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Every 4 1/4 and Up Rated Match inWWE/WWF History Part One

Friday, September 28, 2012




I've been watching WWF/E since Snuka came off the top of the cage; I've been watching since before I understood better wrestling existed, sort of like eating at McDonalds before you knew there better burgers.

I still eat the occasional quarter pounder and I've never stopped watching (and complaining) about WWF.  But occasionally, occasionally, an exceptional match makes it past quality control and I gobble it up.

These aren't necessary the most important matches, the most famous matches, or the matches the featured the biggest stars (although some are).  This is strictly a qualitative assessment from someone who has seen every significant WWF/E match of the PPV era in real time (me, I'm talking about me)

The matches that just miss (every 4 1/4 star match in promotion history which isn't on the list proper) are first.


105. January, 2018 NXT Takeover: Philadelphia: Extreme Rules: Aleister Black d. Adam Cole (22 min) 4.25
104. October, 2002 Smackdown Edge d. Kurt Angle (23 min) 4.25
103. September, 1997 Ground Zero: In Your House: Shawn Michaels draw Undertaker (16:30) 4.25
102. January, 2017 UK Championship Tournament Final: Tyler Bate d. Pete Dunne (15 min) 4.25
101. May, 2006 Judgment Day: Chris Benoit d. Fit Finlay (21 min) 4.25

100. February, 2018 205 Live: Roderick Strong d. Hideo Itami (17 min) 4.25
99. May, 2018 205 Live: Cedric Alexander d. Buddy Murphy (20 min) 4.25
98. June, 2018 UK Championship Tournament: UK Title: Pete Dunne d. Zack Gibson (18 min) 4.25
97. July, 1992: Smack ‘Em, Whack ‘Em: Ladder Match: IC Title: Bret Hart d. Shawn Michaels (14 min) 4.25
96. August, 2014 RAW: Falls Count Anywhere: Seth Rollins d. Dean Ambrose (16:30) 4.25
95. June, 2014 Payback: Falls Count Anywhere: John Cena d. Bray Wyatt (24:30) 4.25
94. February, 2013 RAW John Cena d. CM Punk (26:30) 4.25
93. February, 2015 NXT Takeover: Rival: NXT Championship: Kevin Owens d. Sami Zayn (switch) (23:30) 4.25
92. July, 1995: In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks: IC Title Shawn Michaels d. Jeff Jarrett (switch) (20 min) 4.25
91. July, 2013: Money In the Bank: Money In the Bank Match: Damien Sandow d. Antonio Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Wade Barrett, Fandango (16:30) 4.25

90. February, 2011 Elimination Chamber: Elimination Chamber Match: World Title: Edge d. Rey Mysterio, Drew McIntyre, Wade Barrett, Kane, Big Show (31:30) 4.25
89. February, 2013 Elimination Chamber: Elimination Chamber Match: Jack Swagger d. Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Kane (31:30) 4.25
88. February, 2017 Elimination Chamber: Elimination Chamber Match: WWE Title: Bray Wyatt d. John Cena (switch), AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Baron Corbin (34:30) 4.25
87. January, 1994 Wrestlefest: Bret Hart/Owen Hart draw Steiner Brothers (double countout) (25 min) 4.25
86. August, 2011 SummerSlam: No Holds Barred: World Title: Randy Orton d. Christian (switch) (23:30) 4.25
85. January, 2016 Royal Rumble: Last Man Standing: IC Title: Dean Ambrose d. Kevin Owens (21 min) 4.25
84. September, 2016 Backlash: WWE Title: AJ Styles d. Dean Ambrose (25 min) 4.25
83. May, 2002 Judgment Day: Hair vs. Hair: Edge d. Kurt Angle (15:30) 4.25
82. December, 1995 In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings: WWF Title Bret Hart d. British Bulldog (21 min) 4.25
81. November, 2017 NXT Takeover: War Games: War Games Match: Undisputed Era (O’Reilly/Cole/Fish) d. Sanity (Wolfe, Young, Dain), Authors of Pain (36:30) 4.25

80. April, 2017 NXT Takeover: Orlando: Elimination Match: NXT Tag Titles: Authors of Pain d. Revival, DIY (Gargano/Ciampa) (24 min) 4.25
79. November, 1992 Survivor Series: WWF Title: Bret Hart d. Shawn Michaels (26:30) 4.25
78. February, 2004 No Way Out: WWE Title: Eddie Guerrero d. Brock Lesnar (switch) (30 min) 4.25
77. September, 2016 Cruiserweight Classic: TJ Perkins d. Kota Ibushi (15 min) 4.25
76. November, 2016 NXT Takeover: Toronto: NXT Title Samoa Joe d. Shinsuke Nakamura (switch) (20 min) 4.25
75. September, 2003 Smackdown: Iron Man Match: WWE Title: Brock Lesnar d. Kurt Angle (switch) (60 min) 4.25
74. July, 2015 RAW: US Title: John Cena d. Antonio Cesaro (30 min) 4.25
73. August, 2017 Summer Slam: Universal Title: Brock Lesnar d. Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman (21 min) 4.25
72. June, 2017 Money in the Bank: Money in the Bank Match: Baron Corbin d. Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler (30 min) 4.25
71. June, 2018 NXT Takeover: Chicago: NXT Tag Titles: Kyle O’Reilly/Roderick Strong d. Orny Lorcan/Danny Burch (16 min)

70. May, 1998 Over the Edge: In Your House: Falls Count Anywhere: WWF Title: Steve Austin d. Dude Love (22:30) 4.25
69. August, 2009 Summer Slam: TLC Match: World Title: CM Punk d. Jeff Hardy (switch) (21:30) 4.25
68. August, 2013 Summer Slam: WWE Title: Daniel Bryan d. John Cena (switch) (27 min) 4.25
67. August, 1991 Summer Slam: IC Title: Bret Hart d. Mr. Perfect (switch) (18 min) 4.25
66. October, 2008 No Mercy: Ladder Match: World Title: Chris Jericho d. Shawn Michaels (22:30) 4.25
65. June, 1998 King of the Ring: Hell in a Cell: Undertaker d. Mankind (17 min) 4.25
64. June, 2001 King of the Ring: Street Fight: Kurt Angle d. Shane McMahon (26 min) 4.25
63. April, 1992 Wrestlemania 8: WWF Title: Randy Savage d. Ric Flair (switch) (18 min) 4.25
62. June, 2001 RAW: Cage Match: Kurt Angle d. Chris Benoit (14:30) 4.25
61. May, 2001 Smackdown: WWF Title: Steve Austin d. Chris Benoit (19:30) 4.25

60. August, 2016 Cruiserweight Classic: Kota Ibushi d. Brian Kendrick (14 min) 4.25
59. December, 2015 TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs: Ladder Match: WWE Tag Titles: New Day d. Usos, Lucha Dragons (17:30) 4.25
58. October, 2017 Hell in a Cell: Hell in a Cell Match: Smackdown Tag Titles: Usos d. New Day (switch) (22 min) 4.25
57. February, 1997 In Your House 13: Final Four: Elimination Match: WWF Title: Bret Hart d. Steve Austin, Vader, Undertaker (24 min) 4.25
56. June, 2018 UK Championship Tournament: British Strong Style (Bate/Seven/Dunne) d. Undisputed Era (O’Reilly/Strong/Cole) (12:30) 4.25
55. June, 108 205 Live: No DQ: Mustafa Ali d. Buddy Murphy (22:30) 4.25
54. November, 2017 Survivor Series: Champion vs. Champion: Brock Lesnar d. AJ Styles (15:30) 4.25
53. August, 2016 Cruiserweight Classic: Gran Metalik d. Akira Tozawa (16 min) 4.25

52. July, 1997 In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede Bret Hart/Owen Hart/Brian Pillman/Davey Boy Smith/Jim Neidhart d. Steve Austin/Ken Shamrock/Goldust/Legion of Doom (24:30) 4.25

51. NXT (12/'17) Pete Dunne v. Tyler Bate (22 min)

The 50 best matches in WWF/E history are next #50-26


50. December, 2014 NXT Takeover: R Evolution: NXT Title vs. Career: Sami Zayn d. Adrian Neville (switch) (23:30) 4.25

49. Extreme Rules (5/'16) IC: Miz d. Cesaro/Owens/Zayn (18:30) 4 1/4
One of the places WWE managed to find itself in 2016 was with the storyline flexibility to incorporate an independent program (the breakingup of the great tag team Steen/Generico) into their own narrative. Here, despite new names and the loss of Generico's entire identity, they're still able to utilize their backstory and make it central to this match; one in which all of the multi-person spots came off without hitch.

48. Battleground (7//'16) Sami Zayn v. Kevin Owens (18:30) 4 1/4

The seeming blowoff to a decade plus long storyline spanning multiple promotions, Sami Zayn overcoming his partner turned heel rival Owens with some indie level work in a shiny WWE bottle.


47. May, 2001 RAW: WWF Tags: Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho d. Steve Austin/HHH (14 min) (switch) 4.25


46. Summerslam (8/'16) AJ Styles v. John Cena (23 min) 4 1/4
-AJ Styles couldn't get much interest in WWE despite years of great TNA work, but a couple of runs with the IWGP title belt bought him a contract in 2016; this was the blowoff to a good program with Cena, who appeared to be at the end of his full time commitment to the promotion.

45. Royal Rumble (1/'17) AJ Styles v. John Cena (24 min) 4 1/4
-Best comparison to the Styles/Cena Summer Slam match is the Styles/Cena Rumble match; this was Cena's 16th title win.


44. May, 2001 Smackdown: WWF Tags: TLC: Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho d. Hardys,Dudleys,Edge & Christian (21 min) (switch) 4.25
 Benoit got taken to the back but did the superhero  return to win the match.  If I'm in the WWE writing room when they decide to push Danielson as a legit serious babyface, that's how I pitch they do it. This was the best free TV match in WWF history to that date. 


43.       WM 16(4/’00) Edge/Christian d. Hardy Boys d. Dudley Boys (Ladder) (22:30)4 ¼

They didn't call this a TLC match, but that's what it was - WWF went headfirst into an era of high octane collision matches at WM16.  I tend to cut the Hardys a ton more slack than do workrate minded wrestling fans, feeling as if they gave their bodies for a handful of all time classic matches.  If Matt's hooked on painkillers and Jeff's got an intent to distribute charge lingering, they should be able to play the tapes of a half dozen collision matches and skate at least for another decade or so.  

42. Cruiserweight Classic (8/16) Kota Ibushi d. Cedric Alexander (15 min) 4 1/4
In 2016, Kota Ibushi was in a pure sports based juniors tournament in WWE in which Bryan Danielson was an announcer.  If that sounds totally normal to you, the future of WWE is a very different place than its past.

41. UK Championship (5/'17) Tyler Bate v. Mark Andrews (22:30) 4 1/4
Part of WWE's attempt to turn the rest of the world into a territory system involved gobbling up young European talent, that turned into a UK tournament which, in 2017, led to the winner of that tournament, Bate, defending against Andrews in a helluva match.  



40. SummerSlam (8'13) Brock Lesnar d. CM Punk (25 min) 4 1/4 
How much sense does this make in, say, 2007 - Lesnar and Punk, in a feud the central point of which was Paul Heyman, will be the best WWE match of 2013.   But it was true; the Paul Heyman Guys went out it in what was not just the best match of Brock's run, to date - it was the best match of his life.  That it was against Punk, who also got the best match of John Cena's life, is probably not a coincidence. 

39.      Royal Rumble (1/’01): Chris Jericho d. Chris Benoit (Ladder (18:30)4 ¼  
I can still picture Benoit suplexing Jericho out of the ring.  I'm not any more amenable to the notion that one can't appreciate Benoit's work because of what he did outside the ring than I would be that Ty Cobb shouldn't be considered when talking about the greatest baseball players ever.  But - if say, you can't think about Junior Seau today without the degree to which concussions impacted his decision to kill himself, I'd understand seeing Jericho nail Benoit with the midair chairshot during his tope suicida and not being able to get past how much brain atrophy was revealed in the autopsy.  



38.       No Way Out (2/’00) HHH d. Cactus Jack (Hell in the Cell)(24 min) 4 ¼
You'd think Hunter would be a little more grateful to Foley as Mick gave the end of his full time career in order to give Triple H some credibility.  In a terrific angle, Foley was able to get you to believe that Cactus Jack was really a different guy than his other two gimmicks, and bringing him out of mothballs would mean a higher level of match.  And he was right.  This was the rematch, what was sold as Foley's retirement match, and the second best Cell match ever.

37.      Royal Rumble: (1/’00) HHH d. Cactus Jack (Street Fight) (27 min)4 ¼
And this was the first match; we near the halfway point of the countdown of the greatest WWF matches of all time - two pedigrees finished off Cactus in front of a superhot MSG crowd.  Foley made Hunter in this program the same way he'd make Orton four years later.  



36.      Armageddon (12/’06): Paul London/Brian Kendrick d. Hardys d. MNM d. Steve Regal/David Taylor (20 min)(Ladder)4 ½
-Everything came together in exactly the right way in this match (Joey Mercury's face may take issue with that characterization). It's the Hardys last ever great match as a team; it's London/Kendrick getting to show on PPV what had previously been limited to Velocity or Jakkkkkkked or whatever show WWE was throwing away at the time; and it was Steve Regal, one of the most skilled professional wrestlers who ever lived, bringing the mean.  It would be five years before there was a better WWE match.   


35.      No Mercy (10/’99)Hardys d. Edge/Christian (Ladder) (16:30)4 ½

-If Armageddon was the last great WWF/E tag collision match; the Finals of Teri Runnels invitational was the first.  Spotfest is generally used as an epithet; not for me.  When I hear a worker or an analyst say something like "they need to learn to do less, to slow it down to make it mean more" what I hear is "stop working so hard, you're making the guys at the top of the card look bad." The trickle down theory that wrestling promotions follow offends my egalitarian sensibility.  And I like to see guys fall off ladders. 


34. NXT (11/'16) DIY d. Revival (22 min, 2 of 3 falls) 4 1/2 
-At this point, NXT has established itself as having historically great big matches; most of them, however, have featured tremendous wrestlers who, in this time of WWE hegemony, made their way to NXT and wrestled in (generally somewhat lesser) versions of their previously great matches.  The Revival are WWE homegrown products, Dash and Dawson, doing an Anderson/Blanchard no frills gimmick; Gargano and Ciampa come from the independent ranks, but unlike, say Zayn or Cesaro or Nakamura, they have never been perceived as among the very most elite workers in the world. This match did a near perfect job incorporating more modern stuff with the Revival's well done old school approach.

33. July, 2018 NXT: NXT Tag Titles: Undisputed Era (O'Reilly/Strong) d. Mustache Mountain (Bate/Seven) (17:30) 4.5 (switch)
-Independent veteran Strong joined a couple of former ROH Champions (Cole/O'Reilly) to create an indie proxy stable; Bate and Seven are two young UK wrestlers, part of a group of young, UK wrestlers.  What this has to do with the World Wrestling Federation beats me, but it happened, I promise.


32. NXT (5/'17) Pete Dunne d. Tyler Bate (15:30) 4 1/2
At the time of this writing the two best WWE matches of 2017 took place within the span of a week and both featured Pete Dunne, this was the second one, a real corker with both stiff work and terrific aerial spots.  I've got it as the third best NXT match to that date.  

31. NXT (6/'18) Tommaso Ciampa d. Johnny Gargano (35:30) 4 1/2
Hard to modify this feud with anything other than the word "epic" - it wasn't just the signature NXT storyline, it was probably the best told program in all of North American wrestling, and as the heel went over in this one, it didn't appear to be the end of the story.

30.      Over the Limit (5/’12) CM Punk d. Daniel Bryan (24 min)4 ½
The best WWE match in 2012 as of this writing wasn't at Wrestlemania; it was these two independent veterans going 24 minutes in May.  If you read part I of this list, you may have seen my appending my 80 best matches in Ring of Honor history.  All 80 are 4 1/2 and up; Bryan Danielson wrestled in 24 of those 80 matches, including three 5 star matches. He has put up a body of work as impressive as any American wrestler in history.  I hope he achieves the level of status in WWE that his abilities deserve, but it doesn't matter -anytime you have the opportunity to watch a 20 minute Daniel Bryan match, even if its booked from Full Sail University, you need to make it a point to take it.  

29.      Summer Slam (8/’95) Shawn Michaels d. Razor Ramon (Ladder) (25 min)4 ½
-While I was ranting about Cena I missed that we had hit the twenty best matches in WWF/WWE history - hey, look, it;'s Shawn and Razor climbing a ladder.  This was the sequel, and it was great - it wasn't Empire Strikes Back great but you could call it Temple of Doom.


28.      Good Friends/Better Enemies (4/’96) Shawn Michaels d. Diesel (No Holds Barred) (18 min)4 ½
-If it were a Friends episode the title would be: The One With Mad Dog Vachon's Leg and you'd know exactly what match this is.  


27. No Mercy [10/’02] Chris Benoit/Kurt Angle d. Rey Mysterio/Edge (22min)4 ½



-This would have been the equivalent of say, Escobedo v. Illinois; not as well known by laypeople as Miranda but a critical piece of the period (that's probably as far as I'll extend the metaphor, but if you get to the top 10 of this list and I talk about the double turn from In Re Gault try not to hold it against me). This was the finals for a tag tournament; Angle gets Edge to tap in play off their hair v. hair finish for those of you who have forgotten that Kurt used to be non-bald. 


26.Backlash: (4/’04): Chris Benoit d. HHH/HBK (30min)4 1/2

-It's Shawn Michaels submitting to Chris Benoit in a title match in Edmonton.  That actually happened. The Earl Warren Supreme Court had a demonstratively progressive bent; for a couple of decades in the middle of the 20th century the Court was an apparatus of the federal government that worked on behalf of those Americans who were marginalized by the combination of governmental structural and private power.  But that's an aberration - if you look at the totality of Supreme Court history you are left with the clear conclusion that it has by and large been an instrument used to protect and expand that power.  The Warren snapshot is not reflective of the broader panorama.  I recognize comparing the Warren Court to early 2000s WWF is cliche, but if you watched this match and thought this was a company clearly based on workrate, you would have been in for a hella surprise when John Cena handed down the Citizens United decision.







That's the second half of the best matches in WWF history. The top half is here.






2 comments

Jr. Williams said...

what is the longest match in WWE history?
15 Forgotten FAILS in WWE History

Jasmine Rose said...

Thanks for sharing amazing list of WWE Champions

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