WWE Network: 5 Underrated Matches You Must Watch
The launch of the WWE Network on February 24 not only introduced some of the greatest matches in company history to a new audience who may never have had the opportunity to see them before, but it also uncovered some truly hidden gems from WWE's long and illustrious history.
Those gems include some of the greatest Superstars in wrestling.
From "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Bret "Hitman" Hart to The Rock and Shawn Michaels, every top star that has ever set foot inside a squared circle has underrated matches that, for whatever reason, have been eclipsed by some of their more hyped work.
Now, with the power to watch any show and any match at any time via the company's video-on-demand library of past pay-per-view events, fans can relive those bouts and many more like them with the press of a button.
To create a list of every underrated match worth watching would be an impossible task, especially given all of the content from all of the great promotions.
With that in mind, and focusing solely on WWE's product, here is a look at five matches that deserve your attention as we celebrate a new way to watch professional wrestling.
Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog (In Your House 5)
In August of 1995, the beloved "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith stunned the world when he turned heel for the first time in his WWE career and attacked then-WWE champion Diesel to the dismay of fans across the globe.
As it turned out, Smith had grown tired of sitting back and waiting for his opportunity to compete for the WWE Championship and was willing to do whatever was necessary to win the one prize that eluded him throughout his stay with the company.
After aligning himself with Jim Cornette, he waited only two months before he could have the chance to accomplish his dream. At October's In Your House IV pay-per-view, he defeated Diesel via disqualification. As per WWE rules, however, a title cannot change hands in any fashion other than pinfall or submission.
At the 1995 Survivor Series, Bulldog's brother-in-law Bret Hart defeated Diesel for the title and immediately found himself the target of the Brit. Add in the family element that existed between the two, including Bret's sister and Bulldog's wife, Dianna, and you have a recipe for a very emotional heavyweight title bout to cap off WWE's fifth In Your House event.
The video package prior to the event played up the fact that Hart and never defeated Bulldog and, in fact, lost the Intercontinental title to his brother-in-law at SummerSlam 1992 in one of the company's greatest matches. It was a fine way to create doubts as to whether the Hitman could leave Hershey with his title intact.
In a match that was more technically sound than the more famous SummerSlam bout, Hart and Bulldog delivered a hard-fought, highly competitive match that saw Hart bleed for his craft and Bulldog come within seconds of capturing what would have been his first WWE Championship.
Hart, ever the resilient champion, caught Bulldog with a Magistral Cradle (which had been suggested to Hart by a very young Chris Jericho) for the pinfall victory.
While the match did not take place in front of 80,000 fans in Wembley, it was a much crisper match than their contest some three years earlier.
Bret was clearly motivated to prove he was no pushover, despite the attention shifting from him to Shawn Michaels. And Bulldog, in the middle of a sizable push, proved he can deliver great performances against great workers.
Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart (In Your House 6)
In November of 1995, WWE shot an injury angle that saw Shawn Michaels return from injury too early, only to be on the receiving end of an enzuigiri kick from Owen Hart that caused him to pass out unconscious in front of a live viewing audience.
The commentary team went silent. Medics rushed the ring to check on the Heartbreak Kid. Suddenly, the return that had once been considered triumphant had turned tragic.
Michaels returned at Royal Rumble and won the match, earning a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XII. Hart naturally took advantage of all of the attention Michaels was earning and challenged him to a match at February's In Your House event, with the stipulation being that a Michaels' loss by any means would result in Owen winning the WWE title shot.
Michaels toyed with Hart early in the match, seemingly having his number at every turn.
A beautiful belly-to-belly suplex won Hart control of the match, and the second-generation Superstar focused his attack on the head, neck and back area of the Heartbreak Kid in an attempt to wear him down and, perhaps, aggravate the neurological damage he caused four months earlier.
Michaels withstood both the attack and the Sharpshooter from his opponent, not to mention repeated attempts at outside interference from Jim Cornette, to deliver Sweet Chin Music to Hart and score the pinfall win.
The match was a wrestler's wrestling match with little in the way of silly gimmicks or overly complicated spots. Michaels continued his streak of outstanding performances while Hart, who had been involved in tag team action for the majority of 1995, reminded fans of just how extraordinary of a worker he was.
The win set the stage for Michaels to go to WrestleMania and defeat Owen's brother Bret for his first WWE Championship, a match that remains one of the best in that event's 30-year history.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Dude Love (Unforgiven 1998)
In April of 1998, an advertised match between Steve Austin and Vince McMahon resulted in WWE winning the Monday night ratings war with WCW for the first time in 83 weeks.
That match would never actually happen, though, as Dude Love returned to the company and shockingly and inexplicably turned on friend and former partner Austin. The betrayal set up a the first pay-per-view title defense by Austin at the Unforgiven: In Your House event.
Austin entered the Greensboro Coliseum with all of the attitude fans would expect from the Texas Rattlesnake. A sneak attack before the bell by Love insured that the action would be heated from the get-go.
A wild, chaotic and brutal main event unfolded before the eyes of wrestling fans who had begun to pledge their allegiance to the much more exciting product presented by McMahon's promotion.
Mick Foley (Love) took several of the violent bumps he had become known for, including a bodyslam on an unforgiving band stand that had been used earlier in the evening for a concert and a hip toss off that same bandstand onto the arena floor.
Foley proved to be the perfect opponent for Austin, as the champion continued to perfect the main event style that he would use to great success over the course of the next four years. Both men were incredibly smart workers who knew what spots would elicit the pop from the audience and also understood that they could not overload the match with too many of those spots.
The crowd was rabid in their support for Austin and loathed McMahon, who made his way to ringside midway through the bout as commentator Jim Ross openly wondered if fans could be in for a repeat of the Montreal Screwjob.
That was not the case, however, as Austin utilized a steel chair to bash both his opponent and McMahon to the approval of the fans in Greensboro.
Though the rematch a month later at Over the Edge gets more recognition, and rightfully so, the original Austin-Love title match at Unforgiven really indicated just how great the chemistry between the two Superstars was.
Among the most popular stars of the Attitude Era, they would go on to compete in several main events with one another, each one delivering on fans' expectations.
The non-finish may have brought the overall quality of the bout down a notch but, it played to the overarching Austin-McMahon story and left fans wanting more from the competitors involved.
In any language, that is an effective main event.
The Hardy Boyz and Lita vs. T&A and Trish Stratus (Fully Loaded 2000)
The six-person tag team match featuring the Hardy Boyz and Lita taking on Test, Albert and Trish Stratus was the perfect way to kick off July 2000's Fully Loaded pay-per-view.
Entering the match, Trish had proven to be a thorn in the side of Lita, igniting a rivalry that would run over six years and produce some of the best women's wrestling matches of the generation. The beautiful blonde bombshell shoved Lita from the top of a ladder and through a table, injuring her ribs. She would follow up the following Thursday on SmackDown, mercilessly whipping the injured area with a leather belt.
As the major event approached, it became clear that the central feud, the one fans had invested themselves in, was between Lita and Trish—ultra-talented Hardy Boyz and Test and Albert were merely along for the ride.
The Hardys and T&A had very strong in-ring chemistry with one another, and that was on display as the four competitors carried the majority of the action.
As strong as the work between those two teams was, the real story of the bout was the emergence of Lita.
The fiery redhead had demonstrated her high-flying, death-defying offense on several occasions prior to Fully Loaded, but this was the first opportunity she had to do it against both men and women in a fairly high-profile match. Throwing caution to the wind, she dove off the top rope and onto Albert. She sent Test to the mat with a head scissors takedown.
Throughout the bout, Trish would do everything in her power to avoid Lita, so when she was finally caught with nowhere to go and was faced with the punishment that was coming to her for her actions leading up to the bout, the fans in Dallas reacted with a huge pop.
The fast-paced, high-energy match concluded when Lita climbed the ropes and delivered a moonsault to Trish. She pinned the future Women's champion and picked up the win for her team in what was the greatest moment of her WWE career to that point.
An incredibly fun, very good tag match that was ripe with both action and story.
Well worth going out of your way to see, especially if you are a fan of any of the six stars involved.
Chris Jericho vs. Christian (WrestleMania XX)
The WrestleMania XX match between Chris Jericho and Christian was the product of a blossoming romance between Jericho and Trish Stratus and the jealousy from Christian that split his longtime friendship and partnership with Y2J for good.
Captain Charisma had dropped his typical joking nature and had adopted an edge, a seriousness that really put over the emotion of the rivalry.
As one could expect from these two very talented in-ring workers, there were great expectations for their bout at the Showcase of the Immortals. They would exceed those expectations early on a card that was stacked with several marquee, main event matches.
The match was hard-hitting, passionate and intense early on, as Jericho unleashed weeks of anger and frustration on his former Tag Team Championship-winning partner. Christian dumped Y2J over the top rope and took control of the bout, slowing the pace and keeping the emotional Jericho at bay.
The pace picked up again late in the rather lengthy bout before Trish made her way to the ring to the delight of the fans inside Madison Square Garden. Their approval of the arrival of the blonde bombshell would be short-lived, however.
Late in the match, Christian dragged her into the ring by the hair and violently shoved her into the corner. A concerned Jericho attempted to check on her, but he caught an elbow to the side of the face and Christian was able to roll him up for the pinfall victory.
After the match, Trish revealed her true allegiances, slapping Jericho and engaging Christian in a fairly intense kiss.
With the notorious Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg match, the outstanding Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero WWE Championship bout, the return of The Undertaker and the instant-classic Triple Threat match for the World title between Chris Benoit, Triple H and Shawn Michaels all following the showdown between Jericho and Christian, it is not difficult to see how the match would get lost in the shuffle.
Among undercard bouts in event history, however, it remains one of the very best and one of WWE's most underrated.