Edge and Randy Orton will be having a rematch of their Last Man Standing contest from WrestleMania, only this time it will be a normal wrestling match at Backlash. It will be Edge’s third match since his return, but his first regular one-on-one match. The WWE has oddly billed this as “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever,” giving it the kind of hype that’s nearly impossible to live up to. Even if they deliver the best match the two men possibly could, it’s probably not going to instantly rank as the best ever.
With that in mind, what are some of those few matches that should be considered “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever?” To be considered a great “wrestling” match, it should be a match that is purely wrestling — no stipulations matches, no matches where a third party got involved, just a match that solely relied on two wrestlers to tell their story exclusively in the ring.
Finding an all-time great match that meets those conditions eliminates some epics like Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage’s masterpiece that had George ‘The Animal’ Steele involved, or Bret Hart and Stone Cold’s magnum opus that had a submission stipulation. With all due respect to some of the classics in Japan and independent wrestling, here are five matches from major companies that could be considered “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.”
To be honest, any one of the three matches between “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in 1989 could be on this list. But the best of the bunch is their 2-out-of-3 falls epic at Clash of the Champions XI. With Jim Ross and Terry Funk on commentary, Flair and Steamboat performed tremendously, proving they were the two best workers in the business. The Nature Boy’s classic Heel tactics and The Dragon’s perseverance told a lengthy yet engaging story. Steamboat earned a controversial victory by pinning Flair with a double chicken-wing while Flair’s legs were on the ropes. Despite being 55 minutes long, “The Dragon” and “The Nature Boy” left the fans wanting more.
The two most famous sons of Canadian wrestling legend Stu Hart opened up WrestleMania X by putting years of training in the infamous Hart Dungeon on full display. The match was built up by playing on Owen’s jealousy of his older brother’s success. Meanwhile, as the co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble match, Bret had to compete in a match at WrestleMania before getting a title shot later in the show.
Instead of laying down to prepare for the main event, Bret attempted to teach his arrogant brother a lesson. But, Owen had a lot more skill than everyone thought. After going back and forth in a match full of technical wizardry, Owen countered Bret’s sunset flip and managed to hold him down for the upset victory. Despite the loss, Bret gained redemption and won the WWF title at the end of the night.
It was recently announced on Raw that Rey Mysterio will be having his retirement ceremony next week. Whether it’s the real deal or just for an angle, most will agree that the highlight of Mysterio’s 30 year wrestling career was on Halloween Havoc in 1997. Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero were great friends and rivals as the two biggest Latino wrestling stars of all-time, and they had plenty of classic battles throughout the years. None of their matches, however, quite compared to their awe-inspiring acrobatics at Halloween Havoc. Want to know why Guerrero, Mysterio, and the cruiserweight division as a whole gets the respect it does? This match will explain why.
Kurt Angle has had plenty of classics in his illustrious wrestling career. But in a recent episode of WWE Untold, he said that he considers his match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21 as the best he ever had — and who could argue with him? This dream match between arguably the two best in-ring workers in WWE history was memorably built up with Angle’s “Sexy Kurt” performance mocking Michaels. The match itself started as a mat-wrestling contest to show HBK could wrestle that kind of match before exploding into an intense battle for the next thirty minutes.
These two masters of story-telling exhausted each other — and the crowd ate up every minute of it. Angle survived a super kick and locked Michaels into an excruciating ankle lock for what seemed like forever. When the Heartbreak Kid finally tapped out, it was a rare moment when tapping out wasn’t a cause for embarrassment, and even earned HBK more respect. It was arguably the signature win of Angle’s Hall of Fame career and cemented his status as a WWE icon.
Having two Shawn Michaels WrestleMania matches appear on this list shows just how good his matches with Angle and The Undertaker are. HBK and The Deadman had rarely crossed paths in the prior fifteen years, with their biggest match before that point being the inaugural Hell in a Cell match in 1997. But in 2009, having The Undertaker put his ever-growing WrestleMania streak on the line against the man they call Mr. WrestleMania was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
Every frame of this match starting from their entrances was fascinating. Michaels descended from the Heavens in a white coat and hat, whereas The Deadman ascended from Hell in his trademark black outfit. The greatest in-ring performer and the greatest big man in WWE history used their combined fifty years of wrestling experience to put on a dazzling spectacle. When Michaels kicked out of the tombstone piledriver, WWE’s most devsatating finisher, Jim Ross described it as an out of body experience. The Phenom and the Streak ultimately prevailed, but the duo had made a classic match that just might have been the best pure wrestling match in the history of the business.
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Edge and Randy Orton's match at Backlash is being billed as “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”, but what matches may actually be the greatest ever?