A good rivalry is the beating heart of professional wrestling. They serve as a powerful vehicle for storytelling and character exploration, and raise the profile of those involved by encouraging viewers to pick a side. Fans and pundits alike love nothing more than stoking the tensions behind a good showdown. Everyone can remember the dominant feud that was being broadcast at the time they first got into wrestling, and these bouts serve as cultural touchstones for the community and a shorthand way of pointing to particular times and places in wrestling history.
For wrestling die-hards, one way you can heighten your enjoyment of a long standing feud is through backing the success of your chosen fighter by placing bets on the outcome during major bouts. This is commonplace in other combat sports such as boxing and the UFC, and has been growing in popularity over recent years in the world of pro wrestling. With some of the most exciting feuds simmering away in the likes of the AEW – such as the on-again-off-again friendship between Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston, or the unfurling saga of The Inner Circle vs Pinnacle – we cast our eye back on wrestling history and remember some of the most magnificent feuds the sport has borne witness to.
Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan
Perhaps the greatest of all time, Hulk Hogan was largely unstoppable in the 80s and 90s, with only Andre the Giant posing a major threat to his winning streak. Their rivalry was cast as a David and Goliath scenario, with All-American Hulk going toe-to-toe with a genuine giant. Seeing the two in the ring, it’s easy to forget that Hogan himself towered to a height of 6 foot 7 inches and weighed 300lb. This still left him dwarfed by Andre’s 7 foot 4 inch, 520lb frame. Their rivalry culminated decisively at WrestleMania 3, billed “Bigger, Badder, Better”, when Hulk definitively defeated Andre by body slamming him before a global audience. Their feud arguably did more than any other to catapult professional wrestling into the big marquee sport we know and love today.
The Undertaker vs Kane
This next feud is the stuff of legend. In fact, as per Kane’s namesake, you could even call it biblical. The tale of two feuding brothers is as old as humanity, and watching it play out between two hairy, hulking wrestlers was always going to be sensational. Kane first made his appearance in 1997, and despite their intermittent runs as tag-team Brothers of Destruction, there has been precious few times over the preceding years that these two have not, literally, been at each other’s throats. In fact we are led to believe that Kane has an all-consuming desire to defeat his brother, leaving his secondary rivalries with the likes of Edge and Matt Hardy lacking the Shakespearean edge of his fraternal battles. While some of their fights tend towards the bizarre, like the much derided 5 minute long casket match, at their best these two have put on some of the finest battles in the history of the sport, with great storytelling through-out.
Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit
The late, great Chris Benoit’s career is best remembered by his long-running showdown with “American Hero” Gold Medalist, Kurt Angle. While many rivalries are built on differences of style, aesthetic or attitude, Benoit’s and Angle’s feud has a special place in the canon for highlighting the similarities between the two characters. Both were seen to be great technical wrestlers, eschewing flashy acrobatics for efficiency and deadly effectiveness. The rivalry began in a triple threat match that also featured Chris Jericho in 2000. Then at WrestleMania X-Seven the two began their sequence of intense showdowns. They participated in a whole host of explosive bouts ranging from traditional fights to a ladder match, two out of three falls matches and, of course, an ultimate submission fight.