5 Greatest Handicap Matches in Pro Wrestling History

Alfred Konuwa@@ThisIsNastyFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2013

5 Greatest Handicap Matches in Pro Wrestling History

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    From WWE.com

    If the handicap match well is filled with alcohol, WWE needs its stomach pumped. It has gone to that well one time too many. Ahead of WWE's TLC pay-per-view, WWE has booked two very similar three-on-one matches.

    CM Punk, popular for his anti-authority antics, is being punished for remarks he made against The Authority. Triple H brushed off these comments during his weekly interview with Michael Cole, saying "unlike the Internet geeks, I don't hang on every word that comes out of CM Punk's mouth."

    Still, The Authority acted swiftly in booking the antihero against all three members of The Shield.

    The Shield is unquestionably the hottest competitive stable in the WWE over the past calendar year. As reported by Slam Magazine, the group didn't suffer its first loss as a unit until June of this year, almost seven months after debuting at Survivor Series.

    The Shield's own inner turmoil, which was most recently teased following Dean Ambrose's loss to CM Punk, is the only force that has ever been booked to threaten its existence.   

    The Wyatt Family figures to end Daniel Bryan's existence as a babyface come Sunday. Bryan, also popular for his plight of authoritative resistance, finds himself in a similar situation booked opposite of the creepy trio. The Wyatt Family figures to pick up where The Shield left off as a dominant stable and could be just that if they are joined by Bryan.

    WWE's handicap-heavy show is reminiscent of some of the all-time great handicap pseudo-duels in wrestling history. Some even helped shape the history of pro wrestling itself.

    Great battles of this ilk are graded on star power, venue, match structure and how well they jelled with ongoing storylines. Some candidates on this list are carried by their brilliance in emphasizing one particular category. Not all handicap matches are created equal. Then again, there is nothing equal about this match formula to begin with. 

5. Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr.

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    This well-told story of dissension from 2010 was strong enough to lead off this list. Despite being the leader of privileged heel group The Legacy, Randy Orton had begun to garner cheers from WWE live audiences. This was most evident during the heel-heel matchup of Sheamus and Orton at the 2010 Royal Rumble pay-per-view.

    Fans opted to side with the devil they knew, heavily cheering Orton over the first-time WWE champion. In his live coverage of the event, James Caldwell of PWTorch noted "Striker explained to the audience the pro-Orton crowd by saying there is a certain respect and familiarity with Orton."

    The familiarity blossomed into sympathy after Orton's pupils, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes, double-crossed him during the WWE championship Elimination Chamber. 

    Weeks later, on the March 8 edition of Raw, it was Rhodes and DiBiase who defeated Orton in a two-on-one handicap match, with the Legacy officially done.

    Orton's feud with Legacy was the catalyst for his babyface turn. 20 days later, Orton went over DiBiase and Rhodes in a triple threat match at WrestleMania XXVI. He went on to be booked as the top face on SmackDown.

    He would enjoy multiple World Heavyweight Championship reigns as a babyface, including a controversial win over Christian just two nights after the popular Canadian wrestler captured his first world title.

    While Orton did turn heel at SummerSlam of this year, his lengthy hit-or-miss run as a babyface would not have been possible without the pronounced split of The Legacy.

4. Rock 'N' Sock Connection vs. Evolution

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    The Rock's return to WWE as his Hollywood career was taking off was fitting of the WrestleMania XX stage inside Madison Square Garden.

    Randy Orton's lengthy star-making feud with Mick Foley was the impetus of this highly anticipated encounter. Orton's famed rivalry with Foley dated back to Orton spitting in the face of the hardcore legend and spawned many brutal wars between the two. 

    Significantly outnumbered by the four-person Evolution stable, featuring Batista and Ric Flair, Foley desperately needed backup. The backup came in the form of former tag team partner, and all-time great, The Rock.

    The feud built up to the 20th installment of WrestleMania, where the Rock 'N' Sock Connection reunited for one night only to face Evolution. 

    Orton scored the sudden pinfall over Foley, once again defeating the legend while heightening his moniker as the Legend Killer. 

    Mike Johnson of PWInsider had high praise for the match, saying:

    The show may end up being remembered as the last time The Rock stepped into a WWE ring as a wrestler, which as irony would have it, was the first time Foley had wrestled for WWE in several years. That too, was a really fun match.

    From star power, to venue to a storyline that called for The Rock to return and compete alongside his former tag team partner, this feud was indicative of how a handicap match can be made special.

3. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. the New World Order

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    Star power alone was the deciding factor in moving this otherwise sloppy handicap showdown past its peers. It was a pro wrestling top-10 list all in one match.

    The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan all competed in one of the most high-profile free television matches in history.

    WWE didn't hold back as the go-home show for Raw featured a WrestleMania preview. Neither Rock and Hogan nor Austin and Hall were kept apart despite being booked to face off at WrestleMania in six days. Fans were even treated to several brief seconds of Austin-Hogan physicality.

    It was spectacle for the sake of spectacle. A match strictly intended to please a crowd succeeded as a hot live audience prepared for the year's biggest show. 

    With so many aging wrestlers past their primes, the contest was not without its share of clunky and awkward spots, namely from Hogan and Nash. Following a pinfall victory over The Rock, Hogan took a messy bump from Austin, who shot in for the takedown.

    Still, this Raw main event was divine just by happening given its unlikelihood with the NWO running roughshod in WCW just a few years prior.

2. Chris Jericho vs. Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat and Jimmy Snuka

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    The build-up to WrestleMania for Chris Jericho was excellent. So much so, it was considered a letdown that it led to a match against three WWE Hall of Famers who were all light years away from their hey day.

    Jericho was in rare form, antagonizing legends week after week. The act was part of his delusional heel gimmick, which Jericho told Slam Magazine was inspired by Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men.

    After a brawl on Raw with the retired Ric Flair, it appeared as if Flair may come out of Retirement just one year after calling it a career.

    The good news is Flair stayed retired from WWE competition. The bad news? Jericho would instead battle three old geezers instead of one.

    At WrestleMania XXV, Piper and Snuka were the slow-moving elder statesmen they were on paper. In a feel-good twist, however, it was Ricky Steamboat who stole the show, putting on a vintage performance that captivated the old-school Texas crowd.

    At one point, Jim Ross, via PWTorch, exalted "Oh my God! We turned back the hands of time! How amazing was that move!"

    Steamboat would fall short, with Jericho picking up a rare WrestleMania victory. The match was exactly what it needed to be and more. Piper and Snuka's deficiencies were hidden while Steamboat surprisingly carried the mail before doing the job.

1. Hall and Nash vs. Randy Savage, Sting and Lex Luger

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    Many will contest this match's eligibility of even being considered "handicapped" since Hulk Hogan was revealed to be the mystery third man.

    But that reveal did not happen until the finish. At bell time, Lex Luger, Randy Savage and Sting were on one side of the ring while Hall and Nash were on the other.

    The fact that this match operated by handicap rules at one point makes it a candidate, and its impact on the pro wrestling industry makes it the best candidate possible.

    With Hall and Nash threatening a hostile takeover of the promotion, WCW's three white knights rose up to stop them.

    Lex Luger was knocked out early on after inadvertently taking a Stinger Splash. The spot evened the odds as Sting and Savage wrestled the remainder of the contest against the aptly named Outsiders.

    The live audience seemed subdued, but this was closer to anticipation with fans awaiting the arrival of The Outsiders' mystery tag partner. It started as a three-on-two affair, and it would end that way as well.

    During the climax, career babyface Hulk Hogan marched to the ring, appearing ready to give aid to WCW. He didn't, instead dropping his most infamous leg drop on Randy Savage.

    It was a moment that any qualified wrestling fan worth his or her salt can tell you where they were when it happened. Not until the Montreal Screwjob had one match been so defined by its finish.

    The wrestling was nothing to write home about, but the match itself will always remain larger than life as it featured the first-ever heel turn of perhaps the greatest hero wrestling ever saw.

    Fans were mesmerized by the idea of Hulk Hogan the villain. The debut of "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan played a significant role in WCW Nitro's 84-week winning streak over Raw. No other promotion in history can lay claim to this feat, and it's likely none ever will.

    The double-cross was the perfect plot twist in the storyline of rebels intending to take over a wrestling company with lineage that dated back to Jim Crockett Promotions. The addition of Hogan made this heel machine immortal. 

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