WWE Rivals may only be two episodes in, but it’s already one of my favourite programs that the company—alongside A&E—has ever made. For those of you that haven’t seen WWE Rivals, the premise is pretty simple. Each week takes a look at some of the greatest rivalries to ever grace the WWE and has talking head segments with those involved and those who were around at the time, plus a section where Freddie Prinze Jr. sits down with Kevin Nash, Kofi Kingston, JBL, and Tamina to talk about what went on. All of this is played out against the backdrop of in-ring action and the thoughts of the main protagonists. Trust me when I say, this is must-see TV.
So far we’ve had Bret Hart/HBK and Taker/Kane, while the next four will be Austin/Rock, Lesnar/Angle, Cena/Edge, and The Monday Night Wars, because of course it will. Now, if this is the end of season one, I’d like to put forward my choices for the first five episodes of season two of WWE Rivals, if I may, and if Big Vinnie fancies throwing me a few shekels for saving him the headache of working through the WWE’s back catalogue, then who am I to say no?
Mankind vs. The Undertaker
This is a no-brainer and one that I’m surprised didn’t make it onto the first season of WWE Rivals. There’s the possibility that the reason behind this is that they went with Taker/Kane, but The Dead Man has had so many top-quality feuds that I don’t think anyone would’ve complained if WWE Rivals had him on two out of the six episodes. Hell, he’s appearing on this list twice, so why not on the show?
We all know about the infamous HIAC match, wherein Mick Foley/Mankind took two brutal bumps—one planned, the other…not so much—but people also seem to forget that that was the culmination of a feud that had run for the best part of two years, ever since Mankind debuted on the RAW after Wrestlemania XII, beat up Bob Holly then, later on, attacked The Undertaker while he was fighting Bradshaw.
It was the start of something quite magical in the WWE, a rivalary that would see Paul Bearer betray Taker, both men cost each other title shots, Buried Alive matches, and all sorts of shenanigans on the road to Mankind very nearly dying at 1998s KOTR. It launched Mick Foleys WWE career, gave The Undertaker a worthwhile foe, and converted more than a few people to the WWE cause.
Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz
Nothing you can say will ever convince me that Edge and Christian vs. the Hardy Boyz vs. the Dudley Boyz at Wrestlemania XVII isn’t still one of the greatest matches put on by anyone, anywhere, at any point in time. It’s a masterpiece and one that is deserving of a spot on WWE Rivals.
Yes, the sensible thing would be to focus solely on the rivalry between the first two teams in this equation due to their incredibly long history together, but to dismiss The Dudley Boyz’s contribution in helping make the WWE Tag Team Division into one of the company’s biggest selling points at the time would just be disrespectful. And besides, do we really need to go through the whole Edge/Lita/Matt car crash again?
No. I don’t think so either.
Instead, let us focus on the hellacious TLC match from Wrestlemania XVII and revel in the insanity and madness that all six men put themselves through for our entertainment. It’s a god damn work of art.
Stone Cold vs. Mr. McMahon
The feud that saved the WWE in The Monday Night Wars. No matter how much their revisionist history tries to claim it was all DX, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon was the perfect storyline for the Attitude Era.
The tyrannical billionaire boss who rules over his roost with an iron claw suddenly finds himself face to face with someone who A) Doesn’t give a s*it he’s the boss or how much money he’s got and B) He has zero control over. It was every Average Joe’s dream brought to life. Hate the guy you work for? Well, you might not be able to punch him out as you’ll lose your job, but old Stone Cold can do it to Vince and you can live vicariously through that.
This was what people tuned in to RAW for every single week. Not the endless parade of puppies, the juvenile humour of DX, or Repo Man, but to see Austin and McMahon locked in a never-ending power struggle. It was almost Shakesperian.
Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair
After Hogan vs. Flair seemed to bomb on the house circuit in the lead-up to their big, once-in-a-lifetime bout that had been touted for Wrestlemania VIII, Vince McMahon found himself with a problem. Did he go all in and hope the fans got behind the match? Or did he scrap his plans and try something different? Thankfully, at least as far as your friendly neighbourhood wrestling writer goes, VKM chose the latter path and gave us Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair instead.
And lo, a fantastic feud was born.
Flair being Flair decided that he’d get under Randy’s skin by claiming that he and Miss Elisabeth had been an item before she married The Macho Man, which we all knew was bullhonky as there is no way that someone as sweet and pure as her would have anything to do with Ric Flair. Yet, it worked, as Randy Savage lost his mind and spent the build-up to their clash trying to kill The Nature Boy at every opportunity.
The match itself was brilliant, as explained by Chris Flackett here, and the fact that Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair isn’t talked about as much as it should be is a disgrace. WWE Rivals gives the WWE the chance to put that right.
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Come on, You must’ve known this was going to be on here, right? Arguably the two greatest Wrestlemania matches of all time by two of the greatest wrestlers to ever step inside a ring? If this isn’t the lead-off episode to WWE Rivals Season Two, I’ll dress up as Hornswoggle for a week.