The two most important aspects of professional wrestling in the WWE is storytelling and the actual in-ring matches themselves. The stories have to captivate the audience and then the wrestlers have to deliver a match in the ring that pulls in the audience and uses the story and action to deliver a fitting conclusion.
In today’s WWE, it seems people are more concerned with just the big moves in matches. Watching two world-class athletes pull off awe-inspiring moves that no one else can touch excites fans, but there still needs to be a story told in the match for anyone to care.
When it comes to the best WWE matches of all-time, there is a perfect mix of storytelling, paying off the angles that built to the event, and great action that pulls in the audience and leaves them breathless.
Here is a look at the 20 best WWE matches of all-time, based on not only the in-ring action but also the story told in the match.
20. SummerSlam 1991: Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect
WWE Hall of Fame superstar Bret “Hitman” Hart is widely considered one of the best technical wrestlers in the history of the WWE. Throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, he was turning in some of the best WWE matches of all-time.
At SummerSlam 1991, Hart faced off with someone who was his equal in the ring in Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig.
There were a lot of things happening at SummerSlam that people remember — from Ultimate Warrior allegedly threatening to no-show unless he was paid $550,000 and the Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth wedding. However, it was the Hart vs. Perfect match that stole the show.
The Intercontinental title was on the line and the two men wrestled for 18 minutes, with Hart winning by submission. The match remains known not only for its fantastic wrestling action but for the fact it was Hart’s first ever WWE singles’ title win of his career.
19. No Mercy 2008: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho
Shawn Michaels has a lot of spots on this list, as he was involved in several of the best WWE matches of all-time. The man he fought at No Mercy 2008 also has a career full of great matches and highlight moments.
It is no surprise that Jericho and HBK created magic when they wrestled.
Jericho was the WWE world champion at the time of this match and the match was a ladder match with his title on the line. Jericho had recently changed his gimmick and was not acting better than everyone else and calling out Michaels for his hypocrisy after years of bad behavior.
The match lasted for 22 minutes and the end came with both men fighting for the title at the top of the ladder before Jericho head-butted Michaels, knocking him to the floor, before regaining the title to win the match.
Michaels practically invented the WWE version of the ladder match, so it was no surprise to see the two men use the ladder in creative spots and create possibly the best match to ever air on a No Mercy PPV event.
18. WrestleMania VIII: Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage
It seems almost amazing after all the press that Nature Boy Ric Flair got when he left the NWA for the WWE that they never once put him in the ring against Hulk Hogan.
Through the ’80s, wrestling fans debated who the best world champion was — Flair in the NWA or Hogan in the WWE. They never got that match until both men had left the WWE and it took place in WCW.
However, the fact that Hogan and Flair never fought meant that a much better match could take place. Flair instead feuded with Macho Man Randy Savage.
The match at WrestleMania VIII followed months of Flair tormenting Savage by planting the seeds of doubt that Miss Elizabeth was loyal to the Macho Man. Flair even showed videos that made it look like Elizabeth was with him instead of Savage.
The match lasted 18 minutes and the two men fought hard the entire time, making sense based on the personal nature of the feud. Savage ended up beating Flair for the world title in the match.
17. WrestleMania 21: Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle is an Olympic gold medalist and picked up professional wrestling faster than just about anyone in WWE history. Shawn Michaels is the best big-match performer in WWE history. When the two men took the stage at WrestleMania 21, there was no doubt it would be special.
The lead into the match started when Shawn Michaels eliminated Kurt Angle from the Royal Rumble early in that year. In February, Angle lost a number one contenders match to cost himself a title shot at WrestleMania. That led to Michaels challenging Angle to this match.
This was just a basic match between two of the best of all time and they did everything they could to steal the show. The two went for 27 minutes — the longest match on the show — and ended with Angle making Michaels tap out to the ankle lock.
16. WrestleMania X8: Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock
Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X8 is proof that you don’t need flashy moves or lots of acrobatics to put on one of the best matches in WWE history. You need two men who are masters at the game understanding how to tell a story for the fans.
In this case, Hulk Hogan had returned to the WWE with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in the nWo. They ran all over the babyfaces in the company, with two big matches lined up for WrestleMania X8 — Scott Hall vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock.
Despite Hogan being the villain and trying to kill The Rock by dropping a car on him, the fans wanted to cheer for him when the match arrived. Fans all cheered for Hogan and booed the babyface Rock. The two men looked around and then made a decision.
Since they were veterans, they had the leeway to change the match and Rock began working as a heel with Hogan working like the face. The Rock won the match in what appeared to be the passing of the torch and Hogan left WrestleMania X8 as a babyface once again.
15. Money in the Bank 2011: John Cena vs. CM Punk
One of the craziest matches in WWE history came at Money in the Bank in 2011. This match saw the uber-babyface John Cena face off against the arrogant heel CM Punk. There was one problem — the match took place in Chicago.
Up until this match, Punk was starting to gain fans thanks to great promos and even better matches. This match was supposed to be the final match of Punk’s career as his contract expired the next day.
It was also for Cena’s world title, so if Punk won he would leave the WWE while still holding the title. Did we mention it was in Chicago — CM Punk’s hometown? As popular as Punk is around the world, he was molten hot in Chicago and they hated Cena.
The end came when Cena refused to let Mr. McMahon cheat for him and then Punk hit him with the GTS for the three count. Punk left as the new world champion on his last night with the company (he returned a few weeks later when he signed a new deal).
14. WrestleMania X: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
It should make sense that brothers could bring out the best in each other and that is what happened when Bret “Hitman” Hart battled his younger brother Owen Hart at WrestleMania X.
The two brothers had turned on each other after conflicts at the Survivor Series the previous year led to Owen making a full heel turn at the Royal Rumble and attacking his brother.
What is amazing was how WrestleMania X turned out. Owen and Bret fought in the opening match on the show with Owen winning in a 20-minute battle, possibly the best opening match in WWE PPV history.
What was interesting was that Bret was also in the main event at the end of the show and pinned Yokozuna to become the new WWE world champion — making Owen an immediate top contender and a major star in the process.
13. WrestleMania X: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
It seems almost hard to believe that ladder matches in the WWE used to be rare and unique matches. Over time, they became so normal that tables and chairs needed to be added — or at least a Money in the Bank contract to make them special again.
However, in 1994 at WrestleMania X, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon fought in what was unofficially the first ladder match in the new-era WWE.
The two men, friends behind-the-scenes, knew that they could push themselves into the top of the card with a good showing and they did it here. For 18 minutes, the two men used the ladder for innovative offensive moves, unlike wrestlers today that use it to make deft-defying leaps.
As a result, it wasn’t just the first but also one of the most technically sound ladder matches. Razor won and Shawn used the momentum to move into the main event and challenge for the WWE world title.
12. Royal Rumble 1992
In 1991, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair joined the WWE after years of being the face of the NWA/WCW. He actually brought a world title with him and claimed to be the “real world champion,” something that rubbed the company’s top babyfaces like Hulk Hogan the wrong way.
Then, Royal Rumble 1992 came along and Ric Flair ended up winning what was without doubt one of the best WWE matches of all-time.
The wrestlers in this Royal Rumble match were amazing. The British Bulldog and Ted DiBiase started out and then Ric Flair was third. Flair ended up lasting one full hour in the match to win it and, for the first time in WWE history, the WWE world title as a result.
Add in names like Shawn Michaels, Kerry Von Erich, Roddy Piper, Jake The Snake Roberts. The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice and Randy Savage and this might be the most stacked Royal Rumble in WWE history.
11. WrestleMania XX: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Chris Benoit
When it comes to the best WWE matches of all-time, one that the company will never talk about — despite it including two Hall of Fame stars, one of them being the current Executive Vice President of Talent for the company — is the triple threat match at WrestleMania XX for the WWE world heavyweight title.
This match saw champion Triple H defend against his old DX partner Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit.
The match was amazing, with all three men playing their parts well. It also ended in a huge moment as Benoit forced Triple H to tap out to win his first WWE world title. The night then ended with Benoit and his close friend Eddie Guerrero embracing in the ring, as Eddie had won the WWE title earlier in the show.
Benoit, of course, ended his life in a horrible murder-suicide and remains unmentionable to the WWE to this day, but this is still one of the best WWE matches of all-time.
10. SummerSlam 1992: Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog
There’s already been one match on our list of best WWE matches of all-time that showed how great Bret “Hitman” Hart could be when battling a family member in his loss to Owen Hart in 1994 at WrestleMania X. Two years earlier he did the same thing for his brother-in-law The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith.
Much like Bret vs. Owen, the match with British Bulldog at SummerSlam in 1992 was a match where Hart put over his relative and friend.
This match was for the Intercontinental title and the British Bulldog came out as the winner, taking a singles title after a long career as a tag team superstar. Bret made Smith look like a million bucks and turned the Bulldog into a legitimate star.
9. WrestleMania XXIV: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels
This is a case where the story told was so strong that it helped turn what would have been an average match into one of the most memorable WWE matches of all-time. Nature Boy Ric Flair was 59 years old when he wrestled this match — his best days long behind him.
The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels was 43 and, while he wasn’t his same younger self, was still turning in great matches.
Flair has admitted that he let Michaels carry the match and that was just fine as HBK and Flair both know how to tell a story, so letting Shawn worry about the action and Flair just selling his butt off made this one very special.
Shawn ended up winning with Sweet Chin Music and that forced Flair to retire in what was one last giant moment for the greatest professional wrestler of all-time.
8. King of the Ring 1998: Undertaker vs. Mick Foley
When a match has a moment that people still talk about over 20 years later, that is special. When a match is celebrated when it hit its 20th anniversary, that makes it something that really meant something to the world of professional wrestling.
The first ever Hell in a Cell match took place in 1997 between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels and was a great one. The third took place the next year and was the one people still talk about to this day.
Mankind (Mick Foley) took on Undertaker in the Hell in a Cell match at the 1998 King of the Ring PPV.
It is known for two moments — the first being Undertaker throwing Foley off the top of the cell and through the announcer’s table (Jim Ross: “As God as my witness, he is broken in half!”) and the second when Foley climbed back to the top and Undertaker choke-slammed him through the top of the cage, legitimately knocking Foley out (Jim Ross: “Good God! Will somebody stop the damn match? Enough’s enough!”).
The match solidified Foley as a star and easily shortened his career.
7. WrestleMania III: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
WrestleMania III had two matches that sit in the top 10 of the best WWE matches of all-time. One was arguably the best wrestling match of all time and the other was arguably the greatest spectacle of all-time.
By 1987, Andre the Giant was not the same wrestler that he used to be, his body starting to give out on him. However, he still had enough at this point to work, and in this match he gave Hulk Hogan the greatest challenge of his career.
The WWE claimed Andre was undefeated in his career and that no one had ever pinned him (not true). Then, one day on WWE television, he let Hulk Hogan know he hired Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to be his manager and challenged Hogan for the WWE world title.
Their match came at WrestleMania III and Hulk Hogan not only beat Andre the Giant but he picked him up and bodyslammed him in front of over 90,000 screaming fans.
6. WrestleMania X-Seven: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock
One of the greatest rivalries in WWE history was between the two biggest stars in the company during the Attitude Era — Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. In something that is unheard of today, these two men worked not one, and not two, but three different matches at WrestleMania events.
Stone Cold won the first two and then The Rock won the third, as Austin was preparing for retirement due to a bad neck. All three matches were different and all three have their own reasons that they stand the test of time. The best of the three came at WrestleMania X-Seven.
This was the second of their three encounters and was an amazingly hard-fought match, lasting 28 minutes, and ending with a double turn at the end that didn’t take anything away from the match but changed the dynamic of the WWE instead.
McMahon, who was with The Rock, betrayed The Great One and Austin, the most popular wrestler in the world, turned heel and joined forces with his hated enemy Mr. McMahon to become the new world champion.
5. WrestleMania X-Seven: Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz
The WWE has never put much stock into their tag team matches, which is a good reason there are almost none in this list of the best WWE matches of all-time. With that said, there was a period of time during the Attitude Era where three tag teams were putting on better matches than almost everyone in the company.
While there is a PPV every year based on the Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches, it was the Dudley Boyz, Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian that mastered the match and turned in two amazing TLC matches between the three teams. That match saw the Hardy’ love of ladders, the Dudleys’ increased use of tables and Edge & Christian’s mastery of using chairs as weapons all combined into one violent match.
The first TLC match took place at SummerSlam 2000, won by Edge & Christian. The three teams then took it to another level at WrestleMania X-Seven, which included two memorable moments. One came when Jeff Hardy hit the Swanton Bomb off the top of a 16-foot ladder and the second came when Edge speared Hardy to the ring from the top of a 20-foot ladder.
Edge & Christian won again and no one, to this day, has matched this amazing TLC match despite the PPV named after them taking place every year.
4. WrestleMania XII: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
In 1996, the WWE was working toward ushering in a new era. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were gone, and while Ultimate Warrior made a big appearance at WrestleMania XII to squash a fresh-faced Triple H, this was the show that really showed the WWE was headed in a new direction. That was shown most in the WWE world title match.
Bret “Hitman” Hard had proven to be a quality champion and was hitting his stride as a single star. The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels had started to slowly turn babyface and the two stars prepared to battle in a 60-minute Iron Man match. The story was Michaels realizing his “Boyhood Dream” and the match paid off that story.
The two men went the entire 60 minutes and the match was tied when time expired. The two men decided they wanted to determine a clear winner and went into overtime where Michaels pinned Hart and won his first-ever world title.
The truth is that the first half of the match was a basic above average bout, but the last half was some of the best wrestling you will ever see in a WWE ring. By the end, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were the two biggest stars in the entire company.
3. WrestleMania 13: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart
At WrestleMania 13, something special happened. The year before, Bret Hart was the world champion and defended his title against Shawn Michaels in an Iron Man match that made HBK a star. This year, Hart made someone else a star in a completely different way. This was the match that really planted the seeds in the WWE for the Attitude Era.
Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid for the WWE world title was the main event but it didn’t hold a candle to this Submission Match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin. This match took place after Austin had delivered his Austin 3:16 speech and started to gain fans — even as a heel.
Meanwhile, Hart was getting a little more sanctimonious and fans were tiring of his holier than thou attitude as a babyface. In the Hart vs. Austin match, the two planned ahead of time a way to do a double-turn, and start the match with Hart as the babyface and Austin as the heel and end it with Hart as the bad guy and Austin as the new face of the WWE.
It worked perfectly. Hart ended up winning, locking in the Sharpshooter and holding on until a bloody Austin passed out from the pain. Austin never gave up and his tenacity and resilience made him the biggest star in the WWE for most of the next decade.
2. WrestleMania XXV: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels was involved in two retirement matches in his career. In the first one, he beat Nature Boy Ric Flair and retired one of the best wrestlers of all time. In the second one, Michaels put his own career on the line against The Undertaker — and lost, retiring from the sport of professional wrestling for almost 10 years.
While that was a great match, it was their battle the year before that finished as one of the greatest WWE matches of all-time. Shawn retired after WrestleMania XXVI but he turned in a true classic at WrestleMania XXV.
That match saw a stark difference between Undertaker and HBK. While Taker came to the ring as the Dead Man surrounded by fire, entering from a platform from under the stage, Shawn Michaels descended from the stage dressed completely in white as the beacon of light.
The fans loved every second of this match, alternating cheers for the two superstars and chanting “this is awesome” numerous times. The end came when Undertaker pinned Michaels in what won the WWE Match of the Year and made fans ready for the rematch one year later.
1. WrestleMania III – Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat
On the same show that Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre the Giant and ended the most impressive streak in professional wrestling history, another match stole the show. In the ninth match on the show, Macho Man Randy Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat battled for the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
There were sideshows that never interfered in the greatness of the match. George The Animal Steele was in Steamboat’s corner and lusted after Miss Elizabeth. That was simply there for added appeal to some fans. However, greatness came in the ring.
Steamboat is the greatest babyface in the history of professional wrestling and Savage is one of the best heels to ever step into the ring. This match was set up when Savage attacked Steamboat before a title match months before and dropped the ring bell into his throat, sending fans into a frenzy. It was such a realistic attack that many fans believed Steamboat was legitimately injured.
When they two finally battled at WrestleMania III — six months after the initial attack — Steamboat was the ultimate babyface seeking revenge. Savage had kept his title by cheating every step of the way and the two battled physically and mentally, trying to stay one step ahead of the other.
The match had so many near falls that the fans were crazed by the time that Steamboat finally was able to wrap up Savage for the three count and win the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant captivated the world. Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage put on the best WWE match of all-time.