The 10 Greatest Rivalries in WWE History

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The foundation of any great storyline in WWE, or any other form of professional wrestling, is the rivalry between the two wrestlers. Sure, you can take two random competitors and put them together and they can deliver a great match. But if the two men really hate each other, on-screen or off-screen, then it turns the match and the story into something fans remember for months and years after the bell rings.

The WWE certainly has no shortage of great rivalries to choose from for a list like this, but we're looking for the best of the best. "The cream of the crop," as Macho Man Randy Savage would say.

So without further ado, let's do this...


Honorable Mention: Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz

These three teams deserve a special mention because they brought us three of the most memorable matches in the company's history. The TLC matches at WrestleMania 2000, SummerSlam 2000 and WrestleMania X-7 are some of the most beloved and spectacular matches to this very day. One look at Edge's spear to Jeff Hardy off a ladder and you'll get the idea.

10) Undertaker vs. Kane

Kane's debut in 1997 is still an iconic moment thanks in part to Vince McMahon's "That's gotta be Kane!" call from the announce table. But the Big Red Machine made an immediate impact, literally, by ripping the door of the Hell in a Cell off its hinges and assaulting his on-screen brother, the Undertaker. For the first time, the Deadman actually looked terrified at the sight of his brother, whom he presumed dead.

From there, Taker refused to fight his brother until WrestleMania 14, when it took three Tombstone Piledrivers to put Kane out of commission.

This rivalry spanned more than a decade, during which time the brothers would go from bitter enemies to partners and back again. They teamed as the Brothers of Destruction in the early 2000s, but Kane eventually turned on his brother again. He thought he had buried the Undertaker for good, only for him to return to beat his brother one more time at WrestleMania XX.

At the center of all this was the late William Moody, the wonderful and talented man who portrayed the brothers' father, Paul Bearer, on screen through exaggerate facial expressions and a high-pitched voice.

9) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H/The Authority

You can claim recency bias on this one if you want, but the story of Daniel Bryan scrapping and clawing his way to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after years of on-screen struggles and behind-the-scenes politics deserves a spot on this list.

Bryan infamously lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28 in 18 seconds. But then something unexpected happen when the fans erupted in Bryan's YES! chant throughout the night even though he was a heel at the time. This marked the beginning of a two-year journey for the underdog, who became increasingly popular with the fans throughout the next year-and-a-half.

He eventually earned a shot at the WWE Championship against John Cena at SummerSlam 2013 and beat the champ cleanly with a running knee that has become known simply as "The Move That Beat John Cena." But then Triple H decided to turn heel and Pedigreed the new champion right into the mat to allow Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and steal the title from Bryan.

The fan favorite, who now had a legion of followers behind him, beat Orton the following month at Night of Champions, only for Triple H, now firmly entrenched his on-screen role as "The Authority" with his wife Stephanie McMahon, to rob him of the title again.

WWE gave Bryan a few months in the spotlight before they tried to push him back down the card. But the fans refused to stay silent and hijacked shows with Yes! chants. The two pivotal moments came during a promo for the title unification match between John Cena and Randy Orton at TLC in December. Bryan's hometown (more or less) fans in Seattle basically told WWE "we don't want to see this for the 1,000th time" by chanting Bryan's name louder and louder to the point that Triple H could not speak.

Next, the fans in Pittsburgh at the Royal Rumble in January booed and chanted their disapproval when Bryan did not show up in the Rumble match and Batista, who had returned to WWE just a few weeks earlier, took what they felt was Bryan's spot.

Eventually, WWE changed course and gave Bryan two high-profile matches at WrestleMania 30. He conquered Triple H in the first match of the night to earn a spot in the title match, then beat Randy Orton and Batista in a Triple Threat match to capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

This rivalry is so important because it proved the power and influence of the fans over the on-screen product. The popular opinion among fans is WWE thought Bryan was too small to be the champion and that an independent wrestler like him doesn't get to be in the main event of WrestleMania. But the fans refused to cheer for the same old people at the top, and they surely did not want a part-timer coming in to claim Bryan's place.

In the current "Reality Era" of wrestling, this marked a turning point.

8) The Rock vs. Triple H

The Great One and The Game had an intense rivalry in the late 1990s and early 2000s that helped lift the WWE past WCW and into position as the dominant pro wrestling promotion in the world.

When the two were still in the mid-card, they had excellent matches for the Intercontinental Championship, including a memorable ladder match at SummerSlam in 1998. But eventually, both men climbed up the ranks until they were the top two dogs in the company in 2000.

After Stone Cold Steve Austin, the undisputed top star in 1998 and 1999, left the company for nine months with a neck injury in late 1999, The Rock and Triple H took over the main event scene and battled for the WWF Championship for much of 2000. They traded the title a handful of times, and each match seemingly topped the last. The match at Backlash had a cameo from Stone Cold, while the Iron Man match at Judgment Day featured the returns of the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.

In Austin's absence, The Rock and Triple H not just maintained but increased WWE's success, both at house shows and on television. Today, the two men are two of the greatest stars in the history of the business.

7) John Cena vs. CM Punk

CM Punk has described this rivalry as Superman and Batman, with Cena as the Kryptonian and Punk as the Caped Crusader. They can work together, but every once in a while, they clash, and Batman can kick Superman's red and blue behind if need be.

This rivalry really kicked into high gear with a classic, five-star match at Money in the Bank in 2011 in Punk's hometown of Chicago. The match, much like the Montreal Screwjob, blended reality and fiction as Punk's contract with the company was set to expire, and he "left" with the WWE Championship.

The two feuded for much of 2011 after that and then kept it up through 2012 as well. They had memorable matches at SummerSlam in 2011 and Night of Champions in 2012, along with a magnificent No. 1 Contender's match on Raw on Feb. 25, 2013 in which Punk used the banned piledriver and Cena busted out a hurricanrana.

The chemistry is what really makes this rivalry work both in and out of the ring. The two are opposites in terms of personality and looks, which allows them to play off each other wonderfully. And once they step between the ropes, they bring out the best in each other. All those claims that Cena can't wrestle disappear when CM Punk is across from him in the squared circle.

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6) Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage

Hogan and Savage were the two biggest stars in professional wrestling in the 1980s, so it was a momentous event when they joined together to form the Mega Powers. Of course, as almost always happens in pro wrestling, one partner turned on the other and a rivalry began.

The feud culminated in a WWF Championship match in the main event of WrestleMania V, which Hogan won because it was a WrestleMania main event and Hogan was in it. The two continued to clash for a few more months in 1989 and crossed paths as allies a few more times until their departures from WWF. They would later resume their rivalry in WCW.

The height of the feud was short-lived, but the sheer stature of the two icons involved in this rivalry earns it this spot.

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5) Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes

The Nature Boy defeated Dusty Rhodes for his first NWA Championship on Sept. 17, 1981, one of the first major battles in their long and storied feud in the company. The two had clashed in the American Wrestling Association, but the NWA is where they truly waged the war.

Flair was the arrogant, cocky bad guy who would cheat his way to the top and then claim he was the greatest wrestler on earth. Dusty had much of the same swagger, but he wasn't the weasel that Flair was. The two characters blended beautifully and their matches were the better for it.

Flair's two-year, two-month and two-day title reign from 1984 to 1986 ended at Rhodes' hands when Dusty defeated him inside a steel cage at The Great American Bash. The bout earned Pro Wrestling Illustrated's "Match of the Year" award in 1986.

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4) Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels engaged in a war on and off screen in the 1990s. Hart was the prototypical good guy, a vanilla hero reminiscent of Hulk Hogan in the 1980s. Michaels represented the new crop of wrestlers with his brash attitude and bad boy lifestyle.

The two had numerous battles throughout the 90s, but two bouts stand head and shoulders above the rest. The first was the main event of WrestleMania XII in which HBK defeated Bret in overtime of a 60-minute Iron Man match, which had gone to a 0-0 draw, to capture his first WWF Championship.

The second, of course, is the Montreal Screwjob, which took place at Survivor Series in 1997 in Hart's home country. Bret, who was about to go to WCW, did not want to drop the belt to Shawn because of their numerous backstage issues, including Michaels' public accusation that Bret had an affair with Sunny. So Vince McMahon legitimately stole the title from Hart in one of the most famous moments in pro wrestling history.

Hart and Michaels eventually reconciled in 2010.

3) Ric Flair vs. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat

As great as Flair's rivalry with Dusty Rhodes was, his matches with Ricky Steamboat are some of the finest in the history of the sport. They fought a few times in the NWA, but the rivalry did not kick into high gear until the formation of WCW.

Steamboat pinned Flair on Feb. 20, 1989 to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. This sparked a feud in which Flair was the "limousine-ridin', jet-flyin'" ladies man, while Steamboat was the straight-laced family man.

The two had a rematch at Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin' Cajun that nearly went the 60-minute time limit and followed that up with arguably one of the greatest matches of all time at WrestleWar on May 7, 1989, in which Flair regained the title. The feud reignited in 1994 with a match at Spring Stampede, which ended in a double pin for a no contest.

The 1989 matches alone catapult this rivalry near the top of the list. If you've never seen them, then stop what you're doing and watch them. You'll thank us later.

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2) Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock

This rivalry was so momentous that it main evented WrestleMania three times in five years, and probably would have done it four out of five if Austin wasn't hurt in 2000. The feud over the Intercontinental Championship in 1997, but this was just the beginning.

The two met again in early 1999 when Rock aligned with Vince McMahon's Corporation as the WWF Champion. Austin and The Rock met for the title at WrestleMania XV, and Austin completed his six-month journey to regain the belt.

Stone Cold was out for the end of 1999 and nearly all of 2000, but the two had one of the greatest matches of all time in the main event of WrestleMania X-Seven in 2001, a few months after Austin returned. Once again, The Rock was the champion, but this time both men were fan favorites. They didn't hate each other, but both man would do whatever it took to walk out with the belt.

It's almost impossible to understate the magnitude of this match. This was two of the biggest icons in the history of pro wrestling in their primes colliding in the main event of the biggest wrestling event in the world for the industry's greatest prize. And keep in mind, Vince McMahon had just acquired his rival promotion WCW and was sitting on top of a mountain made of money. The stars and planets aligned to make this happen.

Of course, it all ended with the ill-fated Stone Cold heel turn, but the shock at the time was immense.

The two would team up a few times until Rock came back as a heel in early 2003 and noted that for all his success, he had never beaten Austin at Mania. So the two participated in the main event for the Raw brand at WrestleMania 19 in what would be Austin's last match to date. This time, The Rock came out on top after three Rock Bottoms and told Austin he loved him after it was all over.

Both men said on Stone Cold's documentary that they were not the same, but they paralleled each other in so many ways. And when they met in the ring, they brought out the absolute best in each other.

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1) Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon

Come on, you knew this was coming.

Little can be said about this rivalry that has not already been said. The blue-collar working man against the tyrannical rich boss was the fuel for the fire in the late 1990s that catapulted WWF past WCW and into position as the dominant wrestling promotion in the world.

The rivalry was intense, entertaining and became must-see TV every week. Whether you were a youngster in school or an adult at the office, you probably said or heard the words "Did you see what Stone Cold did to Vince last night?!" on Tuesday morning. But moreover, the blood feud between Austin and McMahon literally saved the WWF's life. Had this not happened, WWF might have gone under and we could be having this conversation about the greatest WCW rivalries.

From the first Stone Cold Stunner in Madison Square Garden to the Mike Tyson incident to the bedpan attack to the steel cage match, Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon is the greatest rivalry in WWE history.

Did your favorite rivalry make the list? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Drop a comment to let us know.

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