By the way, I made a quick change. I decided I’m just going to go with top 20, knocking Davey Boy Smith vs. Bret Hart @ Summerslam 1992 off the list. I’m still keeping number 10 on Part Two, though. Needless to say, but this was supposed to be an all-time top 20 list, but there were too many independent and overseas matches that would’ve come into play. And you know, once Japanese matches are involved, they’d become like 90-percent of the list. I might do a TNA list and possibly a ROH or WCW list. We’ll see.
Top 20 WWE Matches Of All Time (20-10):
20. Raw 1997: Davey Boy Smith vs. Owen Hart —
Hart and Smith displayed some great athleticism that most WWF fans were not accustomed to at the time. This had tons of back-and-forth action and great pacing and timing. More importantly, there was reasoning behind each individual spot. They were not doing them just for the sake of doing them, like you might see in a typical independent match. If this match had longevity or more importance, it would be ranked higher.
19. Survivor Series 1996, Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin —
This was a very different match than their famous “I Quit” bout, but it was awesome nonetheless. This scientifically sound match built to the finish and transitioned at each turn. It should be noted that Steve Austin called most of this match as it proved that Hart knew he good was. Pre-neck injury Austin could mechanically wrestle with some of the best of them.
18. Summerslam 1994, WWF Championship: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart —
This is the best cage match that had the escaping rule in effect. The teases and false finishes were both well done and greatly timed. There were so many times where the match looked like it was going to end before it finally did. These two just had great chemistry, and it was on full display here.
17. Wrestlemania 7, Career Match: Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho Man Randy Savage —
Savage carried Warrior to not only his greatest match ever, but also one of the best matches ever. Savage played to Warrior’s strengths, doing an excellent job of dictating the pace and setting up Warrior’s hope spots and comebacks. I used to believe matches that were called on the fly came off more natural, but Savage proved that a match could be mapped out in advance and come off equally organic and genuine. It really is a credit to Savage’s imagination that he could see everything playing out almost exactly when he was designing this match. The match also had one of the most historic and emotional moments in wrestling history when Savage and Elizabeth reunited. The entire post-match sequence was so well booked, and Savage teased and sold it beautifully. It also completely made up for a rather lackluster finish to the contest.
16. Mind Games 1996, WWF Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Mick Foley —
This match proved that Mick Foley was more than just a glorified stuntman. He went move-for-move, hold-for-hold and toe-for-toe with HBK for half an hour. Some wrestlers have a difficult time selling consistently because they lack the ability to tell a compelling story surrounding the injury. Foley sold TWO body parts at the same time and weaved a great narrative in which he had to adapt to those injuries. Both wrestlers played their roles and strengths, and the only thing that marred this match was the botched finish. Otherwise, it is virtually perfect.
15. Canadian Stampede 1997, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, the British Bulldog, Brian Pillman & Jim Neidhart vs. Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & the Legion of Doom —
This is one of the greatest booked multi-man matches ever. It had NUCLEAR heat and atmosphere, and it was incredibly well structured for a match that had that many wrestlers in it. The combination of intensity and psychology made this a prodigious match, but the pure emotion radiating from the crowd elevated it to an unprecedented classic.
14. Summerslam 2000, TLC I: Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz —
All the workers in this busted their tails to get this match over, and they got each other even more over in the process. These three teams refurbished WWE’s tag division and, in the process, transformed a once lacking tag division into one of the best in wrestling history. They essentially raised the bar every time they wrestled, too. This had bell-to-bell action with zero down time. It was innovative, told a great story, had very few contrived spots and countless “Holy Sh*t” moments. Most importantly, as the bodies piled up, the intensity continued to rise, all the way to the crescendo.
13. No Way Out 2002, Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle vs. Edge & Rey —
Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle were arguably the greatest “strange bedfellows” tag team ever, and the only reason they coexisted was that they would be suspended if they did not. They put their differences aside here and delivered one of the greatest tag matches in WWE history. They all wrestled each other differently, which brought an incredible level of psychology into the match. And quite awesomely, the wrestlers were three steps ahead of everyone watching. In other words, just when you assumed that they were going in one direction, they would go into a totally different direction. They built their reversals and counters based on their clichéd spots, and they made this into a bout that had so many twists and turns. Just a creative, action-packed match.
12. Raw 2001, Stone Cold Steve Austin & Triple H vs. Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit —
This is best non-gimmick tag match in WWE, and it is incredibly underrated. There is no doubt about it: This should have been on PPV. If it had been, it might receive more of the recognition it rightfully deserves. The four used every trick conceivable to keep the babyface in peril on an island away from his partner and prevent him from making a “hot tag.” They did so much to build up the tag that the crowd absolutely exploded when Jericho finally tagged in Benoit. The work rate was incredible, and the wrestlers were able to read the crowd’s reaction, identify the boiling point, and then make the tag as the crowd was at its fieriest. This was also exceptionally hectic, with the action spilling out all over the announce table.
11. Wrestlemania 26, Streak vs. Career: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels —
This was one of the most emotional rollercoaster rides since HBK’s match against Ric Flair, but work rate was much better in this. The Streak seems essentially indestructible, but both wrestlers did an excellent job in building the idea that HBK had a chance of winning. This was accomplished through impeccably selling not only moves but the entire match as a whole. It took us on an eventful journey that we simply did not want to end, especially because we did not want either man to lose. Deliberately, however, Shawn Michael’s entire career was flashing before us (which enforced the fans rally behind him). Most of us did not think he was going to win, but we just did not want to believe he was going to lose. This also had all the other the usual elements a terrific match has: psychology, storytelling, timing, in-ring characterizations, etc. Even in his last match, Shawn was able to steal the show. How many wrestlers can say that?
10. Money in the Bank 2011, WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. John Cena -
This had a big match feel to it that I have not experienced in WWE since possibly The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 17. There was so much to win, and neither man could afford losing. The atmosphere made it feel as if the Chicago Cubs were facing the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. This had genuine, not fabricated, drama, intensity, and heat. And, most of all, Punk and Cena just didn’t do things for the sake of doing them. Everything made sense and fit the context of the story they were telling. Nothing happened that was impractical like, oh let’s just say Cena hitting a DDT, flipping Punk over, and then putting in the STF. No, instead, a spot in the match went like this: Punk went a cross body, but Cena caught him and rolled through. Cena went for a FU, but CM Punk wiggled out. He set him up for the GTS, but Cena caught Punk’s knee and locked in the STF. Sequences like that allowed everything to feel natural and flown like a river.
This also had impeccable pacing and timing, and they magnificently built the match to its crescendo. The finish also enhanced the drama. Then, ultimately, Cena’s concern for his “goodie two shoe” image wound up being a character imperfection that caused him to fail. Sometimes, you know, nice people finish last. There were some sloppy spots, but it made me realize that it sold them being both fatigued and desperate better. There were also great things in this, such as Cena’s body language showing his nervousness as a result of the atmosphere in the beginning and then his intense determination toward the end; Punk changing his wrestling style to fit his new character, and the perfect blend of 80s storytelling and psychology but with today’s state-of-the-art moves and characterizations