The 10 best matches to not make ‘WWE: 100 Greatest Matches’
As comprehensive guides go, “WWE: 100 Greatest Matches” is about as good as it gets. The new tome, available online or wherever books are sold, chronicles the best contests in WWE history, from WrestleMania III to NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, and even features a foreword by Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. But even that book couldn’t capture every great match. To celebrate the book’s release and provide an alternative for any contrarian types out there, WWE.com assembled a list of the 10 best matches that didn’t quite make the cut.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar — No Disqualification Match (SummerSlam 2013)
History may remember SummerSlam 2013 as the beginning of Daniel Bryan’s arduous Road to WrestleMania, but it’s difficult to argue that “The Best vs. The Beast” didn’t steal the show. With CM Punk coasting high on the grassroots support of the WWE Universe and Brock Lesnar finally hitting the stride of his second prime, these two Paul Heyman Guys tore each other to shreds. Lesnar picked up the win, but it was hard to tell by the end who was the Beast and who was the Best. The titles applied to both. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
Pedro Morales vs. Bruno Sammartino — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (Showdown at Shea 1972)
Imagine a vast outdoor arena, hosting a once-in-a-lifetime WWE World Heavyweight Championship dream match between two WWE Hall of Famers at their peak. Now add rain.
That scenario actually happened in 1972 when reigning champion Pedro Morales battled former titleholder Bruno Sammartino at the first-ever Showdown at Shea. The legendary duo put on an hour-long wrestling clinic in a clash described as “The Match of the Century,” stopping only because a local curfew forced the action at New York’s Shea Stadium to end in a time-limit draw.
Sammartino later said this encounter gave him more satisfaction than any other in his career. If The Living Legend himself believes this match to be his best, who are we to argue? — MATTHEW ARTUS
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (Survivor Series 1997)
Your opinion on “The Montreal Screwjob” likely depends on your thoughts on its conclusion, but quality aside, this is easily the most significant match in WWE history. Although Survivor Series 1997 wasn’t WWE Champion Bret Hart’s last contracted date with WWE before he left for WCW, it was close enough that tensions behind the curtain had begun to rise.
Uncertainty over how Hart would handle the marquee matchup against longtime rival Shawn Michaels led to Mr. McMahon snatching the WWE Title from under “The Hit Man’s” nose, setting off a chain of events that changed sports-entertainment forever. Nov. 9, 1997 is a date which will live in sports-entertainment infamy and, more importantly, immortality. — @JOEYSTYLES
Kevin Owens vs. Finn Bálor — NXT Championship Match (Beast in the East: Brock Lesnar Live in Tokyo)
It was in Japan that Finn Bálor rose up from a trainee cleaning the dojos to become one of the most respected competitors in the world. So it was appropriate that he returned to The Land of the Rising Sun for the biggest match of his career. The Demon donned his fearsome war paint as he entered into battle against ruthless NXT Champion Kevin Owens. Bálor was stunned as Owens kicked out of a Coup de Grace. However, The Demon pressed on, surviving everything The Prizefighter waylaid him with, even escaping an attempted Pop-up Powerbomb. That gave Bálor the opening to set Owens up for a second Coup de Grace and add another championship chapter to his extensive legacy in Japan. — BOBBY MELOK
John Cena vs. Cesaro – United States Championship Match (Raw, July 6, 2015)
When John Cena and Cesaro step in the ring together, amazing things happen. Case in point, their United States Championship Match from the July 6, 2015 Raw. The Cenation leader, who’s often unfairly regarded as having a limited arsenal, broke out a full-fledged offensive onslaught that shouldn’t be physically possible for a man of his size. The Swiss Superman, meanwhile, lived up to his moniker by suplexing the 251-pound Cena around the ring with incredible ease. What the WWE Universe witnessed was two heavyweights maneuvering around the ring like cruiserweights in a contest that became an instant classic. — SCOTT TAYLOR
Team Cena vs. Team Authority – Traditional Survivor Series 5-on-5 Elimination Tag Team Match (Survivor Series 2014)
On Nov. 23, 2014 in St. Louis, the WWE Universe packed inside the Scottrade Center screamed themselves hoarse when Sting stepped into a WWE ring for the first time ever. Before The Icon set the sports-entertainment world on fire, though, it was Team Cena’s sole survivor, Dolph Ziggler, who was dropping jaws, overcoming 3-on-1 odds to transform this 5-on-5 match into a singles showdown with Seth Rollins. Desperate, The Authority utilized J&J Security and even crooked referee Scott Armstrong to brutalize The Showoff until Sting hit the scene and drilled Triple H with a Scorpion Death Drop. Then, placing Ziggler’s battle-weary body atop Rollins in a pinning position, The Vigilante effectively (albeit temporarily) sent The Authority packing. Who saw that coming?! — JAMES WORTMAN
Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz — World Tag Team Championship Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match (SummerSlam 2000)
The very first Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match at SummerSlam 2000 set the standard for every TLC Match to live up to. Hearts just about stopped when Edge & Christian sent a ladder-climbing Bubba Ray Dudley crashing through a stack of tables outside the ring. Millions cried in agony when Edge Speared an interfering Lita. And when E&C finally felled a dangling Jeff Hardy with a ladder to retrieve the titles, standing ovations mingled with sighs of relief. As for the WrestleMania X-Seven follow-up? No doubt it deserves a page in “WWE: 100 Greatest Matches,” but that match doesn’t happen without a precedent to surpass. — KEVIN POWERS
Neville vs. Sami Zayn — NXT Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: R Evolution)
The R Evolution main event of NXT Champion Neville vs. Sami Zayn was not just the culmination of Zayn’s journey to the top of the NXT — it was a very public test of Zayn’s ethics. With his spot in NXT also at stake, The Underdog from the Underground showed the world just how far he was willing to go to strip his friend of NXT’s top crown and protect his livelihood. Tempted by a perfect and easy opportunity to cheat his way to victory, Zayn instead stayed the righteous course. By taking the moral high road, Zayn ensured his crowning achievement was an unforgettable feel-good moment … until Kevin Owens destroyed him five minutes later. — JOHN CLAPP
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (Unforgiven 2001)
Making “Stone Cold” Steve Austin submit seemed to be impossible, considering that his refusal to tap out to Bret “Hit Man” Hart at WrestleMania 13 made him into a star. But at Unforgiven 2001, Kurt Angle did the unthinkable in his hometown of Pittsburgh. In return for Austin throwing his gold medals into a river weeks before, the typically mild-mannered Angle unleashed his vicious side, beating Austin all over the Mellon Arena and suplexing the air out of him. When the Olympic hero snapped on the Angle Lock, Austin had no choice but to tap out, and the “City of Champions” had another great titleholder to add to its ranks. — JEFF LABOON
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (WrestleMania XIX)
Proving to be a perfect encapsulation of what made SmackDown so unique during the early years of the brand extension, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar took center-stage at WrestleMania XIX and just straight up wrestled. There was no pomp or circumstance, just two world-class athletes coming to fight, armed with suplexes, submissions and an undying will to be better than the other man.
And yes, there was also the Shooting Star Press that saw Lesnar soar halfway across the ring and land right on his dome piece. It would’ve felled a mortal man. The Beast shook it off and won WWE’s greatest prize a minute later. No biggie. — RYAN PAPPOLLA