Pro Wrestling: CM Punk/Daniel Bryan and 9 of the Best Rivalries of All Time
Professional wrestling was built on rivalries that meant something. Two wrestlers who created magic in the ring, fought for titles back and forth and gave the fans something to sink their teeth unto.
The state of professional wrestling isn't what it used to be. Wrestlers jump from angle to angle and opponent to opponent without stopping to breathe. And now that the entertainment value is magnified by television and the Internet, that aspect of the business may be lost on the younger generation of fans.
I grew up on Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair, Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard and Sting all taking on everyone, it would seem, in WCW. Those rivalries lasted. They weren't just a two- or three-match series. They were built up through vignettes and drew the fans in, moving from locale to locale and drew money at the gate.
While the likes of John Cena and Brock Lesnar draw money, they do not give the same feel to a match as those that featured Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan may be the closest thing to that kind of rivalry in wrestling today.
Here is a look at some of the best rivalries wrestling has witnessed over the years.
Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk vs. Jack and Jerry Brisco
This feud was different for several reasons.
First, this was a rivalry that involved real brothers. The Funks and the Briscos were wrestling royalty. Terry Funk, Dory Funk and Jack Brisco all held the NWA World Title at one point in their careers. Jerry Brisco was a World Junior Heavyweight Champion.
Both combinations battled for the world tag titles and helped to heighten the importance of Florida in the NWA hierarchy.
When all was said and done, all four of these men could wrestle and put on a clinic for the fans.
Rivalries do not get much better than this.
The Rock vs. Steve Austin
When it comes to the WWE, there may not be a better or bigger rivalry. All you have to say is Rock/Austin, and we all know what that is all about.
The two most popular wrestlers in WWE history battled three classic matches for the WWE Title. Each time, they took the feud to another height.
Both were "Attitude with a Capital A" and could talk better than most wrestlers in the business. When they were in the ring, they let their actions do their talking.
Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat
I remember this one as a youngster and was happy to see it become a part of WCW. It did not disappoint.
Both men called it some of the best wrestling and "work" they had ever done, from the moment they began building matches through vignettes and angles, spots and promos. Ric Flair was the master heel, and Steamboat, returning to WCW after being in the WWF, came at Flair full throttle. It was purely awesome.
The best thing about these two competitors was that they could go to a spot and not have to communicate in the ring. Most of the work was done on the fly, and it was perfection.
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
Everything culminated with the "Montreal Screw Job," but this was a classic rivalry between two of wrestling's best mat technicians.
Hart, schooled by his father Stu Hart in the famous "Dungeon," contrasted Michaels and his story of earning his way to the top. It was immensely personal and some of the best wrestling we had ever seen at the time.
Today, it would be something like CM Punk and Chris Jericho, if Jericho was in his prime.
Bruno Sammartino and Superstar Billy Graham
This was a turning point in the WWF in terms of title recognition.
Sammartino was one of the great champions of his era and the poster child for the company. Graham was the great heel who was challenging for the gold. When Graham won, it would allow him to hold the title longer than any other heel had held the WWF title.
It also signified changes in the WWF and the start of more champions being introduced in the company, but when these two got in the ring, it was a classic WWF script of good vs. bad.
Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk
This has a chance to be as good as anything we have seen in the WWE in years.
Hopefully it continues for more than a cup of coffee.
Punk and Bryan are as skilled at mat assault and aerial moves as any two in the business today, and that translates to good matches, hopefully without interference.
Punk having the title and Bryan in pursuit is just part of the greatness of this matchup. They have a history from ROH, and the two seem to feed off each other.
For Punk, it should be better than his rivalry with John Cena last year.
Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair
Ric Flair wrote in To Be The Man that he always thought of Dusty Rhodes as the lead face and himself as the lead heel in the NWA and WCW.
And their matches played out that way.
Rhodes brought out the best in Flair, and vice versa. While Flair may have had better matches with Steamboat or Harley Race, the chemistry was there from the start between these two, and it showed in matches for the NWA Title.
In most cases, these two were the standard for the company when the NWA and WCW were at their height of popularity.
Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage
This rivalry meant more to the growth and development of the WWF than it did to matches between the two.
While Hogan and Savage each held the WWF Title, Hogan was always Batman and Savage was always Robin. However, I believe Savage could have carried the WWF on his own.
And the fact that Miss Elizabeth seemed to always be involved in this "conflict" made it even better.
Kane and the Undertaker
This may actually be the best rivalry of all time because of the drama associated with it.
And both have some of the best gimmicks the business has ever seen.
Undertaker is still the best at his game, the entrance, his performance and his ability to involve the fans. Kane is the best at bringing out the greatness of his "brother."
Whether they are tag team partners or enemies, we all love it when these two come to the ring for another dance in the backyard.
AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels
This is the last one I am focusing on because it is still pretty good.
These two "friends" have faced each other dozens of times, and we are still amazed at how great they perform in the ring together. It isn't Hart/Michaels, but it is pretty darn fantastic.
The fact that they can still perform their high-flying moves and outside-of-the-ring assault night after night is a tribute to their athleticism.
I still love watching it when they meet in the ring.