Top Ten Plus One: Wrestlemania Matches
Can you feel it in the air? We're in the heart of Wrestlemania, with the big event happening this Sunday. The PPV promises to be filled with great action and the culmination of the biggest story lines (although NXT Takeover will likely outshine it, as always).
Nonetheless, this put me in the mood to make a list of my favorite 11 Wrestlemania fights of all time. I hear you asking a few questions, like why should you care? And why 11? Well firstly, you're on my website, that's why you care. And secondly 11 entries gives me a good middle point to build the list from.
The granddaddy of wrestling events has had as many great matches as its had craptastic throw away bouts. There are many different factors that go into putting on a good fight, and some of these entries make the list for completely opposite reasons. For me, a masterclass in technical wrestling can be just as entertaining as a car wreck of a stipulation match. A spectacle could be had with half a dozen wrestlers and a ladder, or it can be two guys alone in the squared circle. Because there are so many incredible matches that can make the list, I had to establish a few rules in compiling these 11 fights:
only one match per Wrestlemania.
Only one “Streak” match
and I didn't want to feature one wrestler too often
With that out of the way, let's take a look at some of the Honorable Mentions, that didn't quite make the list but deserve a second (or third) viewing. Honorable Mention 1:
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs Goldust – Hollywood Backlot Brawl – WrestleMania 12
No wrestling list can be complete without at least one mention of the late great, Hot Rod himself, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and although Mania typically wasn't his spot to shine, this street fight is a gem of a match often overlooked in favor of the amazing Ironman match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. These two went at it for over 15 minutes, and beat the holy hell out of each other. To think Goldust still wrestles (occasionally) 23 years later.
Honorable Mention 2:
Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon – Intercontinental Ladder Match – Wrestlemania 10
Full disclosure, this match would be on the main list if it weren't for the pesky rule of only one fight per PPV. While Razor deserves a ton of credit in this first ever ladder match... sorry “first” (wink wink) ladder match in WWE/F, Michaels is the one to really pull out all of the stops and take to the air, he took the big bumps, and really stole the show (except for that other match, that'll come up later). It was this match that put the ladder stipulation on the WWE map.
Honorable Mention 3:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs The Rock trilogy – Wrestlemania 15, 17, and 19
Two of the biggest stars in the industry from any era, put on a memorable trilogy of Wrestlemania matches. Certainly, one was better than the others, and vice versa, but all these years later it feels like a disservice to separate them. Also, none of them would make this list on their own, but together what they meant for the industry at the time can't be understated.
Batista vs Randy Orton vs Daniel Bryan – WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat match – Wrestlemania 30
WWE knew they had an undeniable success with Daniel Bryan, and they pulled out all the stops to catapult him to the stratosphere. Earlier in the night, he had to defeat Triple H, in a solid bout to it's credit, just to earn a spot in the main event triple threat. They did not go easy on him in the final match just because he fought once already. It was a good fight all around, but the storytelling throughout the night, and the final feel good moment of Bryan holding up both belts to close out the show, is what places this match on so many 'best of' lists, and makes it a favorite of mine.
Mick Foley vs Edge – Hardcore match – Wrestlemania 22
Just so we're clear, this is a favorites list, and since Edge is my favorite wrestler, it was inevitable for him to be on this list (maybe more than once). However, I think this match stands on its own legs without my bias. Edge needed to prove he could go to that next level on his own, not in a tag team (that's called foreshadowing) and Mick Foley wanted to show that he still had another Wrestlemania moment in him. Granted, it was knocked out of him as he was speared off the apron, and through a table ablaze with real fire. Nothing fake about this. Even Edge had to go face first into the flames. This is the spot everyone remembers from the match, but the match from bell to bell is a treat for any hardcore fans.
Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker- Wrestlemania 25
So many of 'the streak' matches could be placed on this list, like Undertaker's other match against Michaels, or against CM Punk, the second or third match against Triple H, or of course the one against Edge. But this first bout between the Dead Man and the Showstopper, should have come with the subtitle 'Who's the real Mr. Wrestlemania'? Michaels is always impressive, and Taker is still the best Mania performer, and this match is one of the best in either of their careers. Truly an example of why both men are so highly regarded especially since both men were 44 years old at the time.
The Intercontinental Ladder Match – Wrestlemania 32
From a spectacle of two men alone in a ring to seven men and a crap ton of ladders. This match opened the ppv on the heels of an amazing IC ladder match from the previous year's WM, and found a way to exceed it. The current champ, Kevin Owens was joined by Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Sami Zayn, Stardust, and eventual winner Zack Ryder. Similar to my number 11 entry on the list, a large portion of my appeal to the fight is the feel good moment that it ended with. Zack Ryder, a former Edge-head, earned his Wrestlemania moment, by knocking off the expected winner The Miz to the mat. Granted, he lost the belt the following night on Raw, but the surprise win was well deserved.
Kurt Angle vs Eddie Guerrero – WWE Championship match – Wrestlemania 20
When a wrestler tragically passes away, a lot of their matches are instantly elevated to 'classic' status for no other reason than nostalgia. That can't be said for this match. From the moment this fight was scheduled, it was clear this was going to be a classic, and it did not fail to deliver. These two men, went move for move, counter for counter, and ended when Eddie loosened his boot so he could slip out of Angle's signature ankle lock, and roll up a surprised Kurt for the win.
Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar – WWE World Championship match – Wrestlemania 31
Usually when the winner of the match isn't one of the two advertised participants, some kind of hokey shenanigans took place. But Seth Rollins cashing in his Money in the Bank contract during the title match to pick up the win after Curb Stomping both opponents, and pinning the challenger and former SHIELD mate, the match was instantly elevated to levels no one was expecting from the predictable fare most were expecting. Although Seth Rollins, with his surprise win, is the most memorable moment of the match, but it can’t be understated that Roman Reigns pulled a fairly entertaining match out of Brock Lesnar prior to Seth joining the fray.
Bret Hart vs Owen Hart – Wrestlemania 10
To think this match was essentially nothing more than a filler for Bret Hart, because he needed a second match prior to his title shot main event against Yokozuna Because Bret and Lex Luger both won/lost the Royal Rumble at the same time, it was decided that Lex would face Yokozuna during the middle of the ppv, and Bret would face the winner. However, to make it fair, Bret would have to fight another match also, so the ppv started with he vs his scorned younger brother, Owen Hart. The obvious chemistry between the two was undeniable, and the match they put on would end up stealing the show, including Bret's eventual title win at the end of the night. However, it can’t be understated how bright Owen’s star shined in this match, hinting at a great career that never was.
Money in the Bank – Wrestlemania 21
And the pendulum swings back from a technical masterpiece to an all out stipulation shit show. The first ever Money in the Bank ladder match, took everything great about ladder matches, and created a fresh scenario of the Mr. Money in the Bank contract holder. Oh you ask who was that inaugural winner? Of course it was the Ultimate Opportunist, Edge. You never forget your first.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs Bret Hart – Submission Match - Wrestlemania 13
The famous “double turn.” Honestly, even though I'm not the biggest fan of either wrestler, it's undeniable how amazing this match is, and watching Stone Cold bleed while in the sharpshooter is one of my favorite wrestling memories. The fact that Ken Shammrock, as the special guest referee, played such a little role in the outing, is such a welcomed rarity, that I wonder why he was even there. Regardless, watching and hearing the fans turn on Bret as he digs into a bag of dirty tricks trying to pull off the win, and turn for Stone Cold simply for not giving up, is still incredible to this day.
The Dudleys vs The Hardy Boyz vs Edge and Christian – TLC match – Wrestlemania 17
Oh, look who it is again, Edge! All six men, and their respective representatives, deserve all the credit in the world for surviving this match. The fact that Lita, Rhyno, and Spike Dudley all made appearances during this human demolition derby, but yet the match still didn't feel over bloated, is a testament to how entertaining of a show they all put on. The clear highlight of the night, was Jeff Hardy dangling form the belts with no ladder below his feet, and Edge spearing him to the ground, HARD! It's a miracle Jeff walked away from that match, let alone is still able to wrestle today. It almost doesn't matter who won the match, but because it was Edge in Christian, it matters a hell of a lot.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – Intercontinental Championship match - Wrestlemania 3
It may be a little surprising that the oldest match on this list, is also my favorite, but what these two men did in the ring is to this day the best technical display of wrestling at Wrestlemania, or any other WWE show. I rewatch the match at least once a year, and still hope that Macho Man finds a way to win, but there is no shame in this defeat as Steamboat could wrestle celery and make it entertaining. But with an equally skilled grappler in Savage, what these two did in the ring was pure magic. Excuse me while I go watch it again.
Thank you for reading, and remember to enjoy life.