It’s a question worthy of King Solomon himself. Some say it’s all about technical work. Some say it’s about a white-hot storyline reaching a great payoff. Still more say it’s all about crowd investment. There’s no real right answer to this question as so many things go into a great match. But here’s my opinion. A great match combines in-ring action and psychology, proper usage of set pieces and props (i.e. weapons or specific spots.). Any additional elements (the crowd, stipulations, etc.) is just that cherry on top of the sundae.
All of this blended together properly create the compelling form of drama that we call professional wrestling.
With all of that established, let’s dive into my top 20 wrestling matches. Now you more than likely aren’t going to agree with my list and that’s fine. But let’s just appreciate some great matches, shall we? If possible, I’ll leave a link to watch the match on YouTube where you can view it for yourself.
I hope this list can answer the age old question, what goes into a great wrestling match and what are the greatest wrestling matches of all-time.
Top 20 Wrestling Matches of All-Time
20. The Hardy Boys Vs. The Dudley Boys Vs. Edge and Christian for the Tag Team championships at Summerslam 2000
For all the complaints people made about hardcore wrestling in the late 1990s, there’s no denying that when the elements were combined in just the right way, a car crash could be absolutely enthralling. These three teams were the class of the WWE in the late 90s and early 2000s. With all three teams in the midst of their physical primes and each bringing something to contribute to the carnage, it only seems fair to include this on my list. It’s available on the WWE network for an undisclosed subscription fee. But go watch this match if you want to see a spot fest done right.
19. Finn Balor Vs. Seth Rollins for the Universal Title (watch here)
Finn and Seth are two extremely well-traveled wrestlers. They’ve brought down the house in NXT, ROH, Japan, and Europe. So it only seemed fair to give two of the companies most promising young guns a chance to showcase what they were capable of in a match at Summerslam. These two would put on a titanic clash to decide the inaugural Universal champion.
18. MCMG Vs. Generation Me (A.K.A. the Young Bucks) at No Surrender 2012 (watch here)
I love a good spot fest, and the key to this match is creativity. Although the TLC concept was over a decade old by this point, these two pulled totally new tricks out of the bag in order to wow a rabid crowd for the TNA tag team titles. People may rightfully knock TNA all over the internet but when they got something right, they knocked it out of the park.
17. CM Punk Vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011
Now for a more technical affair. all I need to do to convince you that this match was absolute gold is just show you CM Punk’s entrance in his hometown. This is what happens when a white-hot angle combines with two of the companies better workers and in one of the louder pro wrestling cities in the U.S., The Roof nearly comes off the place during the entrance but its deafening at its conclusion which I will not spoil for you. Although CM Punk is persona non grata in WWE now, this match is something no one will forget.
16. Chris Sabin Vs Petey Williams at No Surrender 2005 (watch here)
This match has a very simple story. Aside from the X Division title being on the line in this match, Petey Willams claimed for the longest time that his finisher, the Canadian Destroyer couldn’t be countered. Chris Sabin countered the move with his own finisher, the Cradle Shock. Simple, as far as storytelling devices go, but it made for a very compelling battle for the X Division Title.
15. Shinsuke Nakamura Vs A.J. Styles at Wrestle Kingdom 10 (Watch here)
One of the best “opposing styles” (pardon the pun) matches I’ve seen in a while. Shinsuke and A.J. put on a beauty in Japan at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Words can’t do it justice, just watch it. It’s beautiful in its sheer brutality at times. A.J. Styles is quite simply one of the most gifted workers in the world and Shinsuke Nakamura is the master of the strong style of wrestling prevalent in Japan.
14. Shawn Micheals Vs. Razor Ramon at WrestleMania 10
When you speak of matches that influenced generations, it’s hard to find one that did more than this one. Although many people rightly criticize HBK’s backstage behavior in his heyday in the mid-1990s, there’s no denying how great he was in the ring. This classic that influenced countless ladder matches over the years is one of the perfect showcases of his natural in-ring talents.
13. Bret Hart vs British Bulldog at Summerslam 1992
It’s been said that Bret Hart could carry a broom to a great match. That composure was certainly on display in this match. Context is important here, so allow me to explain. British Bulldog was by no stretch of the imagination ready to go this night. He had been battling serious personal demons for a few years up to this point. He and Bret discussed the match beforehand obviously and the day of the match, he had totally forgotten the plan. Bret stayed cool under pressure and his brother in law to an out and out classic in Wembley Stadium.
12. Mr. Perfect Vs. Bret Hart at Summerslam 1991
Speaking of Bret, he had a technical masterpiece with Mr. Perfect the year before his clash with his brother in law at Summerslam. This is just as if not even more impressive considering that Mr. Perfect’s back was royally screwed up before this took place. He and Bret put the workhorse belt on the map in their clash.
11. Cm Punk Vs Samoa Joe (watch here)
This is one of the matches that put CM Punk on the map. His epic rivalry with another star in Samoa Joe was one of the principle feuds that ROH was built on. After you watch this match, you’ll see why.
10. Rey Mysterio vs. Psicosis at ECW (watch here)
Two of the finest Luchadors of all time in their primes in the promotion that gave them their break in the United States? Yes, please. Rey Mysterio and Psicosis battled countless times across Mexico, and later in WCW, but it was in ECW that their classic rivalry was showcased at it’s finest.
9. Rey Mysterio Vs. Kurt Angle at Summerslam 2002
Speaking of Rey Mysterio, he and Kurt Angle had a beauty of an opening match at Summerslam. The finest technician in the company at the time going against the most gifted luchador in history? I’ll have that every day of the week and twice on Sundays. This set the tone for what many consider the finest Summerslam in history perfectly.
8. Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. Ultimo Dragon at Super J Cup 1995
Jushin “Thunder” Liger is many things. Possessor of one of the coolest masks in history, as well as one of the most important wrestlers in history. An innovator in Japan vs. one of the finest Junior Heavyweights in the midst of his prime. Ultimo Dragon is supremely underrated in my opinion and this gem showcases everything he brought to the table.
7. The Hardy Boys Vs. The Dudley Boys Vs. Edge and Christian at Wrestlemania 17
One of the rare instances where the sequel was just as good, if not better than the original. Wrestlemania 17 is considered one of the best events in wrestling history. TLC 2- electric boogaloo had everything the original had, and then just a bit more from each teams sidekick. Lita, Rhino, and Spike Dudley added just a bit more craziness to this perfect car crash.
6. Eddie Guerrero Vs. Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004
Eddie Guerrero is one of the greatest of all time and it’s a shame we lost him so young. There’s no denying that this match was his crowning achievement in WWE however. He had beaten his demons and proved that he could be trusted as a flag bearer of a brand. Aside from an in match Angle that led to one of the worst matches ever. This was an absolute emotional rollercoaster of a match that deserves a rewatch.
5. Cactus Jack Vs. Triple H at the 2000 Royal Rumble
Now, people don’t care for hardcore wrestling (i.e. extremely violent, weapons based matches.) But this was a blood-soaked ruby in the rough. I mean rough literally because this was hard to watch at times. Unlike most Hardcore matches this told a proper, violent story. In front of Mick Foley’s hometown no less. His final battle would be a perfect, brutal symphony to conclude the hardcore legend’s career.
4. Christopher Daniels Vs AJ Styles Vs Samoa Joe at Unbreakable 2005
As I said before, when TNA got something right they usually knocked it out of the park. I almost needed a cigarette after watching this classic for the first time. 3 of the best in the world going to war for at the time TNA’s foundation. The X Division Title.
3. The Rock Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 19
One of the greatest feuds of all time came to a perfect conclusion at WrestleMania 19. An underrated show all around, this titanic clash would be Stone Cold’s final match ever. They say if it’s the end, you should go in style. This was a barn burner to conclude their more than 10-year long rivalry at the show of shows.
2. The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 18
This crowd. Oh my sweet Lord this crowd. This turned what was already an epic encounter between two representatives of their generations into an outright spectacle. Although far from the most technical match ever, this crowd made it into something that may never be replicated.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs. Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13
They say Wrestlemania is where stars are born, and boy was one born on this night. The sight of Stone Cold passing out in his own blood locked deep into Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter turned him into the kind of person you build a company around. The match itself showcased two if the finest crowd readers in history executing storytelling to brilliance.
Those are my top 20 wrestling matches of all-time. There are so many other great ones that were left out but all of the above wrestling matches have something special about them that others simply don’t have.
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