Power Ranking the 15 Greatest Slugfests of the Past 15 Years in WWE
While every wrestling fan enjoys a well-worked match filled with technical mastery, there is something special about an all-out brawl. You don't see them as much anymore, but slugfests used to be the norm in the WWE during the Attitude Era and they represent some of the most memorable matches ever.
Due to a lack of blood and less weapon usage, it is much more difficult to have a true slugfest in the current era. It isn't impossible, but it seemed like there was a good, old-fashioned brawl on a weekly basis during the late 1990s. Now we're lucky if we see one or two per year.
Generally speaking, there are better pure grapplers in the WWE currently than there were 15 years ago, but most of the matches don't carry the same meaning. With that said, the few slugfests that the WWE delivers are even more special now due to the fact that they are essentially an endangered species.
The great brawls that we have seen will always remain in our memories, though, so here are the 15 greatest knock-down, drag-out affairs to occur in the WWE over the past decade and a half.
15. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie vs. New Age Outlaws (WrestleMania 14)
The only tag-team match on this list took place at WrestleMania 14 as the hardcore team of Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie took on the New Age Outlaws in a dumpster match for the Tag Team Championships. The only rule in this all-out battle was that both members of a team had to be placed in a dumpster in order for the match to end.
Seeing as Mick Foley and Terry Funk are two of the greatest brawlers of all time, it's no surprise that this particular match was a crowd pleaser. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn were no strangers to a slugfest either, so there was plenty of action throughout. It didn't take long for the action to spill outside the ring, at which point plenty of weapons entered the equation.
The teams eventually ended up backstage and the match was won by Jack and Charlie as the New Age Outlaws were loaded onto a wooden crate and dropped into a dumpster by Charlie, who was operating a forklift. Some might consider the match more comedic than brutal, but all four men slugged it out and personified the Attitude Era.
14. Vince McMahon vs. Shane McMahon (WrestleMania X-Seven)
Neither Vince McMahon nor Shane McMahon are actual wrestlers, but both of them always poured their heart and soul into the matches that they competed in. Because of that, they managed to engage in one of the best brawls in WWE history at WrestleMania X-Seven as Shane prevailed over his father in a fantastic street fight.
Their feud started when Vince left Linda in favor of Trish Stratus and it was intensified by Shane undercutting his father and buying WCW. Their WrestleMania match featured several awesome spots, including Shane missing an elbow drop and crashing through the announce table. Things came to a fever pitch when Linda awoke from her catatonic state and hit Vince with a low blow.
This allowed Shane to gain the advantage and nail Vince with a coast-to-coast dropkick through a garbage can for the win. Vince and Shane proved that it doesn't necessarily take an extensive wrestling background in order to have a good slugfest. They aimed to please the fans and that is precisely what happened.
13. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (Armageddon 2002)
Triple H and Shawn Michaels may be best friends in real life, but they have had their fair share of battles in the ring against each other. One of the most memorable ones was their Three Stages of Hell match at Armageddon in 2002. HBK had won the World Heavyweight Championship in the first ever Elimination Chamber match one month earlier and Triple H aimed to take the big gold belt.
The best part of this match was the fact that it contained three brutal brawls in one. The first stage was a street fight, the second was a steel cage match and the final one was a ladder match. Each stage featured something special, including flaming boards, tables and pretty much any weapon that you can think of.
By the time the third stage started, both men were gassed due to what they had put each other through. The match ultimately came to an end when Triple H hurled HBK off a ladder and through four stacked tables. While the high-impact spots were the highlights of the match, there were tons of brawling exchanges that made this match an all-time great slugfest.
12. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules 2012)
Slugfests may be few and far between nowadays, but there was a great one earlier this year when John Cena and Brock Lesnar faced each other at Extreme Rules. Lesnar made his shocking WWE return the night after WrestleMania as he gave Cena an F-5 and he aimed to replace Cena as the face of the company by beating him in an Extreme Rules match.
Lesnar was the heavy favorite as he had just returned and figured to benefit from a victory more than Cena. Lesnar dominated most of the match as well and it almost resembled a shoot fight. Lesnar employed a lot of MMA-style offense and it added to the authenticity of the match. Despite Lesnar controlling the bout, he would be unable to close the deal.
A bloodied Cena busted open Lesnar by hitting him in the face with a chain and then he sealed the deal with an Attitude Adjustment on the steel steps. It isn't often that you see such a realistic brawl, particularly in the present day, but both Lesnar and Cena stepped up and came through with one of 2012's best overall matches.
11. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (SmackDown 2003)
There have been a handful of Iron Man matches in the WWE since the very first one between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12, but none of them measure up to the excitement and action that Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar delivered. Angle and Lesnar went head-to-head on a 2003 edition of SmackDown with Angle's WWE Championship on the line.
Angle and Lesnar had been allies after Lesnar defeated Angle for the title at WrestleMania, but Angle eventually regained the belt and Lesnar turned on him. The Iron Man match was basically a culmination of their feud as Lesnar won the belt back once again. There was action throughout and it resulted in Lesnar winning by a score of 5-4.
Lesnar played the heel role well and picked up a few of his falls through unfair means. Lesnar held a seemingly insurmountable lead late, but Angle battled back to make it 5-4. The Olympic gold medalist then applied the Ankle Lock with seconds remaining, but Lesnar was able to hold off until the bell and win the WWE Championship. Both men laid it all on the line and brought the best out of each other in a spectacular contest.
10. Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack (Backlash 2004)
Although Randy Orton is currently stuck in a rut, he is still thought of as one of the biggest stars in the WWE, and the match that very well may have first launched him to superstardom was a bout with Cactus Jack at Backlash in 2004. Orton put his Intercontinental Championship on the line in a hardcore match that won't soon be forgotten.
Foley appears on this list several times, but his greatest service was likely putting Orton over in this particular affair. Foley is the master of the hardcore match, but he allowed Orton to beat him at his own game. Foley definitely got his licks in as he utilized a barbed wire baseball bat as well as thumbtacks, but The Legend Killer got the best of Cactus Jack as he RKO'ed him on the barbed wire.
One of the better spots came when Orton attempted to RKO Cactus Jack onto the thumbtacks, but Jack pushed him off and Orton landed on the thumbtacks himself. Orton eventually recovered to win the match, but that thumbtack spot earned him a lot of respect. It was cool to see Orton exit his element and engage in Foley's and it made for an incredible slobberknocker.
9. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (No Way Out 2000)
Triple H and Mick Foley have had some incredible battles over the years, but there were always made more special when Foley competed as Cactus Jack. They had a couple memorable matches and one of them was a Hell in a Cell match at No Way Out in 2000 as Triple H defended his WWE Championship against the crazed Hardcore Legend.
As is always the case with Foley in Hell in a Cell matches, he took the brunt of the punishment, but he dished it out as well. Cactus Jack introduced his signature barbed wire board into the match and both men used it to their advantage. At one point, Foley broke one side of the cell by throwing steel steps at it and this resulted in them scaling to the top.
Triple H eventually back dropped Cactus Jack and he went crashing through the top of the cell. When Jack hit the canvas, it caved in. Triple H then descended down and hit a Pedigree to win the grueling affair. Triple H and Foley had a special chemistry that almost always resulted in great matches and this was unquestionably one of their best.
8. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (Royal Rumble 2004)
Triple H and Shawn Michaels made this list previously for their Armageddon 2002 encounter, but their match at Royal Rumble in 2004 was an even bigger slugfest. Triple H entered the event as the World Heavyweight Champion and he put the title on the line in a Last Man Standing match, which is certainly apropos for a countdown such as this one.
There are no rules in a Last Man Standing match aside from keeping your opponent down for a count of 10, so Triple H and Michaels had no restrictions. The hard-hitting brawl caused both men to be busted open and that certainly added to the brutality of the match. Triple H seemed to have it won after executing a Pedigree, but Michaels kicked out before hitting Triple H with Sweet Chin Music.
While the move kept Triple H down for 10 seconds, it did the same to Michaels as they match had taken so much out of him. As a result, neither man could answer the count and the match was ruled a draw. Although fans tend to get upset about such indecisive finishes, both men did a stellar job and it was only fitting that neither of them rose above the other.
7. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania 13)
It may seem a bit odd to call a submission match a slugfest since the goal is to make your opponent give up rather than beat him to a pulp, but "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Bret "Hitman" Hart managed to defy the parameters of the match at WrestleMania 13. Austin was a heel entering the match while Hart was a fan favorite, but their incredible battle as well as the aftermath changed everything.
Ken Shamrock served as the special guest referee for the match due to his MMA background, but he didn't play a huge role. It was all about Austin and Hart as they did anything and everything to make the other man submit. Although nobody actually gave up. Hart won the match by applying the Sharpshooter. Austin refused to tap, but he was bleeding so profusely from the previous beat-down that he passed out.
Following the victory, Hart continued to attack Austin, which led to a double turn. That is what their WrestleMania 13 encounter is best known for, but it was also perhaps the best battle in each man's career and it deserves to be recognized as one of the most exciting and merciless brawls ever.
6. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (Badd Blood 1997)
The original Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at In Your House: Badd Blood back in 1997 is still considered to be the best cell match by many wrestling fans and it goes down as one of the greatest slugfests as well. Fans didn't really know what to expect with regards to the action within the demonic structure, but they soon learned that it would house one of the toughest matches in WWE history.
For as much criticism as Michaels has received for being a jerk during this time period, he had no issue letting Taker rag-doll him for much of the match. HBK definitely got some shots in as well, but much of the contest featured Taker brutally beating down Michaels and throwing him into the cell repeatedly. The match also hosted the debut of Kane as he broke into the cell and attacked his brother, which allowed Michaels to win.
The immense success of this match led to the Hell in a Cell match becoming a regular thing in the WWE. Had Taker and Michaels bombed, then there's a good chance that we would have never seen the Hell in a Cell structure again. The two legends delivered as they always have against each other, though, and poured everything they had into the match.
5. Edge vs. Mick Foley (WrestleMania 22)
By 2006, Mick Foley's body had already taken a major beating due to constant abuse over the years, but he managed to turn in one last great performance at WrestleMania 22. Foley faced Edge in a hardcore match in an effort to prove which man was truly the craziest in WWE. While Edge did ultimately come out on top, Foley did plenty to further cement his legacy.
The match itself was an absolute brawl, which is the case with essentially all of Foley's matches. This one was different, though, because he had never really feuded with Edge before and everything felt fresh. It was a back-and-forth affair and followed the typical Foley formula as there were weapons galore. The crowning moment of the match came near its conclusion, however.
Foley set up a table on the outside, but Lita hit him with a low blow and lit the table on fire. Foley recovered and staggered to the apron, but Edge speared him through the ropes and they both went crashing through the flaming table. Edge then pinned Foley and came away victorious. There have been tons of great brawls at WrestleMania, but this was my favorite on the grandest stage of them all.
4. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (SummerSlam 2002)
Triple H and Shawn Michaels matches have appeared on this list twice already, but they pale in comparison to what they did to each other at SummerSlam in 2002. Michaels hadn't had a match since losing to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14, but his back injury had healed to the point where he was ready to return to action, and both he and Triple H stole the show at SummerSlam.
The match was dubbed an unsanctioned street fight and there were no rules in effect, so they could do whatever they pleased to one another. The fact that Michaels engaged in such a hard-hitting match upon his return was quite impressive, but it shouldn't have surprised anyone due to the fact that Michaels has made a living of upping his game when he needs to.
Some weapons were utilized, including a table, but Michaels and Triple H did most of the damage with their bare hands, which made it a unique encounter. Also, the ending was fairly surprising as HBK won with a roll-up despite the fact that the match was a total brawl. Triple H put an exclamation point on things, though as he hit Michaels with a sledgehammer following the match's conclusion.
3. The Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring 1998)
If the original Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels isn't the best one ever, then the encounter between Taker and Mankind at King of the Ring in 1998 most certainly is. Mick Foley has done some crazy things over the course of his career, but perhaps his two signature spots happened in this match as Taker took it to the Hardcore Legend.
Mankind began the match on the roof of the cell and challenged The Undertaker to follow him. Taker obliged and proceeded to toss Mankind off the cell and through the announce table. Emergency medical technicians rushed to Mankind's aid and seemed ready to wheel him backstage, but Foley got up and incredibly went back to the top of the cell. This time, The Undertaker chokeslammed him right through the roof and onto the canvas below.
Despite that, Mankind somehow managed to recover and actually gained the upper hand. The Undertaker chokeslammed him onto the some tacks and then finished him off with a Tombstone, though. Although Mankind lost the match, it established him as a top-level performer and launched him to immense levels of popularity. With the amount of punishment he absorbed, it would have been a crime to leave it off this list.
2. The Rock vs. Mankind (Royal Rumble 1999)
Mankind checks in yet again on this list as his "I Quit" match with The Rock at the Royal Rumble in 1999 is No. 2. The Rock and Mankind had a strange relationship over the years as they were long-time rivals, reluctant tag-team partners and eventually friends. With The Rock and The Corporation screwing Mankind out of the WWE Championship previously, though, Mankind was out for blood.
Mankind won the belt back and granted The Rock a rematch on the grounds that it be an "I Quit" match. The bout was an all-out brawl from start to finish as both men took an incredible amount of punishment. To make things even better, The Rock injected some of his signature humor into the match as he insulted Mankind on the microphone and on commentary as well. Eventually The Rock managed to handcuff Mankind's hands behind his back.
The Rock proceeded to destroy Mankind with a chair as he hit him sickeningly in the head three times. The chair shots were so immense that many were worried about Mick Foley's well-being. A recording of Foley saying "I quit" was plated over the loudspeaker and The Rock was declared the winner despite the fact that Mankind didn't actually quit. Never the less, it was an unbelievable fight.
1. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (Royal Rumble 2000)
Seeing as Mick Foley has already appeared on this list so many times, it's only fitting that he checks in at No. 1 by virtue of his street fight against Triple H at the Royal Rumble in 2000. Triple H and Foley were engaged in a major feud as the McMahon-Helmsley faction was running roughshod over the WWE, but Foley received a WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble and returned as Cactus Jack.
It was a fitting transformation as Cactus Jack is Foley's most psychotic and dangerous alter ego. He didn't disappoint as he and Triple H engaged in the greatest slugfest that I have ever witnessed. The action spilled all over the arena including the crowd and the combatants used several different weapons. Triple H handcuffed Cactus Jack as The Rock had done the year before, but The Rock made the save this time and a police officer freed Foley.
They eventually made their way back to the ring and Cactus Jack spilled a bag of thumbtacks. Triple H executed a back body drop on Jack, which caused him to land on the tacks. Triple H then hit a Pedigree followed by a second one on the tacks to retain his title. Cactus Jack got the last laugh in the greatest slugfest of the past 15 years, though, as he attacked Triple H with a barbed wire two-by-four afterwards.