August 4, 2012
By: Thomas Herrera, Anthony Benigno, Zach Linder and John Clapp
Written: August 03rd, 2012
Gritty. Visceral. Personal. These words only begin to describe the 25 rivalries that follow. Sure, these grudges have given way to all-time great matches, and often, they were fought with championship gold on the line. But make no mistake about it: The five-star classics were simply a byproduct of hate. The Superstars involved in these grudges weren’t out to impress fans or upper management, and they had no interest in putting on wrestling clinics. No, they were out for retribution, and to settle unfinished business. They were out to inflict pain, to shorten careers.
The arcs of these grudges and their final chapters, if written, vary greatly. In some instances, animosity spiked, only to burn out quickly and in spectacular fashion. In other cases, the fissures ran deep and long, with tension between two Superstars bubbling beneath the surface for years on end. Sometimes, mutual respect won out. In more than one example, Superstars involved in the grudges ended up inducting their old foes in the WWE Hall of Fame, decades after the last pinfall was counted.
The catalysts behind these bad feelings also vary, though commonalities and patterns can be detected. Oftentimes, an injurious assault was what planted the seed of contempt. Jealousy and failed friendships, whether between tag team partners or teachers and students, were also often the foundation for memorable grudges. Several of the rivalries examined here were escalated once family members or Superstars’ significant others got involved.
It’s time to get personal.
21. John Cena vs. Randy Orton
A war waged between two pillars of the WWE roster, the John Cena-Randy Orton rivalry has consumed the WWE landscape for much of the 21st century. Though the fearless warriors have barely crossed paths since their epic one-hour Anything Goes WWE Iron Man Match in October 2009, the seemingly ever-simmering uneasiness between the two has prompted segments of the WWE Universe to speculate that the bad feelings persist to this very day.
Forget the fact these two have risen up the WWE ranks almost completely in step, beginning with their start in the early aughts in former WWE developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling. Theirs is a grudge that goes way beyond a simple sense of competition. The Viper’s actions against consummate white-hat Cena have ranged from the heinous (kicking John Cena Sr. in the head) to the explosive (Orton’s attempt in the WWE Iron Man Match to blow up Cena using pyrotechnics). Cena and Orton have also fought inside Hell in a Cell and in an “I Quit” Match. How much more personal can these two get?
14. John Cena vs. Edge
Edge hates every single, solitary fiber of John Cena’s being. He said so himself during one of the most memorable interviews in Raw’s history.
It might come as no surprise that The Rated-R Superstar harbored such harsh feelings for Cena considering their history. Over the course of their legendary grudge over the WWE Championship in the 2000s, the Cenation leader at various points ambushed Edge in a hotel suite and sent him splashing into the Long Island Sound. Far be it for Cena to be prone to such outbursts without having valid reason, Edge crossed the line from professional into personal on more than one occasion. Before Cena gave Edge a bath in the Long Island Sound, Edge tossed Cena’s “Spinner” design WWE Championship into the water. More appalling, however, was Edge’s attack on John Cena Sr.
After the senior Cena made the mistake of allowing Edge and Lita into his home, the very same house in which a young Cenation leader came of age, The Rated-R Superstar led the WWE Universe on a mocking tour of the residence. The ultimate insult, however, came later in the visit when an obstinate Edge slapped John Cena Sr. across the face. Multiple WWE Title changes? Check. An uninvited swim in Long Island Sound? Check. An attack on a family member? Check. This rivalry most definitely had the makings of one of history’s most personal grudges.
10. John Cena vs. The Rock
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena are two of the most beloved Superstars in WWE history. As fan favorites of epic proportions, they’d never pick a fight with each other, right? Not so fast.
Beneath the sometimes-playful barbs about scrawling interview crib notes on one’s wrist and dressing in the color scheme of a children’s breakfast cereal, it was clear to anyone paying attention that the animosity between The Rock and Cena was based in a deep-seeded ill will that went far beyond trend-worthy jabs. What was it that sparked this war between two heroes of the squared circle?
You can trace the jaundice back to an interview the Cenation leader gave U.K. publication The Sun in 2008 in which Cena accused The Rock of being disingenuous about loving WWE and sports-entertainment. Without saying as much, Cena leveled charges against The Rock that he turned his back on the fans who helped turn him into a Hollywood movie star.
“Associating with sports-entertainment doesn’t do much for his acting career. I get it,” Cena told the paper. “Just don’t [mess] me around and tell me that you love this. That’s the only thing that gets me really [ticked] off.”
Cena and The Rock would continue to trade insults in the coming years, and when The Great One reappeared in 2011 to let the WWE Universe know that he wasn’t “going away,” Cena had a new peg off which to launch a tirade. Whereas The Rock maintained that it was understood his involvement would not be that of a full-time Superstar, Cena interpreted the comment to mean the Brahma Bull-tatted Superstar-turned-leading actor would appear at every TV show, pay-per-view and live event. Responding via a video published online, The Rock turned the tables on Cena, suggesting the hustle/loyalty/respect proponent was only in sports-entertainment for the money.
“You go to every single show, every single night, you do it — fact — for the paycheck,” The Rock retorted. “You do it for the money. Because John, you damn sure ain’t doing it for free.”
Of course, the brouhaha came to a head at WrestleMania XXVIII after a slow-burning yearlong build that also involved Cena breaking out his old “Thuganomics”-era rap-battling ways to combat the Rock’s “Rock Concert” — a diss-filled serenade to Cena. On The Grandest Stage of Them All in Miami, however, The Rock ended up on top. Was that the last time we’ll see these two titans of the ring collide?