10 Greatest Champion vs. Champion Matches in WWE History
Champion will battle champion at WWE TLC 2013, adding to a long history of bouts pitting titleholders against each other.
Can Randy Orton and John Cena create the electricity that Chris Jericho and Steve Austin had in 2001? Will WWE be able to make the match feel as monumental as Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan's clash at WrestleMania VI?
CM Punk, Triple H and Bob Backlund are among the champs who thrived with multiple championships involved.
The best of these contests are ranked here based on what was at stake, the story leading up to them, star power, the size of the stage where they occurred and the excitement of the in-ring action once the champions locked up.
Antonio Cesaro battling Kofi Kingston during an episode of Raw back on Oct. 29, 2012 further showcased these two Superstars' fantastic chemistry. Cesaro clubbed Kingston. Kingston soared.
Neither Kingston's Intercontinental Championship nor Cesaro's United States title were on the line, though. That, along with the lack of buildup and comparatively low amount of star power, keeps this from making the actual list despite the excellent wrestling.
On the Oct. 3, 2008 edition of SmackDown, Matt Hardy vs. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho had bigger names than Cesaro and Kingston and was plenty exciting. Had this been on a pay-per-view or powered by more of a pre-match narrative, it would have ranked higher.
In addition, none of the titles were on the line, lowering what was at stake for those involved.
That's the main reason Randy Orton vs. Kane from SmackDown on Oct. 22, 2010 is forced to reside in the honorable mention section.
For a match with little story and buildup, those wrestlers managed to dredge an impressive amount of excitement out of that bout. Bigger stages and more involved rivalries surpass it, though.
10. Test vs. Edge (Survivor Series 2001)
The Intercontinental Championship and United States Championship were to become one.
The bout pitted Test against the man he stole the IC title from, Edge. Both men were rising stars, looking to steal a show built on the WCW Invasion storyline.
Test overpowered Edge, who did his best to dart out of the predator's way. Even with a frantic ending, the slow pace of much of the match holds it back. The action itself was solid at best, but a strong buildup and having the right to unify the titles on the line made this better as a whole.
The Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz fighting in a steel cage on the same night to unify the Tag Team titles sounded better on paper, but it didn't have the same energy that Test vs. Edge possessed.
Being on a major pay-per-view, especially one with as much buzz as 2001's version had, helps secure this match a top-10 spot.
9. CM Punk vs. Sheamus (Main Event, Oct. 2, 2012)
WWE champion CM Punk and World champion Sheamus battled in the first-ever episode of Main Event.
Had either of those belts been on the line or had this been the culmination of a simmering feud, it would rank even higher. The in-ring action was this clash's strength. Theirs was an intense battle where kicks and clothesline caused whiplash.
It took Punk holding Sheamus' tights to get the victory after a match that set the bar mighty high for Main Event.
Those two champs are edged out by two superb athletes who took their title versus title match to the bright spotlight of a pay-per-view.
8. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan (Bragging Rights 2010)
Dropkicks and mat wrestling powered a superbly worked match.
Daniel Bryan, the United States champ, defeated Dolph Ziggler, who held the Intercontinental Championship at the time. An enthralling energy ran through the match as both men clearly stole the show.
The crowd erupting in chants of "You tapped out!" punctuated one of Bryan's first great matches.
The titles not being on the line slides this down the rankings some, as does a lack of star power. Ziggler was certainly making a name for himself at this point, and fans were beginning to take notice of Bryan, but neither were top stars at the time.
7. The Wild Samoans vs. Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales (Showdown at Shea 1980)
Before there was WrestleMania, there was Showdown at Shea, a supercard hosted by Shea Stadium.
The 1980 edition of the event had WWE champ Bob Backlund team with a former champion in Pedro Morales against The Wild Samoans for the Tag Team titles.
Even with its sloppy moments, this was a fun, energetic match. Afa and Sika seemed nearly unbeatable at the time, and the pairing of Backlund and Morales had the crowd roaring as they took those men down. Being a 2-out-of-3 Falls match elevated the drama.
In retrospect, it seems strange to have Backlund and Morales win the straps only to have them vacate them because double champions weren't allowed, but the superteam's victory was a thrilling one.
Watch a clip of the bout here.
6. Shawn Michaels and Diesel vs. Yokozuna and Davey Boy Smith (In Your House 3)
Four championships were on the line.
Yokozuna and Owen Hart were to set to defend the Tag titles against WWE champ Diesel and Intercontinental titleholder Shawn Michaels. Hart couldn't be at the match, so Davey Boy Smith took his place.
The match opened with frenetic action followed by Michaels mocking Yokozuna's sumo stance. The chemistry between Smith and Michaels was fantastic. That, coupled with the brawling from the big men, made for a match that engaged and entertained.
High stakes, a star-studded power team in Diesel and Michaels and some high-quality action has this match sitting just outside the top five. A nonsensical ending where Hart returned mid-match and Diesel pinned him for the win removes some of the bout's luster.
Bigger names and better buildups keep this tag match from climbing any higher on the list.
5. Two-Man Power Trip vs. Brothers of Destruction (Backlash 2001)
Following his heel turn at WrestleMania X-Seven, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin formed a powerful alliance with Triple H. Both of those men held singles titles—the WWE title and Intercontinental Championship—as they challenged Undertaker and Kane for the Tag Team belts.
All of the championships were on the line.
The thought of these four titans colliding had many fans thrilled before the opening bell. The action itself was intense and chaotic, but it wasn't anyone's idea of a classic wrestling encounter. The brawl was fun, but more varied encounters move past this in the rankings.
While the match at In Your House 3 was better worked, star power pushes this bout this into the top five, as Austin, Triple H, Kane and Undertaker were among the biggest names of that era. It would be the equivalent of CM Punk and Brock Lesnar getting added to Randy Orton and John Cena's match at TLC.
4. Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania VI)
The Ultimate Challenge is a case of spectacle and star power overshadowing subpar wrestling.
Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan at Bragging Rights was a far better wrestling match than Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior, but this remains one of the most memorable matches in WrestleMania history thanks to the excitement born from two titans colliding.
Hogan was WWE's top star and had been so for several years. Ultimate Warrior charged at him for the top spot.
This led to a passing-of-the-torch moment where both the Intercontinental Championship and WWE title were on the line. Ultimate Warrior ended the night holding up both belts, having bested an icon.
The journey to that huge moment was clunky and slow at times, but few matches have felt as big or as special.
3. Chris Jericho vs. Steve Austin (Vengeance 2001)
The image of Chris Jericho clutching a world title in each hand is an unforgettable one.
The ride to that moment was thrilling. Earlier in the night, Jericho defeated The Rock for the World Heavyweight Championship while Austin fended off Kurt Angle to keep the WWE Championship. The two victors battled to become the undisputed champ.
Chaos and athleticism made for a great bout.
Angle and The Rock attacked the men who had beaten them earlier. Booker T clubbed Austin with a title belt, and Vince McMahon seemed on the verge of losing his mind in front of a live audience in a busy but electric series of events.
Austin and Jericho brawled on the outside. Austin tore up the padding around the ring and threw Jericho onto the exposed floor.
The excitement about seeing a unified champ combined with Jericho's surprising win puts this near the top of the list. Only a pair of foes seemingly born to face each other and a match that revolutionized WWE rank above it.
2. CM Punk vs. John Cena (SummerSlam 2011)
John Cena and CM Punk have put on so many classic matches together that it's easy to undervalue their battles. This one had a unique, exciting energy about it, as both men held the WWE Championship.
Punk left the company with his after Money in the Bank. Cena won another version of the title in Punk's absence.
This SummerSlam was designed to decide the true champion. Punk slipped on the Koji Clutch and kneed Cena in the chin while Cena looked to overpower his rival. The in-ring action was smooth, realistic and, most importantly, highly entertaining.
WWE certainly rushed this story along, but it was still a powerful one, and it featured the company's two top dogs.
A surprise return from Kevin Nash and Alberto Del Rio cashing in on Punk added to an already memorable encounter.
1. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania X)
As will be the case at TLC 2013, two championships hung above the ring at WrestleMania X.
Both Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon held versions of the Intercontinental Championship. The winner of one of the first ladder matches in WWE history would walk away as the true champ.
Being at WrestleMania helped make this bout feel bigger, but Ramon, Michaels and a handful of ladders did most of the work.
Those two foes used the ladder stipulation to compose one of the most compelling showdowns in WWE history. Innovation and fearlessness combined to create iconic moments, such as Michaels flying from the ladder onto a prone Ramon.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior and Two-Man Power Trip vs. Brothers of Destruction had more star power than this as Michaels had not yet become the legend he was by the end of his career. Bigger titles have been on the line, but the Intercontinental Championship was still a prestigious, meaningful championship at the time.
The combination of anticipation before the bout, the prize offered to the victor and the thrill ride these rivals provided make it the greatest champion versus champion match WWE has delivered so far.