Fight Forever: Wrestling Soulmates

“Fight Forever!” *clap, clap, clap clap clap* “Fight Forever!”

This iconic chant is used during matches when the wrestlers have this chemistry that you can feel in the air. It could be the first time these wrestlers lock up. It could be the last. Regardless, some wrestlers just have this instant connection with each other and go on to make magic.

The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin

During the Attitude Era in WWF/WWE, there were 2 superstars who were on their way to the top at the same time. Their paths would meet a plethora of times over the years and go on to create a rivalry that is still talked about to this day.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson & Stone Cold Steve Austin.

This rivalry consisted of 3 WrestleMania matches, countless Stunners, one of the best video packages in WWE, and, at the time, Austin’s last match.

Rock and Austin first met in the ring in 1997 at the D-Generation X: In Your House PPV. At the time, Austin was the Intercontinental Champion. This title match would not be their last, in fact, it was just the beginning. After successfully retaining his title against the Rock, these 2 men would go on to the Royal Rumble just about a month later. The 2 men would be the final 2 participants left in the PPV’s main event match. Austin would go on and eliminate Rock, thus giving him his 2nd consecutive Rumble match win.

January 4th, 1999, Raw is War. If you know this date in wrestling history, you know this is the night that Mankind won his first WWF World Title. Do you remember who he pinned to gain this accolade? If you guessed Rock, you would be correct. Now, do you remember who cost Rock the title and helped Mankind win? Yes exactly, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

After costing him his title, Rock would cost Austin his 3rd Rumble win to Vince McMahon. Rock would also go on to get the WWF title back on the same night.

2 birds, 1 stone.

A few months later at WrestleMania 15 (March 28, 1999), the 1st of a trifecta of Mania matches for the duo, Austin would get his revenge and take the WWF title away from Rock again. Having lost his title again, Rock would unsuccessfully challenge Austin to a rematch less than a month later at Backlash: In Your House.

The 2 men would have separate feuds over the next year or so. And at WrestleMania 17 (April 1, 2001), the men would main event the spectacle in a No Disqualification Match for the WWF title. Besides a fantastic match, and an amazing video package hyping up the match, this is where we saw Austin align himself with Vince McMahon. Heel Austin would beat the unholy hell out of Rock with a steel chair to take the title away from Rock again.

2001 is also the time when the Alliance (WCW & ECW) would come into the WWF. With countless interferences in matches and programming, The Alliance would go on to face Team WWF at Survivor Series. Rock would be Team WWF; Austin Team Alliance. The ending of the match saw people showing their true colors and betraying team members (you need to check it out if you haven’t). Team WWF defeats The Alliance and the titular group disbands, as per the stipulation of the match.

WrestleMania 19 (2003) marks the end of this historic feud. The 3rd and final of their Mania matches. Having been 0-2 in their past Mania matches, Rock would finally secure his win over Austin. At this point, the 2 men had such respect for each other and you could see that. This, at the time until this past WrestleMania, would be Austin’s last match in the company.

What a way to end a legendary rivalry that only spanned 6 years, not consecutively.

[1997-2003: 3 Mania matches, 2 different titles, 1 iconic feud]

Triple H & Shawn Michaels

From Brothers to Bitter Enemies.

Triple H and Shawn Michaels history together is nothing short of ups & downs. Betrayal. Reunions. Bad Blood. Friendship.

Triple H and Michaels were a part of 2 of the major factions in the WWF: The Kliq and D-Generation X. The Kliq consisted of H, Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and X-Pac. The group of friends formed in 1994, with Triple H not joining until a year later after he left WCW. With these men being some of the more popular wrestlers, they ran rough shot over WWF. High stakes feuds and 2 Dudes With Attitude. The Kliq did not last long though as in 1996, Hall and Nash would sign contracts with WCW. The group had one final sendoff in one of the more iconic moments in wrestling history: The Curtain Call.

After the “incident” of The Curtain Call, H and Michaels would not be on screen together for a least another year. Triple H got the brunt of the punishment from the incident, as he was the only member who wasn’t gone or a major player in the company (Michaels). The 2 men were friends off-screen and a year or so later would beg and continually ask the company to let them on screen together again. They would get their wish in the form of D-Generation X in 1997. The first iteration of DX saw Triple H, his bodyguard Chyna, Michaels & Rick Rude. This version of the group only lasted a year. Michaels would be “kicked out” of DX after WrestleMania 14 after losing the WWF title thanks to a betrayal by Mike Tyson. In reality, Michaels was out with a back injury that had him step away from in-ring competition for about 4 years.

Michaels would go on to have on-screen roles such as Commissioner of Raw during his time away from the ring.

2002 would see the return of Michaels to the ring, although probably not how he expected it. Triple H teased a reunion and reformation of DX on the July 22nd episode of Monday Night Raw. It was in the middle of the ring, after giving Michaels a DX shirt that Triple H would hit his “friend” with a Pedigree. The following week, Michaels was found laid out in the parking lot after having his head bashed through a car window. This became a game of “Who-dunnit” as there were many suspects. August 5th, 2002 we would find out who in fact did it. CCTV footage showed it was Triple H who threw his best friend through the window! This incident kicked off their rivalry.

SummerSlam 2002, the in-ring return of Shawn Michaels. An Unsanctioned Street Fight with his former best friend. After being gone from in-ring competition, Michaels would beat Triple H in the grueling match. This was only the beginning.

After this encounter with Michaels, Triple H would be handed the World Heavyweight Championship on Raw a few weeks later. Triple H would go on to feud with multiple people for the title over the course of the next month or so. This culminated in the 1st ever Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series (Nov. 17, 2002). Michaels would be the final man of 6 to join the Chamber Match making the field- Triple H (champion), Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Chris Jericho, Kane, and Shawn Michaels. Michaels would go on to win this historic match and capture the gold away from Triple H.

2004 would be the culminating year for the friends turned foes. The 2 men would have countless matches involving the World Heavyweight title including a Last Man Standing Match at the Royal Rumble, as well as a Hell in a Cell Match at Bad Blood. The feud fizzled out at WrestleMania 20 where both men would go on to main event with Chris Benoit. Benoit would defeat both men, submitting Triple H, to win the gold and end the night.

Looking back at their history, it is hard to believe (or it may not be) that the 2 are still best friends working behind the scenes currently at WWE.

[1998-2004: Factions, Multiple 1sts, 1 lifelong friendship]

Trish Stratus & Lita

When you think of women’s wrestling in the early 2000s, there are usually 2 names at the forefront of that conversation.

Lita & Trish Stratus.

Both women were finding their footing in the Attitude Era in WWF, and both ended up joining separate teams in their beginnings. Lita would join brothers Matt and Jeff Hardy – Team X-Treme. Stratus would manage and be a part of the group T&A – Test and Albert. These teams began feuding in the summer of 2000. Leading to an inter-gender tag team match at Fully Loaded, Lita would be the one securing the win for her team by pinning Stratus.

The following year, the duo would find themselves on the same team as The Alliance started wrecking havoc on the WWF. The ladies’ main gripe would be with Stacy Kiebler and Torrie Wilson. The 4 ladies would have quite a few tag matches in 2001, leading to the 1st tag team bra & panties match at InVasion. (yeah remember bra & panty matches?) The winners of this match would be Stratus and Lita.

Between the years 2001-2003, we really did not see many interactions between these 2. Lita was hurt and off tv for a bit of time and Stratus was making herself a star in the division. On the September 15th edition of Raw, Lita returned from injury to actually save Stratus from a beatdown. The 2 would go on to team again unsuccessfully defeating the team of Christian and Chris Jericho in an intergender tag match.

2004 is the year we saw the spark ignited back into this rivalry. Lita had a go, dealing with storylines with her being married to Kane, having a miscarriage, the whole Snitsky punting a baby doll thing. (yes this happened I swear). Stratus would antagonize Lita relentlessly leading to a handful of matches. Survivor Series saw Lita get disqualified for using a chair during the match and actually breaking the nose of Stratus.

In December of that year, Stratus and Lita would mark their claim in history with the main event of Monday Night Raw for the WWE Woman’s Championship. The match saw the women giving their all, including Lita hitting a suicide dive onto Stratus on the outside actually breaking her neck. Lita, tough as hell, would go on to win the match and title off of Stratus for her 2nd Women’s Title.

Stratus and Lita would continue to go back and forth for the title and with each other for the next 2 or so years. At Unforgiven 20006, in a hard-fought match, Stratus would defeat Lita to regain the title for a record 7th time! After the match, Stratus would bow to the crowd indicating that she was retiring from WWE. (She would not stay retired).

With the history these 2 ladies shared, Lita knew the perfect person to be the one to induct her into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014. Her former rival and now best friend – Trish Stratus.

The rivalry these 2 ladies had is history-making in itself. It also helped pave the way for more intense, personal, and badass women feuds. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to them!).

[2000-2006: History makers, Champions, Team Bestie]

John Cena & Edge

In my opinion, the mid to late 2000s helped create the start of a lot of notable careers. Randy Orton, Batista, Brock Lesnar. It also helped create one fantastic rivalry between John Cena and Edge.

The 2 men didn’t really have a jump start on their shared paths until New Years Revolution in 2006. Cena had just defended and retained his title in a brutal Elimination Chamber match. After the match, Vince McMahon would come out announcing that Edge would cash in his Money In The Bank contract. For those who did not know, this was the 1st ever cash in! Edge had won the briefcase a few months prior and had an entire year to cash in for a title opportunity. Well, they don’t call Edge the “Ultimate Opportunist” for nothing. Edge had his chance and took it. He speared the life out of an already bruised and bloodied Cena to win the WWE Title.

Over the next few months, the pair would have a handful of matches, one of which saw Cena regain his title. With Edge in his rearview, Cena looked forward to another challenger in Rob Van Dam. Cena found himself walking into the lions den at ECW: One Night Stand. He was on ECW’s home turf and things were not looking good for the champ. A hooded figure would come out during the end of the match and spear Cena, letting RVD win and becoming the new champion.

This hooded figure of course being Edge.

Cena, rightfully pissed, would come after Edge. Multiple matches, Edge winning the title not long after costing Cena, Edge beating up Cena’s father in his own home! With all the animosity between the 2, Cena would challenge Edge to a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Match at Unforgiven (2006) in Edge’s hometown. Having put Edge through 2 stacked tables off the top of a ladder with FU (now the AA), Cena would regain his WWE title.

2007 was an interesting development for this rivalry. Both men found themselves in tag teams – Edge with Randy Orton (Rated RKO) and Cena with another rival Shawn Michaels. The night after the Royal Rumble on Monday Night Raw, Cena and Michaels would actually defeat Rated RKO for the WWE World Tag Team Championships. This win would make Cena a double champion for the 1st time in his career.

This tag team feud did not last long as Michaels cost Cena and himself the tag titles and they went on to feud with each other.

At the No Way Out PPV in 2009, Cena once again found himself defending his title inside an Elimination Chamber match. There was no briefcase for Edge to cash in this time. Instead, he took out Kofi Kingston, taking his place inside the chamber. In doing this, Edge would be the one to walk out of the match the new WWE champion.

Not soon long after, Edge would be off of tv for a bit of time to rest and deal with injuries he had lingering. So there was really no matchups between the 2 men. That is of course until the Royal Rumble (2010). Edge made his surprising return as the number 29th entrant in the rumble. As fate would have it, Cena and Edge would be the final 2 men left in the match. To cap off his return, Edge would eliminate Cena to win his 1st Royal Rumble.

During this year, WWE saw the debut of the force of reckoning known as The Nexus. They would run rough shot over the entire company, attacking any and everyone. This included Cena and Edge. With SummerSlam around the corner, Cena made it his mission to take out this dangerous team. But he needed one of his own. He would call upon R-Truth, Bret “The Hitman” Heart, Chris Jericho, John Morrison, last addition in Daniel Bryan, and his longtime rival- Edge. Team Cena would go on to win the match with Cena being the last man standing for his team.

The animosity these 2 men had for each other during the majority of their careers turned into respect at the end.

[2006-2010: Chamber matches, Iconic moments, Tons of surprises]

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