Rivalries dominant the world of professional sports - from one-on-one competition to team play; every sport has its share of great rivals. This adds a certain flare to a game/match/contest that we would not necessarily get to feel on any given day.
When the Dallas Cowboys suit up to play the Washington Redskins, the feeling is there. That age-old sense of unspoken hatred that fuels both sides to rise above all expectations and take that gridiron glory away from their opponent.
When the Montreal Canadiens takes to the ice against the Boston Bruins, all cards are placed on the table. The hits seem harder, the shoots seems quicker, and the thirst for blood seems unquenchable.
When the San Francisco Giants take to the field to play a ballgame against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the tension in the air can be sliced with a knife and served to the spectators who came to view the California teams as they do battle on a field of honour.
Rivalries make professional sports that much better. It all comes back to that feeling. That sense of knowing that you are watching something special - something that will live forever in the history books.
Professional wrestling - while predetermined - has also compiled a long list of rivalries. The difference between professional wrestling and any other sport is crystal clear but the luster remains the same. The hope of that big, bright, shining moment.
The following article will take a look back at some of these squared-circle-brutes as they face-off against their greatest foes in the land of violent-make-believe. The feuds that have stood the test of time.
These are the top 20 greatest professional wrestling rivalries of all time:
**Note the exclusion of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon as this list will focus on actual wrestlers and not rivalries with authority figures**
20 Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant
Twenty years ago, this rivalry would have found a much higher spot on this list. However, we must still recognize the rivalry between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant due to its epic implication.
WrestleMania III shattered records and the rematch between Hogan and Andre, which was aired on television, would also break new ground in terms of viewers in America for a professional wrestling event.
19 Cactus Jack and Vader
Cactus Jack vs. Vader has a certain sound to it; an indefinably ring that may attract psychopaths and the unstable masses - and really, how else can we have a Cactus Jack and Vader feud.
These two men went at it like savages during their time together. In fact, it was due to a match with Vader in Germany and an infamous botched spot that Mick Foley no longer has his entire right ear.
18 Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka
One of the more forgotten professional wrestling rivalries comes from Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka - two men who often placed themselves and each other in harm's way during their matches.
Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka began their rivalry in Japan where Awesome worked early on in his career. However, this would not end there as the feud would eventually make it's way over to the United States and continue in ECW.
17 Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A.
Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. took part in a very memorable and bloody rivalry while working for the NWA back in the '80s; proving to be two of the promotion's breakout stars.
The battle between these men did not only involve battery and blood but Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. would have at it for a coveted prize: the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship.
16 Rey Mysterio and Psicosis
This may not be the most high-profile of rivalries on our list but it is certainly one of the most exciting, as Rey Mysterio and Psicosis go back a long time and have never failed to entertain.
Whether these two were squaring-off in Mexico or the United States, Rey Mysterio and Psicosis have pieced together a highlight reel of high spots from all of their off-the-wall encounters and exploits.
15 Taz and Sabu
The build towards Taz and Sabu in ECW was great as it showcased how to keep fans invested in an angle. Taz had called out Sabu at every given opportunity for a year, with no response from Sabu.
When the two finally met at Barley Legal - the first ever ECW Pay-Per-View - the build proved to pay off as the match was not only good but would ignite a series of great competition between the two men.
14 Lita and Trish Stratus
Lita and Trish Straus are often paired together in circumstances such as this and with just reason. Lita and Trish changed the way the world saw women inside of the wrestling ring; the perception had altered.
The two pioneers would embark on a lengthy rivalry that some times switched focus to friendship before quickly diverting back to enemy territory. Lita and Trish were once the main event match on Monday Night Raw - which says a lot about these women.
13 Raven and The Sandman
One of the more twisted rivalries on our list comes in the form of Raven and The Sandman - two men with battle scars from the original ECW and who helped add the edgy element to the product.
This rivalry included Raven brainwashing the family of The Sandman enough to join his "Nest." The matches were barbaric and the psychology was great. This feud would even include the crucifixion of The Sandman.
12 Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper
Here we have a rivalry that dates date to the origins of WrestleMania where Hulk Hogan and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper competed in the first ever main event; helping launch the WWE into the stratosphere.
Hogan and Piper would carry their feud over from WWE to WCW where the aging icons would continue to do battle. Hogan and Piper would see each other again at WrestleMania XIX where Piper interfered in Hogan's match with Mr. McMahon.
11 The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz, and Edge and Christian
The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz, and Edge and Christian all qualify as some of the greatest tag teams in the history of professional wrestling. However, they also qualify cohesively on this list.
These three tag teams helped redefine tag team wrestling when by some stroke of strange circumstance the six men found themselves together in WWE and fighting with tables, ladders, and chairs.
10 The Undertaker and Mankind
The Undertaker had long dominated the WWE prior to the arrival of Mankind who managed to take The Deadman to places where he had never been. Perhaps in an effort to prove that the dead can die again.
The Undertaker and Mankind - while having put on a number of great matches during this rivalry - will always be associated with that night in Pittsburgh at King of the Ring 1998 when The Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of Hell in a Cell.
9 The Rock 'N' Roll Express and The Midnight Express
The rivalry between The Rock 'N' Roll Express and The Midnight Express cracks the top 10 due to the standard it helped set as it pertains to long-standing tag team feuds and storylines.
Theses two tag teams excelled in the ring together and have often been cited as a prime example of tag team wrestling done right. These were certainly some of the tag teams that helped pave the path for future generations.
8 Triple H and Shawn Michaels
Triple H takes a lot of internet heat for his position within WWE but there is no denying his dedication to the craft. Triple H knows how to work the canvas when stepping through those ropes.
When best friends turned worst enemies, Triple H and Shawn Michaels, feuded in the early 2000s, a classic rivalry would ensue as The Game and HBK brought out the absolute best in each other.
7 The Fabulous Freebirds and The Von Erichs
World Class Championship Wrestling was a territorial wrestling promotion based out of Dallas, Texas where a number of future legends once performed back before WWE controlled the wrestling Universe.
In what could be considered the best rivalry to come out of WCCW is also one of the greatest professional wrestling rivalries all together: The Fabulous Freebirds and The Von Erichs.
6 Lou Thesz and Buddy Rogers
This rivalry takes us back to the old school days of professional wrestling and two men who helped make wrestling what it is today, Lou Thesz and Buddy Rogers; the early years of wrestling politicians.
Thesz and Rogers not only hade heat in the ring but in real life as personal animosity would develop over decisions made by the NWA Board of Directors and the World Heavyweight Championship.
5 Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes
Ric Flair would capture his first ever NWA World Heavyweight Championship when he defeated Dusty Rhodes on September 17, 1981 - the first of many World Championships to come for The Nature Boy.
Obviously, the story of Flair and Rhodes did not end there as a long-term rivalry was set into motion. Flair and Rhodes would not only feud over the World Title but provide fans with perhaps the most charismatic rivalry professional wrestling has ever seen.
4 Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko
Younger wrestling fans may not know the names Bruno Sammartino or Larry Zbyszko but these two men took part in a seminal professional wrestling rivalry that raised the bar for future feuds and angles.
It is the classic tale of teacher and student whereas Zbyszko turned on his mentor one night, leaving the legend in a pool of blood and sparking the flame of this rivalry that would see Zbyszko harassed by wrestling fans in the Northeast.
3 Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart
Real life situations are often used as part of wrestling storylines. However, nothing felt more real than the rivalry between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. The two biggest names in the post-steroid scandal WWE.
We all know what happened that night in Montreal but the finish doesn't take away from the match itself, which was a great bout (often a forgotten fact). Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart always left the fans wanting more.
2 Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock
The two biggest names to emerge from the Attitude Era were undeniably Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Therefore, it is only fitting that the breakout stars would compete in one of the greatest rivalries of all time.
Stone Cold and The Rock went toe-to-toe thrice at WrestleMania while headlining numerous events in-between. The best part about this rivalry was the growth as their feud spilled over from the mid-card to the main event.
1 Ric Flair and Sting
The first ever Clash of Champions would see Sting challenge Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Championship - a match that became an instant classic when the bout ended in a forty-five minute draw.
The stage was set for the greatest professional wrestling rivalry to take place as Flair and Sting would, moving forward, take each other to the limit both physically and mentally for years to come.
The first and last episodes of Monday Nitro were headlined by Ric Flair vs. Sting.
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