In the WWE, the storylines are what makes the matches. The greatest matches in the history of the sport have all seemingly been even more extreme thanks to the bad blood between the opponents. After all, who wants to see a match between friends?
Men like The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin seemed to have careers thrive on feuds. These men and others were so good at buying into these feuds that their matches became legendary, passionate and real. In testament to the battles that were waged, many injuries occurred in these epic clashes. These feuds made revenge sweet, made risky moves more worthwhile and made the WWE more popular.
After all, feuds are a staple of the WWE and the following top 10 feuds were all right up there with the Red Sox meeting the Yankees in the ALCS.
10. Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker
This feud actually started when Shawn Michaels was trying to help The Undertaker out by using a steel chair to hit Bret Hart during a match between the two. The problem was that the chair struck The Undertaker instead, allowing Hart to win the match. The feud finally escalated when the two met at an October 1997 pay-per-view event, In Your House: Badd Blood.
The Badd Blood match was the first Hell in a Cell match and was a historic encounter. Michaels fell off the side of the 15-foot “cell” through a table and yet still won the match. Kane made his debut his debut in the match by interfering with The Undertaker giving him a Tombstone Piledriver, which allowed Michaels to pin The Undertaker. The two also had an epic casket match at the Royal Rumble where Kane again interfered by padlocking the Undertaker into the casket and lighting it on fire, allowing Michaels to secure the victory.
9. Steve Austin and Bret Hart
In 1996, Steve Austin was busy selling Austin 3:16 t-shirts while Bret Hart was out of the WWE. Austin taunted and challenged Hart until Hart finally returned to the WWE in October of 1996 at Survivor Series where he pinned Austin. In a 1997 Royal Rumble match, Austin was eliminated by Hart but the referees didn’t see it so he sneaked back into the ring and threw Hart over the ropes to win the match. Austin continued to torment Hart.
At WrestleMania XIII, Bret Hart defeated Austin in a ‘Submission’ match when a bleeding Austin refused to tap out while being locked in Hart’s Sharpshooter submission hold. He passed out from blood loss and was assaulted by Hart after the match for good measure. Austin and Hart got into a street fight on Raw where Austin injured Hart’s leg with a steel chair and continued to assault him while he was on a stretcher in an ambulance. The feud between the two intensified to include the whole Hart family.
8. Edge and Christian vs The Hardy Boyz
Edge and Christian were real-life friends who happened to form one of the top WWE tag-teams as well. In 2012, the WWE recognized the team as the greatest tag-team in WWE history. The Hardy Boyz were also one of the best WWE tag-teams and despite both brothers having successful individual careers, they happened to be together around the same time as Edge and Christian.
The feud between the teams really started to intensify during the Terri Invitational Tournament in 1999. The best of five series of matches was for the services of Terri Runnels for manager. They were deadlocked at 2-2 when the Hardy Boyz won a final ladder match at No Mercy. The teams went on to battle each other and the Dudley Boyz in a series of matches, meeting at No Way Out and Survivor Series. At WrestleMania 2000, the three teams met in a triangle ladder match, which Edge and Christian won.
7. Kane and The Undertaker
Paul Bearer revealed a tale about how The Undertaker had burned down his family’s funeral home as a child, killing his parents and half-brother as well. His half-brother Kane was rescued by Bearer. The Undertaker had previously refused to feud with his brother, but following a casket match with Shawn Michaels where Kane trapped him in the coffin, padlocked it and set it ablaze, the feud was on.
The Undertaker and Kane met in a first ever inferno match at Unforgiven: In Your House, where the Undertaker won by setting Kane’s arm on fire. They later had a match at Judgement Day with Steve Austin as the guest referee. Paul Bearer was trying to assist Kane with a steel chair, but Bearer and The Undertaker ended up hitting Kane with the chair resulting in a pin by The Undertaker that was not acknowledged by Austin. Austin ended up attacking the Undertaker and counting out both brothers.
6. Ric Flair and Randy Savage
The early 90’s saw Hulk Hogan take a leave of absence due to the steroids scandal opening the way for Ric Flair and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. Flair won a Royal Rumble match in 1992 where he lasted an hour to win the vacant WWE Championship. A script planned for Hulk Hogan was scraped, but Savage filled in to feud with Flair. Flair insisted that he had a prior relationship with Savage’s wife, Miss Elizabeth, even claiming that he had the photos to prove it. This started a feud with some epic matches that spilled into 1993.
Savage defeated Flair for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania VIII causing Flair and Mr. Perfect to launch an attack on Savage and The Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam, injuring Savage’s knee. Flair took advantage of the injury to win the title back from Savage only to lose it to Bret Hart a month later. Flair went on to team with Razor Ramon to take on Savage and Mr. Perfect at the Survivor Series 1992. Thanks to this feud, Flair considered this period of time to be the greatest year and a half of his illustrious career.
5. Mankind and The Undertaker
Mankind made his debut in 1996 by interfering with The Undertaker‘s match against Justin Hawk Bradshaw. Mankind’s behavior cost The Undertaker several matches as he continued to disrupt them and fuel the feud. They started to take the feud to the next level by fighting in the crowds, backstage and even in arena basements or boiler rooms. The feud reached a new level when Mankind assisted Goldust in a WWE Intercontinental Championship match that the Undertaker lost.
The Undertaker and Mankind entered into a Boiler Room Brawl at SummerSlam. During the match, the Undertaker reached for Paul Bearer’s urn and was promptly hit over the head with it allowing Mankind secure the victory by using The Mandible Claw. They then had a wild Buried Alive match which The Undertaker won by chokeslamming Mankind into an open grave. Following interference by The Executioner and other superstars, Undertaker was eventually the one buried alive. The Undertaker returned to face Mankind at Survivor Series with Paul Bearer in a cage high above the ring. He won his opportunity to have Bearer, but Bearer escaped. At King in the Ring (1998), the Undertaker threw Mankind into an announcers table 16 feet below the top of their Hell in the Cell cage, in one of the more epic moments in wrestling history.
4. The Rock and Steve Austin
About the same time Austin was making life miserable for Vince McMahon, McMahon ensured he was having some epic matches with The Rock inside the ring. The feud between Austin and The Rock started in late 1997 when The Rock stole Austin’s Intercontinental Championship belt after his Nation of Domination teammates gave Austin a beating on an episode of Raw.
Austin regained his belt and title by beating The Rock at D-Generation X: In Your House, but was ordered by Vince McMahon to face The Rock the next night on Raw. Austin responded by chucking the belt in the New Hampshire river, forfeiting the title to The Rock. They continued to clash at the Royal Rumble in 1998 where Austin won by eliminating The Rock at the end. Austin defeated The Rock at WrestleMania XV for his third WWE Championship and defended the title against the Rock at Backlash where Vince McMahon did everything he could to sabotage the match. Thanks to McMahon, this ended up being a good feud.
3. The Rock and Triple H
Something about this feud still seems so real. The Rock went skipping off to Hollywood, while Triple H stuck around to become an executive at WWE. They both came up around the same time, were of pretty similar size and both spent time as faces and heels. As the leader of the D-Generation X (DX) stable of wrestlers, Triple H started a feud with the rising star (The Rock) of a newer stable of wrestlers, the Nation of Domination. This feud quickly got personal when the two faced each other in a ladder match at SummerSlam in 1998 for the Intercontinental title.
Triple H took the match at SummerSlam, but the Rock ended up winning the WWE Championship at Survivor Series. The two continued to cross paths as The Rock became the leader and major star of The Corporation stable that DX feuded with. In a short span of time in 2000, Triple H beat the Rock at WrestleMania 2000, lost to The Rock at Backlash, won three weeks later in an Iron Man match at Judgement Day and then went on to lose to The Rock at King of the Ring. They had several noteworthy clashes and their feud was mostly kept inside the ring.
2. Steve Austin and Vince McMahon
At the first-ever Monday Night Raw broadcast from Madison Square Garden, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin came into the ring followed by five NYC policemen and assaulted Owen Hart who was just speaking to the crowd. As the officers bore down on Austin, Vince McMahon came into the ring to lecture Austin, earning a Stone Cold Stunner in response. This marked the beginning of an epic feud that attracted many new WWE fans. The brazen disrespect Austin had for his boss and antics outside the ring promoted the product and Austin at the same time.
Austin hit McMahon with a metal chair at Unforgiven: In Your House, humiliated him in front of live audiences, punched him in the gonads after promising to toe the corporate line and even kidnapped him with a toy gun leading him to urinate in his pants. For his part, McMahon tried to ruin Austin and constantly deprive him of his WWE titles by running interference or even vacating the title at Austin’s expense. Austin had such a bad-ass personality that it made every hostile act appear to be clever and spontaneous resonating with so many avid wrestling fans.
1. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart
Bret “the Hitman” Hart and Shawn “the Heartbreak Kid” Michaels had a rivalry in the 90’s that helped shape the WWE. They were two of the best technical wrestlers of their time and both wanted to be champions at the same time. Shawn Michaels was cocky and brash with his risky aggressive style of wrestling, while Bret Hart was more practical and technical with excellent counter moves and reversals. Their collision course in and out of the ring made for some of the greatest matches of the early 90’s.
Hart and Michaels clashed in the first ever WWE Ladder Match that Hart claimed to have introduced to the WWE. They engaged in an epic Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII that ended in sudden death. Their rivalry was legendary, popularized the sport and strengthened the legitimacy of the WWE.
Their feud was quite real as Hart claimed Michaels was faking a knee injury that led to him vacating his WWE Championship and avoid having to face Michaels at Wrestlemania XIII.
On the other hand, Michaels accused the married Hart of having an affair with the diva Sunny which led to a real-life backstage brawl between the two. Michaels enraged Canadians by desecrating the Canadian flag, leading to the Montreal Screwjob where Michaels defeated Hart to become the WWE Champion.
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