From 1988 to 2001, World Championship Wrestling (or WCW) was side by side with the WWE as the top wrestling companies in the world. They dominated wrestling in the United States in the 1990s, topping the TV ratings and putting on some of the best pay-per-views money could by.
WCW went toe-to-toe with WWE at every turn, even surpassing them for an 83 week stretch in the ratings. Where WWE had Steve Austin, WCW had Goldberg. Where WWE had The Rock, WCW had DDP. And where WWE had Triple H and Shawn Michaels as D-Generation X, WCW changed the wrestling landscape with the trio of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan as the New World Order (NWO).
All these men mentioned, along with others like Ric Flair and Booker T, helped put on some of the best WCW matches of all time. Adding in top talent like Sting and Bret Hart, WCW had one of the most stacked rosters that could put on some of the greatest matches of all time – that is, when bookers like Vince Russo didn’t try to ruin them.
This article will go through the greatest matches in the history of WCW. It will feature the best WCW matches from the companies start in 1988 to its closure and purchase by WWE in 2001. Featuring some of the greatest wrestlers like Ric Flair, Eddie Guerrero, Terry Funk and Steve Austin, it has some of the best matches of all time in it, and not just in WCW.
Here are the best WCW matches of all time. If we missed any out, let us know any comments and tell us why you think they are the best WCW matches of all time.
Best WCW Matches
15. Diamond Dallas Page vs Sting – WCW Monday Nitro #189)
While 1999 WCW has some of the worst wrestling ever known to man, there is the occasional hidden gem tucked away in there. One of those is Sting, two years after his embarrassing loss against Hulk Hogan at Starrcade 1997, putting on a rare great late-WCW appearance against DDP in between some of the worst wrestling in years.
Some terrific near falls filled this match, keeping the crowd on their toes as the pair battled for the WCW Championship in the third match on the card. While the match was very spot-heavy, it saw Diamond Dallas Page playing a great heel to Sting’s babyface, which predictably made for one of the best WCW matches and one of the last great matches in WCW history.
14. Vader vs Sting – WCW Starrcade 1992
Nobody walked into Starrcade 1992 thinking that Sting could beat Vader for the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship. However, when the match was over, the pair had made it so believable that fans were entirely behind Sting, believing he could beat Vader while not making The Mastadon look bad in defeat.
This match built on their previous encounter, and added some stiff shots and even more exciting action to make it the best of their matches. Vader beat down Sting so much that the crowd couldn’t help but cheer for The Stinger to get back up and keep fighting, and the finish (a slam off the top rope) protected Vader and made Sting look like an absolute star.
13. Rick Rude vs Ricky Steamboat – WCW Beach Blast 1992
When you put one of the best underdog babyfaces of all time up against one of the most hated heels, you expect nothing but magic. This is exactly what you get from watching Rick Rude vs Ricky Steamboat, which easily makes it onto the list of the best WCW matches of all time.
The bout wasn’t for any titles, but was given the stipulation of a thirty-minute iron man match. It had an old-school technical feel to it, and was unlike any other match on the card. Rude cheats to get ahead, while Steamboat has to overcome fatigue to recover from a 3-1 deficit, coming back to win the match 4-3 in a fast-paced ending that had the fans yelling for Steamboat to come out on top.
12. Arn Anderson & Ric Flair vs The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express – WCW Live Event
A match from a WCW live event that was taped for release between two of the Four Horseman (World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair) and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express is one of the hidden gems of WCW, although it is a shock that it would be. Both teams are four of the best wrestlers of all time, with Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton often considered one of the best tag teams in wrestling history.
It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it didn’t need to be. All four men wrestled their usual match, but combined beautifully to put on a dream match that few thought they’d ever get to see. Ric Flair grabbed the hair of Robert Gibson to help Arn Anderson pick up the win with a slingshot, much to the chagrin of the booing crowd, who could not have been more invested in the match.
11. Vader vs Cactus Jack – WCW Halloween Havoc 1993
The Texas Death Match was a bout that was long forgotten before AEW brought it back into the fold, but Vader’s match with Cactus Jack was a fantastic example of his the bout can make for a brilliant match. A hard-hitting, ultra-violent (for WCW at the time, but nothing on some of their matches in Japan) match that saw both men beat the tar out of each had the crowd in the palm of their hand all throughout the bout.
The match started off with some stiff shots, and soon turned into a brawl all the way up the ramp and onto the stage. Chair shots and big bumps from Cactus Jack helped make this match extra special, and something unlike any other bout in WCW at the time. Its slower pace stops it from being rated higher on this list, but it is still a classic bout from the time period.
10. Flyin’ Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Thunder Liger – WCW Superbrawl II
The first match of the list of the best WCW matches is a classic cruiserweight match between two of the top Junior Heavyweights in WCW history. Japanese legend Jushin “Thunder” Liger took on “Flyin” Brian Pillman in a match that wowed the fans in 1992 that had never seen wrestling quite like this.
The match was certainly ahead of its time, and had the crowd on the edge of their seat for the entire match, especially near the end with some sweet, terrific counter sequences. It was definitely the best match of the night and showcased two legends of the ring in their primes in a WCW classic.
9. Juventud Guerrera vs. Billy Kidman vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. – WCW Starrcade 1998
While WCW featured some of the top stars in wrestling like the NWO, Hulk Hogan, Sting and Lex Luger, it was the WCW Cruiserweight division that was the jewel in the promotions crown. The influx of talent coming in from Mexico and Japan (usually via ECW) created one of the most talented rosters of all time.
Whilst the main event of the shows were usually some NWO-related nonsense, the undercard featured the best cruiserweight action money could buy. At Starrcade 1998, the cruiserweight championship was on the line in a triple threat match between Rey Mysterio Jr, Billy Kidman and Juventud Guerrera.
Kidman retained his championship in a fast-paced encounter that kept the crowd on it’s feet all match, and was one of the best matches bell-to-bell in the history of WCW.
8. Vader vs Ric Flair – WCW Starrcade 1993
Vader had been a dominant champion in WCW on the run up to Starrcade 1993. He had defeated Sting twice and Ron Simmons once to become a three time champion in WCW and was one of the greatest WCW wrestlers of all time.
He had defeated everyone he had faced in dominant fashion. This is why his match-up against Ric Flair at Starrcade 1993 was a huge match-up. Flair was the WCW fan-favourite and the last hope for WCW to take the title back from the monstrous Big Van Vader. However, on the run up a huge stipulation was added to the match which terrified the WCW faithful. If Ric Flair won, he has to retire.
In an incredible bout that had the crowd on their edge of their seats for over 20 minutes, Ric Flair rolled up the WCW Champion to win the world championship and save his career, in one of the best WCW matches of all time.
7. Midnight Express vs Southern Boys – NWA The Great American Bash 1990
In a forgotten classic, Jim Cornette led the Midnight Express in one of the matches of the night at The Great American Bash 1990 again Steve Armstrong & Tracy Smothers. In the same show that saw Sting beating Ric Flair for the NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion, the two tag teams went out to steal the show in a bout that nobody expected to be this good.
In this two-on-two bout, Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane defended their NWA United States Tag Team Championship against the duo known as The Southern Boys. Southern Boys showed great intensity as the underdog team, getting the crowd on their side thanks to some fantastic heel work by The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette. It is a hidden gem from WCW, and one of the last matches the teams had in WCW on pay per view.
6. Bret Hart vs Chris Benoit – WCW Monday Nitro
A dream match for many, one of the best WCW matches only came about due to a tragedy. This match was booked as a tribute to Owen Hart, the brother of Bret Hart, who had fallen to his death at WWF Over the Edge 1998.
In his honour, Bret Hart took on his fellow Canadian wrestler Chris Benoit on an episode of WCW Monday Nitro. Both men were two of the best Canadian wrestlers of all time, and two of the best technical wrestlers of all time, and the match was of a quality befitting of the late, great Owen Hart.
While the pair had faced of before, it hadn’t been so high profile and given so much time than it did on WCW Monday Nitro. The pair went 25 minutes in one of the great technical wrestling bouts, showcasing both men’s incredible in-ring skills.
Bret Hart picked up the win to round off an incredible match. The friendly contest between two of the greats to honour Bret’s brother helped make this one of the most touching, and best WCW matches of all time.
5. Rey Mysterio Jr. vs Psicosis – WCW Bash at the Beach 1996
On a night where Hulk Hogan joining the NWO dominated the wrestling world, an incredible match between Rey Mysterio and Psychosis has seemed to fly under the radar as one of the best WCW matches.
The main event of Bash at the Beach 1996 was star studded, but Eric Bischoff clever booked long time rivals south of the border to open the show. Their incredible chemistry and ridiculous pace of wrestling meant an explosive opener that wowed fans and got everyone hot for a great show of wrestling.
WCW brought on commentator Mike Tenay in to explain some of the incredible moves this pair were showcasing. Before this match, moves like Huricarana”, “Senton”, “Asai Moonsault” and “Enziguri” were unknown to most US fans, and added an air of intruige and excitement to their matches.
4. Sting’s Squadron vs Dangerous Alliance (War Games) – WCW Wrestlewar 1992
The best war games in WCW history was the epic encounter between Sting’s Squadron and the Dangerous Alliance at WCW Wrestlewar 1992. Paul E. Dangerously led the Dangerous Alliance, comprised of Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and Larry Zbyszko. Five WWE Hall of Famers who you would have thought was the most star studded team of all time.
That is until you look at their opponents. Led by WCW Icon Sting, his squadron included Barry Windham, Nikita Koloff, Ricky Steamboat and Dusty Rhodes. They were five of WCW’s greatest ever faces and some of the most popular men in wrestling history.
It was a classic that went over 25 minutes, and all 10 men brutalised each other inside the dual cages. In the end, Sting forced Bobby Eaton to submit using his Scorpion Death Lock, ending one of the best WCW matches of all time with the good guys standing tall above the bloodied carcasses of the Dangerous Alliance.
3. Ric Flair vs Terry Funk (I Quit Match) – NWA Clash of the Champions 9
An old-school brawl was exactly what the I Quit match between Ric Flair and Terry Funk was one of the best WCW matches of all time. It was the fifth Ric Flair match of 1989 to be rated 5 stars by Dave Meltzer. It was a simple match, which much less of the hardcore-focused style that has dominated I-Quit matches in recent years.
Funk had challenged, and lost, to Flair 4 months earlier, failing to win the WCW Championship. Not deterred, the pair feuded on and off for months until it was decided that the ultimate winner was to be decided at NWA Clash of the Champions, in an I-Quit match. The rules of the match stated that the winner was the one to make their opponent say “I Quit”, so it was similar to a submission match in that regard.
The match was a simple one and told a simple story, but both men performed it perfectly. Both men simply tried to wear down the other, forcing them to quit with whatever brutal holds they could think of. Chops, piledrivers and figure 4’s filled the match, and both men looked capable of winning the match right down until the ending.
Eventually, Ric Flair locked in the Figure 4. Funk, feeling the exrusiating pain of his leg about to break, was forced to say the immortal words and lost to Flair in one of the best WCW matches ever.
2. Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio Jr. – WCW Halloween Havoc 1997
One of the greatest matches of all time was the epic encounter between two of the top Hispanic wrestlers of all time – Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero.
The pair did not have a huge rivalry or story coming into this match. Both men had wrestled many times before in Mexico, and were both ECW alumni. Eddie Guerrero was the heel WCW Cruiserweight Champion, determined to keep his championship at all cost, under threat from the ultimate underdog in Rey Mysterio.
The match was a Luchas de Apuetas match, or a wager match. This meant that both men were putting something on the line in this bout. If Mysterio won, then he would become the new WCW Cruiserweight Champion. If Guerrero won, then Mysterio would be forced to remove his mask, one of the most humiliating acts one can befall on a Luchador.
The match was revolutionary. It is one of the great cruiserweight matches ever, and was rightfully included on the Rey Mysterio WWE 2K showcase. Both men gave it everything they had and pulled out moves most WCW fans had never seen before.
Even today, it holds up as one of the great matches ever. Both men were in their physical prime and impressing audiences every week, but this match was special, and rightfully number of this list.
1. Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat – Multiple Matches
As there were so many to choose from, it seemed unfair just to full the list with the classic matches between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. These matches (four of the top five WCW matches according to Cagematch.net) are between The Nature Boy and The Dragon and are regarded as some of the greatest matches ever on American soil.
The pair put on one of the greatest trilogies of matches ever when they fought over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship Belt in 1989. Their first bout was at the Chi-Town Rumble, where Steamboat defeated Flair to win the Championship. Then, Steamboat defended his championship in a two-out-of-three falls match at Clash of Champions. Steamboat won the match, but with Flair’s foot underneath the rope at the finish, WCW officials decided a final match was needed and it would take place at WrestleWar.
Ric Flair would win the final match of the trilogy and regain his NWA Championship. It was one of his 16 (according to WWE, over 20 if you ask Flair) World Championships, and Steamboat was never given a rematch by WCW officials despite losing the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
This was just one of many incredible matches between the two men, including one that broke the Dave Metlzer Five Star Matches scale, with their house show match in 1989 earning an incredible 6 star rating. This would not be beaten until Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada 19 years later.
What do you think is number 1 of the best WCW matches? Let us know in the comments or click below to keep reading
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.