From the very beginning “grudge” matches, by whatever name, were the backbone of pro wrestling. The hotter the feud the hotter the “grudge” match, and the more of them could be booked. With so many to choose from in the ever-expanding archives of the WWE Network these are just 10 of the best hardcore gems for you to enjoy before this Sunday’s Extreme Rules!
— “Steel Cage Match” – Paul Ellering Suspended Above the Ring – If Tommy Rich Wins Paul Ellering Must Face Ole Anderson in the Cage (WATCH)
Tommy “Wildfire” Rich vs. “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer w/Paul Ellering
Georgia Championship Wrestling: Last Battle of Atlanta ■ October 23, 1983
For more than 32-years it was thought that all traces of this showdown were lost. When the match finally appeared on the WWE Network on September 6, 2016 it was the talk of the wrestling world. Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer had waged a near nuclear war for two-years in Georgia Championship Wrestling before finally agreeing to end it all in one last battle. Their brawls are the stuff of legend, fighting in concession stands, dressing rooms, parking lots, through barbed wire and cages, producing some of the wildest, craziest moments in the modern era of the sport in the process. The “Last Battle of Atlanta” is nothing short of an old-school war. Bloody, stiff, violent, psychological and (above all) realistic, this cage match has been often imitated but never duplicated. Credited as a key inspiration for “Hell in a Cell” the impact of this match is still felt today.
— “Mexican Death Match” (WATCH – 18:08)
Abdullah the Butcher w/Paul Jones vs. “The Ragin’ Bull” Manny Fernandez
NWA Starrcade ’85: The Gathering ■ November 28, 1985
What started out as a battle for a shot at the NWA World title quickly turned personal. The “Mexican Death Match” itself was relatively knew to the territory with Fernandez and Barbarian having the first few in the late summer of ’85 at house shows throughout the territory before the match was showcased here on a national level. Featuring Abdullah bumping like a (giant) cruiserweight, buckets of blood and tons of stiff action, this remains one of the bloodiest, most realistic brawls in Starrcade history and arguably the best “pole” match ever.
— “Non-Title, Non-Sanctioned ‘White Castle of Fear’ Light’s Out Leather Strap Match” (WATCH – 2:20:34)
Sting vs. WCW World Heavyweight Champion Big Van Vader w/Harley Race
WCW SuperBrawl III ■ February 21, 1993
For my money this is hands down the best “strap” match there is. From the psychology to the violence this match has it all. Most fans write off the match as garbage based solely on the hokey “mini-movie” that sold it, but there’s nothing hokey or campy about the match itself. The two first met when Vader took the World title from Sting at Great American Bash ’92 and again in December at Starrcade ’92 where Sting defeated Vader to win the “King of Cable” tournament, and by the start of 1993 the burgeoning Vader/Sting feud was the talk of the wrestling world. This match, aside from the hokey “mini-movies”, helped further establish both men as the future of WCW.
— “Falls Count Anywhere Number One Contender’s Match for the ECW Tag Team Championship Later in the Show” (WATCH)
Special Guest Commentator: Bob Smith
The Public Enemy (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. The Bruise Brothers (Ron & Don Harris)
NWA-ECW Hardcore TV #50 ■ March 29, 1994 (TAPED: March 5, 1994)
At a time when Eastern Championship Wrestling was known for wild brawls, this one takes the cake. Without a drop of blood these four men waged an epic war that was one of the first great “extreme” matches in the promotion. The Harris brothers would work off-and-on for NWA-ECW until December of ’94 while Public Enemy would go on to be one of the most recognizable tag teams in ECW history. From the ring to the crowd to the commentators table, this war is a must-see for old-school ECW fans.
— “Non-Title Chicago Street Fight” (WATCH – 36:11)
Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne vs. WCW World Tag Team Champions The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags)
WCW Spring Stampede ’94 ■ April 17, 1994
I’ve loved this match from the night it happened. Fans knew going in, based on the promos and the matches these four had before this, that this one was going to be “as wild a match as we’ve ever seen on a WCW Pay-Per-View,” as Tony Schiavone says. A match that was ECW before ECW was cool, this left the Chicago crowd and the announcers breathless with its wild action and innovative violence. 23-years later this match is just as fresh and just as shocking, especially the shovel shot that ends the fight.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH)
Bad Company (Bruce Hart & Brian Pillman) vs. The Funks (Terry & Dory, Jr.) w/Mike Shaw
Stampede at the Corral: Stu Hart 50th Anniversary Show ■ December 15, 1995
This was a dream match to some that starts out as a pretty decent wrestling match that very quickly breaks down into an all-out brawl! A fun, entertaining match, featuring some great commentary by the late Ed Whalen, this “hidden gem” is an old-school psychological war that feels more like a Japanese showdown than a Stampede match and serves as a last hurrah for the Funks in Stampede.
— “Las Vegas Sudden Death Match” (WATCH – 2:00:39)
Randy “Macho Man” Savage w/Elizabeth vs. Diamond Dallas Page
WCW Halloween Havoc ’97 ■ October 26, 1997
Few of the feuds of the Monday Night Wars era were as personal or as believable as the DDP/Savage saga. Centered around wives, manhood and guts, the three PPV wars that DDP and Savage waged were classic battles in the annuls of wrestling. Their final collision, at Halloween Havoc’ 97, may well be the best of the three. Despite the lackluster finish the match was but a glimpse of the old-school brawls of the past that put WCW on the map and brought the southern wrestling fans to the arenas.
— ECW World Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 26:53)
Mike Awesome w/”Judge” Jeff Jones vs. Masato Tanaka(c)
ECW on TNN #19 ■ December 31, 1999 (TAPED: December 23, 1999)
In the summer of 1998 Masato Tanaka and the late Mike Awesome brought their famous FMW wars to the U.S. and helped raise the bar for “extreme”, reinventing it in the process. Though their matches were rarely bloodbaths they were stiff, brutal battles of will that seemingly tested the limits of endurance and pain. Tanaka and Awesome brought the art of the false finish to new heights (or lows, depending on your point of view) and, with the help of young guys like Rhino, helped establish “hardcore” as more than barbed wire and buckets of blood. Sporting a devastating finish as brutal as the night it aired, this often overlooked gem marked one of the final one-on-one battles in Tanaka and Awesome’s infamous ECW feud.
— WWF Tag Team Championship – “Tables, Ladders, & Chairs” (WATCH – 1:26:30)
The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von) vs. The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff) vs. Edge & Christian(c)
WWF SummerSlam 2000 ■ August 27, 2000
Nearly 5-months after they revolutionized the ladder match at WrestleMania 2000 these three teams did it again at SummerSlam in the first-ever “TLC” match. Packed with one unforgettable spot after another “TLC”, like the Undertaker/Mankind “Hell in a Cell” match before it, helped solidify WWF’s place at the top of the pro wrestling heap. While WrestleMania X-Seven‘s “TLC II” is often regarded as the better match, it’s hard to top the original.
— “Three Stages of Hell” (WATCH – 47:49)
Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
WWF No Way Out 2001 ■ February 25, 2001
Another first-of-its-kind in the WWF (Eddie Gilbert and Cactus Jack waged a legendary version of this match in the old TWA) this match is a fight from the word go. Designed to settle the near year and a half war between Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin “Three Stages of Hell” is a psychological masterpiece that would have fit in perfectly at the Omni in 1982. Austin would go on to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven to win the WWF title while Triple H would become victim #9 in Undertaker’s “Streak”. Though this more or less spelled the end of the Triple H/Stone Cold feud it wasn’t the end for these two. The night after WrestleMania X-Seven, where Austin would turn heel, these two would form the “Two-Man Power Trip”, one of the WWF’s great teams, and attempt to expand their legacy. Triple H’s torn quad, however, prematurely ended the partnership.
As these hard-hitting contests illustrate, a good old fashioned street fight never gets old!
And when the chemistry and story are just right a true knock-down-drag-out war is as good as it gets in pro wrestling. And while the days of the bloodbaths are gone for now, Sunday is likely to produce a great war. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Already subscribed to the WWE Network, are ya? Then you can relive these classics right now, or see them for the very first. As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.
Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
Watch the most hardcore of matches, Extreme Rules 2017, and over 8,000 more hours of content on the WWE Network. Your first month is FREE! Click here to subscribe to the WWE Network.