The 2000's were a transitional decade for WWE. The Attitude Era was over and the Ruthless Aggression period had begun. The “Texas Rattlesnake” was making way for the “Doctor of Thuganomics.” The Monday Night Wars had come to an end and the longtime enemy of WCW was dead and gone. ECW went bankrupt and Vince McMahon now controlled the wrestling monopoly.
The decade provided future main event superstars – most notably John Cena and Randy Orton – while superstars like Triple H and Kurt Angle were propelled to brand new heights. The purchase of WCW and ECW allowed fans of WWE the opportunity to experience new superstars who they may not have been accustomed to watching.
Tag team wrestling flourished during this period as innovative new match concepts and exciting young teams helped revolutionize the division and shed an entirely new light on tag team wrestling. Meanwhile, the women were holding their own as high-level female wrestlers back before they became “divas” and when their title was the Women's Championship.
Without any more competition for WWE, the worry became whether or not the product would remain interesting – and it did for a while – especially early on in the era when the attitude of the nineties was still hanging around hungover in the corner. The eventually brand extension kept that competitive feel alive between the dueling shows even though they were both operating under the same banner.
The 2000's, like any other decade, had their share of mishaps but it also provided wrestling fans with the birth of Evolution – the most dominant wrestling faction since the Four Horsemen. The “Next Big Thing.” The love-hate relationship with John Cena. The breakout of the “Rated-R Superstar.” The rightful recognition of Chris Jericho. And even the rejuvenation of the great Shawn Michaels.
Yes, today's PG product is not quite as groundbreaking as the Attitude Era and sure many fans are frustrated and bored or have stopped watching all together. But, somewhere between what WWE was in the nineties and what it is now there was a solidifying era of that ruthlessness and aggression which happened to provide a number of great and memorable feuds.
20 Vince McMahon vs. His Children
Vince McMahon has had his share of on-screen friction with his son Shane and daughter Stephanie. In 2001, the siblings took on their father together as a cohesive unit known as “The Alliance,” in which Shane and Stephanie were portrayed as the owners of ECW and WCW respectively and were plotting to take over the WWE. However, Vince has gone one-on-one in the ring with both his children. The McMahon men faced off in a street fight at WrestleMania X-Seven, in which Shane emerged victorious. Vince would have a match with Stephanie just a couple of years later at No Mercy 2003 where father and daughter competed in an “I Quit” match. Vince would prove to the victor over his daughter when Linda McMahon threw in the towel on her daughter's behalf.
19 Eric Bischoff vs. Stephanie McMahon
The concept of the General Manager has fizzled off recently in WWE, but in 2002 when the company was “divided” into two separate brands, the initial success of the concept was fantastic. The first two persons named as General Managers were Stephanie McMahon on SmackDown and none other than Eric Bischoff on Raw. The battle for supremacy between shows was intriguing as both the General Managers would plot and scheme against one another on a consistent basis. The signing of superstars became a common theme – sometimes as a brand new competitor was debuting in WWE or other times when returning superstars were deemed “free agents.” Since the brand extension there have been a number of General Mangers pitted against each other but none were as fascinating as the initial feud between Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon.
18 CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
This feud took place a few years prior to the the infamous “pipepomb” promo and CM Punk's meteoric rise to superstardom. However, this was still an action-packed feud with its own unique look (not just because of the physical appearance of both men involved). These two superstars did battle on the SmackDown brand over the World Heavyweight Championship. Needless to say, the series of matches that took place between CM Punk and Jeff Hardy were phenomenal. What made this feud work so well was that Jeff Hardy was the hottest thing in WWE at the time. While CM Punk was a crowd favorite, his eventual heel turn and reasoning behind it were great – using his straight-edge lifestyle to preach on Jeff Hardy about his well documented troubled past. Sometimes, shedding real life light into the wrestling world can amp up a storyline that much more.
17 Edge/w Lita vs. Matt Hardy
This next feud, much like the previous one, involved a real life situation as well as a Hardy. The real life drama of the Matt Hardy/Amy Dumas/Adam Copeland love triangle was presented in storyline form during the summer of 2005 when Matt Hardy and Edge would embark on an emotionally charged feud that felt more sincere than most WWE storylines due to its implications. Every word spoken from all three individuals involved was passionate and perhaps a little poignant at times. Edge and Hardy were no strangers to one another, having been in the ring together many times in the past and even with real animosity brewing, the professionalism and dedication to the business of both men would make each match memorable.
16 Triple H vs. Ric Flair
This feud was written in the stars as “The Man” Ric Flair would do battle with his longtime friend and the guy who was meant to be the Ric Flair of the modern age, Triple H. Ric Flair came out of Taboo Tuesday victorious over “The Game” inside of a steel cage. However, Triple H would get over on “The Nature Boy,” at Survivor Series when he defeated Flair in a vicious last-man standing match. To quote Flair: “to be the man, you have to beat the man.” Triple H undoubtedly was “the man” in WWE during the 2000's and this feud with Flair cemented that fact. Triple H and Ric Flair put forth the most prime example of wrestling evolution.
15 Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero would square off in a one-on-one match at WrestleMania XXI despite the fact that they were the current WWE Tag Team Champions. The match, which Mysterio won, was booked as “friendly competition.” However, this was the beginning of tensions between the pair as Guerrero would eventually turn his back on Mysterio out of frustration and his inability to defeat Rey in a match. The feud would get personal when Eddie would bring Rey's son Dominick into the picture claiming that he was his real father. The two men would participated in an extraordinary ladder match at SummerSlam, with custody of Dominick on the line, where once again, Mysterio came out the victor. Their feud would culminate on an episode of SmackDown when Guerrero finally scored a victory over Mysterio in a steel cage match.
14 Triple H vs. Chris Jericho
In December 2001, Chris Jericho made history when he became the first ever Undisputed WWE Champion. The following month, Triple H, who had been out of action for an extended period of time, made his triumphant return to WWE, winning the Royal Rumble match and setting up an encounter with Chris Jericho at WrestleMania X8. In the process of building this match, Jericho would align himself with Stephanie McMahon who on-screen was separated from Triple H. The title would switch hands on the grandest stage of them all when Triple H picked up the victory. However, this feud would continue on until its epic culmination at Judgment Day 2002 where Triple H and Chris Jericho would do battle inside Hell in a Cell.
13 Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero
The 2004 feud between Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero exceeded simply wrestling each other in a match – which they did at WrestleMania XX. That night in New York City, Guerrero pulled a fast one over on Angle and left Madison Square Garden still the WWE Champion. Angle would seek his revenge on Guerrero when he became the new General Manger of SmackDown (due to real injuries Angle was forced out of competition for a while). In a Texas Bull Rope match against John “Bradshaw” Layfield at the Great American Bash, Angle would end up costing Guerrero the championship.
12 Triple H vs. Randy Orton
When Randy Orton became the youngest world champion in history, at the age of twenty-four, this did not sit well with Triple H who at the time was leader of Evolution, a faction in which Orton was also a member. “The Game” quickly exonerated Randy Orton from the group. The following month Triple H would win the World Heavyweight Championship from Orton, making his first title reign relatively short. This feud would pick up again years later when Triple H and Randy Orton went one-on-one at WrestleMania XXV for the WWE Championship. The weeks leading up to their match were intense and passionate with segments that included Triple H invading the home of Randy Orton and Orton delivering an RKO and unconscious kiss to Stephanie McMahon.
11 Lita vs. Trish Stratus
These two ladies could very well be the two greatest female performers to ever grace a wrestling ring. The long-term rivalry between Lita and Trish Stratus spanned the course of many years. Lita and Trish helped change the conception of female wrestling as these girls refused to be seen as merely eye-candy. They were outright competitors having done battle over the Women's Championship time and time again. On the December 6th, 2004 episode of Monday Night Raw Trish Stratus would defend her Women's Championship against Lita in the main event – an unexpected final match of the evening as such a spot is normally reserved for the top male performers. However on that night, Trish and Lita stole the show as they put on what was possibly the best female wrestling match of all time (Lita would win and capture the championship).
10 Triple H vs. Batista
When Randy Orton was unceremoniously thrown out of Evolution, there remained Triple H, Ric Flair, and Batista. “The Animal” would soon cause friction among the group when he won the Royal Rumble match in 2005. Following his victory, Batista was faced with a decision: remain on Raw and challenge his Evolution leader Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship or switch brands and face JBL for the WWE Championship. Despite pandering and persuading from Triple H who was trying to convince Batista to take on JBL, Batista ultimately decided to go after the World Heavyweight Championship, leaving Evolution in the process. Batista defeated Triple H for the title at WrestleMania XXI and then twice more which included Batista becoming the first person to pin “The Game” inside Hell in a Cell.
9 The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Long before “The Beast Incarnate" ended The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX, a young, fresh-faced Brock Lesnar was involved in a chaotic feud with the “humanized” version of The Undertaker. The year was 2002 and “The Next Big Thing,” Brock Lesnar, was already a star despite the fact that he had only been an active part of the main roster for less than a year. This feud would also include a Hell in a Cell match in which Brock Lesnar emerged the victor, subsequently beating respect out of The Undertaker.
8 John Cena vs. Randy Orton
This next fiery feud continues to burn until this day but began back in the 2000's decade. John Cena and Randy Orton have both risen above all other competitors that have come out of their generation. These two future Hall of Fame inductees have captured twenty-seven world championships between them (Cena = 15 Orton = 12). They have been involved in a multitude of matches with each other, often times coming off as equals and making it hard to determine just who the better of these two superstars is. John Cena and Randy Orton are the Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior of the new millennium.
7 The Undertaker vs. Edge
The Undertaker and Edge are two of the very best at their craft and when they embarked on a feud with each other, their craftiness proved to make it one for the ages. Edge was heading in to WrestleMania XXIV as World Heavyweight Champion and was looking like a viable candidate to end The Undertaker's undefeated streak but The Deadman prevailed. When Edge lost his rematch to 'Taker, Vickie Guerrero – who was involved in an on-screen relationship with Edge – stripped him of the championship because of an illegal move. Edge and Taker would go into battle over the vacated title with Edge eventually coming out of this feud as World Heavyweight Champion when he defeated The Undertaker in a match he helped make famous,re Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.
6 John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels has the unmatched ability to bring out the absolute best in anybody. John Cena has long been criticized for his actual wrestling abilities but when he engaged in a feud with HBK back in 2007, his best was on display. When the two were set to square-off in the main event of WrestleMania 23, there was a lot of talk going around that Cena couldn't quite perform on the same level as “Mr. WrestleMania.” However, not only was Cena victorious but he helped steal the show. Shawn Michaels would win a non-title rematch a few weeks later on Monday Night Raw in a match that lasted the entire second hour of the show. In my opinion that was the best match of John Cena's career, check it out if you have the chance (Monday Night Raw from London, England 04/23/07).
5 The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz
These three teams were responsible for the revolution of tag team wrestling as they helped redefine what it meant to be a tag team wrestler. The three teams rivaled each other mercilessly for the tag team titles. They were each unique in their own way, each with their own sense of cool despite who was meant to be the “heels” or “faces.” These six men would introduce the wrestling world to the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match at SummerSlam 2000. The match was such a success that it lead to “TLC II” at WrestleMania X-Seven. Three legendary tag teams tangled up in one amazing feud.
4 Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar are quite possibly the two most naturally-gifted athletes to ever come through WWE. With both men coming from amateur wrestling backgrounds, there was no denying that once these two met in the ring there would be fireworks. The main event of WrestleMania XIX is one of the most memorable and technically sound matches in WWE history. Who could forget Brock attempting that shooting star press from the top rope? Following that match, Angle would leave the company for a while because of a bad neck but continued to feud with Lesnar upon his return. There was never a dull moment when Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar were in the ring together.
3 Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho
The storied rivalry between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho began back in 2003 when Jericho claimed to be the “next Shawn Michaels.” In an attempt to prove himself, Jericho entered the Royal Rumble match that year as the #2 entrant since Michaels was already entering at #1. Jericho would eliminate Michaels from the match setting up an encounter at WrestleMania XIX – Michaels' first WrestleMania since 1998. HBK defeated Y2J that night and the two would head down separate paths until they met again five years later and put on a series of phenomenal matches, making this feud an absolute classic.
2 John Cena vs. Edge
John Cena has feuded with the best in the business but never has a Cena feud been as intense as the rivalry he had with Edge. The contrasting styles of these two men were a great touch to this feud. On one side you had John Cena with his hip hop style and never surrender attitude. On the other side you had Edge with his rock and roll looks and callous attitude. The series of matches from Cena and Edge felt raw and real. These two guys made it look like their was real disdain in the ring. The highlight match came at Unforgiven 2006 when John Cena defeated Edge in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match in Edge's hometown of Toronto.
1 Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
The founding members of D-Generation X have had their share of ups and downs over the years. This feud began in 2002 when Triple H attacked Michaels and smashed his head through a car window prompting HBK to make his official in-ring return at SummerSlam 2002 in an “Unsanctioned Street Fight.” The feud would last for the better part of the next two years with the former partners tearing each other apart time and time again. The monumental finale took place at Bad Blood 2004 in what may be the best Hell in a Cell match to ever take place. The title of “greatest feud of the 2000's,” without question, belongs to Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
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