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The 25 most personal grudges in history
Some in-ring rivalries beget technical masterpieces, and others center around proving who is the better Superstar. These 25 grudges, however, were deeply personal, hate-filled affairs that got ugly and dangerous ... fast.
Mick Foley vs. Randy Orton
Mick Foley never backed away from an opportunity to remind the WWE Universe of why he’s so reverentially referred to as The Hardcore Legend. In late 2003, however, Randy Orton dismissed Foley — who had walked out of a match with Orton on Raw — as a “coward.” Adding to the insult was the phlegm-thick loogie Orton hawked in the face of Foley after the fact.
The ultimate act of insolence came weeks later when Foley was finally immortalized on Raw with a special “This is Your Life” segment hosted by The Rock. Disrupting the ceremony were Orton and his Evolution cohorts, who trounced Foley and The Rock. Later, The Legend Killer ambushed The Hardcore Legend backstage, smashing a bottle over his head and kicking him down a stairwell.
The rivalry came to a head at Backlash 2004, when Foley — still semi-retired — challenged for Orton’s Intercontinental Championship in a Hardcore Match. With Orton’s allegations of cowardice still ringing in Foley’s ears, Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy sent The Viper flying onto a bed of thumbtacks. In the end, it was an RKO onto a barbed wire baseball bat that earned Orton the victory that night — one of many huge wins over a WWE icon that helped cement Orton’s reputation as The Legend Killer.
Jerry "The King" Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman
Great Neck, N.Y’s Andy Kaufman insisted he was never a comedian — he was a performance artist, and his legendary rivalry with the “King of Memphis” Jerry Lawler was as close to a masterpiece as sports-entertainment has ever seen.
After gaining fame on “Taxi” and “Saturday Night Live,” Kaufman began to refer to himself as the Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World, and wrestled women as a part of his nightclub act. He took his title to the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn. — Lawler’s home turf — and defeated a tough woman named Foxy. “The King” stormed the ring after the bout and tossed the thermal-clad Kaufman across the canvas. Andy was incensed and screamed, “You can’t put your hands on me! I’m from Hollywood!”
Over the ensuing months, Kaufman flaunted his showbiz stardom while insulting Lawler’s southern roots. They finally met in a historic match in 1982 where Andy was carted away to the hospital after two vicious piledrivers. He wore a neck brace for several months afterward, including during an appearance both made on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Their on-air fight with Lawler slapping Kaufman out of his chair and Kaufman tossing a cup of coffee onto “The King” was headline news.
Bruiser Brody vs. Abdullah the Butcher
In the days before Paul Heyman figured out a way to market televised bloodlettings to disenfranchised Gen-Xers, the underground world of hardcore wrestling thrived as a traveling carnival and Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher were the genre’s ringleaders.
Two instantly recognizable personas — Brody stood 6-foot-8 with the personal grooming skills of a caveman; Abby was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with coin slot head wounds and a rusty fork in hand — the fight junkies pummeled each other from Texas to Tokyo in a conflict that could only be compared to Peter Griffin’s constant battles with a giant chicken on “Family Guy.” Their story may have lacked the soap opera hallmarks of some of the ring’s juicier rivalries — although we would’ve paid cash money to see Abby and Brody involved in some sort of love triangle — but the shocking brutality and exhaustive span of this war made it one of wrestling’s most buzzed-about attractions for a decade.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart
After losing his prized WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII, Bret Hart spent much of 1996 on the sidelines. For his long-awaited comeback match at Survivor Series 1996, Hart hand-selected “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to be his opponent, calling The Texas Rattlesnake “the best wrestler” in WWE at the time. Though Hart won that bout, the beef was far from quashed. In the ensuing months, Austin continued to egg on “Hit Man.” Yet, at the same time, the entire vibe of WWE was changing. Slowly, the once-despised Austin was hearing more and more cheers when he made his way to the ring.
The pinnacle of their rivalry, arguably, was their famed Submission Match at WrestleMania 13 the following March. The hellacious affair saw Hart and Austin batter each other with the ring bell and a steel chair before “Hit Man” locked in his Sharpshooter. Austin struggled valiantly before passing out. Dramatic though the ring action was, trumping it was the larger picture: After WrestleMania 13, the WWE Universe’s relationship with both Superstars was flipped on its head, and Hart soon found himself out of favor with much of the U.S. audience.
Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven
If one rivalry personified the risqué, hardcore and alt tendencies of Extreme Championship Wrestling, it was the bad blood between Tommy Dreamer and Raven. The blue-collared Dreamer, who fit in perfectly with ECW's hometown of Philadelphia, and the stringy-haired, flannel-threaded Raven went at each other throughout much of ECW's history, starting in 1995.
It was revealed early on in their enmity that Raven and Dreamer had been friends since childhood. In their youth, both Superstars befriended a young Beulah McGillicutty, though Raven always portrayed his foe as a bully to Beulah, somebody who poked fun at her weight. As if the lengthy history of their relationship wasn’t enough to fuel the war, a new element revealed itself at ECW’s House Party 1995, when Beulah shocked the ECW Arena with the announcement that she was pregnant. The catch? The baby wasn’t Raven’s, but Dreamer’s.
At ECW’s national debut — the 1997 pay-per-view Barely Legal — Dreamer paved the way for Raven to lose his ECW Title: After giving up his spot in a top contender’s match to his hardcore mentor, Terry Funk, Dreamer DDT’d Raven during the Funk-Raven title bout, causing the grungy prophet to lose the championship. The one accomplishment that eluded Dreamer throughout, however, was actually pinning Raven. “The Innovator of Violence” would eventually do just that, beating him in Raven’s farewell match before leaving for WCW in 1997.
John Cena vs. The Rock
Beneath the sometimes-playful barbs about scrawling interview crib notes on one’s wrist and dressing in the color scheme of a children’s breakfast cereal, it was clear to anyone paying attention that the animosity between The Rock and Cena was based in a deep-seeded ill will that went far beyond trend-worthy jabs. What was it that sparked this war between two heroes of the squared circle?
You can trace the jaundice back to an interview the Cenation leader gave U.K. publication The Sun in 2008 in which Cena accused The Rock of being disingenuous about loving WWE and sports-entertainment. In turn, The Rock shot back at Cena, suggesting the hustle/loyalty/respect proponent was only in WWE for the money. Of course, the brouhaha came to a head at WrestleMania XXVIII after a slow-burning yearlong build that also involved Cena breaking out his old “Thuganomics”-era rap-battling ways to combat the Rock’s “Rock Concert” — a diss-filled serenade to Cena.
Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H
The most intimate grudges are often born out of tight-knit bonds, and the bitter 2002 breakdown between D-Generation X’s co-founders is a prime example.
After losing the WWE Title to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV, HBK played only a peripheral role in WWE, popping up occasionally in non-wrestling capacities. With Michaels away from the ring, The Game graduated to main event royalty and usurped HBK as the alpha male.
The Cerebral Assassin made this known in July 2002 when he viciously turned on his friend, first delivering a Pedigree to Michaels and later slamming his head into a car window. The backstabbing Triple H was rewarded with an unsanctioned Street Fight against HBK at SummerSlam 2002 — HBK’s first match back in four years. Though Michaels got the upper hand in that duel, their rivalry would continue for years and encompass the first Elimination Chamber Match at Survivor Series 2002 and a Three Stages of Hell Match, as well as a Hell in a Cell showdown.
Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Triple H and Randy Orton’s association was not always defined by ill will. Upon being recruited into The Game’s Evolution years ago, Orton joined rarefied air, though he was perceived internally by The Game and Ric Flair as somewhat of a dangerous junior member — a brash but maturing assailant capable of carrying out the stable’s dirty work. But when Orton turned into the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history in 2004 and refused to hand the title over to Triple H, it became clear he had outgrown his role and transformed from a valuable asset into a credible threat.
From there, the Triple H-Orton saga deteriorated into an all-out war that, at various points, roped in the likes of Edge, Shawn Michaels, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. In a glaring effort to make the grudge absolutely as personal as possible, Orton systematically took out Triple H’s in-laws Vince and Shane McMahon, not to mention Stephanie, prior to his WrestleMania XXV match with The Game. And did we mention the fact that Triple H broke into Orton’s house to attack him?
The Von Erichs vs. The Fabulous Freebirds
It might be hard for anybody not living in Dallas in the early 1980s to understand the full impact of the Von Erich dynasty. Patriarch Fritz and his boys David, Kerry and Kevin, as well as younger brothers Chris and Mike, were Big D’s favorite sons — hometown favorites in a World Class Championship Wrestling territory replete with black-hat foils.
If one group of Superstars could even begin to rival the Von Erichs’ popularity, though, it was the Fabulous Freebirds unit of Michael “P.S.” Hayes and his rock ‘n’ roll “brothers,” Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts. With their devil-may-care attitudes and high-energy ring entrances, Hayes, Gordy and Roberts injected a jolt of excitement into the Dallas scene. Allies at first, the Freebird-Von Erich rivalry would go on to electrify the WCCW territory for years to come. Fritz even came out of retirement in 1984 to team with Kevin and Mike and beat the Freebirds for the NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championships at the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions event.
John Cena vs. Randy Orton
A war waged between two pillars of the WWE roster, the John Cena-Randy Orton rivalry has consumed the WWE landscape for much of the 21st century. Though the fearless warriors have barely crossed paths since their epic one-hour Anything Goes WWE Iron Man Match in October 2009, the seemingly ever-simmering uneasiness between the two has prompted segments of the WWE Universe to speculate that the bad feelings persist to this very day.
Forget the fact these two have risen up the WWE ranks almost completely in step, beginning with their start in the early aughts in former WWE developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling. Theirs is a grudge that goes way beyond a simple sense of competition. The Viper’s actions against consummate white-hat Cena have ranged from the heinous (kicking John Cena Sr. in the head) to the explosive (Orton’s attempt in the WWE Iron Man Match to blow up Cena using pyrotechnics). Cena and Orton have also fought inside Hell in a Cell and in an "I Quit" Match. How much more personal can these two get?
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude
"Ravishing" Rick Rude sure picked the wrong woman to seduce in 1988. On the April 23 edition of Superstars of Wrestling, the smooth-talking Superstar tried to put the moves on a woman in the crowd, as had become the normal celebration routine after his victories. This time, however, that woman turned out to be Cheryl Roberts, wife of Jake "The Snake" Roberts. When she rebuffed Rude's lewd advances and was bold enough to slap him across the face, Rude grabbed her by the arm and triggered an all-out brawl, as "The Snake" came charging right from the locker room into the intense confrontation.
That fight was just the beginning of a very intimate rivalry which included moments where The Ravishing One aggressively crossed the line during summer 1988. Rather than leave Roberts' wife out of their clash, Rude escalated the personal nature of the grudge by unveiling tights that had an illustration of Cheryl printed on the front — and he wasn't shy about gyrating while wearing them. Jake went on to exact payback in humiliating fashion by stripping the tights right off Rude's behind, but the self-proclaimed "Sexiest Man Alive" had left an indelible mark by sparking a rivalry with an Attitude Era feel years before that time period would come to pass.
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho
Growing up a wrestling fan, Chris Jericho dreamed of becoming the next Shawn Michaels. He grew to be the man who almost destroyed him during a 2008 grudge that brought HBK to the brink of retirement and inadvertently brought his wife, Rebecca, into the mix.
After Michaels lied to Jericho about a seemingly innocuous fake knee injury, Jericho invited HBK onto his “Highlight Reel,” where he coldheartedly drove HBK face-first into the “Jeri-Tron” monitor. The graphic incident left Michaels with a torn retina, which Jericho targeted with pit bull tenacity at that year’s Great American Bash. At one point, HBK was pushed so far that he stated he’d heed his doctor’s advice and walk away from the ring. Yet, after Jericho refused to show remorse for accidentally plastering Rebecca with a strike intended for HBK, Michaels knew his work was not finished.
Jericho portrayed Michaels as a wash-up, calling him a “broken man with a disappointed wife.” Michaels, in contrast, told his once-adoring follower in no uncertain terms that he would never be held in the same class as HBK. For two Superstars who are rated among the best technical performers of all time, the bad feelings between Jericho and Michaels boiled down to pure and simple resentment.
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
Dean Ambrose, as you may have surmised, is kind of nuts. Which means he’s not exactly a guy you want as an enemy; someone probably should have told Seth Rollins that before he laid out The Lunatic Fringe with a chair and destroyed The Shield. Ambrose has been a bit, let’s call it “testy,” about The Architect’s dismantling of the dominant faction ever since, haunting Rollins for the better part of a year and promising (successfully) to prevent him from cashing in an ill-gotten Money in the Bank briefcase.
When a mishap at WrestleMania 31 took Ambrose out and Rollins was able to cash in after all, The Lunatic Fringe went back to square one and took Rollins on for the title itself. By hook or by crook, Rollins has come out on top more often than not in this rivalry, but the idea that Ambrose is done with his old running mate is, frankly, even crazier than he is.
"Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. Jake "The Snake" Roberts
The lasting image of the Randy Savage-Jake Roberts rivalry is undoubtedly the scene that transpired in November 1991. After disposing of his lackluster competition, Roberts goaded Savage, who was commentating, into the squared circle. (The “Macho Man” was forced to step away from the ring earlier that year after losing a Retirement Match at WrestleMania VII.) Roberts quickly tied up Savage in the ring ropes and opened a bag containing a king cobra. At Roberts’ invitation, the snake sank its fangs into Savage’s arm as WWE officials tried frantically to secure the scene.
The graphic attack prompted then WWE Commissioner Jack Tunney to not only ban Roberts from ever bringing snakes to the ring again, but also to reinstate Savage into competition. Savage won a subsequent match at WWE pay-per-view This Tuesday in Texas, but following the bout, Roberts dished out multiple, incapacitating DDTs, including one on a steel chair. On top of that, he slapped the graceful Elizabeth, enraging Savage further.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock
To everyone who watched the Attitude Era unfold, two Superstars stood out above all others: The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The twists and turns in their legendary rivalry are almost too numerous to count, but years removed from their final WrestleMania confrontation, it’s safe to say that next to Mr. McMahon, no one felt the brunt of “Stone Cold’s” hell-raising ways more acutely than The Great One. (The Rock’s professional ties with McMahon’s Corporation stable gave The Texas Rattlesnake ample opportunity to ply the two-birds-one-stone strategy to his method of warfare.)
At various points throughout their storied game of one-upmanship, The Rock tossed Austin and his treasured “Smoking Skull” WWE Championship off a bridge, and Austin, driving a monster truck sporting a “3:16” paint job, ran over The Rock’s brand-new Lincoln Continental.
Though The Rock and Austin terrorized one another with countless acts of malice, their Homeric grudge might be best represented by their trilogy of WWE Championship main events at WrestleMania. Austin bested The Rock for the title at WrestleManias XV and XVII, and The Great One capped off their series with a victory at WrestleMania XIX.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio
In 2005, longtime friends Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio paired up to become a successful duo, winning the WWE Tag Team Championships. However, after Guerrero left Mysterio high and dry during a title-losing effort against MNM, Latino Heat’s darker feelings toward The Ultimate Underdog showed through. Soon thereafter, Guerrero began taunting his former pal with the threat of revealing an embarrassing secret, which turned out to be that Guerrero was the biological father of Rey’s son Dominick. (Years earlier, Mysterio and his wife, Angie, had trouble conceiving, and in an agreement with Guerrero, they adopted Dominick as a baby.)
Before long, Guerrero hung over Mysterio’s head a new promise: to take back custody of Dominick. With the threat of losing his son staring him in his masked faced, Mysterio took to battle Guerrero at SummerSlam 2005 in a Ladder Match in which the winner would be named Dominick’s legal guardian. The Master of the 619 prevailed, thanks to interference by Vickie Guerrero, and the Mysterio household was restored.
John Cena vs. Edge
Edge hated every single, solitary fiber of John Cena’s being. He said so himself during one of the most memorable interviews in WWE’s history.
It might come as no surprise that The Rated-R Superstar harbored such harsh feelings for Cena considering their history. Over the course of their legendary grudge over the WWE Championship in the 2000s, the Cenation leader at various points ambushed Edge in a hotel suite and sent him splashing into the Long Island Sound. Far be it for Cena to be prone to such outbursts without having valid reason, Edge crossed the line from professional into personal on more than one occasion. Before Cena gave Edge a bath in the Long Island Sound, Edge tossed Cena’s “Spinner” design WWE Championship into the water. More appalling, however, was Edge’s attack on John Cena Sr.
After the senior Cena made the mistake of allowing Edge and Lita into his home, the very same house in which a young Cenation leader came of age, The Rated-R Superstar led the WWE Universe on a mocking tour of the residence. The ultimate insult, however, came later in the visit when an obstinate Edge slapped John Cena Sr. across the face. Multiple WWE Title changes? An uninvited swim in Long Island Sound? An attack on a family member? This rivalry most definitely had the makings of one of history’s most personal grudges
The Junkyard Dog vs. The Fabulous Freebirds
The year was 1980, and Junkyard Dog was the king of New Orleans, the crown jewel in Mid-South Wrestling’s circuit of towns. Teaming with Buck Robley, JYD was prepared to face the lawless Fabulous Freebirds duo of Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts in a Hair vs. Hair Match. The third member of the Freebird triumvirate, Michael “P.S.” Hayes, stood outside the ring and menacingly held a jar of hair removal cream. Before the night was over, the cream would find its way not onto a Superstar’s scalp but, rather, into the eyes of Junkyard Dog.
In the ensuing weeks, Mid-South fans were informed that their fallen hero had been permanently blinded. Making matters worse, a heartbroken Junkyard Dog acknowledged that his blinding even prevented him from seeing the birth of his daughter. The callous Freebirds, meanwhile, mocked the injured JYD by appearing on TV wearing dark sunglasses and walking canes.
Junkyard Dog, wearing a bandage over his eye, would get his retribution, convincing Mid-South matchmakers to put him against Hayes. To make the playing field more even, the bout, fought before 30,000 fans at the New Orleans Superdome, was made a Steel Cage Dog Collar Match — a brutal contest in which the two combatants were chained together. The circumstances grounded the outspoken Freebird and made him easy prey for Junkyard Dog who, contrary to his prognosis, eventually regained his vision. JYD’s heroic struggle earned him the 1980 honors for Most Inspirational Wrestler, as voted on by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority
Had the neck injury that ultimately stripped Daniel Bryan of his hard-won WWE World Heavyweight Championship not been a direct result of the punishment The Authority inflicted upon him, we’d say that the worst aspect of Bryan’s fight against WWE’s “Powers That Be” was how deeply personal Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s invective sounded. When The Authority turned their verbal cannons on the unexpected fan favorite, they seemed to be aiming for Daniel Bryan the man more so than Daniel Bryan the persona.
No matter. The more the higher-ups positioned Bryan as a B+ player who was about as telegenic as a “Lord of the Rings” extra, the more WWE fans got behind The Beard until The Authority had no choice but to listen. By the time Bryan finally buzzsawed his way through Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista at WrestleMania 30, he’d become something more than WWE World Heavyweight Champion — he was the people’s champion.
Dusty Rhodes vs. The Four Horsemen
In Jim Crockett Promotions during the mid-1980s, two diametrically opposed forces tugged at the emotions of fans throughout the storied Mid-Atlantic territory: Dusty Rhodes and the Four Horsemen. Few rivalries measured up in terms of escalating intensity to the war waged between Rhodes, a plumber’s son, and the jet-setting Horsemen contingent of Ric Flair, Arn & Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard and devious manager J.J. Dillon.
A perennial contender to the NWA Championship that was around Flair’s waist for much of the ’80s, Rhodes’ climb back to championship glory was routinely stalled by the obstructive antics of the nefarious Horsemen. Though there were occasions when it seemed like Rhodes and the Horsemen were on the same page, those moments were fleeting and rare. In one instance, The American Dream saved Flair from a savage two-on-one beat down inside a steel cage by evil Russians Ivan & Nikita Koloff, only to fall victim to an even more heinous three-on-one beat down by the Andersons and Flair, who locked Rhodes inside the cage. Rhodes came away from that scrap with a broken ankle.
In another shocking development, the Horsemen hatched a diabolical plot to attack Rhodes in the parking lot of Jim Crockett Promotions. Holding an NWA cameraman hostage in their car, the Horsemen trailed Rhodes’ car to the parking lot, where they pounced in a gritty ambush.
At the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, Rhodes gave the Horsemen’s induction speech, proving that time heals all wounds.
The Undertaker vs. Kane
Well, if your half-brother set you on fire as a kid, chances are you’d bear a bit of a grudge toward him, too. The animosity between The Undertaker and Kane is almost larger than life. Their confrontations are the in-ring equivalent of a 12-car pileup and usually leave both men the worse for wear. Your typical sibling rivalry usually features some passive-aggressive comments and the occasional fisticuffs, but Kane and The Undertaker have, at different times, buried each other alive, trapped each other in a coffin or set each other ablaze (and, once in a while, all at the same time), which we think says pretty much all that needs to be said about the state of affairs between the two.
Through the years, Kane has labored to break free of big brother’s shadow, which he finally managed to do in 2010 when he put The Deadman into a vegetative state and held The Undertaker’s “holy grail,” the World Heavyweight Championship, in his demonic clutches for five months. Of course, The Phenom would not take the insult lying down. So Kane buried him alive. You know, typical brotherly stuff.
Bret "Hit Man" Hart vs. Mr. McMahon
The word “conspiracy” hung heavy in the air in Montreal’s Molson Center, now the Bell Center, on Nov. 9, 1997 — the night of Survivor Series 1997 and the scene that will forever be known by its infamous alias, the “Montreal Screwjob.” ( WATCH)
The members of the WWE Universe leaving the Center that night weren’t positive about what they had just witnessed. They knew that their home-country hero, then-WWE Champion Bret Hart, hadn’t tapped out or verbally submitted to Shawn Michaels’ Sharpshooter during their WWE Championship main event. Yet, while HBK held Hart in Hart’s own trademark submission hold, the referee — seemingly at the insistence of WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon — ordered the bell rung and named Michaels the victor. Holding the WWE Title, Michaels quickly scurried back to the locker room while Hart furiously tossed TV monitors, used his finger to sign the letters “WCW” and spat in McMahon’s face.
In time, the facts of the situation would be revealed. WWE mainstay and “New Generation” poster child Hart, while WWE Champion, had agreed to sign with Ted Turner’s WCW. McMahon, intent on keeping the WWE Championship off WCW TV, saw to it that Michaels walk out of Montreal the champion, by hook or by crook. After committing the double-cross to end all double-crosses, McMahon was dropped with an uppercut by Hart, off-camera. Appearing the following night on Raw, McMahon sported a shiner while giving the candid interview in which he famously declared that “Bret screwed Bret.”
Hart went on to finish out his career as a full-time sports-entertainer in WCW, while McMahon spearheaded WWE’s foray into a wildly successful, very attitudinal, period of business. More than a dozen years after the “Montreal Screwjob,” Hart returned to WWE in early January 2010 to finally get in his licks against McMahon — who, prior to Hart’s jump to WCW, was the only promoter other than Bret’s dad, Stu Hart, that “Hit Man” worked for full-time. With niece Natalya, nephew David Hart Smith and Hart family friend Tyson Kidd in his corner, “The Excellence of Execution” dominated McMahon at WrestleMania XXVI, giving some long-awaited closure to “Hit Man” loyalists around the world. ( WATCH PREVIEW | WATCH HIGHLIGHTS)
Matt Hardy vs. Edge
Though the headline reads “Matt Hardy vs. Edge,” the deeply personal grudge between these two Superstars hinged largely on the involvement of a third party: Lita. Long Hardy’s girlfriend, Lita began drifting away from him while he was on the sidelines with an injury. In Matt’s absence, she began traveling from one event to another with Edge, and the two became fast friends. Their friendship evolved into a behind-the-scenes romance, which, when it became public, contributed to the once-beloved Edge becoming WWE’s most hated Superstar.
Hardy was released from WWE in 2005, only to return months later with a series of surprise attacks against Edge. The multiple ambushes gave way to some of WWE’s most rugged matchups in recent history, including a particularly stiff contest at SummerSlam 2005 that ended when Hardy split his head on a ring post and the match had to be stopped.
Though Edge would admit years later in his DVD release that he was remorseful over all that had happened between Hardy and himself, he also pegged their many hard-hitting bouts as “cathartic.”
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon
Classic rock songs taught us that “The Man” always comes out on top in the end. Authority always wins; I fought the law and the law won, et cetera, et cetera. We’re relatively certain that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin heard those songs, had himself some personal time with a 30-pack of Natural Light and decided then and there he would personally make Mr. McMahon’s life resemble a lower circle of hell and prove he could defy the machine. Long story short: He did. And true, Austin pretty much hated everyone in the company during the Attitude Era, but he had a particularly soft spot toward tormenting Mr. McMahon.
He doused The Chairman with a hose full of beer, took over WWE and reassigned Shane McMahon’s salary to the company beer budget, and, infamously, bashed The Boss over the head with a bedpan so hard that the steel struck a high note off The Chairman’s dome. McMahon, for his part, was frustrated to no end that the most valuable asset in WWE was constantly trying to tear the company down, and he was powerless to stop it since the WWE Universe would tune in each week to see what Austin had in store for his corporate nemesis next.
Bret "Hit Man" Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
What began as a race to the top between a generation’s best in-ring performers metamorphosed into a blood feud that culminated with perhaps the most famous match in WWE history. Volumes could be written about the fact Bret “Hit Man” Hart broke down barriers for Shawn Michaels, or that HBK was the Superstar who ultimately usurped Hart as the face of WWE. Their 60-minute WWE Iron Man Match from WrestleMania XII, arguably the best pure wrestling match in WWE Title history, can be dissected and analyzed, and the debate will rage on forever between “Bret guys” and “Shawn guys” as to who was the more talented competitor.
But what the WWE Universe remembers most about Hart vs. Michaels was just how plain nasty it got. Hart thought Michaels’ dance entrances to be in poor taste, and he questioned Michaels’ knee injury when The Showstopper vacated the WWE Championship. HBK considered The Pink and Black Attack a thing of the past who was resistant to change. Hart poked fun at HBK’s Playgirl photo shoot and challenged his manhood. HBK launched the salacious “Sunny days” comment, a thinly veiled reference to the WWE Hall of Fame Diva and an implication that caused trouble in the Hart household. Even before HBK stuck a Canadian flag up his nose, Hart questioned how Michaels’ parents could be proud of their son. They had a scrape-up, off camera, in Hartford, Conn., and then, of course, there was the “Montreal Screwjob.”
Hart’s and Michaels’ Hall of Fame careers were defined by this rivalry — a bitter, close-to-the-bone grudge that was so personal and deeply rooted that it at times felt exploitative to watch. Needless to say, hearts swelled when Hart and Michaels hugged mid-ring in 2010, ending the multiyear war that long divided the WWE Universe.