The 411 Wrestling Top 5 2.20.13: Week 208 – Top 5 Favorite WWE Title Matches
Hello everyone, Your “Kennection to All Things Wrestling” Ken Hill here. Welcome to 411 Wrestling’s Top 5 List. What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 Wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.
So, on to this week’s topic…
5. The Undertaker (c) vs. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle (Vengeance 2002) – I known technically at this point it was the Undisputed WWE Championship, but it had WWE’s three biggest stars going for 20+ minutes, a bevy of exciting false finishes, and each using another man’s finisher to take the championship, not to mention the interconnected personal rivalries that left no man on the outside looking in, unlike typical triple threat matches. It was a triple threat masterpiece.
4. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle (60 Minute Iron Man Match) – The 2003 PWI Match of the Year, for a damn good reason. Not only was it a contest of the best pure wrestlers and grapplers WWE had at the time, but Brock was every shade of heel in the match: A monster who couldn’t be put down at times, a conniving, opportunistic sneak, and everything in between. Wearing out Kurt in the long run with a steel chair despite the instant DQ, using the Angle Slam, the WWE Championship, low blows; Brock used literally every heel trick and tactic in this match to keep himself ahead by at least two falls in the match, and Kurt still came within an eyelash of tying him. That alone tells you how equally determined and evenly matched these two were, and it made for a hell of a 60-minute story.
3. Kurt Angle (c) vs. Chris Benoit (Royal Rumble 2003) – You could tell 2003 was one of my favorite WWE Title years, couldn’t you? Following the infamous Scott Steiner-Triple H stinker of a World Title match, this match was anything but a stinker; it was a technical phenomenon going up to 25 minutes between two of the very best in Angle and Benoit.
The suplexes, the submissions, the ring savvy of the two veterans. Angle, who had a bad run of luck against Benoit in the past, won the title the only way he could: He outwrestled the Rabid Wolverine and went so far as to make him submit. Benoit gave it everything he had, including a flying headbutt two-thirds of the way across the ring, and came up just short. One of the few times I’ve seen a match where the loser, Benoit, get a standing ovation following it, and that should tell you how emotionally and mentally invested in the match the audience had been.
2. Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero (No Way Out 2004) – When I first saw this match, I thought, pretty much the same as most regular fans did, that it would be a glorified squash for Lesnar on his way to Wrestlemania to face Angle again, that Eddie would put up a good fight as the tricky veteran, but ultimately fall to Lesnar’s unbridled power. It seemed like the case in the first half of the match, with Lesnar tossing Eddie about, just overpowering him and shrugging off whatever Eddie threw at him. A mistake by Brock, and Eddie gradually turns the tide, sparking hope in the crowd, wearing Brock down and setting him up for the Frog Splash…only to miss, the crowd deflated.
Brock hits the F-5…but hits the referee in the process. Suddenly, a change is felt in the air, as well as “Goldberg” chants. Goldberg hits the ring to Lesnar’s shock, spears him out his boots, and leaves. Eddie pulls the biggest trick, DDT’ing Lesnar onto the gold and Frog Splashing him to win the WWE Title, to the absolute rapture of the crowd. I tell you this in so much detail because, dammit, I was glued to this match the moment the ref was knocked down and never looked away.
1. CM Punk (c) vs. Daniel Bryan (Over The Limit 2012) – I will readily admit I’m something of a CM Punk mark. If there was any part of his title reign I would agree he had been pushed to the side instead of put in the main event like he should’ve, it was this match. You had the two masters of the mike and the ring, respectively, in Punk and Bryan, with history in ROH even brought forth (though not by name). Two technical marvels, with a bevy of strikes and unique submissions that Cole, Booker, and King couldn’t even call. An amazing part of this match was Bryan’s ring psychology; he used no real heel tactics other than the five count. He went straight to the hilt with Punk for the entirety of the match because he was just that confident he could outmaneuver and outwrestle the WWE Champion, and he nearly did. A highly-invested split crowd, riveting false finishes, no CR-AJ interference, just two men leaving it all in the ring for 25 minutes of pure wrestling goodness.
5. Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero – No Way Out 2004 – Fantastic bout between two of the best in the industry at that point in time, with a magical finish which culminated years of stuggle both personally and professionally for Eddie. Great emotion.
4. Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania XII – Great drama over a long period of time which solidified HBK’s status at the top of the card for the rest of his career. It was thought at the time that the Iron Man stipulation wouldn’t work in that period, so full credit to them for proving the doubters wrong.
3. Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble 2003 – As WWF/E title matches go, you’ll be hard pressed to find many that top this in the pure-wrestling department. Great champions of the past like Bret, Shawn and so on all had great matches which were excellent from a scientific perspective, but these two packed in so much excitement and drama into the twenty minutes they had that if you blinked, you’d have missed something. It was stiff, it was technically precise, it was gripping. Tainted a bit now, but at the time this was rightly hailed as one of the WWE’s best technical contests ever. Made even better back then because it followed that match between Triple H and Scott Steiner.
2. Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant – Wrestlemania III – Not a mat classic like the #3 entry, but by the 1980’s wrestling had become so, so much more than just about the mat specifics. This is one of the biggest entertainment spectacles the profession has ever seen. The match itself isn’t much without the famous Hogan bodyslam on Andre, but that’s what we’d been building up to throughout their storyline, and the pacing and working up the crowd to get to that point made the actual moment itself stupidly famous. It’s the single most famous spot ever in wrestling history, and in terms of historical importance the match in which it featured will forever rank highly.
1. Triple H vs Cactus Jack – Royal Rumble 2000 – My first choice purely because of the impression it left on me when I first saw it and the lasting impression it still has on me. I covered Royal Rumble 2000 in the video reviews recently and as I said there, this match was just barbaric. But even with the hardcore nature of the bout aside, you have two brilliant characters at the top of both ends of the good and evil divide, in MSG, at a big PPV event, for the richest prize in the industry. The sheer effort, commitment and desire of HHH and Foley combined with the masterful storytelling make this so insanely re-watchable again and again. In the brutality stakes I’m not sure we’ll ever see this topped in a WWE title match again (although they certainly tried to do that the following month!). The crowd, arena, commentary (one of JR’s finest announcing shifts ever), story, everything. Tens across the board.
Robert S. Leighty Jr
5. Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant: WrestleMania III – This is surely the worst match on my list in terms of snowflakes, but there has never and will never be a bigger match in terms of importance and impact. My earliest memories as a wrestling fan are of this match and the build to this match. Hulk Hogan was my hero as a child and is my favorite wresler ever, and I was legit scared as a child that he was going to get killed by Andre. I was so scared I didn’t even watch the match and caught the replay of the ending after Hogan hit the slam, and the leg for the win.
4. John Cena (c) vs. CM Punk: Money in the Bank 2011 – The most recent match on my list, and it’s going to looked back on as an all time classic. What made this great match into something memorable was not only the great story of Punk wanting to win the title on his final night with the WWE, but the fact he was trying to do so in front of his hometown crowd. The shocking thing was Punk going over relatively clean when everyone was thinking of every way possible for this one to end.
3. The Rock (c) vs. Steve Austin: WrestleMania X-7 – This is the match that ended an Era long before that phrase was coined for Taker and HHH. The Attitude Era ended with this match in mind as the two biggest stars of that (or any) era faced off in the first stadium Mania in nearly a decade. This was beautiful, kick ass brawl from the opening bell with them telling a wonderful story. Austin was the desperate challenger looking to proof he was still the man after his neck injury. He was so desperate to regain that title that he did the unthinkable and plotted with Vince McMahon. These two could face each other at every Mania from now until the Earth freezes over or implodes and I would be a happy man.
2. Randy Savage (c) vs. Hulk Hogan: WrestleMania V – My two favorite wrestlers of all time do battle at WrestleMania in what was the culmination of a feud that had been building from the day Savage stepped into a WWF ring. For my 15th birthday I bought this Mania on VHS and watched this match over and over again until the tape started to wear. Thankfully I have it on DVD and can continue to watch for decades to come.
1. Ric Flair (c) vs. Randy Savage: WrestleMania VIII – Not just my favorite WWF Title Match, but one of my Top 5 favorite matches of all time. Everything about this match was gold. Savage and Flair are two of the greatest ever and they had one hell of a match at the biggest show of the year. What made this match even better was the insane crowd heat thanks to the storyline with Liz. Speaking of which she was great in her role as was Mr Perfect in his role as a cheating bastard. Then you toss in the commentary from Heenan and Monsoon and what you get is a brillaint match in all aspects.
5. John Cena vs Shawn Michaels, Wrestlemania 23: Yes, their hour-long battle on RAW later that year is better but that was non-title. It was going to be Cena vs HHH but a torn quad by Hunter forced Shawn in. It was still a great battle, a slow start but then Shawn started targeting Cena’s knee and we picked up wonderfully. Cena detractors should note his great selling as the crowd was hostile to him at first but slowly warming up as the battle went on. With the ref down, Shawn resorted to old dirty tricks, including a sick-looking piledriver on the steel steps and a cool bit of Cena catching Shawn in a leapfrog for the FU after Shawn had blocked numerous attempts at the move. Both men bounced off each other wonderfully with bumps and sells, a STFU reversed into a small package and finally, a SCM attempt turned to a STFU that forced Michaels to tap. A great battle with Shawn giving Cena the rub and Cena proving himself on the major stage once more for a great cap to a good Mania.
4. Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero, No Way Out 2004: For an Eddie fan, this is the greatest match ever but it still stands well on its own. Lesnar, the seemingly unstoppable monster taking on Eddie, power vs grace and we got a great clash. Brock dominated for quite a while with his power and moves, Eddie trying his best before a hot crowd but seemingly unable to get back over. Some can argue the entrance of Goldberg but it played into the overall story and it wasn’t the end of the bout as Eddie tried to hit Brock with the title, was pulled into an F5, only to turn it into a DDT onto the belt. A Frog Splash, a slow three-count by a groggy ref and Eddie Guerrero, the man nearly overcome by his demons, was the champ. His celebration was infectious, you could tell how overjoyed he was as he hugged his mom in the stands and stood on the announcer’s table with a flag alongside the title. The best moment of his career and also a great match to boot to give joy to any fan of a man taken from us too soon.
3. Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle, Smackdown Iron Man Match: Ranking this above their Wrestlemania battle by a hair but for good reason. A rare non-PPV battle to win Match of the Year by many voters, both Brock and Angle were able to work their already fine chemistry to new heights. Great bits included Brock hitting Angle with a chair, getting a DQ but then able to get a pair of pins on Angle, brilliant strategy. Indeed, that was the key as Brock used every trick to keep himself ahead by at least a fall or two yet Angle kept on coming back. The ebbs and flows were amazing, more notable as they knew they were on TV and there would be breaks but kept right on carrying for an entire hour, no easy feat. Going out of the ring, in the ring, brawling turning to technical work and back, each doing everything possible to get momentum as the crowd kept being thrilled with no need for broedom despite the length. In the end, Brock managed to hang on to win the title even while in the Angle Lock and cap off arguably the best “SmackDown” match ever and possibly the best of a rivalry between two world-class athletes at the top of their game.
2. Rock vs HHH, Backlash 2000: After being screwed by the McMahons at Mania the month before, the Rock was ready for payback and WWE more than made up for the disappointment of that Mania main event. The odds were stacked as Shane McMahon was ref and McMahon and his cronies ringside but Rock gave his all in a wild battle. Highlights included HHH trying to do a Pedigree on a table but Rock hit him with a low-blow, then grabbed Shane too to give them both a Rock Bottom through the announcer’s table. It seemed over with McMahon hitting Rock with a chair and ready for the pin but then the glass shattered and the crowd went insane as Stone Cold Steve Austin swaggered out and lay waste to everyone with a chair. Linda McMahon then came out to shove Stephanie to the ground as the Rock got the People’s Elbow, Linda sending in Earl Hebner to make the three-count and cap off a fantastic battle. Beautifully planned out and one of the best matches either Rock or HHH has ever been in, Austin making it better to solidify a wonderful title bout, a highlight of one of the best creative years WWF ever had.
1. Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior, Wresltemania VI: For fans of that particular era of wrestling, this was one of the biggest showcases imaginable. Hogan, the dominant WWF champion against the Warrior, IC champ who, at the time, most thought the future of the company. Neither man was a good worker but thanks to the great planning of Pat Patterson, they were able to put on a tremendous show to pay off months of build. From tests of strength to back and forth moves (Warrior even pulling off a spiffy suplex) they had the crowd in the palms of their hands and on the edge of their seats. A ref bump actually worked with both men covering the other but no count made to amp up the tension and make it truly epic. The finale was great as Hogan made his typical comeback, hit Warrior with the boot only to miss his famed legdrop for the first time, allowing Warrior to hit a splash and get the pin. The aftermath was good too as Hogan showed some class by handing Warrior his championship belt and raising his hand, the two embracing as the crowd went wild. Still one of the best main events in Mania history thanks to the sheer presence of both men and still stands today as a remarkable achievement for WWE as a whole.
5. Royal Rumble Match, Royal Rumble 1992 : This match was not only the greatest Royal Rumble of all time, but it also was one of the most important. With the biggest prize of them all on the line, Ric Flair entered at number three and outlasted 29 other men to win his first WWF Championship. The match was compelling the entire time, with Flair remaining the focal point and Bobby Heenan adding on one of the best commentary performances in the history of the business.
4. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack, Royal Rumble 2000 : Triple H and Cactus Jack put themselves through great physical pain for our enjoyment. However, this match was not just violence for violence sake. Instead, it played off of the storylines that built up to the event and told a compelling in-ring story.
3. John Cena vs. Umaga, Royal Rumble 2007 : While the idea of Super Cena irks many wrestling fans, this was his best incarnation. Umaga seemed like a raging, unstoppable monster hell bent on doing anything to destroy John Cena. Cena came within moments of losing this Last Man Standing match on several occasions, and was only able to come out on top after choking the Samoan Bulldozer unconscious with a ring rope. To this day, John Cena has never looked more vulnerable in a winning effort.
2. John Cena vs. CM Punk, Money in the Bank 2011 : The big fight atmosphere was in full effect for this one, which took place in CM Punk’s home town of Chicago. The thunderous “CM Punk!” chants switching to the loudest boos I have ever heard when John Cena came through the curtain was one of the most surreal occurances in modern wrestling. Although not every spot was hit perfectly, these two men had the crowd in the palm of their hands. The eruption from the crowd when CM Punk scored the victory was amazing. While I do think Michael Cole is awful, his stunned call of, “Oh my God” after the pin was one of the best in recent memory. Punk leaving through the crowd also supplied yet another timeless moment.
1. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, Wrestlemania III : Speaking of timeless moments, Hulk Hogan’s body slam of Andre the Giant will live on forever. While this match may not have had any over-the-top spots or ridiculous finisher-kickout sequences, it did not need any. These two kept it simple, had the crowd completely engaged, and produced a highlight for the ages. On top of that, it did great business, scoring a huge buyrate and selling out the Pontiac Silverdome. Professional wrestling, at its most base, is an ongoing struggle between good and bad. This match was the ultimate example of that, with good overcoming bad.
List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:
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