With the recent announcement that the 33rd iteration of NXT Takeover was to be branded as Vengeance Day, tying into both its occurrence on St. Valentine’s Day and a revival of the Vengeance brand, it seemed only right to look back at some of the best matches from previous Vengeance PPVs.
Having originally debuted in 2001 as a replacement for December’s Armageddon, the Vengeance event alternated between Raw and Smackdown, and even a dual-brand special before being discontinued in 2011.
Ten years later, NXT will attempt to impress with Io Shirai defending her NXT Women’s Championship against both Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez, a dream match between NXT Champion Finn Balor and Pete Dunne, and KUSHIDA challenging Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Title. As we will see below, there is already a high standard of bouts for NXT to match, and with the PPV just a few days away, this list should whet the appetite for all wrestling fans.
CW: This list includes matches that feature Chris Benoit and Alberto Del Rio. While their inclusion is purely on the merits of the matches themselves, nothing more, we understand if these match choices are uncomfortable for some fans.
1. WWE Vengeance 2001
World Championship Match The Rock (c) vs. Chris Jericho
With the ending of the Invasion leaving both a WWE Champion and WCW Champion, the decision was made for the two titles to be unified in a one-night tournament at the inaugural WWE Vengeance PPV. The WWE Championship had been the focus of a tremendous feud between ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (weirdly turned babyface in the lead-up despite having been with The Alliance) and Kurt Angle, whose role in defeating The Alliance was rewarded with a title shot. On the opposite side of the bracket was WCW World Champion The Rock defending against his newest rival, Chris Jericho.
During the battle between WWF and The Alliance, burgeoning hostility between Jericho and Rock created a schism, almost causing them to lose the Winner-Takes-All Survivor Series match. Chris Jericho’s heel turn allowed their chemistry to develop into a vitriolic battle between an arrogant upstart and a legitimate main eventer. The Rock has always been underrated for his willingness to put over others to help their main event status, such as Angle or Brock Lesnar, and Jericho comes across a sufficient challenger. Undoubtedly the best match of the night and a rare highpoint in Jericho’s initial main event run.
2. WWE Vengeance 2002
Undisputed Championship Match The Undertaker (c) vs. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle
Less than a year on from the inaugural PPV, Vengeance replaced Fully Loaded and featured two separate brands to allow more focus on a bloated roster. One of the few able to appear on both brands was the Undisputed Champion, won by The Undertaker at Judgement Day from a nostalgia-driven Hulk Hogan run. At the time, The Undertaker was a vicious heel, Kurt Angle was gaining a reputation as one of the best performers on the roster, and The Rock returned from Hollywood to cover the loss of Steve Austin, leading to three of the biggest current stars facing one another in the main event.
An underrated gem from Undertaker’s career, this is a fast paced, intense match that is nonstop action for twenty minutes. The final third of the match is finishers galore as all three superstars exchange and steal each other’s moves. Most impressive though is the long term booking of the match, allowing The Rock to win and become a transitional champion for ‘The Next Big Thing’ Brock Lesnar the following month. With Undertaker losing the title but not getting pinned, it allowed him to challenge Lesnar as his first big title defence. And Kurt Angle? Well, he went on to cement himself as Lesnar’s greatest rival. A fun main event with extra resonance in retrospect.
3. WWE Vengeance 2003
Tournament Final | U.S. Championship Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero
The third edition of this PPV was the first Smackdown only event and with ‘The Smackdown Six’ out to make an impression, unsurprisingly there are three tremendous matches featured here. The event opens with experienced rivals Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero battling one another for the newly resurrected United States Championship, Benoit having defeated Matt Hardy and Rikishi and Eddie having defeated Ultimo Dragon and Billy Gunn, respectively.
Benoit and Guerrero are granted twenty-plus minutes in an engrossing technical battle, Benoit focusing his attack on Eddie’s shoulder in anticipation of his Crippler Crossface. A desperate Eddie utilises his mantra of “Lying, Cheating & Stealing”, where he cheats by dragging the referee into a Diving Headbutt, lies by pretending Benoit hit him with the title, and steals the victory through Rhyno’s interference.
Though the multiple ref bumps and belt shots are slightly excessive, both men impressed in a match that demonstrated Eddie’s unquestionable popularity and Benoit’s technical brilliance. Less than a year later, both men were main eventers holding either the WWE Title or the World Championship.
4. WWE Vengeance 2003
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match The World’s Greatest Tag Team (c) vs. Rey Mysterio & Billy Kidman
Despite joining the main roster in just December the previous year, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin instantly rocketed up the tag team division, winning the titles within three months. With the technical smoothness of Haas and the explosive agility and pace of Benjamin, they crafted a natural chemistry that accentuated all their strengths. Challenging them were two of the best cruiserweights on the roster, Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio, who previously teamed together back in WCW.
WGTT generates tremendous heat from a hot crowd that wills on the high-flying antics of Kidman and Mysterio, busting out exciting high spots that shock the crowd. A cleverly orchestrated moment where Kidman launches Mysterio onto the top rope to hit a Hurricanrana on Haas gets a believable near fall that has the crowd on their feet. A rare highlight for a tag team division sometimes undervalued by WWE, WGTT got a clean and convincing victory that also helped garner a connection between Mysterio and his audience. A missing gem.
5. WWE Vengeance 2003
WWE Championship Match Brock Lesnar (c) vs. The Big Show vs. Kurt Angle
This match had a surprisingly detailed back story, beginning at Survivor Series the previous year, with Brock Lesnar, Big Show, and Kurt Angle exchanging the WWE Title over a five month period, culminating with Lesnar winning the title at WrestleMania. When Angle returned from surgery, he turned babyface and began a friendly, competitive rivalry with his new friend, Lesnar (which includes some underrated skits between them). With Big Show having made enemies with both men, it brings us to another Triple Threat main event for the second Vengeance in a row.
A No Disqualification war that features two of the most talented main eventers in WWE at the time (and a very willing Big Show), all three men utilise chairs, garbage can lids, tables and a willingness to batter one another. Between Big Show double suplexing both men, Angle and Lesnar hitting a double Chokeslam, and a running Powerbomb by Lesnar to Big Show, there are some awesome moments. With Lesnar and Angle working together to take out Big Show, their competitiveness culminates in an engrossing third act that hinted at the classic matches in their future.
6. WWE Vengeance 2004
Intercontinental Championship Match Randy Orton (c) vs. Edge
With recent battles in Last Man Standing matches, Royal Rumbles and ‘The Greatest Match Ever’, it may surprise some to realise that they’ve in fact been battling for fifteen plus years. At the time, Orton was a member of Evolution and had been Intercontinental champion for 210 days since the previous year’s Armageddon. Not only was that the longest IC title reign since The Rock’s 265 days as champion in 1998 (wow), but the reign featured his infamous No Holds Barred Falls Count Anywhere war with Cactus Jack.
This match had a forgotten impact on both men’s career, as Orton entered the match as a cocky arrogant heel but was gaining cheers from a crowd beginning to back him, while Edge was a failing babyface having returned from injury. Orton’s reign and this match helped revitalise the IC Title as an important achievement, a twenty-five plus minute back-and-forth match with both men desiring the championship.
Orton’s loss was quickly forgotten as the next month he defeated Chris Benoit for his first of many World Titles, while Edge’s waning popularity began his gradual heel turn into his finest role, that of the ‘Rated-R Superstar’ and the ‘Ultimate Opportunist’. A curious historical match that deserves a rewatch.
7. WWE Vengeance 2004
World Championship Match Chris Benoit (c) vs. Triple-H
At the time, a painful reminder of Triple-H’s reign of terror on RAW during the 2002-2005 years, but out of context, deserves a fairer appraisal. Benoit’s reign as World Champion may have been oversaturated with Triple-H unable to relinquish the main event spot, but they possessed a decent chemistry that made their matches entertaining to watch. This one in particular shows the intelligence of both wrestlers, as Benoit’s attack is focused on the shoulder, while Triple-H takes advantage of Benoit hurting his chest to attack the sternum throughout.
The only negative to this match is Eugene Dinsmore’s appearance, a solid lower card act that had gained crowd connection due to the real-life Nick Dinsmore’s hard work and effort. However, Triple-H trying to take advantage of Eugene as a secret weapon against Benoit makes little sense and takes the focus away from the actual title competitors. Despite this weak ending, it’s a rare solid highlight in a RAW main event scene that is often underwhelming during the reign of terror.
8. WWE Vengeance 2005 Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle
The only non-title match to feature in this Top 10, but the match everyone thinks of when hearing the PPV name Vengeance. A rematch for an instant classic at that year’s WrestleMania featuring two of the absolute best wrestlers on the RAW roster in a fascinating mix of story and ability. Kurt Angle had won their previous clash, meaning he confidentially expected his Angle Lock to achieve another submission victory and focused his attack appropriately.
Angle’s vicious offense has Michaels struggling for the majority of the match, with a Buckle Bomb and Angle Slam especially weakening the Heartbreak Kid. The only game changer Michaels had to fall back on was his Sweet Chin Music, which in their previous match he didn’t take advantage of quickly enough. Michaels’ finisher attempts had huge stakes due to Angle’s ability to transition it into his reliable Angle Lock, and several times he nearly tapped, but in the end, his instinctive nature made the difference when he finally hit that perfect Sweet Chin music, taking the victory and tying the rivalry.
9. WWE Vengeance 2005
Hell In A Cell Match | World Heavyweight Championship Batista (c) vs. Triple-H
The final chapter in a slow-burn story that had begun the previous year at Unforgiven, where Triple-H regained the World Championship from former stablemate Randy Orton. During the next few months, Batista’s popularity grew substantially at the same time as Triple-H’s obsession over the championship overwhelmed his loyalty and support. Batista’s victory in the Royal Rumble led to a dominant victory over Triple-H at both WrestleMania and Backlash.
Hell In A Cell featured chains, a steel chair wrapped in barbed wire, steel steps and a sledgehammer, with Triple’s initial attacks with each kept being overwhelmed by a relentless and aggressive champion. Full of brutality and blood, the hatred is palpable as both men try to destroy one another, with Batista eventually preventing another sledgehammer shot to hit an emphatic Batista-Bomb to defeat his rival. Cementing Batista as a main event talent, this is a great throwback match for fans used to the modern era.
10. WWE Vengeance 2011
Last Man Standing Match | WWE Championship Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. John Cena
After the Summer of Punk was unceremoniously ended by a Kevin Nash Powerbomb and before CM Punk regained the WWE Championship to embark on his record-breaking run, the title bounced between the two men mentioned above. Prior to this main event match, Mark Henry and Big Show destroyed the ring with a Superplex, leaving Del Rio and Cena to wrestle with a lopsided ring. This weirdly added to their Last Man Standing match, allowing little moments such as Cena being unable to hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle as he had no ropes to bounce off.
Utilising the nearby barricades and the loose ring posts to damage one another, they eventually transitioned into the back, fighting near catering, through the crowd and onto the announce table. However, interference from the partnership of The Miz and R-Truth against Cena weakened him enough for a nine count, Del Rio getting the victory finally after wiping Cena out with a title shot. Though the overall booking in the main event scene was flawed at the time, the wrestlers themselves were still putting in good performances, and Cena always seems to perform well in Last Man Standing matches.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.