If there is anything in WWE that is sure to shake things up and change the status quo, it’s a triple threat match. A stipulation that immediately changes the rules of engagement, triple threat matches are known for their wild chaotic nature, their unpredictability and their tendency to make champions sweat.
In a triple threat match, disqualifications and count outs become a thing of the past, removing the “Champion’s Advantage” and also leaving the defending champ with a 33% chance of successfully retaining the title. There have been many noteworthy triple threat matches throughout WWE history, but these 5 stand head and shoulders above the rest.
#1 The Undertaker (C) vs The Rock vs Kurt Angle – Vengeance 2002
In 2002, at Vengeance, a perfect storm of sorts pulled together three of the most prolific WWE Superstars of all time for a doozy of a triple threat match. Undisputed WWE Champion The Undertaker would defend against Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle and “The People’s Champion”, The Rock.
The match was a wild up and down roller coaster ride of action that never disappointed. Egos were tested during the match as each competitor would steal one of his opponent’s finishing maneuvers, with Angle nailing Rock with a Rock Bottom, Undertaker nailing Angle with an Angle Slam and The Rock using the Chokeslam and the Ankle Lock on Undertaker and Angle respectively.
After a long thrill ride, The Rock would go on to win the Undisputed Title after planting Angle with a Rock Bottom.
#2 Brock Lesnar (C) vs The Big Show vs Kurt Angle – Vengeance 2003
The 2002 Vengeance melee against The Rock and the Undertaker would not be Kurt Angle’s last WWE Title triple threat match. In fact, he would compete in another one the very next year, ironically enough, at Vengeance again.
By the time Vengeance 2003 rolled around, Angle was no longer the villainous blowhard he’d been for the majority of his WWE career. He was coming off career threatening neck fusion surgery and an incredible WrestleMania main event in which he’d lost the WWE Title to Brock Lesnar but won the respect of his opponent and the entire WWE Universe in the process.
The obvious sentimental favorite, the triple threat was peppered with action and unique offense. Between the amateur skills of Angle, the animalistic strength of Lesnar and the sheer girth of the Big Show, the contest was tailor made for some amazing spots, which include an Angle Slam on Big Show through the announcer’s table and Brock Lesnar executing a running powerbomb on Big Show from the corner; a feat that, to this day, has never been repeated.
Much to the crowd’s delight, Angle would wrest the title away by pinning defending Champion Lesnar following an Angle Slam.
#3 Triple H (C) vs Chris Benoit vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XX
One of the best WrestleMania main events in WWE history has been largely wiped from the history books. A triple threat match that saw Triple H defend against hated rival (at the time) Shawn Michaels and perennial underdog Chris Benoit, this match and most of Benoit’s personal history in general has been buried under a series of heavy editing and disclaimers, a result of the unfortunate, unforgivable atrocity Benoit committed at the end of his life that left a permanent scar on both his legacy and pro wrestling as a whole.
Still, from an analytical standpoint, this match cannot simply be overlooked. Chris Benoit came into the match, which would be a wild and bloody affair, as the proverbial brass ring wrestler; a man who had been so close on so many occasions but had never actually won the big one.
Shawn Michaels was also seeking redemption against a man who had been his best friend, turned bitter enemy. Despite his best efforts, after a long and harrowing fight, a bloody Game found himself trapped in the middle of the ring in the Crippler Crossface, with no choice but to tap out giving Chris Benoit his first and only WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
The celebration Benoit had afterward with his best friend Eddie Guerrero, who was the WWE Champion at the time, can never be forgotten.
4. Edge (C) vs Triple H vs Jeff Hardy – Armageddon 2008
At Armageddon 2008, WWE Champion Edge would find himself staring across the ring at both Triple H and Jeff Hardy. A match featuring a longtime WWE main eventer in Triple H, against two men who seemed destined for main event status from early on in Edge and Jeff Hardy, this triple threat match was mired in controversy.
The easy emotional favorite, Jeff Hardy shared a similar stigma as Chris Benoit, being a man who seemed to always come only so close to becoming champion, only to have it slip from his grasp at the last moment.
This was the match where that stigma was broken. Despite being speared through an announcers table, Hardy would overcome Triple H, Edge and even an interfering Vladimir Kozlov to land a history making Swanton Bomb on both of his opponents, ultimately pinning Edge to fulfill his destiny and finally become a World Champion.
5. Brock Lesnar (C) vs Seth Rollins vs John Cena – Royal Rumble 2015
What do you get when you pit the most dominant WWE superstar of all time against the most successful and prolific WWE superstar of the modern era and one of the best wrestlers on the planet and the undisputed future of WWE?
You get an instant Match of the Year.
A dream match on paper, Lesnar vs Rollins vs Cena would make a very strong case for being the best WWE Championship match in Royal Rumble history.
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, still riding the incredible momentum from ending The Undertaker’s revered undefeated WrestleMania winning streak, went up against John Cena, determined to win his 16th World Title to tie Ric Flair and to gain retribution for a humiliatingly one-sided loss to Lesnar at SummerSlam.
But there was one more element to this already explosive mix; Mr. Money in the Bank, Seth Rollins.
Seth Rollins had already established himself as one of the best wrestlers on the planet par none, and was the current Mr. Money in the Bank, which theoretically gave him two title shots that night had he wanted to cash in his contract.
While fate would eventually smile on the ever-dominant Lesnar, the match was nothing short of spectacular. Among the incredible pieces of action in this match were an astounding 3 AA’s in a row from John Cena, a flying elbow through a table that incapacitated Lesnar for a good five minutes, and more suplexes than the law should allow.
When all was said and done, Seth Rollins ate an F5, Brock Lesnar retained and Rollins wisely chose to save his Money in the Bank for another night.