50 Most Important Matches in WWE History

Kevin BergeFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2011

50 Most Important Matches in WWE History

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    The WWE is the most successful wrestling organization in history.

    There are many reasons for that.

    It has created compelling programming that has transcended generations.

    It has evolved as media and the audience has changed.

    Every change has been preceded by several important moments.

    Many matches in WWE have carried with them this great change and fundamentally formed the business that we now watch.

    While there have been many great matches that have helped to create the WWE, the following are the 50 most important matches in WWE history.

    Remember that these are not the best matches in WWE (though most would be included that list) but the most important matches in WWE history.

50. Undertaker vs. Kane

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    WrestleMania XIV – March 29, 1998

     

    What made it important: It was not the greatest match in the world, but it solidified one of the longest rivalries and friendships in WWE history. Both men are undoubtedly legends of the sport now, and this match made both men first reach that level. Even now, some people are clamoring to see the two face off one more time to end this grand rivalry for the ages.

49. Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena

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    Monday Night Raw – April 23, 2007

     

    What made it important: This is simply the best match of John Cena's career. He went for almost an hour against the amazing veteran Shawn Michaels and showed that he deserves to be be where he is.

    Sure, people still say he cannot wrestle and is undeserving of his pedestal in WWE, but this match still stands as a testament to what John Cena can do in the ring.

    As a side note, this match was the final catalyst for Chris Jericho to rejoin the company, where he would have the best years of his career.

48. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack

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    Royal Rumble 2000 – Jan. 23, 2000

     

    What made it important: It seems crazy now, but there was a time where people did not believe that Triple H was worthy of his spot in the main event. It was not until this match that Triple H truly proved to everyone that he had what it took to be a star.

    This was a great match that would be that was important in making the audience realize what the legendary HHH can do.

47. Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker

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    WrestleMania XXV – April 5, 2009

     

    What made it important: The greatest match in Wrestlemania history and possibly the greatest match of all time, this is an amazing classic.

    It did not push forward a new star or create a new era, but it is the match that reminded everyone what Wrestlemania is. This is the match that will forever reminds us how great Wrestlemania can be.

46. 1-2-3 Kid vs. Razor Ramon

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    Monday Night Raw – March 17, 1993

     

    What made it important: Not only did this create a new star that would eventually become X-Pac, this is possibly the greatest example of the underdog victory. Every time a cruiserweight rolls up a veteran now, you have to look back on this match.

45. Sheamus vs. John Cena

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    TLC: Tables, Ladders, & Chairs – Dec. 13, 2009

     

    What made it important: Perhaps this is too high, but it is not often now that we see John Cena lose. What was even bigger was the fact that he lost cleanly (well, as cleanly as you can get in a Tables match) to a guy who has now grown to become possibly WWE's fastest rising star.

    Sheamus is probably the fourth biggest star in WWE today, and he could easily keep getting hotter in this business. It is all thanks to this huge win against John Cena, as Sheamus won the WWE Title in the second fastest amount of time of any superstar from their debut.

44. HHH vs. The Rock

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    Summerslam – Aug. 30, 1998

     

    What made it important: This was a turning point match in WWE. It created stars in both the Rock and Triple H and ended up being a grand catalyst for their future success. Looking back, this was a legendary match up that had consequences that no one could have fully expected.

43. First Money in the Bank Match

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    WrestleMania 21 – April 3, 2005

     

    What made it important: Money in the Bank is the best concept that WWE has come up with in years. The match has created stars in everyone from Edge to the Miz while giving a veteran like Kane the chance to finally succeed.

    This first match was groundbreaking and would usher in future exciting contests and stars.

42. Honky Tonk Man vs. Ricky Steamboat

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    Superstars – June 13, 1987

     

    What made it important: This was the beginning of the greatest IC championship reign of all time. This match would create a star out of the Honky Tonk Man and begin one of the greatest moments in the title's illustrious tenure.

41. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan

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    WrestleMania V – April 2, 1989

     

    What made it important: Very few matches can be said to exemplify an era. This is one of those matches. Savage and Hogan were two of the best in the business in their time, and their showdown at Wrestlemania was a contest that can be looked back on as a grand example of what the Hulk Hogan era was all about.

40. Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior

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    WrestleMania VII – March 24, 1991

     

    What made it important: This was a great showing by these two stars. Ultimate Warrior was on the rise, but he really used this win to catapult him to success. The main story here though was the end of a great career. This was a Retirement Match that saw Savage lose and retire from in ring action.

    Yes, he came back, but he was never as big of a star or legend as in his original run. This saw the end to the run of the second biggest star in WWF at the time and saw him help to further put over the young star in the Ultimate Warrior.

39. Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog

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    Summerslam 1992 – Aug. 29, 1992

     

    What made it important: While The British Bulldog never got his due in WWE as a whole, this match was his crowning achievement. Probably the greatest match in Summerslam's history, Hart and the Bulldog went all out and showed us why Summerslam should still be considered one of the big four.

    It also was a main event match for the IC Title which is something that will never be seen again which is a shame, as it gave the title the honor it deserved.

38. Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat

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    WrestleMania III – March 29, 1987

     

    What made it important: If this was a list of the greatest matches of all time, this might be No. 1. These two fought tooth and nail and gave us an amazing contest.

    This would be the greatest moment in the history of the IC Championship, while also being the crowning moment of Ricky Steamboat's career in WWF.

    It was almost the beginning of the greatest IC Title reign of all time though thanks to Steamboat's personal conflicts, he was forced to give the title to the man who holds that title know as seen in the earlier slides.

37. Mark Henry vs. Randy Orton

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    Night of Champions 2011 – Sept. 18, 2011

     

    What made it important: It takes real dedication to stick with a company for 15 years especially when they put you in embarrassing angles without giving you any deserved attention. Henry was never the best wrestler or talker, but he might be the most loyal wrestler in the company's history.

    He was finally rewarded for that dedication with a World Heavyweight Title this year. If he is allowed to dominate longer, this might end up being an even bigger moment in WWE's history.

36. Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock

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    Summerslam 2002 – Aug. 25, 2002

     

    What made it important: If Brock Lesnar had not left the WWE, this would have been huge. This was his first World Title reign, and he beat The Rock of all people.

    However, he still was a great star in WWE for the time that he was there. This win made him a monster in WWE. After that win, Lesnar would go onto be a huge star in the main event scene for the years he was there.

35. Jeff Hardy vs. Undertaker

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    Monday Night Raw – July 1, 2002

     

    What made it important: Jeff Hardy has made a lot of mistakes in his life, but no one should question how great of a competitor he was in the ring.

    This match against Undertaker was his breakout moment and would affect him for years to come. He finally won the WWE Title in 2008, and that is all thanks to this contest.

34. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart

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    WrestleMania X – March 20, 1994

     

    What made it important: One of the greatest tragedies in WWE history was the death of Owen Hart. This match will forever be remembered though as possibly his greatest and certainly his most important.

    Given more time, I do believe that Owen would have been given a World Title reign after dropping the stupid Blue Blazer gimmick he was stuck with. This match showed that he deserved that title reign.

33. Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker

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    Badd Blood: In Your House -- Oct. 5, 1997

     

    What made it important: This was the beginning of a brutal legacy. Undertaker and Michaels competed in the first ever Hell in a Cell match. This would also see the debut of the monster, Kane, which would finally give Glen Jacobs a gimmick he could find success with.

32. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels

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    WrestleMania XIX – March 30, 2003

     

    What made it important: Chris Jericho is a legend in WWE today. This match was the catalyst for him to become a star.

    He and Michaels would steal the show here from a card with a return match between the Rock and SC Steve Austin.

    This was also the first real match for Shawn Michaels since his return and would be the biggest catalyst for his resurgent career.

31. Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton

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    WrestleMania 22 – April 2, 2006

     

    What made it important: The WWE loves to award the big men with the World Title which usually leaves out some of the best performers which was why this moment was so paramount for the WWE.

    Rey Mysterio finally gained the World Heavyweight Championship after his years of hard work in the business. It was well-deserved and showed that the WWE could give even the smallest men a chance to succeed.

30. Chris Jericho vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

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    Vengeance 2001 – December 9, 2001

     

    What made it important: First, it was the crowning of the first ever Undisputed Champion. Second, it was showing that the WWE believed in stars beyond The Rock and Stone Cold.

    Jericho was given his due here as a young star on the rise, and his name will forever be synonymous with the history of the Undisputed Championship.

29. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H

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    WrestleMania XX – March 14, 2004

     

    What made it important: I know this is a sensitive subject, but it deserves mention. This is the way to finally give a veteran his due with confetti streaming and his best friend at his side.

    This was a great moment that solidified the legacy of Chris Benoit, and this celebration for a world title win will never be matched again. Not many moments in WWE history have ever made the World Heavyweight Title look this prestigious.

28. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock

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    WrestleMania X-Seven – April 1, 2001

     

    What made it important: This was the crowning moment of the Attitude Era. It took the two biggest stars of the era and had them go at it with all they had. This was one of the biggest confrontations in WWE history.

27. Edge vs. John Cena

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    New Year's Revolution 2006 – Jan. 8, 2006

     

    What made it important: Edge has the distinction of having held 31 championships in WWE, including 11 World Title reigns. Amazingly, he only won his first World Title five years ago. This win is one of the greatest heel moments in WWE history as a broken and bloodied Cena was beaten to give Edge his first WWE Title.

    This moment also was the greatest moment in the history of the Money in the Bank briefcase. Almost every winner of the case since Edge has followed his devious example.

26. Randy Orton vs. Chris Benoit

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    Summerslam 2004 – August 15, 2004

     

    What made it important: Randy Orton has the ability to become the greatest star in WWE history. It is crazy to think that he is only 31 years old, but that is because of this moment.

    Orton is still the youngest World Champion of all time, and that has helped him accumulate nine world championships in his career so far. By the time Orton retires, this might end up being one of the most important moments ever in WWE.

25. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio

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    Extreme Rules 2011 – May 1, 2011

     

    What made it important: For every Triple H and John Cena, there is a man who never gets a chance at the World Title. While Edge was gaining 11 World Titles, Christian was sitting in the background.

    No one believed that the WWE would ever give Christian his chance to succeed. That was until it happened.

    Regardless of future events, this was a special moment as Christian was finally allowed to achieve his boyhood dream.

24. Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar

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    No Way Out 2004 – Feb. 15, 2004

     

    What made it important: This will always stand as Eddie's only WWE Title reign which is a shame. After years of working and slaving for the business, he finally was given the ball, and he rolled with it.

    Given more time, Eddie would have been given more World Titles for sure, but now we only have this moment to remember him by. Viva La Raza, Eddie!

23. Triple H vs. Mankind

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    Monday Night Raw – Aug. 23, 1999

     

    What made it important: There was a time that Triple H was not a 13-time World Champion. In fact until this match, he did not even have one World Title reign.

    That all changed when he beat Mankind on this night and began his legacy as one of the greatest of all time.

22. Royal Rumble 18

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    Royal Rumble 2005 – Jan. 30, 2005

     

    What made it important: This was a time of change. Stars were emerging as the veterans began to wear down. This match would be a catalyst for a change so great it has affected WWE to this day.

    Batista and John Cena both became stars on this night directly leading to the changing of the guard at Wrestlemania 21 which was the night where Batista and Cena won their first World Titles. Without this match, we would not have two of the biggest stars of this modern age in WWE.

21. Undertaker vs. Jimmy Snuka

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    WrestleMania VII – March 24, 1991

     

    What made it important: The beginning of the Streak came here. No one knew how far this would go after this match as the Streak is one of the most impressive feats in WWE history.

    It is only because Undertaker was allowed to beat the veteran Snuka on this night that we ever saw the Streak become as big as it is today.

20. TLC 1

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    Summerslam 2000 -- August 27, 2000

     

    What made it important: The second TLC was better, but the first was the innovator. This was the match that gave us Money in the Bank and has created stars. We would never have seen some amazing matches in the TLC format without this match beginning it all.

19. Mankind vs. Undertaker

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    King of the Ring -- June 28, 1998

     

    What made it important: This was the most jaw-dropping and brutal matches in WWE history. It transformed the legacy of Hell in a Cell and created legends of both Undertaker and Mankind. To this day, this match sticks out in any real wrestling fans mind when Hell in a Cell is brought up.

18. Royal Rumble 1

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    Royal Rumble 1988 – January 24, 1988

     

    What made it important: How many stars have been created by the Royal Rumble? How many feuds were begun in the Royal Rumble? This first Royal Rumble gave us everything that followed. We have this match to thank for many amazing stars and Wrestlemania main events.

17. CM Punk vs. John Cena

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    Money in the Bank – July 17, 2011

     

    What made it important: Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that this match caused a fundamental change in the WWE. It created a monster star in CM Punk, ad it ushered in the Reality Era. It remains to be seen what this all means, but it is an important moment.

16. Hulk Hogan vs. the Rock

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    WrestleMania X8 – March 17, 2002

     

    What made it important: There has never been a more iconic match up than this as the Attitude Era met the Hogan Era. This was a great moment that saw Hogan pass the torch to one of WWE's greatest. The moment was so big that WWE has decided to find try and mimic success again as John Cena will face The Rock at Wrestlemania XXVIII where perhaps the Attitude Era will pass the torch to the current stars of WWE.

15. Mankind vs. the Rock

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    WWF Raw is War – January 4, 1999

     

    What made it important: This was powerful for two reasons. One, it gave Mankind his first WWE Title reign. Two, it shot one of the most important bullets into WCW. This was a pretaped match that aired against a live taping of WCW Nitro. Tony Schiavone would tell the audience on the air the result of the match which actually caused many to switch channels and watch WWF Raw instead to see the moment occur. WCW went on a downward spiral from that moment on allowing the WWF to become the sole pro wrestling promoter.

14. Yokozuna vs. Koko B. Ware

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    Monday Night Raw – January 11, 1993

     

    What made it important: The longest running episodic television show in history began with this match. A legacy has followed that has exceeded any other wrestling promotion brand.

13. Bret Hart vs. Ric Flair

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    Superstars Live Event – October 12, 1992

     

    What made it important: Bret Hart is one of the greatest stars in pro wrestling history. He won his first WWF Title here in a live show against the great Ric Flair. From this moment on, Hart reached his peak and would give us some of the most important moments in WWE's history.

12. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff

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    Wrestlemania I – March 13, 1985

     

    What made it important: This was the first ever Wrestlemania main event. If that does not mean anything, then why does anyone fight in the Royal Rumble today? They want to be a star who gets the chance to main event Wrestlemania. The main event at Wrestlemania is still one of the greatest honors in WWE thanks to this match which can also be credited with the idea of bringing in celebrities as well with Mr. T proving a decent and exciting competitor.

11. Wendi Richter vs. the Fabulous Moolah

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    The Brawl to End It All – July 23, 1984

     

    What made it important: This match ended the longest running WWE championship title reign in history. The Fabulous Moolah was WWF Women's Champion for 3651 days. When Wendi Richter finally beat her, it was a shock to the entire world. There has never been a bigger moment for any WWF Title than this. 

10. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels

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    WrestleMania X -- March 20, 1994

     

    What made it important: While Shawn Michaels actually had the first ladder match with Bret Hart at a WWF Superstars of Wrestling show, it was not until this match that the ladder match truly became prominent. This was a match for the ages that is the main reason we ever saw match like TLC and Money in the Bank.

9. Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior

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    WrestleMania VI – April 1, 1990

     

    What made it important: This was the first time in WWE history that we saw a passing of the torch. Hulk Hogan had dominated WWF for years on end, but eventually it had to end. This Wrestlemania match saw Hogan give up the big win allowing a new young star in the Ultimate Warrior to become a new star.

8. Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

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    WrestleMania 13 -- March 23, 1997

     

    What made it important: This is one of the greatest matches in WWE history, and it gave us one of the most important moments in WWE. This was the grand double turn. Never has a crowd been more important to a match than this one. Going in, Stone Cold Steve Austin was a heel and Bret Hart the face. Thanks to a racious crowd and amazing storytelling, Stone Cold became the biggest face in the business while Hart became loathed to no end. No match can match this contest in pure storytelling ability while it made SCSA the biggest star in the WWF.

7. Hulk Hogan vs. the Iron Shiek

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    Live Event in Madison Square Garden – January 23, 1984

     

    What made it important: This was the beginning of a long legacy. This was the day Hogan won his first WWE title. This began to lay the foundations for the whole organizations that would become the WWF and eventually WWE. This began everything that we now know about the WWE which makes it an extremely important match.

6. Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels

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    WrestleMania XXIV – March 30, 2008

     

    What made it important: Ric Flair is one of the greatest of all time. His legacy has spanned for generations. This match was his final match in WWE. It should have been the final match he ever wrestled. It was a grand moment that will never be forgotten as long as Flair retires soon.

5. Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker

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    WrestleMania XXVI – March 28, 2010

     

    What made it important: Shawn Michaels is arguably the greatest star to ever begin and end his career in the WWE. This night, we saw Michaels go out in a blaze of glory. It was a shame to see him retire, but there was no better way he could have retired.

4. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

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    Survivor Series 1997 – November 9, 1997

     

    What made it important: This was the Montreal Screwjob. It created the grand heel that is Mr. McMahon and was the beginning catalyst for the WWF Attitude Era. While this is partly a match and partly a real life situation, there is no denying how much impact this moment had on the WWE as a whole.

3. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels

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    WrestleMania XIV – March 29, 1998

     

    What made it important: Shawn Michaels, at this time, was a huge star while Stone Cold was just one big win away from being the next big thing in WWF. He got that win here. This would herald a new age for the WWF as Michaels would almost retire after this match due to serious injuries. No match was more important than this in finally bringing Stone Cold to the forefront of the business.

2. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant

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    WrestleMania III -- March 29, 1987

     

    What made it important: This was the match that made the WWF finally cool. No match was more important in bringing in the fans than this match. The Hogan body slam on Andre still stands as one of the greatest moments in WWE's history.

1. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

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    WrestleMania XII -- March 31, 1996

     

    What made it important: No match had more importance to pro wresting than this match. The Hogan Era had seen some great competitors in the ring, but it was always centered around the moments. Most stars had extremely limited move sets and did very little other than power moves. This match changed everything once and for all. It was the most important and probably the best Iron Man match in history as these two men were able to keep their match enthralling from start to finish for over an hour.

    Nobody believed they could do it until it happened. It had the attitude and charisma that we now expect in a match along with wrestling skills that are still sought to this day in WWE matches. Finally, this was the moment that Shawn Michaels won his first ever WWE Title. If that isn't all enough to make you realize how important this match is, then I don't now how much more I could ever say to convince you.

Thank You for Reading!

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    The WWE has developed for a long time, going through era after era.

    These moments have helped create those eras.

    Without these matches, we would not have the business we have seen and see today.

    Many men were involved in these changes, but some names will always stand out: Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

    For the WWE to develop further, we will have to see more moments like this and more wrestlers to step up and deliver as these men have.

    Let's hope that all of those future moments are as great as these.

    Thank you for reading!

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