Among those countless hours of classic content and pay-per-views are matches that have been deemed too gruesome, too brutal, too intense to show on WWE.com. But with WWE Network, the “hardcore” members of the WWE Universe can unearth these crimson-coated classics.
The staff of WWE.com has some suggestions for where to start when WWE Network launches on Feb. 24. Read on to discover 10 WWE matches that can be seen in all their gory glory on WWE Network!
1.) Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho~ The Great American Bash 2008
“You will never be me.”
Those were the words uttered by WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels to Chris Jericho as the two legendary Superstars embarked upon a highly personal rivalry in 2008. The animosity between the decorated grapplers culminated at The Great American Bash that same year in the form of a brutal bout.
Injuring his ribs early on in the fray, Michaels quickly found himself at the mercy of a merciless Jericho, which would prove to be a theme of the battle.
As he proved time and again over the course of his career, though, The Showstopper didn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.” When HBK reentered the ring after a high-impact, ringside moonsault, he was in a bad way, bleeding profusely from his eye. Battling dueling threats — Jericho and an interfering Lance Cade, at ringside — Michaels fought valiantly, but his injured eye would eventually cost him the match.
Though Michaels continued to fight — even begging with the official at several points not to stop the match — the real showstopper of the bout came after Y2J delivered blow after vicious blow to the face of his grounded opponent and the official had no choice but to call the match.
2.) The Rock vs. Mankind~ Royal Rumble 1999
Forget not being able to show it on WWE.com; the brutal “I Quit” Match from the 1999 Royal Rumble probably shouldn’t have been shown on pay-per-view in the first place. If it’s an exaggeration to call this the peak of the Attitude Era bell curve — the moment after which everything seemed tame by comparison — it’s a small one.
Another exaggeration? Calling this a “match” at all. The Rock infamously threw his wrestling know-how out the window and opted to test Foley’s famous pain tolerance by handcuffing the then-WWE Champion and hitting him in the head 11 times with a chair. Over and over again, all the way up the ramp, until he finally knocked his opponent out and stole the win by playing a recording of The Hardcore Legend crying, “I quit!”
It was dirty play, true, but it was also merciful. Each collision of the chair against Foley’s head made it seem less likely that the WWE Hall of Famer was going to get back up. After a while the crowd stopped cheering and sat in stunned silence, only to collectively groan when the next chair blast hit home.
The wacky “Halftime Heat” Empty Arena Match a few weeks later gave Foley — head still bandaged like a mummy — his title back, but somehow pinning The Rock with a forklift didn’t seem like appropriate payback for this contest. It’s the match that gave the speechifying, electrifying People’s Champion a sadistic new depth and practically martyred one of the most beloved Superstars in history. Wrestling at its greatest and most horrifying. It’s not often that I think I speak for fans other than myself, but I’ll give it a shot here.
Dear Mick and Rock: Phenomenal match, guys. Please don’t ever do it again.
3.) John Cena vs. JBL~ Judgment Day 2005
John Cena’s victory over WWE Champion JBL at Wrestlemania 21 not only gave the Cenation leader his first World Title; it ushered in a new era in sports-entertainment, as the inimitable Cena would go on to hold the title for 280 days and claim the illustrious championship more than a dozen times over the next decade. Cena’s very first title defense, however, was no cakewalk.
Not long after the bell sounded in their Judgment Day “I Quit” Match, the bad blood between the two Superstars spilled out all across the Target Center in Minneapolis as both Cena and JBL were destined to wear the crimson mask before it was over. Steel chains, television sets, electrical cords and JBL’s own limousine were all viciously employed as weapons in this macabre affair.
Despite JBL’s dominance over large stretches of the match, the bloodied and battered Cena refused to say the two most painful words in a WWE Superstar’s vocabulary. The Champ doggedly fought back until he cornered his rival while wielding a car exhaust pipe, forcing the helpless JBL to quit. Cena showed the Texan no mercy and attacked his vanquished opponent with the pipe, putting an exclamation point on one of the most memorable and hellacious matches of Cena’s nine-month title reign and entire legendary career.
4.) D-Generation X vs. Shane McMahon, Mr. McMahon, and Big Show~ Unforgiven 2006
What do you get when you put DX, The McMahons and Big Show in the first Hell in a Cell Match to feature an XXL-sized structure? A brutally entertaining battle, as if anything less could be expected.
A grudge match featuring some of WWE’s biggest competitors and personalities, this memorable Hell in a Cell melee more than lived up to the hype, as The Chairman and Shane McMahon recruited then-ECW Champion Big Show to battle Triple H & Shawn Michaels with a 3-on-2 advantage.
Featuring spectacular and high-impact moves, including a Coast-to-Coast by Shane and a chair-aided elbow drop from HBK, this gruesome affair was not — and is not — for the faint of heart, as all the combatants pushed themselves to the limit. In the end, Mr. McMahon was pinned after eating both Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music and a backbreaking sledgehammer strike. Ouch!
5.) Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack~ Backlash 2004
For a man who keeps a Christmas room in his home year-round, Mick Foley sure is an intense guy, as years of ferocious in-ring battles have proven. There is one bout, however, that Foley speaks about with more reverence than any other. It is the match from one decade ago that made Randy Orton a bona fide star and nearly ended The Hardcore Legend’s in-ring career.
When a Hardcore Match for Orton’s Intercontinental Title was made for Backlash 2004, Foley morphed into his Cactus Jack persona for the occasion.
“It was really important for me to redeem myself for what I thought was a very disappointing performance at WrestleMania,” Foley once told WWE.com. “This was the biggest match of my career and probably the last time that my heart was completely in being in the ring. I left it out there that night. I love the match.”
The brutal fracas involved tables, barbed wire and thumbtacks. It gave Orton the credibility he needed to prove he was a serious contender for the main event, and made it clear Foley could still pull out all the stops.
6.) Trish Stratus vs. Stephanie McMahon~ No Way Out 2001
If you’re a fan of giddy, freewheeling catfights that involve spanking, hair pulling and even a wet T-shirt (and what blue jeans-wearing American isn’t?), you have to watch the brawl between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon from No Way Out 2001.
The kind of reckless slapfest that has kept the Bravo network in business, this scrap found WWE’s two alpha females in positions that may feel unfamiliar today — Trish is the shapely harlot here, Stephanie the plucky McMahon fighting for her family’s honor — but the match is a distinctly Attitude Era affair. Thanks to flagrantly lenient officiating, the bout spills into the front row and Stephanie dribbles Trish’s head off the announce table like a Spalding. By the time the youngest McMahon drenches Trish’s top half with a pitcher of water, you’ll wish WWE Network came in 3D.
7.) The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar~ No Mercy 2002
The stage had been set: A brash young thoroughbred — Brock Lesnar — defending the illustrious WWE Championship against a legendary competitor — The Undertaker — inside the confines of the unrelenting Hell in a Cell structure.
The dangers of the harrowing structure were apparent on this evening, as both champion and challenger — and even Lesnar’s slimy associate Paul Heyman — were severely lacerated during the course of one of the most brutally engaging battles ever held in the cell. And as the match headed towards its extreme conclusion, both competitors seemed to thrive on the amped-up intensity. In the end, Lesnar, rubbing Undertaker's plasma across his chest like some crazed Viking, retained his title, gaining the hard-fought win over The Phenom.
8.) Ric Flair vs. Mr. McMahon~ Royal Rumble 2002
Mr. McMahon and Ric Flair were the unlikeliest of business partners. The WWE Chairman was shocked when The Nature Boy revealed himself as the man who bought his children's shares in the company in November 2001. It didn’t take long for the two alpha males to butt heads.
WWE’s co-owners decided to settle their differences in the ring at Royal Rumble 2002 in a Street Fight. Though the bout started with basic wrestling holds, it didn’t take long for the match to devolve into a brutal brawl. As the scrap spilled to the arena floor, Mr. McMahon grabbed a trash can and bashed Ric Flair over the head with it, turning his business partner’s face into a crimson mess.
The two ruthless competitors used anything they could get their hands on to bludgeon each other. Pipes, TV monitors and the ring itself were all turned into weapons before the final bell rang. Both Flair and McMahon were busted open, but it was The Nature Boy who emerged victorious from the cruel clash after cinching in the Figure-Four Leglock.
9.) Bret Hart vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin~ WrestleMania 13
The “I Quit” Match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin is grisly, graphic and quite possibly the most beautiful match ever contested. For more than 20 minutes, “Hit Man” and “Stone Cold” — in a marked departure from their mat clinic months earlier at Survivor Series — hammered away at each other with seemingly every object not nailed down in Chicago’s Allstate Arena. Amid the fisticuffs, Austin suffered a laceration to his forehead but bravely fought on, refusing to concede the two words that would seal his fate.
Hart tried to break Austin’s will when he locked The Texas Rattlesnake in the Sharpshooter. In visible agony, “Stone Cold” struggled to break the hold, and after withstanding a minute of excruciating pain, he very nearly did. That is, until Hart regained his balance and cranked back. By that point, the damage was irreversible. Austin’s body, exhausted from the blood loss, gave out long before his spirit. Seeing “Stone Cold” passed out on the canvas, guest referee Ken Shamrock had no choice but to halt the match and award the decision to Hart, even though Austin never said “I quit.”
With that gutsy act of defiance, the brash “Stone Cold” suddenly became the unlikeliest hero in WWE history.
10.) Batista vs. Triple H~ Vengeance 2005
Of all the extreme, non-PG matches the WWE Universe will finally get to watch on WWE Network, among the most gruesome has to be the Hell in a Cell Match between World Heavyweight Champion Batista and Triple H at Vengeance 2005.
The World Title melee inside the twisted confines of the career-altering structure provided the perfect recipe for anguish.
However, nothing could have prepared either one of them for the nearly indescribable onslaught that would leave the faces of two of WWE’s best completely crimson. Indeed, Batista and Triple H ripped each other apart from start to finish, utilizing chairs wrapped in barbwire, steel chains, sledgehammers and low blows — in addition to turning the unforgiving steel steps, ring post and chain-link wall of the cell into additional competitors in the epic showdown.
While The Animal would ultimately emerge victorious, neither Superstar would ever be the same again.