WWE Hall of Fame 2013: Ranking Trish Stratus' 10 Greatest Matches

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2013

WWE Hall of Fame 2013: Ranking Trish Stratus' 10 Greatest Matches

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    Later tonight, Trish Stratus will take her place among the greatest performers in sports-entertainment history when she enters the WWE Hall of Fame, class of 2013.

    The most successful Diva of her generation, Trish transcended what many believed a model was capable of and became one of the best and most entertaining female performers of all-time.

    Her matches with Victoria, Jazz, Molly Holly, Lita and Mickie James represented what many consider the "golden age" of women's wrestling in World Wrestling Entertainment, the likes of which may never be seen in that company again.

    Celebrate Trish's deserved Hall of Fame induction by taking a look back at her 10 greatest matches.

Honorable Mention: Trish and Lita vs. Chris Jericho and Christian

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    At Armageddon 2003, Trish and Lita attempted to get revenge on Chris Jericho and Christian for a $1 (CANADIAN!) bet that would reward the first man to bed the Diva of his choosing. The reveal of the bet crushed Trish and Lita, who believed their suitors were genuinely interested in them. They attacked Jericho and Christian on the first Raw after the bet was exposed and Eric Bischoff, ever one to be innovative, announced a "Battle of Sexes," in which Trish and Lita would face Jericho and Christian in a tag team match at the December pay-per-view.

    The crowd was hot for the match, having invested themselves into the story the four performers were telling. Trish and Lita were ready, not backing down from a fight that could have seen them severely injured. Every time one of them landed a punch, forearm, kick or other offensive maneuver on their opposition, the audience popped.

    When one of the heels put their hands on the beautiful Divas, the fans reacted accordingly, raining down on them with a chorus of boos.

    Jericho wanted nothing to do with wrestling Trish, having developed real feelings for her during the charade. Christian, on the other hand, seemingly could not wait to rough the Divas up.

    In the end, the heels picked up the win when Christian rolled Stratus up. Jericho, who should have been excited about the pay-per-view win, was torn between his best friend (and tag team partner) and the woman he had taken a liking to.

    The match was far heavier on story than it was actual in-ring action, but said story was one that fans cared about and, as a result, the bout was enhanced by crowd reaction. Trish and Jericho were the stars while Lita and Christian were the supporting players.

    The story between Trish and Jericho would continue for three months, climaxing at WrestleMania XX with the blond bombshell's heel turn and the revelation that she had chosen to be with Christian instead. 

10. Women's Championship Match: Trish vs. Molly Holly

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    The Women's Championship was on the line at the 2002 King of the Ring, as Trish Stratus, revolutionizing women's wrestling in WWE, took on the best in-ring competitor on the Divas roster, Molly Holly.

    In recent months, Molly had become conservative, downplaying Trish's blatant sex appeal. She had interfered in two gimmick matches with differing results. In April, during a "Bikini Paddle on a Pole" match, she broke said paddle over Trish's head. A few weeks later, she attempted to attack Trish after a Lingerie match win over Terri Runnels, only to be left lying in the center of the ring.

    Molly promised to win the Women's Championship at the June pay-per-view extravaganza and restore dignity and respect to the title.

    In her best match since winning the Women's title for the first time back in November of 2001, Trish withstood an early attack and fired off some offensive strikes, but it always seemed like Molly was one step ahead of her. Trish countered Molly's technical wrestling move-set with her flashy, unorthodox offense.

    Unfortunately for the champion, she would be caught in a roll-up and Molly would grab onto the tights for the shocking win. It would bring Trish's second title reign to an end, but, as history would show, the three-time Babe of the Year would bounce back and add to her golden resume.

9. Handicap Match: Trish and Christian vs. Chris Jericho

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    At WrestleMania XX, fans were shocked when Trish turned on Chris Jericho and revealed her relationship with "Captain Charisma" Christian. One month later, in Edmonton, Alberta, Jericho would look to get a measure of revenge when he met Trish and Christian in a 2-on-1 Handicap match.

    Trish showed the first flashes of brilliance in her new devious heel character, as she interjected herself into the match on a number of occasions, preventing Y2J from defeating Christian, then running back to the apron and hiding in the corner whenever Jericho would approach.

    Late in the match, Jericho caught Trish, placed her over his knee and delivered a spanking, much to the delight of the fans in attendance. It would provide a momentary distraction that would allow Christian to sneak in, deliver the Unprettier and tag Trish back into the match for the pin attempt. Jericho would kick out and the match would continue.

    Stratus would take a stiff clothesline and suffer through the Walls of Jericho submission hold before being sandwiched in the corner by her new beau. Jericho would catch Christian with a running enzugiri and pick up the win.

    The match was both a solid bout and an exercise in sports entertainment. Fans got what they wanted out of the match, as Jericho got revenge on his former friend and love interest. Christian continued to make the most of his push and, most importantly, Trish provided fans and management with an example of what they could expect from her bratty, sarcastic new heel character.

    That character would dominate the next two years of Divas action on WWE programming and would become one of the most entertaining in the company.

8. Hardcore Match for the Women's Championship: Trish vs. Victoria

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    In the heart of New York City, historic Madison Square Garden played host to a Hardcore match for the Women's Championship between champion Trish Stratus and challenger Victoria.

    The psychotic Victoria had been a thorn in Trish's side throughout the early part of fall 2002 and had set her sights on the Women's Championship. More importantly, she also planned to bask in the destruction of WWE's top female performer.

    Utilizing weapons from all around the ringside area, Trish and Victoria delivered a hard-hitting, violent title match in front of hardcore fans in one of the company's most historically significant cities. The two tough, determined women beat each other with canes, trash cans, trash can lids, brooms and an ironing board, all with the same goal in mind: leaving New York with the Women's Championship in their possession.

    Victoria would utilize a fire extinguisher to blind the champion before delivering a snap-suplex and picking up the unexpected win.

    The match went a long way in proving Trish's versatility as a performer. She had proved that she could keep up with the likes of Molly Holly and Ivory in a basic singles match and performed at a high level in Divas tag matches, but at Survivor Series, she proved that she could put together a coherent hardcore match that was more than simply hitting her opponent with weapons. That is a difficult task to accomplish.

    Especially considering there were guys who worked in ECW for years and never quite figured out how to do it.

7. Divas Tag Team Match: Trish and Lita vs. Gail Kim and Molly Holly

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    In the fall of 2003, Trish Stratus once again found herself the target of Molly Holly's aggression. This time, the Women's champion would be joined by Gail Kim, who had made a recent heel turn. Molly and Gail tormented Trish and physically assaulted her.

    Then, on the September 15 edition of Raw, Lita made her return to WWE after a 17-month absence due to injury. She came to Trish's aid and, almost immediately, a tag team match was announced for the Unforgiven pay-per-view.

    The first quality match of an otherwise underwhelming event, the fans inside the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. were treated to a Divas tag match that utilized the best elements of classic tag matches and, as a result, the bout came very close to stealing the show out from underneath the two advertised main events.

    Molly and Gail isolated Trish from her partner, beating her down and manipulating the referee in order to continue their dominance. Eventually, Trish did make the hot tag and Lita exploded into the ring, the crowd erupting for her high-risk and high-impact offense. As many expected, Lita delivered the moonsault to win the match for her team.

    While having no long-term impact on storylines or the direction the Divas division would take, the tag match at Unforgiven was a tremendous example of what could happen when four of the most talented performers on the roster, female or not, were given time to ply their craft.

6. Women's Championship Match: Trish vs. Victoria vs. Jazz

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    WrestleMania XIX featured one of the most loaded cards in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment. With top Superstars from the '80s, '90s and 2000s populating the main events, it seemed only fitting that three of the most talented female talents of the time would compete for the right to call themselves Women's champion.

    Victoria had dominated competition leading into WrestleMania, holding the title from the moment she defeated Trish at the 2002 Survivor Series. Jazz had returned from a knee injury and looked to destroy any woman standing between her and the Women's Championship. And Trish, by this point, was as popular a performer as some of the top babyface stars in the industry.

    Their match, third on the card, was more than just a really good women's match. It was a really good professional wrestling match. Trish, Jazz and Victoria exchanged signature maneuvers and the match succeeded in making Trish the sympathetic babyface. Late in the bout, the fan favorite Diva delivered a stiff Chick Kick to Victoria and picked up the win and the title.

    The contest at WrestleMania went a long way in continuing the rejuvenation of the Divas division and the rebuilding of the Women's Championship. It was a defining moment for Trish, who had spent 2002 as the undisputed top star on the Divas roster and was seeing her hard work rewarded on the biggest stage the sport had to offer.

5. Women's Championship Match: Trish vs. Lita

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    The setting was Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The event was WWE's annual September pay-per-view extravaganza, Unforgiven.

    In what was billed as her retirement match, Trish Stratus would challenge long-time rival Lita for the most prestigious prize for Divas in WWE: the Women's Championship.

    Trish received a tremendous ovation from her hometown crowd. Lita, the on-screen girlfriend of "Rated R Superstar" Edge, was the clear heel. Unlike other women's matches of the time, the crowd was absolutely hot for Trish's final opportunity at WWE gold. She did not disappoint, delivering one of the best performances of her career.

    Fueled by the support of friends and family, she captured the Women's title for a record seventh time when she wrapped Lita's legs together, turned her over and sat down in a Sharpshooter. The appreciative Canadian audience popped for the move and grew louder when Lita tapped out.

    One of the most unlikely champions and legendary female performers in company rode off into the sunset, championship gold around her waist and the love and adulation of the WWE fans, whom she worked so hard to win over, on her side.

4. Chicago Street Fight for the Women's Championship: Trish vs. Victoria

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    On January 27, 2003, Trish and Victoria continued their rivalry by competing in a Chicago Street Fight. Having fought in a critically acclaimed Hardcore match just months earlier at Survivor Series, expectations were high for their rematch.

    Improving on the groundwork they set months earlier, Trish and Victoria delivered a hell of a match. They brawled around ringside, fought into the audience and utilized everything around the ringside area, including the guardrail, which Trish leaped off of and caught Victoria with a clothesline.

    Having an ample amount of experience working with one another, they were more crisp in what they did and it made for a better match than their previous effort some two months earlier.

    Revisiting that match, Trish and Victoria introduced a cane and trash can lids into the rematch and soon followed those weapons with a large trash can positioned in the corner. The involvement of Stevie Richards helped create an entertaining spot and was essential to the story being told.

    There were hot near-falls that the audience completely bit on, adding drama to the match.

    The finish featured Trish being knocked off of the ring apron and smacking her face into the guard rail. Victoria would cover and pick up the win outside the ring, but the assault on Trish was not over. Jazz would make her return and brutalize her long-time rival, sending a message to both Victoria and Trish. 

    The spots involving the weapons were more creative and better contrived. The Chicago crowd matched the New York one in terms of reaction, as they showed their appreciation for two women willing to sacrifice their bodies for the sake of entertainment.

    It was simply the case of two women on the greatest rolls of their careers delivering a match that far exceeded anything else on the show, be it by man or woman.

    By the beginning of 2003, it was hard to find another Superstar or Diva performing with such determination and dedicating themselves so much to their craft as Trish Stratus was. That is a testament to her will to improve and to be the absolute best she can be.

    As would be evident in her top three matches.

3. Women's Championship Match: Trish vs. Mickie James

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    Trish's in-ring career was winding down by the time WrestleMania 22 approached. A back injury had sidelined her throughout a good portion of 2005, but by the time she returned in the fall, she was in top form and had returned to her role as babyface after a year as a the most vile villain on the Divas roster.

    Her first rivalry, with Ashley Massaro as her partner, was against the trio of Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle and Victoria. In an attempt to even the sides, the company called up Mickie James from developmental. Her character would be that of an obsessed Trish fan who would do anything for her idol.

    Unfortunately, her love and devotion was not returned, and Mickie became more and more unstable as the weeks passed. Eventually, she snapped and became a heel. The destruction of Trish Stratus became the obsession of Mickie, with the Women's Championship being the cherry on the sundae.

    The crowd in Chicago was behind Mickie, but the consummate pro in Trish refused to let the vocal fans get in her head.

    Trish and Mickie told a tremendous story and the match built around it. Mickie targeted the knee, taking away the Women's champion's base. Every time it appeared as though Trish was about to make a comeback, Mickie would go back to that knee. When that did not work, she reverted to mind games.

    Late in the match, Trish grabbed a side headlock and appeared poised to put Mickie away with the Stratusfaction Bulldog. In a shocking moment, Mickie grabbed Trish between the legs. The shock of the situation gave Mickie a moment to escape a floored Trish. Mickie would then attempt a Stratusfaction of her own, but Trish's knee would give out. A Chick Kick from the challenger would be all she would need. Three seconds later, Mickie captured her first Women's Championship to the delight of the Chicago fans.

    The match was one of Trish's last truly great ones and one that was befitting of the stage that WrestleMania presents. On that night, April 2, 2006, she passed the torch to one of the women the company would rely on to carry the Divas division in the years that followed.

    Even in a loss, Trish's understated performance at the "Showcase of the Immortals" remains one of her best and, at the same time, one of her most under-appreciated.

2. Grudge Match: Trish vs. Stephanie McMahon

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    2001's No Way Out pay-per-view provided the latest stop in the rivalry between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon, which began in late 2000 and centered around the blond bombshell's affair with Stephanie's father, Vince.

    The "Billion Dollar Princess" hated the idea of the former fitness model-turned-gold digger worming her way into the family. She set her sights on doing whatever it took to break off the affair and eliminate Stratus from her father's company.

    Neither woman was a proficient in-ring worker by the time their match rolled around that February, but they did not have to be, either. Fans had enjoyed the catfights and the exchange of words leading to the bout, and they were more than interested in seeing how their match would unfold.

    Trish and Stephanie brought an intensity to the ring that was missing in women's wrestling at the time. Relying on story telling and crowd-pleasing spots more than holds and counter-holds, they delivered a match that would have stolen the show on a lesser pay-per-view.

    Stratus was the blond vixen who fans had no sympathy for as Stephanie beat her from corner to corner, delivering a power bomb, a spanking and dousing her in cold water she had retrieved from the announce position.

    William Regal would make his way to the ring, confused by Mr. McMahon's edict to "do the right thing." When he put Stephanie's foot on the rope, breaking up a Trish pinfall, he was rewarded with a hard slap across the face. Finally realizing what the "right thing" was, he delivered a neck breaker to Trish. Seconds later, Stephanie draped herself over Trish's fallen body and the official counted the three, giving Stephanie the win.

    Though unsuccessful, Trish's first high-profile singles match was proof that there were great things awaiting her in the squared circle if she was willing to work hard, consistently improve and evolve as a performer.

1. Women's Championship Match: Trish vs. Lita

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    If there was ever a single match that defined the Trish Stratus-Lita rivalry that stretched six years and spawned several high-quality matches, it was their Women's Championship match on the December 6 episode of Monday Night Raw.

    For only the second time in company history, the title would be defended in the main event of WWE's flagship show. After months of ridicule and humiliation suffered by Lita at the hands of her greatest rival, she would have the opportunity to shut Trish up once and for all by defeating her and capturing the championship.

    It would not be easy. Trish had held the title for six months and, as the baddest girl on the Divas roster, was not likely to give up the gold so easily. She, too, was determined to get revenge. Only a month earlier, she had her nose broken by Lita. Now, sporting a face mask to protect her fractured features, she wanted to rid Lita from her life.

    The two influential Divas delivered a match every bit worthy of the main event slot. Lita dove between the ropes, nearly breaking her neck in the process. Trish would slow the pace of the match down, keeping Lita grounded and unable to utilize her high-risk skill-set. Eventually, the red-headed vixen would make her comeback and finish the villainous Trish off with a moonsault.

    On that December night, the two most celebrated women of the decade lived up to the expectations that come with performing in that spot. While Lita deserves as much credit as Trish, it was the multi-talented heel who was charged with carrying the story. Her ability to become so disliked only fueled fans' desire to want to see Lita beat her and win the title that much more.

    Arguably the greatest moment in either woman's career.