5. Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle – SummerSlam
WWE has a bad habit of extending rivalries needlessly through the use of disqualification finishes. 99% of the time it ends up with an incredibly flat finish leaving fans disappointed and irritated.
In this match, however, the DQ finish helped the story rather than hurt it. Kurt Angle was wrestling as a tremendous babyface against heel Steve Austin. Heel Austin was a bad idea overall but at least he gave us this match.
Austin beat Angle to a bloody pulp but Angle started to fire back, beating Austin to within seconds of winning the WWE Championship. In an act of cowardice, Austin got himself DQed to retain the title.
The finish made sense in the context of the story and genuinely might be the best DQ finish in WWE history.
4. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble
There had been a handful of great ladder matches before the Royal Rumble in 2001. There were the classic Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon matches but the business had evolved a lot in the six years after those matches.
By 2001, fast-paced action and stunts were all the rage. Guys like the Hardys, Dudleys and Edge and Christian made a name for themselves as the ladder match guys, doing death-defying stunts on a regular basis.
Here, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit combined high-flying with expert psychology to create one of the best ladder matches of all time. Even today, this match holds up better than most.
Jericho and Benoit had a tremendous rivalry going at the time and the intensity bled through into this match. This is an all-time classic and another reason why the Royal Rumble 2001 is such a great pay-per-view.
3. Steve Austin vs. Triple H – No Way Out
I have always said that Triple H’s best matches come when he is able to work with a stipulation. For this theory, I present Exhibit A, this match with Steve Austin at No Way Out 2001.
Austin and Triple H had been feuding since it was revealed it was Triple H who put the hit on Austin that cost him a year of his career. Their rivalry had been very violent but it culminated with this excellent Three Stages of Hell match.
They had a regular wrestling match, followed by a Street Fight before finishing with a cage match. If this sounds like a lot of recent NXT matches that’s because it is, only better.
Two top stars at the height of the Attitude Era, the fans were white-hot for this match. Triple H beating Austin right before WrestleMania X-Seven still makes no sense but it’s Triple H. What can you expect?