101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die
Welcome To The Top Ten
871 days have passed since I started this series.
That’s two years, four months and eighteen days, for a more definable perspective.
In that time, the first half of the series was unfortunately lost to cyber oblivion following a board reset. One day, those columns may be re-posted, but for now progress must be made. I want to say thank you to all those who have stuck with me this far, because while the vast majority of this series has now been completed, there remains much more to do.
As we reach the top ten, I felt it was only proper to once again revisit the list as a whole. My previous column, The Story So Far…, did this once already back in February of this year. However, today I woke with the series in my head and felt it suitable to give the final ten entries, the ten most must see matches in all of WWE history, their own introduction. A prologue, if you will.
Below, you will find an exhaustive list of all the matches so far documented, from the first, posted all the way back in April of 2011, to the most recent, posted only eight days ago. Links to view said matches have been provided, but note that many of them have, unfortunately, been taken down. Said links have, naturally, been excluded as a result.
I hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane, and I’ll see you at the bottom of this column!
101. Bret “Hitman” Hart defends the WWF Championship against Diesel at Survivor Series 1995.
~ Selected as a historic entry, this rather over-rated and, frankly, tepid affair witnessed the first ever take on what has now become WWE’s very own colloquialism. I am, of course, talking about the infamous Spanish Announce Table Bump.
Click here to watch Bret Hart vs. Diesel Part I.
Click here to watch Bret Hart vs. Diesel Part II.
100. Money in the Bank Ladder Match at Wrestlemania XXVI.
~ Selected due to its inherently poor quality. As an on-going critic of the Money in the Bank format, and someone all too willing to witness its flaws in any iteration, it was this botch-ridden and over-booked mess that presented to me the format in its purest form: an aberration. In other words, it is everything that the Money in the Bank concept is.
Click here to watch Kofi Kingston vs. Jack Swagger vs. Christian vs. Matt Hardy vs. Kane vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Evan Bourne vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin.
99. Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon in a Street Fight from Monday Night Raw, 2008.
~ Selected due to Flair’s presentation within the ring. A sloppy and flawed performance to say the least, this was the last match to really highlight The Nature Boy’s age, making a morose point of how past his prime one of the greatest ever had become and how tragic an epilogue his career had been given.
98. Big Show vs. Kane from Monday Night Raw, 2006.
~ Selected for no particularly deep meaning or wider issue, the match itself represents the farce inherent within pro wrestling as a performance art, in the most positivistic sense. Unlike most encounters these two had, for the duration of this relatively short match, they chain wrestle. Two giants chain wrestle and chain wrestle well.
Click here to watch Big Show vs. Kane.
97. DDP defends the European Championship against Christian at Wrestlemania X-8.
~ Selected because of its fluidity, its execution and its generally five-star ring work. While not of any major importance, as a match it highlights two brilliantly skilled performers putting on a brilliant yet often forgotten encounter that simply proves how criminally treated both men were and are by the WWE.
Click here to watch DDP vs. Christian Part I.
Click here to watch DDP vs. Christian Part II.
96. Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick Martel in a Blindfold Match at Wrestlemania VII.
~ Selected not because of the skill of Roberts or the showcasing of the often undervalued Martel, but rather because of the ridiculous gimmick being worked to perfection by both performers. This was the first “How to” instalment, providing example of how to make a dumb-ass gimmick work.
95. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at the Maple Leaf Gardens on July 26th, 1986.
~ Not a part of the original list, this match was selected to replace its to-be-unnamed predecessor in order to make room for a tribute to the then recently-deceased Randy Savage, who perished in a tragic heart attack induced car accident. Searching under Savage’s name, this match was one of the first Youtube videos to be presented and was selected due to its showcasing just how far ahead of his time Randy Savage had always been as a performer. Thank you, Randy.
94. Umaga vs. Mick Foley from Monday Night Raw, 2007.
~ While technically not a match, due to it being thrown out before the bell even tolled, this particular encounter was picked because of its tease to a dream match we will, unfortunately, never be able to see: the monstrous beast Umaga, known for his primal scream and raw power, against that crazy son of a bitch, Mrs Foley’s Baby Boy. Admittedly, this was one choice unduly influenced by this author’s personal taste.
93. William Regal vs. Chris Benoit at No Mercy 2006.
~ Selected because of its in-ring action proving, in this writer’s eyes, the stance on what pro wrestling is, being a performance art, is an accurate one. The exhibition supplied by two painters of the wrestling canvas is one for the ages and proves, in mere minutes, every one of the thousands of words I have spent defending wrestling as a performance art over the years.
Click here to watch William Regal vs. Chris Benoit.
92. The Royal Rumble Match of 1994.
~ While not the greatest of Rumble bouts over the years, this one, of a number of personal favourites of mine, was picked for more objective reasons. Within its duration, it executes a majority of stereotypical elements one has come to associate with a Rumble bout. In other words, this match was effectively selected as the “How to” edition of Royal Rumbles.
91. John Cena defends the WWE Championship against CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011.
~ This culmination to the hottest WWE angle in many years was picked because of its perceived future historical significance. The column itself was written at a time prior to the event taking place and touted its likelihood to change the WWE landscape. It did, to a debatable extent, and would eventually earn a five star rating from Dave Meltzer.
90. Bret “Hitman” Hart defends the WWF Championship against The British Bulldog at In Your House: Seasons Beatings.
~ While another example of personal subjectivity, this encounter was also selected to highlight a dangerous element of the pro wrestling world, often ignored by its fiercest critics – blading. Within the bout, the Hitman blades to impressive effect and, as a result, this title defence was picked to support Hart’s own proposition that such dedication is relatable to those actors that opt for excessive changes to their weight for the sake of their upcoming role, with De Niro’s alteration in Raging Bull being the chosen example.
89. ECW on Raw, 1995.
~ Technically something of a cheat, this more generalised selection was utilised as a means to evidence what effective cross promotion can achieve. With this particular example being met with great success, this handful of short matches was used as evidence to propose that the future of pro wrestling may not lie in direct competition, but rather company-to-company cooperation.
88. The Rock vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania XXVIII.
~ Another example of a match selected and reviewed prior to its actually taking place, this historic encounter was selected, first of all because of its perceived historical significance, like the Punk/Cena encounter, but also because it explored the modern issues of the mark to smark divide.
87. Randy Orton vs. Shane McMahon in a No Holds Barred Match at No Way Out 2009.
~ Selected because of the impressive performance from Randy Orton, not from a physical or technical standpoint, but rather from his exampled ability to wrestle entirely in character, without any perceivable chinks in the armour or lapses into reality. This particular match was a perfect example of character performance.
Click here to watch Shane McMahon vs. Randy Orton.
86. Triple H defends the WWE Championship against Randy Orton at The 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania.
~ In what proved a controversial selection, this main event was highlighted because, despite its strength as an in-ring encounter, it is oft vilified as being one of the worst Wrestlemania main events of all time. When objectively viewed, the match was a tight knit, effectively performed culmination of a hot angle, killed only because it followed the wrong match. As a result, it stands as testament to how important the right match order can be.
85. Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle in a Street Fight at King of the Ring 2001.
~ A match selected for a very simple reason, in that it shows professional wrestlers at their most ballsy. It is a match consisting of gutsy performances and true grit, another dedication to the unknown virtues of the athletes that make up this industry.
84. Chris Jericho vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Backlash 2009.
~ Picked for its easily under-estimated dream match qualities, this match also, as a second reason, provided a memorable swansong for The Dragon.
Click here to watch Chris Jericho vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
83. Shawn Michaels defends the Intercontinental Championship against Marty Jannetty, from Monday Night Raw, 1993.
~ The 1993 Match of the Year wasn’t picked because of its undeserved accolade, but rather because of its ability to raise much required questions over the concept of tag team wrestling, the flaws of tag team break ups and the origins of that infamous phrase, “He’s the Jannetty.”
Click here to watch Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty.
82. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit wrestle for the vacant United States Championship at Vengeance 2003.
~ Because we remember.
81. Hulk Hogan defends the WWF Championship against André the Giant at Wrestlemania III.
~ Selected as another historic instalment, this match carries not only obvious historical significance but also raises interesting questions as to Hogan’s qualities as a performer and whether or not he was simply the right character at the right time.
80. Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels at Summerslam 2005.
~ This match was picked because it acts as an effective warning to wrestlers, organisations and fans alike as to just how much damage can be done to the in-ring presentation of this wonderful industry when egos aren’t checked at the door.
79. The Triangle Ladder Match for the Tag Team Championships at Wrestlemania 2000.
~ An innovation chosen, once again, for its historical significance. While not the tag team match that redefined the Ladder Match format, it was perhaps the one that cemented its potential as a pay-per-view draw, serving as the predecessor for the perennial fan favourite, TLC.
Click here to watch the WWF Tag Team Championship Triangle Ladder Match.
78. Smackdown’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match at Money in the Bank 2010.
~ While the previous Money in the Bank selection was chosen for its exhibition of everything the format is at its heart, this specific episode was chosen for the opposite reason – it shows everything the format can become when booked and worked properly.
77. Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar in a dream match.
~ Listed at the time as a dream match, this was an encounter that was then thought to be highly unlikely, if not nigh impossible. It also lauded Triple H as the only really interesting opponent left for Brock Lesnar to combat, if Lesnar were to only wrestle one last but relevant match.
76. Chris Jericho defends the Undisputed Championship against The Rock at Royal Rumble 2002.
~ Chosen for two reasons, this is a match that not only portrays all the reasons as to why Chris Jericho fell from grace during his first run as the man carrying the heaviest load, but, in a more positive sense, portrays everything two wrestlers can achieve when their chemistry is just right.
75. Dolph Ziggler vs. Batista from Monday Night Raw, 2008.
~ Another pick influenced by this author’s particular beliefs, this debut of Dolph Ziggler was selected as another historical entry. Ziggler will one day be a major star and his talent shone through vividly in his debut; I said it at the time and I say it now, this is going to be an easily-forgotten but extremely historically important debut.
Click here to watch Batista vs. Dolph Ziggler.
74. Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle at Summerslam 2002.
~ While selected simply because of its sheer unadulterated quality, the more technical, albeit minor reason for this bout’s inclusion was because of its effectiveness as a curtain jerker. It remains one of the best ever.
73. CM Punk defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Jeff Hardy in a Loser Leaves Town Steel Cage Match from Smackdown, 2009.
~ Not only a fantastic title match, this entry’s purpose was because of its exhibition of an old school mentality present in its in-ring execution, one that seemingly took its cue from the less is more approach of the Bret/Owen Hart cage match in the summer of 1994; it would be an unlikely but welcome change for such mentality to spread among the current roster.
72. Bret “Hitman” Hart defends the WWF Championship against Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX.
~ Something of another cheat, this entry also included the subsequent “title defence” of Yokozuna against Hulk Hogan. This ‘Mania main event and its criminal epilogue were selected as must see for the simple reason that one has to see Hulk’s ego at play to truly believe it.
71. The Royal Rumble Match of 1999.
~ Selected due to its unique nature; where most Royal Rumbles are thirty man affairs, this particular match proved to be a Rumble of only two - Austin and McMahon.
70. The Iron Sheik defends the WWF Championship against Hulk Hogan at Madison Square Garden, 1984.
~ Another example of a piece of WWE history, it was this title change that witnessed the birth of the phenomenon that would eventually lead us to professional wrestling as we know it today. This was the birth of Hulkamania.
69. Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan from NXT, 2010.
~ While in the days since this review was posted, this is a match that may have garnered some increased historical significance, at the time it was selected as another “How to” piece, showcasing, as it does, an incredibly effective debut match and proving the WWE were behind Bryan from day one, perhaps even with a view to a long-term master plan.
Click here to watch Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan.
68. Hulk Hogan vs. Mr McMahon in a Street Fight at Wrestlemania XIX.
~ Vince McMahon, whether one likes it or not, enjoys wrestling matches in big league situations. Of his many attempts at a match, this remains his best.
67. Christian defends the ECW Championship against William Regal, from ECW in the UK, 2009.
~ A match selected for mainly personal reasons, given that I was in the crowd at the time it happened, on a less obvious level it was picked for showcasing Regal in a big match situation, proving his unfortunately curtailed push in 2008 towards the upper echelon would have worked.
Click here to watch William Regal vs. Christian Part I.
Click here to watch William Regal vs. Christian Part II.
66. The Rock defends the WWF Championship against Mankind in a No Disqualifications Match from Monday Night Raw, 1999.
~ Along with the historical example of the birth of Hulkamania, this history centred entry was picked for its marking the decisive turning point in the Monday Night Wars, along with exampling the tone of the entire Attitude Era in a single brief but emotional performance.
65. Dean Malenko defends the Lightheavyweight Championship against Scotty 2 Hotty at Backlash 2000.
~ While hardly a major match from years gone by, this little remembered performance was picked for its showing, in a single match, just what cruiserweights could achieve in the WWE. But more importantly, it was picked because of its perceivable status as a memorial to the much more company-unique Lightheavyweight Division, and all the issues that derive from that distinction.
64. Mark Henry defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Big Show at Survivor Series 2011.
~ Big Show is close to 500 pounds. He did a top rope elbow drop, for fucks sake. While that highlights the potential of Show to be labelled the best big man of all time…it’s a 500 pound man doing a fucking top rope elbow drop!
63. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania XIX.
~ Selected not just because of its capability to be viewed as a perfectly performed match, but because, I would argue, it could and should be viewed as the spiritual successor to the incredibly influential Savage/Steamboat bout from ‘Mania III.
62. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan in a Champion vs. Champion Match at Bragging Rights 2010.
~ Chosen for the simple fact, like #74, it’s simply an awesome match, a fact highlighted by WWE.com choosing it as the 2010 Match of the Year over the likes of the much more fetishized Michaels/’Taker II bout at ‘Mania XXVI, it also happens to showcase two modern wrestlers favouring storytelling over false finish – the results speak for themselves.
61. Randy Orton vs. Edge from Monday Night Raw, 2007.
~ This entry provides yet another personal favourite of mine and was selected because of its status, in my mind, as the greatest ever example of a Heel vs. Heel match, a highlight of what wonders could have been, had this feud culminated at Wrestlemania 27 instead, and a tribute to what any heel/heel dynamic can achieve when the two men involved are talented enough.
60. The Nexus vs. Team Cena in a 7 on 7 Elimination Tag Team Match at Summerslam 2010.
~ This recent epic provided us with not only one of the best Summerslam main events in recent memory, but also went a long way to proving that tag team style wrestling can still main event pay-per-views, can still provide big match situations, can still feel like major occasions and, most importantly, can still matter; all are factors with far-reaching ramifications in the modern tag-doubting days.
Click here to watch Team WWE vs. The Nexus Part I.
Click here to watch Team WWE vs. The Nexus Part II.
59. The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in a dream match.
~ For years the debate has raged as to who the most talented star of the Attitude Era threesome really was. It was a match we were teased with, but always denied. During a time when the WWE obsesses over its past stars, and mythologises this given era especially, it’s an issue and a match this writer would love to witness.
58. Kurt Angle defends the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XIX.
~ This match was picked very simply, not just for the fact it perhaps remains, to this day, the best show closing match at a Wrestlemania in terms of in-ring quality, but also because it is perhaps the only time when pure wrestling main evented Wrestlemania.
57. Bret “Hitman” Hart defends the WWF Championship against Owen Hart in a Steel Cage Match at Summerslam 1994.
~ This edition of the series provided us with the first “How to” selection in a long time. Linking back to #73, the two Hart brothers put on a master class in simplicity and what it can achieve, showing the world how to perform in a steel cage; particularly notable is the lack of blood, which is an especially relevant factor in today’s PG Era.
56. Mick Foley vs. The Next Generation in a dream match.
~ Another dream match enters the list in a column that asked for the Hardcore Legend to apply his star-making magic one final time to any member of the next crop of stars. While that seems both unlikely and perhaps a little unwise, it is always something worth dreaming of.
55. John Cena defends the WWE Championship against Triple H at Wrestlemania 22.
~ This match was selected as a tribute to the role live crowds can play when it comes to determining the quality of matches. The antithesis of #86, this entry goes to prove just how much a crowd can increase the perceived quality of a relatively average and cliché ridden match, creating one of the most memorable Wrestlemania main events of Cena’s career.
Click here to watch John Cena vs. Triple H.
54. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar with special referee Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XX.
~ A match selected not only because of its “so bad it’s just plain bad” nature, as well as its car crash qualities, but also because it highlights the long term dangers of superman booking, in which young stars are pushed to the top with no real sense of paying dues – the careers of both Goldberg and Lesnar being, arguably, examples of such.
53. Undertaker vs. Mankind in a Hell in a Cell Match at King of the Ring 1998.
~ A match that serves as a perfect defence to the critics that say pro wrestling just isn’t real. As JR exclaims, “And they say he knows how to fall! Give me a break.”
52. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair in a Career Threatening Match at Wrestlemania XXIV.
~ Where #99 evidences the tragic reality of what Ric Flair’s career descended into, it is this entry that provides a match showing the Ric Flair worth remembering – the one who goes down begging for more and retires with visible passion in his eyes.
51. Triple H defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels in a Triple Threat Match at Wrestlemania XX.
~ Much like the preceding entry, this match was selected for providing a memory of Chris Benoit worth remembering, as well as it being the bout that redefined the triple threat, debuting spots and set pieces still repeated to this day.
50. Chris Benoit defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a Triple Threat Match at Backlash 2004.
~ This match was picked for two specific reasons, linked immediately to its predecessor the month before; whereas #51 provides a memory of Chris Benoit worth remembering, it is this entry that provides the validation of his career and his pursuit of recognition as one of the best in the world, mainly because he is one third of a rare example of the sequel being better than the original, in itself the second aforementioned reason.
49. Team Orton vs. Team Kingston in a Traditional 5 on 5 Elimination Tag Team Match at Survivor Series 2009.
~ Another “How to” entry that shows the world how to book a Survivor Series match to great effect, achieving multiple goals through various techniques and proving this format is still an entertaining one, possessing unique properties no other format shares.
48. Undertaker defends the Undisputed Championship against The Rock and Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat Match at Vengeance 2002.
~ Another negatively-centred entry, this time highlighting, in a much beloved match, the ingratiating results of over-using a false finish, and the cheapness in tone that such a tactic leads to. This match is the definition of that over-use.
Click here to watch The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker.
47. The Rock vs. The Hurricane from Monday Night Raw, 2003.
~ This is the match that best serves as a defence to the critics and criticisms aimed endlessly at the unique oddity in wrestling history that is The Rock.
Click here to watch The Rock vs. The Hurricane.
46. Bret “Hitman” Hart defends the WWF Championship against The 1-2-3 Kid, from Monday Night Raw, 1994.
~ Another “How to” entry, this time showcasing a perfect example of how to tell an underdog story, without making anyone look worse going out than they did coming in. It also possesses the virtue of showing how, in booking such an underdog story, any perceived jobber can immediately become a star.
Click here to watch Bret Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid Part I.
Click here to watch Bret Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid Part II.
45. Shawn Michaels defends the WWF Championship against Mankind at In Your House: Mind Games.
~ While notable for its grit and a tone that was before its time, in WWE history at least, this match was specifically selected for its example of how useful and effective it can be, in booking monthly title defences, to integrate feuds of which the champion is not a part into said title defences. It avoids monotony, feels more legitimately competitive and makes good use of a wider cross-section of an active roster.
Click here to watch Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind.
44. Alundra Blayze and Kyoko Inoue vs. Aja Kong and Tomoko Watanabe from Monday Night Raw, 1995.
~ While a far from perfect match, this entry was chosen for the simple fact it was deemed, by myself, to be the final match in WWE in which the women were emphasised, promoted and competed like wrestlers, with no talk of puppies, no innuendo and no denigrating quasi-sexism. In that sense, it is the last pure women’s wrestling in WWE history.
43. Triple H defends the WWE Championship in a Last Man Standing Match against Randy Orton at No Mercy 2007.
~ An underrated and unfairly forgotten classic, this was the best Last Man Standing Match the company has ever provided, possessing a perfectly judged rhythm, tone, brutality and story. Not only that, but it went a long way to proving that the often maligned partnership of Orton and Triple H, one that very much defined its era, was one that possessed a great deal of chemistry and provided memorable encounters, contrary to popular belief.
Click here to watch Randy Orton vs. Triple H.
42. Jeff Hardy defends the World Heavyweight Championship against CM Punk in a TLC Match at Summerslam 2009.
~ The first, and so far only entry in the series to be posted exclusively on the main page, this instalment highlighted the match’s status as the most effectively performed one-on-one TLC match of all time, promoting its virtues of discourse and structure and providing another “How to” chapter to the series, this time putting on a clinic as regards to the specific stipulation.
Click here to watch Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk.
41. Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania X-8.
~ A precursor to #88 provides another historical pick of great significance, being perhaps the most memorable and well-loved dream match to this day, but also representing the first major transition from wrestling pop culture generation to wrestling pop culture generation. This is a match that lives in infamy, for all the right reasons.
Click here to watch Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock.
40. Kurt Angle vs. John Cena from Smackdown, 2002.
~ Not only does this debut carry great importance because of how huge a star Cena would become, and how instrumental he was in dictating the course of the next ten years, but also because, quite honestly, this may be the single most memorable debut match in WWE history.
Click here to watch Kurt Angle vs. John Cena.
39. The Royal Rumble Match of 1992.
~ Much like #95, this was another last minute edit to the series, chosen because of the revelation I had upon watching it in anticipation for this year’s Rumble; 1992, with the addition of the WWF Championship being on the line, would become the year in which the Rumble stopped being a novelty and became something much more important. After 1992, the Rumble would always carry the stipulation of earning a title match at Wrestlemania; the rest, as they say, is history.
38. Mankind defends the WWF Championship against The Rock in an “I Quit” Match at Royal Rumble 1999.
~ We reach familiar territory as we hit the entry that showcases the prime candidate to be named the five star Attitude Era match. Providing a spiritual sequel to #53 and a tonal predecessor to the title match that would follow a year later, this is a unique match in its ability to tread the line between performed violence and physicality so realistic it borders on genuine brutality.
Click here to watch The Rock vs. Mankind.
37. The Two Man Power Trip defend the Tag Team Championships against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho, from Monday Night Raw, 2001.
~ While carrying various other virtues, such as its match quality and star power, this tag bout was selected specifically, once again, for its historical significance – this match saw Triple H tear his first quad and, upon his return, that event could quite possibly be solely responsible for the insecure and self-congratulatory divisive figure The Game has become.
Click here to watch The Two Man Power Trip vs. Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho.
36. John Cena vs. The Undertaker from Monday Night Raw, 2006.
~ This fairly unrecognised and short-lived match was selected because it could very possibly act as the blueprint for an encounter between the two on a much larger scale – specifically Wrestlemania – and, through that element, highlights the benefits of what such a match would have, particularly for Cena.
Click here to watch The Undertaker vs. John Cena.
35. Edge and The Undertaker wrestle for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship in a TLC Match at One Night Stand 2008.
~ A match chosen for a specific and perhaps divisive reason, highlighting my own opinion that this should have been the last match The Undertaker wrestled for the WWE thanks to its poignant ending.
34. Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior wrestle for the WWF and Intercontinental Championships at Wrestlemania VI
~ This all-time epic of a guilty pleasure may not be the greatest display of professional wrestling you’ll ever see, but thanks to its brash volume and innocent pantomime it is an incredibly unapologetic performance that actively indulges in pro wrestling’s worst but oftentimes most entertaining aspects.
Click here to watch The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan.
33. The New Brood vs. Edge and Christian in a Tag Team Ladder Match at No Mercy, 1999
~ The real genre-redefinition so often attributed to the Wrestlemania X Ladder match, this entry may be high on bravado and light on psychology but it is, nonetheless, a wildly entertaining iteration of a stipulation yet to be marred by over-exposure.
Click here to watch Edge and Christian vs. The New Brood Part I.
Click here to watch Edge and Christian vs. The New Brood Part II.
32. Shawn Michaels defends the WWF Championship against The Undertaker in a Casket Match at Royal Rumble 1998
~ A somewhat disappointingly bloated sequel to the combatant’s earlier duo of matches, this bout is nevertheless a prime piece of company history that, if it had not happened, would have had consequences reverberating through all of WWE history. When Shawn Michaels broke his back in this encounter, it created a watershed moment for WWE’s history, plain and simple.
Click here to watch The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels.
31. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts from This Tuesday In Texas, 1991
~ A simple match with a clear old school aesthetic, this particular entry was selected more for its post-match beat down on Savage and Miss Elizabeth; a humourless expression of edgy violence that lacks the melodrama of similar instances decades later, it is a genuinely pioneering moment ahead of its time that has not been repeated since.
Click here to watch Jake Roberts vs. Randy Savage Part I.
Click here to watch Jake Roberts vs. Randy Savage Part II.
30. Randy Orton vs. The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 21
~ A lean encounter sadly overlooked due to its presence on a wholly top quality undercard, this match is very much must see for starting the trend now referred to as The Streak at Wrestlemania. It is the first of its kind, creating a Wrestlemania sub-genre all its own that continues to this very day, and, admirably, remains one of the better entries to boot.
29. CM Punk vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
~ Whether these two ever wrestle remains to be seen, but certainly it would provide an interesting allegory for WWE’s product of then and now, represented by the philosophical differences of the two characters involved, as well as giving CM Punk the final push he needs to “go over the top”.
28. Kurt Angle defends the World Heavyweight Championship against The Undertaker at No Way Out 2006
~ A Shakespearian classic of Dickensian scale, this magnum opus, and personal favourite of the author, is an entry selected primarily because it’s simply that good. While it does highlight the fact this pairing has become the Wrestlemania main event we never got but, perhaps, should have, its discussion deserves to be focussed singularly on the action, such is its sublime accomplishment.
Click here to watch The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle.
27. Money in the Bank Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 21
~ In a very clear case of the first being the best, this is a bout that stands as an example of the approach needed for its stipulation to be truly successful, while simultaneously highlighting the downfalls of WWE’s approach to these matches today.
Click here to watch Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian vs. Edge vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Kane.
26. Diesel defends the WWF Championship against Bret “Hitman” Hart at Royal Rumble 1995
~ Much like #28, this personal favourite, a last minute replacement of its unnamed predecessor, stands as a forgotten highlight of the careers of both involved, representing how to perfectly present character progression in a wrestling ring, and executed in incredibly intense fashion.
Click here to watch Bret Hart vs. Diesel.
25. Owen Hart defends the Intercontinental Championship against Stone Cold Steve Austin at Summerslam 1997
~ Another historical entry, this match is a curious thing, providing a solid foundation before veering unexpectedly into injury to create another watershed moment in company history. As such, it is a fascinating historical article that presents an infinite number of What Ifs.
Click here to watch Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart.
24. Randy Orton defends the Intercontinental Championship against Cactus Jack in a Hardcore Match at Backlash 2004
~ This show-stealer provides further evidence to substantiate the already established fact that no one was better at creating main event stars overnight than Mick Foley. But more importantly, it stands as a reaffirmation that the hardcore concept had a purpose, solidifying Foley, not as the Hardcore Legend, but the Hardcore Progenitor.
Click here to watch Cactus Jack vs. Randy Orton.
23. Stone Cold Steve Austin defends the WWF Championship against The Rock in a No Holds Barred Match with Special Guest Referee Shane McMahon at Backlash 1999
~ This mildly overbooked affair is a fun reminder that the true accomplishment of the Attitude Era was turning wrestling’s worst excesses into its greatest attributes, while also standing as a warning for us to remember that company history is not limited solely to Wrestlemania.
Click here to watch The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin.
22. Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff in a Traditional 5 on 5 Elimination Tag Team Match at Survivor Series 2003
~ Simply put, another entry chosen for its status as the greatest of its kind. As such, it pays tribute to a concept no longer believed in by the powers that be, recognises what said concept can achieve when utilised effectively and allows the viewer to muse on its grim fate - the ugly step-sister of the Big Four.
Click here to watch Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff.
21. The Hart Foundation 2.0 vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Legion of Doom and Goldust at In Your House: Canadian Stampede
~ A definitive tag team match, this five on five scenario presented those involved with a series of incredibly difficult obstacles amidst a clichéd environment, but thanks to the talent of all ten men, coupled with the red hot crowd, it is a spectacle of how to overcome those obstacles and avoid those clichés, creating, in the process, one of the greatest tag team matches of all time that refuses to be restricted by the norm imposed.
Click here to watch The Hart Foundation 2.0 vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldust, Ken Shamrock and the Legion of Doom.
20 (1). The Montreal Screwjob
~ Montreal is a match in need of no introduction, but in desperate need of a search for historical truth as to what happened before, during and after that fateful night. The first of the only two-part entry in the series took an analytical look at the evidence available, framing the match as our most valuable primary source.
Click here to watch The Montreal Screwjob.
20 (2). Bret “Hitman” Hart defends the WWF Championship against Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1997
~ The exploration of Montreal continued with a look at its human significance, moving away from its mired reputation as “The Screwjob” and insisting upon the need to view it as a genuinely innovative aesthetic so as to enable us to learn its true lesson – moving on.
Click here to watch Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart.
19. Shawn Michaels defends the European Championship against Hunter Hearst Helmsley, from Monday Night Raw, 1997
~ This divisive entry was selected as a means to show how unprofessionalism in pro wrestling can help bury a title and rob its future bearers of significance, miring them in irrelevancy thanks to the indulgent parody of one night.
Click here to watch Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Shawn Michaels.
18. Owen Hart and The British Bulldog wrestle to become the inaugural European Champion, from Monday Night Raw, 1997
~ If #19 was an example of how to bury a championship, this entry is an example of how to create one, thanks to a sublime match unafraid to make emotional and cerebral demands of its audience.
Click here to watch Owen Hart vs. The British Bulldog.
17. Kurt Angle defends the WWE Championship against Chris Benoit at Royal Rumble 2003
~ Yet another personal favourite, this beauty represents a stripping down of modernised habits within WWE wrestling, a pure hearted match that, while not a paradigmatic shift, is nevertheless a wink to the audience, a whisper of a different style that shakes up company normalities. It is a rare accomplishment to be respected and remembered.
Click here to watch Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle.
16. The Royal Rumble Match of 2009
~ The uppermost iteration of one of the company’s most immediately identifiable exclusives, the Rumble bout of ’09 is, quite simply, a master-class of its breed, a zenith of its genre, a superior piece of work with such substance it eclipses both its predecessors and successors.
Click here to watch the 2009 Royal Rumble.
15. Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Mr Perfect in a king of the Ring Semi-Final Match at King of the Ring 1993
~ A match with many positives, this was a selection made in lieu of its subtle commentary on the benefits and dangers of competitive spirit, while, at the same time, evidencing, through competitive spirit with one’s peers, what a little more originality and effort can help to achieve – in this case, unmatched psychological density.
Click here to watch Bret Hart vs. Mr Perfect.
14. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit in a Steel Cage Match, from Monday Night Raw, 2001
~ An awe-inspiring match of intensity and escalation, this encounter sublimely melds the stipulation at hand with the general aesthetic of their previous encounters to create a naturalistic lecture on the ferocity of unbridled commitment, incidentally paying tribute to the lives of pro wrestlers as a result.
Click here to watch Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit.
13. Bret “Hitman” Hart defends the Intercontinental Championship against The British Bulldog at Summerslam 1992
~ An all-time epic, and the only solely Intercontinental Championship defence to headline a major WWE pay-per-view, this thirty minute marathon stands as a vindication of a long-suffering British fan base, an uplifting encounter that defied conceptual definitions and, most poignantly, a love letter to the British fans of a worldwide company.
Click here to watch The British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart.
12. The Honky Tonk Man defends the Intercontinental Championship against The Ultimate Warrior at Summerslam 1988
~ The shortest official bout on the entire list, this glorified squash match is placed highly because of it being a guilty pleasure that, importantly, speaks to the colourful, bright, slightly ridiculous moment of marking out; never is wrestling a more beautifully naked experience.
11. Kurt Angle defends the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar in a 60 Minute Iron Man Match, from Smackdown, 2003
~ The longest official bout on the list, this entry provided the culmination to the WWE’s purest wrestling rivalry of all time. It is a match that succeeded in undeniable fashion across the board, evidenced perfect booking and created a monument to the athletic achievements of professional wrestling.
Click here to watch Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle.
And so we find ourselves knocking at the door of the final stretch. Ten matches remain as official entries on the list, and while some may yet turn out to be obvious, I hope that others are far from it. I don’t want to give anything too much away right now, but I will say that, amidst those ten, the series will continue to deal with issues prevalent to both professional wrestling and the WWE as a company. I will search to find the WWE’s own magnum opus, explore more historic matches that altered the course of the company, ask if there’s such a thing as wrestling etymology, examine the very fabric of Vince McMahon’s defining philosophy, pay tribute to a level of dedication found only in this wonderful performance art and, of course, ask the one question that matters: what is wrestling?
As if that weren’t enough, you may have noticed throughout the series that I have often mentioned how a number of matches were removed from the list, be it for one reason or another. I have refused to name those matches, and like everything in my column writing career, that choice was a deliberate one. I do, after all, always have a plan.
Before #1 is posted to the world, I’ll also be writing a complimentary ten part mini-series to accompany what has already been completed: 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die: The Honourable Mentions. It seems only fair to give credit to the matches that almost made it, only to come up short in the final hour. I won’t be doing this alone, either. I have enlisted the help of some of LOP’s best and brightest, with, among others, the likes of my partner-in-crime maverick, the legendary XanMan, the brilliant Skulduggery and my sometimes rival Prime Time helping me out.
Thank you, once again, for sticking with me this far. I pray you are as excited for what is to come as I am. It’s scary for me to see the amount of columns I’ve managed to write over the last two years, and with twenty more still to come!
So until next month, when the first of the last will be up, all that’s left for me to say, dear readers, is:
Welcome to the Top Ten.