WWE Extreme Rules 2011: The Most Memorable Extreme Matches in WWE History

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2011

WWE Extreme Rules 2011: The Most Memorable Extreme Matches in WWE History

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    Extreme. The mere mention of the word excites sports-entertainment fans around the world. Generally speaking, when the word is spoken in relation to a match, expectations are immediately heightened.

    Many of the sport's most memorable matches in the last 15 years have been extreme in nature.

    Whether it is the always-entertaining Hell in a Cell match, the classic car-wreck that is Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, or the pure pleasure we get from the pain of the WWE Superstars inside the gigantic Elimination Chamber, the added stipulations serve to freshen up a rivalry and elicit interest that otherwise may not have existed.

    Join me as I take a look at the most memorable extreme matches in WWE's long and illustrious history.

Texas Bull Rope Match: Dusty Rhodes vs. "Superstar" Billy Graham

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    "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and "Superstar" Billy Graham are unquestionably two of the most charismatic, most talkative stars in the history of professional wrestling. The influence they had on the stars that came after them is immeasurable.

    They were flamboyant performers who had the unique ability to talk the fans into the arena and then thrill them with unmatched in-ring storytelling. Rhodes and Graham were also bona-fide national stars in an era where the territorial system was still both relevant and strong.

    Throughout the course of 1978, Dusty made numerous trips north to New York City, where he would step inside Madison Square Garden and challenge Billy Graham for the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation Championship in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd.

    After a few indecisive matches between the two national stars, a Texas Bull Rope match between the two was booked for the November 18, 1978 return to "the World's Most Famous Arena." Rhodes and Graham would take turns brutalizing one another with the rope and the blood of both would flow. The fans erupted as Dusty punished Graham with the rope.

    In the end, Rhodes would defeat Graham by count-out after using the metal cowbell attached to the center of the bull rope.

    The match was very violent and blood spilled in "the Garden" was something unique and uncommon at the time. Rhodes and Graham brought a level of showmanship that had yet to be seen in the WWWF, which favored bigger, more muscular stars.

    The Bull Rope match between Rhodes and Graham would be an indication of what would come some 20 years later, as Vince McMahon and his sports-entertainment company ushered in an Attitude Era that would revolutionize the business and take everything to the extreme.

Street Fight for the WWE Championship: Cactus Jack vs. Triple H

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    The 2000 Royal Rumble is considered one of the better pay-per-view events in the WWE's history. It ushered in the best year, creatively and in-ring performance wise, the company had ever and has ever seen.

    And the most heated, personal storyline leading into the show centered around Triple H and Mankind.

    In late 1999, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley had taken control of Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation.

    McMahon had taken a hiatus after his daughter aligned herself with Triple H, turning her back on her family.

    On a massive power trip, and now effectively known as the "McMahon-Helmsley Era," the newlywed Helmsleys wreaked havoc across the company, doing, saying, and making any match they wanted.

    One of those matches would be dubbed a "Pink Slip on a Pole" match between The Rock and Mankind, the loser of which would be fired from the company.

    The Rock would leave the match victorious while Mankind was left in the cold, suddenly jobless in what amounted to little more than despicable entertainment for Stephanie and Hunter.

    The ensuing weeks saw the McMahon-Helmsley regime go out of their way to poke fun at Mankind. Sketches aired on Thursday's Smackdown program, featuring a fake Mankind begging for jobs while Triple H, disguised as potential employers, humiliated him at every turn.

    The mocking of Mick Foley and the Mankind character would continue until the most popular Superstar, and closest thing Mankind had to a friend, took it upon himself to stand up to the dastardly power couple.

    The Rock assembled the entire WWE roster around ringside and threatened a company-wide walk-out if Mick Foley was not reinstated immediately.

    Fearing the loss of a mega-star such as The Rock, as well as the entire WWE roster, Triple H and Stephanie had no choice but to re-instate Foley.

    After a brutal, bloody battle that saw Triple H deliver a Pedigree to Mankind through a table, Foley would admit that Mankind was not prepared to face Helmsley in a Street Fight for the WWE Championship.

    Ever the cocky champion, Triple H flashed a grin, feeling as though he had finally put an end to the threat that Mankind had posed to his title reign. Then Foley told Triple H that it would be Cactus Jack, another persona of Foley's, that would take Mankind's place.

    Some eleven years later, many fans consider the Street Fight between Cactus Jack and Triple H to be one of the best WWE Championship matches of all-time, as well as one of the most brutal encounters of any kind in sports-entertainment history.

    Desperate to retain his title, Triple H would handcuff Jack's hands behind his back and beat him with a steel chair. In retaliation, Cactus would retrieve a 2X4 wrapped in razor-sharp barbed wire and use it to bloody the champion.

    The climax of the match, however, would see Cactus Jack introduce a bag of thumbtacks into the contest. Before he could use them on his hated rival, however, Triple H would deliver a vicious, sickening Pedigree onto the tacks, sending Jack face-first into the tacks.

    Triple H would walk away the victor and, thanks to his performance in this match, gain the trust and confidence of Vince McMahon and the WWE fans to carry the company as its top antagonist.

    The match would also serve as the genesis for several hardcore, "extreme" matches for Triple H in 2000, including a Hell in the Cell rematch against Cactus Jack a mere month later.

    The Street Fight at Royal Rumble 2000 was a display in viciousness, a match that was as violent as it was excellent. It's legacy has stood the test of time and is one of the fine examples of storytelling and quality in-ring work mixing to create a masterpiece.

Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer, & Beulah vs. Mick Foley, Edge, and Lita

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    Credit: WWE.com
    Credit: WWE.com

    The summer of 2006 featured the final push towards the main event picture for Edge. In January, he won his first WWE Championship. At WrestleMania 22, he defeated Mick Foley in the "Hardcore Legend's" own extreme environment.

    And at Backlash, he proved his ability to hang with two established main event talents when he competed in a triple threat match against Triple H and John Cena.

    Despite his sprint to the top of the card, it would take one more performance to truly cement his place as a credible main event Superstar.

    With the ECW: One Night Stand pay-per-view on the horizon, Mick Foley made a shocking heel turn.

    Aligning himself with the "Rated R Superstar," his opposition in the show-stealing hardcore match at WrestleMania three months earlier, Foley wanted to put an end to his former best friend Terry Funk and the heart of the original ECW, Tommy Dreamer.

    At ECW:ONS, Edge and Mick Foley would look to finalize accomplish their goal of destroying Funk and Dreamer in a tag team match that would surely be befitting one of the most violent companies in wrestling history.

    Blood was spilled, weapons were utilized, and both Beulah McGillicutty and Lita were unannounced additions to the contest.

    When Terry Funk was injured early in the contest, Edge and Foley went to work on Dreamer, brutalizing him and extending the punishment simply for the sake of their enjoyment. However, when Funk returned, the a new level of violence followed.

    Funk lit a barbed wire 2X4 on fire and hit Foley with it, temporarily igniting the back of the former multiple-time WWE Champion. Foley crashed into a large bed of barbed wire and Funk followed, courtesy of Edge.

    With the two experienced hardcore veterans out of the picture, Edge continued to shine. He took out Tommy Dreamer and turned his attention to Dreamer's real-life wife, Beulah. He executed a vicious Spear and lewdly and crudely stacked her up for the pin.

    In one night, Edge went from an entertaining villain who flirted with the main event to an entertaining villain who the general fan base absolutely despised and the diehard fans who had an affinity for bad guys adored.

    Outside of the series of matches between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho in the fall of 2008, this would also prove to be one of the final, truly bloody and violent matches WWE had to offer before its switch to 'PG' family programming.

    As it stands now, we may not see another match like it. While there was a story behind the creation of the contest, the match was purely and simply about the violence both teams were willing to do to one another to pick up a win.

    That is its legacy and, whether you personally agree with that style of the sport or not, the reason it is so fondly remembered by the fans who watched it live or saw it on DVD.

The Elimination Chamber

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    Credit: WWE.com
    Credit: WWE.com

    The chain link walls. The grated steel floors. The bulletproof, Plexiglas pods that hold the Superstars before their entrance into the match.

    There is something about the sound of the human body slamming into these objects that is both sickening and entertaining all at the same time. The brutality the WWE Superstars put their bodies through to entertain the fans each and every year is amazing.

    No matter how many times you see an Elimination Chamber match, the hellish torment that faces each of the men that step through the door and into the abyss of pain that awaits them, you can never get enough of the violence dished out inside the structure's walls.

    In 2002, at the Survivor Series, the Elimination Chamber made its debut and claimed its first victim. In that match, Triple H suffered a broken trachea when Rob Van Dam's knee struck his throat following a Five Star Frog Splash off the top of one of the pods.

    Despite the injury, Triple H proved his toughness by continuing the match for nearly 35 minutes and losing only when Shawn Michaels was able to pin his shoulders to the mat.

    In 2003, Triple H would once again take center stage inside the chamber, retaining his World Heavyweight Championship by lastly eliminating Bill Goldberg. In 2005, he would regain the same title by outlasting Randy Orton, thanks in part to Dave Batista.

    In 2006, the Elimination Chamber was literally taken to the extreme when it was featured in the main event of the first, and only, ECW brand pay-per-view December to Dismember. With weapons involved, making the environment that much more dangerous, Bobby Lashley outlasted five other ECW talents to win the brand's championship.

    Beginning in 2008, both Raw and Smackdown would expose their Superstars to the punishment dealt inside the chamber. Since then, every February has featured the Elimination Chamber as the centerpiece of that month's pay-per-view event.

    Gone is the No Way Out pay-per-view and in its place is the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, the final stop on the road to Wrestlemania.

Tables, Ladders, and Chairs...Oh My!!!!

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    In October of 1999, Edge & Christian and the Hardy Boys stole the show at the No Mercy pay-per-view and instantly made names for themselves. In one night, in one match, they sacrificed their bodies for the good of their careers.

    No longer considered the tag team afterthoughts they had been previously, they were positioned as the hot, new up-and-coming youngsters who would eventually lead the company.

    When the Dudley Boys were added to the equation, bringing with them their penchant for using tables as a weapon, an idea was hatched. Edge and Christian, heels since their first WWE Tag Team Championship victory in March of 2000, had favored steel chairs as their weapon of choice.

    The Hardys utilized ladders to the best of their abilities and with these three teams, and their tendencies to use those weapons, the decision was made to combine all aspects into one giant match that could be considered a feat bout on any pay-per-view card.

    At SummerSlam 2000, Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (latter shortened to 'TLC') made its world debut. Edge and Christian defended their WWE Tag Team Championship against the Hardys and the Dudleys in a match that was the inspiration for every TLC match that followed, as well as the Money in the Bank match that debuted some five years later.

    All three teams took dangerous leaps, painful falls, and dangerous bumps around and outside the ring. Spectacular physical displays and photo-friendly moments made the match a favorite of many and must-see for all.

    The following April, at the 17th installment of WrestleMania, the sequel to the successful first match occurred and once again had fans across the globe talking.

    It was the devotion to their craft, and willingness to suffer through the pain and agony associated with the matches in order to entertain the fans, that made the match as popular as it has become.

    Despite everything the six men involved have done or will do in their career, they will forever be known as the Superstars that reinvented the dangerous, certainly extreme ladder match, making it what we have come to know and love to this day.

Hardcore Match: Mick Foley vs. Edge

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    Credit: WWE.com
    Credit: WWE.com

    If the picture to the left is not enough evidence of the extreme nature of the hardcore match between Edge and Mick Foley at Wrestlemania 22, I am not sure what will.

    Mick Foley is one of the most decorated stars in the history of the sport. He is also one of the most beloved. Unfortunately, prior to 2006, he had yet to have a true Wrestlemania moment that could be looked back upon and remembered for its significance. That would change when he was paired with the emerging "Rated R Superstar" in Chicago for the annual event.

    Edge blamed Mick Foley for costing him the opportunity to become WWE Champion for a second time. In the ensuing weeks, Edge tormented Mick and on one occasion, brutally attacked him.

    That attack, however, awakened the "Hardcore Legend" persona of Mick Foley. Gone was the smiling author who returned only to referee a WWE Championship match. In his place was the man who had spilled his blood across a number of continents.

    The match between the two brought a level of violence never before seen at the "Grandaddy of Them All." Edge brutalized Foley in the early goings, sending him knees-first into the steel steps and slamming him onto the metal ramp. Foley, in turn, introduced Edge to pain he had never felt before.

    Following a Spear to Foley, Edge was in noticeable pain and rolled to the corner, holding his shoulder. Moments later, the camera caught him bleeding, the result of barbed wire wrapped around Foley's waist during the initial Spear impact.

    Foley beat down on Edge and bloodied him with another barbed wire attack. In one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the entire contest, Foley dropped Edge back-first on a pile of thumbtacks. The look of shock on Edge's face remains one of the more memorable moments of the contest.

    The final thirty seconds saw Foley finally achieve his Wrestlemania. Foley poured lighter fluid on a table and prepared to set it on fire. Before he could, however, Edge's valet and on-air girlfriend Lita appeared and delivered a low blow to the future Hall of Fame inductee. Foley doubled over while Lita lit the table.

    From across the ring, Edge, exploded through the ropes with a Spear, taking himself and Foley through the flaming table and to the arena floor. Edge draped his arm across Foley and picked up the victory.

Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Mankind

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    Never have fans feared for the well-being of a WWE Superstar more than they did for Mankind during the now-infamous Hell in a Cell match between he and the Undertaker at the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view.

    The history between Undertaker and Mankind is long, storied, and quite frankly, has been told before. Heading into the then-annual summertime event, the rivalry between the two had once again been rekindled.

    Undertaker, enraged that his longtime rival had cost him the opportunity to challenge for the WWE Champion, unleashed his fury on the roster before being granted a Hell in a Cell match against Mankind at the KOR.

    What resulted was one of the most disturbing matches in the history of the sports-entertainment/professional wrestling business.

    Mankind was tossed from the top of the cell, through an announce table. In the weeks and months that followed, Mick Foley admitted that he had suffered a dislocated shoulder during the impact with the table.

    While referees, medics, and his best friend Terry Funk urged him to end the match and be attended to by the WWE-employed trainers, Mankind proved his toughness and with one functioning arm, climbed the cell and took the attack to Undertaker.

    This time, the outcome would be even worse for the battle-tested vet. He was chokeslammed through the ceiling of the cell and knocked unconscious, legitimately, as he made contact with the unforgiving canvas of the WWE ring.

    Mick Foley would later admit that this would be one of the only times he could remember being knocked unconscious.

    The Undertaker, to his credit, competed in the match with a broken foot.

    The match would conclude with Mankind being sent back-first into a pile of thumbtacks before Undertaker finished him with a Tombstone piledriver.

    Despite the loss, Mick Foley would go on to have the most successful year of his career, as well as become the most beloved star of his time.

    There is no one who watched the match live or on video that has ever forgotten it or the impact it had on the sport. From that point on, every stunt had to be bigger, had to be scarier, had to involve more risk.

    When WWE began paying more attention to the health of its employees, however, the emphasis on risk and danger decreased. It is for that reason that there may never, ever be a match more extreme or more death-defying than that of the Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Mankind in 1998.