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.

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.

Ric Flair’s Top Ten Greatest Matches

“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair is often cited as being one of last (and possibly most successful) NWA main event draws. His career, spanning over 40 years, has produced some of the most important matches, influential promos, and ground breaking stables in wrestling history. Flair’s name has been synonyms with success.

While Hulk Hogan may always be the greatest wrestling superstar of the 1980’s there is no doubt that Flair was it’s greatest and prolific wrestler. Period.

Credited as either a 16 or 21 time World Champion, Ric Flair stands second to no one when it comes to “being the man.”

However, accomplishments aside, Ric Flair has put on some of the most textbook smart wrestling matches ever. While these contests are absent of the modern flashy moves we have all become custom to they are without question some of the most powerful wrestling matches ever caught on tape.

Regardless of whether he was 28 or 58 Ric Flair knew how to entertain and, more importantly, tell a story.

I won’t remember Flair for his insane antics, but for his being probably the best storyteller in professional wrestling history. Today, we look at Flair’s greatest stories given to us through his blood, sweat, tears, and perseverance to be “the man.”

HONORABLE MENTION:

RIC FLAIR VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)

For pure emotion alone this match deserves recognition. 

I think this match with Shawn is a fitting tribute to the active career of a man who wrestled for many decades.

Both men had strong motives and difficult decisions to make. Flair’s determination to prove that he was still the great wrestler he once was forced him into picking someone he considered to be one of the greatest of all time to wrestle at WrestleMania. Shawn’s difficult dilemma of having to possibly “pull the trigger” and end the career of a man he loves and respects.

These elements provided a deeper layer of story and context to the match gave the ring work great purpose.

It isn’t even close to either man’s greatest technical marvel and I will say that this match would not have even grabbed the honorable mention spot without these story elements that really  made this match ten times better than it actually was.

Being Flair’s “last match” (in the WWE at least) also helped it claim the honorable mention spot over several other worthy matches from his second run with McMahon’s promotion.

This match is more raw emotion than ring action, but it without a doubt achieved it’s goal of evoking a response from the viewer. I think, even if it is  not longer his final match, that this will be his final match worth talking about. The spiritual end of his storied career. I suppose that makes it important enough, still.

10. RIC FLAIR VS. HULK HOGAN (BASH AT THE BEACH 1994)

I will not lie to you and say that this was a technical marvel, but it was just good enough to skate into the final position. Where this match really wins the viewer over is the entertainment aspect of that match. This was the two biggest stars of the 1980s finally going at it in one of the biggest money matches in professional wrestling history.

While Flair may have been one of the most beloved and respected men in professional wrestling in the early 1990s, at his pinnacle of popularity, Hulk Hogan was bigger than all of professional wrestling. He transcended pop culture.

This match, like many matches in WCW, would  be done to death. Once a dream match, these two have had more rematches than I would care to recap.  They had matches in WCW, WWE, TNA for over three decades. It actually became embarrassing, but at Bash at the Beach 1994 it was still special.

I sort of felt bad for Flair as I watched this match as Hulk Hogan, who was having his first ever match for WCW, won the belt off of the man who helped carry WCW (Jim Crockett Promotions) for almost a decade at that point.

Then he just got pushed aside. It’s terrible really, but Flair made Hulk Hogan look so much better than he actually was. Hogan could pop the crowd for sure, but Flair made this match worth a damn from an in-ring perspective.

9. RIC FLAIR VS. TRIPLE H (TABOO TUESDAY 2005)

I tried very hard to avoid putting any matches from Flair’s second run into the Pro Wrestling Countdown as I felt it would have been disrespectful to all of the wonderful matches he had in his prime. However, I have a huge respect  for the program he did with “The Game” Triple H in 2005.

It was the last match I added to this Countdown, but I feel like you will all see where I am coming from in giving it this position. I originally was going to have his match with Shawn Michaels represent his entire second run, but after viewing his work with Triple H in 2005 I had to renege my decision and add this contest.

This story was very much the old master taking on the young samurai. Triple H wanted to put Flair out of his misery so he could stop “embarrassing himself.” Triple H said that he was tarnishing the memory of his idol.

Triple H used Flair as a punching bag for much of the contest with Flair only getting in enough offense  to defend himself.

Pro wrestling is a perfect playground for the Student/Teacher storyline. This was two master of pacing going at it. Triple H controlling the entire match with Flair only being able to fend him off was a perfect metaphor for the old guard standing the test of time.

Flair played the beaten down old master who may not have had the precision he used to, but the fire for competition still burned. Triple H was the youthful student putting down his old master. It was just perfect storytelling.

This was an old school style dissection from both guys on one other. While it might have been a tad slow for some, it was really engaging when they picked up the pace. The hot crowd at Taboo Tuesday didn’t hurt either.

Flair won here, but only by the skin of his teeth.

8. RIC FLAIR VS. MR. PERFECT (WWE RAW, JANUARY 1993)

Occurring on only the third ever edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, Curt Hennig and Ric Flair had what I would say was the first match worth watching in this shows now 20+ year history.

Incredibly all this time has passed and it still stands as one of the most noteworthy matches in the history of the weekly show, and one of my personal favorites. This was also a Loser Leaves Town match that was set up to give Flair a logical exit so he could return to WCW later that year.

This match  was a result of Mr. Perfect having a falling out with Flair and Heenan months earlier after “The Brain” insinuated that he could no longer wrestle at the level he once did. This was marked the face turn of Mr. Perfect and his return to the ring following an extended leave following his match  with Bret Hart at the 1991 SummerSlam.

Flair and Hennig had several matches together with the later ones occurring in WCW, but for me nothing topped their surprisingly good television match which occurred in an era where the idea of giving long and engaging matches away on free television was just beginning to come around.

I don’t know if Hennig played the babyface role to perfection here, but we do see Flair ham-up his heelish tactics. He used just about every clique move in the book behind the referee’s back to try to send Mr. Perfect packing and I think this helped sway the crowd to pop for Hennig.

My only complaint is with a few awkward spots that interrupted the flow and like most matches from this era there were a few slow moments, but that was just the style of the time. Outside of that this was a stellar display of entertainment and pacing.

Ric Flair would be back in WCW less than a month after this match. Hennig would spend very little time in the ring for the WWE after 1993 and also later jumped ship to  WCW in 1997.

Probably one of Raw’s most forgotten classics. If you’ve never had the opportunity to catch it go do so. It was the quickest 20 minutes match I’ve ever watched.

7. RIC FLAIR VS. HARLEY RACE (STARRCADE 1983)

I’m starting to believe the cage matches will never be able to live up to the glory they once did.

I think the problem lies in the fact that it has seen so many variations that now make a traditional one-on-one cage match look like a relic from a bygone era. In saying that, matches like this contest between two legendary NWA performers, are what helped establish the gimmick as one of the most brutal of all time.

In 1983, WCW was still known as Jim Crockett Promotions and was still under the heavy guise of the National  Wrestling Association. Naturally this match was for Race’s NWA Heavyweight Championship and occurred at the first ever Starrcade event which would go on to be WCW’s answer to WrestleMania.

This match I think does a great job of communicating what the NWA was all about. Traditional, old school, professional wrestlers. No glitz. No glamour. Just two men. Tough as nails. Entertaining the crowd with a fight.

Many current fans do not have a adequate appreciation for Harley Race’s accomplishments and his work, but he was absolutely vicious in this match with Flair.

He dropped countless knees right on the challenger’s head, bloodied him, and repeatedly delivered straight headbutts to a downed “Nature Boy.”

If you watch this match you’ll see how brutal Race was and why he earned the nickname of  “Mad Dog.”

Ric Flair endured the punishment and found his opening as he scaled the cage and hit a high crossbody from the top turnbuckle and scored a three count to win his second (or third depending on who you ask) NWA Heavyweight Championship.

This match, while not without flaw, was a  great example of why Flair was made the star of Jim Crockett Promotions.

With blood dripping  from his snowy white hair and fans refusing to silence Flair celebrated inside the ring with his contemporaries as the first ever Starrcade drew to a close.

“This is the greatest night of my life, and I can’t thank you enough.” -Ric Flair, after defeating Harley Race.

6. RIC FLAIR VS. RANDY SAVAGE (WRESTLEMANIA VIII)

Ric Flair has seriously done it all. Even though he sharpened his teeth under the NWA banner while beginning to cement his legacy in Jim Crockett Promotions, it didn’t stop him from taking a few years away to go visit the McMahon’s company and stand among the other stars of the Federation.

For most of the 1980’s Flair was used by the NWA as the main franchise to combat McMahon’s emerging dominance after going national. So when he left WCW in 1991 there was only one place big enough to hold all of his success and charisma. The WWE.

While Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair was supposed to be the main event of WrestleMania VIII I have to admit that this match was better than any Flair/Hogan match, ever. Macho Man was a far better athlete and along with Flair had a very entertaining match.

Like most matches it has a flaw, and this matches flaw is it was just a little too focused on the campy story elements that involved Miss Elizabeth and supposed affair with Ric Flair.

Her involvement at WrestleMania VI was perfect, but at WrestleMania VIII it was a little bit of a tired concept to me.

That takes away very little from the match that should have closed WrestleMania VIII. Even in the early 1990s McMahon was booking the wrong matches to close the show. Hogan and Sid would end the show, but were unable to do anything that eclipsed the match Savage and Flair had.

It won’t be remembered much as a classic WWE Championship match, but to me this was the greatest match of Flair’s WWE career.

He was still capable of putting on a great match and not just a great match for a 50+ year old. Imagine the matches he could have had he never gone back to WCW?

5. RIC FLAIR VS. STING (CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS I)

Emanating from the very first ever Clash of the Champions event, Flair and Sting kicked off the legacy of not only this important WCW event but a rivalry that would rage off and on for the next 15 years. This was their first ever one-on-one match together.

In the late 1980’s Crockett and McMahon began thumbing their noses at one another by scheduling their events on the same day as one another. Supposedly, this was usually McMahon’s doing.

In retaliation Crockett scheduled the first ever Clash of the Champions which aired for free on television head-to-head against McMahon’s WrestleMania IV! Clash of the Champions would air against WrestleMania the following year as well.

Crockett gave fans a pay-per-view quality show which culminated in this bout for the NWA Heavyweight Championship between, the champion, Ric Flair and, the challenger, Sting.

Getting past the history of the promotion we have a huge main event in which really was the moment we saw Sting established as a cornerstone of the promotion.

Sting came so close to winning his first NWA Heavyweight Championship on this night, but the time limit expired as Sting held in the Scorpion Deathlock.

He did still make himself known as a force to be reckoned with by being capable enough to avoid losing to the “Nature Boy” who was at this point had been the top man in the NWA for some time.

These two legends would go on to have countless rematches for the next 15 years, but to me this match had an air of magic many of their others do not. The only other match of their’s I truly love is their 1994 match from Clash of the Champions XXVII.

After awhile the Sting vs. Flair match began to get a tad redundant, but here it still felt like a spectacle.

Sting and Flair would go on to be cornerstones of the next 35 episodes of Clash of the Champions . It’s inventor, Jim Crockett Jr., however would not.

Even though his ideas were hit-and-miss and he had some of the best talent in the business Crockett had to sell his promotion to Ted Turner who would officially rename the promotion World Championship Wrestling later that year.

4. RIC FLAIR VS. BIG VAN VADER (STARRCADE 1993)

The absolute most fun I’ve ever had watching Vader wrestle. When I think of Vader I typically think of the time frame I was familiar with him which was his late 90’s run in the WWE,

This was better than I could have ever imagined. I openly scoffed when seeing people suggest this match to me, but after watching it from beginning to end I feel like my cynicism was largely misplaced.

Ten years after his epic clash with Harley Race inside of a steel cage Ric Flair returned to WCW to reestablish himself as the true icon of the promotion. Strangely enough, it was Harley Race who accompanied the WCW Heavyweight Champion to the ring on this night in hopes of seeing Flair’s historic career 10 years after he ended Race’s final reign  with the NWA Heavyweight Championship

Big Van Vader  was at the pinnacle of popularity and Flair was had  just  returned to the promotion months prior following a stint in the WWE.

Vader, at this point, was a monster of a WCW Heavyweight Champion and was looking to end the career of “The Nature Boy.””

Flair, wrestling smart, yielded the power to the larger man and really put over Vader as a untouchable behemoth.

He ducked, dogged, bobbed, and weaved past every move he could, but still Vader dished out a cavalcade of punishment on the future WWE Hall of Famer.

Flair fought back with immeasurable intensity and his hometown crowd went wild every time he got on the offensive side of things.

The finish was a tad awkward, but the crowd went bloody nuts for “Naitch” when he quickly pinned Big Van Vader before he could fling the North Carolinian off his barrel chest.

Fireworks, confetti, and tears accompanied the roars of the crowd. This match was a really different type of main event match for Flair. Typically he wrestled men around his own size, but here fans had the opportunity to see what he could do with a man he couldn’t wrestle in the traditional sense.

3. RIC FLAIR VS. RICKY STEAMBOAT (CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS VI)

This was the second match from the now legendary trilogy of matches between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in 1989.

This was the rematch for the NWA Heavyweight Championship which  Flair and lost to Steamboat at Chi-Town Rumble four months earlier. This was also a Two out of Three Falls match.

It also might be one of  the most bearable hour long matches I’ve seen. Often the matches drag on, but since this  not a case of the match having a time limit it actually felt very natural.

“The Dragon” and the “Nature Boy” put on an exhibition of drama, pacing, technical  skill, and entertainment every moments of the match.

While both men are wrestlers in a very traditional scene they sneaked in several very innovate and interesting spots in the match.

Flair won the first fall, with Steamboat getting the second and third allowing him to retain his NWA Heavyweight Championship belt after the two men went back and forth for almost 60 minutes.

The thing was, Flair’s foot was under the bottom rope during this final pin fall. This discrepancy would lead to the third and final match of the series.

Flair’s final opportunity at Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat would occur at WrestleWar 1989  just one month after this contest. The trio of matches have gone down in history  as some of the most revered displays of showmanship and skill.

Any man or woman who wants to become a professional wrestler should watch this series of matches before they even put on their boots.

2. RIC FLAIR VS. TERRY FUNK (CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS IX)

Terry Funk may be more well known now as a mad man who did moonsaults at 52  years old in ECW, but the soft spoken Texan is far and away one of the greatest professional wrestlers to ever live. He has stood in the rings of more promotions than you could number and is in more wrestling Hall of Fames than just about anyone.

With a dream team of Jim Ross and Gordon Sollie on announcing duties the two legends competed in an I Quit match following the fallout of the very first ever Halloween Havoc in which Flair and Sting defeated Terry Funk and his partner, The Great Muta.

While these two are often thought of when younger professional wrestlers mentioned the “old men who never know when to hang it up” Funk and Flair, at this stage, could still deliver some of the most captivating matches of the time.

Funk was brilliant in this contest and exhibited a lot of brutality and viciousness here.

The challenger, Funk, brought offense that really fit the structure of the I Quit match and also brought in moves like the piledriver that just looked sickening.

Flair, not be outdone by anyone, had his fair share of extreme action too. Slamming Funk’s head into the back of a wooden table and suicide diving onto his back whilst escaping around the ring.

After fending off Funk, Flair began to focus all of his offense on the knees and legs of Terry Funk. Wearing him down in preparation for the Figure Four Leg Lock.

Terry avoided it for as long as he could, but eventually the “Nature Boy” found his opening and locked it in. Funk repeatedly shouted “Never!” as the referee asked him if he wanted to give up.

Finally, Funk relented and screamed “I quit” after he could neither reverse or escape the hold.

This match  was probably as close to hardcore as the classic NWA ever got. It felt really unique compared to the other matches on the card that night. While it may have been a gimmick match, Flair and Funk still brought logic and ring psychology to the contest.

1. RIC FLAIR VS. RICKY STEAMBOAT (WRESTLEWAR 1989)

Many regard the match I listed at number three to be their best encounter, but from my point of view I cannot see how anyone ranks their television match over this. The conclusion to what is probably the greatest wrestling trilogy of all time.

While their match at Clash of the Champions was much longer, that does not make it the best encounter. At WrestleWar they exceeded anything and everything they did before and since.

To me, this match personifies professional wrestling in its purist form.

If you don’t think you are a fan of Ric Flair I implore you to watch this match, uninterrupted, in full. This match ranks right among my favorite matches of all time.

This was Flair’s final opportunity at the World Heavyweight Champion, Ricky Steamboat.

In 1989 the Jim Crockett Promotions was trying very hard to maintain professional wrestling’s image as a “sport.” There were “judges” and 15 minute “rounds” and it all just sounds silly in hindsight. While this match lacks much of the glitz and glamour that could be found in the WWE at this time what you got was wrestling.

When I say wrestling it may make it sound ordinary, but you have to realize these are two of the best scientific wrestlers to ever live. Flair brought tradition, pacing, and drama to the match and Steamboat was able to keep the match from dragging, and added some high octane offense to the match.

You have iconic matches like Hogan/Andre, Michaels/Taker, and Austin/Rock, but for me the most iconic rivalry off all time might well be “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair versus Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

It’s tradition personified. It is everything that made Ric Flair – Ric Flair.

In 2009, Ric Flair inducted Ricky Steamboat into the WWE Hall of Fame. At the ceremony the two locked up one final time.

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)

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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.

Edge’s Top Ten Greatest WWE Matches

A few years ago Edge  was announced as the headliner for the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame. It is hard for me to imagine what it must have felt like for Edge, who once sat at Wrestlemania XI and watched Hogan and Warrior in the main event, to enter a Hall of Fame full of men and women he admired as a young boy.

Professional wrestling, like almost any business in the entertainment or sports industry, is filled with people who are living out their lifelong dreams. Men and women who are really passionate about what they do. In saying that when it comes to pro wrestling, Edge was passion personified.

Being forced to retire at the age of 37, Edge had already spent over 15 years thrilling the WWE Universe and creating some of the most memorable matches and moments in the 21 Century WWE.

Despite playing a heel for a majority of his career Edge loved nothing more than walking through the ropes and giving wrestling fans the best performance he could with whomever he might have been wrestling that night.

Edge quite literally sacrificed his own body for the fans and industry that he loved.

So in saying that, I wanted to take a moment to look at the Rated R Superstar’s greatest matches and moments. I will warn you now, it gets a little violent. The Toronto native’s past has not always been PG.

10. EDGE VS. RIC FLAIR (WWE RAW, JANUARY 2006)

As you are going to see in this article, Edge has had some absolutely excellent television matches. In fact I probably could have done a Countdown on just Edge’s greatest T.V. matches, but alas I narrowed the field down as much as I could and this wonderful TLC match just made the cut.

The Rated R Superstar had just won his first WWE Championship at New Years Revolution when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to pin a weakened John Cena. This Money Night Raw match, with The Nature Boy, served two different purposes. The first was to blow off the Edge-Flair feud so Edge could move on to other things, and the second was without a doubt to put Edge over as the most chicken-shit heel champion ever.

If you haven’t seen this match, I’m afraid I have to spoil it for you, they do both flawlessly on this night.

I have to admit, when hearing about this match originally I thought it sounded like a terrible miss match for Flair, but what came out was an absolute train wreck masterpiece.

To me, Edge had really just hit his apex at this point. He was still riding a huge wave of fan reaction following his feud with Matt Hardy and he finally climbed to the top of the mountain by winning the WWE Championship.

Flair, just shy of 57 when this match occurred, was wrestling as the underdog in his first ever TLC match, while Edge was very much in his element. They played up this dynamic beautifully. Edge dominated the 16 time World Champion for a majority of the contest, but every time Flair teased a comeback or reached up for the WWE Championship the live crowd exploded at the prospect of Flair winning a 17th championship.

Greeting them like old friends, the Ultimate Opportunist used his iconic weaponry of tables, ladders, and chairs to decimate Flair in the early going, but the Nature Boy had several tricks up his sleeves. Without a doubt this was one of Flair’s most sadistic and merciless matches to take place in his storied career.

The match was filled to the brim with what fans would consider hardcore violence, and Flair nearly won, but Edge’s heavily involved girlfriend, Lita, managed to save Edge from losing his new title and gave him his first ever successful championship defense. This match had so many terrific spots and jaw dropping moments. Especially for a match with a 57 year old man in it.  Go watch this, right now.

9. EDGE VS. MICK FOLEY (WRESTLEMANIA 22)

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To me this match, while not his best Wrestlemania match, has to be one of Edge’s most iconic performances at a time when he was really at the top of his craft.  Almost everypro wrestler has one match that truly defines their career, and I don’t believe I would alone in the assessment that this hardcore car crash is one of Edge’s most recognizable matches.

If you don’t agree with that it would still be almost impossible to say it didn’t house one of the most replayed moments in Edge’s nearly 15 year WWE career.

Edge’s iconic spear into Foley through a flaming table, courtesy of Lita, has truly become one of Wrestlemania’s most thrilling moments. The site of Edge visually trembling and shaking uncontrollably after the ruthless dive into Foley with blood all over his body has to be the most brutal images we, as fans, have ever seen at a Wrestlemania.

The only thing that really held this match back was the fact that Wrestlemania 22 had a very bloated card that created massive time constraints on matches that deserved to go a lot longer. This issue also plagued the match for the World Heavyweight Championship later on in the show. 

So while Edge and Foley packed in as much action as possible, I still felt as if I was missing half of this contest. Still, despite run time issues, this match is a must watch for any Edgehead.

Even at only a brisk 14 minutes Foley and Edge created the show stealing moment of Wrestlemania that year. Edge has admitted in recent interviews that he did this stunt because he “had a chip on his shoulder and believed he should have been in the main event.” Regardless, Mick Foley put the newly christened Rated R Superstar over big while still managing to finally get his iconic Wrestlemania moment.

8. EDGE VS. RANDY ORTON (VENGEANCE 2004)

This is a perfect example of what two talented midcard performers can achieve when given a healthy amount of time to work. This was probably the best thing about WWE pay-per-views during the brand extension. There was always time for good workers like Orton and Edge to really get into a match.

Sure single brand pay-per-views featured a lot of throw away matches and only a handful of matches anyone cared about, but at least those matches got the ample time they deserved. I’m so glad this match occurred when it did for this very reason.

Edge at age 30 and Orton just a tender 24 at the time were competing for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Both men were just beginning to gain momentum around this time and the crowds really responded to them. Even in this match you can hear both men’s name getting chanted loudly by the Hartford, Connecticut crowd.

Edge had just been drafted to Raw from Smackdown! and was still fresh off a year long stint away from the ring as he recovered from his neck injury. Despite the setback Edge returned to the WWE with, excuse the pun, a vengeance.

At first this match had a very calculated pace. No big spots and no high octane maneuvers. The future world champions knew that for this match to work they would have to create a slow build and work up the anticipation of the crowd. This type of match-building really works well when plenty of time is allotted to a performance. Furthermore, Edge and Orton did a great job of pulling it off.

The match had the perfect amount of false finishes, near falls, and also had Randy Orton pulling out several Ric Flair-like hell tactics. The crowd was just so hot for this match and that made everything the two did that much better. After nearly 25 minutes of action Edge finally caught Orton with the Spear following a series of counters and reversals. Thus, Edge captured his second WWE Intercontinental Championship.

Randy Orton would go on to become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history and get kicked out of Evolution while Edge continued to climb the ranks of the Raw roster, biding his time.

7. EDGE VS. THE UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)

 I want to say first that if anyone knows me, they know I am about the biggest Undertaker fan someone can come by.

In saying that, I’ve looked around the net and this match is widely regarded as Edge’s best match by some fans. While I am inclined to agree that this is a great match and a above average Wrestlemania main event, I can’t for the life of me see why fans would agree that it is Edge’s greatest wrestling match, because he has had far superior matches. Still this match is special for several reasons.

The first obvious ones are that Edge was squaring off against the undefeated Undertaker and walking in as the WWE’s World Heavyweight Champion, but the second reason is that Edge closed this Wrestlemania. To me, this was a huge validation for the Rated R Superstar for all he done and accomplished in the WWE.

The match itself really surprised me, I remember being taken aback by how much offense Edge got in with little in return from Undertaker during the beginning of the contest. But it really helped build up the match and aided in establishing Edge as a menacing threat to the Deadman’s Wrestlemania record.

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.

To me, this is one of Undertaker’s more underrated Wrestlemania matches, but at the same time I feel like it is given too much credit when talking about Edge’s career matches. I suppose any decent Undertaker Wrestlemania match looks underrated compared to his matches with Shawn Michaels.

Still I had a lot of trouble when placing this match on this PWC, but I think this is the right spot for their Wrestlemania encounter.

6. EDGE VS. MATT HARDY (UNFORGIVEN 2005)

This match occurred in what is without a doubt the best year Matt Hardy has ever had and this was probably the best feud Matt ever got to have while with the WWE.

This feud was all about Hardy getting his revenge against Edge, and his ex-girlfriend who wronged him, Lita. It wasa great rivalry at the time because it did a fairly decent job of blurring the line of kayfabe and reality. Edge really played up his role as a chicken shit heel in this match, trying to escape as quickly as possible. He wanted nothing to do with Matt Hardy. Edge very nearly did get over the cage several times, but Matt managed to drag him back inside of the steel Hell.

Hardy was at the pinnacle of his popularity at this time, and because of this Edge drew a endless stream of heat from the live crowds pretty much throughout the entire summer and fall of 2005.

Both men just had so much intensity during this feud that they almost made the story line believable. I remember thinking at age 13 that these guys really could have been beating the crap out of each other.

In all honesty most cage matches have a somewhat clunky and uneven pace, but Hardy and Edge’s match flowed very nicely and hit all the right spots for my taste. The match ended, after several hot near falls, with Matt Hardy landing a ridiculous leg drop from the top of cage in what is undoubtedly one of the biggest wins of his career.

This feud was finally settled a few weeks later on WWE Monday Night Raw when Edge defeated Matt Hardy in a Loser Leaves Raw match. Edge would go on to become one of the biggest heels in the company and, unfortunately, Matt Hardy went to midcard Hell where he never fully escaped. Sad, but true.

5. EDGE VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WWE RAW, FEBRUARY 2005)

This match took place right around the time Edge really began to transition into the ranks of Monday Night Raw’s main event scene. This was, as memory serves me correct, a street fight. This is something we don’t see in present day WWE at all and probably will never again. The Heart Break Kid and the Rated R Superstar traded unprotected head shots with various weapons, and both proceed to blade themselves thus making the match that more brutal.

I have to admit, after watching hours upon hours of the now pg-rated WWE it really highlights how violent some WWE matches were before the company put those strict regulations in place to stop these kind of matches from going as far as they did. I found myself actually cringing at my re-watching of this match that probably didn’t seem that gruesome to me when I first watched it live eight years ago.

Being that this was on Monday Night Raw and the WWE usually has very short segments during their Monday night flagship show Michaels and Edge made use of every single moment they were afforded.

From bell to bell there was constant action. There was little to no down time, and while in some cases that can cause the match to lose its impact and create challenges with pacing, it actually worked for Michaels and Edge. This was partly due to the story being that they wanted to beat the holy Hell out of one another. Edge was still playing his psychotic character at this time, and this fueled his hatred for Shawn due to Michaels some way or another preventing him from winning the World Heavyweight Championship.

Shawn Michaels got his win back from Edge after the Canadian used the ropes to beat Michaels at the Royal Rumble a few weeks prior. This was the blow off match to Edge’s last major feud before winning the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match at Wrestlemania 21 while Michaels danced with the lights on bright with the Olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle.

4. “TLC II” (WRESTLEMANIA X-SEVEN)

What can I say about the matches and these six young men that has not been said at some point over the last decade and a half?  These guys are without a doubt the original “spot monkeys” and put themselves over by jumping off ladders, diving through tables, and smacking one another with dozens of chair shots.

Without a doubt it paid off in spades and I mean no disrespect to any of these performers or their accomplishments when I call them spot monkeys.

Edge, his best friend Christian, along with Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Buh Buh Ray Dudley, and D-Von Dudley put on some the most watched matches in WWE’s current catalog.

This match stands as the second ever official TLC match in WWE’s canon, and to me it is the best of the iconic ladder matches that these three teams participated in.

While they had already had a Triangle Ladder match at Wrestlemania 2000, and the first ever TLC match at SummerSlam 2000 later that year, this match was the perfect end to the trilogy of spot fests. Edge has even gone on record saying that he and his TLC contemporaries pushed the envelope too far in their history making contests. I have to agree with Edge, a performer would damn near have to jump off a building to try and top these matches now.

I won’t go through this match blow for blow again, but if you like violence, high spots, and terrible back breaking noises this match is right up your alley. The only spot I will address is the one in which Edge spears a dangling Jeff Hardy midair. That spot is going to go down as one of the best in WWE history without a doubt.

The match ends with the same results as the prior Wrestlemania, Edge and Christian inch out another win and further solidify their place as one of the greatest tag teams ever.

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

I am going to go on record and say that this is the single best tag team match in WWE history. The dynamics between these four were perfect, the wrestling was exciting, technical, and diverse, and the volatile team of Angle and Benoit made the match even more engaging.

This contest occurred only a few months after the brand extension and since Smackdown! was left without a tag team championship in the shuffle, general manager Stephanie McMahon christened the WWE Tag Team Championship.

The four future world champions put on a hectic catch-as-catch can style tag team match which featured some very innovative team moves from Edge and Mysterio used to combat the ground based offense of Angle and Benoit. The finals in this WWE Tag Team Championship tournament truly started the lineage of this championship off on the right foot.

Along with a match between Triple H and Steve Austin against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, this match has become one of WWE’s most acclaimed traditional tag team matches and can serve as a resounding example of the abundance of talent that existed in WWE’s midcard pool in the early half of the last decade.

The match ended  with Benoit and Mysterio downed on the outside and Edge in the ring with Kurt Angle. Edge, while landing several big moves on the Olympian, was unable to endure the pain of the Angle Lock.

Edge, even in losing this match along with his partner Rey Mysterio, would go on to later defeat the first ever WWE Tag Team champions, Angle and Benoit. However, they only held the titles for a few weeks.

Not long after splitting with Mysterio, Edge was forced to take a year off to get spinal fusion surgery. This injury plagued him for more or less the rest of his in-ring career. Edge was forced to retire on April 11, 2011 citing cervical spinal stenosis as the reason,stemming from this very neck injury.

2. EDGE VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (WWE SMACKDOWN!, SEPTEMBER 2002)

If you haven’t noticed a trend by now, Edge is very goodat two things. Having a great television match, and putting on an engaging gimmick match. I haven’t done any official research into this, but Edge may well hold the record for competing in the most stipulation matches in the WWE.

This match, somehow, has become one of the most notorious matches in WWE Smackdown! history. This is completely justified, however, as Latino Heat and the future Mr. Money in the Bank tore the freaking house down to say the least.

At this time Edge was really picking up momentum as a midcard babyface on the blue brand and Guerrero was the perfect heel to balance him out. Even on paper this match looks excellent and after seeing it for the first time I cannot tell you how satisfied I was with how it played out.

The match had so many awesome sequences, but my favorite is when Eddie monkey flips over Edge while they are both perched on top of a ladder and delivers the best looking monkey flip power bomb off a ladder I’ve ever seen.

Eddie’s offense was always so spot on and his moves were always so crisp. After a few more moments of action Edge hits the Edgecution off the top of another ladder to get the victory.

I really wish we could have had a follow up feud to this one when Edge reached his main event status. However, as you might recall around the time Edge broke through that glass ceiling, we lost Eddie Guerrero. It still is sort of difficult for me to watch Guerrero wrestle without thinking about all of the “what ifs?” He was one of my absolute favorites and his charisma and antics can still make me chuckle. However, his match here with Edge was all business and he put over the future star huge.

Eddie Guerrero and Edge both went on to become the youngest inductees (until Trish Stratus) into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2006 and 2012, respectively. While some would say they were entered in too early, no one can argue their careers didn’t deserve it. This match is a perfect example of that.

1. EDGE VS. JOHN CENA (UNFORGIVEN 2006)

For me, John Cena and Edge gave one another the feud of their careers throughout a majority of 2006. While some can argue that Randy Orton will be remembered as John Cena’s premier rival, I tend to favor Edge as Cena’s most iconic enemy.

This match headlined the card of Unforgiven 2006, which had been one Hell of an event even before the two entered the ring. Edge was also walking into his hometown as WWE Champion competing against John Cena in a TLC match. A match that at the time, Edge had never lost. As an added stipulation, if John Cena lost he would sign a three year contract with WWE Smackdown!

During this time John Cena was still drawing massive heat from crowds who just were not connecting to me. So the popular thing to do, and sometimes they still do this, is stack the deck against John Cena as much as

possible. I don’t think the odds had ever been against Cena as much as they were in Toronto at Unforgiven.

This match was simply a smorgasbord of awesome.

It had great ladder, table, and chair spots which all good TLC matches do, but I also had a sense that there was more to it than just a stipulation. This match had a big fight feel of course, but it was the culmination of this story and an ending to a rivalry that really solidified both of these guys as true mainstay main event talents.

Despite everything being against him, and nearly losing several times, John Cena was able to F-U the native Toronto Champion off the ladder and through two wooden tables before grabbing the WWE Championship.

This match marked the beginning of John Cena’s 380 day WWE Championship reign. It would remain the longest WWE Championship reign of the Modern Era, until CM Punk eclipsed it in late 2012. Edge really gave Cena the kick off he needed for this title reign, he and John really gave the start of the near endless reign the match it deserved. The next 380 days were truly when Cena was king atop of the WWE mountain.

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Top Ten Greatest WWE Matches of 2014

The year of 2014 in the WWE has felt like two steps forward and one step backwards. The company  made progress as a business and as a creative piece of entertainment, but not without a few problems along the way.

It was really a year of foundation-building. The WWE has just now began once again laying the ground work for the leaders of the next generation. The generation that will fill the next decade’s history books of sports entertainment.

The next decade that will likely see Vince  McMahon retire from most, if not all, formal positions within the WWE. A decade that we will almost surely say  goodbye to the man who has defined an era, John Cena. An era that will see the rise of a new franchise player.

For 2014 though, we were treated to more hours of WWE in-ring action available through more mediums than ever before thanks to the launch of the WWE Network. Now fans who find the investment worth the money can go back and watch some of their favorite matches in crystal clear HD and not have to worry about scrounging around YouTube for a pixilated video copied from an illegal stream

It was a great year to be a member of the WWE Universe, but what matches stand as the best performances of 2014? What matches made us proud to be fans? Lets countdown the ten greatest matches of WWE’s 2014!

HONORABLE MENTION:

TYSON KIDD VS. DOLPH ZIGGLER VS. CESARO (WWE SMACKDOWN!, NOV. 2014)

This match is quite easily the most interesting and noteworthy match WWE Smackdown! has seen all year.

Ziggler was defending his WWE Intercontinental Championship against not one but two opponents as part of The Authorities plan to wear down members of John Cena’s Survivor Series team before the event.

Three men who have, at one point or another, been grossly underutilized despite being in the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin “mechanics” in the ring. What a perfect combination for a match to decide the Intercontinental Championship.

This featured many inventive three man spots and never fell into the formulaic Triple Threat match quirks we have all grown accustomed to seeing. This elimination style match featured some really fast paced sequences that are to be expected when seeing any one of these guys in action.

Cesaro was eliminated first, and Ziggler managed to pin Tyson Kidd after a well paced Zig Zag,despite having the deck stacked against him for a majority of the match. It sold the idea that Ziggler was a survivor and could overcome massive amounts of adversity as he was heading into a do-or-die Survivor Series match.

Unfortunately, Luke Harper would snatch the title from Ziggler the following Monday on Raw thanks to some assistance from The Authority.

Also considered:

  • Natalya vs. Charlotte (NXT Takeover): It has been a long time since we have been able to even make a sound argument that a Diva’s match should even be considered one of the best of the  year, but finally we can. Leave it to Natalya and the daughter of a 2-Time WWE Hall of Famer, Ric Flair, to make it happen. It took the more wrestling-focused NXT development program to give the time to these woman to really perform and display what the WWE’s Diva’s division could really be.
  • Team Authority vs. Team Cena (WWE Survivor Series): As entertaining of a Survivor Series match I can ever recall watching. It told a story, the outcome had severe outcomes, the action was fast paced when it needed to be, and eliminations came at all the right times. The ending was a huge moment as well. Not sure if we covered that or not. Who is Sting, anyway?
  • Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper (WWE TLC): The only saving grace on one of the WWE’s most underwhelming events of the year. Ziggler capitalized on his momentum in a big way during this Ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. One-on-one Ladder matches are rare commodities nowadays. This served as a reminder of how good they can be when the right pairings are in the ring.

10. JOHN CENA VS. CESARO (WWE RAW, FEBRUARY 2014)

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While once “The Champ” that got boo’ed out of arena’s with chants of “You Can’t  Wrestle,” John Cena has become one of the great storytellers in WWE history. His charisma, feel for the crowd, and what they respond to is second to none. The man understands the business of showmanship and entertainment.

However, in a year in which Daniel Bryan and The Shield were on many WWE fans radar, Cena had probably one of his weakest years in his decade atop the WWE. Even despite becoming a 15-time WWE Heavyweight Champion.

His feud with Bray Wyatt started out interesting, but didn’t connect with fans the way we had hoped. His feud with Brock Lesnar and the rest of The Authority for the remainder of the year was only hit-and-miss.

This match though was hands-down the best thing John Cena was a part of all year long, and also a little reminder of how well Cesaro does when he has “the machine” behind him.

These two physical powerhouses spent much of their match trying to use their strength to defeat the other. The counters and dips that were in this match made for a really back and forth encounter.

Cesaro, who had just defeated Randy Orton on Smackdown, looked like he was capable of pulling off an upset and defeating the 14-time WWE Champion. In the end John Cena got the victory after nearly losing several times over.

The physicality in this match was so worth seeing Cesaro go all out to try and best the veteran, but after both men reached their limits it was Cena who came out with a victory. Definitely one of Raw’s best matches of the year.

9. SAMI ZAYN VS. CESARO (NXT ARRIVAL)

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Only a few weeks after taking John Cena to his limits, Cesaro returned to NXT to face the man he spent much of 2013 feuding with.

Was this as good as their barn-burning 2 out of 3 Falls match from the year prior? No, but it was the perfect way to kick off NTX’s arrival on the WWE Network, and also served as the first event ever lived streamed on the Network.

Like matches prior, Cesaro commanded the pace of much of this match as Zayn tried to prove to him and himself that he was just as good as the Swiss professional wrestler.

The two former ROH talents knew their story and worked it into this match perfectly. Zayn would begin to build momentum and fight out of Cesaro’s clutches only to be stopped dead in his tracks by Cesaro just as the crowd began to get excited.

The timing used here was impeccable.

Zayn’s character has been made to be someone who never gives up no matter how much punishment he has to endure. Cesaro, at one point, seemed almost annoyed that Zayn refused to stay done. Almost as if Zayn was more of a nuisance than an opponent to the “Swiss Superman.” Then, the NXT Superstar kicked out of Cesaro’s Very European Uppercut, not at a two count, but after only a one count.

The look on Cesaro’s face told the audience he had greatly underestimated his opponent this time. He would defeated Zayn once again, but ultimately gained the respect of his opponent. The two rivals finally embraced in the ring after ushering in NXT as the show to watch in 2014.

Sami Zayn had truly arrived on this night, and his 2014 would only become more interesting from here…

8. DEAN AMBROSE VS. SETH ROLLINS (WWE RAW, AUGUST 2014)

I think Rollins and Ambrose wrestled in more match variants than any other two WWE superstars this year.

The desolation of The Shield was without question one of the best stories of 2014. More specifically the rivalry between Dean Ambrose, the man who was once the mouthpiece and ring leader of The Shield, and Seth Rollins.

The two former teammates had several notable matches in 2014, but none of their matches on WWE’s major events really matches up to their Falls Count Anywhere match from a “Viewer’s Choice” edition of Monday Night Raw.

Unlike their Lumberjack match at SummerSlam and their Hell in a Cell match, this match really showcased their chemistry and was paced so much smoother than their other encounters.

One spot in particular, in which Seth Rollins power bombed his former ally on a stack of chairs. The timing and crowd reaction was perfect. Everything in this match happened when it was supposed to and everything felt natural. It was a match that felt worthy of their story.

Ambrose very nearly secured the victory over Rollins with a Dirty Deeds, but his alliance with The Authority meant the Director of Operations, Kane, was present at ringside to save Rollins from an early defeat.

The interference meant little to  the “Lunatic Fringe” as he used  his unorthodox offense to take on both Rollins and Kane. The former WWE United States Champion managed to hold off the 2-on-1 assault for but a few moments before Kane found an opening and Chock Slammed Ambrose on the announcer’s table. The Kane revealed a bed of cinder blocks.

Rollins then followed suit delivering one of the most brutal moments of 2014. A Curb Stomp to Amrbose’s head. The match was stopped by the referee while chants of “You Sold Out”  drowned out the announcers.

Rollins, who many had worried would be the member of The Shield to get lost in the shuffle after their split, had never looked more impressive.

7. BATISTA VS. DANIEL BRYAN VS. RANDY ORTON (WWE WRESTLEMANIA XXX)

Remember how we felt about 2014’s WrestleMania’s main event right after Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble? Silly fans vowed to boycott WrestleMania all together at the prospect of watching Batista and Randy Orton close the 30th ever “Showcase of the Immortals.” Well, here it is, sitting pretty at number seven on our list of the best matches of 2014.

I think WWE more than delivered on what fans thought was going to be another let down of a closing doubt from WrestleMania. I think it is always wise to under promise and over-deliver  when it comes to trying to meet people’s expectations, and the booking here worked out perfectly in this respect.

The match started off somewhat tame, with Orton  and Batista quickly eliminating the warn down Daniel Bryan from the equation. The fatigued leader of the “Yes Movement” was obviously still reeling from his match with Triple H which had taken place earlier in the event.

To be fair, Orton and Batista were almost an afterthought, so much so that the commentary team even mentioned it at one point. Daniel Bryan was clearly the vocal point of this match, and there was no denying his victory.

The twists and turns in this match made it even more satisfying to see the Washington native finally get his big moment. Specifically, the amazing (even if it was clearly premeditated) spot were Batista delivers a power-bomb into Randy Orton’s RKO on Daniel Bryan through the Spanish announce table. Glorious.

The Authority pulled out all the bells and whistles. Crooked referees, Triple H interfering, and Batista and Orton briefly working in tandem despite being opponents. None of it could deny Bryan his moment in the sun.

Bryan locked in the Yes Lock on Batista to secured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It would go on to be probably be one of the year’s most inspiring WWE moments.

Not bad for a “B+ Player.”

6. DANIEL BRYAN VS. RANDY ORTON (WWE RAW, FEBRUARY 2014)

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Something about WrestleMania season just motivates the WWE and their performers to pull out all the stops even for a weekly edition of Monday Night Raw.

In my opinion, there are not enough people making noise about this match as there should be. It was by far the best free television match of the year, and it far exceeded almost all of the matches these two had on Pay-Per-View the previous year.

By the early months of 2014, Bryan’s following of fans had reached and all time high. The WWE still refused to give the fans what they wanted, and that only made their “Yes” chants louder as the boy from Aberdeen Washington made his way to the ring to face the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Randy Orton.

While, generally speaking, I think Orton is a world class storyteller and professional wrestler I do believe his work in the ring can be quite unexciting when paired with the wrong opponent. “The Viper” sometimes relies  on the babyface to get the fans excited and invested into the story of the match.

The only thing anyone can throw against this match is the dusty finish and somewhat measured pace of the action, but those should be expected in a main event match  during WrestleMania season. It also continued the trend of The Authority stacking the deck against Bryan and the WWE continuing to bait fans as they headed down the road to WrestleMania.

The match showed Orton slowly dissect his challenger as he prepared for the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View, but Bryan still pulled a victory out from underneath “The Face of the WWE.”

Bryan and Orton have been perfect foils for one another since their story began at SummerSlam in 2013, but their in ring storytelling has not always lived up to their story.

This match did. The only match these two had that I think far exceeds it, is another match from Raw. Their amazing No Hold Barred match from the Summer of 2013.

Hopefully, these two will be able to top both of those matches somewhere down the line.

5. SAMI ZAYN VS. ADRIAN NEVILLE (NXT R EVOLUTION)

I’m pretty sure someone from Reddit sent Triple H an old ROH show script to cheat off of. That and the fruit basket.

In all seriousness, R Evolution was one of the most entertaining shows of the year and it really helped WWE realize how big of a draw NXT is for their WWE Network.

2014 has seen Zayn rise from being another one of the crown jewels of America’s independent scene to one of NXT’s biggest new names. His year started off a little rocky as we discussed earlier. Zayn, after multiple attempts, could not defeat Cesaro in late 2013, and at NXT ArRival, Zayn still couldn’t put down the “Swiss Superman.” The same, seemed true of Adrian Neville later on in the year.

But at the final NXT event of the year, Sami Zayn put up his WWE career for one more opportunity at the NXT Champion. Neville, who had been champion for a majority of the year, had defended his title against any and all men who challenged him. Including Zayn.

After coming up short, Zayn got one final opportunity at R Evolution in a match that has somehow surpassed every contest we have seen on NXT to date.

It was the final test for Zayn’s desire and will to overcome his obstacles. He was facing every form of adversity in this match, including his own conscience as he was tempted to cheat to gain the victory. He didn’t, but it nearly cost him his chance at the title as Neville gave Zayn the biggest beating we have seen to date.

The palpable electricity in the air was apparent by the raucous audience who so terribly wanted to see Zayn win the title, and seemed almost distraught when it appeared Neville would slip out of another match with his NXT Championship.

Zayn finally got the better of the champion, and won his first ever title in the WWE. The celebration was akin to that of Daniel Bryan’s celebration at WrestleMania (only on a much smaller scale.)

I can’t wait to see what Sami Zayn does next.

4. BRAY WYATT VS. DANIEL BRYAN (WWE ROYAL RUMBLE)

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If you don’t understand how good Bray Wyatt has the potential to be you have to see this match. This is probably the best he has ever been in the ring and as a character since moving up to the main roster.

After seemingly being unable to overcome Triple H’s authority, Daniel Bryan succumbed to The Wyatt Family who had been planting seeds of doubt and attacking the troubled WWE superstar.

Bryan though, managed to be the first man to play some mind tricks of his own against Bray Wyatt. The cult leader invited Daniel Bryan into his family. Bryan though, only used the position to his advantage and when the time was right, turned on the man he had seemed to be taking orders from.

The Yes Movement was far from over, and Daniel Bryan did not give in to Wyatt’s will attacking his “leader” while they were both trapped inside a Steel Cage.

Wyatt was so good in this match, preaching his nonsensical gospel intermediately as he wore Bryan down. Bray maintained that he “tried to warn him” and shouted “why didn’t you help him!” to the on looking fans. Little things like this make Wyatt such a unique performer.

These two in the ring was so entertaining as both were so hot at this point. Wyatt still had so much mystique around him and his character and Bryan was white hot as a babyface. Their styles meshed really well as both wrestle a very brute style. The wasn’t an arm-drag in sight.

Wyatt stopped Bryan’s momentum dead in it’s tracks when he ate not one, but two Sister Abigals.

While both would go on to be a huge focus of WrestleMania XXX, after that both men ran into injury and didn’t have much impact on 2014.

With any luck, both men can get back what they had in the first half of 2014.

3. EVOLUTION VS. THE SHIELD (WWE EXTREME RULES)

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After defeating every three-man combination the WWE could dream up, The Shield finally ran into Triple H’s new version of Evolution. Featuring a returning Batista and the former WWE Heavyweight Champion, Randy Orton, the three future WWE Hall of Famers were seemingly the first group that could best the three mercenaries of justice at their own game .

This match was chaos, but it didn’t start out that way.

After some very personal attacks on Raw, Evolution dictated the pace of the early going of this contest by isolating Seth Rollins, and then Dean Ambrose, in their corner. It looked like The Shield wouldn’t even be able to get out of the blocks as the team with a combined 31 World Championships took turns berating The Shield.

Triple H and his former protegees spent much of this match trying to cage the chaos that Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose became famous for bringing to their opponents.

It took a fresh Roman Reigns to finally open up the competition and this is when all Hell broke loose. Bodies went flying around the ring and everyone broke out their big maneuvers.

The real surprise was that the younger stable bested the veterans despite their break-up being rumored for months and months. It was a clear message. The new generation is here, and the WWE is going all in.

The group would go on to feud with and frustrate The Authority until finally Seth Rollins pulled the trigger and turned on his long-time comrades for the chance to become the next “Face of the WWE” under the guise of Triple H.

2. TRIPLE H VS. DANIEL BRYAN (WWE WRESTLEMANIA XXX)

Leave it to Daniel Bryan to deliver two of the years best matches, in the same night.

The Authority and Daniel Bryan told one of the most compelling and entertaining stories of 2013/2014, bar none.

The fans wanted Bryan to overcome The Authority and Triple H so badly, but the company wisely slowed Bryan’s push and let the feud burn slowly as they moved closer to WrestleMania’s 30th anniversary.

By making fans wait for Bryan’s payoff the creative direction of the WWE was questioned by many fans and even several WWE Hall of Famers, like Mick Foley.

The story of the “Yes! Movement” versus The Authority began all the way back at SummerSlam 2013 when Triple H realigned himself with Randy Orton. What followed was a tumultuous ride in which the WWE Universe made Bryan one of the most popular superstars since CM Punk’s ascension in 2011.

Bryan was the perfect opponent for Triple H and it made all the sense in the world for this contest to take place at WrestleMania. It also helped that the victor of this contest would be the one to face both Batista and Randy Orton in the main event of the event.

This match very much reminded me of contests Triple H had with Chris Benoit almost a decade earlier. An amazingly gifted mat wrestler versus a larger technical powerhouse.  Triple H did a fantastic job of playing the man who wanted to protect his vision of what the WWE should be and it worked so well because Bryan embodied what the fans wanted.

Daniel Bryan finally overcome Triple H after a viscous kick to the side of “The Game’s” head and advanced to the main event of WrestleMania. It took Bryan well over 9 months to finally get his revenge over his boss.

The COO of WWE was not done though, before Bryan could even celebrate his first victory of the night Triple H and his wife, Stephanie McMahon, assaulted Bryan attempting to ensure he would not leave the “Showcase of the Immortals” with the WWE Championship.

As we know, it wasn’t enough to stop Daniel Bryan and the Yes Movement, as he won the title later that night.

1. THE WYATT FAMILY VS. THE SHIELD (WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER)

Never, could I have imagined a Six-Man Tag Team match to take the top honors of being the WWE’s best match of the year.

This match was the match everyone wanted, but one that many of us thought would never actually take place. It was a sought after contest that fans were thinking about before The Wyatt Family even became an official part of the WWE roster. Bray and his two followers were still terrorizing fans and fellow superstars alike on NXT while Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose ran roughshod over the WWE. Even then fans drew the comparisons to the two trios.

Three young men seeking justice and a cult leader with two loyal disciples. It was a battle to see who really was the most dominate up-and-coming stable in the WWE.  Six men, who could all be a huge part of the next decade of WWE history battling in the ring for the first time. Three-on-three. A true war.

At the time, Wyatt  used the tensions building around The Shield too his psychological advantage while The Shield maintained that Bray’s act was all an illusion.

Both teams had spent a ton of time perfecting the art of a Six-Man Tag Team match and this might be the best one ever. The action was hard-hitting and fast paced. The larger Wyatts, used their size and strength while The Shield ran like the well-oiled machine they had become after over a year of decimating the entire roster.

The two teams seemed fairly evenly matched until The Wyatt Family was able to dispatch of  both Ambrose and Rollins. Like the last stand at the Alamo, Roman Reigns stood alone to face all three members as the match came to it’s close.

The muscle of The Shield didn’t go down easy and very nearly scored an upset over the three men, but it was Sister Abigail from Bray  Wyatt that finally put down the Samoan.

Fans of both teams spent a majority of  the contest cheering for not just one, but both teams as they finally got to see  the two factions go at it on a big stage.

Both stables would go on to have several more very compelling matches before both of them disbanded in the middle of the year.

The stables did their job in getting all of these men established as characters and showcasing their talent. Now, let us see which of these six men will dominate 2015, by themselves.