March 20, 2009
Ryan Droste

The Best of Mania: 11-15

This is the third in a five part series here on the Double Shot counting down the top 50 WrestleMania matches of all time. Each week, I will focus on a group of five WrestleManias and pick out what I consider the top ten matches from that respective group. In case you missed them, you can click the following links for the previous editions:

WrestleManias I-V, Click Here
WrestleManias VI-X, Click Here

On to this week...

Droste's Double Shot WrestleMania Rundown, Set 3
Top Ten Matches from:
WrestleMania XI - April 2, 1995; Hartford
WrestleMania XII - March 31, 1996; Anaheim
WrestleMania XIII - March 23, 1997; Chicago
WrestleMania XIV - March 29, 1998; Boston
WrestleMania XV - March 28, 1999; Philadelphia

Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel, WrestleMania XI
The sole shining moment of what was one of the worst WrestleManias of all time. Shawn's first experience headlining the big show, although the match itself took somewhat of a backseat to the Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor match, which WWF was trying to play up big in the media for coverage. Kevin Nash was never a great athletic wrestler, but this match took place during a time where he was at his best. Michaels was starting to his his stride during the prime of his career. Diesel came out the victor, Shawn wasn't quite at that world title level yet. I've always thought of this match as kind of a warm up for the monster push Shawn would receive prior to the next year's WrestleMania.

Diesel vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania XII
Picking this match shows you that WrestleManias XI-XV were fairly weak as far as great contests go. If the match took place on a WrestleMania between XVI-XX, for example, it wouldn't have came anywhere near making the list. But since it took place on XI-XV, which consisted of generally weak cards overall, this one just barely makes the list. This match is one of the better matches you'll see between two big men, though. The last WrestleMania appearance for Kevin Nash before he went to WCW and started the nWo with Scott Hall.

Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XII
One of the most memorable matches in WrestleMania history, and a for sure top five match in the history of the event. The one time Bret and Shawn met on wrestling's grandest stage, and the match did not disappoint. Watching this hour long masterpiece between these two makes one wish the two men would have gotten along better behind the scenes so we could have watched them compete in more matches together. They had a remarkable chemistry together whenever they got in the ring, and this is their greatest match together by far. The build up for the match really made the babyface Shawn Michaels character that carried the WWF torch throughout 1996. The ending, controversial in that it was played up whether there should have been overtime or not, also set up Bret's return (after taking a 7 month vacation and signing the famous "20 year" contract with the WWF) the following fall quite nicely. It's just too bad the men never had the originally planned return match the next year.

Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. Vader & Mankind, WrestleMania XIII
Owen and Bulldog were a fantastic tag team throughout 1996 and 1997. This is nowhere near one of their best matches. However, benefitting again from a weak group of WrestleManias, it squeeks into the top ten from this group. Vader and Mankind was an unusual looking tag team, but it put together two good brawlers which resulted in some memorable matches from the pair. Owen and Bulldog hung on to their titles, and rightfully so. They were easily the best tag team in the company.

Faarooq, Savio Vega & Crush vs. Legion of Doom & Ahmed Johnson, WrestleMania XIII
Behind the nWo, the Nation of Domination was arguably the hottest heel group in all of pro wrestling in early 1997. This match between them and The Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson (who would eventually join the Nation) was billed as a "Chicago Street Fight" and was a great brawl. This was kind of the "sleeper match" of the card, as it didn't look too great on paper but it definitely delivered.

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania XIII
Simply put, the greatest match in WrestleMania history. Not just in my opinion, but pretty much universally. A few years back, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter did a poll among wrestlers as to what they thought was the best match in Mania history, and this was the match chosen. The Austin/Hart feud was the best feud in wrestling at the time, and this is the match that made Steve Austin. This match has absolutely everything a great wrestling match should have: physicality, athleticism, heat, psychology, and a great storyline. That classic image of a bloody Austin locked in the Sharpshooter is one of those great WrestleMania moments that will live on forever. The double switch at the end of the match, where Hart turned heel and Austin turned face, was the icing on the cake. It also set the ball in motion for what would end up being an unbelievable run for Austin as the top star of the company, ushering in the "attitude era." I said earlier in this column that Hart and Michaels had an amazing chemistry together. Well, Hart had an even more amazing chemistry in the ring with Austin.

New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie, WrestleMania XIV
This was the first WrestleMania Terry Funk (Chainsaw Charlie) had competed in since WrestleMania II. The Outlaws had quickly become the hottest tag team in the WWF, and having them compete with these two hardcore legends on wrestling's biggest stage helped make them legit. This was a great brawl all over Boston's Fleet Center. An ideal match for the first Wrestlemania of the attitude era.

Triple H vs. Owen Hart, WrestleMania XIV
When Bret Hart left the company just over four months earlier after the Survivor Series, Owen was supposed to assume Bret's role in the company as the Canadian hero. American fans had also started to get behind him, as they didn't like the way Bret was "screwed." Owen had everything set up for him to get the push of his career, and then Shawn Michaels decided not to work with him. Instead of losing the European title to Owen as was planned, Shawn got the finish changed to him literally laying down for his D-X teammate Triple H. This set up the Triple H vs. Owen match at Mania. The build up for the match was great, with Triple H and Chyna constantly blindsiding Owen and using numbers to gain an advantage. This prompted WWF commisioner Sgt. Slaughter to handcuff Chyna at ringside during the match. Looking back, this was the perfect match for Triple H, an emerging star paired with one of the companies most reliable "big match" veterans in Owen Hart.

Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania XIV
Yes, this match could have been even better had Shawn's back not been so broken. But the match itself is almost as memorable for Shawn's courageous effort while he noticeably winced in pain as it is for being Austin's first world title win. Shawn had injured his back at January's Royal Rumble, and he did not wrestle again until this match, which wound up being what many thought would be the last match of his career (he didn't wrestle again until August 2002). Austin was red hot, and this event had long been pegged as the time and place for Austin to finally get the title. The WWF made one of it's most expensive investments in company history when they hired Mike Tyson to participate in the build up for the match, as well as the match itself. His involvement gained the WWF a TON of media coverage, furthering helping to build Austin's character. While Austin's match with Bret Hart at the previous year's WrestleMania made his character, this match soldified him as "the man" in the company.

Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XV
WrestleMania XV was somewhat shocking in that it took place during a time when the WWF was putting on amazing shows, yet their biggest show of the year ended up being less than stellar. This match saved the show. The first of the three WrestleMania matches between the two, wrestling's biggest stars of the largest boom period in wrestling history. During the previous year, The Rock had skyrocked to a star level that nearly competed with Austin's. Rock had gotten the title, and it was fairly obvious Austin would get the title back here, after months of getting screwed over by Vince McMahon. At the time, some people thought this match was somewhat disappointing in the ring. Although the two did go on to have better matches, this match is no slouch and is very good in it's own way. Austin walked out with the title, and wrestling's biggest superstar was on top of the profession again. This match was the peak of the Austin character, as he missed the following year's WrestleMania due to neck surgery and his character was never as hot again after that.

So that's it, my top ten matches from WrestleManias XI-XV. Agree? Disagree? Send me an email with your thoughts at Droste@wrestleview.com or post a comment at http://drostesdoubleshot.blogspot.com. I'd love to see some healthy debate spring up over this list. What would your own personal top ten from these five WrestleManias be? I'll see you all next week with the top ten matches of WrestleManias XVI-XX!

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