April 12, 2009
Ryan Droste

The Best of Mania: 21-25

This is the fifth in a five part series here on the Double Shot counting down the top 50 WrestleMania matches of all time. Each week, I have been focusing on a group of five WrestleManias and picking out what I consider the top ten matches from that respective group. This is the final edition. 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
WrestleManias XI-XV, Click Here
WrestleManias XVI-XX, Click Here

On to this week...

Droste's Double Shot WrestleMania Rundown, Set 5
Top Ten Matches from:
WrestleMania XXI - April 3, 2005; Los Angeles
WrestleMania XXII - April 2, 2006; Chicago
WrestleMania XXIII - April 1, 2007; Detroit
WrestleMania XXIV - March 30, 2008; Orlando
WrestleMania XXV - April 5, 2009; Houston

Money in the Bank 1, WrestleMania XXI
When this first money in the bank match was announced, I will admit I had my doubts. It seemed like their would be too many people in the ring at a time with too many ladders and it would be a giant mess. Little did I know this would be the first in a series of great matches, to be held annually at WrestleMania. The competitors in this match included Edge, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Christian, Shelton Benjamin, and Kane. At first glance, Kane seemed a little bit out of place, considering the rest of the guys in the match were considered some of the most athletic wrestlers in the company. But Kane played his role to perfection, just as he would in later Money in the Bank matches. This match ended up being a near 5 star masterpiece.

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania XXI
This match, to me, undoubtedly ranks as one of the top ten matches of all 25 WrestleManias, not just this group of 5. By far, this was the most anticipated match on the card heading into Los Angeles that year. These two did a great job building up the match, with such memorable moments as Angle coming out on Smackdown in full Michaels attire, immitating his entrance (and even bringing back Sherri Martel to be at his side), as well as the classic match Kurt had on SmackDown with Marty Jannetty, Shawn's old tag team partner. The match at Mania is near flawless, with Angle in his prime and Michaels continuing to prove he still had it after coming back from his injury 2 1/2 years earlier.

Money in the Bank 2, WrestleMania XXII
The second edition of Money in the Bank featured Bobby Lashley, Matt Hardy, Rob Van Dam, Fit Finlay, Ric Flair, and Shelton Benjamin. This is one of the few times where you'll see Ric Flair competing in a ladder match. I wondered how he would be implemented into this match, given his age and limitations by 2006. I really liked the way he left the match early injured, and then made a triumphant return later in the match. It was a brilliant way to get around Ric Flair having to do too many ladder spots at 57 years of age, while still keeping his character's heat in the match. This match was equally as good as the first MITB match at the previous year's Mania. The Vince McMahon freak out moment of the match had to be when Shelton did an amazing springboard off the top rope, landing on the ladder rungs, which the camera men completely missed.

Edge vs. Mick Foley, WrestleMania XXII
They built up this match with Foley having the goal to have an all time classic WrestleMania moment, since his career resume lacked this one thing. If you read his book, The Hardcore Diaries, this wasn't just storyline. It was how Mick really felt, he wanted his own personal "mania moment" that would be replayed for years to come. He got it in this match, when Edge speared him off the ring apron through a flaming table. The match itself stole the show, easily the best match of the night.

Triple H vs. John Cena, WrestleMania XXII
This wa the final match I put into the top ten for WrestleManias XXI-XXV. It was a tough choice, as after I filled 9 slots it came down to this match, the 3 way title match at WrestleMania XXIV, and Undertaker/Batista from WrestleMania XXIII. All were very good matches, but this match narrowly beats out the rest. One of the things which may have put it over the top was the unbelievably hot Chicago crowd, which that city is known for. The match had a definite feel of a big time title match, and the crowd played a huge role in that. Alot of people left very disappointed that Cena retained the title, but throughout the match the wrestlers and the crowd helped create an unparalleled atmosphere. Funny note: I was actually there in person, and there were LOUD dueling chants of "Let's Go Cena!...F*ck You Cena!" They could be heard very clearly on the PPV broadcast of the show, but WWE edited these crowd chants on the DVD release.

Money in the Bank 3, WrestleMania XXIII
Third time is the charm. Another Money in the Bank match that lived up to the billing. This is the final MITB match to make the cut for the top ten matches from WM XXI-XXV. MITB 4 and 5 were also good, but nowhere near the level of the first three. Competitors in this match included Edge, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, Booker T, Mr. Kennedy, Matt Hardy, Fit Finlay and CM Punk. This was the first time that the match included eight participants, as both previous editions had six.

John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XXIII
Great build, great match, and tons of crowd heat. Everything you could want your main event title match at WrestleMania to have. Many wanted to see Shawn Michaels capture the world title again, but it was not meant to be. Michaels again rose to his "Mr. WrestleMania" level, and Cena hung right with him. For the second year in a row, Cena retained his world title at WrestleMania, making him the first wrestler to do that since Hulk Hogan (WM 2 and WM 3).

Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania XXIV
The last match in the storied career of Ric Flair achieved an unrivaled level of emotion. Everyone knew Flair was going to lose this match, forcing him into retirement, but that didn't take away from the match itself. If anything, that put even more pressure on these two men to have an outstanding match. For Michaels, who grew up idolizing Flair, one can only imagine the real emotion he had running through him knowing this was the last time Flair would compete in the ring, and he was the man that got the honor of being his opponent. Who will ever forget the "I love you, I'm sorry" Michaels mouthed to Ric just before delivering the final Sweet Chin Music and getting the pinfall? That's right up there at the top of the all time classic WrestleMania moments.

Edge vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania XXIV
Despite the pyro mishap at the top of the stadium which injured several fans (whoops), Undertaker and Edge rose to the occassion and stole the show. Some would argue that if you compare Flair/Michaels and this match, this was the better of the two matches from WrestleMania XXIV. I might have to agree with them, on a pure wrestling standpoint. The fact this is regarded as an all time great match is also quite a compliment to these guys, as they had to follow the Michaels/Flair masterpiece from earlier in the show which nearly took everything out of the crowd emotionally.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania XXV
Far and away, the best match at this past Sunday's WrestleMania. No other match on the card came anywhere close to this one, and it's the only match from XXV to make the cut. A 30 minute classic. This match built and built and built. From the unbelievable pre-match introductions, through the early brawl at the beginning, to the highspots (Undertaker nearly landing on his head executing a dive over the top rope to the outside, Michaels landing on his face doing a top rope moonsault to the outside), to the slow down and submissions, to the exchange of finishers at the end, to the back and forth near falls until Undertaker eventually walked out victorious. The finish came when Michaels attempted a moonsault off the top rope, but Undertaker caught him and nailed the tombstone piledriver. This match was nearly perfect, a definite 4+ star, nearly 5 star, classic.

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Well, that's it. After five weeks of focusing on a group of five WrestleManias each week and counting down the top ten matches from each respective group, we have reached the end. Now it's time to combine all five sets, theoretically giving us the 50 greatest WrestleMania matches of all time. Ready? Here they are, listed chronologically:

1. Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo vs. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, WrestleMania I
2. Hulk Hogan & Mr T. vs. Paul Orndorf & Roddy Piper, WrestleMania I
3. British Bulldogs vs. Brutus Beefcake & Greg Valentine, WrestleMania II
4. Terry & Hoss Funk vs. Tito Santana & Junkyard Dog, WrestleMania II
5. Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis, WrestleMania III
6. Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, WrestleMania III
7. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant, WrestleMania III
8. Demolition vs. Strike Force, WrestleMania IV
9. Brain Busters vs. Strike Force, WrestleMania V
10. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania V
11. The Rockers vs. The Orient Express, WrestleMania VI
12. Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania VI
13. Hart Foundation vs. Nasty Boys, WrestleMania VII
14. Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania VII
15. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper, WrestleMania VIII
16. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania VIII
17. Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka, WrestleMania IX
18. Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna, WrestleMania IX
19. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, WrestleMania X
20. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, WrestleMania X
21. Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel, WrestleMania XI
22. Diesel vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania XII
23. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XII
24. Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. Vader & Mankind, WrestleMania XIII
25. Faarooq, Savio Vega & Crush vs. Legion of Doom & Ahmed Johnson, WrestleMania XIII
26. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania XIII
27. New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack & Terry Funk, WrestleMania XIV
28. Triple H vs. Owen Hart, WrestleMania XIV
29. Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania XIV
30. Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XV
31. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz, WrestleMania XVI
32. Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania XVII
33. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz, WrestleMania XVII
34. Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XVII
35. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania XVIII
36. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XIX
37. Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XIX
38. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania XIX
39. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania XX
40. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, WrestleMania XX
41. Money in the Bank 1, WrestleMania XXI
42. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania XXI
43. Money in the Bank 2, WrestleMania XXII
44. Edge vs. Mick Foley, WrestleMania XXII
45. Triple H vs. John Cena, WrestleMania XXII
46. Money in the Bank 3, WrestleMania XXIII
47. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XXIII
48. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania XXIV
49. Edge vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania XXIV
50. Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania XXV

And now that we have our top 50, let's do a litte bit more number crunching. Shawn Michaels likes to call himself Mr. WrestleMania? Is he really, though? Let's look at the top 5 wrestlers when it comes to most matches on the top 50.

MOST MATCHES ON THE TOP 50 (MINIMUM 4 MATCHES)
1. Shawn Michaels - 12
2. Bret Hart - 6
Edge - 6
3. Hulk Hogan - 5
Steve Austin - 5
Kurt Angle - 5
4. The Rock - 4
Randy Savage - 4
Matt Hardy - 4

Matt Hardy is interesting on that list, in that two of his four matches were Hardy Boyz matches. Yet, Jeff Hardy isn't on the list because he only competed in one money in the bank ladder match, giving him 3 matches on the top 50, while Matt competed in two. So looking at numbers, Shawn Michaels is indeed Mr. WrestleMania, making the top 50 list a staggering 12 times. It's no surprise Bret Hart is number two, but what is surprising is that Edge has crept into a tie at second place with Bret, already having 6 matches in the top 50. Not many surprises throughout the rest of the list. There are alot of wrestlers tied at having 3 matches in the top 50, so I decided to stop at 4. Now, let's crunch the numbers even further and look at % of matches to make the top 50 based on total WrestleMania appearances. We're going to go with a minimum of 5 WrestleMania appearances to be considered for this list. Here are the top wrestlers, percentage wise (.500 and over only)...

PERCENT OF WM MATCHES ON TOP 50 (MINIMUM 5 WM APPEARANCES)
Shawn Michaels .750 (12 matches/16 appearances)
Edge .750 (6 matches/8 appearances)
Kurt Angle .714 (5 matches/7 appearances)
Steve Austin .714 (5 matches/7 appearances)
Bret Hart .500 (6 matches/12 appearances)
Christian .500 (3 matches/6 appearances)
Matt Hardy .500 (4 matches/8 appearances)
Mick Foley .500 (3 matches/6 appearances)
Randy Savage .500 (4 matches/8 appearances)
Ric Flair .500 (3 matches/6 appearances)
The Rock .500 (4 matches/8 appearances)
Roddy Piper .500 (3 matches/6 appearances)

So taking into account total matches on the list as the basis for the ranking, with percentage being the tie breaker, the final leaderboard (minimum 5 matches on the list) of the WrestleMania rundown look like this:

FINAL STANDINGS
1. Shawn Michaels | 12 matches | .750 |
2. Edge | 6 matches | .750 |
3. Bret Hart | 6 matches | .500 |
4. Kurt Angle | 5 matches | .714 |
Steve Austin | 5 matches | .714 |
5. Hulk Hogan | 5 matches | .455 |
6. Matt Hardy | 4 matches | .500 |
Randy Savage | 4 matches | .500 |
The Rock | 4 matches | .500 |

So in conclusion, it looks like Shawn Michaels is indeed Mr. WrestleMania. Angle and Austin finished in a tie for fourth place, as they have the same total in matches and percentage. Hardy, Savage, and Rock finished in a tie for 6th place, with all three dead even in matches and percentage.

I hope you enjoyed this 5 week feature here on the Double Shot. I'll return next week with a new column, most likely a review of the new Legends of WrestleMania video game. In the meantime, leave comments over at the blog with your final thoughts on our WrestleMania rundown or shoot me an email at Droste@wrestleview.com

See ya next time!

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