We all have our own ideas for what makes a truly great wrestling match. If I were to ask you, readers, what your favorite wrestling matches are or what you think are the greatest matches in WWE history, a few no-brainers will probably come to mind. Savage vs Steamboat from WrestleMania III. Bulldog vs Hart from SummerSlam 1992. Stone Cold vs The Rock at any WrestleMania. Taker vs HBK from Mania 25 or 26. Cena vs Punk from Money in the Bank 2011. Matches like these just roll off your tongue at a moments notices because they've been talked to death for so long with the legacy of being great matches. When you see these matches, it's easy to see why they all have held such enduring legacies over the years, but the problem here is that focusing so heavily on these matches makes us forget about other great matches that deserve just as much attention.
With the vast number of wrestling matches which raise the bar for quality entertainment, it's hard to keep up with all of the great matches which air on a weekly basis. Even for the most avid of wrestling fans, none of our brains work like human encyclopedia's well versed in wrestling knowledge. Sometimes, we forget the more incredible of wrestling matches. And if we don't forget them, then those matches get overshadowed by other great matches and moments that we end up spending so much time talking about that we forget about the other great matches which originally swept us off our feet. Thankfully, we also have lists like these which shed light on and remind us of the long forgotten wrestling gems from yesteryear that got lost in the shuffle, but can now be uncovered and given the proper attention they deserve.
15 Bret Hart vs The Undertaker - One Night Only 1997
Bret Hart and The Undertaker had several matches against each other during both The New Generation Era and The Attitude Era, but the pair's best match was arguably during their encounter at One Night Only 1997. The match has been long overshadowed by the controversial finish from later in the night where Shawn Michaels defeated British Bulldog in his hometown in front of his dying sister, but The Hitman vs The Deadman from One Night Only is a match that deserves to be uncovered from the WWE archives and re-evaluated as a classic bout. The two have always had excellent chemistry, but on this night more than any other night the two wrestled, they worked perfectly with each other. The smoothest transitions, the slickest of counters, and a constant back and forth make this a fantastic match that deserves more attention. Despite the DQ finish, this match was truly a slobberknocker from bell to bell.
Not many people recall Chris Jericho being on the Smackdown brand in 2002 due to the fact he was quickly traded to Raw shortly after the Brand Split, but the self-proclaimed King of the World certainly made a lasting impression before leaving the blue show. Especially thanks to his short feud with Edge. On June 6th, off the heels of his more memorable feud with Kurt Angle, Edge had to forfeit his First Round match in the King of the Ring tournament due to sustaining a shoulder injury in a Steel Cage match with Angle the previous week. Jericho came out to brag about getting a buy in the tournament and the two exchanged some unkind words until Jericho attacked Edge to further aggravate his injury. When Edge returned a little over a month later, he was pissed and the two were booked in a Steel Cage match for the following week. For Jericho's final match as part of the Smackdown roster in 2002, he gave a stellar performance in the ring, as did Edge. From bell to bell, the two unleashed a world of hurt on each other and used the cage for some memorable spots, including an Electric Chair Drop from the top of the cage. It's too bad that both the feud and the match has become so sorely forgotten over the years.
14 Roddy Piper vs Bruno Sammartino - Steel Cage - 7/12/1986 Boston Garden
Just about every wrestling fan is familiar with the fruitful legacy left by Bruno Sammartino during the 60s and 70s, but not many people know that he was still wrestling into the late 80s. One major feud he had during the 80s was with a young rookie named Rowdy Roddy Piper. Going under the nickname of "The Legend Killer" (sound familiar?), Piper targeted the world renowned legend to make a name for himself. For the better part of a year, the two squared off against each other in an array of matches until they decided to settle their feud once and for all in a Steel Cage match at a house show. As far as cage matches go, Sammartino vs Piper was one of the better ones that WWE ever held under their venue. At this point, the feud had boiled passed any wrestling being warranted and their grudged melted into a full blown fight. Things got brutal, bloody, and messy quick and things continued to get messy until the definitive finish. Piper used his feud with Sammartino to ascend into the main event scene as right after this feud, Piper entered a new one with WWE Champion Hulk Hogan.
13 Shawn Michaels vs Steve Austin - King of the Ring 1997
Everyone remembers the Stone Cold vs Shawn Michaels bout from the main event of WrestleMania XIV, and with good reason. Not only because it's WrestleMania, but because it was the match which signaled the beginning of the Austin Era. However, in terms of match quality, their match from a year earlier at the King of the Ring pay-per-view completely outshines their Mania contest. Perhaps the fact that the match ended in a no contest leaves a stain on the legacy of this contest and maybe that is why the match is largely forgotten, but the two put on a clinic with each other on this night. While they did have a good match at WrestleMania, HBK's back injury and Stone Cold's surgically repaired neck really limited what they could do with each other. However, at King of the Ring, the two were in their pre-injury days and in the absolute prime of their careers. Both gave tremendous performances and had a wonderful rapport with each other in the ring.
12 Kane vs Albert - 6/14/2001 Smackdown
A lot of fans believe that anytime a wrestler is told they're given five minutes to wrestle, it's essentially the kiss of death. As if there's no possible way that a wrestler can have a great match in 5 minutes. Two unlikely candidates, Kane and Albert, would prove the contrary on the June 14th, 2001 episode of Smackdown. Kane defended his Intercontinental Championship against the Runaway Locomotive and the two proved exactly what kind of greatness can be achieved in five minutes. We get to see two surprisingly agile big men give an even more surprisingly quick paced contest where we get to see some unpredictable counters. Not only surprising because these counters came out of nowhere, but because they were the kind of counters you'd expect from a cruiserweight contest, not a match between two 300-pounders. They hit hard like your average giants, but they moved swift like any two guys from the 205 Live roster.
10 Randy Savage vs Bruno Sammartino - 1/3/1987 Boston Garden
Most wrestling fans remember the shocking moment in November 1986 where Randy Savage crushed Ricky Steamboat's throat with a ring bell in a move that led to their classic WrestleMania III show stealer. Not too many remember the moment which immediately preceded it. After Savage made his way backstage, he was confronted by the legendary Bruno Sammartino, who was working as a backstage interviewer at the time. Sammartino was disgusted with the Intercontinental Champion's actions and after admitted he was happy with his actions, Savage saw Sammartino's hands wrapped around Savage's throat. After using the remaining months of 1986 to trash talk each other, these two were booked at a house show to face off for Savage's IC Title. From the very start, these two laid it into each other. As should always be the case with grudge matches like this, there's a sense that these two unapologetically hate each other and are gunning for blood. Savage played a perfect cowardly heel. Sammartino fed off the roar of the crowd as he wailed on Savage. While the match is dampened by a countout win for Savage (which, considering he hit Sammartino with a chair in clear sight of the ref, should have been a DQ loss, but whatevs), it was fun while it lasted.
9 The Rock vs Chris Benoit - Fully Loaded 2000
Given how much WWE want us all to forget that Chris Benoit ever existed for obvious reasons, were could probably put his whole match catalog on this list. However, this match where he challenged The Rock for the WWE Championship is worth mentioning for the fact that Benoit technically won the WWE Title here. In the weeks leading up to this match, the feud between Benoit and Rock got so heated that The Great One wanted to clobber The Rabid Wolverine as soon as he had the chance. Fearing The Rock would DQ himself if he didn't settle down, Commissioner Mick Foley said that if Rock got himself DQ'd, his title would be handed to Benoit. And that's exactly what happened. Although the match was restarted from there, there were a few short minutes where Chris Benoit was declared the WWE Champion.vScrewy stipulations aside, this was actually quite the wrestling clinic. It had a well told story and both men complimented each other quite well. Benoit's technical style and The Rock's showman ability went hand in hand when the two went toe to toe.
8 Bret Hart vs Steve Austin - Sun City Super Bowl
In a match so rare that it can only be found on Bret Hart's Dungeon Collection DVD, this is the very first match in his classic 1996-97 feud against that Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin. After months of challenging Hart while he was on hiatus, Austin got his wish at the Sun City Super Bowl event in South Africa. History shows that these two would go on to have phenomenal chemistry with each other, but this is the match where the two first tried to get a feel for each other's strengths and weaknesses in the ring. Of course, it still pales in comparison to the pair's future classic contests, but it's extremely good for a first meeting and it's interesting seeing how the two try to get a feel for each other in their first encounter. A few months later, the two put on an excellent Survivor Series match and their match at WrestleMania later on was even better.
7 Edge vs Shawn Michaels - Street Fight - 1/22/2007
Shawn Michaels and Edge have had plenty of hardcore matches against each other. They had a whopping Street Fight in 2005 and then managed to top it two years later in 2007. Still carrying momentum from the rivalry between DX and Rated RKO, The Heartbreak Kid and The Rated R Superstar engaged in another Street Fight on the last Raw before Royal Rumble 2007. For about twelve minutes, these two beat each other senseless. Those twelve minutes flew by fast, but it was twelve minutes of pure brutality. We saw steel steps get incorporated, trash can lids get flung, chains clanging, ladders flying, and even an RKO outta nowhere. Edge and HBK literally hit each other with everything except the kitchen sink. For all of the blood these two poured out of each other, this match doesn't get talked about enough and deserves more attention.
6 Randy Orton vs Rey Mysterio - 4/7/2006 Smackdown
Fresh off of his World Heavyweight Championship win at WrestleMania 22, Rey Mysterio walked into the first Smackdown after Mania to defend his title for the first time. His challenger was long time rival and one-third of their Mania Triple Threat match, Randy Orton. Mysterio played the role of the defiant underdog while Orton played the schoolyard bully picking on the little guy. These two fit their roles to a tee while playing off each other extremely well. Both also worked a pretty smart match. Mysterio tried to keep up a quick pace while Orton tried to methodically slow the match down whenever he had the chance to work things into his favor. Add to the fact that they had been having heat for each other for months and having the title on the line helped raise the stakes. All of these ingredients made for an impressive first and successful title defense for Rey Mysterio's title reign.
5 Dolph Ziggler vs Cesaro vs Tyson Kidd - 11/14/2014 Smackdown
Going into the Team Cena vs Team Authority match at Survivor Series 2014, The Authority tried their damnest to stack the odds against all of Cena's allies. One ally who got the brunt of this punishment for joining Team Cena was Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler. The Authority frequently made The Show-Off defend his Championship and on November 14th, he had to defend his belt in an Elimination Triple Threat match against Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. This was one of those rare Triple Threat matches where there weren't any brief alliances made or two on one moments (apart from Ziggler and Kidd failing to double suplex Cesaro, who countered by suplexing both men). From the opening belt, it was every man for himself in some eye popping fast paced action. Each man going 100 miles an hour against each other and not leaving anyone with a moment to breath. It was one of the better IC Title matches to ever go down in recent years. This was especially a significant match because those who worked backstage recognized the instant chemistry between Cesaro and Kidd and figured that if they worked this well together as opponents, they'd work even better as tag team partners. Shortly after this match, these two formed their tag team and later on, won the Tag Team Titles.
4 Daniel Bryan vs Wade Barrett - SummerSlam 2011
A year after Nexus turncoat Daniel Bryan joined Team WWE in the fight against the Nexus at SummerSlam 2010, he took on the former leader of the Nexus, Wade Barrett, in singles action. Since the match had been added to the card at the last possible minute with little build-up or fanfare, the crowd was more or less dead for this match. The unmotivated crowd played a part in the match being largely forgotten. Which is a shame because this turned out to be one of the better matches of both man's careers. Thankfully, the lack of audience reaction didn't hinder either of their performances during the match as the two put on one hell of a show. One can argue that this is one of the best wrestling matches in SummerSlam history. If only they had the crowd participation to warrant it with the legacy the contest truly deserves.
3 Mankind vs Bret Hart - 1/25/1997 Shotgun Saturday Night
From 1997 until 1999, WWE aired a weekly television show called Shotgun Saturday Night. As a response to the gritty, grimy look of ECW at the time, this program was filmed at a nightclub. The show has since been long forgotten and with it are plenty of forgotten classics. One of them being Bret Hart vs Mankind. The match started off bizarrely with the deranged Mankind harassing some of the dancing girls until Hart came to their defense. From there, we saw an intriguing clash of styles that somehow worked well despite each other. Mankind's unorthodox brawler while Hart embodied pure technical wrestling. The nightclub scenery made for a fresh setting for the two as they battled each all over the club. Though it ended with a disappointing DQ finish, the match is an interesting and pleasant one to watch if only for the fact it is the only encounter between these two legends.
2 Kurt Angle vs The Undertaker - 4/7/2002 Smackdown
At SummerSlam 2015, fans were shocked to see The Undertaker tap out Brock Lesnar's Kimura Lock. It doesn't count in the record books, but it was shocking for many viewers to see The Deadman submit for seemingly the first time in his career. Many would be shocked to find out that it wasn't even the first time The Undertaker tapped to the mat in his career. That first time came in the main event of the April 7th, 2002 edition of Smackdown. Undertaker was defending the WWE Championship against Kurt Angle and in the match's closing moments, Angle had Taker wrapped in a triangle arm hold while Taker simultaneously pinned him. Just as the ref slapped his hand to the mat for the three count, Undertaker shockingly tapped out. Considering the confusing circumstances regarding the finish, the match was deemed a draw and Undertaker retained. Up until that point, the two were putting on a fantastic match-up filled with counter after counter.
1 Chris Benoit vs Triple H vs Shawn Michaels - Backlash 2004
Considering how much of a feel-good moment it was to see Chris Benoit win the World Heavyweight Championship after a terrific Triple Threat and then celebrate with WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero, the ending of WrestleMania XX is a hard one to forget. What is a little easier to forget is the rematch from the following month. At Backlash, in a main event dubbed "The Final Encounter," Benoit, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels clashed one last time for the World Heavyweight Championship. This time with Benoit as the champion and the setting in Benoit's hometown of Edmonton, Alberta Canada. The match itself is so hard to watch because we get so many crowd shots of Benoit's wife and children that it feels bittersweet for obvious reasons. When you get passed that, the match is a great rematch. Though it doesn't quite match up to their first encounter at WrestleMania, this was still an excellent one that ended poetically with Benoit locking in the Sharpshooter on HBK in Canada.
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