WWE: Top 25 Matches of All Time

Alfred KonuwaFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2011

WWE: Top 25 Matches of All Time

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    The decorated history of sports and entertainment has given us plenty of argument fodder.  Lists are the very catalysts for a variety of debates and intriguing conversation. 

    When it comes to pro wrestling and lists, the possibilities are almost endless.  However, the most prestigious lists are limited to few categorical hierarchies.  Of these hierarchies, the list pertaining to the greatest wrestling match of all time stands out as perhaps the most meaningful. 

    Great matches in WWE lore are defined by well-booked feuds, historical significance, competent commentary, and impeccable storytelling.  These are the criteria that went into selecting each match on this list. 

    This top 25 list spans generations and highlights some of the most memorable moments and contests in the history of WWE. 

    A who's who of wrestling's elite inhabits every match listed, with their historical, career-defining clashes taking center stage.

    No list is accepted as gospel, so let the inevitable debate begin. 

    Follow Big Nasty, @ThisIsNasty, and debate this very list in 140 characters or less.  

25. Chris Jericho Vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.: The Bash, 2009

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    In one of the most entertaining back-and-forth matches of 2009, veterans Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio Jr. put on an exciting match for the Intercontinental Championship at The Bash. 

    The everlasting chemistry between Jericho and Mysterio, dating back to their memorable feuds in WCW, was immediately apparent in a match built up over a lengthy feud that had already featured solid contests between the two. 

    The story of this match was Chris Jericho attempting to unmask Mysterio before laying waste to the Lucha Libre legend.  The story would masterfully build tension between these two future Hall of Famers, leading to an ingenious finish that saw Jericho succeed in unmasking Mysterio.  Much to Jericho's chagrin, Mysterio was wearing another mask underneath. 

    Jericho's shock lasted long enough for Mysterio to capitalize with his patented 619 maneuver as Mysterio captured the Intercontinental Championship. 

24. Rey Mysterio Jr. & Edge Vs. Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit: No Mercy, 2002

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    The first match contested for the WWE Tag Team Championships on SmackDown got the tag team division on the blue brand off to a blazing start.

    Edge and Rey Mysterio Jr. utilized innovative double-team maneuvers while Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle used their technical wrestling prowess to create a unique, fast-paced match that instantly added value to the newly introduced WWE Tag Team Championships. 

23. Steve Austin Vs. Triple H: No Way Out, 2001

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    Triple H and Steve Austin's war at No Way Out in 2001 served as a template to a perfectly booked feud and personified the often blundered art form that is brawling. 

    Austin and Triple H were contractually obliged to not touch one another leading up to their three stages of hell match at No Way Out. 

    While the match seemed to have too many components on paper, the tension by design, expertly built up over a course of weeks, had created a matchup that fit the grueling implications of a two out of three falls match with the final two falls carrying dangerous stipulations.

    Austin and Triple H's game of oneupsmanship saw each Superstar circumnavigate around their no-touch clause by attacking individuals close to the opposition.  Triple H pedigreed Austin's longtime friend Jim Ross, while Austin stunned Triple H's wife, Stephanie McMahon, at one point.  

    Their match had a tall task of living up to a brilliant build, and it did not disappoint. 

    The third and final fall saw both Superstars bloodied, leaving everything they had in a Steel Cage.  The finish saw Triple H and Austin simultaneously strike each other with foreign objects, with Triple H landing on Austin and earning a surprising victory over Austin, who was to challenge the Rock for the WWE Championship the following month at WrestleMania X-Seven. 

22. Edge & Mick Foley Vs. Tommy Dreamer & Terry Funk: ECW One Night Stand, 2006

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    The ECW One Night Stand pay-per-views captured the entire cult Phenomenon of Extreme Championship Wrestling in the span of three hours. 

    Of the many standout matches on the first two One Night Stand cards, perhaps the most entertaining hardcore match featured hardcore legend Mick Foley teaming with Edge to take on longtime rival Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer. 

    The match was highlighted by one of the most hardcore spots ever to be condoned in WWE, when Mick Foley took two shots with a flaming barbed wire 2 x 4 from Terry Funk before falling through a plywood board also covered in barbed wire. 

21. Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena: RAW in London, 2007

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    John Cena's match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 23 was well done; however, it lacked the legendary quality of match that Michaels was known for at WrestleMania. 

    A Randy Orton episode in a hotel overseas, which canceled a scheduled match between Orton and Edge, gave Michaels and Cena's WrestleMania rematch in London ample time to outdo their rather tame WrestleMania match. 

    And they did not disappoint.

    Waging war for nearly an hour, Michaels and Cena put on a show for the O2 Arena in London that more than made up for anything Orton and Edge could have done, and surpassed their WrestleMania showdown just a month prior. 

    Shawn Michaels would win the non-title classic with Sweet Chin Music, further cementing his legacy as perhaps the greatest Superstar in WWE history. 

20. WWE Royal Rumble 2001

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    The 2001 Royal Rumble match was a microcosm of the type of booking any aspiring promotion should adhere by. 

    The event was dominated by Kane, who put forth the greatest Royal Rumble performance of all time, eliminating 11 Superstars. 

    Just when Kane couldn't look any more unstoppable, out came WWE antihero Steve Austin, with WrestleMania on his mind. 

    Austin was attacked and severely lacerated by Triple H, as part of a feud that would lead to the 24th-ranked match on this list, and appeared to be out of the Royal Rumble running.

    Austin would scratch and claw his way back into the match, tearing through the remaining field only to face the dominant Kane in a final two showdown that favored the Big Red Machine.

    Jim Ross was brilliant in his commentary, with passion and energy leading to the WWE Hall of Famer nearly losing his voice, as Ross conveyed the uphill struggle that Austin endured en route to his record third Royal Rumble win. 

19. Shawn Michaels Vs. Bret Hart: WrestleMania XII, 1996

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    The first ever Iron Man match goes hand in hand with Shawn Michaels' career and legacy as Michaels captured his first WWE Championship. 

    The fact that the crowd knew they were in for an hour-long match hurt the energy for the match early, with Michaels and Bret Hart jockeying for position in the opening third of the contest. 

    However with no pinfalls within the first 60 minutes, suspense helped catapult this decorated match to new heights.  

    Michaels would get "the ball" in this pivotal 1996 match, winning in overtime, with WCW breathing down WWE's neck. 

    Michaels would serve as the very formidable glue that held WWE together during a long struggle for TV ratings against the red-hot Atlanta-based wrestling promotion, WCW. 

18. Ric Flair Vs. Randy Savage: WrestleMania VIII, 1992

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    WrestleMania VIII was supposed to feature a dream matchup between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.  However, ego problems between Hogan, Flair, and likely Vince McMahon, prevented such a matchup from occurring. 

    WrestleMania was instead main-evented with a plodding mess of a match between Hogan and Sid, while Flair was paired with Randy Savage. 

    Savage and Flair delighted the Hoosier Dome in Indiana with a lengthy contest that had all the drama, wrestling, and bleeding that any wrestling fan could ask for. 

    Flair's aggressive and unwanted courtship of Miss Elizabeth fueled the always erratic Savage's rage in an emotionally charged match for the WWE Championship. 

    The match would end with Savage defeating the Nature Boy to regain the WWE Championship. 

17. Shawn Michaels Vs. Chris Jericho: No Mercy, 2008

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    Shawn Michaels not only innovated the ladder match, he would later revolutionize this match type 14 years later against Chris Jericho in perhaps the greatest ladder match of all time. 

    Jericho and Michaels climaxed their critically acclaimed feud with an epic ladder match that saw Jericho lose a tooth, yet retain the World Heavyweight Championship. 

16. Kurt Angle Vs. Brock Lesnar: WrestleMania XIX, 2003

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    With two of the finest athletes/amateur wrestlers in WWE history set to main event WrestleMania XIX in Seattle, Wash., the expectations for Angle vs. Lesnar in the biggest show of 2003 were sky high. 

    Angle and Lesnar competed in an instant classic, that resulted in legitimate injuries, and re-aggravation of lingering injuries, for both Superstars, which illustrated the high costs and desire of performing at WrestleMania.

    The highlight of the match, which lives in both infamy and history, saw Brock Lesnar attempt a shooting star press.  Lesnar would botch the maneuver, leading to a concussion for Lesnar although the WWE star turned UFC star would avoid more severe injury. 

    Lesnar would go on to win a match that lived up to every ounce of hype, with both Angle and Lesnar contributing to another spectacular WrestleMania match. 

15. Shawn Michaels Vs. Triple H Vs. Chris Benoit: WrestleMania XX, 2004

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    Triple H has made a career out of being wrongfully placed in the WrestleMania main event.  Triple H has had the unenviable task of following Hogan-Rock, Angle-Michaels, and Michaels-Flair in what was thought to be Ric Flair's last match, and Michaels-Taker I at WrestleMania and fell well short of matching these legendary matches. 

    However, in a keen demonstration of the theory of "if you can't beat em, join em," Triple H staged a tremendous Triple Threat match alongside habitual show stealer Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit. 

    The match would culminate in the first major WWE Championship of Chris Benoit's career in what was arguably the greatest Triple Threat match in WrestleMania history. 

14. Mick Foley Vs. The Undertaker: King of the Ring, 1998

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    Mick Foley falling off of a 16-foot cell through an announce table is one of those timeless clips that helped defined WWE's most successful period in history. 

    The Undertaker's long rivalry with Mick Foley's Mankind character saw a series of brutal gimmick matches; however, none were greater or more memorable than Taker and Mankind in the second Hell in a Cell match. 

    Throughout the match, the Undertaker would abuse Mick Foley worse than the PWTorch abuses their right to use of the "quotation mark."

    Foley's plummet from the top of the cage would not be the only dangerous spot that Foley would perform, as the hardcore legend would subsequently be chokeslammed through the top of the cell

    Foley would later take a chokeslam on a myriad of thumbtacks en route to the most painful loss in WWE history.  The loss, however, launched the career of the fourth face of Foley...Mick Foley. 

13. Shawn Michaels Vs. Razor Ramon: WrestleMania X, 1994

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    Before the TLC match, there was the ladder match.  When Shawn Michaels was suspended as Intercontinental Champion for he believes was a phantom positive drug test in 1994, Michaels refused to send his belt back to WWE headquarters.

    The act of defiance lead to Razor Ramon being crowned as the new Intercontinental Champion after winning a battle royal; however, with Michaels still parading around with the belt upon his return, an undisputed Intercontinental Champion needed to be crowned.  

    Michaels and Ramon would meet in a ladder match that stole a WrestleMania X show, at Madison Square Garden in New York, that lacked substance in the main event with Hulk Hogan not featured on a WrestleMania card for the first time in the event's history. 

    It has been argued that Michaels didn't have a match with Razor Ramon, but rather had a match with a ladder with Razor Ramon in the ring while it was happening.  

    But a handful of creative spots and a great finish lead to the match immediately excelling to become one of the all-time great matches in both WWE and WrestleMania history.   

12. TLC II: WrestleMania X-Seven

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    With their Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at the previous SummerSlam transcending the ladder match, the principles involved in TLC II submitted the best sequel since the New Testament. 

    Edge & Christian, The Dudley Boyz, and the Hardy Boyz brawled in a spot fest that would leave bodies laying across the floors of the Astrodome in Houston, in what has been widely praised as the greatest WrestleMania of all time. 

    The signature spot featured Edge spearing Jeff Hardy in midair, who was suspended in the air while hanging on to the cord holding the championships.  

    Edge & Christian would go on to capture their second straight TLC victory with their win.

11. Ric Flair Vs. Shawn Michaels: WrestleMania XXIV, 2008

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    What was thought to be Ric Flair's last match came against the master of the WrestleMania match as Shawn Michaels help extract one of the best matches of Ric Flair's WWE career. 

    An edict had been handed down by Vince McMahon to Ric Flair where Flair would have to win the remainder of his career matches, with his first loss resulting in his imminent retirement. 

    After a long winning streak of both tainted and clean victories, Flair would hand-pick Shawn Michaels to face him at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, Fla. 

    Michaels would battle his childhood hero in a match that was laced with emotion and told a simple story of an old legend trying to fend off Father Time in his last stand in WWE.  

    Flair would lose the match after taking three total superkicks from Michaels.  Before HBK delivered the final, career-ending blow to Flair, the WWE cameras captured Michaels uttering the phrase "I'm sorry.  I love you." 

10. Bret Hart Vs. British Bulldog: SummerSlam, 1992

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    One could make an argument that Bret Hart's classic tilt with the British Bulldog in the Bulldog's backyard in a jam-packed Wembley Stadium was perhaps the greatest Intercontinental title match of all time. 

    The Intercontinental title match between the brothers-in-law went on last at1992's SummerSlam as a big match feel accompanied an otherwise secondary title. 

    Lennox Lewis accompanied the British Bulldog to the ring in front of his home crowd, further adding to the unique ambiance of a dynamic main event. 

    The back-and-forth technical clinic ended with Bulldog countering a Bret Hart maneuver, pinning the legend to capture his first and only Intercontinental Championship. 

9. Steve Austin Vs. The Rock, WrestleMania X-Seven, 2001

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    Leading into their anticipated showdown at WrestleMania X-Seven, the showcase at the Astrodome in Houston was already on its way to being considered one of the all time great WrestleManias. 

    With WCW out of the picture, WrestleMania X-Seven was the first unilateral Grand Spectacle in pro wrestling in quite some time. 

    Austin and Rock lived up to the many layers of pressure of the WrestleMania main event with a fantastic match where two of the most popular WWE Stars of all time went toe to toe in a main event befitting of the greatest WrestleMania of all time.

    The long build to Austin-Rock saw one man getting the better of the other each week leading to the pay-per-view.  The constantly changing music video packages, accompanied by Limp Bizkit's My Way, enhanced the dramatic element of this star-studded main event. 

    The two stars who were most instrumental in putting WCW out of business did big business for WWE as WrestleMania X-Seven marked the first-ever WrestleMania to draw one million buys on pay-per-view. 

    When it was all said and done, Steve Austin captured his fifth WWE Championship, but not before turning heel in a puzzling finish to an otherwise great match.  

8. Kurt Angle Vs. Chris Benoit, WrestleMania X-Seven, 2001

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    Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were magic in the ring together, and their technical wrestling tour de force at WrestleMania X-Seven was no exception. 

    Angle and Benoit staged a catch-as-catch-can classic that provided the excitement that the Jack Brisco-Dory Funk grappling (in black and white) that the purists slobber over lacked.  

    This back-and-forth match was as close to a legitimate amateur wrestling contest that WWE has seen, and it ended with Kurt Angle winning a WrestleMania match for the first time ever. 

7. Bret Hart Vs. Owen Hart: WrestleMania X, 1994

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    Bret Hart and his brother, the late Owen Hart, participated in hands-down the greatest opening match in the history of WrestleMania. 

    Pandering to the ready-made story of Bret and Owen having one another well-scouted, the two brothers furiously countered each others' moves throughout an awesome curtain-jerking match at WrestleMania X in Madison Square Garden.

    Owen Hart would claim the upset victory over Bret with a rollup pin in the first match of a very critical WrestleMania for WWE. 

6. Hulk Hogan Vs. The Rock: WrestleMania X8, 2002

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    WrestleMania is a stage made for the dream match.  No other match defined this term more than Hogan vs. Rock. 

    With two of the biggest stars of the past and present set to do battle in the Skydome of Toronto, Canada, Nostalgia drowned out Hogan's run as a heel in his first WrestleMania match in almost a decade. 

    The fans immediately sided with Hogan in his timeless match with the Rock, with Hogan and Rock delivering each admirable performances in a match won by the Rock. 

    Hogan and Rock would shake hands following the match with Hogan posing for the nostalgic Canada crowd at WrestleMania, channeling memories of WrestleMania VI. 

5. Bret Hart Vs. Steve Austin: WrestleMania 13, 1997

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    Austin and Bret Hart in a submission match at WrestleMania 13 was quite possibly the most important match of WWE history.  The match launched the career of anti-hero Stone Cold Steve Austin, with MMA legend Ken Shamrock as the special guest referee, featured the rare double turn.

    By the end of the match, fan support for Steve Austin had unequivocally replaced that of Bret Hart, who had suddenly become one of the biggest heels in wrestling for kicking the valiant Austin while he was down. 

    The image of Austin bleeding profusely while helplessly fighting out of the Sharpshooter, an image which was later manufactured into a t-shirt, remains as one of the most iconic sequences in WrestleMania history. 

4. Shawn Michaels Vs. Kurt Angle: WrestleMania XXI, 2005

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    Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels have frequented this list of great WWE matches thus far, so it's only natural that their respective match against one another, at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles, would rank high on this list as well.

    Angle and Michaels exchanged high impact maneuvers, with Angle incorporating his amateur wrestling background while Michaels imposed his own will with a mix of high-risk maneuvers and hallmark resilience to Angle's patented ankle lock. 

    The two WWE legends exchanged nearfalls in a breathtaking match that did not have a single dull moment. 

    In the end, Angle would prove victorious as Michaels unsuccessfully expended every ounce of fight left in him attempting to break the ankle lock. 

3. Hulk Hogan Vs. Andre the Giant: WrestleMania III, 1987

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    Purists who pine for old-school grappling that would put David Blaine to sleep would scoff at Hulk Hogan being this high on a list of great wrestling matches. 

    But Hogan and Andre's WrestleMania III match, while not a form-fitting classic wrestling match, delivered in the category of spectacle. 

    The big match between Andre and Hogan was one of the biggest and most high profile matches in WWE history. 

    The match transcended Hulkamania and WWE to the greatest heights it had seen at the time, and led a revolutionary golden age of pro wrestling. 

    Hulk Hogan's slamming of Andre the Giant, who gets bigger every year according to Hulk Hogan's storytelling, could be considered one of the greatest spots of WrestleMania. 

    Hogan's monumental victory over the late Giant went a long way in the eventual success of WWE that continues to this day. 

2. Ricky Steamboat Vs. Randy Savage: WrestleMania III, 1987

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    While Hogan/Andre was the special attraction of WrestleMania III in Detroit, Savage/Steamboat seized all the attention. 

    In the first match ever to steal the show at WrestleMania, Savage and Steamboat competed in a teeter-totter type matchup that left the finish in doubt until the eventual pinfall scored by Steamboat. 

    The Intercontinental Championship received a shot of adrenaline and value all at the same time with a memorable match between two of pro wrestling's all-time great workers. 

    Like many great back-and-forth matches, this particular match would end with Steamboat rolling up Savage and winning the Intercontinental title with a pinfall out of nowhere. 

1. Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker: WrestleMania XXV, 2009

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    A match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, at this stage of their careers, had been demanded by wrestling fans from multiple generations. 

    Despite each living legend being on the back end of their decorated careers, both had deftly managed to tweak their in-ring style to be able to adapt to today's wrestling landscape. 

    The match between the two Texas-born athletes at WrestleMania XXV in Houston was one that nobody who witnessed it will ever forget.

    Jim Ross' expert commentary put this match over the top as Ross' impeccable timing gave way to anecdotal comments that somehow managed to tie in the match's simplistic and implicit theme of Heaven vs. Hell.

    Ross' description of Michaels kicking out of the tombstone piledriver as "divine intervention" was lucent in that it reminded the viewers of Michaels' religious background in a match where he was facing a character who exudes Hellish qualities.      

    The match was highlighted with a series of nearfalls that indeed saw the Undertaker's WrestleMania streak in legitimate danger. 

    The Undertaker would hold on to win this instant classic, and the popular demand bred a rematch the following year, where Michaels would once again fail to defeat the Undertaker, thus ending his career.

    The second showdown between Taker and Michaels was close to being as good as the original and, in many ways, shares the top spot with Taker-Michaels I. 

    However the lack of legendary commentator Jim Ross, in favor of an inept three-man booth in Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and Matt Striker, took away from the rematch that was already hampered by the unmatched quality of the original. 

    Follow Big Nasty, @ThisIsNasty, and debate this very list in 140 characters or less.