Ahh, professional wrestling, where would we be without you? Devastated, that’s what. The WWE (or the WWF back in the day) brought the world its first glimpse of the greatness that is pre-determined sports to the masses from the Rock n’ Wrestling Connection, the Attitude Era and the modern New Era. It has its fair share of great highs and bottom of the barrel lows. It’s a showcase unlike any other and a master class in live theater.
Fortunately, in this article, I am willing to share my 15 favorite matches in the history of WWE so far. These 15 aren’t necessarily the best, though few are considered the best. These are my personal favorites that stand out among the thousands (and thousands!) of matches delivered throughout the history of the company. Let’s ring the bell for tonight in thie very ring, I rundown my 15 favorite WWE matches of all time.
15. The Undertaker vs.Mankind, King of the Ring (1998) – Hell in a Cell
Everything about this match has been said before. The crazy spots including Mick Foley falling from the cell onto a table to the unplanned spot of the cell collapsing under the weight of Foley and Undertaker, combined with the infamous “Bah Gawd” calls of Jim Ross, this match is a match that is memorable more for those spots than the wrestling. It’s a wrestling match with a limited number of wrestling and was meant to put on a spectacle and nothing more, and it’s brilliant. The shot of Mick Foley’s face bleeding with his tongue sticking out of an open wound will always be a beautiful memory.
14. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn, NXT Takeover: Dallas (2016) – Singles Match
Sami Zayn, one of the hottest babyface characters on NXT, was set to hit the main roster at Wrestlemania 32 in a ladder match for the Intercontiential Title. Yet, Zayn wanted a new challenge for all his hard work in NXT before leaving. Insert Shinsuke Nakamura, one of the hottest Japanese wrestlers in New Japan Pro Wrestling, to take up the call and what follows is damn near perfection. In a beautiful display of wrestling at its finest, these two men met in a match filled with showboating, power moves, psychology beyond compare and Nakamura kicking the ever-loving shit out of Zayn in the head as he went for his signature dive through the ropes. Even better, it’s the only WWE match known to create a new chant: “Fight forever!”
13. John Cena vs. CM Punk, Money in the Bank (2011) – WWE Championship
The face that runs the place versus the best in the world is a feud like no other. We have a strong face that is the ideal wrestling superstar up against a boastful jerk ass that knows what he is capable of. In a bit of real life kicking in, CM Punk’s contract was due to end on the night the two men would face in Punk’s hometown of Chicago and Punk wanted to walk out champion taking away Vince McMahon’s prized company belt with him. Cena was due to give him his shot at the title despite this and the rest was a hell of a night in the Chi. Filled with tension and genuine emotion, the two went at it in a masterclass match in wrestling. The audience even got a classic ending of Punk running away with the title from Vince McMahon and Mr. Money in the Bank Alberto Del Rio by kissing both of them goodbye.
12. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Wrestlemania X-Seven (2001) – WWF Championship
In their second face off, we had two men at the top of their game. Both were considered the best wrestlers at the time, they brought in the big bucks for the company and were faces everyone loved. One was the People’s Champ ready to defend after beating Kurt Angle for the title at No Mercy. The other was a Texas Rattlesnake ready to make a comeback and was practically hoping to reclaim his top spot in the company after winning a record third Royal Rumble in the world for the chance. The two got in the ring and went to town on each other with a barrage of finishers, blood abound and tensions flaring. It wasn’t until the infamous ending in which Austin turned heel in front of a packed Texas crowd by shaking hands with arch rival Vince McMahon. It was the end of the Attitude Era.
11. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens, Beast in the East (2015) – NXT Championship
WWE launched the WWE Network in 2014 to bring about wrestling to the masses for the digital age and create a new place to show more of what they were capable of bringing. When it was announced they would be broadcasting live from Japan in an exclusive house show called Beast in the East, the E decided to bring back Prince Devitt, now known as Finn Balor, back to his playground to take on rude and brutish NXT Champion Kevin Owens. As the new Demon King, Balor came to face to face with Owens in a brutal display of pure wrestling. Indie spots galore as Coup de Grace and rolling Senton bombs reigned supreme along with general shit talking from Owens until Balor got the best of him. Brock Lesnar was not the only Beast in the East that night as Balor and his demon proved themselves.
10. 30-Man Royal Rumble Match for the WWF Championship, Royal Rumble 1992
In an excruciating match for the now vacant WWF championship, a battle of wit, brains, brawn awaited those who entered the ring. From the likes of The Undertaker, Sid Justice, Hulk Hogan and The Warlord, one man was destined to go the distance at number two: The Nature Boy Ric Flair. The match is filled with great moments such as the ending in which Hulk Hogan and Sid Juctice go at it, Ric keeping his composure and eventually, Ric winning and cuting arguably the greatest post-match promo of all time. It truly is a spectacle to see and adds to the legend of Ric Flair’s jet-flyin’, limousine ridin’ legacy.
9. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H, No Way Out 2001 – Three Stages of Hell
Stone Cold vowed to chase the WWF Championship, but needed to end one roadblockin his way : Triple H, who hired Rikishi to hit him with a car and sideline the rattlesnake for over a year (dumb storyline, but that’s not important). The men vowed not to share blows till No Way Out, until Stone Cold costed Triple H the title at the Royal Rumble 2001.Luckily, Three Stages of Hell awaited both of them in a match with Austin winning the first stage of straight up wrestling and Triple H winning the next two stages in a street fight and a steel cage. It is a brutal battle and a hell of a step to Austin turning heel at X-Seven.
8. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, NXT Takeover Brooklyn (2015), NXT Women’s Championship
Here is the only women’s match on the list and the reason is not that women have had horrible matches, far from it. The reason is because this is an absolute classic from start to finish. Sasha Banks, the Boss herself, has been heeling it up with the title with adorable babyface Bayley looking to capture the gold. Bayley has tried to reach the top to be with the other three horsewomen (Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte), only to be constantly pushed down. In a stroke of luck, she finally goes up against the champ at arguably NXT biggest PPV an gives the crowd the match of their lives. Filled with false finishes, straight heel tactics and the triumph of friends, Bayley ended up beating Banks for the title and was now officially on top.
7. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H, Wrestlemania XXX (2014) – Winner Goes to the Main Event
There are many Daniel Bryan matches I can choose: Bryan vs. Cena at SummerSlam 2013, Bryan vs. The Miz for the United States title, the underrated Bryan vs. Regal match on RAW, but this match takes it for me. Here we have the underdog Bryan that has been screwed over time and again out of a title shot against Triple H,a man who has been given every opportunity to be a champion and now a figure head of the company. These two could not be anymore different, but their styles clashed perfectly in a story line match for Bryan to finally get his shot again. Bryan’s injured shoulder came into play and Triple H hitting a tiger suplex (for the first time ever) at one point to tell their story. Bryan succeeded after a successful running knee, went to the main event, and the rest, well, is history.
6. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, Wrestlemania 25 (2009), The Streak on the Line
Everyone and their mother chooses this match and they damn well have every right to because this is a classic. Shawn Michaels,the religious god loving man, is ready for battle against the Deadman himself , The Undertaker, in an incredible good vs. evil match. The tension throughout is palpable with Undertaker delivering a Tombstone and pin, just for Michaels to kick out leaving Taker absolutely dumbfounded. The back and forth in this match and the psychology behind it is amazing as the match goes on. Even with Michaels losing in the end, he succeeded in giving the Deadman and run for his money and his troubles in a match that stands the test of time.
5. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Wrestlemania III (1987) – Intercontinental Championship
Another classic that everyone chooses, this is a technical marvel. Ricky Steamboat, a true babyface title chaser ready to give his all against the big and egotistical “Macho Man.” Savage constantly called out Steamboat and only said that this was his “Cup of coffee” in the big time. Steamboat, on the other hand, was ready to prove himself in the ring…and he did. The match gives so many false finishes, to would think Return of the King was short on them. Reversals, roll-ups, dodged moves, psychology abound, it was a match for the ages with one hell of a surprise finish. The respect these two have by the end is a perfect cap to an already outstanding match.
4. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins, Royal Rumble (2015) – Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Three of the biggest wrestlers currently today stepped foot into a ring on an otherwise mediocre PPV and tore the house down. The face that runs the place John Cena was seeking vengeance against then-champion Lesnar for nearly killing him at SummerSlam the year prior. Rollins, a former face now the Authority’s lobby boy, cost Cena a true opportunity aginst Lesnar at Night of Champions trying to cash his Money in the Bank contract. The result months after was this triple threat match that was nothing short of badass. Lesnar hitting Rollins and Cena with powerful F5s and Rollins performing an incredible Pheonix Splash onto Cena are only a few highlights from a strenous and fantastic match with three great workers and helped Rollins become a true main event superstar.
3. Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Wrestlemania 13 (1997) – Submission Match
The face Bret Hart against the heel Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13 is a story for the ages. Hart was losing steam in the game as Stone Cold was becoming white hot. After a vicious fued and name calling, the two would come face to face in a submission match, much to Austin’s surprise (in reality, Austin had no idea that was the match type till he entered the arena). The next half hour or so would be a brutal bloodbath with Stone Cold giving his all against a beyond chaotic and mad Hart. Austin passed out in a pool of blood trying to break free from the Sharpshooter as Bret looked onto the crowd. What makes this match is the crowd decide to do something incredible: they turn on Hart by the end for seeing his heel ways and Austin, a survivor through and through, becomes face. The greatest double turn in history is now in the books.
2. The Dudley Boys vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian, Wrestlemania X-Seven (2001) – TLC II
This is te greatest spotfest of all time and arguably one of the best TLC match of all time. Three of the hottest tag teams finally decided to go toe-to-toe in the second TLC match (tables, ladders and chairs) in history on the biggest stage of wrestling. How does it play out? In a maddening symphony of run-ins, destruction and balls to the walls chaos. Just to add to the chaos are the run-ins from the allies with Lita (Hardyz), Little Spike Dudley (Dudleys) and Rhyno (E&C). And just when the match couldn’t get better, Edge hits Jeff Hardy with a spear from a ladder as Jeff dangles from the belts. That spot alone makes this match go from spotfest to all time classic.
1. Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog, SummerSlam (1992) – Intercontinental Championship
This match is a match I never tire of watching. The stage was set for these two to go at it for the Intercontinental title with British Bulldog ready to win in front of his native London crowd at Wembley Stadium. Champion Bret was frustrated with Bulldog saying he won’t know Bret in the ring despite being new family by marrying Bret’s sister Diana. These two met in a packed stadium on a gorgeous night in Britain and put on a show. These tow showed technical prowess, fast paced styles, flying action and tension as Diana looked at her husband and her brother fight for the title. With false finishes and submissions abound, it was a classic battle of wits, styles and family. In the end, Bulldog got his moment in the sun with the title in his hand. Davey Boy was apparently high throughout the match and forget the spots, leading Bret to guide him and pull off a miracle. The best part is this was the main event over the WWF Championship between Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man” Randy Savage to capitalize on the popularity of the British Bulldog and wrestling in general. It’s a stellar match combining all the admiration of the fans, the spirit of storytelling and the showcase that is professional wrestling.