Dave Meltzer has been dissecting, criticizing and praising professional wrestling matches since the formation of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 1983. That same year, Meltzer helped popularize the “star rating” system, in which matches are judged and rated on a scale from zero to five (including negative scores). While the star rating system has received an exuberant amount of criticism for being extremely opinionated, most fans can agree with Meltzer on whether a match is an instant classic, average or just flat out embarrassing.
Meltzer uses the following criteria in order to develop these star ratings:
- The amount of action as opposed to rest-holds throughout the match
- The difficulty and variety of the moves used throughout the match
- The history of the workers and their feud
- The development of an in-match storyline based on the wrestling moves and how they affect the wrestlers
- The overall reaction of the crowd during the match
There have been a total of 71 five star rated matches since 1983 and only five of them have been awarded for contests that have taken place in the WWE. As you can see, a five star rating is extremely rare.
While only five WWE matches have received a five star rating, there have been dozens of memorable performances that have come close to having a perfect score.
Although many of you will find this slideshow to be subjective, I tried my best to follow Meltzer's criteria and included ten extraordinary WWE matches that could have, and should have, received a five star rating. Also, Meltzer's rating will be added to the end of each slide.
"10 Classic WWE Matches That Should Have Been Rated 5 Stars Part 1/2" featured five-star quality matches from 1983-2004 while part two will cover five-star quality matches from 2004-2013.
The following matches are listed by the dates they occurred.
Background: Backlash 2004 took place at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The event had an attendance of 13,000 people.
History: One month after Chris Benoit's historic victory at WrestleMania 20, the exact same Triple Threat match took place at Backlash 2004. It's risky to have the same main event match happen at two consecutive PPVs, but these three men did something truly special on both of those nights. This was Chris Benoit's first World Title defense and he was out to prove that he wasn't going to be a transitional champion.
Overall Match: Despite their masterpiece at WrestleMania 20, Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Michaels II was different, but in a good way. All three men, especially Benoit, looked more intense and determined to win. The match was filled with "let's go Benoit" chants along with near-falls and countless submissions.
There were a few exciting and creative spots as well, such as Michaels missing a cross-body and crashing into the Spanish announce table. Each Superstar exchanged their finishing maneuvers multiple times, but the falls were broken up at the last second. It's worth noting that Benoit looked more dominant in this encounter as compared to his WrestleMania bout. In the end, Benoit retained the title by forcing Michaels to tap out to the Sharpshooter. It was a fitting end, considering the match took place in Canada.
Depending on who you ask, Triple H vs. Michaels vs. Benoit II was better than their first encounter at WrestleMania 20.. The overall match, mixed with the Canadian crowd resulted in an extraordinary experience.
Crowd Reaction: Since the match took place in Chris Benoit's hometown of Edmonton, the atmosphere was out of this world. It was probably louder and more intense at Backlash 2004 as compared to WrestleMania 20, thanks to Benoit's friends and family. Backlash 2004 was a special night and the fans will never forget Chris Benoit's first successful World Title defense.
Actual Match Star Rating: ****1/2
Background: WrestleMania 21 took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. A total of 20,193 wrestling fans were packed into the arena to witness WrestleMania "going Hollywood".
History: The feud between Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels began at the 2005 Royal Rumble when Michaels eliminated Angle from the battle royal, in which Angle retaliated by viciously attacking the Heart Break Kid. Later on, Michaels requested a match against Angle at WrestleMania. A few weeks after that, Angle attacked Michaels from behind and finally accepted his challenge. The dream match between HBK and the Olympic Gold Medalist was set for WrestleMania 21.
Overall Match: The Angle vs. HBK bout started with some good ol' fashion mat wrestling, Of course, Angle got the upper hand early, but Michaels slowed the pace down with a relentless headlock, which clearly frustrated Angle. Angle hit Michaels with a back suplex, but Michaels wouldn't let go of that headlock.
After a good five minutes, the pace picked up as Angle applied the Ankle Lock, which Michaels reversed and proceeded to throw Angle out of the ring. Angle gained the upper hand by delivering a sickening Angle Slam to Michaels onto the outside ring post.
About halfway through the match, Angle used his patented belly-to-belly suplexes in order to wear Michaels down. After hitting the high-impact moves, Angle focused on injuring Michaels' lower back, which he's had serious problems with in the past. There were a number of highly impressive spots, including Michaels hitting a top-rope flying cross-body onto Angle. Michaels executed another cross-body, however, this time he sprung off the ropes and landed on Angle who was lying on the announce table.
Soon after, Angle applied the Ankle Lock, which Michaels sold beautifully. Angle reversed Sweet Chin Music twice before hitting two Angle Slams, including one from the top rope, but Michaels wouldn't give up as he powered out of the pin-fall.
After bad-mouthing Michaels, the Heart Break Kid nailed Angle with a perfectly executed Super Kick, which was louder than the fans booing Justin Bieber at the Billboard Music Awards. As Michaels stood up from exhaustion, Angle applied the Ankle Lock once again. HBK was screaming in pain and agony and had no choice but to tap out. No one could blame Michaels for submitting, as Angle's Ankle Lock is one of the most painful submission holds in WWE history.
Crowd Reaction: The audience at WrestleMania 21 was kind of out of it for the first 20 minutes of the match; however, when the pace picked up and the near-falls became dramatic, they sprung into life and finally showed the appreciation the two Superstars deserved. Both Michaels and Angle were cheered throughout the match, and rightfully so.
Actual Match Star Rating: ****3/4
Background: The 4/23/2007 edition of Raw took place at the Earls Court Exhibition Center in London, England and packed in (an estimated) 20,000 English wrestling fans.
History: Shawn Michaels became the number one contender to John Cena's WWE Championship after defeating Randy Orton and Edge in a Triple Threat match prior to WrestleMania 23. Neither Cena nor Michaels played the heel during the feud, but it was obvious to see Michaels dark side and how badly he wanted to become the WWE champion.
After Cena defeated Michaels at WrestleMania, they had a non-title rematch about three weeks later on Raw. This would be one of the greatest, if not greatest, Raw matches in WWE history.
Overall Match: For those of you who say John Cena can't wrestle, all you need to do is watch John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 23 along with the match listed on this slide. And no, HBK didn't "carry" Cena through both of those matches. It takes two to tango.
During their WrestleMania rematch in London, the English crowd was fully supportive of Michaels. They didn't boo Cena as much as fans do nowadays, but back then, Cena was considered "cool" and was a credible WWE champion.
The match between Cena and HBK was spectacular. Shawn relied on his skill and experience while Cena used his overwhelming strength and power to dish out severe punishment.
At WrestleMania, neither Michaels nor Cena were able to execute their high-impact finishing moves, but that wasn't the case this time around. They exchanged a fair amount of finishers, which resulted in a number of near-falls, which made the match extremely exciting and entertaining.
In the end, I guess Super Cena wasn't so super as Michaels got the win after hitting an impressive Sweet Chin Music. Imagine watching John Cena wrestle for nearly an hour straight nowadays on Raw, most of you would be bored out of your minds and you would probably end up vomiting. But that's what makes this match so special; Cena and HBK were able to wrestle for nearly an hour and the crowd was hot from start to finish. That's how you know you just had an epic match.
Crowd Reaction: The English crowd was wild and rambunctious from the very start of the show, but especially so during the Cena vs. HBK match. HBK was clearly the favorite, while there were still a good amount of Cena supporters who let their voices be heard. I don't think the crowd knew that they were going to get an instant classic, but they were vocal throughout, which added that extra slice of greatness to the overall match.
Actual Match Star Rating: ****1/4 (I suppose Dave is a Cena hater?)
Background: WrestleMania 25 took place at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas and had an attendance of over 72,000 wrestling fans.
History: The feud between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker goes back to the beginning of the Attitude Era, but in this case, Michaels was gunning to break Undertaker's WrestleMania streak, which stood at 16-0 at the time.
During the feud, Michaels famously said that he respected The Undertaker, but that he was not afraid of him. The match was being promoted as light vs. dark, white vs. black, good vs. evil and for non-wrestling fans, it was a ridiculous sounding/looking rivalry, but to us wrestling fans, it was pure gold.
Overall Match: Words cannot describe the first WrestleMania encounter between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Hell, even both of their entrances were out of this world. HBK vs. Taker had a big match feel to it and the fans couldn't wait for it to begin. Surprisingly, it was not the main event of WrestleMania 25, but it should have been.
Things started off slow, as Undertaker hit Old-School and dictated the pace early on. It's worth noting that before WrestleMania 25, Michaels had never lost to The Undertaker in singles competition. Michaels did his best to wear down the Phenom's legs, and at one point, he locked in a Figure Four Leg Lock.
As the pace started to pick up, both Taker and HBK took it to another level and performed a number of brilliant counters and reversals. There were also a few high-risk spots executed by Michaels, which left the fans wanting more. Speaking of high-risk spots, Undertaker executed his signature Suicide Dive over the top rope, but appeared to have landed straight on his head. Taker was able to make it back into the ring and didn't seem affected by the botched maneuver. As they say, you can't hurt what's already dead.
The match was filled with countless Sweet Chin Musics, Choke Slams and Tombstone Pile Drivers. All of these finishing moves resulted in (what seemed like) countless near-falls and left fans gasping for more. The emotion, anticipation, unpredictability and suspense throughout the match was absolutely astonishing, as the fans chanted "this is awesome" on more than one occasion.
In the end, The Undertaker moved to 17-0 after reversing Michaels top-rope moonsault and turned it into a devastating Tombstone Pile Driver. How this match didn't receive five stars is beyond me. Perhaps Meltzer was having a bad day?
Crowd Reaction: Considering both HBK and Taker are from Texas, the Houston crowd was in for a real treat as two wrestling icons squared off against one another. From start to finish, the fans were on their feet and positively contributed to the match. The "oh's" and "ah's" after every near-fall were perfectly timed and it was obvious that they were enjoying the classic match-up.
Actual Match Star Rating: ****3/4
Background: WrestleMania 26 took place at the University of Phoenix Stadium in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Arizona. Over 72,000 fans attended the event.
History: As stated in the previous slide, Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker was an icon vs. icon match-up in which Michaels vowed to end Taker's WrestleMania undefeated streak. Undertaker won the WrestleMania 25 bout, which haunted Michaels for an entire year. However, this time, HBK was more fierce, vicious and cowardly when playing his character. He wanted a WrestleMania rematch, but Undertaker refused.
Later on, after Michaels cost Taker the World Heavyweight Title, Taker announced that he would only accept the match if HBK put his career on the line. Of course, Michaels accepted. So, the main event of WrestleMania 26 was the infamous Streak vs. Career match.
Overall Match: After their epic match of the year performance at WrestleMania 25, it was difficult to imagine Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker putting on a better show at WrestleMania 26. Their first bout was so good, many thought it'd be impossible to top it.
Fortunately, HBK and Taker not only delivered, but their second WrestleMania bout is considered to be better than their first, depending on who you ask. Picking a favorite HBK/Taker match at WrestleMania is like picking which Victoria Secret Supermodel to go out with, whichever one you choose, you can't lose.
The biggest difference with this match, as compared to WrestleMania 25, is the fact that Michaels’ career was on the line. Every big spot, finishing move and near-fall meant that much more and despite a pretty obvious outcome, fans were still anxious to see how it would all play out.
In the end, Undertaker defeated Michaels with a Tombstone Pile Driver and left the ring immediately, which showed HBK an enormous amount of respect. As Michaels got up, the Arizona crowd, with tears in their eyes, gave him a standing ovation for an outstanding match and an overall remarkable career.
Crowd Reaction: The crowd was appreciative for the effort put forth by these two WWE legends. Much like the Texas crowd from WrestleMania 25, these fans were standing on their feet from start to finish and witnessed a marvelous main event match. Two years running, HBK and Undertaker gave the fans everything they had and both times, the fans recognized how truly special those matches were.
Actual Match Star Rating: ****3/4
The matches below are outstanding, but just missed the cut:
Raw 5/2/2005: Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels
No Mercy 2008: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (Ladder)
Backlash 2009: John Cena vs. Edge (Last Man Standing)
WrestleMania 28: The Undertaker v Triple H (Hell in a Cell)
TLC 2012: The Shield vs. Team Hell No & Ryback (TLC)
Raw 2/25/2013: John Cena vs. CM Punk
WrestleMania 29: The Undertaker vs. CM Punk
In conclusion, here are the five WWE matches that received a five star rating:
WrestleMania 10: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (Ladder Match)
SummerSlam 1994: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (Steel Cage Match)
WrestleMania 13: Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Submission Match)
Badd Blood 1997: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Hell in a Cell)
Money in the Bank 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena (WWE Championship)
I promise you, the readers, that I did not intentionally pick matches that involved Shawn Michaels. It was purely coincidental, which is a clear indication as to how great of a performer he truly was.
Be sure to check out "10 Classic WWE Matches That Should Have Been Rated 5 Stars Part 1/2".
Do you enjoy or agree with Dave Meltzer's star rating system? What are some of the best matches in WWE history that you feel should have been rated five stars? Release your praise and frustration in the comments section below!
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