Originally published May 6, 2013 – WWE fans are still buzzing about the terrific CM Punk vs. John Cena WrestleMania 29 qualifier from Monday Night RAW. The immediate reaction saw fans declaring the rivalry one of the best ever. But where does this rivalry truly stand against some of the best from the past five years?
The debate got me to thinking about the last several years of WWE feuds and rivalries. Feuds aren’t what they used to be in pro wrestling but there have been some really fun rivalries over the last few years. I thought it would be fun to look back at the modern day WWE era and count down the ten best.
Before I open up the debate I wanted to make a few things clear. One, I thought in terms of modern era I would go back five years. Thus any feuds or rivalries from 2007 and prior wouldn’t be included, unless they bled over into the modern era. I also put the list together off of a few different criteria. I used the in-ring matches, angles, promos, longevity, and most important legacy.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s start the countdown. Remember that these are strictly my opinion so if you disagree or have anything you’d like to add, feel free to leave a comment after the blog.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels: I was going to put Cena vs. Punk at the top of my list until I remembered that this one made the modern era cut. I don’t think there was a better rivalry of this WWE generation than Jericho and HBK. Every match is legendary with each one having a story of its own. The storyline for this feud was at a level I don’t think we have come close to seeing in the WWE since. Jericho himself points to this feud as the highlight of his career. If five-years is a modern era, wait another year before you declare Punk vs. Cena the best of this one.
The Undertaker vs. Edge: Another forgotten classic that barely makes the list if we are going back five years. As far as feuds go, I would call this one the last great one that The Undertaker had. Edge and Taker had some blowaway matches that year, with their best stealing the show at WrestleMania 24. In addition to the matches, the promos and angles were almost on par with Michaels and Jericho (how good was the WWE in 2008?), and there were plenty of twists to keep this feud alive for several months. Once again, if we are going to go back a full five years this one is right at the top.
John Cena vs. CM Punk: Quite frankly I don’t think that there is any other rivalry since 2008 that even comes close to the magnitude of this one. While these two guys have wrestled each other several times in recent years, the rivalry really didn’t begin to heat up until the summer of 2011 at Money in the Bank. The two had what some call the greatest WWE match of this era period. Since then the two have wrestled sporadically and have had very good to great matches each time out. The wins and losses are more balanced in Punk’s favor but this is a rivalry that never gets old.
Edge vs. John Cena: I know that this one heated up back in 2005 but the rivalry certainly bled into the modern era allowing it to make the list. Edge and Cena were a lot like Cena and Punk in that they’d have a high point in their feud, go their separate ways for awhile, and then randomly wind up back in the ring against each other. The fact that they semi-headlined a WrestleMania makes this rivalry even bigger than Punk vs. Cena in a sense. It is not a coincidence it took Cena a few years to find a rival equal to the Rated R Superstar.
Randy Orton vs. Triple H: Unfortunately most people think back to their dud at WrestleMania 25 when they recall this rivalry. That is unfair as these two had some killer matches outside of that one that are highly underrated and overlooked. In terms of a feud this may be the best of the modern era. This one had everything you want in high drama, creative (and sometimes corny) angles, and matches that generally stole the show whenever they were put on the card. As great as Triple H’s career was, his feud with Orton may be his best work. I really enjoyed this feud as it crept on us a few times over the years and always had a new twist to the story.
Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk: If I was making a list of great WWE feuds I wouldn’t have included these two guys on it. However, this is a list of great rivalries and this was one heck of a rivalry. Unfortunately I don’t think it ever reached its full potential as Bryan was promoted as a goof and never taken seriously as a threat to Punk. Yet in the ring their matches are only second to Orton vs. Christian in my opinion and that is not an insult in any way. You knew you were going to see something special each time they were paired together and they always delivered. I just wish this one had a little more time and a little more creativity to the storyline.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H: I went back and forth on this one but if I am talking legacy, this one has to land on the list. Almost anyone but Bret Hart would agree that their two matches are two of the best in WrestleMania history. The storylines were simple and yet they were able to create high drama for two straight years. I know Hunter isn’t a very popular guy with the Internet crowd but he really took his game (no pun intended) to another level with this series.
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk: I wavered back and forth on this one or Cena vs. Jericho and I leaned this way. I think this rivalry had it all from a hot angle, to great matches, killer promos, and a legacy. As great as their WrestleMania 28 match was, their Extreme Rules 2012 match is arguably the match of that year, and one of the top 10 in the modern era. Seeing the flames reignite when Punk and Jericho recently wrestled is exactly what you’d expect from a great rivalry.
Randy Orton vs. John Cena: Like Edge vs. Cena, this is a feud that started before what I’d call the modern era that sneaked its way in with a main-event in 2008 at WrestleMania. In terms of the modern era Cena and Orton had some fun matches when Cena returned in 2008, but this one was been on and off for years prior. Heck, Orton was credited for putting Cena out of action for several months in 2007-08. Even today when the two are in the ring whether it’s a Royal Rumble or tag match you can still sense the tension. Something tells me that we haven’t see the last of this one.
Christian vs. Randy Orton: See Bryan vs. Punk. Once again in terms of feuds I wouldn’t call this anything special. In the ring I would argue that this was hands down the best series of matches between two WWE superstars of the last ten years and that includes Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Every match was different, every match had a twist, and every match was better than the last. This is one of the most highly underappreciated series of matches in WWE history. I challenge anyone to put any series of matches in this modern era up against these two and come away telling me different.