It is no secret that professional wrestling is a scripted product. This gives the genre a big advantage over its sports counterparts - storytelling. Match-ups are preceded by storylines that, at least in theory, make them even more epic and get viewers invested in the competitors. Furthermore, with its predetermined nature, the actual match itself is aimed around delivering the most drama for a fulfilling payoff.
Everyone remembers the classic feuds such as Stone Cold versus The Rock and Shawn Michaels against The Undertaker, to name a few. A great many more go down forgotten in the annals of time. And it isn't hard to see why. Who would want to remember Heidenreich versus Orlando Jordan or Big Daddy V clashing with The Boogeyman? It isn’t always the fault of the talent though. A variety of factors can create a forgettable or plain bad feud.
Many a time feuds are not even remembered to the level they deserve, for better or worse. Through either nostalgia or WWE dictation, some are held in much higher esteem than they are worthy of. On the flip side, a lot of fantastic rivalries have been overlooked. Often they were lower down the card, contained an unfavorable performer, or WWE wanted the spotlight on someone else.
Here we shine the spotlight on those storylines that deserve more than they have gotten, and place some celebrated ones under the microscope.
16 Overrated: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
This entry is not about their entertaining first feud, when Orton got kicked out of Evolution, nor their DX vs. Rated RKO clashes. No, this is referencing their feud that spanned over the length of a year and half beginning at No Mercy 2007. Many could argue that the three-match series between the two that night was the highest point of this rivalry.
The two would main event two back-to-back WrestleMania events for the WWE Championship, the first also involving John Cena in a Triple Threat, and several PPVs between. The story would end up centering around their 'wives' as Orton attacked Stephanie and, in an awfully cheesy segment, Triple H would invade Orton's home (clearly on a Hollywood backlot) and attack an actress playing his wife.
To show just how overrated this dull feud is - it closed WrestleMania XXV ahead of arguably WrestleMania's greatest match, Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker.
15 Underrated: The Undertaker vs. Batista
Batista gets a bad rap from wrestling fans. He may not be the most technically gifted wrestler but if you give him the right opponent he is perfectly capable of delivering an excellent power match.
The Undertaker was such an opponent. Despite both men being faces, the two big men had a great feud that began when Undertaker won the 2007 Royal Rumble match. Needless to say, The Undertaker won the World Heavyweight Championship from The Animal at WrestleMania XXIII in the surprise standout from the show.
A month later, the two had a rematch under Last Man Standing rules and brawled to a draw after Batista speared Taker off the stage and neither man could answer the count. In a planned trilogy closer, the two faced off inside a Steel Cage on SmackDown but wrestled to another draw before Edge interjected himself and the feud abruptly ended.
14 Overrated: John Cena vs. The Rock
Born from a real-life disagreement, when The Rock returned to the WWE in 2011 he took aim at company poster boy John Cena. However, with Rocky rarely appearing in person on the show, most of the rivalry took place via satellite and with rebuttals coming the following week.
This built to the 'dream match' many fans weren't bothered about that wouldn't even take place until a year later, with an even more fragmented build. When it finally came around, it was the expected average bout. Not surprising given the inevitable ring rust of Rock and the limitations of Cena.
But at least it was 'once in a lifetime', right? Wrong. Another year later and the rematch no one asked for was now for the WWE Championship in back-to-back WrestleMania main events. The match was a unanimous let-down and the world could finally move on.
Not that it has stopped WWE from repeatedly promoting it as one of their greatest ever feuds.
13 Underrated: Hornswoggle vs. El Torito
As soon as you see the two involved, there is an instant roll of the eyes. But for those who actually watched it were pleasantly surprised. Once the comedy side is embraced, tasteless height jokes aside, Hornswoggle turning heel and joining forces with 3MB in order to try and get revenge on El Torito actually turned into a decent feud.
But the real reason why this feud is so underrated is simple. The matches between the two were actually really enjoyable. With a WeeLC Match and Hair vs. Mask match on consecutive PPVs, the two and their respective teams all contributed so much that they were some of the highlights of their shows. Most notably, the WeeLC Match was a genuinely brilliant match that utilized all 7 men to great effect. It was the only time the WWE really pushed an ongoing feud between two little guys.
12 Overrated: Sting vs. Triple H
When Sting finally debuted on WWE television at Survivor Series 2014 the world went crazy. One of wrestling’s biggest legends was in the WWE for the first time ever and he helped to oust the maligned Authority from power. The black and white Sting was best known as a vigilante against abuse of power, so the role was perfect.
However, within weeks WWE had nullified the stipulation and the impact was lessened. Sting returned a few months later to take aim at Triple H again and a match was set up for WrestleMania.
As the weeks went by it soon became apparent that the feud was changing direction and becoming a WWE vs. WCW feud, despite the hero representing the opposition. To make matters worse, Sting's arch-nemeses the nWo would illogically come to his aid during the match just to allow a DX vs. nWo stand-off.
11 Underrated: Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio
Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio have both had an endless amount of fantastic rivalries, yet their one with each other is often overlooked. Starting almost immediately after both men were traded to SmackDown in 2009, the two rivaled over Rey’s Intercontinental Championship.
Jericho was unsuccessful at his first attempt but the key was his attempt to unmask Rey during the match. While it didn’t work at Judgment Day, in their rematch at Extreme Rules the following month, Jericho would remove the mask completely during the match allowing a quick pinfall to begin a record ninth reign.
In order to get his rematch the next month, Rey agreed to unmask if he failed to win. Even then, Jericho still wanted to do it himself and removed Rey’s mask during the match only to find he was wearing another underneath, allowing Rey to take advantage.
10 Overrated: The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar - 2015
The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak is one of the most legendary achievements in professional wrestling. So if it were to end, it was expected to be in epic fashion. Certainly, no one had expected it to come at the hands of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX.
Since Lesnar’s return two years prior, his results had been mixed. Most recently, he had squashed a faded Big Show in a feud that nobody cared about. His starpower seemed to be fading, so it was viewed as a foregone conclusion in the run-up to WrestleMania that The Undertaker would be victorious once again. However, a shocking result following a flat match left the streak extinguished.
A year and a half later, Undertaker decided he wanted revenge, leading to two matches in the main events of SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell that received very mixed reactions. Unsurprisingly, only the positive ones were acknowledged.
9 Underrated: The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar - 2002
What made their recent feud so disappointing is that back in 2002, they had an absolute classic feud over the WWE Championship that also culminated inside Hell in a Cell.
Brock Lesnar’s first challenge after becoming the then youngest world champion was the man who proclaimed WWE as his yard – The Undertaker. Finally, a man who could stand up to the raw power of the newcomer.
The two had a war at Unforgiven 2001, where the two warriors continued to brawl even after they had both been disqualified. As such, the Hell in a Cell was the only place to contain them. And when you contain a war inside a cage, the result is a bloody, brutal battle in which Lesnar comes out on top. Following their feud, Brock turned face after 'Taker gave Lesnar props for beating him in his yard. It was the perfect way to establish a new star in the company.
8 Overrated: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
When Brock Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012 he targeted John Cena unsuccessfully. He was then immediately thrown into a rivalry with Triple H over ‘unreasonable contract demands’. Not exactly the most exciting reason for a monster to get heat.
Lesnar would defeat Triple H at SummerSlam and then ‘quit’ again until he returned months later to attack Vince McMahon. Triple H then put his career on the line to get a match with Brock at WrestleMania, which HHH won.
Lesnar demanded a rematch and got one inside a steel cage at Extreme Rules. He won but only with the help of his agent Paul Heyman.
Overall the rivalry was just dull, as WWE spent a year of Brock’s limited deal with what they viewed as a dream opponent in Triple H, despite fans not feeling the same. This feud really killed a lot of Lesnar's initial heat, which he wouldn't regain until defeating The Undertaker.
7 Underrated: The Miz vs. Jerry Lawler
The Miz gets a lot of stick due to his 'Real World' background but it gets overlooked that he has one of the best characters in wrestling. The sniveling heel that fans don’t believe deserves to be there but who views himself as the greatest of all time.
On the opposite side, Jerry Lawler, legendary wrestler turned announcer, who had never received a WWE Championship opportunity.
Lawler received a shot in a TLC Match that will go down as one of the best in Raw’s history and he was only stopped by the betrayal of his commentary partner, Michael Cole. Two months later and Lawler would get another shot but would fall short as the younger man bested him to retain.
Great storytelling both surrounding and within the matches made this one of the most dramatic feuds of the modern age. It's too bad this had to be followed up by a Lawler/Cole feud.
6 Overrated: John Cena vs. Edge
WWE likes to refer to Edge’s feud with Cena as the greatest of his career but fans who were watching at the time will remember is that this feud coincided with the first real mass rejection of the poster boy.
Starting when Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to take Cena’s WWE Championship only for Cena to take the belt back three weeks later, Edge didn’t get any kind of revenge until five months later when he cost Cena his championship match with Rob Van Dam.
Edge then capitalized by winning the title back himself a month later, leading to a couple of battles with Cena that would, unsurprisingly, see the latter come out on top in a feud ending TLC Match.
With the fans preferring heel Edge to Cena, the treatment of him as little more than an inconvenience in Cena’s world didn’t resonate too well with fans.
5 Underrated: Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley
Soon after joining Evolution, Randy Orton started a Legend Killer gimmick. As the name suggests, it saw the young upstart target legendary wrestlers. Unfortunately for Mick Foley, after being honoured with the retired Hardcore Championship he was the latest target.
When it came time to face Orton though, fear got the better of Foley and he chose to quit instead. Orton confronted him and spat in his face, calling him a coward. For weeks Orton continued to goad Foley and even reserved him a front-row seat at the Royal Rumble. Instead, Foley got his revenge in the match itself.
Their feud culminated in a classic match that Foley considers the best of his career at Backlash 2004. A bloody brawl that earned Orton tons of respect from the fans and was pivotal in showing he was more than just a family name.
4 Overrated: WCW vs. nWo
Hear us out. There is no denying that the nWo versus WCW storyline was hugely influential in wrestling history and a key to WCW’s success during the Monday Night War but memories of this feud has been through rose tinted glasses.
It started strong and the plaudits are earned for that. But what is overlooked is how long WCW dragged it on for, including expanding to factions within the nWo feuding with each other, reboots of the group, and the Fingerpoke of Doom.
Even during the hottest period of the group, WCW pushed the nWo too far and gave them their own PPV in the form of Souled Out - an event that was universally panned for its over-the-top heel antics.
This feud should be remembered fondly for its initial run but it should also be remembered complete with its problems.
3 Underrated: Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton
While Kofi might be hitting it out of the park right now as a part of The New Day, he should be a multi-time world champion by now.
If you need proof, look no further than his rivalry with Randy Orton. In late 2009 Kofi cost Orton his WWE Championship by stopping the interference of his Legacy stablemates and Orton went looking for revenge. But Kingston would not be intimidated by the star or his stable and fought back.
Most famously, he hit a Boom Drop from a rail in the crowd to put Orton through a table to close Raw as Madison Square Garden went nuts for him. The two rivaled for a few months following and exchanged wins until Orton’s face turn ended things.
This great feud should have been the launching point for Kingston as a main event star and although WWE dropped the ball, we still got to watch a great feud.
2 Overrated: John Cena vs. Randy Orton
It is the rivalry that WWE would consider the quintessential pairing of the current century and the two have been endlessly placed into the paths of one another. But quantity does not mean quality.
The two men have been in televised matches together almost 100 times; over 20 of these were one-on-one matches. Even the biggest fans of the two wrestlers would be getting exhausted at that point.
This isn’t even taking into account some of the bad storytelling – Orton attacked Cena’s dad on numerous occasions, a tactic also used by Edge – and the fact that the two lacked a natural chemistry that WWE and fans had clearly hoped for when the two were billed as the next Rock and Austin back in 2004. They should have learned from that Rock/Austin feud. The reason the feud was intriguing is because they rarely faced off one on one and were kept in separate storylines most of the time.
The WWE completely over-saturated this feud.
1 Underrated: Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio
In January 2011, Rey Mysterio and ‘Dashing’ Cody Rhodes had what should have been a throwaway television match. But thanks to Rey’s knee brace accidentally breaking the nose of Rhodes we were gifted with one of the best-told stories in wrestling history leading to a WrestleMania clash.
For weeks, Cody would appear backstage in darkness, refusing to show his face when interviewers would try to get an update on his health. The psychological damage was clear to see as an unhinged Cody was now ‘Undashing’ and wore a clear protective mask.
Cody was so damaged that even his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, came to SmackDown to try and talk some sense into him. In a shocking twist of events, it was all a ruse to allow Cody to unmask Rey and expose how he too hides behind his mask. This rare heel moment of Dusty shows the level of storytelling involved.