10 Spot: Wrestling’s Greatest Rivalries

by BC (@4CR_Billy) & Robot Hammer (@robot_hammer)

After almost SEVEN MONTHS, the 10 Spot has returned to 4CRwrestling.com! Its absence has been no one’s fault but my own (Billy); I’ve had alot on my plate the last several months in many aspects of my life and 4CR has gone through some changes. Now that everything is back in order, it was time to bring back one of the most read series on this website! Of course, I couldn’t do this series without my good friend & liaison to the Machine High Council, Robot Hammer!  This series will be back on a regular basis, at the very least twice a month. For those who are new–or if you’ve forgotten–here’s how the 10 Spot works:

On the 4CR Twitter feed, we throw out the topic for the article–we’ve covered masked men, tag teams, finishers, even Chikara! We then ask you for your top 10 on the subject in question (which you can send via Twitter or email) and then, based on everyone’s lists, we come up with one big composite top 10 list that makes up the “10 Spot”! Easy enough, right? This particular list was actually formulated back in October of last year, so even though I can’t remember all of you who voted…thank you!

In pro wrestling, nothing helps tell the stories like a good feud. When characters interact with one another in the confines of a well-built feud, it can engage and enthrall us unlike anything else that happens in the medium of wrestling. This week, the 10 Spot is all about those timeless feuds that helped tell those stories and shape the industry throughout history. Without any further ado (because really, I’ve already made you wait seven months), it’s time for the return of 4CRwrestling.com’s most interactive series and time to reveal what you guys voted on as…

Wrestling’s Greatest Rivalries 

10: The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels

 

 

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Robot Hammer: “When the 10 Spot starts with two of the WWE’s greatest performers of all time, you know you’re in for one hell of a ride. At a time when a lot of the then WWF’s top performers were seeking greener pastures down south with WCW, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels stepped forward and became the new locker room leaders, while cementing their place at the top of the roster.

 

Their natural chemistry together was undeniable. The cocky, charismatic Heartbreak Kid taunted and harassed the stoic, demonic Deadman into their altercations, flipping the David and Goliath dynamic on its head. Their rivalry gave birth to the first Hell in a Cell match, and while it wasn’t their first encounter and certainly not their last, it’s still a major milestone in the history of the WWE.

 

One of the most impressive things about this rivalry is how long it lasted, from their mutual rise as main event talent in the ’90s all the way to Shawn’s retirement at WrestleMania 26 in 2010. For my money, their match at WrestleMania 25, Shawn’s first attempt to conquer the Undertaker’s mythical undefeated streak, is not only their best match together, but among the best the WWE has ever had. When two talents like this collide and can gel together the way they did, you get a rivalry that certainly deserves a spot on the countdown.”

 

Billy: “The greatest in-ring performer of all-time and quite possibly the greatest–and certainly the most respected–WWE Superstar in history come in at number 10, making up one of the best rivalries in WWE history. Their first encounters during the white-hot creative period in 1997 were legendary and the second part of their magnum opus over a decade later was just as special. These two created timeless moments and matches; from ushering in Hell in a Cell to composing a pair of WrestleMania masterpieces together. It’s truly fascinating to study this rivalry, essentially broken up into 2 different eras in WWE history. Michaels was able to claim victory twice in the first stanza of this feud, while The Undertaker not only reestablished dominance in the latter half but can lay claim to ending the career of the ‘Heartbreak Kid’. Above wins & losses, watching these two evolve as professional wrestlers is perhaps just as fascinating as the in-ring work. I could probably write hundreds—if not thousands—more words on this rivalry. But having the ability to turn on the WWE Network and relive all of this for yourself is perhaps the more effective way to tell this story, especially if you’ve never seen anything outside of the WrestleMania epics.”

 

9: WCW vs nWo

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Robot Hammer:

“Hey, you people, you know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here.”

 

When Scott Hall hopped the rail and interrupted WCW Monday Nitro on May 27, 1996 he planted the seeds for a rivalry that would encompass the entire company, off and on, for the majority of WCW’s remaining lifespan. He was soon joined by another former WWF employee Kevin Nash, and together they wreaked havoc across the Southern based promotion, threatening to take over the day to day operations of WCW. They teased a third member, and when Hulk Hogan joined the Outsiders at the Bash at the Beach, the nWo was truly born.

 

The newly revealed trio waged a war against the entire company, breathing new life into WCW and leading them to an all time ratings high, at first competing with the WWE and then surpassing them. As the nWo gained steam, they also gained members, including WCW’s head honcho, Eric Bischoff, abandoning their initial “former WWF guys” motif. Soon, the nWo started showing cracks in their organization, with the differences leading to Hollywood Hulk Hogan being in charge of the nWo black and white, and Kevin Nash leading the red and black clad nWo Wolfpac. WCW stalwarts such as Lex Luger, The Giant, Scott Steiner, and even the man called Sting would end up adopting the colors of one side or the other.

 

For a while, it seemed like the nWo would defeat WCW by simply absorbing the entire roster into their ranks. However, competitors like the Four Horsemen, Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, and Booker T remained loyal to their home promotion. One of the keys to the success in this rivalry was that, by default, every match that involved a member of the nWo was a part of the war. While it’s easy to look back now and see the flaws in the overall story of the nWo, it’s impossible to deny the magic that the early days of the faction had.”

 

Billy: “I don’t know how much I can add that my robotic friend and countless other written pieces have already expressed. This feud is the biggest thing in WCW’s history and is responsible for the shift in how pro wrestling is presented, simple as that. It blurred the lines, changed how we viewed wrestling “characters”, altered the way pro wrestling is presented on TV and was responsible for the meteoric rise and ultimately, the stunning & dramatic fall of World Championship Wrestling. It gave birth to a few characters, revitalized a few careers and made for some of the best pro wrestling TV of all-time in its first year or so. I’m honestly a little shocked that this only ranked 9th.”

 

8: The Fabulous Freebirds vs The Von Erichs

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Billy: “The Von Erich family is revered in Dallas to an almost god-like level, and I imagine it probably still is to this day. Very few acts have been as over anywhere in the world as Fritz & his sons were during the heyday of World Class Championship Wrestling. But every hero needs its defining villain and you can’t mention “Von Erich” without immediately attaching The Fabulous Freebirds to Kerry, Kevin & company. Christmas Day, 1982 changed WCCW forever and set the territory on absolute fire for the next few years:

 

 

 

It’s a feud that would span a decade, coming to an end in 1993 during a Kerry Von Erich Memorial Show (in Global, I believe). Unfortunately for WCCW, they could never find anything that was even close to the draw that the Freebird/Von Erich feud was for them. But what a ride it was—sold out Sportatorium every week, tremendous weekly television and one of the greatest rivalries of all-time.”

 

Robot Hammer: “One of my main goals in life is to be “Von Erichs in Texas Over,” even if it’s just for one day. The Von Erich clan lived on a pedestal in their home state and home promotion of World Class Championship Wrestling. The Von Erichs were the epitome of clean cut, all American babyfaces. As second generation competitors, Kevin, Kerry, David, Mike, and Chris grew up in and around the wrestling business, giving the fans the feeling that they had seen the boys grow up in front of their eyes. They were the pride and joy of Texas wrestling.

 

Enter the Fabulous Freebirds. Michael P.S. Hayes, Terry ‘Bam Bam’ Gordy, and Buddy Jack Roberts came into the WCCW promotion and before long, P.S. Hayes found himself refereeing a match where Kerry Von Erich was getting an NWA title shot against the Nature Boy himself, Ric Flair. When Kerry refused to let the Freebirds help him win, Gordy slammed his head in the cage door and the war was on.

 

The hard partying Freebirds became the rivals that the Von Erichs needed. They were everything the hometown heroes weren’t. They were dirty, loud, and obnoxious. Best of all, they were charismatic and captivating, and they were natural opponents for the Von Erichs. This rivalry generated match after match, whether it was a singles match, a tag match- or best of all- an all-out six man war. There’s a reason why fans still talk about and love this feud, thirty years later. As Kevin Von Erich famously put it “…this is a war between decency and filth!””

 

7: Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada

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Robot Hammer: “We now go to Billy, at the Puro desk…”

 

Billy: “Thanks, Robo. Much like Flair & Steamboat or Hogan & Savage, Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada are forever linked as the other’s fiercest & most notable rival. I still don’t think these two get enough praise in the Western hemisphere for being some of the absolute best of all-time. For those not familiar, this rivalry has it all: all-time classics in the ring, some of the most insane and dangerous spots ever (GANSO BOMB) and a truly fascinating back story. You can follow this rivalry from their beginning in All-Japan all the way through to Misawa’s historic exodus to form NOAH in 1999-2000; from Kawada’s own departure from AJPW to one final match between the two in 2005 under the NOAH banner. Bitter rivals in and out of the ring, this feud helped define an era in not just All-Japan history but in puro history and is absolutely required viewing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

6: Mick Foley vs HHH

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Robot Hammer: “Most great wrestling rivalries, and certainly the ones that made this list, are essentially two people who have nothing in common trying to kill each other. On one side, we have Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a tall, toned wrestler who looked like a professional wrestler was supposed to look. In the other corner, we have Mick Foley, a guy whose appearance hid his athletic abilities and who won the crowds over with his heart and charisma.

 

Sometimes, two wrestlers just seem to naturally play off of one another, and this is a great example of that idea. Their matches were some of the WWE’s most anticipated, and violent, of their era. Hunter and Foley waged an absolutely brutal war against one another for years, leading to HHH defeating Foley in a Hell in a Cell match where Foley was forced to retire, due to the match’s stipulations.

 

Personally, I think the highlight of this rivalry happened on a Monday Night Raw from Madison Square Garden. While HHH was waiting for Dude Love to come to the ring for a Falls Count Anywhere match, the Dudester came on the TitanTron to say he’d pass, and let Mankind have the match. Mankind joins Dude on screen, and says “Thanks, but no thanks” and calls out someone that he feels is better suited for this particular task: Cactus Jack. HHH’s reactions are priceless, ranging from panic to anger and back to panic once Jack comes through the curtains. The match that followed led to Jack piledriving HHH through a table for the win, and a very happy Teenage Robot watching at home.”

 

 

5: Edge vs John Cena

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Robot Hammer: “When Billy and I decided the topic for this edition of the 10 Spot would be rivalries, this was the first modern rivalry that made my list. From the beginning of the feud, when Edge cashed in the first Money In The Bank briefcase on a bloody and beaten John Cena, who had just defended his WWE Title in an Elimination Chamber match, I was all in. Edge is on my short list of favorite WWE wrestlers of all time, and this feud with John Cena is when he began to cement his place as a main event player. It’s also one of the rivalries of Cena’s I enjoy the most, because yet again, he proved his critics wrong, by delivering in match after match with Edge.

 

This rivalry came at a time when Edge was defining his sleazy, degenerate rock star inspired Rated-R Superstar character, and Cena’s hip hop flavored good guy persona was the perfect foil for Edge’s underhanded tactics. With Lita by his side, Edge used every dirty tactic he could to combat Cena’s often superhuman strength and resiliency. This feud didn’t just live and die with its matches, though. Cena and Edge delivered promo after promo, including the classic segment where Edge declared he hated everything about Cena, form his music to his catchphrases and wristbands.

 

When Cena defeated Edge in a TLC match at Unforgiven 2006 to win the WWE title in Toronto, I was livid. My guy lost his specialty match in his hometown. What the hell, WWE? I was emotionally invested, thanks to the performances of the two (three counting Lita) superstars, and as a wrestling fan, that’s the best feeling in the world, even when your guy loses.”

 

Billy: “Man, this feud was so important—and yet, I still don’t feel like enough people talk about it. After feuding with established main eventers like Chris Jericho & Kurt Angle, John Cena was set to embark on one of his defining rivalries with the ‘Rated R Superstar’ in January 2006. Cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase at New Year’s Revolution, Edge captured his perhaps overdue first WWE title and kickstarted the hottest feud in WWE for most of 2006. Great matches, great promos—these two men made the most of their spotlight. This rivalry also succeeded in its most important task—taking both Cena & Edge and making each other elevate their game. Edge was able to prove what he felt all along; he was worthy of being in the main event. John Cena got his first classic “rival”, and in the process made leaps & bounds as a performer. No doubt, they will be forever linked to one another and you simply can’t tell the story of one without talking about the other. True definition of a great rivalry.”

 

 

4: Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels

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Billy: “Did anyone think in 1992 that these two would be embroiled in the most discussed incident in the history of professional wrestling? I’ll venture a guess and say ‘no’, but the story of this rivalry dates back to the early part of the 90’s; even further back if you want to talk about The Rockers vs The Hart Foundation. They shared a similar career trajectory, both rocketing to singles stardom in the early-mid 90’s. They would find themselves crossing paths many times during their careers, providing us with matches & moments that WWF fans will remember forever. Their WrestleMania 12 match is an all-time classic (at least, in my opinion); but this feud went to an entirely different level in 1997 and has been written & documented through various mediums since then, up to & including the now-infamous 1997 Survivor Series match (which, when taken in as a separate entity from the post-match stuff, is pretty darn good). What happened in Montreal will be discussed in some form or fashion until the world stops turning—including an upcoming special podcast with Nick Gator & myself!—and for good reason. Whether you like it or not, it’s very possibly the most important moment in WWF history, and maybe even pro wrestling history. EVERYTHING changed post-Montreal and it has, in many ways, unfortunately cast a shadow on the excellent in-ring story that these two were able to tell with one another on so many occasions. Still, this one is a lock on any countdown discussing rivalries, as it should be.”

 

 

Robot Hammer: “What’s left to say about this rivalry? Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart’s war spread from the ring to real life, leading to backstage fights and ultimately culminating in the infamous Montreal Screwjob. This is the most discussed, debated, argued, and written about, ‘was it a work or a shoot, brother’ feud in wrestling history. Everyone has a conspiracy theory or opinion about the ending of Survivor Series 1997. If you look long enough, even the popcorn guy from the arena that night has written a tell-all book. When the apocalypse hits and the last two wrestling fans on Earth find each other, this rivalry will be still be argued about.

 

The problem with that is this: all the controversy around their real life animosity and the end of their final match together overshadows the skills and chemistry they had when they were in the ring together. Bret Hart was in his prime as a no nonsense technician who believed in traditional wrestling values. Shawn Michaels was at his obnoxious best as the leader of DX and was injecting a modern sense of attitude into the WWF. In spite of, or perhaps because of, their negative feelings towards one another, they put on one classic match after another. Their Iron Man match, where HBK won the WWF title in overtime, is a personal favorite of mine.

 

So, yeah, The Screwjob is one of the most important moments in wrestling history, but in the saga of Hart vs Michaels, it’s just an unfortunate final chapter. As far as their rivalry goes, there’s so much more to see than just Survivor Series ’97.”

 

 

3: Dusty Rhodes vs Ric Flair

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Robot Hammer: “The American Dream vs The Nature Boy. The Son Of A Plumber vs The Stylin’, Profilin’, Limousine Riding, Jet Flying, Kiss-Stealing, Wheelin’ n’ Dealin’ Son of a Gun. A chubby Texas redneck with a lisp that rapped with the cadence of a Seventies Soul Man vs a smooth talking, overly excitable playboy with the physique of a true professional athlete. A blue collar working man of the people vs professional wrestling’s original one-percenter. This is the rivalry that led to professional wrestling’s greatest promo of all time, Dusty Rhodes’s “Hard Times.” This is the rivalry that gave us the Four Horsemen jumping Dusty in a parking lot and breaking his arm. It eventually led to the creation of the War Games, where Dusty rallied some allies to face the Horsemen in a double ring cage match. It’s also one of my favorite rivalries of all time.

 

Rhodes and Flair wrestled each other night after night, putting on sixty minute matches, which showed that despite appearances, Dusty was Ric’s athletic equal. One of the greatest things about this rivalry was that Dusty got to elevate his fellow babyfaces, like Magnum TA, Nikita Koloff, and the Road Warriors, by getting them to help him battle the Horsemen.

 

One of the common elements in these rivalries is the idea of wrestlers going to battle against their polar opposites, and that’s certainly true in this case. Another common element is that these rivalries have a certain degree of believability, and Flair vs Rhodes is the best example of that idea. I don’t say that to mean that it felt like a “shoot” or like real life events dictated the flow of the narrative, but that the characters had relatable, understandable reasons to hate one another. It was poor vs rich, us vs them, and the haves vs the have-nots. Ric Flair knew that Dusty had a good chance of beating him in a fair fight, so the Nature Boy had to make sure that never happened. Dusty knew that Flair would have an ace up his sleeve at all times, so he had to be prepared for anything. This rivalry is one of my earliest and fondest wrestling memories, and I’m glad to say that looking back on it, it’s still one of the best.”

 

Billy: “Robo made most of my points already, so this will be fairly brief. This feud takes me back to my childhood—sitting in my living room in Virginia Beach, enamored by this rivalry and the two men involved. I was reciting Ric Flair promos at 4 years old, decked out in my church clothes and grandfather’s aviator shades. At the drop of a dime, I was dropping some of Dusty’s most famous lines. These two shaped a large part of my early fandom growing up in ‘Crockett Country’ and it’s a feud that still holds up so many years later. They were also able to elevate some younger names (Magnum TA & Barry Windham being the most notable), sell out arenas all over the territory, put on classic matches and tell a story that will live on for generations. They shared just as many similarities as they did differences and that just makes this rivalry even better. ‘The American Dream’ & ‘The Nature Boy’ were destined to find each other in this crazy wrestling universe, and the sport’s rich history is better off with their story being a part of it.”

 

 

2: Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

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Billy: “Probably the greatest in-ring rivalry in American wrestling history, and that only covers the stuff that is documented via celluloid. The fact that there’s been so many accounts of 5-star classics between these two that happened all throughout the Mid-Atlantic territory in the 70s that were never filmed (that we know of) makes my wrestling heart a little blue. For my money, Ricky Steamboat is Ric Flair’s greatest rival and they have displayed more than enough Da Vinci-esque masterpieces in their 16×20 galleria to back up my claim. From the 1970s until 1994, this rivalry defined excellence. Words won’t do it justice; just watch the videos for yourself and relive greatness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robot Hammer: “Another edition of the 10 Spot, and another double header for the Nature Boy. This time, Flair’s traded in the Dream and is going up against the Dragon. Again, Flair is facing off against another ideological rival. Flair was a womanizing, hard partying playboy and Steamboat was dedicated, soft spoken family man.

 

Their Chi-Town Rumble/Clash of The Champions/Wrestle War trilogy of matches for the NWA title in 1989 is often regarded as one of the greatest series of all time, and with good reason. Both competitors were at their peaks (to be fair, both guys had really long periods of time that could be considered as their peaks.) The natural dynamic between Flair and Steamboat made their matches seem like a seamless blend of art and competition. No other pairing on this list matched each other in terms of physical ability on their level.”

 

1: Austin vs McMahon

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Billy: “It’s simple, really: this feud saved the WWF and spearheaded the momentum shift that gave us the landscape in pro wrestling that we have today. Steve Austin’s ‘Stone Cold’ persona came along exactly when it needed to, as well as the birth of the ‘Mr. McMahon’ character. When they came together? Well…you know the story. This feud defined the most profitable and successful era in the history of pro wrestling and there is really nothing that could stand above this rivalry. This was overwhelmingly the number 1 pick and was close to being unanimously number 1 on each individual ballot. Now, over to Robot Hammer to take us home…”

 

Robot Hammer: “Was there ever really any doubt as to what the number one pick would be? It’s the rivalry that gave the WWF the fire they needed to define the Attitude Era. It’s the rivalry that let every frustrated working stiff live vicariously through a foul mouthed, beer chugging, bionic redneck as he flipped off his coworkers and assaulted his rat bastard of a boss. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon’s rivalry made Monday Night Raw must see television. We tuned in each week to see how they would torment and frustrate each other next, and which WWF superstar Vince would send after Austin this time.

 

Austin wasn’t a prototypical babyface, in fact he was supposed to be the bad guy until the fans rallied behind the charismatic hellraiser. As Austin’s popularity soared, one thing quickly became clear: Stone Cold didn’t fit Vinnie Mac’s image of a champion. He was too rude. He was too rough around the edges, despite being one of the WWF’s most talented performers. McMahon tried to work with Austin. McMahon tried to help Stone Cold line up with his vision for Austin’s career, but ol’ Stone Cold wasn’t changing who he was for anyone, millionaire boss or otherwise.

 

This is another rivalry where the supporting characters and other superstars around the main players were dragged into it too, with everyone from the Undertaker, Kane, the entire McMahon family, HBK, Mankind, and the Rock becoming pawns in McMahon’s game. Throughout it all, Austin held tight to his Don’t Trust Anyone motto, delivering Stunners to anyone unfortunate enough to cross the path of the Texas Rattlesnake. This also led to SCSA using everything he could get his hands on, and usually drive, to wreak havoc in the WWF, including cement mixers, cranes, Zambonis, and beer trucks.

 

The main draw to this feud, for me personally, was Austin’s open rebellion against McMahon’s tyrannical rule of the WWF. It was just fun to watch Stone Cold take his lumps while planning his next move, laugh while bring dragged out of the ring in handcuffs, and pouring beer onto his fallen foe. It wasn’t the fact that he got to attack his boss that did it for me. That was beside the point. It was the fact that Austin simply didn’t care what it cost him, he was going to get his hands on Vince, one way or another, and do it with a smile on his face. Not only was Stone Cold raising hell and winning titles, he was having fun doing it.”

 

What a countdown and a great way to re-debut the 10 Spot! Again, thanks to everyone who voted and made this countdown a reality. Now, we want to hear from you! Comment below, email us or tweet us and let us know what you thought of this week’s countdown!

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