Ranking WWE's 10 Greatest Rivalries of All Time

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2022

Ranking WWE's 10 Greatest Rivalries of All Time

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    Credit: WWE.com

    WWE announced Wednesday via press release that it will expand its partnership with cable network A&E to include two new shows in addition to its Legends series: WWE Rivals and an aftershow, WWE Smack Talk.

    Rivals will feature Freddie Prinze Jr. hosting a roundtable discussion about the greatest rivalries in WWE history, while Smack Talk will see Booker T, radio personality Peter Rosenberg and the criminally underutilized WWE host Jackie Redmond discuss both the legends' and rivals' broadcasts.

    Included in Season 1 of Rivals are "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. The Rock, Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, the epic sibling rivalry between The Undertaker and Kane, the Ruthless Aggression showdown between John Cena and Edge, and the industry-altering Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW.

    All are great and worthy feuds to be discussed, but where do they rank among the greatest in the sports-entertainment company's long and illustrious history and are there any significant ones that producers should have covered instead?

    Find out with this countdown of the greatest rivalries to ever dominate WWE television.

    Don't agree? Sound off in the comment section and let B/R know your pick for the greatest rivalry in WWE history.

10. Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian vs. Dudley Boyz

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    During the Attitude Era, tag team wrestling was elevated to new heights thanks to a hugely competitive rivalry between the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, and the Dudley Boyz.

    Determined to elevate their own stars, the three teams engaged in some of the most incredible, awe-inspiring matches in WWE history. From tag team ladder and tables matches to the revolutionary Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches, they set the bar incredibly high for their peers to try and eclipse.

    In an era where Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H were setting attendance and pay-per-view buyrate records, those three teams managed to steal shows and establish themselves as important elements of the company's presentation.

    All three teams broke out of the undercard, enjoyed increased exposure on shows and eventually became legitimate stars. Their creativity enhanced the product, led to the implementation of new gimmick bouts and raised the bar for an entire generation of competitors.

    Three of the six performers would go on to become world champions, largely because of their performances throughout the legendary tag rivalry.

    There are other notable rivalries that did not make this countdown that will likely come as a surprise, but when taking into account the way the three teams altered the industry and introduced a new style of athleticism and risk-taking to the product, it is nearly impossible to leave them off the list.

9. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

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    The inclusion of Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar on this countdown may seem like a case of newness elevating its significance, but one look at the rivalry and all that it encompassed suggests it more than earned its placement on this list.

    Not only has the feud continued for six years, but it has also included three WrestleMania main events, one being a massive championship unification bout at this year's Showcase of the Immortals. That Reigns and Lesnar are unquestionably the biggest stars of the current era of WWE only enhances the significance of the rivalry.

    A feud that featured several high-profile, high-impact matches that leaned heavily on signature and finishing moves as if it was a showdown between two heavyweight boxers, it engrossed fans and highlighted the star power at the top of the card.

    Lesnar and Reigns have swapped roles, wins and championships in a program that figures to be far from over. Do not be surprised if, in future incarnations of this list, The Tribal Chief and The Beast Incarnate find themselves ranked further up the countdown.

8. John Cena vs. Edge

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    The rivalry between John Cena and Edge began with the latter successfully cashing in Money in the Bank to capture his first WWE Championship. From there, things escalated, becoming more and more personal with every passing match.

    Edge defeated Cena in his hometown of Boston, while the polarizing babyface returned the favor the following month in Toronto. They battled in straight-up singles matches, TLC bouts and Last Man Standing matches, all while seeking to establish themselves as the future of WWE.

    As it turned out, the hotly competitive feud made stars of both men. It provided Cena some much-needed credibility at a time when fans were beginning to reject the idea of him as the star of the future. For Edge, it was the nudge he needed into the main event scene.

    His performances during the Cena matches and promos helped silence doubters and established him as the top heel in WWE for a three-year stretch.

    It was in the rivalry with Cena that Edge cemented his status as a Hall of Famer, an honor bestowed upon him in 2012.

7. Hulk Hogan vs. 'Macho Man' Randy Savage

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    Before there were Mega Powers and WrestleMania main events, "Macho Man" Randy Savage exploded on to the scene in WWE by targeting world champion Hulk Hogan, hellbent on making his own star at the expense of the promotion's top dog.

    The two worked the house show loop, including a showdown in New York's famed Madison Square Garden, before going their separate ways. By 1988, Hogan was a pop culture phenomenon and Savage was an incredibly over competitor in his own right. Together, they would form the Mega Powers, a united tandem battling the corruption and evil of "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant.

    Then ego and Hogan's perceived "lust" for Miss Elizabeth got in the way and the most powerful team in WWE history imploded. At WrestleMania V, The Hulkster and Macho Man brought a yearlong rivalry to a head in a much-anticipated world title clash that saw the former drop the leg and regain a WWE title that had eluded him for over 12 months.

    In the year that followed, the two biggest stars in WWE would clash many times, including a notable battle on broadcast television Main Event, which featured heavyweight boxing champion Buster Douglas as guest referee.

    The two would continue their rivalry into WCW, but for an entire generation of fans, Hogan vs. Savage was the pre-eminent one in professional wrestling.

6. John Cena vs. CM Punk

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    John Cena was the white knight of WWE: the representation of all that is good and honest. CM Punk was the anarchist intent on upsetting the establishment in the name of change. In 2011, they began a rivalry that would burn brightly for a short period of time but instantly establish its place in WWE history.

    At Money in the Bank that July, Punk promised to wrap up his contract with the company by absconding with its world title. To do so, he would have to defeat Cena, the epitome of a big-match competitor. He did, but re-signed with the company shortly thereafter, meaning the two would go on to have more matches over the industry's top prize.

    Every match with Cena took on the feel of a prizefight as two top stars clashed for championship glory or the right to compete in a title match. The quality of the matches, the stakes and the real tension that existed between the polar opposites fueled interest and led to some of the hottest matches, moments and promos in recent WWE history.

    The only negative? Punk's departure in 2014 meant the end of a rivalry that still had plenty of outstanding television left in it.

5. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant

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    Jealousy is at the root of many a fractured friendship, and that of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant is no different.

    After seeing his star eclipsed by the Hulkster and many of the accolades he once enjoyed thrust upon the world champion, an angry and bitter Andre turned to the dark side. Manipulated by Bobby Heenan, he stepped up to oppose Hogan at WrestleMania 3 in a legendary battle that drew a then-record 93,173 fans to the historic Pontiac Silverdome for their clash.

    It was hardly the last time they would do battle. Over the next year, the industry icons would square off in a historic network broadcast presentation, then again at WrestleMania IV. They would compete at house shows, on megacards and in blockbuster tag matches as they looked to settle their differences and recapture the magic of that first encounter.

    As was the case with Hogan vs. Savage the following year, the feud would define wrestling fandom for an entire generation. That WWE so heavily features it in video packages for WrestleMania and other significant events proves how the rivalry remains indelibly etched in the minds of fans and company officials alike.

    Like Reigns-Lesnar and Steve Austin-Rock after them, it was a battle between industry giants, enhancing its impact and ensuring it ranks higher on this countdown.

4. Bret 'Hitman' Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

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    Competition for the lone top spot in WWE fueled the disdain that existed between Bret "Hitman" Hart and Shawn Michaels in the 1990s. Both smaller competitors in the land of giants, they overcame size deficiencies to get over with audiences based on extraordinary in-ring ability. There was only room for one man to emerge as the top dog in the company, though, making for a competitive battle in front of the cameras and a bitter one behind them.

    At WrestleMania 12, Hart and Michaels competed in a grueling 60-minute Iron Man Match that saw the latter emerge with the world title and the former disappear from WWE for six months. When Hart returned, he grew increasingly disenfranchised with the state of the company under its new champion, adding fuel to a raging fire that existed between him and Michaels.

    Personal digs on- and off-screen heightened the tension between them, leading to a real-life brawl behind the scenes and a hotly anticipated showdown between the two in Montreal at Survivor Series in November 1997.

    The Montreal Screwjob is the stuff of legend but marked the conclusion of Hart's association with a company he had called home for 12 years. The feud with Michaels would continue in the form of bitter interviews and insults hurled at each other until 2010, when the two made public amends.

3. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. The Rock

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    Like Hart and Michaels, the root of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock's legendary rivalry can be traced to the fact that there was only one guy who could be the undisputed top star of WWE.

    Arriving in WWE at roughly the same time and each overcoming their own creative hurdles en route to stardom, they each became household names and massive attractions for the company at a time of unprecedented success. That they had undeniable chemistry, both on the mic and in the ring, only made their rivalry that much more engaging.

    Rock was the egotistical talker with magnetic presence and incomparable electricity. Austin was the no-nonsense ass-kicker who drank beer, flipped middle fingers and dropped foes with Stone Cold Stunners. They could not have been any more different, and it was that polarization that attracted fans to their feud.

    The two competitors clashed in three WrestleMania epics, sold out arenas and captivated audiences over a five-year stretch, culminating in a classic match in 2003 that doubled as Austin's final bout for 19 years.

    Today, Rock and Austin remain among the most beloved stars in wrestling history, thanks to the magic they created during their time atop the company during its massively popular and influential Attitude Era.

2. The Undertaker vs. Kane

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    The greatest story ever told by WWE's creative forces is the sibling rivalry between The Undertaker and Kane.

    Left for dead following a fire that killed his parents, Kane debuted in WWE under the guidance of Paul Bearer, who sought to use the masked angel of vengeance against The Phenom, retaliating for The Deadman's split from him months earlier.

    No matter how much Bearer mentally antagonized or Kane physically provoked Undertaker, the elder brother refused to fight The Big Red Monster, citing a promise he made to his parents before their deaths. That promise ended following the 1998 Royal Rumble, when Kane attempted to burn him alive.

    At WrestleMania XIV, the siblings would clash in one of the event's most anticipated bouts. Despite a punishing effort by Kane, Undertaker retained his unbeaten streak on wrestling's grand stage, putting his younger brother down with a Tombstone piledriver for the win.

    In the 12 years that followed, the brothers would clash many more times, headlining pay-per-views and writing new, complex chapters to an epic storyline.

    There are other rivalries that featured higher stakes and bigger stars but none that featured the mythology that Kane, Undertaker and those in charge of constructing it were able to accomplish over the decade-plus that they engaged in battle.

1. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon

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    The greatest rivalry in the history of WWE is, was and forever will be that between Austin and the evil, billionaire owner of the company, Vince McMahon.

    Austin was the rebellious employee who wanted to do things his way and raising as much hell as possible while doing so. McMahon was the corrupt businessman, worried more about exploiting talent for money and ensuring they all fall in line with his vision than anything else.

    When Austin captured the WWE Championship and failed to fit McMahon's star mold, the two naturally butted heads. What followed was the most successful feud in company history and the defining rivalry of the Attitude Era.

    The Texas Rattlesnake made life a living hell for his employer, resulting in some of the most memorable and humorous moments in WWE television history. Whether he was dousing McMahon in beer, riding a Zamboni to the ring ahead of an ass-kicking or filling a million-dollar Corvette with concrete, he inspired a generation of rebels and stuck it to The Man at the same time.

    The feud has spanned generations and, as late as this year's WrestleMania, Austin still pops up from time to time to drop the Chairman of the Board with a Stone Cold Stunner.