10 Matches That Have Us Salivating for Sheamus vs. Bryan

10 Matches That Have Us Salivating for Sheamus vs. Bryan

At first blush, the 2-out-of-3 Falls Match stipulation for the World Heavyweight Championship bout between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan could appear slightly archaic when set against a backdrop of Extreme Rules Matches and Chicago Street Fights. The event of Extreme Rules, after all, represents the one time of the year when the entire WWE Universe does away with the rulebook. That hardcore attitude hardly seems to jibe with the time-honored tradition of sorting out winners and losers by way of multiple falls.

The 2-out-of-3 Falls format, however, has produced many classics. So many, in fact, that WWE.com couldn’t help but offer up 10 especially memorable contests that have us looking forward to Sheamus-Bryan, Part II. ( VIEW VIDEO PLAYLIST)

The Rock vs. Triple H – Fully Loaded: In Your House, July 26, 1998

Before becoming fixtures in WWE’s main event scene, The Rock and Triple H – as members of The Nation of Domination and D-Generation X, respectively – tussled over the prestigious Intercontinental Championship in 1998.

At WWE’s Fully Loaded: In Your House pay-per-view, The Great One and The Game competed in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match that would later be seen as a watershed moment in each Superstar’s career. The warring factions of NOD and DX made their presence known early and often. Attempted interference by Nation member D-Lo Brown was enough to distract Triple H and cause him to walk directly into a Rock Bottom, securing the first fall for The Rock. A low blow and a DDT onto a chair by Chyna, Triple H’s valet, brought the score to 1-1.

The tiebreaker nearly went to The Game, who eventually hit his patented Pedigree. However, the tide change occurred too late, and Triple H was unable to pin the felled Rock before the bout's 30-minute time limit had expired.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko - ECW, Aug. 26, 1995

Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko - Best 2-out-of-3-Falls Match: August 26, 1995

Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko get a standing ovation after their dazzling exchange of technical maneuvers leads to a draw on August 26, 1995.

If its detractors’ claims were true, and the much-beloved but now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling had been nothing but a gory spectacle of weapons, there would be no way to explain the Dean Malenko-Eddie Guerrero series of matches from summer 1995.

A seminal moment in ECW’s transformation into a surprising hub for wrestling traditionalists, the rivalry – which saw Guerrero lose the Television Title to Malenko and win it back seven days later – produced some of the most inventive ring contests in history. The stone-faced Malenko was the perfect foil for the fan favorite Guerrero.

The parallels between The Ice Man and the eventual “Latino Heat” ran deep. Both second-generation athletes honed their craft stateside and abroad, and in August 1995, both were set to depart ECW for the bright lights of WCW, where Malenko and Guerrero would go on to establish themselves initially as cornerstones of WCW’s nascent cruiserweight division.

The 2-out-of-3 Falls Match – Malenko and Guerrero’s farewell to ECW – will be remembered by all who saw it. Despite the prevailing sense in the ECW Arena that evening that the home team's shoestring budget had lost out to the deep pockets of WCW, the desire of Guerrero and Malenko to end their ECW careers on a high note was inextinguishable, and the ECW faithful appreciated that fact.

With each Superstar an absolute master of his domain (Guerrero the high-flyer and Malenko the mat tactician, though each was well-versed in the other’s specialty), the matchup is analogous to a chess match between two familiar enemies. The bout ended, appropriately enough, in a double pinfall – a draw.

Hart Foundation vs. The British Bulldogs – Saturday Night's Main Event, May 2, 1987

British Bulldogs vs. Hart Foundation: Saturday Night's Main Event - World Tag Team Championship Match, May 2, 1987

The British Bulldogs and The Hart Foundation take their rivalry to a whole new level in a spectacular 2-out-of-3 Falls Match for the World Tag Team Championship on May 2, 1987.

As two of the premier tag teams in the 1980s, The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart and brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) and The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and cousin Dynamite Kid) were far from strangers when they met during a May 1987 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event. Prior to voyaging to WWE, all four Superstars competed in the Hart family’s legendary Stampede Wrestling territory in Calgary.

It was in WWE, however, where the Foundation and the Bulldogs blossomed into well-oiled machines. After the Foundation unseated The Bulldogs as WWE Tag Team Champions earlier that January, Davey Boy and Dynamite spent much of that winter and spring trying to regain the titles. Accompanied by Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart and the dastardly and corrupt former WWE ref Danny Davis, Hart and Neidhart always managed to stay one step ahead, even if by nefarious means.

The dynamics that made the Hart Foundation-British Bulldogs rivalry so riveting were on full display in their 2-out-of-3 Falls Match. Dynamite Kid’s scary intensity and explosive suplexes jelled perfectly with Hart’s technical prowess. The teams’ respective powerhouses, Neidhart and Davey Boy, bulldozed each other around the ring.

Although The Bulldogs wound up capturing two straight falls, the first fall was won by disqualification. In accordance with the rules of the 1987 WWE, the DQ nullified the match result in terms of championship implications and despite technically losing the match, The Hart Foundation retained their titles.

The Hollywood Blondes vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson - Clash of the Champions XXIII, June 16, 1993

The Hollywood Blonds vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson - 2-out-of-3 Falls WCW Tag Team Title Match: Clash of the Champions XXIII

The Hollywood Blonds can't keep up with the legendary Horsemen members when the WCW Tag Team Championships are on the line.

One needs only to glance at the talent involved in this contest to understand why it has a place among the greatest 2-out-of-3 Falls Matches. On one side of the ring were The Hollywood Blondes, a young “Stunning” Steve Austin and Brian Pillman, arguably the most unpredictable competitor of the '90s in his athletic prime. Facing them, the two constants in the legendary Four Horsemen faction, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson.

The Blondes-Horsemen 2-out-of-3 Falls Match at Clash of the Champions came about after repeated potshots – including a Blondes-produced segment mockingly called “A Flare for the Old” – from the subversive Austin and Pillman goaded the newly reformed Horsemen into action. The veterans won two straight falls, but as one of the falls was a disqualification (due to interference by Barry Windham), the Blondes held onto their WCW Tag Team Titles.

Triple H vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin – No Way Out 2001, Feb. 25, 2001

Maybe it was the Stunner that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin delivered to Triple H’s wife, Stephanie. Or perhaps it was The Game’s retaliatory Pedigree to Austin confidant Jim Ross. Or maybe, just maybe, it was Triple H hiring Rikishi in the fall 2000 to run down The Texas Rattlesnake with a car.

Whatever the reason, the bad blood between Triple H and Austin had reached an uncomfortable crescendo by February 2001.

To settle the score between the two titans, WWE debuted a particularly innovative offshoot of the 2-out-of-3 Falls Match at that year's No Way Out. Dubbed the “Three Stages of Hell,” the concept was simple, but brutally effective in raising the stakes. Triple H and Austin would battle in three specific contests, the first being a standard wrestling match, the second a Street Fight and the third a Steel Cage Match.

Clocking in at close to 40 minutes, the three bouts saw Austin and Triple H pull out all the stops. After downing Triple H with a Stunner in the first fall, Austin fell to a sledgehammer strike in the Street Fight. The deciding fall, inside the steel cage, was sealed when Austin and The Game struck each other simultaneously with a barbed wire baseball bat and the sledgehammer, and The King of Kings collapsed on top of Austin for the pin.

Doink vs. Marty Jannetty – Raw, June 21, 1993

Marty Jannetty vs. Doink The Clown: Two out of Three Falls - Raw, June 21, 1993

Marty Jannetty and Doink the Clown settle their differences in a Two out of Three Falls Match.

Despite having the literal appearance of a clown, there was very little funny about Doink circa June 1993. An accomplished mat tactician and merciless competitor, Doink took on Marty Jannetty, Shawn Michaels’ former Rockers tag team partner, in a highly competitive bout on Raw. After the two Superstars brawled to a double-count-out, they met again the following week in a 2-out-of-3-Falls contest.

This oft-overlooked battle had fans on the edge of their seats. After Doink and Jannetty split the first two falls, the clown resorted to one of his favorite dastardly deeds and swapped places with a fresh doppelganger. The second, imposter Doink pinned Jannetty after a piledriver that took the woopie out of the former Rocker’s mulleted cushioning.

Fortunately for Jannetty, “Macho Man” Randy Savage stepped forward from the broadcast table to reveal Doink’s stratagem to the ref, who then reversed his decision and awarded the match – and the last laugh – to the fallen Superstar.

Rey Mysterio vs. Psychosis – ECW, Oct. 7, 1995

Rey Mysterio vs. Psicosis - Best 2-out-of-3-Falls Match: October 17, 1995

Extreme high-flyers Rey Mysterio and Psicosis take flight over the guardrail and through a table in a breathtaking 2-out-of-3-Falls Match on October 7, 1995.

When Rey Mysterio and longtime lucha libre foe Psychosis made their ECW debuts against each other in September 1995, the notoriously hard-boiled ECW faithful welcomed the colorful, masked newcomers  the only way they knew how: with derisive chants of “Power Rangers.” Yet, once the luchadores tied up and reignited their rivalry in the U.S., it took the ECW fans a scant few moments to realize they had judged the combatants too quickly.

ECW’s introduction to the high-flyers, won by Mysterio, was so electric that the two Superstars were brought back to Philadelphia the very next month for a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match. The rematch was a true aerial display, the sort of affair that could have benefited from the presence of an air traffic controller. Besides featuring a glut of high-risk maneuvers, the bout also had a distinctive “extreme” tinge to it, with Mysterio and Psychosis battling over chairs and flying through a table.

In the end, the horned-mask Psychosis reigned supreme, taking two falls to Mysterio’s one.

Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat – Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin’ Cajun, April 2, 1989

Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Ric Flair - 2-out-of-3 Falls NWA World Heavyweight Title Match: Clash of the Champions VI

Two of the greatest of all time go back and forth in this 2-out-of-3 Falls classic.

The lone mention of “Flair vs. Steamboat” is all the prompting that certain fans need to fall into a state of pure wrestling bliss. From their earliest clashes in the Carolinas to their last battle in 1994, Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat never failed to live up to the lofty expectations of fans who were familiar with their history.

However, their series of matches in 1989 – which began with Steamboat besting Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in February and culminated with a Flair title win in May – may represent the pinnacle of their storied rivalry.

Before a lively crowd at the Louisiana SuperDome in New Orleans, Flair and Steamboat put on a wrestling clinic that was punctuated by deafening, skin-blistering chops. Nearly 20 minutes in, The Nature Boy won the first fall with an inside cradle. The Dragon tied up the score almost 15 minutes later, forcing Flair to submit to a double Chicken Wing.

At the 55-minute mark, with both Superstars fatigued, Steamboat pinned Steamboat, though the finish was not without controversy – a video replay would show that Flair’s foot was on the bottom rope at the time of the three-count.

Hart Foundation vs. Demolition – SummerSlam 1990

Hart Foundation vs. Demolition: SummerSlam 1990 - World Tag Team Championship 2-out-of-3 Falls Match

Demolition tries to use a diabolical switcheroo on The Hart Foundation before the Legion of Doom interferes to sort out the chaos at SummerSlam on August 27, 1990.

Sporting for the first time the black-and-pink leather jackets that would soon become their hallmark, The Hart Foundation walked into the Philadelphia Spectrum determined to win the WWE Tag Team Championship from Demolition. Dampening their hopes slightly was the uncertainty of whom, exactly, they’d be facing.

Demolition had by the summer of 1990 expanded into a three-Superstar unit, featuring original members Ax and Smash, alongside a new brother-in-face-paint, the towering Crush. Exploiting a loophole in the WWE rulebook at the time, Demolition defended their titles using various combinations of their lineup. At SummerSlam, it was the rookie Crush who waded into the deep end, teaming with Smash to take on a motivated Hart Foundation.

The less-seasoned duo of Smash & Crush appeared natural as a pair, putting down Hart in the first fall with the classic Demolition finisher, “Decapitation.” Crush’s inexperience revealed itself in the second fall, however, when he was disqualified for stopping the referee from counting down Smash’s shoulders. The Hart Foundation won the final fall after Neidhart slingshot-tackled Crush, who fell into a Hart roll-up.

“I’d been in the ring for most of the match, and with the temperature outside soaring to over a scorching one hundred degrees, the Philly Spectrum was an oven,” Hart wrote years later in his autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling. “As the crowd cheered I was too spent to even get up, so I lay on my back staring at the lights, taking in the moment.”

Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio – SmackDown, Jan. 7, 2011

SmackDown: Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio - 2-out-of-3 Falls Match

SmackDown: Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio - 2-out-of-3 Falls Match

Upon making his entrance into WWE in summer 2010, the highly touted Alberto Del Rio immediately targeted Rey Mysterio, the one Superstar who had spent as much time wrestling South of the Border as Del Rio had.

Roughly four months after The Mexican Aristocrat debuted with a victory over The Master of the 619, the two were paired up again in the first SmackDown of 2011. With the 2-out-of-3 Falls stipulation in place, the experienced Mysterio dodged Del Rio’s mat game in the early part of the contest before falling victim to his cross armbreaker. Despite the setback, Mysterio evened the tally with a vintage la magistral cradle.

As Del Rio’s chances of defeating The Ultimate Underdog slowly diminished, Del Rio’s personal ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez, saw fit to insert himself in the action. After a high-risk maneuver landed Mysterio outside the ring, Del Rio’s tuxedoed corner man clung tight to the masked Superstar’s foot, preventing him from returning to the ring before the ref counted to 10.

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