Top 10 Most Exciting Sports Rivalries of All Time

Sports fans have been fanatical for millennia (the Nika riots of the 6th century almost toppled an emperor) and today's fans and competitors are no less emotionally invested in the heartfelt rivalries that make sport so great. In no particular order, here are ten of the most exciting sports rivalries between both teams and individual sportsmen.


Dallas Cowboys versus Washington Football Team

The Top NFL Rivalry of All Time

Football of the American variety comes in last place of our most exciting sports rivalries, specifically the clashes between Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team (formerly known as the Redskins). There is a reason you'll often see them come up at the top USA online casinos with sportsbooks. Considered by many to be the most intense rivalry in the NFL, the two teams have eight Super Bowls between them, including four from the 1990s alone. Being in the same division means clashes are regular, and as other club contests in this list show, familiarity can breed serious rivalry.

The rivalry began with the origin of the Dallas team. Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchison, Jr. was on the verge of buying the Redskins (as they then were) but last minute changes to the deal just as it was about to be signed infuriated the businessman who abandoned the purchase. He went on to form the Dallas Cowboys in 1960, but that early antagonism was a sign of things to come.

Things started slow, excepting the political pranksters of the Chicken Club who protested against the Redskins' boss refusal to sign black players through the unusual medium of chicken smuggling, but action during the matches soon got hot, with the Dallas Cowboys generally finishing on top.


Prost versus Senna

Single Seater Controversary

Think of the sports rivalries in Formula 1 and one looms above all others: Prost versus Senna. The calculating, cool-headed Professor versus the passionate, brilliant Brazilian. In a situation that would be echoed two decades later with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, the pair were team mates for two tumultuous, riveting seasons at McLaren in 1988 and 1989, and between them won more than three-quarters of the races and both titles in those years. But it was also a time of constant conflict and bitter, polarising antagonism, with the world of F1 split into rival factions backing one man or the other.

Ironically, it was Prost that persuaded McLaren to sign up Senna in 1988, only for the Brazilian to edge the title by just 3 points. But that was as nothing compared to 1989 and the title-deciding shenanigans in Japan that helps make this one of the all time great sports rivalries.

During the season to date, Prost felt Senna was taking too many risks and vowed not to leave the door open to him. Senna grabbed pole but Prost had a better start before his Brazilian rival started homing in on him and closed the gap to practically nothing. Senna tried a move that was brave or foolhardy, and Prost duly shut the door. The two collided. Their engines stalled. Prost left his car, but Senna enlisted the marshal's for a push start and resumed racing. One pit stop and some hasty repairs later, the talented Brazilian carved his way through the field to claim a famous victory. Only he didn't, because he was controversially disqualified for not completing the lap on which he and Prost had collided. Prost went on to win the title.


Martina Navratilova versus Chris Evert

Sports Rivalry Queens of Women's Tennis

There haven't been many ladies on the list, partly because women's sports (especially on the team side of things) does not have the same history as men's. One major exception to that is the greatest sports rivalry in women's tennis between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

The two dominated women's rankings, holding the top spots for more than 96% of the first 615 weeks. Navratilova and Evert simply outclassed the rest of the field, taking Grand Slams consecutively for almost four entire years (15 titles on the bounce, between them).

Naturally, the two queens of women's tennis came head to head on multiple occasions, with Navratilova generally having the edge, just (43-37). Both won every Grand Slam tournament on multiple occasions, and their period of dominance in the women's sport was something of a forerunner for Federer and Nadal.


Real Madrid versus Barcelona

El Clásico

El Clásico (the Classic) is the name given to every counter between Spanish football giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, one of the most deep rooted sports rivalries in the history of the world. Clashes between these soccer titans attract massive global audiences, and goals are not merely cause for celebration, but ridiculing the other side, adding even more needle and spice to the matches.

As with the Old Firm, El Clásico's bitter sports rivalry has an element of politics to it, with Real Madrid representing the Spanish capital, and Barcelona the home team in the capital of Catalonia. The competitive matches tally is balanced on a knife edge, with Real Madrid just one ahead, with 97 wins to Barcelona's 96. Such matches are intense and unruly affairs, and frequently ill-tempered as the giants prove that 'sport is war minus the shooting'. This is one of the largest sports betting events at Bet365 every year, and it's easy to see why.


New York Yankees versus Boston Red Sox

The Hottest USA Sports Rivalry

We go back across the Pond for our next entry on the best ever sports rivalries list, this time between MLB big hitters. Bovada books more sports bets for Yankees games than any other baseball club in the majors. Probably the hottest rivalry in the United States, the Yankees and Red Sox have been competing for more than a hundred years. During this time the Curse of the Bambino struck down the Red Sox. This infamous Curse saw the Red Sox owner sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees, ushering in an 86 year period during which the former team failed to win any World Series.

The teams have had some crucial confrontations in the ballpark, including league title deciders in 1904 and 1949 (taking one apiece), and a division title tie-breaker of 1978. The 2004 season was a famous victory for the Red Sox, and caused severe heartache for the Yankees. The New York team were leading 3-0 only to lose when the Red Sox sprung a fantastic fightback to win the best of seven contest. This proved the springboard for the Red Sox to finally end their 86 year wait for a World Series title. But when it comes to a comparison with their rivals there's still a long way to go, as the Yankees have 27 World Series to their name, and the Red Sox have just 9.


Liverpool versus Manchester United

Tale of Two Cities

From the immense growth of the Industrial Revolution to modern day sport, Liverpool and Manchester have been earnest competitors, and this is reflected in one of the most ardent sports rivalries in the world. Perhaps fuelled by the fact that the two clubs are together the most successful in the English Premier League, with more than three dozen league titles and nine European Cups (Champions League) victories between them, this is one sports rivalry that shows no sign of dying down.

Liverpool long held the advantage in the records books thanks to a period of unparalleled dominance in the 1970s and 1980s, before Manchester United's golden age under Sir Alex Ferguson enabled them to match and then surpass Liverpool's league record. Recently, Liverpool won their first league title for 30 years, taking them to 19 and just one behind Manchester United. But when it comes to the ultimate prize in European club football, it's Liverpool who have the whip hand, with six titles, twice that of the Red Devils which may be why they have the drunkest fans.


The Ashes, England versus Australia

Arguably the Oldest Sports Rivalry

The Ashes is a slightly strange sports rivalry between England and Australia, dating back to the late 19th century and a mocking newspaper article. Australia had won at The Oval, prompting an announcement that English cricket had died and would shortly be cremated. At a tour held in Australia a little later, England won two of three Tests and were duly presented with a tiny urn, and thus were the Ashes born.

The Ashes are a source of fierce pride for Australia and England, with five Tests being held to determine the winner every two years. At the time of writing Australia are narrowly ahead with 33 wins to 32 for England, but the cultural impact of the series goes well beyond cricket, with other sporting contests between the two nations often described as 'Ashes' versions.


Muhammed Ali versus Joe Frazier

Clash of the Titans

Muhammad Ali was as swift on his feet as he was with his words, and this charismatic pugilist was the dominant force in world boxing for a long time. But just as Holmes needed Moriarty, the man who floated like a butterfly but stung like a bee needed strong rivals to measure himself against, and Smokin' Joe Frazier, together with Ali, gave us three of the greatest boxing matches the world has ever seen.

In 1971 the two men met for the first time in Madison Square Garden for the bout known as the Fight of the Century. Frazier was the WBC/WBA heavyweight champion, while Ali was the Ring/lineal heavyweight champion. This fight has claim to be not only the most hyped boxing match but the most hyped sporting event of all time. But despite the build-up the bout itself was even better than anticipated and lasted the full 15 rounds. Ali dominated early on before Frazier assumed control, going on to win by unanimous decision.

The pair met again in Super Fight II and the Thrilla in Manila, both won by Ali and the last of which was watched by a record global audience of 1 billion.


Rangers versus Celtic

No Playing Nice

There are many words that can be used to describe the epic rivalry between Scottish clubs Rangers and Celtic, although amicable is perhaps not one of them. These Glaswegian teams are collectively known as the Old Firm, and one reason for the intensity and prolonged nature of the rivalry is where the different supporters come from. Rangers is primarily supported by the Protestant community, while most of Celtic's fanbase is from the Catholic part of the city.

You'd perhaps have to go back a long way to find an older sports rivalry, as the first Old Firm match was played back in 1888. During the last century the two teams have utterly dominated Scottish football, with 105 league championships between them. They've played one another more than 400 times, with Rangers narrowly ahead (164 wins to 159).

Unfortunately this bitter sports rivalry shows the darker side of sport, with brawls aplenty and even multiple deaths linked to clashing supporters.


Federer and Nadal

A Perpetual Duel

You know a sportsman is a cut above the average when even people not into the sport universally recognize their name, and that's true of both Swiss tennis player Roger Federer and his Spanish rival Rafael Nadal. At the time of writing, the pair share the record for the most Grand Slam wins in history (20 apiece, the equivalent of winning every tournament solid for a decade, between them).

The pair hold numerous other records, including being the top 2 in the rankings for six consecutive calendar years. The contrasting styles is one key aspect of this rivalry, which is fierce but also notable for the deep respect that Federer and Nadal have for one another and goes to show competition can be amicable rather than antagonistic. The Swiss player is noted for his effortless grace and elegant style, whereas his Spaniard rival has immense power and raw athleticism.

Nadal is undoubtedly the King of Clay, utterly dominating the French Open with an incredible 13 titles to his name. As you might expect, he also has the advantage over Federer on the surface, with Federer edging it on head-to-heads on both hard courts and grass. The two men won't be around forever, but they've given years of entertainment (much like the best no deposit online casinos) and provided arguably the greatest tennis match in history: the 2008 Wimbledon final, a five set thriller that Nadal narrowly won.

That just about finishes our Top10Casinos list of the best sports rivalries in recent history, showing that these can be brimming with animosity or filled with respect, and be centuries-old affairs between clubs, or personal clashes between individual sporting heroes.

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