November 3, 2009
Matt Peddycord, Scott Criscuolo, & Justin Rozzero
The 100 Greatest WWE Matches of the Decade: 2000
It’s hard to believe that time has flown so quickly, but ladies and gentlemen we have come to the end of another decade. It feels like we just celebrated a new millennium too.
The end of the ’80s saw the absolute demise of the territory days thanks to nationwide cable giants Ted Turner and Vince McMahon leading the way. The end of the ’90s saw the WWF rise up from near bankruptcy by making new stars while the former wrestling leader WCW’s star power began to die a quick death along with some big business decisions between Ted Turner and AOL/Time Warner that would send WCW to the guillotine forever. Into the 2000s, the wrestling business at least in North America saw competition go down to his absolute lowest point ever as Vince had finally achieved his life goal – to monopolize the wrestling business. Upstart companies like Total Nonstop Action and Ring of Honor were both able to receive cable deals within their first ten years (TNA only in two!), but fail in comparison when you consider the firm grip Vince McMahon and WWE have on wrestling. I’m sorry, sports entertainment.
But enough about that, I’m here to talk about the good times we’ve had in this decade. I’ve compiled a list of 100 of the absolute best matches I’ve seen that not only have a lasting impact on our business, but on the fans themselves. Matches that people reflect back on with good thoughts when they’re hanging out with their friends and reliving those moments. So as to make sure every year gets a fair share of matches, there will be ten matches for each year. You may think the year 2000 is the greatest year in wrestling history (and it quite possibly could be), but let’s try and give every year a chance to be good.
I (Matt) made the list, but I’ve got my boys Justin and Scott to help me out with their valued thoughts. Hope you enjoy!
WWF World Champion Triple H vs. Cactus Jack – Street Fight (Royal Rumble 2000)
Matt: One word: VIOLENT. This match was violent from bell to bell. I can’t recall a match that had taken the violence to this extreme since the Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring 1998. Sure there was the Mankind/Rock “I Quit” match from the ‘99 Rumble, but it didn’t quite take it this far as both men received a lot of punishment as where Mankind was taking much of the beating in the “I Quit” match. Incredible drama, incredible atmosphere – just an incredible contest with Triple H in a career-elevating encounter. Plus I loved the Cactus Jack character and the way they pulled off the return was brilliant. Easily a ***** match from me.
Justin: This was an epic street fight that really put Triple H on the map as a bonafide big time star. The push was there before the match, but the way he busted his ass and went toe to toe with Cactus in a brutal environment really solidified his standing with the fans as a legit player. Cactus stepped up as well and really put Hunter over as he was nearing the end of his career (at the time anyway). The match itself was brutal and also had a nice homage to the year before with the handcuff spot halfway through. Cactus kicking out of the first Pedigree was great drama as well. Great match here that served its purpose on many levels.
Scott: The match that made Triple H “The Game”. In front of a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden, The first “Big 4? PPV after Steve Austin’s hiatus began was somewhat in limbo. After Cactus/Triple H tore the house down for 20 minutes, and bled all over the arena. Triple H got a nasty injury when he was backdropped on a wood pallet and a huge sliver of wood jabbed into his calf. The match is a classic and showed that Triple H was going to be a player for years to come and Cactus Jack, like he did with Rock in 1999, created a superstar.
DX & The Radicalz (w/Eddie Guerrero) vs. The Rock, Cactus Jack, Too Cool & Rikishi (Raw is War, 2/7/00)
Matt: Live from Dallas, wrestling is finally alive again in this former dead town after all the Von Erich tragedies from the ’80s and ’90s with an extremely HOT ten man tag that saw the brand new Radicalz group (Benoit, Malenko, Saturn, Guerrero) jump ship from WCW and show up right in the main event spot to battle some of the top faces in the company with Triple H and X-Pac by their side. At the time, this was a HUGE thrill for me to see my favorites from WCW abandon ship for the much more interesting company. Without a doubt, one of the best Raw matches I’ve ever seen.
Justin: This was a flat out fun, fast paced balls to the wall match that had the crowd rocking from bell to bell. It featured 10 of the hottest stars in wrestling and took place during the peak of popularity for the business. All ten men busted their asses and it was just one of those magical nights where it all came together into a masterpiece. It also helped establish the Radicalz in that it showed WWF fans that they could hang with the big boys and really deliver the goods in the ring. Also, this match featured the great return of Kane, with Paul Bearer, as he came out to assault X-Pac. The pop for his entrance was huge. One of the best Raw matches of all time.
Scott: A forgotten match in many people’s minds, but it was the first real display of the 4 new free agent studs that arrived in WWE. Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn arrived with much fanfare from the floundering WCW, and with Eddie Guerrero on the shelf, Triple H and X-Pac joined them to face an unusual team of Rock, Kane, Too Cool, and Rikishi. On paper it’s a typical throwaway Raw main event, but somehow the crowd that night was off the charts and that extra energy of mayhem that a 10-man tag brings led to one of Raw’s greatest main events. Unfortunately we’ll probably never see it on any DVD’s since Benoit’s on it but if you’re lucky enough to have taped Raw that night and still have it, throw it in. You’ll be surprised at how good it really is.
WWF World Champion Triple H vs. Cactus Jack – Hell in a Cell (No Way Out 2000)
Matt: In the lead-up to the match, I wondered if anything could top not only the Mankind/UT Hell in a Cell, but the insane street fight that had just happened at the Rumble. What could they possibly do to make this better? Well it wasn’t as memorable as the HIAC in ‘98, but it was a nice way to say goodbye to Mick. Well, if he had actually left forever at the end of this match. This was another brutal affair but not quite as brutal as the street fight. There was FIRE involved and a nasty fall through the cage, but nothing we hadn’t seen already done better before. Still about a ****½ match.
Justin: The follow up to the RR street fight was another stiff, violent affair that continued to push Hunter to the top of the business. I prefer the street fight to this one, but it was still really well worked and filled with drama. The big bump at the end was a cool visual and the sight of Cactus emerging from the whole like a zombie was awesome. Jack’s return to action a month later takes a way a bit of the emotion that was here, but even without that it is still a great match and one of the best of the year.
Scott: I had the privilege of being at this show live in Hartford and it was ugly. Being the only guy in my entire section wearing a Triple H “Not for the Innocent” t-shirt and my girlfriend at the time wearing the Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley baby tee, I was definitely the underdog in terms of the crowd. On top of the fact Big Show had become #1 contender just a few moments before; the chance of Mick Foley winning was a pretty good possibility. The match didn’t reach the level of violence that the previous month’s war at the Garden had, but definitely still had the emotion and violence. Triple H retires Foley (for a month anyway) and Triple H is THE MAN.
WWF World Tag Team Champions Buh Buh Ray & D-Von Dudley vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz – Ladder Match (WrestleMania 2000)
Matt: Some people may disagree on this one, but man was this awesome. People loved the ladder match between the Hardyz and E&C back at No Mercy, but the Dudleyz added the monkey wrench this feud needed: tables. In this match, Jeff pulls off the first huge Swanton off the ladder through a table spot back when it was fresh. I just love watching this match. So much fun, but it had to hurt a lot. About ****¼ from me.
Justin: After the No Mercy ladder war put Edge, Christian and the Hardyz on the map, they were put in a rematch here on the biggest stage in wrestling. Oh, and also add to the mix the extreme table obsessed red hot heel tag team champions to the mix for fun. The Dudleyz were super over as heels here as they kept punishing women and driving them through tables each week. Heading into the match, E&C were the bland underdogs as they really had just sort of floating around in the months leading in. It was this win that really launched them into their role as a dominant tag team. Their heel charisma would being oozing out following the show and the rest was history. This super stiff, violent car crash would set the template for the TLC wars of the next decade.
Scott: The match that made all 3 of these teams what they became and what they are now. Without Steve Austin, this WrestleMania needed to be a little more creative to bring the buyrate. Besides the 4-way main event and the Euro-continental Triple Threat match, this was the match that will forever be remembered that night in Anaheim. All three teams were talented, but this was a chance where they really went all out to entertain. Edge & Christian win their first of many ladder matches together, and this match becomes the one that WrestleMania XVI will be remembered.
WWF World Champion Triple H vs. The Rock – (Backlash 2000)
Matt: Finally, these two meet one on one – even though Shane McMahon had to be special ref to guarantee some sort of trickery and shenanigans along the way. All the same, Steve Austin coming out and destroying the McMahons and the Stooges was pretty satisfying. Yeah, this match is like a Snickers bar to me. ****¼
Justin: A manic, epic blow off to a lengthy chase by the Rock. Everyone thought Rock would win at WrestleMania, but Hunter kept the title as Vince thought he could garner a big buy rate for this show by holding off on a singles match and a title change. Oh, and it also featured the return of Steve Austin too. These two went all out and delivered a classic brawl with some great drama and tension. Austin comes out to a massive pop, cracks Hunter and gives Rock the title. Great stuff from two of the all time best.
Scott: After getting screwed over at WrestleMania, Rock gets one final chance in front of a raucous Washington DC crowd. Add to the fact that Steve Austin, seen on camera once since November may be making an appearance and you have the makings of a classic. Both guys were on top of their game at this moment, and the feud was electric. Sure there was way too much McMahon involved, but that didn’t take away from the match itself. Great overall match with a super hot ending.
WWF World Champion The Rock vs. Triple H – 60-Minute Ironman Match (Special Ref: Shawn Michaels) (Judgment Day 2000)
Matt: Few people thought Rock and HHH could go 60 minutes without it sucking. Boy were those people wrong. They went all out and wild for this one culminating in the dramatic return of the Undertaker to chokeslam the McMahons and DX. Pretty sweet match. I would go around ****¾ if it had had a better finish than UT costing Rock a DQ with a chokeslam to HHH. Oh well. Still amazing.
Justin: The Backlash rematch was one that not many fans and pundits had faith in. Not many people thought Rock and Hunter could deliver a top notch contest over the length of an hour. Well, they proved everyone wrong as they put on a tremendously fun overbooked car crash for sixty minutes. They featured a lot of falls to keep things interesting and mixed in some nice psychology along the way. The return of the Undertaker was great as well, especially when you include Vince’s crazy walk to avoid him. The timing gets screwed up at the end, but that is a minor quibble. This was a great match and continued the streak of tremendous world title PPV matches.
Scott: Pretty much the same comments as their last match, except the surprising fact that in only the second 60-minute match in WWE history, both men let themselves get pinned, counted out, DQ’ed and everything else. Shawn Michaels as the guest referee adds drama and intrigue also, as the last time he refereed a match he superkicked Rock out of the WWE Title. In my opinion a much better Iron Man match than the HBK/Bret Hart match from WrestleMania XII. Then there was the specter of the Undertaker returning after being gone since the previous August and you have a great overall performance from everyone.
Triple H vs. Chris Jericho – Last Man Standing Match (Fully Loaded 2000)
Matt: When I think of this match, I always think back to the night Jericho “embarrassed” HHH and beat him for the belt to a HUGE pop. Since it was a fast count by Hebner, HHH got the finish overturned and the belt returned back to him. When I think of this match, I always think of ALL the stuff Jericho said about Stephanie (bottom-feeding trash bag ho) and how eventually Triple H was going to get his revenge. Well this is that match. Jericho had a beating coming, but he didn’t just lie there and take it. He fought back tooth and nail and showed Triple H he had some BALLS. Big career-maker match for Jericho. I might even go all the way with this one because it ruled your face off, but for now I’ll say ****¾.
Justin: Chris Jericho’s WWF coming out party took place here as he stands toe to toe with the red hot game. They battled and bloodied each other until neither man could stand. Hunter barely escaped with the win here, but Jericho gained a ton of respect and cache despite the loss. He proved he could hang with the big boys and deliver a main event quality match. Sadly, this would be the closest Hunter allowed him to victory in any of their endless matches. Hunter kept his hot streak rolling here and continued to keep his crown as the best big match performer of the year.
Scott: This was Chris Jericho’s coming out party as a WWE superstar. His first real high profile match since arriving the previous August, Jericho meets the Game, still on a roll after his hot feud with the Rock. To add to it, they put in a stipulation where the loser can’t get up on a 10-count. The brawl was pretty solid but the only bad part was the winner. I love Triple H, but having Jericho win would have been a big boost for him at that moment. Otherwise it’s a solid match that defined the year 2000: Great wrestling even if the storyline wasn’t too intricate.
WWF World Tag Team Champions Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Buh Buh Ray & D-Von Dudley – TLC Match (SummerSlam 2000)
Matt: Surely they can’t outperform the last two ladder matches, but what do you know – they did. The ladders were longer, the falls were WAY more dramatic, and everyone ended up being a casualty. I highly doubt Buh Buh Ray’s fall off the 20 foot ladder through several tables will ever leave my mind. Easy ***** classic.
Justin: The follow up to WrestleMania was equally as crazy and had a bigger feel to it as all three teams were more established and over as well. E&C retain and start to pull away from the pack as the premier team in wrestling. Great stuff once again.
Scott: Pretty much an extension of the match at WrestleMania, except the tables and chairs are officially part of the match. How they were able to actually amp up the violence factor to make it even better that in April. Although E&C won again, the Hardyz really deserve a good portion of the credit. They really took the bumps more than either of the other two, I think. This trend would continue over the next couple of years as the tag division went back to its 80’s golden era in 2000.
WWF World Champion The Rock vs. Kurt Angle – No-DQ Match (No Mercy 2000)
Matt: Rock – Hogan – Austin – Bret – Flair – Angle. All world champions, but only one of these legendary figures have captured the gold in their first YEAR in the business. That one man is Kurt Angle. Another match where both men went back and forth in and out of the ring for 20 minutes with a big ending. Outside of being a parody of an All-American character throughout 2000, in this match he showed us that he could not only wrestle, but he could fight. While during his first reign as champion he was booked as a lucky wrestler, there was no denying he earned the gold on this night. I’ve given this ***½ before, but the importance of the match overshadows the “lack” of stars.
Justin: A crazy brawl that saw Kurt Angle establish himself as a main event star and cap off one of the greatest year long stretches in wrestling history. Rock made Kurt look great here and Angle’s celebration was classic stuff. Great match that helped establish a mega star.
Scott: A surprisingly good match and a huge upset as Kurt Angle won his first WWE Title against the Rock who’d had the best single year of his career. Rock was a pro at carrying matches now so Angle, technically the better wrestler, didn’t have to really do more than his part. The Rikishi run-in ruined the flow a little although it did precipitate the upset. Overall a good match and one that they better a few months down the road.
WWF World Champion Kurt Angle vs. The Rock vs. The Undertaker vs. Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. Rikishi – Hell in a Cell (Armageddon 2000)
Matt: Oh no they didn’t just chokeslam Rikishi off a cage down into the bed of a truck. YES THEY DID. Two guys in a cell was fun enough, but six of the top superstars? That’s crazy. Everybody pulled out all the stops in this one and together they put on heck of a show. It’s a personal favorite even if some people don’t think it’s one of the greatest ever. I absolutely loved the ending where everybody hits their finishers and Angle squeezing out the win at the last second. Around at least ****.
Justin: A great Cell match with top notch star power to carry it along. All the big players are in the mix here as Angle manically tries to escape with his title. Rikishi takes the big bump off the match as Taker chokeslams him off the roof and onto a truck. The match was the idea of Commissioner Foley and he delivered a spectacle. Angle barely retains his title as he wins the match while surrounded by destroyed bodies of main eventers strewn around him. This classic caps off an epic year for big time PPV matches.
Scott: Ah, a guilty pleasure of mine. I always like any kind of cage match because there’s an added aspect that other matches don’t have. This match in particular had that chaotic bonus of 6 big time money guys (well 5 and Rikishi) fighting for the WWE Title. Austin and Triple H ripped into each other like two animals and that feud never slowed down. Angle survives a vicious beatdown and retains his title. A great match that’s forgotten in PPV annals.
Next week, we will bring you ten more great matches from the year 2001! Let us know what you think so far of the column and fill us in on some of your favorite matches of the last decade!