSlam the sibling rivalry reached it’s apex when the two collided for Bret’s championship. With the entire Hart family ringside, the two brought their expert knowledge of match pacing and ring psychology to the steel cage. They delivered a smart, logical, and captivating bout which for these reasons I had to rank it over their WrestleMania match.

I think part of me wanted to bring this match on the Countdown because they managed to make me interested in a Steel Cage match. This has always been a gimmick match that I have found somewhat underwhelming. This is the highest a traditional Steel Cage match  has ever made it on the Pro Wrestling Countdown.

It will probably stay that way.

9. BRET HART VS. CHRIS BENOIT (WCW NITRO, OCTOBER 1999)

Okay, honesty time. I only even allowed WCW matches to be eligible for this edition of the Pro Wrestling Countdown so I could include this absolute gem.

I never cared for WCW Nitro too much. I thought it was a mess of a show week in and week out. However, this match was a diamond in the rough and truly my favorite WCW Nitro match ever contested.

“The Hitman’s” time in the troubled promotion was and still is very unmemorable with noteworthy matches coming few and far between. While seeing Hart wrestle guys like Sting, DDP, and Goldberg was cool at first it just didn’t feel like he belonged.

“If you want to sum up my greatest moments in WCW, well  they’re not that many…Kansas City was an important as any night in my life let alone wrestling.” -Bret Hart

This match was meant as a tribute to Bret’s younger brother, Owen Hart, who tragically perished in an unfortunate accident while performing at a WWE event earlier that year in the same arena Nitro was stationed at on this night.

Hart and Benoit had a great mat-based contest that really showcased what made both of these men so unique as wrestlers. Few men have wrestled better mat-based matches than these two and seeing them dance together was always special. It was just about the only thing that validated his stint outside of the WWE for me as a fan.

Bret Hart got the victory over Chris Benoit with the Sharpshooter and the two then embraced in the ring as two brothers would. Bret Hart then saluted the Heavens, and his brother, before leaving the ring.

After this match Hart would go on to have two very short reigns as WCW World Heavyweight Champion and have a match with Bill Goldberg at Starcade 1999 in which he suffered a concussion that served as the catalyst for his early retirement.

I would objectively consider that this tribute match was the last great match of Bret Hart’s career. Only months after this Hart was forced to retire due to his concussion and other nagging injuries.

“I really believe that Owen was right there above the ring watching. In a lot of ways, it was a match for only one person. There was only one person in the audience.” -Bret Hart

I always take solace in knowing that Hart’s last, arguably, great match was for his brother.

8. BRET HART VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (SURVIVOR SERIES 1992)

Five years before the match that would loom over their careers like an endless plague Bret “Hitman” Hart, the new WWE Champion, and “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, the new Intercontinental Champion, faced off in the main events of the 1992 Survivor Series.

This match, however, featured far less controversy and much more of what made Michaels and Hart the best of their era. When I talk about this match I often compare it to the rough draft of a great noel. In it, exists blemishes, but the framework for a great story can be seen.

The aspect of this match that I think very well nearly dropped it out of the top ten was how often the two men resorted to rest holds. The used the stalling to help build anticipation, but I feel like they allowed too much down time. This fact certainly hurt it’s standings. In saying this, the match that we are left with is still absolutely worth watching.

Some modern fans might find it a bit dated, but otherwise this was a great match for the WWE Championship. Shawn gave everything he had, but was not quite ready to usurp “The Hitman” who had just begun his journey as the face of a Hogan-less WWE.

After the match Santa Claus came to the ring and celebrated with Bret Hart. Yes, I’m serious. The 90’s were weird, man.

Hart and Michaels were both coming into their own as superstars during this time while Vince McMahon was faced with sex scandals and steroid allegations from government officials.

These two men marched on as the leaders of the troubled Next Generation Era and would figuratively speaking be fighting in the trenches as the company came close to closing down completely.

7. BRET HART VS. THE 1-2-3- KID (WWE RAW, JULY 1994)

When discussing the greatest matches of the largely uneventful early days of Monday Night Raw this match has to be in the discussion. The 1-2-3 Kid is notable for a couple of  now iconic early moments in Raw history. The most memorable being the match in which he defeated Razor Ramon almost a year earlier. Had he not have won that upset victory over Ramon this match, with the WWE Champion, may well have never taken place.

This was also the only second ever WWE Championship match to be broadcast on the show.

Not bad for a kid who was just two days shy of his 22nd birthday.

The 1-2-3 Kid held his own with the much more seasoned Hart and even kept the champion grounded as he utilized the moves no doubt taught to him by Boris Malenko (father of Dean Malenko).

After about 10 minutes of action the Kid went for a crucifix pin, but Bret countered dropping him onto his back and seemingly getting the victory. However, the 1-2-3 Kid had his foot on the bottom rope and Bret Hart refused  to have his hand raised as he noticed the Kid’s foot when the referee did not.

I think this was a great way to put him over as a fighting champion and made the crowd love him even more. While the WWE’s popularity may have been waning in the  early 1990s it is hard to tell on this night as the fans in attendance chanted ”The Hitman’s” name periodically throughout this bout.

After the action resumed the 1-2-3 Kid went all in and gave Hart all the high flying maneuvers he had in his arsenal. However, Hart capitalized on that and was able to take advantage once the Kid missed one of his high risk moves. The Kid, in his immaturity, made the mistake again and found himself in the Sharpshooter.

After his victory the WWE Champion applauded the Kid for his efforts and embraced him before raising his hand to the roaring crowd.

While everyone may point to his match with Razor as the match that made him a star I think it was Bret Hart who truly legitimized the future degenerate, X-Pac. Much in the way The Undertaker would someday do for a young Jeff Hardy. A match I’ve discussed in previous editions.

I love matches in which you can see veteran performers, like Bret Hart, acknowledge the talents of up-and-coming stars. This is one of the absolute best examples of that type of match.

6. BRET HART VS. MR. PERFECT (KING OF THE RING 1993)

Bret Hart had many matches with “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. The one that occurred at SummerSlam 1991 is probably their more recognized encounter, but one in which Hennig was not at 100%.

Curt Hennig was wrestling with a very injured back and can be seen sporting a similar posture that Shawn Michaels displays when wrestling his final match for five years  at WrestleMania XIV due to a career threatening back injury.

While Hennig’s injury was not nearly as severe, it was still a testament to his fortitude that he was able to work though that injury at SummerSlam. Even still I opted to pick their King of the Ring match.

The match does not have as much historical significance as the SummerSlam match, but it’s one of the better encounters the two ever had.

Now a more seasoned main event talent, Bret Hart took on a healthier Mr. Perfect in the semi-finals in the 1993 King of the Ring tournament. A tournament Bret  Hart would go on to win.

The match started out with both of the athletes quickly trading and countering submission moves. The commentators spend much of the match discussing how crisp and “perfect” the two men executed  their maneuvers.

Savage, JR, and Heenan were right at any rate. Hennig and Hart both had excellent ring movement that was further highlighted by their impeccable timing. They both moved around the ring together as if their eyes were closed, having memorized every step of the contest.

Perfect controlled this match much more when compared to their 1991 match. Even though he played defense for much of this performance the “Excellence of Execution” bettered Mr. Perfect once again with a school boy.

A perturbed Mr. Perfect begrudgingly shook the hand of the man who once again bested him.

Hart advanced to the finals and defeated Bam Bam Bigelow, in a much more underwhelming contest, to become the first ever WWE King of the Ring.

This is the Bret Hart that comes to mind when I think back on him. Crisp offensive maneuvers and silky smooth wrestling sequences. Hennig was Hart’s perfect opponent.

5. BRET HART VS. STEVE AUSTIN (SURVIVOR SERIES 1996)

For many years I never knew about this match as it took place before I became attached to the pro wrestling product. Several years ago I watched it when doing research for a write-up on the history of Survivor Series and I  was not disappointed at the result.

Sometimes forgotten, this match of contrasting styles was the precursor to the much more famous WrestleMania 13 match between these two WWE Hall of Famers.

Austin began this match with two middle fingers right in the face of the former WWE Champion. In this time, Austin was still working as a villain and Hart as the hero.

The early going of this match surprisingly enough saw Austin try to play the mat based game with “The Hitman.” It didn’t work in his favor for long as Bret, even having  just returned from an extended leave of absence, was as every bit the “Excellence of Execution” as he used to be.

Like any great adapter, Austin switched his offense over to his well known brawling style which really gave the match a nice back in forth dynamic. Austin punched and Hart would look for a way to lock in a hold.

About 20 minutes into this match “Stone Cold” really got the upper hand taking the action to the outside and just abusing Hart. Still the devious heel could not put him away to the delight of the fans who filled Madison Square Garden.

Even the Stone Cold Stunner could not keep the veteran down with three unsuccessful pin attempts to Austin’s  misfortune. As he ran out of offensive maneuvers “Stone Cold” locked in the Texas Clover Leaf in an attempt to get Bret Hart to submit, but to no avail.

Finally Austin made a mistake that gave the technician the opening he needed to get the victory. The Texas rebel locked in DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream hoping it would be enough to finish the technician, but the wiser Hart used his positioning in the corner of the ring to spring off the ropes and flip Austin, back first, on to the mat. The referee counted to three before “Stone Cold” could recover from his rough landing.

This was as physical as any match I can remember seeing Bret Hart in. It isn’t at all akin to the pretty matches he is famous for with the likes of Mr. Perfect or Shawn Michaels. This makes it stand out among them and shows how versatile of a performer Hart could be in the face of a change in direction in the company he had helped maintain over the last five years.

Austin and Hart both showed off different styles of their wrestling ability here. We saw much more brawling from Hart and many submission moves out of Austin. It made for a very engaging experience to see the two outside of their typical wrestling styles.

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

There have been instances where this match was touted as the greatest professional wrestling match to ever take place. I think, while not being the most ridiculous thing ever said, that this would be a gross overstatement.

What Michaels and Hart truly did in their greatest encounter was redefine what a match on the main stage of the WWE  should be about. This was the first Era in the WWE that the small more athletic performers were moved from the middle of the card to the forefront of peoples consciousness. The main event. The “Hitman” and the “Heart Break Kid” set the blueprint for modern five star matches.

My personal opinion has always been that Iron Man matches are ridiculously hard to pull off. This is due to the entire pacing of the match being determined by the fact that the fans know exactly when the contest is ending.

This takes away a layer of spontaneity from the performance on top of the fact that the athletes have to perform for a long amount of time.

The matches usually have a very “on-and-off” momentum which can disengage even the most determined viewer. The middle of the matches especially tend to lag and even this classic match suffers from this pattern.

Even in saying that, there probably is no greater example of how and Iron Man match should play out than this one.  The WWE’s two greatest attractions at the time pitted against one another in a match no one in the WWE had ever competed in before. It was the perfect scenario for the main event of WrestleMania made all the better by the classic overtime finish after no winner could be declared when the sixty minute time limit expired.

The sudden death overtime definitely helped add some unpredictability to the end of the match in which Shawn Michaels finally captured  the WWE Championship.

While fans everywhere love and adore this match the man who walked in WWE Champion admits that to him it was  more of an athletic display of endurance than a good scientific wrestling match.

In that regard I would have to agree, but still this contest is one of the mos iconic WWE Championship matches ever.

3. BRET HART VS. OWEN HART (Wrestlemania X)

When WWE returned to Madison Square Garden to celebrate their tenth WrestleMania, they started the celebration off with what has become the standard barer for opening Mania matches.

The sibling jealously dynamic is such a full proof story that any fan can relate to. Almost any fan can relate to having an older more successful sibling. A sibling who they feel eclipses them and their accomplishments. By 1994 Bret Hart had made the transition from tag team mechanic of the Hart Foundation, to “The Hitman.” The elder brother had been chosen by the fans as the WWE’s main event successor to Hulk Hogan.

“The Rocket” Owen Hart had been floundering in the middle of the card and recovering from injury when he returned to ignite this feud with his brother. The feud that would put him on the map and define his entire career. The younger Hart played the envious brother perfectly.

This match was the culmination of almost 4 months of storytelling and while the story go on to be bigger and their matches even better – this was Owen Harts true coming out party as a major player in the WWE.

Owen would sneak out a victory over his brother in one of the best opening matches in Wrestlemania history. The chemistry these two brothers shared in the ring was evident immediately.

Bret would go on to win the WWE Championship in the main event. As he celebrated in the ring in front of packed crowd – his younger brother looked on signifying their issues were far from other.!!!!!!

2. BRET HART VS. THE BRITISH BULLDOG (SUMMERSLAM 1992)

If Shawn Michaels is “Mr. WrestleMania” then I think Bret Hart is deserving of the title “Mr. SummerSlam.” Matches with Mr. Perfect, Undertaker, Owen Hart, and this match all number among SummerSlam’s greatest matches.

This match, however, is without a doubt SummerSlam’s  grandest match. A match so good and a moment so historic that is almost feels like a “WrestleMania moment” that has lost its way.

History has told us that Bulldog went into the match infamously “out of his head” due to being hooked on multiple substances.

Davey Boy Smith had been suspended earlier in the year and had also been rehabbing an injury. Knowing Smith’s history with drug use he very well could have been off his face going into this match, but we only have second hand reports from Hart to go no at this point.

Somehow this match still managed to  become one of the biggest moments in WWE history even with claims that Bulldog was compromised before the show.

I largely contribute this matches success to Hart’s ability to guide his brother-in-law after Smith had allegedly forgotten all of the matches sequences. Bulldog without a doubt carried his weight much more than Hart would have us believe, but it should be said that the “Hitman” definitely gave the British Bulldog the greatest moment of his career.

Hart can be seen using arm-bars and headlocks to communicate the next spot to Davey Boy. To me, it could just be that Hart was leading the match like any veteran would, but it could have also been Hart trying to piece together a match that Davey had forgotten. None of us can know.

Moving past Bulldog’s condition this match was an excellent display and the 80,000 British fans were absolutely squarely in the hands of these two performers.

This was the first major WWE event without Hogan many other big names that had defected to WCW since WrestleMania VIII. This was the transition period and the end of the “Golden Era.” Within months of this Randy Savage and Ric Flair would also leave for WCW and leave WWE without any major names. Hart would become their new torch bearer.

After being unable to make the British Bulldog submit to the Sharpshooter Hart goes for a Sunset Flip, but Bulldog catches him and gets the pin. After the match Hart teases leaving the ring before congratulating his brother, but opts to celebrate with his sister and her husband, the new WWE Intercontinental Champion.

The Intercontinental Championship has never been as important as it was that night. This was it’s peak.

Tragically, Bulldog’s career would never eclipse this moment as many of the troubles in life would hinder his career. Steroid and human-growth hormone addiction caught up to his heart and the former WWE superstar passed away in 2002.

1. BRET HART VS. STEVE AUSTIN (WRESTLEMANIA 13)

The most famous double turn of all time. How could any other Bret Hart match eclipse this one?

Few professional wrestlers have a better in-ring dynamic than Bret “Hitman” Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had together in my opinion. Their characters and styles complimented one another so well.

I won’t recap this match for you here, but I will say that more than almost any other match I would consider this a must watch.

Hart and Austin both walked into the Chicago arena teetering on the edge of both heel and babyface. Both had displayed traits of both good and bad characters. Seeing the slow turn take it’s final spin was a moment in time.

Bret Hart locked in the Sharpshooter on an exhausted “Stone Cold.” Austin, however, would not give in, and passed out instead of tapping to the man he had tried to defy for months on end. The sight of Austin screaming
in agony as blood spewed everywhere might be one of the most iconic WrestleMania moments ever.

Special referee Ken Shamrock had no other choice but to call for the bell. “The Hitman” then continued to attack Austin which promoted the Mania crowd to drown Hart with boos.

Steve pulled himself up by the ropes and refused to have anyone help him to the back. The guts, determination, and refusal to give up gave the fans a reason to support “Austin 3:16” and this effectively resulted in possibly the most successful and important face turn in WWE history.

I don’t think any performer has gained as much out of a lose as Austin gained from losing to Hart the way he did at WrestleMania 13. It might have been the perfect ending to what I would consider one of the greatest wrestling matches ever.

The next  year at WrestleMania XIV Bret Hart would be gone from the WWE after the infamous Montreal Screw Job at Survivor Series later that year and Steve Austin would win his first WWE Championship and give a broken Shawn Michaels his final match for nearly five years.

“Stone Cold” would spend those next five years leading the WWE into a Renaissance of creativity and profitability. All of that may well not had happened had it not been for the perfectly executed babyface turn at WrestleMania 13 courtesy of “The Hitman.”

This was Bret Hart and Steve Austin’s Ninth Symphony and truly was Hart’s last dance on the legendary stage of WrestleMania during his prime.

Hart’s fundamental active WWE career would end several months after this.

Bret Hart IV.jpg

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