Part 3 of our countdown of the 100 Greatest Matches of all-time.
60. Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles (WWE Championship: Extreme Rules 2016)
59. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania V)
This was where the “Mega Powers” Exploded! For over a year, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were riding high as the “MegaPowers” during Savage’s most lucrative run as WWF Champion. However, jealousy over Miss Elizabeth and the WWF Title would drive them apart. This was like Thor vs. Loki. Hogan was Thor and Savage was Loki.
The match started with both Hogan and Savage looking for a Psychological Advantage. Savage would start the match with a headlock. After two failed headlocks by Savage, Hogan would chase him around the ring before Randy grabbed Liz to shield himself.
Back in the ring, Hogan went for a headlock before it was countered into a backdrop suplex. Hulk decked him with a series of punches, but Randy came back with a double axe handle for a two count. Hogan rams him into the turnbuckle a few times, hitting him with a clothesline and an elbow.
The sequencing was well done, including a clothesline by Macho Man that gave The Hulkster a slight cut above his eye. The match seemed to be at Savage’s pace until he slapped Hogan in the face. Hulk woke up. Hogan hit him with a combination of punches along with a hard clothesline as well as a throw over the top rope.
Elizabeth tried to tend to Savage, but he told her to leave. Hogan tried to ram Savage into the ring post, but she got into the way. Savage slipped out and shoved Hogan. Liz checked on Hogan, but Savage told her to leave again.
Finally, the Ref himself sent Liz back to the Locker room. Savage went to the top to hit Hogan with his Double Axe Handle on the guardrail. Hogan’s throat hit the rail. When they get back into the ring, Macho Man performs good ring psychology by focusing on Hogan’s neck to weaken him for the Elbow Drop.
Macho Man finally hits the flying Elbow Drop. However, Hogan throws him off at two to “Hulk Up”. The Hulkster would hit Macho Man with the Big Boot and the Leg Drop to win the WWF Title in Classic “Super Hogan” Fashion.
58. The Hart Foundation vs. Stone Cold, Ken Shamrock, Goldust and LOD (In Your House: Canadian Stampede 1997)
In 1997, Bret Hart reformed The Hart Foundation. This time, he added his Brother Owen, Brother-In-Law Davey Boy Smith and Friend of the Family/Dungeon Student Brian Pillman.
Here in the States, Bret and the Hart Foundation were Heavily Despised as Bret insulted Americans in a very condescending way. Meanwhile, Bret was the Hero in Canada anytime WWF traveled in that area.
At this time, Bret was involved in a heated feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as they tore the house down with their Submission Match at WrestleMania 13.
In the Summer of ’97, Austin teamed with The Legion Of Doom, Ken Shamrock, and Goldust to go to War with the Hart Foundation at Canadian Stampede. This match was the Prime Example of how Bret Hart is treated like a Superhero in Canada. Meanwhile, Austin & Co. were clearly in Enemy Territory.
Bret is to Canada what Michael Jordan is to Chicago, and what arguably Austin himself is in Texas. The Hitman carried Canada on his back and his sect of support was very strong.
This was one of the greatest 5-on-5 Elimination Matches you will ever find. The Harts were heels, but the crowd cheered everything that they did. The crowd is what ultimately made the match as The Hart Foundation triumphed over their American Adversaries.
57. The Rock vs. Triple H (Backlash 2000)
This can consider the best match of the Saga between The Rock and Triple H. This match had great storytelling as it illustrated the animosity between The People’s Champion and The Game.
To add fuel to the fire, Shane McMahon was named the Special Guest Referee. The match took place in Washington, DC (my hometown) as I was there live to witness this match. It was very exciting and intense.
The highlights of this match were The Rock giving Triple H and Shane The Rock Bottom together through the announce table, along with Stone Cold’s interference as he knocked out everyone that got in his way.
Austin nailed Triple H with the Steel Chair to help The Rock win the WWF Championship. This was the very match that should’ve happened at WrestleMania 2000.
56. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXX)
This match marked the End of an Era for WWE. For more than 20 Years, The Undertaker ruled WrestleMania as he made it his Graveyard going Undefeated for 21 Years. Taker’s opponents only got better as time went on, and the streak would soon take on a Life of its own.
Going from Jimmy Snuka, Jake The Snake and Diesel, to Batista, Edge, and Shawn Michaels. WrestleMania was Taker’s Domain.
However, that would all come crashing down at the 30th Anniversary of WrestleMania in New Orleans at the hands of Brock Lesnar. Despite the criticized quality of the match, it was most known for the Iconic Finish. Undertaker fought with resiliency to keep the legacy that he worked hard to built for Two Decades. Brock still would not back down.
Things took an even bigger turn when Taker suffered a concussion during the match. After Three F-5’s, The Beast conquered The Phenom to do what was deemed Impossible: Break The Streak.
It took the Power and Ferociousness of a Younger, hungrier Lion to take down the King of the WrestleMania Jungle. When the Referee made the Final Three Count, the Arena was in Utter silence, including Heyman himself. The Streak was the last Superhero type of thing in wrestling that fans could hold onto. Now, that Chapter has closed.
55. CM Punk vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXIX)
54. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (Steel Cage Match for the WWF Championship: Summerslam 1994)
53. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (WWE Championship: Summerslam 2013)
52. Ric Flair vs. Vader (WCW Championship: Starrcade 1993)
51. Undertaker vs. Batista (World Heavyweight Championship: WrestleMania 23)
50. Undertaker vs. Edge (World Heavyweight Championship: WrestleMania XXIV)
49. The Rock vs. John Cena (Once In A Lifetime Match: WrestleMania XXVIII)
When The Rock made his Grand, Triumphant return to the WWE, one of the first orders of business that he made was to call out John Cena. Rocky was announced as the host of WrestleMania XXVII, where he gave Cena the Rock Bottom to help The Miz retain the WWE Championship. The next night, Rock and Cena booked their Dream Match together for WrestleMania XXVIII.
For an entire year, they exchanged a War of Words and Mind Games. Rock and Cena finally clashed at WrestleMania XXVIII in The Rock’s Hometown of Miami, FL. Cena stepped into the Dragon’s Lair. The People’s Champion is a Hometown Icon in Miami and he was right at home.
This was a Battle of Two Different Generations. Rock from the Attitude Era, and John Cena from the Modern PG Era. Neither one of them held back. The Match was very well paced, as The Rock did a great job of selling Cena’s Offense.
John proved to Rock and the world that he belonged in the same ring as The Great One. The Brahma Bull kicked out of Two Attitude Adjustments, while “Super” Cena kicked out of the Rock Bottom AND People’s Elbow. In the end, John trolled the fans and showed a heelish side when he went for his own People’s Elbow.
However, The Rock got up in time to land The Rock Bottom for the three count. This match was named “The Most Anticipated” WrestleMania Match of all-time as it drew nearly 80,000 fans (78,363). Even though this match took place on April Fool’s Day, nobody walked away feeling like fools.
48. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XIX)
The Teacher vs. The Student. A Classic Storyline. For years, Chris Jericho was heavily influenced by Shawn Michaels as he patterned his appearance and mannerisms in the ring after HBK. When you look at the quintessential wrestler, Shawn Michaels was considered nearly perfect. Y2J will boldly say that his favorite wrestler and greatest of all-time is HBK.
By this time, Jericho was carving his own name in history. He was Undisputed Champion and Multi-time Intercontinental Champion among other achievements. However, he also wanted to jump out of Shawn’s shadow. Instead of being the next Shawn Michaels, he wanted to be the first Chris Jericho. Chris was out to prove that he had surpassed Shawn on every level.
Meanwhile, HBK had returned and wanted to prove to himself, Y2J and the world that he still had it. Jericho called Michaels the “Has Been Kid” right before Shawn superkicks him to prove otherwise. The action was fast paced and smooth from the start, especially from Shawn Michaels. This match drew shades of Savage vs. Steamboat.
This was Shawn’s time to put everyone on notice in his WrestleMania return. The Story of this match was that The Student (Jericho) wanted to surpass The Master (Michaels). This was Jericho’s WrestleMania highlight match because this was his dream.
Chris showed his ring savvy by countering Shawn’s moves. Jericho even gave HBK the Walls of Jericho outside of the ring to wear down Shawn’s surgically repaired back. This match was filled with kip-ups and Superkicks in a match where Shawn walked away as the winner to show why he was still “Mr. WrestleMania”.
47. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (Summerslam 2002)
The Battle of Best Friends. Shawn Michaels and Triple H were the Founding Fathers of D-Generation-X. However, everyone knew that Shawn was the Main Guy in charge. In the early years, HBK was Mario and Triple H was Luigi.
In Shawn’s absence, Hunter made a name for himself and jumped out of the shadow of the Showstopper. When Michaels returned, he and his DX comrade teased a DX reunion. However, Triple H hit him with the Pedigree. Then, Shawn was attacked in a Parking Lot and wanted to know who was behind it. Come to find out, his “Friend” Triple H was behind it.
This set the stage for Shawn’s official return to the ring at Summerslam. After being on the shelf for 4 years, Shawn Michaels wanted to test himself by going against one of the very best, his former ally Triple H.
Once the bell sounded, Shawn Michaels showed no signs of ring rust at all. With the bad blood that they had, a Street Fight was perfect as HBK wore jeans and cowboy boots in this match.
Regardless of ring attire, Shawn Michaels was still the same performer. In many ways, he returned better than before. As the underdog throughout this match, Shawn found a way to win.
However, their feud was just beginning as Triple H hit him with the Sledgehammer after the match. This was the launching pad for Shawn’s Comeback Tour as he would enjoy an extra eight years that were added to his already stellar Career.
46. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Takeover: Dallas)
NXT Takeover: Dallas was certainly a spectacle during WrestleMania Weekend. Fans were looking forward to this more than Mania itself (thanks to injuries), and the match that stood out the most was Sami Zayn versus new NXT Arrival Shinsuke Nakamura.
This was Nakamura’s first match ever in NXT and he came with plenty of fanfare. Nakamura applies a Cross Armbreaker, but Zayn fought out of the hold. Sami applies the Koji Clutch, but Shinsuke countered into a roll up for a near fall.
Nakamura attempted a Kinshasa on Sami but Zayn avoided the move and gave him the Blue Thunder Bomb for the near fall.
Near the end, Zayn attempted an Exploder Suplex into the turnbuckles, but Nakamura countered it into a Kinshasa off the middle rope, followed by another Kinshasa for the win.
This match had the right combination of high-flying mixed with aggression and physicality. This match sent shockwaves all across WWE on Twitter and was critically acclaimed by outlets such as PW Torch, Wrestling Observer, and even IGN. This is a strong candidate for Match of the Year for 2016.
45. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (WWF Intercontinental Championship: Summerslam 1991)
By the Summer of 1991, Bret Hart was free from the Hart Foundation and ready to fly on his own to reach for the stars as a singles wrestler.
With his Classic Hitman Shades, Bret’s future was bright as he set his sights on the stepping stone for Greatness: The WWF Intercontinental Championship.
For years, Bret had proven himself as an excellent Tag Team Wrestler with great technical gifts, but he was still an unknown commodity by himself. Meanwhile, fellow Second Generation Wrestler Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) was the IC Champion.
This was Bret’s chance to prove to Vince, the higher ups, and the fans that he could cut it on his own. Bret proved himself in Madison Square Garden at Summerslam during this match with Perfect with the IC Title on the line. This match is historically considered one of the finest technical wrestling matches ever because they were both first class ring generals. Mr. Perfect thought that he would retain the title when he put Bret in the Perfect Plex. However, the “Hit Man” surprised everyone when he kicked out of the Perfect Plex. Moments later, Bret locked in the Sharpshooter to capture his first IC Championship. This would open the door for one of the most decorated and prolific careers in WWE History. With this win, Bret opened the door for other wrestlers that wanted to transition from Tag Team success to Singles Success.
44. Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind (WWF Championship: In Your House/Mind Games)
43. Elimination Chamber (World Heavyweight Championship: Survivor Series 2002)
The Shawn Michaels “Comeback Tour” was quickly gaining steam. After defeating Friend/Enemy Triple H at Summerslam, HBK made history again as he would wrestle in the First Ever Elimination Chamber Match at Survivor Series for the World Heavyweight Championship.
To make it even more special, Survivor Series was held at Madison Square Garden. Historically, the Garden was the Epicenter for Title changes, as the Championship has changed hands an unprecedented FIVE times.
This match would mark the fifth occasion with six Superstars. Those names included: World Champion Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, 5-time Champion Booker T, RVD, and Kane. Each competitor would be released from their pods at different intervals. They brutalized and battered each other as they threw each other through the glass pods and into the bars of the Chamber itself. Finally, it all came down to Shawn Michaels and Triple H, the best friends turned bitter rivals. HBK ended The Game’s reign with the Sweet Chin Music to capture his first World Heavyweight Championship (Big Gold Belt). This was a defining moment in the Career of Shawn Michaels, as he celebrated while confetti came down. This was the first time Shawn was World Champion since WM XIV, and it would also be the last World Title that he would hold for the rest of his career.
42. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVII)
After vanquishing Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker would have another powerful opponent to conquer in his Undefeated Streak: Shawn’s best friend Triple H.
After taking time off, The Deadman would rise again in February of 2011 to meet his next challenge. Soon, Triple H’s music would hit as The Game would enter the ring to stand toe to toe with The Phenom. Everything was in place. In front of 70,000 fans in Atlanta, the two legendary Titans clashed in an Epic Match that was the highlight of the night. The Cerebral Assassin brought the fight to The Deadman. Unlike the matches with HBK, this match was much more physical as you can see the toll that it puts on Taker’s body. In the end, The Game became another victim of The Streak. However, Triple H was able to walk on his own, while Undertaker could not. Even in victory, this was a strong reminder that even The Undertaker had to face his own mortality.
41. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (WWF Championship: WrestleMania XIV)
By the start of 1998, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was on fire.
Austin won his second straight Royal Rumble as he tore through the WWF Roster on his quest for the WWF Championship.
The year prior, Austin proved his Main Event Status with his Submission Match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13.
Even a Career-Threatening Injury could not hold Austin back. Stone Cold had one goal in mind, the WWF Championship.
The man standing in his way was WWF Champion, Shawn Michaels.
HBK was on the Wrestling Mountain with his DX Comrades Triple H and Chyna by his side.
To add another twist, “Iron” Mike Tyson would join with DX as the “Special Enforcer”.
Austin had opposition on every side. However, he still fought for the prize.
WrestleMania XIV took place at the Fleet Center in Boston, MA.
I remember watching this match on PPV as a child in 1998. I was torn because I was a fan of them both. Austin and HBK are still my all-time favorites.
Going into this match, HBK had an injured back from his Casket Match with Undertaker. Despite injuries, this match was still spectacular and significant.
Even with his pain, Shawn fought like the soldier that he was.
Stone Cold was firing on all cylinders with a laser-like focus.
The match went to the entrance way as Michaels hit Austin with the Iinstruments.
HBK even hit him with the ring bell. Triple H and Chyna were soon banned from ringside.
Still, SCSA took no prisoners and it was evident in this match.
In the end, Shawn would tune up the band to put Austin away with Sweet Chin Music.
As Shawn launched his foot for the Superkick, Stone Cold moved out of the way to attempt the Stone Cold Stunner. Shawn pushed him off to attempt another Sweet Chin Music. However, Austin caught his foot, turned him around to nail the Stunner as Tyson rushed in the ring for the three count. The Stone Cold Era had officially begun for the WWF and Professional Wrestling itself. The Austin 3:16 Era had officially arrived. Austin had now dethroned HBK to become Wrestling’s, Undisputed King.