10 Stiffest Wrestling Matches Ever

This'll hurt tomorrow...

Vader Yokozuna Royal Rumble 1996
WWE

Wrestling isn't a competitive sport as much as it's a cooperative dance. For a match to work, wrestlers have to be in sync, working with one another to create a back-and-forth spectacle that grips the audience.

The key to wrestling, at least in the old days, was to convince fans that the fights were real and that the moves the participants were doing to each other hurt. In reality, the animosity was manufactured and the moves were less devastating than they appeared. Punches and strikes are based off of slight of hand as much as precision, and wrestlers learn the safest way to fall in order to minimize pain and injury.

As the years went on, though, something changed. It seemed like as more fans learned that wrestling wasn't on the level, wrestlers felt more compelled to make it "real." While many old-school wrestlers still continue to pride themselves on their ability to work "light" and make it look good, strong-style wrestling emerged as an avenue for ultra-physical (and frankly, less safe) forms of combat. Really, it's all about personal preference.

This is a list of the 10 stiffest wrestling matches of all time. While I've intentionally omitted matches that turned into actual fights, in many of these bouts, the participants might as well have been out for blood - the end result wouldn't have been much different.

10. Brock Lesnar Vs John Cena - Extreme Rules 2012

Vader Yokozuna Royal Rumble 1996
WWE.com

When Brock Lesnar came back to WWE in 2012, he immediately headed into a showdown with John Cena. Lesnar was still thought of as an MMA fighter at the time, so the bout was a clash between MMA's top star and WWE's top star. Needless to say, the company stood to make a lot of money.

What fans didn't expect was just how physical the bout would be. Lesnar jumped Cena in the early goings, bloodying him with elbows and nearly forcing the referee to stop the match. Cena fought back with weaponry, eventually bludgeoning Lesnar so hard that he drew blood from "The Beast."

The bout was hard-hitting and reckless, with John Cena taking a beating like few other top stars in wrestling history would allow. In the end, Cena hit Lesnar with an AA on the ring steps and scored the pin. It was far and away the most brutal main event in WWE history, and a stunningly excellent contest.

The physicality took its toll on Cena. After the bout, he cut an impromptu promo about how he might need a vacation, which apparently didn't sit too well with management. He ended up not missing any time.

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Scott Fried is a Slammy Award-winning* writer living and working in New York City. He has been following/writing about professional wrestling for many years and is a graduate of Lance Storm's Storm Wrestling Academy. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/scottfried. *Best Crowd of the Year, 2013