Ranking WWE's Best 'I Quit' Matches Ahead of Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2022

Ranking WWE's Best 'I Quit' Matches Ahead of Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair

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    The Rock vs. Mankind from Royal Rumble 1999 set the standard for future "I Quit" matches in WWE.
    The Rock vs. Mankind from Royal Rumble 1999 set the standard for future "I Quit" matches in WWE.Credit: WWE.com

    Making an opponent utter the words "I quit" is no easy feat, as only an elite number of WWE Superstars can lay claim to having done it.

    Bret Hart and Bob Backlund had the first-ever "I Quit" contest in WWE history at WrestleMania 11. It differs from a standard submission match in that the only way to win is by forcing someone to say those two humiliating words. No other rules apply.

    At a time when gimmick matches are done on the regular and nothing feels truly special anymore, the "I Quit" match remains a rarity. A mere handful have been done in the last few years, making it mean that much more whenever it's brought back.

    Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey are, arguably, the two perfect names to be competing in such a special contest considering both are submission specialists. It will also mark only the third women's "I Quit" match in WWE to date.

    Although it promises to be a grueling affair given all of the animosity between them, they have a lot to live up to. Nearly two dozen "I Quit" matches have been held in last 27 years, with some being stronger than others.

    The following seven are the best of the bunch.

7. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy (Backlash 2009)

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    The Hardy Boyz have always been better partners than rivals, but the few times they have collided in singles competition have been as extreme as you'd expect.

    The 2009 iteration of their feud saw Matt best Jeff in an No Holds Barred match at WrestleMania 25 and again in a Stretcher match on the subsequent SmackDown. Their ruthless rivalry culminated in an "I Quit" match later in the month and neither was keen on walking away as the inferior sibling.

    As only they could, the Hardys went all-out in an attempt to settle the score once and for all. Jeff going to a darker place was especially notable as that edge was what he needed in order to get the better of his brother.

    In one of the most unforgettable endings to an "I Quit" match ever, Jeff tied a helpless Matt to a table and was about to put him through it when Matt pleaded him not to before ultimately conceding. Despite being declared the winner, Jeff leapt over a ladder and onto Matt through the table, anyway.

    After all Matt did to mess with Jeff that spring season of 2009, no one can say he didn't deserve it.

6. John Cena vs. Randy Orton (Breaking Point 2009)

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    John Cena and Randy Orton have had so many matches in the last 15 matches that it was only a matter of time before they squared off in an "I Quit" match.

    It took place at the aptly named Breaking Point PPV in 2009 and was one of the better installments in their storied saga at that point.

    The stipulation was fitting for the feud considering Cena refused to quit. Even all these years later, he has yet to formally submit, so that should have foreshadowed the finish to this match to begin with.

    Then again, Orton did such a spectacular job of finding ways to win as a heel that there was a legitimate chance of Cena losing. Of course, The Cenation Leader wasn't going down without a fight.

    He withstood every ounce of The Viper's punishment, including being handcuffed to the ring post while being battered with a kendo stick. It was quite the physical affair in that respect as Orton was willing to do whatever it took to come out on top with his reign intact.

    Orton's tactics with the handcuffs wound up backfiring, though. Cena forced him to choke himself with his own arm while trapped in the STF, which was too much for the heel to overcome. This told a really solid story and played out in logical and compelling fashion.

5. Beth Phoenix vs. Melina (One Night Stand 2008)

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    Due to the Divas division being treated like a total afterthought, hardcore women's matches were hard to come by in the mid-2000s. Female wrestlers were rarely afforded opportunities to show what they could do in an extreme environment and were subjected to other silly stipulations instead.

    That changed in 2008 when Beth Phoenix and Melina met in the first-ever women's "I Quit" match. The two went from being close friends on Raw to heated rivals once Phoenix lost the Women's Championship and no longer had a use for Melina as an ally.

    Phoenix was dominant throughout her lengthy reign as women's champ, but no match she had during that period stood out more than this one. Melina was also starting to put together a resume of impressive performances, and she and The Glamazon brought the best out of each other in the ring.

    The Glamazon's power mixed with Melina's innate flexibility made this a very entertaining attraction at the One Night Stand pay-per-view. Phoenix submitting Melina in a modified version of the Glam Slam was a stellar visual and made for a fantastic finish.

    Shockingly, aside from the two recent throwaway Beat the Clock bouts on Friday's SmackDown, there has been only one other women's "I Quit" match in WWE—Kay Lee Ray vs. Toni Storm in NXT UK in early 2020—with the next major one coming at WrestleMania Backlash.

4. Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso (Hell in a Cell 2020)

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    This rematch between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso from Hell in a Cell 2020 had so many stipulations that it's easy to forget it was an "I Quit" match as well.

    In addition to being contested inside the cage, it also had the caveat that Uso must "fall in line" with his cousin if he lost, not to mention the Universal Championship was up for grabs as well.

    The "I Quit" stipulation was somewhat tacked on at the end, but it made sense with the story they were telling at the time.

    Reigns desperately wanted Uso to obey his every command, but the multi-time tag team champion refused to conform. That's what made this match so fascinating: It was less about the title and more about Jey proving he could stand on his own two feet.

    The Tribal Chief methodically took his time dismantling his cousin and using the surrounding cell to his advantage. Uso not only persevered but battled back on multiple occasions as well, which clearly took Reigns by surprise.

    It was only after The Tribal Chief targeted Jey's injured brother, Jimmy, that he agreed to quit. The drama, suspense and emotions expressed throughout this bout were phenomenal and an absolute masterclass in storytelling.

3. John Cena vs. JBL (Judgement Day 2005)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Between Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle and even Triple H vs. Batista, WrestleMania 21 featured several instant classics. John Cena vs. JBL, however, is not considered among them.

    Cena capturing his first WWE Championship was, of course, a monumental moment and marked a major turning point in his burgeoning career, but the match itself left a lot to be desired. It was a fairly basic bout that featured nothing out of the ordinary despite it taking place on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

    Thankfully, they had a chance to run it back the following month at Judgement Day, this time in an "I Quit" matchup. This was Cena's first true test as champ and a chance for JBL to prove the rookie's title win was nothing more than a fluke.

    For as cowardly of a character as JBL was at the time, he could take the fight to his opponents like it was nobody's business. That was exactly what happened in this contest with Cena, who emerged a certified main event player with a crimson mask to boot.

    The Cenation Leader didn't look out of place as the two battled all over the arena. He endured everything JBL dished out and went so far as to threaten to hit him with an exhaust pipe, which was enough to earn Cena the victory.

2. The Rock vs. Mankind (Royal Rumble 1999)

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    As the single most memorable "I Quit" match ever, The Rock vs. Mankind from 1999's Royal Rumble pay-per-view is also one of the most brutal bouts in WWE history.

    Only weeks earlier, Mankind had beaten The Great One to capture his first WWE Championship in thrilling fashion on Raw. Unfortunately for the newly turned fan favorite, his reign would be short-lived.

    The Rock was just finding his footing as "the corporate champion," and as slimy of a heel as he was, he had yet to show any sort of aggressive side to his character. That changed at the Rumble where he essentially tortured a handcuffed Mankind with chair shot after chair shot to the skull.

    It was a sickening sight for fans and Foley's family, who sat in the front row for the ordeal. It took Rock to another level and showed how much punishment Mankind was willing to take before accepting defeat.

    Miraculously, he never did quit. Rather, Rock used a recording of him saying "I quit" from a previous episode of Raw, and that was enough to earn him the victory without the referee knowing the difference.

    It was a fluky finish, yet a creative one, that proved Rock was as intelligent as he was dangerous.

1. Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley (SummerSlam 2006)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    While not as iconic as Rock vs. Mankind, Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley seven years later at SummerSlam is a stronger piece of business on the whole.

    The two had a sleeper feud over the summer of 2006 and had a better series of matches than they had any right to, with both being in the twilight of their in-ring careers at that point. They gave it their all every time they faced off and the bad blood between them came off as legitimate, likely because it was to an extent.

    This hardcore brawl encapsulated what the stipulation is all about. They went to great lengths to put the other away and utilized every weapon in sight, resulting in both legends seeing red by the end.

    Foley delivered a different type of performance against Flair compared to his barbaric battle with The Rock at the Rumble but one that was spectacular all the same. He fought his heart out while The Nature Boy also played his role remarkably well.

    The lines being blurred and the fans basically choosing who they wanted to cheer made this match infinitely more interesting. The only true knock against it was the lackluster finish with Foley quitting to save Melina from being attacked by Flair, but otherwise, this was the perfect formula for what an "I Quit" match should be.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.