Steamboat vs. Savage at WrestleMania III, Bret vs. Owen at WrestleMania X, Rock vs. Austin at a couple of WrestleMania, the list of what we consider great matches in WWE history is one that could stretch on for days with many contests deserving to be mentioned with the all time greats.
Today, however, we’re going to take a look at the matches that are mentioned in the same breath as those classics, but really have no business being in the same conversation. While grading wrestling matches can often be subjective, there are certain matches that almost everyone agrees deserve to go down in the history books and be remembered forever. Remember I said almost everyone.
There are certainly those who will disasgree with the matches listed here and there are certainly going to be some who think some matches are missing, but that’s part of the fun isn’t it? Let’s jump into it and take a look at what can be considered.
17. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker – Hell In A Cell 2015
The feud between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar was a very strange one, starting with Lesnar breaking Taker’s WrestleMania Streak in what was widely regarded as a highly disappointing match.
Then, over a year later, Taker returned to get his revenge on Lesnar leading to a SummerSlam match that was better than their WrestleMania contest, but thanks to a horribly convoluted and ugly finish, it left the majority of fans shaking their heads.
Then came the Hell In A Cell blow off to their feud, which gained a high amount of praise, but was it praise for the match itself or just general praise because it was better than their last two times out? The two pulled out every shortcut in the book to try and keep fans attention since they couldn’t do it in a standard wrestling affair. While the ending was admittedly really cool looking, the rest of the contest left a lot to be desired. Their original match up was very slow, so it stands to reason that they both slowed down a bit more considering it was about a year and a half later, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch.
This match was just another example of everyone waiting for the next big move then resting, which the WWE was hoping to be enough to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
16. Kane vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania XIV
Throughout the history of the WWE, there tends to be only one way for a big man versus big man contest to go. They get in each other’s faces at the beginning, test their strength against each other, followed by power move after power move after power move. That pattern even follows two of the greatest big men of all time in The Undertaker and Kane.
While these days the two are able to incorporate various different styles into their matches, back during their first meeting, both were firmly in the “Nothing can hurt me, therefore no selling for you!” camp, which ends up falling short of the intended objective of making both guys look tough, instead making them look weak by not being able to cause any damage to the other. Individually both The Undertaker and Kane are great, but they work best with small guys who can take bumps and offer up fiery comebacks that can get the crowd excited. They don’t work well with each other.
15. Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart – SummerSlam 91
The biggest “what-if” in terms of greatest matches of all time is without a doubt the tale of Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect at Summerslam in 1991. If both men were at their physical peak and injury free, there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t have torn the house down in a match that set a new standard for the boys in the back, but, sadly, that wasn’t the case.
While many look back at this match fondly, it’s likely that they’re smiling at the idea of the match and what it could have been in their heads instead of remembering the match itself. Going into the contest, there was doubt that Perfect was even going to be able to perform thanks to his back being in tatters by the time SummerSlam rolled around, but he insisted that if he was going out, he was doing so in the ring, dropping the title to Hart instead of handing it to him.
While it was a very stand up move by Curt, it may have been better if he listened to the doctor’s advice as he was barely able to move, let alone wrestle. What should have been a true technical master class was reverted to a sloppy brawl that both men would probably like to do over.
14. Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar – No Way Out 2004
It’s a shame that a match between two phenomenal athletes in Eddie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar is fondly remembered for everything but the action between the ropes. First there was the mess of the Goldberg and Brock Lesnar feud that saw them interfering in each other’s matches, including Goldberg muddying up the finish of this match by attacking Lesnar, leading to Eddie stealing the victory. The second thing most people remember is Guerrero’s emotional celebration among the fans at ringside, which is the main reason most people can look back at this match and smile.
Those are the only two things fans remember because those were the only moments in the match worth remembering. The two went to battle in a bland, stale contest where it seemed like both guys were just killing time waiting for Goldberg to run in.
13. Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H- WrestleMania 29
When Brock Lesnar finally returned to the WWE after a long hiatus, it made sense for him to jump into a feud with John Cena who was, and still is, the top dog. His next feud was the complete opposite, as he started going nose to nose with the “COO” Triple H.
In a feud that helped nobody involved, the pair battled three times, putting up high quality matches two out of the three times with the one stinker being sandwiched right in the middle at WrestleMania 29. While this match was a no holds barred contest, that’s no excuse for going to the outside straight away and jumping head first into the ‘big spots and rest’ formula. Things only got slightly interesting when Shawn Michaels came in looking for revenge against Lesnar after suffering a broken arm thanks to The Beast’s Kimura Lock, only to eat an F-5 instead.
In classic Triple H fashion, Hunter stole the Kimura Lock and put Lesnar in the hold for roughly all of eternity, finishing off Lesnar with a Pedigree to the steel steps.
12. Jeff Hardy vs. The Undertaker – RAW 2002
In a contest that a lot of people remember as being a star maker for Jeff Hardy, The Charismatic Enigma suffered one of the most one sided beat downs in the history of the WWE Championship. While it’s hard not to love a good underdog story, this ladder match between Hardy and The Undertaker for the WWE Championship was far from that.
In order to have a successful underdog that the fans can seriously get behind, they have to be able to believe that they can actually win somehow, which was never going to happen for Hardy on this night. The WWE attempted to make it a more than zero percent chance by making it a ladder match,but it didn’t succeed, leading to a match with the finish never being in doubt. From bell to bell, this match was all about The Undertaker with occasional fiery bursts from Hardy that would barely even effect Taker, making his offense look much more flashy than dangerous. Even getting his hand raised at the end by The Deadman wasn’t enough to save Hardy from looking like anything other than a resilient punching bag who didn’t belong in the main event scene.
11. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – WrestleMania XXX
While the lead up to this contest was some of the best television the WWE has produced in a while, the match itself failed to live up to those lofty expectations. After consistently being labeled nothing but a B+ player by his bosses, Bryan was finally given a chance to prove himself against The King of Kings in one of the most predictable WrestleMania matches in quite some time. You knew going in that there was no way that the main event was going to be three heels, Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista.
The predictability wasn’t the only thing hurting this contest though, as the stop and start selling of Bryan’s shoulder and Triple H’s knack for over doing the storytelling aspect in recent years, gave us the worst combination possible for a wrestling match: boring and predictable.
10. CM Punk vs. John Cena – Money In The Bank 2011
Their raucous reaction to hometown hero CM Punk was all everyone was talking about following the match and that’s what’s mainly responsible for the fond memories that we have of it. In reality it was a slow, plodding affair that lacked in psychology and relied far too heavily on the big spots in order to keep the action moving. With both guys more than happy to take breathers on the outside and use rest holds for days, this match would’ve lost crowd interest about halfway through if it wasn’t for the venue in which it took place.
In addition, the convulated ending, with McMahon trying to call for the bell while Cena had Punk in the STF causing Big Match John to release the hold to confront him only to get put into the GTS took a lot of the power away from what should’ve been a monumental victory for Punk. If you were to go back and give this match another watch, there’s really no need to go past the introductions.
9. Steve Austin vs. Jake Roberts – King of the Ring 1996
It’s a match that will be featured on all of the ‘Best Of Steve Austin’ DVDs from here until the end of time, but certainly not for the match itself. It’ll be included because of the after match promo in which Austin first dropped the “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!” line on his foe, but what came before it is no where near as memorable.
During his prime, Jake “The Snake” Roberts was solid, but unfortunately his prime was long gone by this point. Roberts was only getting by thanks to his star power and goodwill he had thanks to his run near the top of the company, but was far from being able to get through an entire quality match at this point of his career.
Roberts was essentially rolled out to the ring just to receive a beating from Stone Cold and get his paycheck using a ‘rib injury’ he suffered at the hands of Vader in the previous round to lay around until it was time to eat a stunner.
8. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant – WrestleMania III
In the ultimate case of nostalgia taking over our memories, I present to you the case of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant. A lot of people reading this remember this match solely through flashbacks and videos on the WWE Network and to them this match may not be overrated because they are able to see the match on it’s own for what it is without being caught up in any of the storyline or the wide spread case of Hulkamania that was consuming the world.
Those that did live through all that will tell you that this was the greatest match in wrestling history, with Hogan finally slaying The Giant and ending his (according to WWE at least) 15 year undefeated streak! Obviously it’s hard to go back and watch a wrestling match from about 30 years ago and compare it to something today, considering how much has changed in the wrestling landscape, but I can’t imagine any situation where this would be considered a classic.
While Andre was capable of surprising feats considering his size when he was a young man, that was a long time before he stepped in the ring with Hogan as the big man gassed out immediately, leaning on a steady offense of chokes and resting. The whole match was building towards the big body slam The Hulkster would deliver to Andre, but that’s about it.
7. Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena – One Night Stand 2006
When you think of this match, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If Cena wins we riot, right? This match is exhibit A in the case of a hot crowd being able to make a match stick in our minds much longer than it has any right to. The most memorable moment of this match happened before the bell even rang, with the previously mentioned riot sign, the drowning out of Cena’s music with the vicious amount of boos he received, and the ECW crowd continuing to throw Cena’s shirt back at him as they wanted no part of the face of the WWE.
Things went significantly downhill once the bell rang, as the pair had very little chemistry with each other and RVD’s general sloppiness throughout the match dragged it down. When you add in the ridiculous ending, where Edge came out wearing a helmet for some reason to spear Cena through a table leading to Paul Heyman coming out and counting the pinfall, this whole contest turned into a hot mess.
6. Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XIV
Considering the star power and the talent level of the two Superstars involved in the main event of WrestleMania XIV, it should have been so much better than the contest that we got. Perhaps it would have been if it was at a different time, considering that this was Shawn Michaels’ last match before going out for nearly four years thanks to the back surgery he would receive shortly after the contest. Throughout the match, you could tell that something just wasn’t quite right with HBK, as something as simple as running the ropes or even just walking across the ring looked to be hurting him. Obviously the two had to work around the injury situation which took nearly everything that made Michaels great away from him, namely the over the top athleticism that really set him apart from his colleagues.
Plus there was yet another overbooked ending, with Mike Tyson getting involved and laying out HBK after the match, taking heat away from the match that kickstarted The Attitude Era.
5. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania VI
There are certain things in life where your nostalgia for something causes it to be remembered in a much higher light than it should be and this is one of those times. Back in the day, there was no dream match higher on anyone’s imaginary card than Hogan vs. Warrior, the two behemoths of the late 1980s finally squaring off to determine the true face of the WWE.
The only problem was that for as far ahead of everyone else they were in charisma, they were that far behind in work rate in the ring. Put with the right opponent, both guys were able to preform a solid match, like Warrior against Rick Rude or Hogan against Randy Savage, but together they were simply unable to put together an interesting match. Both guys relied heavily on their old bag of tricks (beatdowns, rest spots, and big comebacks) in one of the most formulaic and boring main events in WrestleMania history.
4. The Undertaker’s Early Streak Matches
There’s no doubting that The Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania was once in a lifetime and we’ll never see anything quite like it ever again, but there’s a difference between unique and being good. While Taker’s streak is mostly remembered for his most recent matches that have all been very good, like his contests against Shawn Michaels, we can’t forgot just how rough of a start it got off to. With The Undertaker going up against stars like Jimmy Snuka, Jake Roberts, Sycho Sid, and his infamous contest against Giant Gonzalez, Taker had more than his fair share of stinkers to add to the history of WrestleMania.
It’s difficult to place the blame for these match ups solely on The Undertaker, as the opponents he was put up against tended to either be past their prime or never having a prime, leading to short contests that saw Taker go over convincingly in extremely boring matches.
3. Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock – WrestleMania X8
There’s really only one reason that us fans remember this match so fondly and it had nothing to do with the action going on inside of the ring. Before the opening bell even rang, the crowd was erupting over the mere sight of seeing two living legends such as The Rock and Hulk Hogan staring each down. The main reason fans were reacting like that is what ended up hurting the match in the long run, both guys in the ring were more well known and beloved because of their charisma and presence rather than what they could accomplish in the ring.
While The Rock was still mostly in his prime, Hogan was long past his, leading to a contest that was full of taunts, rest holds, and showboating to the audience rather than anything of impact happening in the ring. The remarkably hot crowd helped save this contest, as they make it worth watching on their own, but maybe watch it with your eyes closed and just enjoy the verbose audience.
2. The Undertaker vs. Mankind – King of the Ring 1997
While this match has rightly gone down in the books as being host to one of the most insane spots of all time, it isn’t one that’s worth looking back at and watching again. Outside of the two moments that we all remember, there is nothing to this match. Part of that is due to the planned first spot, with Foley going off the top of the cage and the long, long wait until he made it back to Taker, but the worst part is the second spot where Foley went through the cell.
Considering the roof wasn’t supposed to cave in like it did, hordes of officials came running in from the back to check on Mankind, grinding the match to yet another halt. After Foley recovered, the match was over, there was no big comeback, no story to be told, as he just lost, which is understandable considering the beating he took. While the contest had some classic moments, it’s far from being a classic match.
1. Most Royal Rumbles
As every year comes to an end, wrestling fans are getting more and more excited for a certain event that always kick starts the new year, the Royal Rumble match. The thought of finding out which lucky Superstar is going to emerge from the pack and claim a main event spot at the biggest show in wrestling is enough to pump some energy into the WWE Universe, it’s just too bad the match always ends up being a disappointment.
Year after year, the Rumble tends to play it in similar fashion. You get an iron man or two that come out first to carry the match for 30-40 minutes, then pretty much nothing important happens until the end. The Rumble always turns into a parade of jobbers that are only there to get tossed out by the more established Superstars, strictly as a way to kill time and numbers until the winner comes out, typically in the late twenties, to start the go home segment. You’ll have guys eliminating themselves either intentionally or by charging at a still opponent by the ropes (haven’t they learned by now that the other guy will duck and you’re sending yourself over the top!?!) all leading to what is typically the finish everyone sees coming, as the winner tends to be someone they’ve been hinting at for quite a while.
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