March 28, 2010
Alexander Settee

Wrestlemania: 25 Years, 25 Matches
The Top 25 Matches in Wrestlemania History

With Wrestlemania XXVI coming up, let’s reach into the old bag of clichés and pull out a countdown of the top matches in Wrestlemania history. Specifically, the Top 25 matches of the first 25 years of Wrestlemania as voted on by me.

25) Hollywood Hogan vs. The Rock (Wrestlemania X-8)
The list kicks off with the only match here I gave less than **** to, and I did boot one **** match off the list (last year’s MITB) to get it on here. It’s not the greatest wrestling match of all time, but it really was a spectacle with both guys, especially Hogan having the Toronto crowd in the palms of their hands. A true dream match the likes of which we may not see for a long time, if ever again. ***1/2

24) WWF Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (Wrestlemania 2000)
Next we have a match that these guys used to put themselves on the map. While they may have improved on it in the months and years to come, they may not have gotten that chance had it not been for what they did here. The fact that Money In The Bank exists as an annual tradition to this date can also be traced to this match as it was the first multiway spotfest in Mania history. ****

23) WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 23)
In case there was any doubt who Mr. Wrestlemania is, Shawn Michaels makes his first of EIGHT appearances on this list for a main event that likely was never meant to even take place. Cena was improving by this point, but it took who else but Shawn to drag out of him what was probably the first really great match of his career. ****

22) WWF Championship Match: “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan (Wrestlemania V)
One of only two matches from the 80’s to make the cut, but that’s to be expected given that workrate was not a real concern for most guys at this point. For Savage it was a concern though and he gives Hogan one of the best matches of his career in what was also the culmination of the great year and a half long Mega Powers storyline. ****

21) WWF Championship Match: Ric Flair (w/Mr. Perfect) vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Wrestlemania VIII)
The only Wrestlemania appearance for Ric Flair when he was even close to his prime pits him against Randy Savage for the WWF Title with the issue of who had Elizabeth first also playing a role in the greatness of the match. It was also great to see Savage get his own moment in the spotlight as a regains the Title here. ****

20) Randy Orton, Dave Batista, & Ric Flair vs. The Rock & Mick Foley (Wrestlemania XX)
A really fun tag team match is up next with Evolution against The Rock & Sock Connection in what turned out to be the final match in the career of The Rock. It’s another example of guys who know how to get the most out of the crowd and makes me think that The Rock may not have even peaked yet when he hung ‘em up. The Orton/Foley feud that set this one up was also some good stuff. ****

19) Intercontinental Championship Match: Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart (Wrestlemania VIII)
On to the match that I believe elevated Bret Hart to a new level as Roddy Piper demonstrates the respect he has for Bret by laying down for him clean in the middle, something he had not done in ages. A great match sets up that passing the torch moment too as both guys were experts on ring psychology and played their roles perfectly. ****

18) Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (Wrestlemania XXIV)
This match was built around the emotional impact of it being the final match of Flair’s career, so it loses something now that we know that turned out not to be the case. But on that day, and in the aftermath the following night on Raw, this was truly something special which may never be duplicated, no matter how hard they try. ****

17) WWE Championship Match: Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (Wrestlemania XIX)
It was intended to be the first of many big Wrestlemania moments for The Next Big Thing Brock Lesnar, but he would only have one more and that one was memorable in a different way. These guys had a great match, letting it all hang out on the biggest night of the year, and although it was somewhat marred by Lesnar landing on his head at the end, everything else was great. ****

16) World Heavyweight Championship: Edge vs. The Undertaker (Wrestlemania XXIV)
Undertaker was deep into The Streak at this point, but many people pointed out that as impressive as that was, he’d never really had an all time classic match at Wrestlemania. Well, Edge helped him out big time in that department, playing a great heel determined to end The Streak and walk away with his Title, but just falling short to the relief of Taker fans everywhere. Sadly I think this one is going to end up forgotten as Taker’s match from the following year overshadows it, but this one deserves to be remembered too. ****1/4

15) Career vs. Career Match: “Macho King” Randy Savage (w/ Sensational Queen Sherri) vs. The Ultimate Warrior (Wrestlemania VII)
Easily the best match of Ultimate Warrior’s career comes up next as both he and Savage put their careers on the line and Savage carries him to a level he’d never reach again. Of course part of the great memories of this match come from the post match angle where a now retired Savage reunites with Elizabeth which has people in the crowd literally crying. ****

14) Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian (w/Tyson Tomko) vs. Intercontinental Champion Shelton Benjamin vs. Edge vs. Kane (Wrestlemania 21)
The first one and still the best as they filled it with guys who knew exactly what they had to do to have a great match in this environment. And Kane too. Anyways, they had some cool innovative spots, and it was the winning of this contract that really ended up bumping Edge up to a main event level. ****1/2

13) Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XIX)
Shawn makes his return to Wrestlemania following his loss to Steve Austin in 1998 here working a storyline where he faces someone who idolized him as a young up and comer in Chris Jericho. They worked great together and I think this was really the signal that Shawn was back as a wrestler following the shortcut filled brawls he’d been doing with HHH prior to this point in his comeback. ****1/2

12) TLC Tag Team Championship Match: The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian (Wrestlemania X-Seven)
One year after having the first match of this type in Wrestlemania, these same guys went out and improved on it. They knew they had set the bar pretty high, but they still got over it with plenty of spectacular highspots and great drama. ****1/2

11) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (Wrestlemania XX)
Probably the best Triple Threat Match in WWE history. All three guys were on the tops of their game here, and while it may not have even been the best match on the show, it still stands as one of the top Main Events and great moments as Chris Benoit finally climbs the ladder after years of near misses and becomes World Champion. ****1/2

10) Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Wrestlemania XXV)
If I went back and watched it again, my opinion could change, but when I saw it last year I didn’t think it was a perfect match and so it ends up here. There’s no doubt it was still great though. They had tons of drama with a million false finishes and is the best recent example of just building a match where it matters who wins and loses. What a concept. I do think they’ll have trouble topping it this year, but we’ll see. ****1/2

9) WWF Championship Ironman Match: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) (Wrestlemania XII)
Perhaps not the most exciting match on the list, but Shawn and Bret go out there and put on a one hour wrestling clinic. The fact that they were able to go this long (and unlike in other Ironman matches, they do it without any falls to break the action up) and keep it interesting is a big thumbs up to them as it definitely gets harder to do so the longer you go. ****3/4

8) WWF Championship Match: The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Wrestlemania X-Seven)
Then we have the biggest money match of the Attitude Era with the two biggest stars facing off at perhaps the peaks of their popularity. The heat for this one is unbelievable, and this level of interest in a match may never be seen again. Of course the flaw here is that they went against what the fans wanted and turned Austin heel in the end but otherwise this match was awesome. ****3/4

7) WWE Championship Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (Wrestlemania XX)
I like this one better over the three way from the same show because I prefer the one on one dynamic and the great storytelling. While it may not have been the marquee match, they did everything they could to remind people that they thought they were the best on the show and I believe they succeeded. ****3/4

6) Hardcore Match: Edge (w/Lita) vs. Mick Foley (Wrestlemania 22)
Years after the hardcore genre had been beaten into the ground and castrated into a comedy sideshow, these guys managed to go out there and have what I think was the best match of this type ever. Maybe they didn’t innovate anything here, but what they did do was put together so well that it doesn’t matter. ****3/4

5) Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle (Wrestlemania 21)
Into the Top 5 now with Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle battling to determine which one of them was the better professional wrestler. Sometimes the simplest things are just the best. Great build, great match, and that’s really all that needs to be said about it. *****

4) Owen Hart vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart (Wrestlemania X)
The family feud match following Owen’s turn on Bret is next up. The work and the storytelling fit perfectly with that and exactly as he should have in this situation, Owen gets the biggest win of his career to get him to the point of a guy who is to be taken seriously. *****

3) Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Diesel) (Wrestlemania X)
It wasn’t the first ladder match in wrestling, but it is the one that put the genre on the map. If this one had flopped, we may not have seen any in the future, including all the others that made this list. While future matches may have been more spectacular, this one stood out on the day it happened as something new and set the stage for what was to come. *****

2) Intercontinental Championship Match: “Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (w/George “The Animal” Steele) (Wrestlemania III)
A great match that stood out moreso because of the time period it was in where putting on classic matches wasn’t a concern for most guys. Like the last match it also has that high level of historical importance where you hear so many of today’s great workers talking about how they saw this match and were inspired to become wrestlers and were further inspired to try and reach the level that these guys attained when they got their chance on the biggest stage of them all. *****

And finally, the greatest match in Wrestlemania history as voted on by me…..

1) Submission Match: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart (Wrestlemania 13)
What else could I put at the top of the list? This is not only my favourite match in Wrestlemania history, but it’s also my favourite professional wrestling match in general of all time. But it’s not just here because of that. Bret and Austin carry their blood feud in here and turn it up ten notches giving us the feeling that they both want to kill each other. With the crowd gradually getting more and more behind Austin in the weeks leading up to this show, they also pull the trigger on turning both guys with Austin reinventing himself as the authority defying badass, while Bret becomes the patriotic Canadian hero/anti-American. Everything about this one was just perfect. *****

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