I decided to post, for Our Loyal Crappers, my list of the fifty greatest WrestleMania matches ever. Even if I don’t always agree with your arguments, I do love to see the debate you guys create, and I imagine there will be some from this listing here. This covers nearly three decades of epics and time-tested battles. Any and all comments and criticism are welcomed at my Twitter, so fire away.
50. Undertaker vs. Ric Flair (X8)
I like my brawls hate-filled, and this one was fueled by The Dead Man attacking Arn Anderson and Ric’s son David as a means of goading Naitch into a fight. The Tombstone ended Flair’s valiant effort, and Taker went to 10-0.
49. Money in the Bank (XXVI)
The last MITB match at the big dance to-date saw Jack Swagger win over the likes of Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Matt Hardy, and Kane. In a cruel bit of foreshadowing, Swagger needed an extended period to undo the briefcase off its hook.
48. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk (XXVII)
One of the few bright spots of the Atlanta event was this issue between the Viper and Punk. Weeks after Orton annihilated all of Punk’s Nexus flunkies, the protagonist had his knee taken out, but Punk undid himself by flying right into an RKO.
47. Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon (X7)
The battle between the WWE and “WCW” owners was chaotic and a tad silly, but never not fun. The pop a supposedly-comatose Linda got when she rose out of her chair was legitimately awesome. Shane won minutes later with the Van Terminator.
46. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle (2000)
Jericho’s pretty “meh” on this match in his second book, but to me, it’s a quality blend of science and timing in front of a notoriously dead Anaheim crowd. The match was a two-fall contest for both the Intercontinental and European titles, and Angle lost both without being pinned.
45. Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon (XXII)
Sure, it was a one-sided beating, but it may have been the most entertaining one-sided beating in wrestling history. Shawn beat Vince into oblivion, and was rebuked by Vince’s unconscious middle finger gesture from the stretcher.
44. John Cena vs. Triple H (XXII)
Both men put aside their goofy entrances (Hunter as Conan, Cena as Al Capone) to wrestle a mostly clinical contest, designed to prove that Cena can, indeed, wrestle. The Chicago fans called for his head the entire match, but what can ya do?
43. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XV)
Austin had been hunting down his World Title for six months, running the Corporation gauntlet before getting Rock in the WrestleMania mainer. 3 referees were taken out, but Mick Foley counted Austin’s pin after the Stunner.
42. Undertaker vs. Triple H (XXVIII)
Overrated as a classic, right at home as a “really good match”, Undertaker slowly polished off The Game and improved to 20-0 inside the Cell to supposedly “end an era” that had both men wrestling at WrestleMania one year later. WWE and their wacky taglines.
41. Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels (XI)
One of the saving graces of WrestleMania on “The Grandest Stage of The Mall” was Michaels bouncing like a superball for Diesel’s Hulk V2 act. Being the underdog only swung fan sentiment behind Shawn, who’d turn face shortly after.
40. The Rock vs. John Cena (XXVIII)
A throwback to the larger-than-life hero vs. hero WrestleMania main events of yonder, Rock delivered a great performance with Cena, paying off the year-long build. The sequel was far more paint-by-numbers than “Once in a Lifetime”.
39. Undertaker vs. Triple H (X7)
Get past the ref bump where an elbow drop felled the official for approximately three hours, and you’re left with a widespread pier-sixer glazed in hatred. Taker’s Last Ride, after he survived a sledgehammer shot, improved his mark to 9-0 in this one.
38. Money in the Bank (XXIV)
CM Punk took his first steps toward true main event acceptance by winning this seven man battle. Highlights saw John Morrison neuter himself, Matt Hardy return to take out MVP, and Shelton Benjamin nearly kill himself.
37. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (XXIV)
This was Flair’s theoretical swan-song before financial hardships forced him back into the ring. As a match, Flair showed his age in the later stages, but it’s still enjoyable for its dramatic, and bittersweet, qualities. Sadder in hindsight that Flair embraced his now-deceased son Reid afterward.
36. Batista vs. John Cena (XXVI)
Batista’s pretty good as an easily-led worker. Put him with a proven main eventer, and you get a great match. Their Summerslam 2008 match is a forgotten classic and this one, though abbreviated, was a worthwhile hard-hitting epic. Batista’s face when Cena kicks out of his powerbomb is priceless.
35. Batista vs. The Undertaker (XXIII)
Undertaker and Batista’s 2007 feud was one of few bright spots in a dismal year, and their WrestleMania war opened a lot of eyes to their remarkable chemistry. Taker went to 15-0, and won his first World Heavyweight Championship.
34. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XIX)
It was one last round for the ravaged Austin, and he put Rock over clean as a sheet for the first time in a singles encounter. The fans didn’t seem to understand the significance or reality of Austin’s curtain call, but Rock’s post match antics made it clear that the end had arrived.
33. Money in the Bank (XXIII)
A fairly star-studded cast included Edge, Randy Orton, Booker T, and the Hardyz, but it was Mr. Kennedy who stood tall in the end, even if he’d never get to cash in his briefcase. Such luck was the case for Kennedy during his WWE run.
32. Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XIV)
Michaels gutted through the second half of this match with a back injury akin to being dunked slowly into acid, but he managed to complete the title switch to Austin. With that, the Attitude Era took off, with Stone Cold as face of the movement.
31. Edge vs. Mick Foley (XXII)
Edge’s consolation prize after being temporary taken out of the World Title scene was this hellacious, blood-filled battle with Foley, which employed barbed wire and thumbtacks. It ended with the horrifying scene to the right: a spear through a flaming table.
30. Edge/Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz (2000)
The template for wild ladder matches would change in the near future, and this was a more deliberately-paced rendition of later mayhem. Still, it’s a classic, and gave the Reak-of-Awesomeness Brothers their first reign as Tag Team Champions.
29. Edge vs. Undertaker (XXIV)
The Dead Man advanced to 16-0, having a great match with Edge in spite of hindrances (dying crowd, Coachman on commentary). As a footnote, company punching bag Zack Ryder ended up getting involved in the main event, so good on Zack.
28. Rock n Sock Connection vs. Evolution (XX)
This one’s more noted for its fun nature, as opposed to any science or pure wrestling. Flair and Rock’s antics were hilarious, while Foley and Orton’s personal score was waged, with Orton scoring the then-biggest win of his career via RKO.
27. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (XXVIII)
The build up was lame, with Jericho exposing Punk’s poison-laden family, but it made for a highly intense battle, with Punk refusing to lose in the name of vengeance. The end with Punk insisting upon his Anaconda Vise just to make Jericho suffer was apropos.
26. Undertaker vs. Triple H (XXVII)
After Brock Lesnar and Sting couldn’t be landed as Taker’s opponent, the COO was hastily inserted, but a great match was had. Undertaker was worn down, Hunter went for the kill, but succumbed to Hell’s Gate, even though Taker needed a stretcher job afterward.
25. Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart (VIII)
The two crowd-favorites put together a classic for the Intercontinental Title, one which Bret discreetly broke the company’s no-blood policy for. Hart regained the title after a genius sleeperhold reversal, and the two embraced in respect.
24. Undertaker vs. CM Punk (XXIX)
Paul Bearer’s death provided roughly 98% of the backstory for the match, but the action didn’t require that crutch. The highlight was Undertaker horrifying Punk by doing the patented zombie-sit-up in the Anaconda Vise, en route to going 21-0.
23. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (X7)
Though it was only signed six days before WrestleMania, the two went out and gave the show a wrestling clinic, exchanging holds, counters, and submissions as only men of their caliber could. Angle won via cheating, but it would lead to a classic on/off again feud for the next couple years.
22. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan (X8)
Though I blame this match for giving Vince McMahon carte blanche to bring in part-timers and old-timers whenever, you forget your age momentarily during it. Watching Hogan “come to life” once more is awe-inspiring, and the match itself is just epic.
21. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (XIX)
How Angle dragged his frayed body through this one is anyone’s guess, but he seamlessly helped Lesnar weave a classic. The ending saw Brock nearly die on a botched shooting star press, providing a very tense moment in the event’s finale.
20. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (XIX)
Jericho can’t stop gushing in his book about this one; understandable, given that he wasn’t Stephanie’s dog-walker for this angle. Michaels and Jericho played can-you-top-this in a seesaw battle, with Michaels narrowly getting the win. An incensed Jericho kicked Shawn in the crotch after.
19. Ric Flair vs. Macho Man Randy Savage (VIII)
This highly-personal World Title match saw Flair claim to have romanced Elizabeth before Savage did, and Macho attempted to beat him to death in response. Savage got the gold, but Flair kissed Liz after, and the new champ exploded once more.
18. Money in the Bank (XXI)
Can’t beat the original. Edge made the first briefcase claim by surviving a war that included Shelton Benjamin running up a sloped ladder and Kane destroying Chris Benoit’s arm. Edge would cash in 9 months later to win his first WWE Title.
17. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan (V)
The best heel turn in wrestling history, wherein Savage’s paranoia at Hogan drove him to a blind rage, led to this showdown, where Hogan withstood Savage’s return to his cheap-shotting roots, and survived a Flying Elbow to win his second WWE Title.
16. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (XX)
What you’d expect from these two: a cat-and-mouse scientific classic, with a driven Angle working Guerrero’s ankle. But the wily WWE Champion loosened his boot, allowing him to escape the ankle lock and cradle Angle to retain his gold.
15. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior (VI)
The title for title “Ultimate Challenge” showcased Hogan’s ability to realistically carry a match, and he and Warrior enthralled a divided SkyDome. Warrior won in the end, and the Hulkster passed the torch to him, but it wouldn’t last, sadly.
14. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (XXIII)
The apex of Cena’s yearlong reign as WWE Champion was this half-hour battle with “Mr. WrestleMania.” Cena survived being piledriven on the ring steps (cutting the back of his head open), and made Michaels tap out to the STF.
13. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (XII)
It can be a little hard to sit through 62 minutes of wrestling, with most of it being armbars and restholds, but Michaels and Hart delivered a great old school struggle, with Michaels winning in overtime to capture his first World Title.
12. Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho King Randy Savage (VII)
It was a retirement match meant to send Savage off into the sunset, and he had one last epic with Warrior en route there. But the aftermath, where a returning Elizabeth attacked Sherri (who assaulted a downed Savage) led to their reunion, and Savage coming back as a hero reborn.
11. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (III)
Consider this a token spot for a match not great for the wrestling, but for its magnitude. Hogan’s greatest challenge ever came in the form of wrestling’s most fearsome giant. But the WWE Champion of three years slammed the goliath to a mighty roar, and Leg Dropped him to stand victorious.
10. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (XXVI)
Michaels’ final match saw him attempt to end Undertaker’s unbreakable streak. Knowing his end was nigh, Michaels struck Undertaker, insisting that he finish him off like a man. One leaping Tombstone later, and Mr. Wrestlemania was no more.
9. Edge/Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz (X7)
After perfecting the spotfest formula at Summerslam 2000, the six man squared off once more in this high-drama stunt show. Rhyno, Spike Dudley, and Lita all got involved in the insanity, but Edge and Christian would reign once more in the end.
8. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle (XXI)
Wrestling’s greatest performer and wrestling’s greatest athlete set out to determine who was the better man, with each star emptying their till. Michaels couldn’t survive one last ankle lock, and HBK tapped out after hanging on for as long as he could.
7. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (X7)
Austin insisted he “needed” to win this match, but few understood what was behind his words. With the battle deadlocked, Vince McMahon got involved, and aided Austin in beating Rock senseless. Stone Cold won, but his alliance with Vinnie Mac proved more memorable in wrestling’s annals.
6. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (X)
After Owen’s heel turn, Bret finally agreed to fight his brother, and the result was Owen matching his more renowned brother move for move. Owen scored what was considered a major upset by reversing a victory roll into a drop-down to win. Owen’s joy was short-lived; Bret would be WWE Champion by night’s end.
5. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (XXV)
The match that virtually saved WrestleMania XXV did so in grand fashion. For thirty minutes, the two icons exchanged near falls, and Undertaker was nearly wiped out on a floor dive gone awry. It took 2 Tombstones, but Undertaker advanced to 17-0. Both men weren’t seen again for over 4 months.
4. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (XX)
Only recently restored via the WWE Network vault, it’s a great story of triumph against the odds. With Michaels taken out, Benoit made HHH tap out to the Crippler Crossface, and celebrating his title victory with WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero in a now-heartbreaking memory.
3. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (III)
Steamboat wanted blood more than the Intercontinental Title after Savage injured his throat. For a blood feud, it was actually a beautiful match, WWE’s best of the 1980s, and a template for future matches to follow. Steamboat ended Savage’s 14-month reign in a glorious coda to the conflict.
2. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (X)
The first ladder match on PPV, to determine the “undisputed” Intercontinental Champion, set templates of its own, interspersing drama between dangerous spots never before seen in wrestling. Michaels may have lost, but he came out the bigger star, thanks to his daring antics and dives throughout.
1. Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XIII)
As far as I’m concerned, the greatest match of all time, at any event, period. The submission match was fought over pride, and Austin showed his when he, caked in blood, refused to surrender to the Sharpshooter. Stone Cold turned face in the aftermath, as his gutsy performance set the stage for his no-stops run to the top of the business.
Justin Henry is WrestleCrap's inquiring newsman, thirsting for knowledge always. He enjoys the art of satire, as you'll find in many of his works here at WrestleCrap. Drop him a line on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/jrhwriting)