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The 15 best WWE matches you've never seen
Not every classic WWE encounter has taken place in the main event of Raw or under the bright lights of WrestleMania.
Unless you’ve voraciously consumed every Coliseum Home Video release, every international pay-per-view and every episode of even the most obscure WWE programming, chances are you’ve probably missed a few landmark matches.
From the initial meeting of HBK and The Nature Boy to what was, arguably, the better version of Savage versus Steamboat, these are the 15 best WWE matches you’ve never seen.
Andre the Giant & Giant Baba vs. Demolition: Tokyo Wrestling Summit, April 13, 1990
After he and Haku lost their World Tag Team Titles to Demolition at WrestleMania VI, Andre the Giant was rarely seen in a WWE ring. Nearly all of his appearances featured him aiding Superstars like The Bushwhackers outside the ring. All except one.
Just 12 days after WrestleMania VI, Andre the Giant set out for retribution on Ax & Smash. At WWE and All Japan Pro Wrestling’s joint “Wrestling Summit” event at the Tokyo Dome, Andre teamed with Japanese hero Giant Baba to take on the face-painted champions in a non-title bout.
The two titans surprisingly dominated the champions. The normally heroic Demolition resorted to nefarious tactics to try and get whatever advantage they could. However, Andre & Baba used their size and power to muscle around Ax & Smash. All it took was a big boot from Baba and a giant-sized elbow drop from Andre to spell the end for the World Tag Team Champions. — BOBBY MELOK
Ricky Steamboat vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage: Maple Leaf Wrestling, July 27, 1986
Many members of the WWE Universe consider the Intercontinental Championship Match between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania III to be the best contest in the history of sports-entertainment. This may seem like blasphemy, but that match cannot be considered flawless, because it was ruined by the interference of George “The Animal” Steele. The allure of Steamboat challenging for Savage’s Intercontinental Title didn’t need “The Animal’s” obsession with Miss Elizabeth stealing any of The Show of Shows’ spotlight from two of the greatest Superstars ever.
The majesty and pageantry of WrestleMania makes it a sports-entertainment spectacular, but a pro wrestling purist judges shows on their match quality first and foremost. “The Dragon” and “Macho Man” had clashes all over the world, many not captured on video. Their 1986 match at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, however, stands out. When it comes to unadulterated mat action, Savage and Steamboat were never better than they were on that July night. — JOEY STYLES
The Hardy Boyz vs. The Brood: Shotgun Saturday Night, April 17, 1999
These two legendary duos became stars in an epic October 1999 Ladder Match. Just six months before that, though, then-Brood members Edge & Christian and The Hardy Boyz gave the WWE Universe a taste of what was to come.
Still clad in flower prints and tie dye, Matt and Jeff Hardy took on the Toronto natives during an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night. The young upstarts threw everything they had at their vampiric foes, but Edge & Christian’s slight experience advantage put them in the driver’s seat for this match.
In a must-see moment, Christian tossed Jeff Hardy through the ropes to a waiting Gangrel, who slammed the future WWE Champion into the arena floor. Edge & Christian had Matt all to themselves, defeating him with an impressive double-team maneuver. It wouldn’t be the last time these two stood tall over the brothers from North Carolina. — B.M.
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan vs. "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase: Paul Boesch Retirement Live Event, Aug. 28, 1987
Long before Ted DiBiase was The Million Dollar Man and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan was waving the stars and stripes of Old Glory, these two WWE Hall of Famers waged war in Bill Watts’ revered Mid-South Wrestling organization. Both competitors met many more times as WWE Superstars later in their careers, including at the Aug. 28, 1987, event that marked the final show promoted by the legendary Paul Boesch.
After 55 years of working in sports as a wrestler, announcer and promoter, Bosch was honored with a retirement show in Houston hosted by WWE, drawing a sellout 12,000 fans. Rumor has it that during the show, Boesch’s personal friend (and then-Vice President) George H.W. Bush had a telegram delivered praising and honoring Boesch.
At the time, Duggan had been recently released by WWE and was not a contracted Superstar, but “Hacksaw” was brought back for this unique event. The match was so good that it led WWE to rehire him. The eclectic announce team of Bruce Prichard (known to WWE fans as Brother Love), “The Duke of Dorchester” Pete Doherty and Mike McGuirk made the match even more special. — J.S.
Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect: Prime Time Wrestling, Nov. 6, 1989
WWE Hall of Famers Bret “Hit Man” Hart and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig are two of the most technically gifted competitors of all time. No strangers to one another, they faced off on a number of occasions, including a classic at SummerSlam 1991 and in a quarter-final tournament match at King of the Ring 1993. However, a forgotten gem in the WWE archives is their clash from Prime Time Wrestling on Nov. 6, 1989.
Highlighting Hart’s expertise and Mr. Perfect’s resilience, the bout was everything fans and historians would expect from each Superstars. Both men were entering the prime of their careers and the WWE Universe in attendance knew they were witnessing something special. Although “Hit Man” maintained control throughout much of the matchup — executing many maneuvers that would become familiar in his singles career — Mr. Perfect did what he was the best at: finding a way to win no matter what. — K.P.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude: WrestleFest, July 31, 1988
The defining match of the deeply personal rivalry between Jake “The Snake” Roberts and “Ravishing” Rick Rude — one born out of Rude’s public come-ons to Roberts’ wife — occurred on Saturday Night’s Main Event on Oct. 26, 1988. But the two men tangled in a physical brawl some months prior at WWE’s first — and only — WrestleFest event in Milwaukee in July 1988.
After battling tooth and nail, Rude wanted no further part of Roberts and attempted to escape to the locker room. Jake followed in hot pursuit. He continued to pummel The Ravishing One on the entrance ramp, leading the referee to declare the contest a double count-out. Although neither man emerged victorious that night, the big winners were the 25,866 fans who packed County Stadium, as they bore witness to what was quickly recognized as the most heated encounter in the storied Roberts-Rude conflict. — HOWARD FINKEL
Demolition vs. The British Bulldogs – World Tag Team Championship Match: Prime Time Wrestling, Nov. 8, 1988
There have been a number of phenomenal tag teams throughout the storied history of WWE, especially during the late ’80s and early ’90s. Two duos that stood out in the division were Demolition and The British Bulldogs. In October 1988, Ax & Smash faced off against Davey Boy Smith & The Dynamite Kid for the World Tag Team Championships in an oft-forgotten battle in Paris, France, which aired the following month on Prime Time Wrestling.
The rarely-seen match was a true portrait of tag team wrestling and how the chemistry between two Superstars ultimately breeds success in the division. Neither team maintained an advantage for a prolonged stretch of time, and last-minute pinfall breaks kept the fans of the edge of their seats. The bout also proved how a bitter tag team rivalry can lead to chaos inside the squared circle when all four participants are in the ring simultaneously. Ultimately, Demolition retained the titles when The Dynamite Kid was counted out amidst the chaos and confusion. — K.P.
Bret Hart vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: Kuwait Cup, May 9, 1996
The Submission Match between Bret Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 is a bout that defined The Texas Rattlesnake and served as a catalyst for The Attitude Era. But one year before their classic battle on The Grandest Stage of Them All, the WWE Hall of Famers clashed during a 1996 World Tour in Kuwait.
The showdown in the Middle East displayed the aggression and resilience possessed by Austin that would eventually make him the toughest S.O.B. in WWE history. The “Hit Man” was at the pinnacle of his career and fed off the energy of the WWE Universe in Kuwait City to keep from succumbing to the intense Texan. Both Superstars exchanged near-falls and the excited crowd jumped to their feet, but the entire city erupted when Hart seized an opportunity to execute The Sharpshooter for the victory. — K.P.
The Undertaker vs. Razor Ramon: Sept. 1, 1992
This encounter was one of the very first meetings between two Superstars who helped define WWE in the early ’90s — The Undertaker and Razor Ramon. Razor was, for all intents and purposes, a newcomer to WWE rings, having debut earlier that year. The Deadman, who was accompanied by the ubiquitous Paul Bearer for this match, was continuing to gain increasing acceptance as a fan favorite.
In this bout, The Bad Guy pulled out all the stops in an attempt to achieve victory, but was consistently thwarted by The Phenom around every turn. Eventually, the mystique of the Bearer’s urn resonated with The Undertaker. Sensing that the time was right, The Deadman scooped up Razor and positioned him for the Tombstone Piledriver, but Razor was able to hook the ropes and escape certain defeat. Ramon had had enough and headed to the exits. The Undertaker chased from behind, leading the referee ruled the match a double count-out. — H.F.
The Rockers vs. The Fabulous Rougeaus: Oct. 13, 1989
A decade before The Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian lit up WWE rings with fast-paced action, The Rockers and The Fabulous Rougeaus had the WWE Universe on the edge of their seats. The two speedy pairs collided throughout 1989, but this encounter from Paris stands out.
Jacques and Raymond Rougeau did everything they could to keep Shawn Michaels from tagging Marty Jannetty into the match. By the time Marty finally entered the fray, the Parisian crowd erupted in cheers with each of Jannetty’s attacks.
The high energy bout had the referee struggling to keep up with the speedy competitors, allowing The Rougeaus’ manager, Jimmy Hart, to interject himself often. Jacques nailed a piledriver on Jannetty, and with the referee distracted by Hart and Raymond, Michaels snuck in and hit a piledriver of his own. He dragged Marty on top of Jacques for the pinfall, sending The City of Light into a frenzy. Merci, Rockers! — B.M.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage & Strike Force vs. The Honky Tonk Man & The Hart Foundation – Six-Man Elimination Steel Cage Match: Boston Garden, March 5, 1988
Six-Man Tag Team Steel Cage Matches have been few and far between in WWE, but Beantown fans were treated to one in March 1988. In this brutal bout, escape was the objective — the last man that remained in cage was the loser for his team.
It wasn’t long before Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart was the first participant to exit the structure. Tito Santana and Rick Martel of Strike Force followed soon thereafter. Remaining was Bret Hart, Randy Savage and Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man. The “Hit Man” and Honky proceeded to join forces to get the best of Savage and Hart then bid farewell to the cage, leaving the two bitter rivals alone to determine a winner.
Feeling like he had the advantage, the Elvis wannabe climbed to the top of the cage and began his descent to the arena floor. But Savage rebounded and pulled his opponent back in. Honky Tonk received a vicious elbow from Savage, leaving “Macho Man” a clear path to exit and gain victory. — H.F.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Mankind vs. Kane vs. The Undertaker - Fatal 4-Way Match: Capital Carnage, Dec. 6, 1998
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, WWE presented several pay-per-view events exclusive to the United Kingdom. Because WWE’s stops in England are rare, these events were stacked with matches that made fans across the globe jealous of their British counterparts.
That was no more evident than in the main event of Capital Carnage 1998, when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin collided with The Undertaker, Kane and Mankind in a Fatal 4-Way Match. Mr. McMahon and his Corporation stacked the deck against Austin, adding Pat Patterson as guest timekeeper, Gerald Brisco as referee and Big Boss Man as the ringside enforcer, alongside soccer star and actor Vinnie Jones.
Despite the odds, The Texas Rattlesnake remarkably battled back. He cleaned Brisco’s clock and let longtime rivals Undertaker and Mankind neutralize each other. At the crescendo of the epic encounter, Austin was alone with Kane. He floored The Big Red Monster with a Stone Cold Stunner to seal the victory. The London Arena was so captivated by heroic win that the camera capturing the action began to shake. — B.M.
Bob "Spark Plug" Holly & Alundra Blayze vs. Hakushi & Bull Nakano: March 13, 1995
Four of the unsung heroes of WWE’s sluggish mid-90s era paired off in a unique Mixed Tag Team Match in March 1995. The bout pitted the athletic duo of Bob “Spark Plug” Holly and Alundra Blayze against two of the most talented competitors that Japan had to offer: Hakushi and Bull Nakano. Hakushi’s associate, Shinja, accompanied his tattooed charge to ringside.
Right from the opening bell, the action did not wane one iota. After Blayze executed a beautiful German suplex to take the measure of Nakano, the tandem of the former race car driver and future Monster Truck star emerged victorious, leaving the grapplers from the Land of the Rising Sun in the dust. — H.F.
No. 1 Contender Cruiserweight Battle Royal: Velocity, Oct. 8, 2005
Raw has long been WWE’s flagship, but some of the most exciting bouts of the mid-aughts were broadcast on the overlooked Velocity program. Known for showcasing emerging stars and highflying risk-takers, SmackDown’s side dish presented a Battle Royal chock full of light heavyweights on Oct. 8, 2005, all aiming for an opportunity at Nunzio’s Cruiserweight Championship.
The over-the-top-rope challenge featured seven competitors: Paul London, Brian Kendrick, Funaki, Scotty 2 Hotty and all three Mexicools — Juventud, Super Crazy and Psychosis. The nature of each man’s aerial attack resulted in a unique and chaotic battle. Participants were disposed of in dizzying sequences as they attempted to take flight. In the end, it was Juventud who last eliminated Paul London to win the melee before going on to snag Nunzio’s title at No Mercy. — ZACH LINDER
Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair: Prime Time Wrestling, Dec. 16, 1991
WWE Hall of Famers Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair have shared a storied history throughout their legendary careers. They have been friends and enemies, meeting inside the squared circle many times — most notably at WrestleMania XXIV when HBK defeated Flair and sent him into retirement. However, the first bout between these Superstars is one often overshadowed by their final clash on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
On the Dec. 16, 1991, episode of Prime Time Wrestling, Shawn Michaels — then still one-half of The Rockers — locked up with The Nature Boy, who was in his prime as a kiss stealing, wheeling, dealing son of a gun. HBK held his own against Flair, but he was ultimately no match for the two-time WWE Hall of Famer. Nevertheless, the bout offered a glimpse of the greatness that was to come from Michaels against main event players like The Nature Boy. — KEVIN POWERS