The 10 Greatest February PPV Matches in WWE History
Though it is traditionally the appetizer for the main course that is WrestleMania, WWE's February pay-per-view events have been responsible for some of the best matches of the year and, in one case, one of the company's greatest matches.
Elite Superstars such as Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Undertaker have competed at February shows throughout the course of their careers, and some of their best matches will be featured throughout this list.
Edge, Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho make multiple appearances, as does 1996 Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle.
Where do they fall and which matches are celebrated?
With the 2014 edition of Elimination Chamber coming up in just over one week, here is a look back at the greatest matches in February pay-per-view history.
10. WWE Title Match: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin vs. Undertaker vs. Vader (1997)
The 1997 Royal Rumble ended it tremendous controversy, as Steve Austin re-entered the ring after being eliminated and dumped Bret Hart over the top rope to win the match.
When Shawn Michaels forfeited his title, it was determined that Austin and Hart, as well as Vader and Undertaker, would compete in a four-way elimination bout dubbed a "Final 4 Match" to determine a new champion.
In the match, Superstars could be eliminated by pinfall, submission or by being tossed over the top rope.
With four tremendously talented individuals competing for the right to be champion, there was a great deal of confidence that the match would deliver in terms of quality.
That confidence was backed up in a match where Austin suffered an injury and was the first Superstar eliminated, and Hart once again proved his greatness by providing the performance everyone expected of him. He meshed with Vader and Undertaker, both of whom work different styles, and the match thrived because of it.
Hart capitalized on a momentary distraction by Austin to clothesline Undertaker over the top rope and score his fourth WWE title.
Unfortunately, despite his hard work and outstanding performance, Hart was unable to hold onto the strap.
The next night, he lost the title to Sid, thanks to more interference from the Texas Rattlesnake.
9. IC Title Match: Jericho vs. Benoit vs. X-Pac vs. Guerrero (No Way Out 2001)
Take four outstanding wrestlers, give them a decent amount of time on a pay-per-view broadcast and let them do what they do for the historic Intercontinental Championship and you are guaranteed a phenomenal match.
Even if the story behind it is decidedly lacking.
That was the case when Chris Jericho defended his title against Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and X-Pac in the second bout of the truly great No Way Out 2001 event.
To try to summarize the action would be ridiculous, but what it boiled down to was three of the best in the world, and a very underrated X-Pac, busting tail to steal the show out from underneath the two heavily hyped main events.
Jericho retained the title, despite an interference attempt from X-Pac's X-Factor teammate Justin Credible, and would head into WrestleMania X-7 to defend against the vile, despicable WWE commissioner William Regal.
Benoit would be somewhat lost in the shuffle before the WWE creative team happened upon a feud between he and Kurt Angle for 'Mania, while Guerrero would challenge Test for the European title at the show.
X-Pac was a bit past his sell-by date at the time, given that his character was still stuck in the Attitude Era, while younger and more innovative and interesting Superstars were debuting. He would be left without a match on the official 'Mania card.
8. World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber Match (EC, 2010)
The Undertaker was not leaving the Elimination Chamber with his World Heavyweight Championship.
Chris Jericho was.
Those two things were apparent to everyone watching the event.
What was not was just how great the title match would be.
Sure, any match touting the likes of Undertaker, Jericho, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk is sure to be excellent. But the level of awesome exhibited inside the steel structure is nearly unmatched in the history of the Elimination Chamber match.
Punk, in the middle of his tremendous run as the leader of the Straight Edge Society, alternated between beating down R-Truth and cutting a promo about his quest to save the addicted. Mysterio, as he has done in the past, was the glue that held the match together.
Jericho and Undertaker's interactions late in the match helped carry the last third of the bout. The fact that they had never met in singles action in any significant pay-per-view match meant that the final showdown was a relatively fresh one.
The interjection of Shawn Michaels in the finish played up his desire to face Undertaker, and although Jericho's win came in fairly cheap fashion, it came as a key event in a much larger story.
7. Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart (IYH 6, 1996)
In November of 1995, Shawn Michaels was sidelined following an injury angle involving Owen Hart.
In a one-on-one main event between the two on Raw, Hart delivered an enzuigiri kick to the head of Michaels. Moments later, the Heartbreak Kid passed out in the center of the ring and was immediately attended to by medical personnel.
It was an expertly shot angle, as even the commentary team went silent to really sell the seriousness of the situation.
In the weeks that followed, Hart bragged about his action, seemingly taking great pride in the fact that he injured Michaels so severely. Unfortunately for the 1994 King of the Ring, Michaels returned, winning the Royal Rumble and setting his sights on the man who put him out of action.
A match between the two was booked for the February In Your House show, with the stipulation stating that Owen would receive Michaels' guaranteed title opportunity at WrestleMania XII were he to defeat Shawn.
The match was every bit as good was one would expect from the all-time great workers.
The early exchanges were excellent, as both Superstars tried to match what the other was doing. The psychology was solid later, with Hart rightly focusing his attack on the head of his opponent.
Unfortunately, Michaels proved to be too much for the King of Harts, delivering Sweet Chin Music and cashing his ticket to WrestleMania XII, where he would defeat Owen's brother Bret in a 60-minute Iron Man match to claim his first WWE Championship.
6. WWE Title Match: The Rock vs. Kurt Angle (No Way out 2001)
In October of 2000, Kurt Angle defeated The Rock to complete the greatest rookie year in WWE history by winning the company's heavyweight title.
Four months later, the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment was the only obstacle standing between Angle and his first WrestleMania main event.
This time, The Rock would return to the favor to Angle, ending his lackluster title reign and setting up the biggest main event since Hogan-Andre in Rock-Austin at WrestleMania X-7.
Champion and challenger delivered a dramatic match that featured several near-falls, counters and reversals. Big Show interfered, as the booking team attempted to manufacture the drama that Rock and Angle had created organically.
The finish was mildly hampered when referee Earl Hebner botched his count, but Rock still scored the win, and the match's quality prior to that point was so good that the flub was not enough to do significant damage.
It was Angle's first really great main event and one of The Rock's most underrated bouts.
5. World Heavyweight Title Match: Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle (No Way Out 2006)
Prior to No Way Out in 2006, Undertaker and Kurt Angle had competed against one another but never really had that one undisputed great match.
That changed when the two future Hall of Famers clashed in Baltimore for Angle's World Heavyweight Championship, and the wrestling world was left in awe of the match it was presented.
Rather than utilizing a power-based offense as he had done in previous matches against Angle, Undertaker broke out a more mat-based skill set that incorporated some MMA holds and counters, and the match benefited from it incredibly.
Angle, to his credit, delivered his finest performance in months since the Shawn Michaels rematch the previous July in what was the last truly great match of his WWE career.
The finish was outstanding, as the challenger locked Angle in the Hell's Gate submission hold, only to have the Olympic gold medalist counter it into a pinfall. Three seconds later, Angle retained his title and set himself up for a WrestleMania 22 main event.
A great wrestling match between two pros who knew how to deliver in high-profile spots.
4. World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber Match (EC, 2011)
There is a lot to love about the 2011 World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match.
Wade Barrett and Drew McIntyre were excellent in their first trip inside the Chamber, while Kane and Big Show brought the dominant big-man factor to the bout.
The story of the match, however, centers around two of the greatest Chamber performers in match history: Rey Mysterio and Edge.
The Rated R Superstar had entered the match as World Heavyweight champion, and most expected the greatest threat to his title was Barrett, who was coming off of the run with Nexus and was considered one of the bright young stars on the roster.
Mysterio, on the other hand, was gearing up for a rivalry with Cody Rhodes and really was treading water in early 2011. He was a key member of SmackDown, but few thought of him as anything other than a name at that time in his career. It was clear that his days as a main event star were behind him.
That did not affect his will to have a great match.
He and Edge delivered a dramatic final portion of the Chamber match, which featured near-falls and last-second kickouts from the opposition's signature maneuvers. Their encounter came to an end when Edge caught Mysterio with a spear for the win.
It was the final great pay-per-view performance of Edge's Hall of Fame career.
3. WWE Title Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar
The entire No Way Out 2004 pay-per-view was built on Eddie Guerrero's big WWE Championship match against Brock Lesnar.
Taking place in San Francisco, where Eddie's brother Chavo was a star for years, it seemed as though everything pointed at Guerrero finally achieving the one goal that had eluded him throughout his career. He had overcome addiction and had returned to WWE more focused, determined and over than before and lied, cheated and stole en route to becoming the most popular babyface on the roster.
Lesnar was the WWE champion but was facing a much bigger challenge in Goldberg, whom he would go on to face at WrestleMania XX. The threat of the former WCW star sitting at ringside for the big title was in the back of Lesnar's head, leading to questions as to whether or not the champion could keep his focus on Guerrero.
The champion wore down Guerrero throughout most of the match, as it began to look more and more like Eddie may be the latest Superstar to fall at the hands of the man formerly known as the Next Big Thing.
Ever resilient, Guerrero never gave up, enduring all of Lesnar's power-based offense and fighting back.
Late in the match, Goldberg made his presence felt, delivering a big spear to Lesnar.
Guerrero capitalized. Though Lesnar refused to be pinned following Goldberg's interference, Eddie leaped off the top rope, caught him with the frog splash and captured his first, and only, WWE title.
His celebration with his mother and brothers at ringside was one of the most inspirational moments in WWE history and a legitimate feel-good moment.
The match, conversely, was outstanding and marred only by the interference from Goldberg.
2. Hell in a Cell for the WWE Title: Cactus Jack vs. Triple H (No Way Out 2000)
In January of 2000, Cactus Jack and Triple H delivered a tremendous, emotionally fueled street fight for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. After the instant classic, the company attempted to cash in with a rematch, this time inside Hell in a Cell, with the added stipulation being that if Jack lost, Mick Foley would retire from professional wrestling.
The outcome of the match was not really in doubt. After all, all signs pointed toward Triple H retaining and defending against The Rock at WrestleMania 2000. But with so much hype put into the match, and given the outstanding performance delivered by Foley just a month earlier, there were fans still holding out hope that he would get one last run with the title.
Considering the lengths Foley had taken to entertain fans inside the cell in years past, there were high expectations for the main event of No Way Out.
Jack and Triple H delivered on those expectations, crafting a second consecutive five-star classic inside the intimidating structure. It was a violent, bloody war that built on their previous bout and culminated with both Superstars standing atop the structure.
Jack used a 2X4 wrapped in barbed wire—then lit on fire—on the head of The Game but ultimately found himself back-dropped through the roof and down to the ring below. The impact of Jack striking the canvas caused it to cave in a stunning moment.
A Pedigree from Triple H to Jack finished off the tenacious competitor and brought an end to his legendary career.
Until the company called a week or so later to ask him to be part of the WrestleMania main event.
But that is another story for another time.
1. 3 Stages of Hell: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H (No Way out 2001)
One of the greatest matches in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment, the 3 Stages of Hell match between Steve Austin and Triple H at No Way Out in 2001 was the culmination of a storyline dating back to the fall of 1999.
After revealing that he had orchestrated Rikishi's running over of Austin with a car back at Survivor Series in November of '99, Triple H became the No. 1 enemy of the Texas Rattlesnake. Their heated rivalry lasted from November of 2000 through January's Royal Rumble.
It was announced that they would meet in February at the No Way Out pay-per-view and would do so in a 3 Stages of Hell match in which each fall would be assigned a different gimmick match. The first, a singles match, would play to The Game's strengths, while the second, a street fight, would play to Austin's.
If a third fall was necessary, it would be contested inside a steel cage.
Austin and Triple H delivered a match that perfectly concluded their intense rivalry and did so with a bit of great booking.
Stone Cold scored an upset victory over The Game in the singles match, while Triple H summoned the hatred and violence he utilized to defeat greats like Chris Jericho and Cactus Jack to top Austin in the street fight fall.
The cage was lowered around the squared circle so the two could continue their brutal encounter. Both men bled buckets and were on the brink of exhaustion when Triple H blasted Austin with a sledgehammer at the same time that Austin smashed him with a 2X4 wrapped in barbed wire.
Triple H luckily fell on top of Austin and secured the three-count, and the win, in what was the greatest match in February pay-per-view history.