Rivalries in professional wrestling are the pinnacle of the dynamic between faces and heels, the elements of good storytelling and everything fans love about the shows. Whether it be the WWE, ECW, TNA, ROH, or any professional wrestling company, rivalries are what help generate interest and what bring out the emotion and investment of the fans. Now some rivalries like John Cena vs. Randy Orton and The Authority vs. every face on the roster get played out and make fans lose interest, but some rivalries were so good that fans could watch them over and over again without issue.
In the WWE, the feud between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin is regarded as one of the best feuds of the Attitude Era and of wrestling in general. The same could be said for the legendary feud between Sting and Ric Flair in WCW. Some rivalries are just so good that they basically became a license to print money whenever they were booked for a match. Some feuds were rivalries where two wrestlers collided throughout different phases of their careers while others were born simply fighting over Championships, but they were all memorable and enjoyable.
With that being said, this article will look back at the 20 rivalries that wrestling fans could watch for years on end and almost never get tired of.
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20 Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
For wrestling fans who follow the independent scene closely, this was an easy feud to think of when discussing feuds that wrestling fans would want to see forever.
There are a lot of promotions to discuss this rivalry in, varying from the biggest stage available in the WWE, to the more well-known independent promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor, to even the lesser known federations like Monteregie Wrestling Federation and Internet Wrestling Syndicate.
This feud has also taken on many forms and has ceased due to reconciliation, but the commonality within this feud has been the story of friendship and betrayal. This notion of friends fighting has always led to great matches and that’s exactly what has happened each time Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens lock up or start punching each other. Whether fighting ladder wars, no disqualification matches, or just singles competition, this feud took the independent scene by storm and may very well do so in the WWE’s main event scene once more in the future.
19 The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz
When most people think about exciting periods in tag team wrestling, the Attitude Era and these legendary teams are probably the first that come to mind.
These three teams all but defined tag team wrestling in the Attitude Era and set the standard for tag team wrestling from a hardcore standpoint. Edge and Christian had been feuding with The Hardy Boyz prior to their match at WrestleMania 2000, but the introduction of The Dudley Boyz into the fight for the Tag Team Titles took these matches to the next level.
After leaving their mark on the WrestleMania 2000 card, they upped the stakes by having the first ever TLC match and making it a great one. Then, they upped the stakes once more by having their fantastic rematch at WrestleMania X-Seven. They didn’t always fight in the same matches, but, when they did, you were all but guaranteed to see some fantastic matches.
18 A.J. Styles vs. Christopher Daniels
A.J. Styles was once known as the greatest wrestler on the independent scene while Christopher Daniels was also regarded as great in-ring talent, so when these two had matches against each other, it only added to their growing resume of good matches in various different promotions.
Like many other rivalries on this list, Styles and Daniels matches began in smaller, relatively unheard of promotions such as All Pro Wrestling and International Wrestling Cartel. Eventually, this feud would make it to its biggest stage to date, through TNA Impact Wrestling.
In TNA, their matches expanded to a much larger audience and went on to define both TNA and their X-Division. This was especially true when Samoa Joe was thrown into the mix, which led to some of the X-Division’s greatest matches. These two men have gone their separate ways, but should Daniels make it to the WWE, this will be a great feud to start with.
17 John Cena vs. Edge
A few years into the Ruthless Aggression Era, both John Cena and Edge were at the point in their careers where they would step up and become main event stars. Cena got his start a little earlier, but Edge eventually caught up.
The rivalry between these two men wasn’t born from a long history as friends, like Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, or as rivals who fought their way up the ladder, like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, but simply from their desire to be the champion. After Cena successfully defended his title in an Elimination Chamber at New Year’s Revolution, Edge would make his impact by being the first wrestler to cash-in the Money in the Bank Briefcase and successfully secure the title. From that point, there feud would go on and on.
Their rivalry would continue up until 2009, but the best matches and exchanges came from 2006. From singles matches to triple threats to their epic TLC match, Cena and Edge was a rivalry fans could watch over and over again.
16 Taz vs. Sabu
When looking back at some of ECW’s greatest rivalries, there were a lot of gems such as Sabu vs. Rob Van Dam and even Taz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, but some of the best matches came from watching "The Human Suplex Machine" Taz take on "The Houdini of Hardcore" Sabu.
Their first match took place in the early days of ECW for NWA Bloodfest Part 1 when Taz was still “The Tazmaniac.” A few years later, after both men weren’t wrestling for ECW for various reasons, a feud would be born after Sabu was brought back to the company while Taz was still out of action due to injury.
The build to the feud was executed brilliantly as Taz would attack his tag team partner Van Dam, call him out in various ways, and attack wrestlers and personnel until he got his match against Sabu. The match finally happened for the first time in three years at ECW Barely Legal where Taz defeated Sabu.
This feud would continue on and off again until Taz left ECW for the WWE. Some great storytelling and some hardcore action earned this feud’s spot on the list.
15 Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven
Taz and Sabu was definitely a big feud for ECW, but a feud that was equally as important, if not more so, was the feud between Tommy Dreamer and Raven.
This feud took place in a lot of major American promotions such as the WWE and TNA, but ECW is where this feud developed and blossomed. The storyline behind this feud was that both men had known each other since childhood where Raven was a lone wolf and Dreamer was the popular kid; a story many people could relate to from either angle. What would ensue from that point was a series of matches that the ECW fans loved. Now a lot of these matches took place at events rather than television shows, so it’s hard to find video of them, but a few of their matches are still around today, including their legendary match at ECW Wrestlepalooza 1997. Not a very publicized feud, but a great one nonetheless.
14 John Cena vs. CM Punk
The feud between Edge and John Cena encompassed more hardcore wrestling and brawling in comparison to the feud between Cena and Randy Orton, which had just about every match in creation. However, the feud between Cena and CM Punk was one of the few times that wrestling fans got to see the more technical side of John Cena come out.
Similar to The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, these two men faced each other on multiple occasions, but there was a change in their dynamic that gave birth to a great rivalry; in Punk’s case, it was the pipebomb promo. After Punk cut that great promo, his star power skyrocketed up to the upper echelon of the WWE and even saw him defeat Cena to become the WWE Champion. Then upon his return to the WWE, his rivalry with Cena continued.
Aside from one Hell in A Cell Triple Threat Match, their feud was mostly a technical showcase and their matches never disappointed. So if Punk ever comes back to the WWE, this will be one feud fans can’t wait to see resume.
13 Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle
Many fans were disappointed when Kurt Angle left the WWE in 2006, but his decision to join TNA Impact Wrestling led to a lot of great matches with legends like Sting and highly praised independent wrestlers like "The Samoan Submission Machine," Samoa Joe.
After Joe had stolen the World Title and refused to give it up, Angle made his debut in TNA and the two were set for one of the greatest feuds in the history of TNA. Their first match saw Angle defeat Joe and end his undefeated streak of eighteen months, but that would be just the beginning in their feud.
The next few years saw multiple titles on the line and different dynamics such as Joe acting as a special guest referee for Angle’s title match and an interference by Angle's wife. Their matches varied from singles competition to cage matches similar to MMA bouts, but all of them were classics and helped bring some major attention to the TNA brand.
12 Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
Once Brock Lesnar defeated The Rock to win the WWE Championship, he needed another opponent to help legitimize his main event status. Luckily, Stephanie McMahon signed The Undertaker to SmackDown and that began a great rivalry that continued upon Lesnar’s return to the WWE.
The buildup during their feud during the Ruthless Aggression Era was fantastic with Lesnar threatening Taker’s wife and breaking The Phenom’s hand. Their matches were equally as good as their buildup and delivered each and every time; even for that goofy chain match they had.
Fast forward to 2014 and WrestleMania XXX, where they had their first subpar match together, but that can be attributed to the concussion Taker received. Though, the absolute shock everyone got from seeing The Streak come to an end will make that match stand out in the annals of WWE history. The following year, the two would have their last two matches against each other and both were phenomenal performances. When looking back at career defining feuds for Lesnar, his rivalry against The Deadman will definitely be on the list.
11 Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
While many fans can agree that the last two matches these Superstars wrestled together more than made this entry worthy of being on the list, their exchanges through the years and during the Attitude Era made for great television as well.
After “accidentally” costing The Undertaker the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 1997, Michaels would begin the first half of his great rivalry with The Deadman. Their first match took place at Ground Zero: In Your House, but the next match is what everyone talks about. The first ever Hell in A Cell match had these two great performers as opponents and the results were legendary to say the least. Their next match led to a temporary retirement of The Heartbreak Kid, but four years later he was back and ready to live up to his mantra as The Showstopper.
His performance against The Undertaker at the 2007 Royal Rumble made for a nice ending to the match, but their two WrestleMania matches were incredible. The story leading up to both matches was great and the bouts were even better. Another set of wrestlers who didn’t clash often, but made a great impact by the quality of their feuds and matches.
10 Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio
Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio are easily two of the best Latino wrestlers to ever lace their boots, so it’s only natural that they earn a spot on this list.
Though these two men are mostly associated with the Cruiserweight division of WCW and the main event scene of the WWE, the two have also fought in smaller promotions such as AAA and IWA Mid-South. Their series of matches in WCW helped both men to rise to prominence and become big stars within their division. After WCW met its end, these two Superstars would resume some of their work in the land of the giants. Whether in tag team competition or direct turmoil, involving championships or child custody, these two men always put forth their best effort and it definitely resonated with the fans.
9 Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
When the WWE lost a lot of their main eventers from the golden era, they looked to these two men to fill the void.
The careers of both men are astonishing to look at, considering how similar they are to each other. Both men got a great bulk of their initial buzz from the tag team division, personified the idea of Intercontinental Champions being workhorses, and secured top spots in an era where bigger stature wrestlers were still considered the norm.
Despite this, their feud not only became legendary for their buildup and matches, but for their actual heat outside the ring as well. This would lead to some of the most realistic promos and segments ever done by two Superstars and it only made for better TV. They didn’t fight as often as most rivals would today, but they made up for it with quality performances each and every time they locked up.
8 Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels
Whether looking at this feud from the Ruthless Aggression Era or the beginning of the PG Era, this rivalry exemplifies great storytelling, great matches, and everything fans look for in the WWE.
In the first incarnation of their feud, it was the typical feud based on one Superstar looking to prove that they are superior to the other. In that case, Chris Jericho was looking to prove that he was the next Shawn Michaels; even going as far as choosing the number two spot in the Rumble just to prove his point. The execution of the buildup was fine and their match at WrestleMania was really good, but that feud pales in comparison to their feud from 2008.
After faking an injury to defeat Batista, Jericho wanted Michaels to admit to his deceit. He initially lied, but came clean later which angered Jericho and laid the foundation for their feud to go from good to epic. The next few months saw a lot of intense moments such as a retirement angle, an eye injury, Jericho assaulting Michael’s wife, and a lot of great matches.
7 Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Ric Flair
Looking back at some of the earlier days of wrestling, this feud extends as far back as the territory days and still makes for some enjoyable matches today.
Once Ric Flair left the AWA for the NWA, he was being groomed to be a top star as exemplified by his multiple United States Championship reigns. One of the men that Flair feuded with over the title was none other than Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and the matches and interactions they had helped both men greatly.
As the years went on and NWA morphed into WCW, both men would continue their rivalry in Jim Crockett’s wrestling federation for the World Heavyweight Championship. The personality clash of the reserved Steamboat and the brash Flair worked well, but the matches the two dulled out just added to it all. Their feud earned multiple recognitions and awards from professional wrestling magazines and is widely considered an all-time great feud; a natural choice for a list of this nature.
6 Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
When both Stone Cold and The Rock left during the Ruthless Aggression Era, the Raw roster seemed like it wasn’t gonna be able to match up with SmackDown. After all, Stephanie signed Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, The Undertaker and the white-hot WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, so it was safe to say that Raw had its work cut out for it. Fortunately, the Raw roster was blessed with the return of Shawn Michaels as an in-ring competitor with a great opponent in heel Triple H.
Not only was this the defining feud of Raw, but it was the feud that established the importance and prestige of the World Heavyweight Championship. Whether it was an Unsanctioned, Three Stages of Hell, or an Elimination Chamber Match, these two men delivered quality matches each and every time they locked up.
Two friends turned enemies made for one of the greatest rivalries in the history of Raw.
5 Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
The Ruthless Aggression Era is often marred in controversy due to the death of Chris Benoit, the Katie Vick storyline, and other events that took precedent, but this era was home to a lot of great feuds. And of those feuds was the rivalry between the Olympian, Kurt Angle, and the NCAA Champion, Brock Lesnar.
Both men had extraordinary careers as amateur wrestlers and were able to use that to help them become big stars in the WWE. Their feud is more than likely both men’s crowning achievements, as they helped to define SmackDown during the first years of the brand split. Almost everything they did together was memorable from backstage segments, like the push-up contests, to some of their great matches.
Even outside of the WWE, this feud became a success as the two crossed paths again at a cross-promotional event between New Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA Wrestling. Lesnar and Angle have always had great matches, so hopefully they can fight one more time before both men retire.
4 Triple H vs. The Rock
The story behind Triple H and The Rock can be compared to the rivalry between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, as the rivalry began in the mid card and worked its way into becoming a main event feud that fans would look back on as one of the best rivalries of the era.
The Rock debuted in a Survivor Series match in 1996 and among his opponents Goldust, Jerry Lawler, Crush and Triple H still acting under the name Hunter Hearst Helmsley. From that point forward, the two men would constantly be at odds as they battled over the Intercontinental Championship and their factions warred via D-Generation-X and The Nation of Domination.
However, the feud went to the next level once they began feuding for the WWE Championship. Their rivalry would last all the way into the Ruthless Aggression Era as both men exchanged blood, sweat, tears, and championships over the years. A lot of their encounters were action-packed and the feud was so good that they were chosen to compete in a 60-minute Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship. A feud that isn’t as popular from the Attitude Era as Stone Cold and The Rock, but a damn good feud nonetheless.
3 Sting vs. Ric Flair
On the first ever episode of NWA Clash of the Champions, these two legends would begin a classic rivalry that would define World Championship Wrestling. Their rivalry expanded past the first Clash of the Champions and took many twists and turns. From Sting joining The Four Horsemen to Flair disguising himself to get to Sting, these two legends defined WCW to its very end. They faced each other in a multitude of different matches like Steel Cages and War Games, they’ve fought in various promotions such as when WCW worked with New Japan Pro Wrestling and when they fought for the last time in TNA.
As the years went on, Flair’s look began to change with age while Sting changed his look and gimmick, but the chemistry between these two men never disappeared.
2 Stone Cold vs. The Rock
When looking at different era-defining feuds, this one has to have a place amongst the top. At a time when wrestling was at an all-time high, these two men rose to the top of the company and defined an entire era through their epic rivalry. They had faced each other a few times on Raw main events and PPVs for the Intercontinental Championship, but the dynamic of the feud completely changed once The Rock became The Corporate Champion.
Once that happened, the feud went to the next level as their matches only got better and better. Having dozens of bouts and a lot of memorable segments together helped the WWE stay at the top during the Monday Night Wars and dominate the wrestling industry like they have been to this day. Their feud is what most fans think of when discussing the WWE at its best. Multiple WrestleMania main events and headliners, title exchanges, great promos, and awesome matches between these two men make them the standard bearer for great rivalries within the WWE.
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon
Looking back at all the authority figure and wrestler confrontations over the years, only one of them truly stands above all the other and has stood the test of time; Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
The clash of personalities and the amazing mic skills of the individuals involved made this a perfect feud. It has been duplicated multiple times, but those other attempts didn’t have a fraction of the spark Austin and McMahon had. Both characters were truly opposites of each other as Austin was the foul-mouthed, beer-drinking Redneck who went against the grain at every turn while McMahon was the perfect authority figure who wanted everyone to follow his rules or face his wrath.
Now, most of the time, their feuds would occur with McMahon selecting different people on his roster to get involved; sometimes it was Mick Foley, other times it was The Rock, and many others, but it always came back to Austin and McMahon. Not many feuds can be touted as saving the company, but this one earned it as it caused the WWE’s ratings and viewership to go light years beyond what many thought they were capable of.
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