7 – Kurt Angle vs Shane McMahon – King of the Ring 2001
Back to the Attitude Era now, which is pretty much where this list will remain until the end.
Before he was the sneaker-wearing, feet-shimmying, promo-murdering Commissioner of Smackdown Live, Shane McMahon was the bright-eyed young son of the CEO, who would occasionally put his life at risk by participating in extremely dangerous matches.
At King of the Ring 2001, McMahon battled his future fellow authority figure, Kurt Angle, in a Street Fight that Kurt dominated for the most part. Think a lion toying with a mouse, except that mouse has a trust fund and the lion is an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler.
The most memorable moment of this match came when Angle attempted a belly-to-belly suplex on McMahon through a sheet of standing glass. However, due to a logistical error, the wrong glass was used and it failed to break, causing t McMahon crash onto the glass, before falling directly onto his head. Oh, and then, they do the spot again, so Shane actually goes through the glass. Shane, you crazy.
A fine example of why Shane McMahon deserved TV time in the Attitude Era, this is a great, if scary, match to watch, with some truly brilliant hardcore moments. Maybe all those head injuries are why Shane can never remember his lines.
6 – Edge vs Mick Foley – WrestleMania 22
Warning – most of the matches from now on will contain Mick Foley.
In a rivalry surrounding Edge’s claim to be more hardcore than the hardcore legend, the (insert Tony Chimel impression here) Rated-R Superstar battled Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy at WrestleMania 22 in a match that should have been suited to Foley.
There were thumbtacks, there was barbed wire, there was blood; everything you have come to expect from Foley over the years. But it was the finish to this match, which set it above the rest.
In what has now become one of WrestleMania’s most memorable moments, the finish to the match came when Edge speared Foley through the ropes to the outside, through a flaming table. Wow.
The spectacular image of Foley disappearing through the flames is iconic and the rest of this match was an excellent example of hardcore wrestling from two of the greatest performers of all time. But man, that table spot… It is something else.
5 – Triple H vs Shawn Michaels – SummerSlam 2002
Sometimes the storytelling in a match can suffer because of a hardcore stipulation. Here is the perfect example of this not happening.
At SummerSlam 2002, the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, made his return to active competition for the first time in over four years, stepping into the ring against his real-life best pal, but on screen nemesis, Triple H.
The match, billed as an “Unsanctioned Street Fight,” played perfectly into the story. The WWE refused to give the “retired” Michaels a sanctioned match, Triple H was promising to do anything to permanently retire Michaels, and HBK was desperate to prove he can still hang in the ring. This. Was. Awesome.
This match is legendary for so many reasons aside from the hardcore spots; the athleticism, the chemistry, the fact it was Shawn freakin’ Michaels back in a WWE ring, something many assumed would never be seen again.
One of SummerSlam’s greatest ever matches, this is a great example of a hardcore stipulation enhancing a wrestling match, not detracting from it.