1. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon
Professional wrestling fans had long been accustomed to cookie-cutter good and bad guys, either blindly moralistic or simply sinister. But then beer-swilling antihero Steve Austin took the stage and changed the game, flipping off boss and arch-nemesis Vince McMahon with casual disdain and lighting the coals under one of wrestling’s most enduring rivalries.
2. The Undertaker vs. Kane
Here are two guys that never really got that whole “brotherly love” thing. The tumultuous clash between these two titans spurred what’s since been dubbed the most dramatic plot thread in WWE history, and a peerless example of premiere storytelling from within the ring.
3. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart
It isn’t exactly odd to see a feud between superstars transcend Monday night primetime, but contemporary clashes can’t quite measure up to this epic, era-defining rivalry. Tensions had flared between Michaels and Hart as far back as their tag-team days, carrying on into each wrestler’s solo careers and culminating in one of the circuit’s most controversial matches: the infamous Montreal Screwjob.
4. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
These are the things that legends are made of. Ask any WWE fan worth their salt about the fiercest feud to ever bubble and boil inside the squared circle, and the answer will be unanimous: Stone Cold vs. The Rock, every time.
5. CM Punk vs. John Cena
One’s a well-groomed wrestling phenom, the other’s a scrappy, straight-edged troublemaker. You put these two modern-day legends into the same squared circle and sparks are bound to fly.
6. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
All it took was an iota of envy to turn this brotherhood into a bitter rivalry. Despite the duo’s success as tag team champions, the Latino Heat grew more and more resentful of his partner’s solo success, resulting in a fiery feud and a flurry of increasingly vicious matches.
7. The Rock vs. Triple H
In retrospect, we suppose it made pitch-perfect sense that the Attitude Era’s two most charismatic up-and-comers might feel a bit of animosity towards one another. And thank goodness they did; this feud offered up some of the absolute best pre-match trash talking in WWE history.
8. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz
Bad blood was already bubbling between the Hardyz, the Dudleyz, and the tag-team twosome of Edge and Christian, so when all three factions went toe-to-toe-to-toe for the championship title, it wasn’t just personal. It was all-out warfare.
9. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk
Another example of real-life rivalry steeped deep in in-ring mayhem, this quarrel sparked when straight-edged superstar Punk called out Hardy’s raucous lifestyle on live TV. What followed was an emotional altercation that spanned several grueling matches, capping off with an earth-shaking SummerSlam bout that skyrocketed CM Punk to superstar status.