In order for encounters inside the squared circle to be remembered fondly and also be able to leave a lasting impact on the industry at large, two things need to happen. First and foremost, the wrestlers involved need to be able to read the live audience and create a match that makes the crowd get off their feet and beg for more. The second, and more difficult of the two, involves creating a storyline that fans can get behind, one that carries a blend of realistic situations and entertaining moments.
Now feuds can succeed if they are lacking somewhat in one of these two categories, but the ones that truly excel blow these requirements out of the park. Over the years, those that are true masters of their craft often find themselves in rivalries such as these, and being the experienced performers they are create moments that will live in infamy. All good things do come to an end though and it’s at the end where the performers put all their eggs in a basket to make sure they deliver a satisfying conclusion. The matches showcased here do just that, so without further ado here are the top fifteen matches that were worthy of ending historic feuds.
15 AJ Styles vs Roman Reigns (Extreme Rules 2016)
The most recent match on this list, Roman Reigns versus AJ Styles at Extreme Rules could very well be considered the best match of 2016 thus far. Heading into their second consecutive pay-per-view encounter, both men had plenty to prove, with Styles attempting to solidify his run in WWE and Reigns attempting to show that he deserves to be the flag-bearer for the company. Putting everything they had into the match, both men left a lasting impression in the ring. Battered and beaten, there were times when it seemed both men would be down for the count, but inevitably it was Reigns emerging victorious following an amazing mid-air counter into a spear. Even though Reigns would be the one holding the belt high by the end of the night, the effort Styles put forth gained him the admiration of not just the fans, but also the fellow wrestlers and officials in the back. Currently embroiled in a feud with John Cena, it’s quite possible that their encounters can earn them a spot on this list down the line.
14 Trish Stratus vs Lita (Unforgiven 2006)
When one thinks about the females who have defined women’s wrestling in WWE, the first two names that come to mind are Trish Stratus and Lita. Staples of the women’s division for several years, these women crossed paths a number of times, with each encounter against one another being even more and more memorable.
By September of 2006, it was announced that Trish would retire from in-ring competition after the Unforgiven pay-per-view. Feeling that her business with Lita was unresolved, Trish challenged Lita to put her Women’s championship on the line against her at Unforgiven, a challenge which Lita eagerly accepted. In front of her hometown crowd in Toronto, Trish would make history and win her seventh Women’s championship, making Lita tap out to the sharpshooter (a move made famous by Canadian Bret Hart). With tears streaking down her face, Trish held up her newly won championship for the last time before giving a bow to the audience, exiting the arena to cheers and applause. A magnificent athlete, Trish would return to wrestle a few times throughout the years. As for Lita, she would leave WWE a few months later at Survivor Series in what can be considered the worst sendoff in history.
13 Edge vs Chris Benoit (Backlash 2005)
Following his monumental victory in the first Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 21, it finally seemed as though Edge’s single career was about to take off. Already an established mid-carder, the win propelled Edge to the top of the RAW roster and the first opponent in his way was none other than Chris Benoit. Throughout 2004 these two men were no strangers to one another, winning the World Tag Team Championships together on two separate occasions. It was during their time as a tag team that Edge would turn heel, which allowed the stage to be set down the road for their eventual encounter.
Still seething after losing to Edge at WrestleMania, Benoit made it his mission to teach the disrespectful superstar a lesson. At Backlash 2005, these two men met in a last man standing match, where the only goal is to keep your opponent down for a ten count. Throwing everything they had at one another, neither competitor could believe that the other kept struggling to their feet. It seemed as though the match could actually go on forever…that is until Edge revealed he had something hidden in his coveted briefcase. Hitting Benoit in the back of the head with a brick, Edge managed to stand tall over the former World Heavyweight Champion, scoring a valuable victory which would help propel him to greater heights in the company.
12 Randy Orton vs Christian (SummerSlam 2011)
With the exception of John Cena versus CM Punk, there was no feud more highly praised than Randy Orton versus Christian in 2011. It all started the night after the 2011 instalment of Extreme Rules, when Christian made history and won the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time in his career. On the very next episode of SmackDown, Christian put his newly won championship on the line against Orton. Sadly Christian would lose the championship during that encounter, but that didn’t stop him from trying again and again to win it back. As the losses against Orton continued to pile up one could see Christian get more and more angry and disappointed, but still he pleaded for “one more match.”
Following a disqualification victory which awarded him the title at Money in the Bank, the stage was finally set for their final encounter at SummerSlam of that year. In an extreme rules environment, both men gave it everything they had against one another, but once again it would be Orton standing tall after a vicious RKO on the steel steps. These two would go on to have one final match against each other in a steel cage on SmackDown, but this is widely accepted by many to be the final nail in the coffin for the feud.
11 Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit (Judgement Day 2001)
At the 2001 instalment of Judgement Day, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit competed in their final encounter against one another (for a time), this time in a three stages of hell match. For weeks, Benoit had managed to keep Kurt’s prized Olympic gold medal in his possession, with Angle becoming more and more livid because of it. Before the match took place, it was declared that whoever won on that night would be the one leaving the arena with the medal. With the stakes higher than ever for the two men, they went into the match and fought like they were in somebody else’s body. Benoit would go on to win the first stage (pinfalls only), while Angle would rebound and win the second stage (submissions only). All tied up, the broken and battered competitors put in one last effort to win in the final stage, which was a ladder match. Right when it seemed as though Benoit had beaten his adversary, interference from Edge and Christian would allow Angle to ascend the ladder and regain his property. This would be the last time that these two men would face-off on pay-per-view until 2002’s Unforgiven event.
10 The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar (Hell in a Cell 2015)
Starting back in 2002, the rivalry between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker is one filled with many monumental moments. Everyone knows about the more recent WrestleMania XXX encounter when Lesnar broke The Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak, but there were many more matches that took place. In fact, Lesnar versus Undertaker took place at six different pay-per-view events, with matches ranging from traditional one on ones, all the way to Hell in a Cell and Biker Chain matches. It can be argued that the feud these two carried out over the years may be the best out of both men’s respective careers. Sooner or later, all good things must come to an end though and, in terms of this feud, the end took place at last year’s Hell in a Cell event. The match itself was everything we had hoped it would be: barbaric, bloody, and so brutal that it lived up to the legacy the Cell had maintained throughout the years. Following an F-5 on an exposed portion of the ring, Lesnar would finally conquer his biggest rival, proving once and for all that he is truly a once in a lifetime athlete.
9 DX vs The McMahon’s & Big Show (Unforgiven 2006)
When Triple H and Shawn Michaels decided to reunite in 2006, they did so primarily to earn the ire of Mr. McMahon and his son Shane. No matter what the McMahon family threw at DX, they continued to stand, whether they sent the Spirit Squad or tried to handle things themselves. After losing to DX at SummerSlam of that year, the McMahons decided that things were far from over between the four men. Bringing then ECW Champion Big Show into the mix as extra muscle, Vince and Shane declared that DX would face them at Unforgiven in a three on two Hell in a Cell match. With the deck stacked heavily against DX, it seemed an absolute certainty that the group had just been given their death sentence (a fact Jim Ross made clear). However, the resiliency of Michaels and Triple H was underestimated and they managed to annihilate their competitors one by one until only the evil chairman remained. Bloody and on his knees, Vince looked up at the bright lights before being whacked in the back of the head with a sledgehammer, knocking him out cold and allowing DX to win the match and rivalry.
8 Mick Foley vs Randy Orton (Backlash 2004)
Back in 2004, Randy Orton was a solid two year member of the main roster and one fourth of the group known as Evolution. Taking in knowledge from his mentors Ric Flair and Triple H, Orton managed to find success in the group very quickly. Winning the Intercontinental Championship at Armageddon 2003 and holding it for seven months served as a means to intensify Orton’s ego, which in turn led to a feud with the Hardcore Legend Mick Foley. Despite the years of experience Foley possessed, he could never find a way to stand tall over the arrogant youngster.
After losing to Evolution at WrestleMania XX, Foley decided to challenge Orton to one final match at Backlash. This time there wouldn’t be anyone to aid Orton and in an extra twist the match was declared to be a hardcore match, with Orton’s Intercontinental title on the line. Being put in a must-win situation light a fire under Orton and even after being put through thumbtacks and tables, he still managed to hang with Foley. Taking advantage of a prone barbed wire bat in the ring, Orton would hit the RKO on Foley directly on the bat, which in turn allowed Orton to gain a big win over the legend. His momentum was stronger than it ever had been before, Orton would use this win to catapult himself to the main event scene for the rest of 2004.
7 Mr. McMahon vs Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania XIX)
In front of one the largest crowds in WrestleMania history, Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon looked to settle their long standing feud in the middle of the squared circle. Drawing upon real-life scenarios such as Hogan’s departure to WCW and the infamous steroid scandal during the 1990s, the feud seemed more realistic and sincere than many other programs at the time. Although their prime was long gone, Hogan and McMahon put everything into both the lead-up to the match and the encounter itself. One of the coolest spots of the match occurred at the halfway point, when a bloody McMahon climbed up a ladder and delivered Hogan’s own leg drop to him, driving both men through the announce table at ringside. Add interference by Rowdy Roddy Piper and a crooked referee into the mix, and it seemed as though things were bleak for Hogan. However, the power of Hulkamania persevered, and after hitting the infamous leg drop not one but three times, Hogan scored the pinfall over his arch nemesis.
6 Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels (No Mercy 2008)
Although most fans will agree that the greatest encounter between Michaels and Jericho occurred at WrestleMania XIX, it wouldn’t be until 2008 that we saw the magic that these two men could create together. It all started when Michaels entered into a feud with Batista after WrestleMania XXIV. After feigning an injury to his leg to win a match against Batista, Michaels began to face skepticism from Jericho and the tension between the two continued to rise until a Jericho heel turned really turned things up a notch. They would go on to trade victories against one another, with Jericho winning the first match at the Great American Bash and Michaels evening the score at Unforgiven. By the time No Mercy rolled around, Jericho was the current World Heavyweight Champion, and it was announced that the two men would compete in a ladder match for the title.
With both competitors heavily experienced in ladder matches, fans everywhere expected to see some memorable moments. This match provided such moments, but it would be the conclusion that had everyone talking. As both men grabbed the hanging championship belt, they would perform a tug of war, desperately trying to secure the title. However, on this night, Jericho reigned supreme, hitting Michaels off the ladder and managing to retain his championship.
5 Stone Cold vs Triple H (No Way Out 2001)
Before they dominated the professional wrestling scene as the Two Man Power Trip, Austin and Triple H were embroiled in a hellacious rivalry. It all started when Austin returned from neck surgery in September of 2000. Conducting his own investigation as to who ran him over at Survivor Series 1999 and cost him nearly a year of his career, Austin was stunned when he learned the culprit was Triple H. Vowing to exact revenge, Austin made Triple H’s life a living hell, at one point even dropping him and his car off a fully extended forklift.
By the time No Way Out rolled around, fans eagerly awaited the clash between two of the most bad-ass characters to ever step foot inside the squared circle. The fact that this was declared to be a three stages of hell match only intensifies matters and people everywhere wondered who would emerge victorious. As soon as the bell rang it was full speed ahead, both men giving the match everything they had. By the conclusion of the third and final stage, both men were battered and beaten, but on this night it was Triple H who managed to topple Austin. Despite the loss, Austin would still have a dominant run in 2001, while Triple H would end up on the sidelines by May due to a torn quad.
4 Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk (SummerSlam 2013)
Labelled as “The Beast versus The Best,” Lesnar and Punk’s clash at SummerSlam will always be remembered as a dream match that delivered on all fronts. The build-up to the match started before the 2013 instalment of Money in the Bank, when Lesnar showed up on RAW to F-5 fellow Paul Heyman guy, CM Punk. Confused as to why Lesnar chose to attack him, Punk went to Heyman to ask for answers, but the conniving Heyman claimed he had nothing to do with it. He would later reveal that he did formulate the attack, all because CM Punk had broken and thrown away their friendship. While the claim wasn’t accurate, Heyman had managed to get Lesnar to go after Punk and so Punk was in for the fight of his life.
Even with the odds stacked again him, Punk didn’t back down from the challenge, and at SummerSlam he gave Lesnar the fight of his life. The match itself revolved around the clash of speed versus power, with Lesnar taking the advantage early on. Punk would in turn come back and nearly had the match won several times, but distractions by Heyman at ringside allowed Lesnar to regain control. After nearly twenty minutes of in-ring action, Lesnar would F-5 Punk directly onto a steel chair, and a few moments later he earned a well-deserved victory.
3 John Cena vs CM Punk (RAW: February 25th, 2013)
Making headlines all around the world for his infamous “pipe bomb” promo in 2011, CM Punk used that time in the spotlight to secure a spot in the main event scene. Not long after he shocked the world, CM Punk won the WWE Championship not once but twice in 2011, but it was his second reign that became historic. For 434 days, CM Punk managed to hold on to the WWE Championship, somehow managing to survive every challenge that came his way. Losing the championship to The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble did little damage to the ego of Punk, because he still felt confident he would main event WrestleMania XXIX.
Coming out to the ring the day after the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Punk challenged John Cena to put his spot in the WrestleMania main event on the line against him. Bringing up the fact that Cena had never defeated him beforehand, Punk goaded Cena into accepting the challenge. Cena accepted and what followed has to be considered one of the best matches in RAW history. Both men realized what was at stake and fought tooth and nail, pulling out moves long forgotten. such as the piledriver. At the conclusion of the match, Cena would hit one of the worst looking hurricanranas of all time before hitting the AA for the three count. His confidence better than ever, Cena would use the momentum to beat Rock weeks later and win the WWE Championship yet again.
2 The Rock vs Austin III (WrestleMania XIX)
By 2003, The Rock was ready to continue his transition from the world of professional wrestling to an acting career in Hollywood. After defeating Hulk Hogan at No Way Out, Rock claimed that there was only one thing he had left to accomplish in WWE. On two different occasions (WrestleMania XV & X-Seven), Rock had made his way down to the ring to confront his rival Steve Austin, but both times he was unsuccessful in winning. It was obvious that those losses had an effect on Rock’s ego, so when he came out on an episode of RAW to confront Austin, many knew what was coming.
Challenging Austin to a match at WrestleMania XIX, Rock promised the world that the third time would indeed be the charm for The Great One. Not only was this deemed to be the final match between the two men, but as it turns out health issues caused Austin to retire immediately after this match. Despite the ongoing issues, Austin still went out and competed, defiant until the end. It took a total of three Rock Bottoms, but The Rock was finally able to beat Austin at WrestleMania. Once the match had concluded, Rock took a moment to say a few private and heartfelt words to Austin in the ring. He then made his way to the back, allowing Austin to have the ring to himself, a final salute to one of the greatest of all time.
1 The End of an Era (WrestleMania XXVIII)
Before he lost to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX, The Undertaker had a string of five-star matches on the grandest stage of them all. All of them stole the show, but there was one match in particular the stands tall above the rest. After retiring Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXVI, Undertaker found a new foe in the form of Triple H. the two men faced off at WrestleMania XXVII with The Undertaker barley pulling out the win, but in doing so was unable to leave the arena under his own power.
Because of this, The Undertaker claimed that his win over Triple H meant nothing, so in turn he challenged Triple H to another encounter. Once Triple H accepted the challenge, it was announced that Shawn Michaels was going to be the guest referee and the match itself would take place inside Hell in a Cell. For over twenty minutes, the three men told an incredible story in the ring and by the conclusion we truly felt as though we’d seen the end of an era. Emerging victorious yet again at WrestleMania, Undertaker would help Triple H up to his feet, before embracing both him and Michaels at the top of the ramp in a heartwarming moment.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!