The 20 greatest WCW matches of all time
After hours spent reviewing countless matches and long discussions about what made WCW great in the 1990s, WWE Classics has determined the 20 greatest matches in WCW history. These bouts feature some of the biggest stars in sports-entertainment history in some of their most historic battles.
But before you take to Facebook and Twitter to tell us what we got wrong, take note of the criteria for the matches on this list. They all occurred AFTER the 1988 Turner purchase of WCW. That means the 45-minute time limit draw between Sting and Ric Flair at the inaugural Clash of the Champions — which is one of the best matches ever — does not count.
So check out our rankings and let us know what you think in the comments below and on Facebook and Twitter.
Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page — Nitro, April 26, 1999
The battle between two of the most popular WCW competitors of all time was a truly memorable moment among the chaos that was unraveling in the WCW front offices. But don’t think this was some technical classic. The match quickly degraded into an all-out brawl as DDP and The Stinger taunted each other and exchanged blows in the center of the ring to start the match.
As the action spilled in and out of the ring, neither legendary grappler maintained an advantage in the contest. It was a thrilling back-and-forth war, but the true highlight of the contest was that there was no outside interference. Instead, two of WCW’s finest waged war in an effort to determine the champion. The uninterrupted contest finally came to an end when Sting countered the Diamond Cutter into a Scorpion Death Drop to win his fifth WCW Title.
Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero — Uncensored 1997
In 1997, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko had already faced off numerous times in both WCW and ECW. The two legendary competitors certainly helped cement one another’s legacies whenever they battled, failing to disappoint the fans watching both in the arena and on television. It’s a bit difficult to state definitively what match between the two was their best, but their bout at WCW Uncensored 1997 was hard to beat.
With Guerrero’s U.S. Title at stake, Malenko and the future WWE Hall of Famer faced off in a No Disqualification Match. Usually, this particular match type is filled with illegal holds and foreign objects, but both competitors relied more on their masterful technical abilities than weapons both in and out of the ring. Simply stated, this contest was a wrestling clinic.
The clash seemed to be a stalemate until Guerrero’s rival, Syxx, came to the ring with a video camera. When the former 1-2-3 Kid tossed the camera in the ring during a scuffle with Guerrero, Malenko grabbed it, hit Guerrero and won the United States Championship.
Big Van Vader vs. Cactus Jack — Halloween Havoc 1993
There are few rivalries more bitter and vicious than the one between Cactus Jack and Big Van Vader in 1993. Undoubtedly WCW’s most ferocious enmity, the two competitors clashed multiple times that year, often in battles deemed too brutal for television. There seemed to be no end to their brawling, until Vader knocked Jack out of action for months following their battle on WCW Saturday Night in April 1993.
Upon Cactus Jack’s return, the rivals were set to do battle at Halloween Havoc. The event’s “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” feature set up yet another brutal contest between them — a Texas Death Match. Similar to a Last Man Standing Match, the goal of the battle was to incapacitate your opponent to the point where he could not answer the official’s 10-count.
Brutality reached its peak during this contest as both competitors relentlessly brawled throughout New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena. One of the most cringe-worthy moments occurred on the entrance ramp as Cactus Jack leaped onto the massive back of The Mastodon. Vader then jumped backwards, crushing Jack between his massive frame and the ramp. It would take a DDT onto a steel chair and a cattle prod shock from Vader’s manager, Harley Race, to prevent Cactus Jack from answering the 10-count, though.
3 Count vs. Jung Dragons – New Blood Rising 2000
In August 2000, with WCW’s biggest stars fading from the spotlight, a group of young upstarts competed in a match that widened eyes and dropped jaws all over the world — and still does whenever it is viewed on WWE.com. At New Blood Rising, 3 Count members Shane Helms, Evan Karagias and Shannon Moore battled The Jung Dragons team of Kaz Hayashi, Jamie-San and Yang in an absolutely wild Double Ladder Match.
There were no titles on the line, but 3 Count’s gold record album and recording contract was suspended high above the ring. In retrospect, the reason for the battle seems quite outlandish, but the six high-flying competitors put their bodies on the line in what was arguably the most entertaining and exciting match of 2000. Make no mistake, Superstars like Shawn Michaels and Edge & Christian innovated the Ladder Match, but many of the maneuvers executed in this contest were downright amazing.
Despite both sides giving it their all, 3 Count’s fast-paced offense ultimately allowed them to ascend the ladder to recover their album and recording contract.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage — Spring Stampede 1997
The hottest rivalry of 1997 — and arguably WCW’s greatest rivalry — was between Diamond Dallas Page and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Although Savage was a member of The New World Order and DDP was loyal to WCW, this particular animosity went deeper than WCW vs. nWo. With the involvement of Page’s wife Kimberly, the bitterness between the two ring legends became brutally personal.
Although Savage and DDP clashed throughout the course of the entire year, their first battle at Spring Stampede — a No Disqualification Match — was ultimately one of WCW’s greatest bouts of all time.
After the opening bell sounded, it wasn’t long before the action spilled to the outside. Both competitors used whatever weapons and environmental hazards they could find in an effort to take the other down, neither gaining a clear advantage during the melee.
The intensity of the brawl put ring announcers and referees in the crossfire, but nothing stopped the two competitors from staying in the fight. When the official was knocked out, The nWo sent in their own referee to ensure Savage’s victory. But when “Macho Man” prepared to finish off DDP, Page shockingly countered with his patented Diamond Cutter, leaving The nWo official no choice but to make the three-count in DDP's favor.
Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne vs. Nasty Boys — Spring Stampede 1994
When considering tag teams in WCW, the names that immediately come to mind are Doom, The Steiner Brothers, Harlem Heat and The Outsiders. While these duos are among the greatest tag teams in sports-entertainment history, one of the greatest tag matches in WCW history does not involve any of the aforementioned pairings. In fact, this particular match wasn’t even a traditional tag team match — it was a brutal Chicago Street Fight pitting Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne against The Nasty Boys with the WCW Tag Team Titles at stake.
Earlier in the year at Clash of the Champions XXVI, Payne and Jack picked up a victory against The Nastys. This time, before the challengers could even step through the ropes, Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags immediately attacked and the all-out brawl commenced. The chaos that ensued resulted in the most brutal battle in WCW tag team history. Steel chairs, tables and a random wooden dowel were sacrificed during the melee — not to mention the complete destruction of a WCW merchandise stand.
As the four competitors battled on the entrance ramp, the brutality continued and a shovel entered the equation. As Payne battled Knobbs, Sags recklessly shoved Jack off of the ramp before hitting him in the face with the shovel to win the match and retain the tag team titles.
Rey Mysterio vs. Dean Malenko — Great American Bash 1996
There are only a handful of competitors throughout history whose debuts have made fans and fellow Superstars alike immediately take notice of their abilities. When Rey Mysterio made his first WCW appearance at Great American Bash 1996 against WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko, jaws dropped at what the incredibly agile competitor was able to do inside the squared circle.
Though Mysterio earned some notoriety in ECW following a series of battles with Psicosis, he had yet to become a household name in the United States. Malenko, on the other hand, was a respected and feared competitor widely regarded as one of the finest mat technicians of all time. The Iceman certainly needed his arsenal as Mysterio’s uncanny agility seemed to take him by surprise and make the contest unexpectedly even.
Malenko realized it was futile to attempt to keep up with Rey, so he relied heavily on his technical prowess to keep The Master of the 619 grounded. Mysterio stayed in the contest, however, displaying the resilience that would eventually make him a World Champion. Finally, after a series of near-falls, The Iceman expertly countered an attack with a powerbomb, using the ropes as leverage to ensure victory.
Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan — Bash at the Beach 1994
Bash at the Beach 1994 ushered in a new era for WCW. In 1993, Hulk Hogan left WWE to film a number of movies and effectively retired from sports-entertainment. That was until the following year when The Hulkster joined WCW to much fanfare and media attention. Although both Hogan and Ric Flair were under WWE contract in 1991 and ’92, they never crossed paths. However, WCW owner Ted Turner wasted no time making The Hulkster’s first WCW bout a WCW Title opportunity against Flair.
Dubbed a “dream match,” the simple fact the bout was happening was crucial in establishing WCW as a nationally recognized sports-entertainment organization. NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and longtime Hogan ally Mr. T joined The Immortal One, further setting the stage for a truly memorable match.
The contest did not disappoint as the two most iconic figures in sports-entertainment history battled for the first time. That evening the fans in Orlando, Fla., were clad in red and yellow, supporting The Hulkster with every powerful blow that connected. When the dust settled, Hulkamania was alive and running wild as Hogan won the title in one of WCW’s most pivotal matches.
Steiner Brothers vs. Sting & Lex Luger – SuperBrawl 1991
The inaugural SuperBrawl in 1991 was headlined by WCW Champion Ric Flair battling NWA World Champion Tatsumi Fujinami in a bout that effectively unified the two championships. That evening in St. Petersburg, Fla., however, belonged to the greatest tag team match in WCW history. Pitting brothers against best friends, The Steiners defended the WCW Tag Team Championships against Sting & Lex Luger. The four competitors were beloved by WCW fans all over the world and had been allies in the past. The competitive nature of the usually friendly duos left a mark on the Atlanta-based organization that few individual tag team contests have matched.
Ultimately, the bout highlighted the importance of the WCW Tag Team Championships as allegiances were set aside in a battle of truly epic proportions. The strength and agility of every athlete taking part in the contest came into play as both sides used their abilities to highlight individual strengths and weaknesses. The chemistry that existed between The Steiners was evenly matched by Sting & Lex Luger and neither pair maintained an advantage for very long.
As Sting & Luger built up a great deal of momentum, the official was knocked over by a scuffle between The Total Package and Rick Steiner. As the passionate crowd reached a fever pitch, Sting prepared to apply the Scorpion Deathlock on Scott Steiner just as Nikita Koloff made his way to the ring to attack Luger. The Stinger selflessly pushed his partner out of the way and was hit by Koloff, allowing Scott to capitalize and pick up the victory.
Ricky Steamboat vs. Rick Rude — Beach Blast 1992
Before Bash at the Beach’s inception in 1994, Beach Blast was WCW’s premier summer event. In 1992, Sting and Cactus Jack battled in a memorable Falls Count Anywhere Match that nearly stole the show. That was until the following Iron Man Match between United States Champion Rick Rude and Ricky Steamboat nearly made the preceding contest an afterthought.
Both Rude and Steamboat were former Intercontinental and United States Champions with years of experience competing against the best both WWE and WCW had to offer. Although the U.S. Title was not on the line in this 30-Minute Iron Man Match, it didn’t stop either competitor from proving why they were so highly regarded inside the ring.
The contest was back and forth from the moment the opening bell sounded, but Rude got off to an early lead by picking up two pinfalls before a disqualification temporarily halted his momentum. Although The Ravishing One rebounded and scored a third pinfall, Steamboat roared back to match Rude’s three pinfalls before the time limit expired. The Dragon’s final pin would give him the victory as Rude’s earlier disqualification proved to be his undoing.
Brian Pillman vs. Jushin "Thunder" Liger — SuperBrawl II
Established in 1996, WCW’s Cruiserweight Championship helped propel the Atlanta-based organization to television ratings dominance during the Monday Night War. However, the exciting matches fans witnessed may have never happened if not for high-flying competitors like Brian Pillman and Jushin Liger who paved the way in the early ’90s. Before the Cruiserweight Championship’s inception, there was the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship, and no Light Heavyweight Title Match was more memorable than the battle at SuperBrawl II between Pillman and the Japanese highflier.
Surprisingly, the first half of the battle was a showcase of each competitor’s technical prowess. Both warriors knew the key was to keep the other grounded and each targeted their opponent’s knees. The fans jumped to their feet, though, when both competitors took to the sky and executed as many high-impact maneuvers as they countered. The match defined “edge of your seat” excitement as the combatants seemed virtually unstoppable. Finally, as fans tried to catch their breath, Pillman capitalized on a missed body splash from the top rope and rolled Liger up to secure the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship.
Although SuperBrawl II was headlined by Sting and Lex Luger battling for the World Title, ask any WCW fan what match they remember from that evening in Milwaukee and you are guaranteed to hear “Pillman versus Liger.”
“Stunning” Steve Austin vs. Ricky Steamboat — Bash at the Beach 1994
Bash at the Beach 1994 will always be remembered for the highly publicized WCW debut of Hulk Hogan. The hype surrounding The Hulkster's first WCW match overshadowed every other contest that evening in Orlando, Fla. But one of those matchups was a highly competitive battle for the United States Championship between “Stunning” Steve Austin and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat that outranks the main event on WWE.com’s list of WCW’s 20 Greatest Matches.
At the time, Austin was one of the fastest-rising stars in sports-entertainment, while Steamboat was the seasoned veteran with years of experience and World Championships on his resume. This intense clash further cemented Steamboat’s place in history as a true legend, but it also proved to the world that Austin had the potential to become one of the greatest Superstars of all time. Ultimately, Austin managed to use the ropes to his advantage, keeping Steamboat down for the pinfall and retaining the prestigious U.S. Title.
Sting’s Squadron vs. Dangerous Alliance — WrestleWar 1992
When Ric Flair left WCW in 1991, The Four Horsemen disbanded. This vacancy gave Paul E. Dangerously the opportunity to make his nefarious faction — The Dangerous Alliance — the top attraction in the Atlanta-based organization. To do so, the group would have to take out WCW’s face-painted franchise, Sting.
The Dangerous Alliance’s attacks on The Stinger were relentless and Rick Rude nearly destroyed Sting’s knee en route to winning his United States Title. The bleach-blond competitor soon rebounded and banded together a group of competitors including Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, Ricky Steamboat & Nikita Koloff to face the lethal stable.
Sting’s Squadron had their chance to go to war with The Dangerous Alliance of Rude, “Stunning” Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton & Larry Zbyszko in a brutal WarGames Match. Dubbed “The Match Beyond,” the unforgiving and vicious contest was one of the most chaotic battles in WCW. The two rings could barely handle the action as one of the ropes snapped off the turnbuckle during the melee. In an attempt to end the match, Zbyszko tried to hit Sting with the detached metal turnbuckle. At the last second, The Stinger pulled Bobby Eaton in the way, causing Zbyszko to blast his own teammate. WCW’s face-painted franchise then capitalized, executing an armbar that forced Eaton into submission, resulting in a hard-fought victory for Sting's Squadron.
Ric Flair vs. Big Van Vader — Starrcade 1993
Ric Flair’s Career Threatening Match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV was not the first time the 16-time World Champion put his career on the line. Flair actually faced the stipulation on numerous occasions, overcoming the predicament each time. Starrcade 1993 was no different as Flair put his livelihood at stake against imposing WCW Champion Big Van Vader.
WCW fans didn’t know how Flair could overcome the massive and dominant Mastodon, but The Dirtiest Player in the Game was never one to back down from a fight no matter the odds. The significantly larger Vader had a clear advantage throughout much of the contest. With Flair constantly on the defensive, it seemed as though Naitch’s career was going to be over prematurely. And constant underhanded assists from the champion's manager, Harley Race, didn’t do Flair any favors.
But Flair showed his resilience and proved to the world why he is arguably the greatest World Champion of all time. The Nature Boy strategically targeted Vader’s legs in an effort to slow down The Mastodon and set him up for a potential Figure-Four. The attacks on the champion’s legs were calculated, but rather than applying his patented submission, Flair simply tripped Vader to roll him up for a pinfall and win the WCW World Title.
Rey Mysterio vs. Ultimo Dragon — World War 3 1996
The opening contest of the second WCW World War 3 event pitted a young Rey Mysterio against the legendary masked Japanese highflier Ultimo Dragon. At stake was the most prestigious championship in Japan — the J-Crown Championship. Consisting of eight prestigious junior titles, the J-Crown was once the goal of every highflier in the world.
When the opening bell sounded, the masked grapplers wasted no time blowing away the capacity crowd in the Norfolk Scope with their ninja-like agility. High-flying moves were countered back and forth as neither competitor maintained a clear advantage. Ultimo Dragon tried to use his size to gain the upper hand, but The Ultimate Underdog’s quickness made it difficult to execute any offense masterfully.
As both Mysterio and the Dragon scored many near-falls, it became clear that one of them would have to capitalize on a mistake to win the match. That opportunity came when Mysterio launched himself onto the top rope to execute a hurricanrana. Acting on instinct, Ultimo Dragon countered with a Dragon Bomb and finally scored the pinfall as WCW fans hit their feet in excitement.
Sting vs. Ric Flair — Clash of Champions XXVII
When Ric Flair joined WWE in 1991, he brought the NWA/WCW Championship with him, forcing the Atlanta-based organization to create a new World Title — the WCW International World Championship. But when The Nature Boy returned to WCW in 1993, the NWA/WCW Championship came back with him, leaving the Atlanta-based organization with two World Titles. By June 1994, Flair was WCW Champion and Sting was International Champion and WCW officials decided it was time for a unification match.
Fittingly, WCW’s most popular competitors and greatest rivals would decide who would be the Undisputed WCW Champion at Clash of The Champions XXVII. After a series of battles in the late 1980s and early ’90s, both competitors were unsurprisingly familiar with one another. There was, however, an unpredictable variable at ringside in the form of Sensational Sherri. She seemed to be aligned with The Stinger, but her presence would ultimately cost Sting the match. With the vixen caught in the crossfire after Flair used her as a shield, Sting checked on her, leaving himself open for a roll-up from The Nature Boy that cost him the World Title.
Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero — Halloween Havoc 1997
In 1997, WCW’s Cruiserweights were one of the Atlanta-based organization’s premier attractions. At the heart of the division were competitors of Mexican descent that upheld the rich traditions of their wrestling families and the lucha libre style. At Halloween Havoc that same year, two of the most gifted fliers in WCW battled for the coveted Cruiserweight Championship. Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero were in the process of building their legendary careers when they met at the October extravaganza. After they stole the show, millions of fans all over the world took notice of both individuals and their astounding abilities.
The stakes of the contest were high as both Guerrero’s Cruiserweight Title and The Ultimate Underdog‘s mask were on the line. Rey was appropriately dressed for the battle in memorable ring gear that resembled Lee Falk’s comic book character The Phantom. Channeling “The Ghost Who Walks,” Mysterio displayed his incredible agility in a high-octane Cruiserweight contest that left fans gasping for air. As the battle raged, it quickly became obvious that Rey and Eddie were setting the precedent for every future Cruiserweight bout. Following an incredible hurricanrana from the top rope, Mysterio secured the victory in a clash that would help define his early career.
Goldberg vs. Diamond Dallas Page — Halloween Havoc 1998
It’s hard to believe that thousands of pay-per-view customers missed the main event of Halloween Havoc 1998 because WCW ran out of broadcast time. By some cruel twist of fate, fans did get to watch the disastrous WrestleMania VI rematch between The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan, only to see their screens go black just as Diamond Dallas Page prepared to lock up with undefeated WCW Champion Goldberg in what was the best match in the October event’s 11-year span.
The battle was not about WCW against The nWo, it was simply about the WCW World Title. The two gladiators shared a mutual respect for one another and DDP believed he could capture the championship and end Goldberg’s undefeated streak. Pitting Goldberg’s raw strength against Page’s resiliency, WCW treated its fans to an ultra-competitive battle that highlighted the importance of the WCW Championship.
But because the bout between Hollywood Hogan and The Warrior dragged on, pay-per-view providers ended the broadcast at 11 p.m. — just as the World Title Match got underway. The next evening on Monday Nitro, WCW apologized for the broadcast mishap and aired the entire bout for free. Goldberg retained the title, but the real victory went to the WCW fans that didn’t order the pay-per-view but still got to watch the epic confrontation.
Sting vs. Ric Flair — Great American Bash 1990
The legendary rivalry between Sting and Ric Flair was born at the inaugural Clash of the Champions in 1988 when The Stinger and the two-time WWE Hall of Famer battled to a 45-minute time limit draw. But an uneasy alliance forged at Halloween Havoc 1989 between the competitors against their mutual foes The Great Muta and Terry Funk earned Sting membership with the elite Four Horsemen. The Stinger was later kicked out of the group when he refused to relinquish an NWA Title opportunity he earned against Flair.
Although a knee injury sidelined The Stinger in early 1990, The Nature Boy ensured that his nemesis would keep his title opportunity upon his return. At The Great American Bash 1990, Sting walked out in red, white and blue tights and stars and stripes face paint to battle Flair. With Sting’s allies surrounding the ring in an effort to keep The Four Horsemen from intervening, the stage was set for one of WCW’s most iconic showdowns.
In front of a rowdy Baltimore crowd, Flair strategically targeted Sting’s surgically repaired knee, but WCW’s face-painted franchise refused to back down. The Nature Boy grew frustrated as much of his offense had little effect on The Stinger, and he attempted to lock in the Figure-Four. But Sting was more than ready for his rival’s signature hold and countered with a small package to win his first World Championship.
Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat — 1989
We admit it. After reviewing countless hours of matches from our WCW archive, we found it impossible to pick one of the legendary 1989 matches between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat as the greatest WCW bout of all time. So we picked all three.
The 1989 trilogy between The Nature Boy and The Dragon over the NWA World Title from February’s Chi-Town Rumble, April’s Clash of the Champions VI and May’s WrestleWar are all tied for the best match in WCW history. The debate among the WWE Classics team, including WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel and Joey Styles, left no clear winner between the series of three matches.
The execution of both Flair and Steamboat in each of the bouts is nearly flawless. Steamboat defeated Flair for the NWA Title at Chi-Town Rumble and retained the championship in controversial fashion at Clash of the Champions VI — Flair’s foot was on the bottom rope during the final pinfall. At WrestleWar, The Nature Boy regained the championship, but in the ultimate show of respect, Flair extended his hand to congratulate his opponent after the final of the three epic battles.
The debate over which is the best continues, but the bottom line is that the three Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat matches from 1989 are truly the finest in WCW history.