Home > Retro Columns, wwe > Retro TJR: The Top 50 WWE PPV Matches from 2000 to 2004 (#10-1)

Retro TJR: The Top 50 WWE PPV Matches from 2000 to 2004 (#10-1)

This is part two of the top fifty. For an explanation of what this massive column is all about and to read part one you should click RIGHT HERE. If you’ve already been there and you want to get to the rest then go right ahead. Enjoy!)

The Top 50 WWE PPV Matches from 2000-04 (#10-1)

Original posting date: May 5, 2005

10. Brock Lesnar vs. Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Title @ No Way Out – 02/15/04

The Story: Guerrero had won a Smackdown only 15 man Royal Rumble type match on the first SD after the Rumble to determine who would face Lesnar for the title here at No Way Out. This was built as the typical favorite versus underdog type match. Even though Guerrero had about fifteen years of more experience than Lesnar, he was the underdog due to his size. Lesnar is considerably larger, so obviously Guerrero had an uphill battle to climb. The other thing to note is that Steve Austin over on Raw bought Bill Goldberg a “ticket” for No Way Out to watch Lesnar, which was a continuation of the Goldberg/Lesnar feud that became hotter at the Royal Rumble. Earlier in the show, Goldberg attacked Lesnar in ring and was arrested for his actions by then GM Paul Heyman. Also of note was that pretty much everybody online knew at the time of this match that Guerrero was winning. For me, it didn’t hurt the match, but for some people it might have. Lesnar’s leaving wasn’t known at this point either. That came about a week or two after this.

The Match: Lesnar overpowered Guerrero from the start, working over Guerrero’s ribs and countering a hurricanrana into a stiff powerbomb as well as a couple of overhead belly to belly suplexes. Then Lesnar did a super belly to belly throw that sent Guerrero all the way down to the floor. Guerrero slowed him down by ramming the knee into the post, but Lesnar countered by sending Eddie shoulder first into it. Brock continues with a Fisherman’s Buster and a hard German Suplex as well while continuing to work on the ribs. Lesnar went for the high knee he connected on earlier, but Guerrero moved and Brock went over the top to the floor clutching the knee. Guerrero puts him into the STF while the crowd thought that was it, but Lesnar fought out. Guerrero continued to work on the knee, slapping on the figure four for about a minute until Lesnar made it to the ropes. He followed that up with a Texas Cloverleaf, another STF and that was it because Lesnar busted out another German Suplex as well as a spinebuster for two. Guerrero misses a missile dropkick, so Lesnar busts out the one legged suplex because he’s awesome at selling the leg, then he works on the ribs some more. He grabs him in a reverse bearhug, Eddie counters with headbutts and finally gets a headscissors. Guerrero hits his patented Three Amigo suplexes, then a frog splash attempt missed because Lesnar moved out of the way. Lesnar hit the F5 right into the referee, knocking both Guerrero and ref Brian Hebner out. Lesnar grabs the belt, Goldberg comes in, hits Brock with a spear and leaves. Crowd chants for Eddie, he crawls on top for the cover that only gets two. Thought that was it. The ref was still groggy, so they fought over the belt, F5 attempt by Lesnar countered into a DDT by Guerrero on the belt. Then he chucks the belt out, climbs the top and hits the perfect frog splash for the pinfall victory after 30 minutes.

The Analysis: Wow, I really loved this match. I remember when Eddie won, in my write-up I was so genuinely excited for Guerrero. Watching it again, I’m still excited about this match. I liked the psychology of the match with Guerrero working on the knee as a way to slow Lesnar down while Brock targeted Eddie’s shoulder area because it was an easy part of the body for him to work on. The pacing of the match was perfect too. It was slow at the right times and fast at the right times too. The best thing was it wasn’t too long. Sometimes a match will go thirty and you’ll groan because it would have been better at twenty. This one was the right amount of time because of all the work both guys did in trying to slow the other one down. The only things that kept it from being higher rated is the ref bump and the interference. Other than that, this was outstanding wrestling. My favorite story in any wrestling match is always the big man vs. little man dynamic. I loved it in past matches like Michaels vs. Undertaker in the first Hell in a Cell match, Flair vs. Vader at WCW’s Starrcade ’93 and Michaels vs. Diesel back in April of ’96. I think big man vs. little man prevents the easiest storyline for a wrestling booker to tell. All you have to do is look at the size of the guys and you have your story right there. It’s that easy. Anything you can put on top of that is just gravy, which is what this match had due to Guerrero never being at the top of the mountain before while Lesnar played the bully role so well. It’s a shame Lesnar walked out because this was their first match on PPV and I think it’s safe to assume that if they had more they would be just as good as this one.
Rating: ****3/4

9. Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boys vs. The Hardy Boys for the Tag Team Titles @ WrestleMania X7 – 04/01/01
The Story: This was the third triple threat match in the series between these three tag teams. You read about the first one from WrestleMania 16 (#25) and the second one from Summerslam 2000 (#19). This one was, in my opinion, the best of the three. There wasn’t as much of a storyline for this one as there was in the other two. The first match came as a result of the Hardys and E&C wrestling a ladder match while the Dudleys and Hardys wrestled in a tables match. They put those two together and came up with the table and ladder format. The second one was the result of E&C beginning to use chairs as weapons, leaving each team with their own weapons of choice. This one had less of a story. It came together basically because of how good the previous two were and management knew that if they put this match out there they’d be guaranteed of a great match. There was on difference, however. Each team had a sidekick at the time. The Hardys were managed by Lita, Rhyno had become an ally of E&C while the Dudleys had their “brother” Spike at their side. The impact of those three would provide a different feel to this match, the final one in this series of the three greatest tag teams of this era.

The Match: Oh boy, this is hard to write as always. I’ll do my best. Dudleys take control early, then the Hardys get a turn until E&C come in with the ladders to knock everybody out. Double nut stomp on Matt (seeing Edge do that to Matt now after the Lita thing is really mean, eh?), but Matt gets back up and speared down by Edge. Edge goes up, Jeff dropkicks him down and the Dudleys get taken out too. After some more fun, Dudleys get the tables, then with Edge set up on the table, Bubba powerbombs Jeff through him. Ouch for both guys. The Dudleys then go to the floor and stack up four tables on the floor, two on the ground and two on top. All six guys get in the ring now, they all climb at the same time and they all get knocked down with my boy Christian taking the worst of the falls by going straight to the floor. He’s the only one that went all the way down to the floor. Edge is the first one to climb, but Spike Dudley runs in, knocks him down and hits Christian with a Dudley Dog outside of the ring through a table on the floor in such a cool bump. Now it’s Ryhno’s turn to run-in, so he nails the Dudleys and Hardys with gores, allowing Edge to climb once again. Lita stops Edge, he hits on her (actually no, but it would be funny in retrospect), and she gives Rhyno a headscissors that sends him into the ladder, knocking Edge off. Lita rips off her shirt like the slut that she is (hey, she is, what can I say?) and eats a 3D from the Dudleys. Maybe eats is a bad word to use for Lita. Oh well, too lazy to edit. Edge decks Bubba with a chair as Jeff Hardy pulls out that 16 foot ladder (or however tall it is) on the floor. We see Spike and Rhyno on the tables, so Jeff comes off of there with the Swanton through both tables. Actually it was just Spike’s since Rhyno’s didn’t break, but damn, that’s gotta hurt. Christian and D’Von climb up, then they hang onto the belts and fall down. Meanwhile, Jeff is back up to walk across the ladders, but he stumbles on the last one, climbs up and hangs off the belts, unable to pull them down. Then in the spot of the match, Bubba pulls the ladder out from under Jeff, he swings forward and Edge spears him off a high ladder all the way to the floor. Ouch, man, just plain ouch. Matt and Bubba fight up on top of the big ladder, but Rhyno comes back from the dead to shove the ladder and that sends Matt and Bubba into those stacked tables all the way in the aisle. Wow. That’s the sickest bump of the match. Now it’s a race between E&C and D’Von, but Rhyno assists Christian by putting him on his shoulders and E&C win the match after 16 minutes.

The Analysis: You want words to describe that? How about sick, painful, disgusting, amazing, athletic, insane and awesome all at the same time? There’s more I could use, like holy shit. This was unreal. I don’t care that the concept was done before. It’s not easy to partake in one of these matches and anybody that thinks this concept is old or boring is being naive. Yeah, this was the third one in the series so there was nothing they could do that was unseen before, but they found ways to make it different. The addition of Rhyno, Spike and Lita added something good to the match that wasn’t there before. The spots in this match were once again awesome as all six guys, plus their three friends, busted their asses to put on a great show. As usual, Jeff Hardy took the most insane bumps with the Swanton onto two people as well as the biggest bump of the night which was the spear he took from Edge while hanging onto the belts. It was one of the sickest bumps I have ever seen and quite frankly I’m surprised he could walk after that one. I’m always shocked by these guys walking away without major injuries, although Edge has had neck surgery now. My favorite in the match, Christian, took some crazy bumps as well. While all six guys were climbing to get the belts Christian fell all the way to floor when he was pushed. Two minutes later when Spike Dudley came down Christian took the Dudley Dog from inside the ring to the floor through a table. Then of course there was the bump by Matt Hardy & Bubba Ray Dudley off the giant ladder through the stacked tables on the floor. That was just sick.

The other thing that sticks out is the chemistry these teams had by the time of this match. They had everything planned out so meticulously and perfectly. It worked in every way possible. I liked the ending of this one better than the other two, which makes it the best of the three. I liked it because it was heels acting like heels, cheating to win a match on the biggest stage of them all. I like that a lot. Also of note is the time of the match. I talk so much about match times and if you look at his one compared to the Summerslam TLC match you’ll note that it was three minutes shorter. I like that because it’s unrealistic to expect guys to kill themselves like this for over twenty minutes. Sixteen minutes is the right amount of time. I’d give it five stars, but I can’t in good conscience due to the interference and the ending, even if I liked both of those things.
Rating: ****3/4

8. The Rock vs. Triple H for the World Title in an Ironman Match @ Judgment Day – 05/21/00
The Story: This was the 60-Minute Ironman match for Rock’s World Title, which he won from HHH the month before at Backlash (match #36 on this list). This was during that time when Steve Austin was out with neck injury, so Rock was the top face and HHH was the top heel. Triple H at this point was aligned with all of the McMahons as well as with DX, who at the time was Road Dogg and X-Pac. They were called the McMahon-Helmsley Regime, or as Edge & Christian once called them: “The Fac-gime,” a play on the words faction and regime. They brought back Shawn Michaels to be the referee for this match. Rock pointed out that last time they were in a ring with HBK as ref he cost Rock the match. That on the first weekly Smackdown in August 1999. This feud was built up really well.

The Match: With this being a sixty minute match, I’ll try to condense this part. First ten minutes were pretty slow. Rock hit a Rock Bottom eleven minutes in to go up 1-0. They brawled on the floor with Rock suplexing him back into the ring, then working on HHH’s left knee and sinking in a figure four leglock for a while. Rock whipped him into the steps knee first to work on that injury. Another figure four is countered, HHH hit the Pedigree and got the second fall to tie it 1-1 after 25 minutes. HHH got him in a cradle a minute later for another fall to go up 2-1. The story there was Rock was dazed from the Pedigree. The next few minutes saw some fighting up the aisle as they passed the 30 minute mark. HHH got another fall after a facebuster and a piledriver at the 32 minute mark, taking a 3-1 lead. Rock got a La Majistral cradle for two. Rock busting that out? Awesome. HHH goes for a sleeper to wear him down a bit. Rock came back with a side belly to belly for two. Rock went for his spinning DDT, slipped, but then recovered for a regular DDT to get the fall to make it 3-2 for HHH after 40 minutes. On the floor, HBK took a chair away from HHH, Rock whipped him shoulder first into the steps, then a neckbreaker on the floor. Back in, HHH desperately cracked Rock in the head with a chair, drawing blood and a DQ to allow Rock to tie it at 3-3 after 44 minutes. A minute later, he pins Rock with his feet on the rope to make it 4-3 for HHH. With Rock woozy, a sleeper makes it 5-3 for HHH at the 48 minute mark. HHH and HBK shove, allowing Rock to get back eventually with a superplex for two. Clothesline sends HHH out, then a sling shot into a pole and HHH whips him into the steps. At the announce table, HHH goes for Rock Bottom that Rock turns into a Pedigree. Table doesn’t break. Rock goes back in, HBK counts HHH out to ten for Rock to get a fall and make it 5-4 for HHH with under five minutes left. McMahon’s come out, Rock hits a DDT, punches Shane and Vince, then hits a Spinebuster and People’s Elbow to tie it at 5. Road Dogg and X-Pac out, Rock whipped into Michaels, knocking him out to the floor. Undertaker’s new music starts up, he comes out on the bike and beats up all the McMahon’s. Before he got there, HHH Pedigreed Rock on a chair. Undertaker chokeslam on HHH with a few seconds left, Michaels sees it. Undertaker Tombstone after the clock, Michaels now rings the bell for the DQ. Looks like they missed that cue by about 15 seconds. Ah well, it’s forgivable. Rock gets DQ’d due to Undertaker, so HHH wins the match 6-5 after 60 minutes.

The Analysis: I think the best compliment I’ve heard or seen about this match is that it was so good that you didn’t realize it was 60 minutes long. It was one of those matches that was smartly paced from start to finish. It wasn’t perfect, but it was so good for so long that it deserves all the praise you can heap on it. One of the faults obviously was the ending because they screwed up when Undertaker was going to hit that Tombstone on HHH. I’m guessing they wanted it about 15 seconds earlier. As it was, the buzzer went off, Michaels made no signal and we were left to wonder what happened. Once Undertaker hit that Tombstone, Michaels signaled for the DQ, which should be invalid because it was after the bell. Oh well. I’ll forgive them, but I won’t give them five stars either.

I loved the work of both guys in the match. Rock was busting out stuff like a side belly to belly, the figure four and La Majistral out of nowhere. It was great to see. He should have used those in future matches. What impressed me most about Rock here was the way he was able to sell those beatings in his face. That’s why he’s such a good actor. After taking that Pedigree, he had that glazed look in his face for several minutes. Later on, he was using the same look. As for HHH, he was really on too. He sold that knee great early on, and while I wish he continued to sell it the whole match I understand why he didn’t since Rock didn’t go after the knee past the first twenty minutes. This was around that time period where you could stick these two in there for 15 minutes and you’d get ***1/2 easy. Thing was, we didn’t know how well they’d do over 60 minutes since they are both legit 250+ pound guys. It’s not easy going that long. This match lived up to all the hype and delivered in spades. Outstanding Ironman match, and arguably the best in WWE history. For me, it’s this or Angle/Lesnar. Hart/Michaels was a notch below because it was just too slow early on and Benoit/HHH is about the same due to the interference at the end of it.
Rating: ****3/4

7. Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle for the World Title @ Summerslam – 08/21/01
The Story: This was a World Title match. They were allies for a couple of months during the WWE vs. WCW/ECW Invasion angle. Just before the Invasion PPV in July, Austin came back as a babyface for just one week giving hope to WWE fans along with Vince McMahon. During the big ten man tag match at the Invasion PPV (a match that almost made this list), Austin ended up turning on WWE by attacking Angle, which allowed Booker T. to get a pin for team WCW. He justified his turn by blaming his former ally Vince McMahon saying that he was grooming Angle to be the next champion and Austin didn’t like that. From that, you had Angle playing the screwed over babyface and Austin playing the aggressive, over the top heel who would do whatever it took to retain his title belt promising to make Angle “bleed for the Alliance.” This was built up as a physical encounter and boy did it deliver.

The Match: Before the bell rang, they brawled in the aisle after an awesome staredown. Early on, Angle hit seven German suplexes in a row. In the first ten minutes, after Austin hit Angle with vertical suplexes and a superplex, he hit the Stunner. That got a two, which was frustrating to Austin. He hit another Stunner, but this time Angle went bouncing out to the floor. Outside the ring, Austin whipped Angle headfirst into the ring post six times. Each time, Angle took the bumps beautifully, barely blocking the blows and making it look very realistic. Angle was busted open at this point, probably the best blood I’ve seen from Angle in a match. Austin throws him back in, but he can’t pin him, so they go out on the floor some more. One of my favorite spots was Angle putting the Ankle Lock on the floor, then dragging Austin into the ring by his ankle to apply the hold in the ring until Austin gets to the ropes. More memorable spots: Angle’s belly to belly on the floor, Angle hitting a beautiful moonsault, Austin grabbing the Million Dollar Dream in a flashback to the old days. Angle countered it by pushing off the ropes with his feet, pinning Austin in the process. Just like Bret Hart did to beat Austin at Survivor Series ’96. Austin hits a Stunner, Angle kicks out at two again. Angle Slam follows, but Austin kicks out at two. Ankle Lock time again, but Austin gets to the ropes. He gets up, then decks referee Earl Hebner. DDT gets two for Angle thanks to ref Tim White, who eats a belt shot from Austin. Now WCW ref Nick Patrick, the heel ref during this angle, goes to count a pinfall for Angle, but instead he rings the bell. He announces Angle wins via disqualification. Post match, Angle put Patrick in the Ankle Lock while Austin stammered away still the champion after 21 minutes of wrestling awesomeness.

The Analysis: Where do I begin? I guess the start is a good place. This match was hot from the very beginning when they did that awesome staredown in the aisle. It never slowed down after that. Austin started out the aggressor, beating the hell out of Angle in the ring and with those sick head first bumps into the ringpost. It happened six times, every one of them making you cringe. Then when Angle was on the offensive he just did it with physical wrestling, the way he knows how. From his German suplexes to the overhead belly to belly on the floor, he busted out everything. He even hit a moonsault! He never hits those. I liked the kicking out of finishers because when Angle did it early it made sense since Austin didn’t beat him down that much before. When he got him with it later, it was just a way to show Angle’s toughness. Plus, they had Austin kicking out of the Angle Slam, so it was even in that part.

When I initially saw this match I disliked the finish. However, once I thought about it some more it made sense. They didn’t have a whole lot of choices for babyface opponents for Austin at this point since HHH was hurt, Benoit was hurt, Rock was off filming movies (although he made his PPV return at this show after four months off), Jericho was turning heel and that left Angle as the only viable choice. They had to do it one more time. The finish led to a rematch a month later at Unforgiven, which Angle won in a match that I rated at ***1/2, which made it fall just short of making this top fifty list. Austin then won the belt back again on Raw a couple of weeks later. Back to the point, the finish worked. Austin couldn’t put Angle away, so he intentionally got himself disqualified in order to retain his title. It was desperate, it was cheap and it was perfect for the top heel of the company at the time.

This match worked on so many levels because both guys were on their games as well as I could ever remember. I can’t think of a match where Angle wrestled better as a babyface. Austin was at his heel best here. People who think his heel run didn’t work because the crowd was reluctant to boo him need to watch this match. He got massive heat, and Angle had them jumping for everything he did too. I can’t give it five stars, but I can call it the best match not to get five stars in this list. I loved this match so much that if somebody wanted to argue about this one being five stars or that it should have been higher up on the list I’d have a hard time disagreeing with that.
Rating: ****3/4

6. Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio for the vacant WWE Tag Titles @ No Mercy – 10/20/02
The Story: Ah, the Smackdown Six, how I miss thee. After the brand extension (or roster split) in the spring of 2002, there were no tag team titles on Raw as the only ones were kept on Raw. Then GM Stephanie “Hootie McBoob” McMahon decided to bring tag team titles to Smackdown and a mini-tournament was made to see who would be crowned the tag champions at No Mercy. At the time, the four men involved in this match were having matches with eachother on a regular basis, so they decided to form up to make teams to give some credibility to the new tag team titles. With Undertaker and Lesnar busy in the main event, these four (along with Eddie & Chavo Guerrero) became the teams that the new tag division was built around. Angle and Benoit were heels, playing the role of reluctant tag team partners who didn’t care for one another, but they both wanted to be around the gold, so they put the differences aside in order to be a team. Edge and Mysterio, meanwhile, were the typical babyface team that were friends going together to win these new titles. Mysterio was still new in WWE at this point, Benoit had come back from his neck surgery a few months before while Angle & Edge had a rivalry earlier in the year that Edge eventually won, shaving Angle’s head in the process. While the storyline wasn’t great, the face/heel lines were clearly drawn and it was just a matter of going out and having the best match they could. You know what else ruled about this going in? I had no idea who was going to win the match. That’s always a plus. It was a complete tossup.

The Match: Mysterio and Angle start with Angle overpowering him early until Rey comes back with a head scissors, then a slap in the head and a tag to Edge. They lock up, Edge gets an armdrag and a dropkick as Angle tags Benoit in because he just got owned twice. Edge and Benoit do a mat exchange, then Edge gets a gutbuster and a backbreaker until Benoit comes back with the chops, but Edge comes back with a flapjack followed by a rollup for two. Angle tries to distract Edge and it doesn’t work the first time, but he does it again and now Benoit hits Edge with a clothesline to slow things down. They work over Edge, hitting some suplexes with Benoit nailing the rolling Germans. He goes up top, but Edge superplexes him and tags out. Rey hits a dropkick on both guys, legdrops Benoit for two as Edge and Angle go out on the floor. Mysterio goes for his spinning bulldog counter move, but Benoit shoves him off and slaps on the Crossface. Edge saves Rey, then Angle takes him out and Benoit counters a 619 by catching Rey although that doesn’t work because Edge hits a missile dropkick on them for two. Great move. Rey to the top, and Angle comes out of nowhere for the top rope superplex that we all know and love. Angle hits a belly to belly, then tags in Benoit who gives Rey a huge back body drop because Mysterio is awesome. Back suplex gets two, then he charges, eats a boot, Rey springs off the ropes and puts him in a headscissors, whipping him into the turnbuckle, then he tags in Edge. He gets a back body drop on Edge, a face slam on Benoit and then the Edge-o-Matic move that no announcer ever seems to call right. Benoit takes a spear from Edge, then a Bronco Buster from Rey and I’m glad Rey doesn’t do that move anymore. He’s too good for that. Edge sets Angle up on the top rope, then with Rey charging him he launches him onto Angle on the top and Rey comes off with a hurricanrana off the top perfectly done. Wow. That only got two for Edge. Benoit’s headbutt misses Edge, but it hits Angle as Benoit is thrown out and Edge covers again for two. Angle comes back with a German suplex, then in another awesome spot Edge tosses Rey belly to belly suplex style into Angle so that Rey smacks Angle’s face. Wow again! With Edge waiting on Angle, Benoit gets the Crossface on Edge and Rey breaks that up with a 619 while Benoit has Edge in the Crossface. Fantastic way to break up a move. Angle comes out of nowhere to hit an Angle Slam on Rey, then the Ankle Lock on Edge, but that’s countered into a cradle for two. The crowd thought that was it. Edge gets a spear for just two because Benoit’s there to break that up. Rey takes Benoit out with a baseball slide and then in another amazing move, Edge picks up Rey in a powerbomb-like maneuver and Rey leaps off his shoulders moonsault style onto Benoit on the floor. Amazing. Never seen that before or since. When Edge turns around, Angle’s there to put him in the ankle lock and Edge tries to fight out of it, but Angle ends up forcing the tap out for the victory for his team after 22 minutes.

The Analysis: I’ve seen it four or five times now and watching it for this column was the first time I’d seen it in about two years. I still love it as much as I did the first time. This was during the time when Paul Heyman was booking Smackdown, there were twenty plus minute matches on TV on a regular basis and in cases like this they carried over to PPV once in a while too. The crowd was loving this match from start to finish because they followed the traditional tag team formula. The tag team formula is of course the heel team beating on a single member of the babyface team for a period of time, the face making the hot tag and a finish coming off of that. What was great about this match was that there were TWO hot tag sequences. First Edge got his ass kicked by the bad guys, then Rey made the save and the Angle/Benoit duo were able to isolate him too. It’s rare that you see that in WWE these days. After the first one, I thought the finish was coming, but then they got some more time and it dragged on in every good way possible.

I remember the spots in this match the same way I do in the TLC match. The reason these are more effective to me was because they were so innovative. I’ve seen partners throw eachother into opponents before, but nothing like this. To see Edge first launch Mysterio into Angle on the top and then for Mysterio to come off with a hurricanrana was mind blowingly good. Then it was topped with a belly to belly that sent Rey into Angle. After that, it was topped even more when Rey came off of Edge’s shoulders with a moonsault on Benoit all the way to the floor. What can you say? Mysterio is an athlete unlike any other in the wrestling business. He does stuff that nobody else can do and in this match he was wrestling against the two guys who are arguably the best at making their opponents look great.

Simply put, this is my favorite traditional tag match by any promotion anywhere from any year or any time. I love this match so much. There’s not a thing in it I would change. The finish was right, the amount of time the match got was right and there were no major spots blown or contrived. It was magic. If this was at a show like WrestleMania then this would be remembered as one of the best matches ever. Since it took place at the show where the Katie Vick feud was resolved, it’s not remembered as fondly by the average fan. It’s a shame because this match is a classic.
Rating: *****

A review so far before we get to the top five…

50. SSlam 01 – RVD over Jeff Hardy (Hardcore Ladder) – ***3/4
49. SSlam 04 – Orton over Benoit (World Title) – ***3/4
48. SSlam 02 – Angle over Mysterio – ***3/4
47. Backlash 00 – Malenko over Scotty 2 Hotty (WWE Light Heavy Title) – ***3/4
46. No Mercy 02 – Lesnar over Undertaker (WWE Title – HIAC) – ***3/4
45. Survivor Series 03 – Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Booker T., Rob Van Dam, Dudley Boys) vs. Team Bischoff (Chris Jericho, Christian, Mark Henry, Scott Steiner, Randy Orton) – ***3/4
44. Armageddon 02 – Benoit over Guerrero – ***3/4
43. Vengeance 04 – Benoit over HHH (World Title) – ****
42. Survivor Series 01 – Team WWE (Rock, Taker, Jericho, Big Show, Kane) over Team Alliance (Austin, Angle, Booker, RVD, Shane) – ****
41. WM 04 – Guerrero over Angle (WWE Title) – ****
40. KOTR 01 – Angle over Shane (Street Fight) – ****
39. Rumble 02 – Jericho over Rock (Undisputed World Title) – ****
38. Backlash 00 – Benoit over Jericho via DQ (IC Title) – ****
37. Backlash 02 – Angle over Edge – ****1/4
36. Backlash 00 – Rock over HHH (World Title) – ****1/4
35. Survivor Series 02 – Michaels over HHH, RVD, Kane, Jericho & Booker (World Title – Elim Chamber) – ****1/4
34. GAB 04 – Mysterio over Chavo (Cruiser Title) – ****1/4
33. No Mercy 00 – Angle over Rock (World Title) – ****1/4
32. No Mercy 00 – HHH over Benoit – ****1/4
31. Vengeance 02 – Rock over Undertaker, Angle (Undisputed World Title) – ****1/4
30. SSlam 00 – Benoit over Jericho (2/3 Falls) – ****1/4
29. WM 01 – Angle over Benoit – ****1/4
28. NWO 00 – HHH over Cactus (HIAC World Title) – ****1/4
27. Unforgiven 02 – Benoit over Angle – ****1/4
26. Vengeance 03 – Angle over Show, Lesnar (WWE Title) – ****1/4
25. WM 00 – E&C over Hardys & Dudleys (Tag Title Tables & Ladders Match) – ****1/4
24. Fully Loaded 00 – Rock over Benoit (World Title) – ****1/4
23. Backlash 04 – Orton over Cactus Jack – ****1/4
22. SSlam 03 – Angle over Lesnar (WWE Title) – ****1/4
21. NWO 01 – Rock over Angle (World Title) – ****1/2
20. JDay 00 – Benoit over Jericho (IC Submission) – ****1/2
19. Summerslam 00 – E&C over Dudleys, Hardys (TLC Tag Titles) – ****1/2
18. Fully Loaded 00 – HHH over Jericho (Last Man Standing) – ****1/2
17. No Mercy 01 – Jericho over Rock (WCW Title) – ****1/2
16. Backlash 04 – Benoit over Michaels & HHH (World Title) – ****1/2
15. SSlam 02 – Michaels over HHH (Street Fight) – ****1/2
14. WM 03 – Michaels over Jericho – ****1/2
13. WM 03 – Lesnar over Angle (WWE Title) – ****1/2
12. Rumble 01 – Jericho over Benoit (IC title ladder match) – ****1/2
11. Bad Blood 04 – HHH over Michaels (HIAC) – ****1/2
10. NWO 04 – Guerrero over Lesnar (WWE Title) – ****3/4
9. WM 01 – E&C over Dudleys & Hardys (TLC Tag titles) – ****3/4
8. JDay 00 – HHH over Rock (World Title – Ironman) – ****3/4
7. SSlam 01 – Angle over Austin via DQ (WWE Title) – ****3/4
6. No Mercy 02 – Angle & Benoit over Edge & Mysterio (WWE Tag Titles) – *****

Now for the top five PPV matches in the WWE between 2000 and 2004…

5. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit for the World Title @ WrestleMania XX – 03/14/04
The Story: This was for HHH’s world title. At the Royal Rumble two months prior, HHH and Michaels wrestled to a draw in a last man standing match when neither man was able to answer the ten count. On that same show, Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble from the number one position. The next night on Raw, Benoit showed up as the number one contender to the title. He had previously been on Smackdown, but there was some sort of stipulation that allowed him to pick what show he could be on after winning the Rumble. Michaels, meanwhile, didn’t want to let HHH out of his sights so he claimed that he deserved the WM shot. Following a contract signing where Michaels signed the contract after superkicking Benoit, GM Eric Bischoff ruled that it would be a triple threat match for HHH’s world title.

The Match: Fast action from the get go. Each guy got their time to be in control early on. With Benoit and Trips on the floor, Michaels hit a moonsault press on them. Benoit took control, putting Michaels shoulder first into the corner. HHH props Benoit up in the corner upside down and whips Michaels hard into him. Michaels comes back, hits the forearm on HHH, kips up and gets knocked out by Benoit. Three Germans on HHH, Michaels blocks a headbutt, HHH hits a DDT and off Michaels goes to the floor. After a struggle, Crossface on HHH by Benoit, but that gets stopped by HBK. Michaels hits a German, but Benoit counters for three of his own, then the headbutt gets two. Benoit gets knocked to the floor, Michaels hits the elbow and superkick for two, but that gets stopped by Benoit yanking HHH to the floor. Benoit slingshots Michaels into the post leading to a typically sick blade job by Michaels. Crossface, Michaels almost taps, but HHH blocks his hand from hitting the mat in a memorable spot. They go out on the floor and the former DXers reunite for a moment to double suplex Benoit through that announce table in another memorable spot. With Benoit out, Michaels goes in the ring to tell HHH to come get him. They go at it in the ring a bit, then Michaels sends HHH out and puts him into the ringpost so he can bleed now too. Trips fights back with a Pedigree that gets two as Benoit makes the desperation save. Sharpshooter on Triple H, he almost taps when Michaels superkicks Benoit for two. Goes for another superkick as the crowd is going nuts for Benoit, but he can’t get it as Benoit dumps him to the floor. Now it’s just Benoit and HHH in there, Pedigree gets reversed into the Crossface. Every time HHH tries to get ropes Benoit pulls back on it even more. The crowd’s chanting for the tap, as is everybody at home, and HHH finally taps to end it, giving Benoit his first world title in WWE after 25 minutes of awesomeness.

The Analysis: I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again, I’m not a huge fan of triple threat matches. I understand why they are done in the first place. I just find them to be too repetitive with the constant “hit the finisher, other guy breaks it up” stuff that happens seemingly in every triple threat match. With that said, this is my favorite triple threat match ever and I doubt any one in the future can top this. Sure, it’s probably because of who was in it seeing as how Benoit and Michaels are two of my three all time favorites, along with Austin. I like HHH too, obviously, and the three of them combined for a great match worthy of the first ever triple threat WrestleMania main event.

There’s so many things to like. They did a tremendous job of getting in nearfalls as well as near submissions. The fans were really into Benoit here, booing Michaels a lot of the time and of course booing HHH as well. My favorite spots were the Crossface on Michaels where HHH stopped the tap literally with his own hand. Then the other spot was that double suplex through the table because it was such a hard, emphatic bump for Benoit to take. Of course the ending was very memorable as well with HHH tapping clean to the Crossface. I think going into the match a lot of us had the feeling that Benoit was going to win, but for it to be in a clean match with no ref bumps and HHH tapping clean made it work all that much more. If this ended on a rollup or cradle or something then maybe it’s not five stars. However, since it was a decisive ending I think it’s worthy of the full monty. In terms of matches giving me a happy ending at the end of it, this one would be first overall because as a moment I don’t think this could have been better.
Rating: *****

4. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit for the WWE Title @ Royal Rumble – 01/19/03
The Story: This is for Angle’s WWE title, which he won the month before from Big Show at Armageddon. He was a quasi face during that match, soliciting the help of Brock Lesnar to overcome Big Show and thanks to a Lesnar F5 on Show he was able to win the match, then the title. Then he turned on Lesnar, siding with Brock’s former agent Paul Heyman. The result? Lesnar attacked him and gave him an F5 into the ring post putting Angle on the shelf. This was his first title defense. He did have surgery to clear up cartilage in his knee, missed about a month of action and came back to defend the belt here against Benoit while sporting a knee brace. At the end of 2002 these two were tag team champions even though they hated eachother and wrestled against one another regular. The story going in was Benoit was up 2-0 on Angle in their recent matches, one of them being from Unforgiven (#27 on this list). Team Angle, who had just debuted the month before, got thrown out before the match started.

The Match: Early on, Benoit worked on Angle’s knees while Angle went after his neck. Nice spot early as Benoit DDT’s Angle on the apron. In the ring there was a nice suplex exchange with Benoit hitting a couple Germans, Angle getting one of his own and then Benoit getting another one. Benoit went up top for the headbutt after a snot rocket (I love that!), but Angle countered with his pop up superplex move that always has me marking out. Angle Slam gets countered into a Crossface, but Kurt gets ropes. Benoit sinks on the Ankle Lock, Angle turns it into one of his own and then Benoit turns that into a Crossface. Amazing counters continue as Angle turns that into a rollup for two, then another Benoit Crossface gets countered into an Angle Slam. Wow. Great nearfall for two. Ankle Lock countered into a roll through, then an Angle German suplex is turned into a roll through for Benoit that gets another long two. More German time as Benoit hits one, then Angle hits one and Benoit hits the last one as Angle takes the bump onto his stomach in that moonsault like bump. Benoit climbs the far corner and hits a headbutt from 3/4 of the way across the ring! Sick. Disgusting. That’s the farthest I’ve seen him go for a headbutt. “Holy Shit” chant follows as Benoit gets two. Angle gets control, then powerbombs Benoit face first into the turnbuckle, then hits another Angle Slam for only two. Another fantastic nearfall. Benoit plays possum, hits Angle in the Crossface, but Angle counters that into an Ankle Lock, Benoit fights it off, Angle pulls him in the middle, drops the leg into the heel hook and Benoit is force to tap out after 20 minutes. Post match, Benoit got the very memorable standing ovation.

The Analysis: This wasn’t a match for the people who like stand up brawls with lots of blood in a match. This was a technical wrestling masterpiece. This is the match you want to show people who want to get into the wrestling business. Put the thing on, tell the person to watch carefully how two masters are able to make us believe in every single thing they do in the ring. I don’t think what I wrote can cover every counter they did. Everything was done so crisply, so sharp and so fast that if you blinked you might have missed it. I think that’s why I like this match so much. Too many big matches rely on fighting on the floor, a ref bump, a cheap weapon shot and things like that. This match had none of that. They barely were on the floor. It was pure wrestling. A definition of pure wrestling.

I remember watching this match live and thinking how slow they were going at the start. The crowd wasn’t into it until after about the eight or nine minute mark when they really started trading those suplexes. They won the Boston crowd over with their chain wrestling. Imagine that? Chain wrestling winning over fans in 2003. It was a good sign. The Benoit headbutt was so memorable not just because of how far he jumped from, but because it followed that sick bump that Angle took on his stomach following the German suplex. There were so many sequences in this match that makes it stick out. The reversals from the Ankle Lock into the Crossface and vice versa were not easy to do, yet they made it work. They pulled them off. They made them believable and everytime a submission was locked in you expected a counter. That’s why the finish worked so well. When Angle had that final Ankle Lock sunk in you thought that Benoit would find a way to get out of it. Then, when he didn’t, all you could do is sit and applaud the masterful effort by both men. The standing ovation for Benoit after it was over? One of my favorite moments in wrestling ever. Great match, and the best one in 2003 in my opinion.
Rating: *****

3. Triple H vs. Steve Austin in a Three Stages of Hell Match @ No Way Out – 02/25/01
The Story: Simply put, I feel like the build for this match was better than any match I had ever seen in WWE up until this point. There’s so many good things about it that it’s hard to list. Basically, HHH got Rikishi to run over Austin at Survivor Series ’99 and they had a brutal match a year later. Austin dropped Triple H in a car from about twenty feet in the air, but of course HHH was fine within a couple weeks. The feud simmered over the next couple of months as HHH screwed Austin out of the title in a match against Angle on Raw, then Austin returned the favor by doing the same thing at the Rumble. After the Rumble, which Austin won, this match was announced. The rule was that they weren’t allowed to have any physical contact before the match, so they had a contract signing where HHH roused Austin by attacking him before he actually signed the contract. It ruled. The match was also made into a two out of three falls match unlike any we’ve seen before, calling it a “3 Stages of Hell” match. First fall would be a regular match, second fall would be a street fight and the third fall, if one was needed (when is one NOT needed?), would be a cage match.

The Match: This match started out as hot as you’d expect it to. They were very aggressive from the very beginning, and the crowd ate it up huge. The first fall ended up going to Austin, who countered the Pedigree to win with the Stunner. It was a good sequence. The next fall was perfect, right up the alley of both men as they brawled all over the place. A barbed wire bat was used, a chair was used, Triple H got back dropped through a table and as expected when it’s these two guys, there was plenty of blood. Hunter got the fall this time, hitting Austin with the Pedigree to tie it up. The cage came down next with the ring still filled with materials stemming from the street fight portion of the match. More brawling ensued with HHH dominating most of the way. After stealing from patented Flair moves (the flop and the slam off the top), Hunter hit him with the Pedigree for two. Then Austin hit HHH with the Stunner for two. At this point they both regrouped, Austin grabbed the barb wire bat, HHH grabbed the sledgehammer and they hit eachother at the same time. HHH fell on top for the fluke win. Amazing ending after 40 minutes of non-stop action.

The Analysis: This was a big match in many ways, especially for Austin. Just four months before this match he came back from neck surgery and we didn’t really know what kind of shape he’d be in. He had some really good TV matches, and some okay PPV ones, but nothing to really tell us what we’d get from him here. What we ended up with was one of the finest brawls ever. The action did not stop here. Sure, at times they moved slower to sell the beatdowns and there’s a good chance Austin was legit tired, but it didn’t hurt the match one bit. What I liked the best about this match was it was booked so evenly. Neither guy was on the receiving end of punishment more than the other one. It was about as even a brawl as you could get, and obviously that was the goal of both guys once you saw the ending, which was also very even. I can’t praise it enough. This was two guys at the top of their game in an element they had perfect. It doesn’t get much better than this.

I remember at the time of match that I was upset with HHH going over here. While they made it clear that Austin wouldn’t lose his Mania main event slot, I was surprised that he lost here. Then when I mulled it over a bit more, I realized it was done with a hint toward the future, for that future Austin/HHH match later in the year where HHH would point out that he beat Austin earlier. Austin didn’t have to win here, so the booking did make sense after all. When I did my 2001 year end awards this was my match of the year (I’ve since changed my tune ever so slightly), as well as feud of the year. Austin was my wrestler of the year in 2001 while HHH was my wrestler of the year in 2000. While this match was exceptional, there was the sense that there’d be more from Austin and Hunter in the future. Sadly, there wasn’t and there probably never will be, but that’s okay because this match will stand on its own in my memory for as long as I live. Simply awesome.
Rating: *****

2. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack for the World Title @ Royal Rumble – 01/23/00
The Story: This was a street fight in New York. Triple H was the heel world champion, happily “married” to Stephanie McMahon as the two were “running” WWE since HHH beat the crap out of Vince a month prior to this. On the last Raw of 1999, HHH put Foley (then as Mankind) in a match against the Rock with the stipulation being a “Pink Slip on a Pole” match. Whoever got the pink slip off the pole would keep his job while the loser would be fired. Al Snow interfered for Foley, but Mick refused to cheat and Rock eventually won, thus firing Foley in the process. A week later HHH regained the World Title from Big Show to the shock of nobody. Meanwhile, HHH and a fake Mankind (played by Dennis Knight aka Mideon) did these funny skits to make fun of Foley now that he was “fired.” A week after HHH won the belt, The Rock and all the wrestlers held a protest demanding that HHH re-hires Foley, so he does and Foley asks for a title match. During a tag match later that night, HHH put Foley through a table and bloodied him badly. On Smackdown a few days after that, Foley says he’s not able to fight HHH in a street fight, but he knew somebody that could: Cactus Jack. Very memorable image there with Foley taking off the white shirt to show the Cactus shirt underneath. The build to this match was fantastic. Amazing intensity and beatdowns during the weeks of Raw and Smackdown leading up to it.

The Match: Brawl to start, Hunter bails and Cactus follows with a neckbreaker on the floor, then a leg drop to the back of the head. Cactus nails him with the ring steps followed by the ring bell. Hunter recovers with the bell to the head. HHH with a SICK chair shot, then Cactus with a legdrop on the chair for two. Into the aisle way near the crowd, Cactus suplexes HHH onto some wooden pallets and HHH gets a huge cut in his left calf. Running knee into the steps for Cactus, then he rolls him back in and finds the barbed wire 2×4 bat under the ring. Low blow by HHH, Cactus comes back with the barb wire bat into the nuts. Double arm DDT gets two. After the ref takes the bat away, he gets it back and nails HHH in the face with it, then does the elbow drop with the bat as the camera shows HHH’s bloody face for two. He works over the cut some more, then goes for a piledriver through the table, but HHH reverses it into a backdrop through the table. In ring, Foley counters the Pedigree with a facebuster into the barbwire for two. On the floor, Cactus takes his crazy hip toss bump into the steps that he takes on his legs, then another one into the steps that he takes on the knees. HHH gets handcuffs from a bag, revealing handcuffs, which is a nod to Foley’s match against Rock the year prior where he was beaten while in cuffs. After a shot to the knee, he cuffs him, then gets the ring steps, but Cactus counters with a drop toe hold onto the steps. Boot to the face, then a low blow, but HHH comes back with a clothesline. Couple of chair shots to the back send Cactus out to the floor where HHH drills him in the head by the entrance. As he’s going for another shot, the Rock (now a friend of Foley’s) comes out to chair HHH to a thunderous pop as a cop unlocks the cuffs that Foley is in. Cactus comes back, hits a stump piledriver on the Spanish table, but it doesn’t break. He rolls him in, then dumps a bag full of thumbtacks. Like an idiot, Cactus charges at HHH and takes a backdrop straight onto the tacks in a sick spot. The crowd was gasping as soon as he charged. Pedigree for HHH gets him just two. Awesome nearfall. This time, he Pedigrees him FACE FIRST ON THE TACKS and that’s it for the HHH win after 27 minutes.

The Analysis: The best kinds of matches are the ones where both competitors have something to prove. Was Triple H capable enough to carry his end of a streetfight against the man that many considered to be the greatest brawler ever? Did Mick Foley have another classic match in him after wrestling very little in the months leading up to this match? The answer to both of those questions was yes. A resounding yes. This match was the perfect example of intelligent storytelling meshing together perfectly with two performers that did their job as well as humanly possible.

There were four elements that made this match memorable. The first one being HHH’s blood loss not just in his face, but in his leg. That wasn’t supposed to happen, obviously, yet it was impossible to avoid seeing a heavy amount of blood squirting out of a man’s leg. You couldn’t watch this match without coming away with a huge amount of respect for the guy for working through that injury. Then there was the barb wire shots, those were greeted with huge reactions and they worked. The handcuff moment was very dramatic because everybody knew about the year before where Foley got the shit literally knocked out of him by Rock when the cuffs were on him. Finally, the thumbtacks paid homage to the first Hell in a Cell match where Foley memorably took some vicious Undertaker moves onto the tacks. He did it again here and I have to say the Pedigree into the tacks has to be one of the most conclusive endings to any match I have ever seen.

By the end of the match, both guys looked a lot better than when they entered the ring. Sure, Triple H had blood all over his face and Cactus Jack had tacks in his face, but I don’t think either of them complained too much. Triple H gained a lot of credibility as world champion because he defeated a man cleanly in his specialty match. Cactus Jack proved that he could hang with a hungry, young champion. Even though he lost he came out of the match looking like a champion. This match had everything that makes wrestling great: A lot of heat, tremendous psychology, a high level of workrate, a rabid crowd and two men that did a wonderful job of making the other guy look good. Foley said it himself in his book, Foley is Good, when he said that they helped “make” eachother here. When you combine great chemistry with a great story the end result will usually be a match for the ages and that’s what we got here.

If you want to read more about this match, I wrote a whole column about it with detailed build, story and analysis. The link is here.
Rating: *****

To be perfectly honest, I was torn on what my number one match was going to be. At one point I had Austin/HHH in first, but then I realized I like HHH/Cactus more. Then I watched those two along with the number one match on the same day back to back to back and I realized what my number one match was going to be. My top three was set pretty much from day one of working on this project. It was just the order that was tough. Of course, if you ask me in a month what I liked best of the three maybe my answer will be different. Since I’m only doing this column once then I’d say the number one WWE PPV match of the past five years is…

1. The Rock vs. Steve Austin for the World Title @ WrestleMania X7 – 04/01/01
The Story: I think if you’re a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment then you know about this match because it was basically the capper of the excellent Attitude era that consumed the WWE during the rise of these two fantastic performers. This was for the World Title with Rock coming into the match as the world champion and Austin coming in as number one contender due to his win in the Royal Rumble match. Both men came into the match as babyfaces, with Austin having more support since the match was in Houston and his home state of Texas. The build to the match was awesome, with both guys having face to face showdowns over the weeks on TV. There actually was a storyline with Austin’s real life wife at the time Debra being appointed the manager of Rock, but after they realized it wasn’t working that was simply dumped about a week before the match. Then they did this interview with JR in the locker room where Austin had this crazy look in his eye and said: “I need that title.” The video package, although part of that annoying “My Way” song by Limp Bizkit, is probably my favorite of any WWE match ever. Even though these two had matches before, this one was different because you just knew, you had that feeling that you’d be seeing something special.

The Match: When the match began, it was announced as a no DQ match. That was a surprise to fans and JR mentioned it as well. The pop that Austin received to start this match was up there with any pop the man has ever gotten. Home state, over 60,000 people, yeah, it’s what you expect. The action in this match was amazing. From the minute the bell rang, this was a standup brawl that never slowed down. Rock got booed at times because the fans were so into Austin, but that helped the match, I think. Early on there was the only bad spot of the match as Earl Hebner went to pass Rock the blade, but they ended up dropping it and Rock nonchalantly bent down to pick it up. Then he turned around, Austin caught him with the ring bell and there was the blood. It’s okay Rock, I don’t mind. Soon after, it’s Austin’s turn to eat the ring bell for some blood, which of course is a better cut than what Rock did. Rock takes some more shots to the head, selling it beautifully all the while. Then my favorite sequence comes next as Rock’s sharpshooter gets turned into one of his own by Austin (paying homage to Austin/Hart @ WM13) and Austin hits the Million Dollar Dream only for Rock to counter by climbing the ropes and pushing back, but Austin lets go of the hold to save himself from getting pinned. The beauty there was that was the finish to Austin/Hart at Survivor Series ’96, but Austin didn’t release the hold there and it led to Hart’s win.

Rock comes back with a stunner for two, then Vince McMahon comes out. Vince ends up saving Austin after Rock hit’s a People’s Elbow. Back in the ring, Austin hits him with a Rock Bottom for two. Love the stealing of finishers. Small ref bump leads to Austin telling Vince to come in to chair Rock leading to a two count. Stunner for Austin gets two. Chairshot for Austin gets two. Rock won’t go away. Then it’s finish time with Austin hitting Rock with about a dozen chairshots all over his body. Rock quivers, which is an awesome way to sell that because you know it had to hurt the whole body. That gets Austin the pin and the title after about 30 minutes of action. He shakes hands with McMahon post match while the crowd isn’t really cheering or booing. Mostly cheers because they wanted Austin to win.

The Analysis: I think what’s most impressive about the match to me was it never slowed down. Neither guy stopped. It was full of action with memorable moments happening all the time. There wasn’t a point in the match where you could say it lagged for three minutes. It didn’t. It continued to flow from the minute the bell rang until the match was over. I thought each guy was phenomenal, which is no surprise when you’re talking about the number one match on this list. I don’t know if Rock was ever better than what he did here. His chemistry with Austin was always amazing. They had several good matches before this, no doubt. It’s just that this one went up another level.

The work Austin did here was the real story. He was, simply put, a machine. There was nothing flawed in his performance. The crowd was cheering him, but he wrestled as aggressively and as viciously as the best heels of any generation. The facial expressions he used when he couldn’t pin were great. The way he would loudly swear after getting all those nearfalls at the end were excellent. You could look in his eyes to see the emotion. That’s what professional wrestling is at its best. It’s one thing to have a great brawl, but to have that plus each performer doing exactly what you’d hope for during the match shows just how great both of them were on this night.

Not only do I feel that this is the best match of the past five years, but also the best World Title match ever and the best WrestleMania main event match ever. I wouldn’t put it ahead of Austin/Hart @ WM13, but it’s damn close. This is one of those matches that will never get old. This match was the Hogan/Andre or Flair/Sting of this generation of fans. When it comes to defining moments, this is it. It was the end of the Attitude era, which will be remembered as one of the best times to be a fan of the World Wrestling Federation. I don’t think they could have asked for anything better as the end of that era.

Pro wrestling doesn’t get any better than this.
Rating: *****

Now that the list is done it’s time to bring it home some facts about the lists as well as some final comments about why I decided to write this massive column in the first place.

The Top 50 Master List
Here’s the final full list in descending order:
50. SSlam 01 – RVD over Jeff Hardy (Hardcore Ladder) – ***3/4
49. SSlam 04 – Orton over Benoit (World Title) – ***3/4
48. SSlam 02 – Angle over Mysterio – ***3/4
47. Backlash 00 – Malenko over Scotty 2 Hotty (WWE Light Heavy Title) – ***3/4
46. No Mercy 02 – Lesnar over Undertaker (WWE Title – HIAC) – ***3/4
45. Survivor Series 03 – Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Booker T., Rob Van Dam, Dudley Boys) vs. Team Bischoff (Chris Jericho, Christian, Mark Henry, Scott Steiner, Randy Orton) – ***3/4
44. Armageddon 02 – Benoit over Guerrero – ***3/4
43. Vengeance 04 – Benoit over HHH (World Title) – ****
42. Survivor Series 01 – Team WWE (Rock, Taker, Jericho, Big Show, Kane) over Team Alliance (Austin, Angle, Booker, RVD, Shane) – ****
41. WM 04 – Guerrero over Angle (WWE Title) – ****
40. KOTR 01 – Angle over Shane (Street Fight) – ****
39. Rumble 02 – Jericho over Rock (Undisputed World Title) – ****
38. Backlash 00 – Benoit over Jericho via DQ (IC Title) – ****
37. Backlash 02 – Angle over Edge – ****1/4
36. Backlash 00 – Rock over HHH (World Title) – ****1/4
35. Survivor Series 02 – Michaels over HHH, RVD, Kane, Jericho & Booker (World Title – Elim Chamber) – ****1/4
34. GAB 04 – Mysterio over Chavo (Cruiser Title) – ****1/4
33. No Mercy 00 – Angle over Rock (World Title) – ****1/4
32. No Mercy 00 – HHH over Benoit – ****1/4
31. Vengeance 02 – Rock over Undertaker, Angle (Undisputed World Title) – ****1/4
30. SSlam 00 – Benoit over Jericho (2/3 Falls) – ****1/4
29. WM 01 – Angle over Benoit – ****1/4
28. NWO 00 – HHH over Cactus (HIAC World Title) – ****1/4
27. Unforgiven 02 – Benoit over Angle – ****1/4
26. Vengeance 03 – Angle over Show, Lesnar (WWE Title) – ****1/4
25. WM 00 – E&C over Hardys & Dudleys (Tag Title Tables & Ladders Match) – ****1/4
24. Fully Loaded 00 – Rock over Benoit (World Title) – ****1/4
23. Backlash 04 – Orton over Cactus Jack – ****1/4
22. SSlam 03 – Angle over Lesnar (WWE Title) – ****1/4
21. NWO 01 – Rock over Angle (World Title) – ****1/2
20. JDay 00 – Benoit over Jericho (IC Submission) – ****1/2
19. Summerslam 00 – E&C over Dudleys, Hardys (TLC Tag Titles) – ****1/2
18. Fully Loaded 00 – HHH over Jericho (Last Man Standing) – ****1/2
17. No Mercy 01 – Jericho over Rock (WCW Title) – ****1/2
16. Backlash 04 – Benoit over Michaels & HHH (World Title) – ****1/2
15. SSlam 02 – Michaels over HHH (Street Fight) – ****1/2
14. WM 03 – Michaels over Jericho – ****1/2
13. WM 03 – Lesnar over Angle (WWE Title) – ****1/2
12. Rumble 01 – Jericho over Benoit (IC title ladder match) – ****1/2
11. Bad Blood 04 – HHH over Michaels (HIAC) – ****1/2
10. NWO 04 – Guerrero over Lesnar (WWE Title) – ****3/4
9. WM 01 – E&C over Dudleys & Hardys (TLC Tag titles) – ****3/4
8. JDay 00 – HHH over Rock (World Title – Ironman) – ****3/4
7. SSlam 01 – Angle over Austin via DQ (WWE Title) – ****3/4
6. No Mercy 02 – Angle & Benoit over Edge & Mysterio (WWE Tag Titles) – *****
5. WM 04 – Benoit over HHH & Michaels (World Title) – *****
4. Rumble 03 – Angle over Benoit (WWE Title) – *****
3. NWO 01 – HHH over Austin (3 Stages of Hell) – *****
2. Rumble 00 – HHH over Cactus (World Title street fight) – *****
1. WM 01 – Austin over Rock (World Title) – *****

The Wrestler Appearances in the Top 50
First you’ll see the number of appearances, then you’ll see the wrestler’s name and the match numbers that the person is in will be inside the brackets. I want to thank my buddy Cash for helping me with this part. Here’s that list.

1. 16 Matches – Kurt Angle (4, 6, 7, 13, 21, 22, 26, 27, 29, 31, 33, 37, 40, 41, 42, 48)
2. 15 – Chris Benoit (4, 5, 6, 12, 16, 20, 24, 27, 29, 30, 32, 38, 43, 44, 49)
3. 13 – Triple H (2, 3, 5, 8, 11, 15, 16, 18, 28, 32, 35, 36, 43)
4. 11 – Chris Jericho (12, 14, 17, 18, 20, 30, 35, 38, 39, 42, 45)
5. 10 – The Rock (1, 8, 17, 21, 24, 31, 33, 36, 39, 42)
6. 7 – Shawn Michaels (5, 11, 14, 15, 16, 35, 45)
7. (tie) 5 – Brock Lesnar (10, 13, 22, 26, 46) and Edge (6, 9, 19, 25, 37)
9. (tie) 4 – Steve Austin (1, 3, 7, 42), Christian (9, 19, 25, 45), Bubba Ray Dudley (9, 19, 25, 45), D-Von Dudley (9, 19, 25, 45), Jeff Hardy (9, 19, 25, 50)
14. (tie) 3 – Booker T. (35, 42, 45), Cactus Jack (2, 23, 28), Eddie Guerrero (10, 41, 44), Matt Hardy (9, 19, 25), Randy Orton (23, 45, 49), Rey Mysterio (6, 34, 48), Rob Van Dam (35, 42, 50), Undertaker (31, 42, 46)
22. (tie) 2 – Big Show (26, 42), Kane (35, 42), Shane McMahon (40, 42)
25. (tie) 1 – Chavo Guerrero (34), Scott Steiner (45), Mark Henry (45), Dean Malenko (47), Scotty 2 Hotty (47)

Notes: – The race for the top was a close one, but Angle just edged out Benoit. Each man has missed significant ring time, although each of them were active for about 75% of the time that this list was based on.
– Triple H has the most top ten appearances with four and the most top twenty appearances with eight. Even though he doesn’t have the most appearances, that certainly makes him a candidate for being the best “big match” wrestler.
– While Angle and HHH are two of the top three, none of their singles matches made the list. All of them were close. I just didn’t feel they were good enough. Their triple threat at Summerslam 2000 and six way match at Armageddon also were really close.
– Christian, D-Von, and Bubba all have the same matches in the top fifty. They’re the three tag title matches as well as the tradition Survivor Series tag match from 2003.
– Angle and Benoit have four matches on here that they are involved in together with one of them being a tag team match when they were on the same team.
– Mick Foley has had five PPV matches since 2000, three of them made it and all of his singles efforts are on here. That’s pretty good.
– There’s only one traditional tag team match in this list, and it’s the one involving Benoit/Angle vs. Edge/Mysterio
– There are four singles matches between Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in the list. Three of them were for the Intercontinental Title, all of which were the only IC title matches on the list.
– There are no Rock matches on the list from the past two years, showing just how good he was in the first three years of this time period.
– Shawn Michaels didn’t even wrestle for the first two and a half years that this list is based on, yet he still managed to land in sixth place.
– Mark Henry wins the award as the worst wrestler on the list.
– There were 29 different people that appeared in this list.

The Years Represented in the Top 50
1. 2000 – 14 matches (#2, 8, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 28, 30, 32, 33, 36, 38, 47)
2. 2001 – 11 matches (#1, 3, 7, 9, 12, 17, 21, 29, 40, 42, 50)
3. 2002 – 10 matches (#6, 15, 27, 31, 35, 37, 39, 44, 46, 48)
4. 2004 – 9 matches (#5, 10, 11, 16, 23, 34, 41, 43, 49)
5. 2003 – 6 matches (#4, 13, 14, 22, 26, 45)

Notes: – The year 2000 ran away with this one. It was a year full of matches in the four star range.
– Despite 2001 finishing in second, it placed four matches in the top ten.
– Of the six matches from 2003, four of them feature Kurt Angle. The other two are from the Raw brand.

PPVs Represented in the Top 50
I’m not going to list the matches this time. I’m just going to list the PPVs and note how many times a match from that PPV appeared.

1. 8 Appearances – WrestleMania, Summerslam
3. 6 – Backlash
4 (tie). 5 – No Mercy, July PPVs (Fully Loaded, Vengeance)
6. (tie). 4 – Royal Rumble, No Way Out
8. 3 – Survivor Series, June PPVs (Bad Blood, King of the Ring, Great American Bash)
10. 2 – Judgment Day
11 (tie). 1 – Unforgiven, Armageddon

Notes: – I’m not shocked by WrestleMania and Summerslam being at the top. They have perennially been the best PPVs on a regular basis.
– Backlash being third isn’t surprising because it’s usually a card that follows up WrestleMania, so the quality tends to be there too.
– I am shocked that the Royal Rumble tied for fifth. Looking back, I notice a lot of Royal Rumble matches as ones that came really close to making the list.

While there are many PPVs with just one match on the list and eleven PPVs with two matches on the list, there are only two PPVs with three matches on the list. They are WrestleMania X7 in 2001 (1, 9, 29) and Backlash 2000 (36, 38, 47).

Closing Thoughts
Like I said in the first part, the reason I wrote this column was to celebrate the great wrestling that has existed in WWE over the past five calendar years. What’s interesting is that if this list were to include PPVs from 1999 and 1989 then there’d only be maybe five or six matches total from those years that would have made this list. (I’m not about to list them, but off the top of my head I know there aren’t that many.)That’s because those years were focused more on storylines, angles and getting everybody on PPV cards. There were cards with ten matches a lot of the time back then. These last five years, there’s been cards with just six matches on them because management felt confident that the wrestlers could have longer, better matches.

What can be attributed to this rise of workrate in WWE? I think there are three things. For one, I think fans have become smarter in terms of the product thanks to the internet. Sure, there’s a lot of bad that you can say about internet fans, but because people like you and me follow WWE as closely as we do we’re able to appreciate the quality wrestling more than John Doe does. Second, the influx of talent in late ’99 and early 2000 was huge. As people like Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko and others started to have quality matches on a regular basis. Gone were the basic matches involving the likes of Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, Bob Holly and others, replaced by technically sound, physical and psychological matches that became instant classics on a monthly basis. The third and final key piece was The Rock and HHH developing both as performers and in ring competitors to the point where they had good matches all the time. With the return of Steve Austin in 2001, main events were of high quality for much of this time period.

Basically, I’ve enjoyed WWE plenty over the past five years. Has there been lows? Sure. Katie Vick comes to mind. The XFL debacle comes to mind. Still, I watch. Why? Because of the matches. I’m not loyal to Vince McMahon or anybody named McMahon. I’m loyal to the wrestlers that go in the ring, bust their asses and put on a show for us, the fans. I didn’t write this for me. I didn’t even write this for you. I wrote it for the wrestlers that do what they do. If any of those wrestlers are reading this then just know that at least this one fan thanks you for all that you do. Even you Mark Henry, you overpaid fatass. What? I had to insult somebody! Internet fans are evil, don’t ya know?

With all of that said, I hope you enjoyed the list. Obviously not everybody is going to agree with every match order or rating, but I hope that the writeups I provided did a good job in detailing what happened in the matches. It was very hard to rank the matches at times, but overall I am happy with the list.

Nearly 40,000 words later it’s all done.

Once again, I’m not sure if I’ll do a top 100 for the decade. I don’t have time for it. Would love, but it’s hard.

Thanks for reading,
John Canton – oratoryjohn@gmail.com
Visit the blog: johnreport.wordpress.com
Add me on Facebook at Facebook.com/thejohnreport and Twitter at Twitter.com/johnreport
Check out the petition to get me hired by WWE with over 600 signatures.
AOLIM: OratorJC MSN: oratoryjohn@hotmail.com

Visit My Archives to view ten years of The John Report columns.

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  1. Imran
    February 21, 2010 at 6:38 AM

    Thanks for reposting this John! Top-Quality read!

  2. February 21, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    This was probably the best thing you ever did. I know it took a lot of work, and I really appreciate doing this. Any chance of doing a 05-09 column or just make it a best of the 00’s, I know it would be a lot but the fans especially me would really love it.

  3. TKO
    February 21, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    Ive been coming to The John Report exclusively for about 6 months now. Ive enjoyed your take on RAW/SMDN and when I miss the shows, instead of you-tubing them I read your run-down to see if its worth it. Being a “real” fan since 1998, I agree with a lot of this column. Rock-Austin was probly the best thing of that time or any. That tag match with 4 or the SMDN 6 would be my second pick since I was never a fan of Foley (IMO) and 3rd would be the 3 stages. I really hope your next project is 2005-2009’s best although the quality will be shot due to everyones feelings toward Benoit, Y2J’s absense and Angles departure. Foleys career died and Cena and Batista are great draws but couldnt put on a Rock-Austin quality match in this day in age…if booked correctly yes but the new WWE style mixed with the PG era you cant go THAT hard. Anle vs HBK, Taker vs HBK and Flair vs HBK will likely be on top. All feature HBK but they didnt really allow too many matches to tell a great story. I could be wrong if you refresh my memory. Next time WWE is in Omaha NE I will hvae my John Report sign

  4. steve mcsween
    February 21, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    dude, I’ve read this list a few times when I’ve got nothing to do at work and reading it again all I can say is it’s an epic, epic piece. Awesome

  5. Tyson
    February 21, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    I recall reading this back in ’05 and thinking it was a great piece and marveling about the way your passion for professional wrestling bleeds through the computer screen. Today, it stands up just as well. Great read.

  6. Widow maker
    February 21, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    not a ppv match, but had to be highlighted!

    The Undertaker VS The Rock – Casket Match (Raw 19/5/99)

    oh and everyone should wear brogues!

  7. afterandrea
    February 21, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    You have to do one of 2005-2009…
    I’m pretty sure it will be these matches, but I don’t know in which order… therefore, I’ll just place them in chronological order. Here you go:

    Elimination Chamber for the World Heavyweight Championship (New Year’s Revolution 2005)
    The 2005 Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble 2005)
    Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio (Smackdown 2005)
    Edge vs. Shawn Michaels in a Street Fight (Raw 2005)
    Chris Benoit vs. Triple H (Raw 2005)
    Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio (WrestleMania XXI)
    Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXI)
    Money in the Bank Ladder Match I (WrestleMania XXI)
    Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels (Raw 2005)
    Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka (ECW One Night Stand 2005)
    Batista vs. Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship (Vengeance 2005)
    Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (Vengeance 2005)
    Edge vs. Ric Flair in a TLC for the WWE Championship (Raw 2006)
    Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker (No Way Out 2006)
    Chris Benoit vs. Finlay (No Way Out 2006)
    Edge vs. Mick Foley in a Hardcore match (WrestleMania XXII)
    Money in the Bank Ladder Match II (WrestleMania XXII)
    John Cena vs. Edge vs. Triple H for the WWE Championship (Backlash 2006)
    Batista and Rey Mysterio vs. MNM in a Steel Cage for the WWE Tag Team Championship (Smackdown 2006)
    Mick Foley and Edge vs. Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk (One Night Stand 2006)
    Chris Benoit vs. William Regal (No Mercy 2006)
    John Cena vs. Edge in a TLC for the WWE Championship (Unforgiven 2006)
    The Hardys vs. MNM (December to Dismember)
    The Hardys vs. MNM vs. London and Kendrick vs. Regal and Taylor in a Ladder match (Armageddon 2006)
    The 2007 Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble 2007)
    John Cena vs. Umaga in a Last Man Standing for the WWE Championship (Royal Rumble 2007)
    John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship (WrestleMania 23)
    The Undertaker vs. Batista for the World Heavyeright Championship (WrestleMania 23)
    The Undertaker vs. Batista in a Last Man Standing for the World Heavyweight Championship (Backlash 2007)
    John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge for the WWE Championship (Backlash 2007)
    John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (Raw 2007)
    Triple H vs. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing for the WWE Championship (No Mercy 2007)
    Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship (Survivor Series 2007)
    Elimination Chamber for the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania (No Way Out 2008)
    The Undertaker vs. Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship (WrestleMania XXIV)
    Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania XXIV)
    Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (Judgment Day 2008)
    Triple H vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship (Night of Champions 2008)
    Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho in an Unsanctioned Match (Unforgiven 2008)
    Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho in a Ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship (No Mercy 2008)
    Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy for the WWE Championship (No Mercy 2008)
    Elimination Chamber for the World Heavyweight Championship (No Way Out 2009)
    Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy in an Extreme Rules match (WrestleMania XXV)
    The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXV)
    John Cena vs. Edge in a Last Man Standing for the World Heavyeight Championship (Backlash 2009)
    Jeff Hardy vs. Edge in a Ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship (Extreme Rules 2009)
    Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship (The Bash 2009)
    Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk for the World Heavyweight Championship (SummerSlam 2009)
    John Morrison vs. Rey Mysterio for the Intercontinental Championship (Smackdown 2009)
    Batista and Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho and Big Show for the WWE Unified Tag Team Championship (Hell in a Cell 2009)

    These are the 50 matches that should be in your 2005-2009 matches. I’m pretty sure you’ll go with 90% of them. Maybe add some I moved out like Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James, Smackdown’s elimination chamber at NWO09, Jeff Hardy’s send-off in 2009 or any other matches.

    But hey, I’d really like to read that article, because this one was sweet.
    Alex.

    • afterandrea
      February 23, 2010 at 4:29 PM

      I pulled this list right off the top of my head reciting all the matches from memory, although I did Wiki to see if I had the PPV’s right, but I must add that I completely ignored every single CM Punk vs. John Morrison match and CM Punk vs. Elijah Burke match which definitely deserve to be in there.

      Thanks,
      Alex

  8. JB McMurtry
    February 21, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Awesome read, man. It killed the first 3 hours of my work shift! Thank you for that. I agree 100% that Austin vs Rock II is the best match of the era, probably of the decade. It’ll probably go down as one of the 5 best in history. Also, wow, you just never have really liked Mark Henry, huh? =)

  9. Aaron
    February 22, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    Just a couple quick thoughts on the article, and a question:

    I’m glad you posted it as you did originally. The way we thinkg of things then and now is important. You even touched on it with certain matches, saying you had one opinion, then you re-watch, then sometimes your opinion differes, even if it is just slightly. Any changes you’d make now? Would #1 be #1? would any match you remember that didn’t make the list make it now?

    Also, the Benoit matches should eb left in even if you did re-write it (which you shouldn’t). His matches were classic, and as hard as it is to look at them like we did then, there’s no denying the man’s gift and hard work that showed during these years.

    Lastly, Austin was only in FOUR of these matches? That’s surprising.. but kind of shows why I was more of a Rock mark than one of Austin. I imagine if his injuries didn’t mount on him that maybe he’d have had a couple more, but I did grow tired of the “Ragin’ redneck” brawler type.

  10. Aaron
    February 22, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Also.. I love the banner (Three Benoit pics.. deserved at the time obviously) but especially the reminder of heel austin with Kurt Angle. some may not agree with heel austin, but that was some of the funniest stuff I ever saw on WWE TV. The subtle comments Austin would make in alliance bickerings were classic. I can’t remember ths story but I remember the alliance all bickering in the locker room (10 + members) Shane McMahon quiets the riot and give Booker T a match of some sort he wanted (maybe with the Rock, does not matter). Shane would look at Booker and say “can you dig that?” Booker replies “Oh I can dig that!” To which Austin softly asks Booker “Where’s your shovel?” Almost not even noticed. those little things.. CLASSIC.

    Looking up Austin invasion sketches on youtube.. hilarious.

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