On April 6, WWE will put forth its 30th WrestleMania. They’ve done a masterful job building up the show as a spectacle. A showcase of the immortals, all on the stage of a 20 by 20 foot ring. We’ve come to use the phrase ‘WrestleMania moment’ whenever we see something so magnificent that any stage less grand wouldn’t do it justice. In its 30-year history the event has had its share of letdowns, with several events failing to live up to expectations. However, the reason the event has grown is due to the ones that took our breath away. The ones where mega cards were promoted and the classic encounters stuck with us forever. Stars were turned into superstars, superstars were turned into legends. Those are the moments that truly etch themselves in our memory. Here are the 10 best WrestleManias in history. The ones that had all the components needed to live up to name WrestleMania.
10. WrestleMania X
While the event had its blips, it still had its share of classic moments and it was a night where the WWE truly catapulted themselves into the new generation.
The night started off with a bang, as Bret and Owen Hart put on a wrestling clinic for 20 minutes. Owen scored the shocking upset victory after 20 minutes and thus was made into a star.
The show suffered from a lack of depth on the card and some shuffling around could’ve made the rest of the card better. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna vs Doink and Dink doesn’t exactly scream WrestleMania clash to me. Yokozuna’s first title match against Lex Luger didn’t do much for the fans either.
Finally, there was the Ladder match came between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship. The Ladder match was groundbreaking and created a measuring stick for which all future Ladder matches were measured by. Michaels performing the splash off the ladder is a worthy WrestleMania image.
The main event itself of Yokozuna vs Bret Hart was as good as you could probably hope for. A different ending other than Yoko losing his balance on a Banzai drop would’ve helped matters. Hart forcing Yoko to submit to a sharpshooter would’ve been a lot more memorable and would’ve capped off Hart’s redemption from losing the title the year before to the same man.
The way the show closed is what sticks out. The WWE’s roster came out to the ring and hoisted Hart on their shoulders. The MSG crowd showed their appreciation for the best in the business at the time. Vince McMahon himself climbed into the ring and gave Bret his crowning moment. WrestleManias in Madison Square Garden always seemed so special and that’s what helped this event stand out.
9. WrestleMania 21
WrestleMania 21 accomplished everything you would want from the event. It had its classics, and crowned new superstars to lead the company into the future.
The night started with a fast-paced opener with Rey Mysterio facing Eddie Guerrero in what would be Guerrero’s last WrestleMania.
There was the inaugural Money in the Bank Ladder match, which provided a big break for a long deserving superstar in Edge.
Finally, you had the inevitable classic that was Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels. I say inevitable because you look at those two names and it was expected going in they would create magic and steal the show. They did, making the rest that followed feel like a downer.
The title matches are really what dropped the show down a few pegs. JBL vs. John Cena was a short, forgettable match, though it did give Cena his first WWE title win, setting him up for a great run at the top of the industry. Batista overcame his former mentor Triple H, winning the World Heavyweight Championship and he was set up for a good run himself. However, neither match really lived up to the greatness shown earlier in the night. If they did, this would’ve been right near the top.
8. WrestleMania X-8
There’s only one reason this WrestleMania is on this list and that’s due to the picture you see above. This card didn’t have the depth of the higher ups, with Stone Cold in a lacklustre feud with Scott Hall.
Finally we got to the night’s real main event, pitting icon vs. icon, The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan. I challenge you to try to find another match in the show’s history where the crowd was as loud as they were for this match. That’s what we’ll remember most from this night, as nostalgia consumed the Toronto crowd, wanting to see Hulkamania run wild again. The Rock and Hogan had the crowd wrapped around their fingers the entire match. The younger Rock emerged victorious but this match saw Hulkamania reborn and signified he was back home.
Poor Triple H and Chris Jericho had to follow with their title match. They actually gave a very good match, but the crowd was so deflated from the epic clash they had just witnessed. Had the WWE simply switched the two matches’ places on the card, the event would’ve flowed a lot better with the epic climax coming right at the end.
7. WrestleMania 22
The depth of this WrestleMania is where its strength lies. You had a great sequel of a Money in the Bank Ladder match, this time with Rob Van Dam retrieving the briefcase. You had Mick Foley and Edge stealing the show with a violent, dramatic Hardcore match. There was possibly the greatest Women’s Championship match in the show’s history, capping a great storyline between newcomer Mickie James and Trish Stratus. Shawn Michaels got a great street fight out of Mr. McMahon. Rey Mysterio, the ultimate underdog won the world title defeating Randy Orton and Kurt Angle in memory of his friend Eddie Guerrero. And finally, John Cena got a much better stamp of approval from the WWE by beating Triple H in a main event that had the Chicago crowd heating up on Cena.
You can nitpick with this event. Undertaker had a so-so Casket match with Mark Henry. The Triple Threat match should’ve been given more time to build it up as a true classic. However, there were very few lulls throughout the night. Usually at a WrestleMania, you’re lucky to get three incredible moments or matches. Here you got a good five or six. It was one of the better balanced cards in the show’s history.
6. WrestleMania 23
Two great title matches. Yet another great Money in the Bank Ladder match. Mr. McMahon getting his head shaved. This one gave you some unforgettable WrestleMania moments.
The show started with the Ladder match and while the show had some speed bumps, it ultimately delivered.
Undertaker was given a long overdue title win over Batista. Taker gave Batista arguably the best match of his career. The crowd at Ford Field was firmly behind the Phenom, wanting to see the legend get his due.
Stone Cold Steve Austin gave a great performance even as a special referee, with Bobby Lashley and Umaga giving the kind of high-impact action you’d expect out of two powerhouses. Two billionaires, Donald Trump and Vince McMahon were at ringside, with Lashley representing Trump and Umaga representing McMahon. The losing billionaire would get their head shaved. McMahon squirmed in a barber’s chair as Lashley and Trump did the deed.
Finally, the night was capped with Cena forcing Shawn Michaels to submit following nearly a half-hour of spectacular action. This WrestleMania saw two clashes between the two top stars of the generation (Cena and Batista) facing the two biggest legends on the roster (HBK and Taker).
5. WrestleMania III
I feel like I’m going to get a lecture from an older fan, scolding me for pitting WrestleMania III at no.5. The reason is when you look at the entire card, there’s not a lot of depth on it and too many matches seemed to be there simply to fill time.
The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana vs. The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis was entertaining but the Foundation and the Bulldogs have had far better matches.
It does have the first true WrestleMania classic in Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage for the Intercontinental title. It is the match that every WrestleMania classic is now compared to. It was every bit as important as the spectacle that was Andre vs Hogan later in the night. This one helped usher in a new style in the WWE, one with more wrestlers working a faster pace with more near falls and it elevated the Intercontinental title in status.
Hogan slamming Andre is arguably the greatest moment in the history of professional wrestling and it immortalized WrestleMania. That is why this event will always be remembered, even if the card wasn’t deep in entertainment. It’s all about what this particular WrestleMania meant for the event’s long, prosperous future.
4. WrestleMania XXVIII
The most hyped WrestleMania delivered with three memorable main events. The Hell in a Cell clash between Triple H and The Undertaker with Shawn Michaels as guest referee gave us the most drama. Chris Jericho and CM Punk delivered in a more traditional WWE title match. Finally The Rock and John Cena delivered on the year-long hype and The Rock’s hometown crowd was treated with a nice surprise, as The Rock triumphed over Cena in the dream match.
What hurt this WrestleMania was too much filler. The 18-second championship match between Daniel Bryan and Sheamus upset the crowd. No one was interested in Randy Orton vs. Kane or Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes. This show was top-heavy.
It took all three men to make the cell match great. Taker and Triple H brutalized each other and HBK’s emotion sold the match even more. Taker went to 20-0 and the crowd was as loud as you could get.
Punk and Jericho both strived to prove they were the best in the world. While the match was very enjoyable, it was somewhat hurt by the fact it was sandwiched between two classics.
The Rock vs. Cena wasn’t a technical classic. It was very reminiscent of Hogan/Rock match a decade earlier. Simple story, a hot crowd and a dramatic finish. This event drew a record 1.2 million buys and did $8.9 million at the gate. A true home run for the company but it fell short of being the best of all time.
3. WrestleMania XX
The last WrestleMania to emanate from Madison Square Garden capped off a night of great action with perhaps the most emotional, heartwarming ending in the show’s history. Understandably the moment seems tainted now with the actions of Chris Benoit a few years later and Guerrero’s passing a year later, but you really have to think back to how you felt on that night.
The night saw the reunion of the Rock n’ Sock Connection, teaming up against Evolution, with Randy Orton emerging as a star. A fast-paced Cruiserweight open followed. Perhaps most disappointing match in WrestleMania history, Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar hurt this event but the show bounced back. Guerrero had a great match with Kurt Angle, successfully defending the WWE title.
The Undertaker making his return as the Deadman remains one of the most bone-chilling moments in the event’s history.
Finally, the night ended with the greatest Triple Threat match in history, with Benoit capturing the World title, beating Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Benoit finally reached the top of the mountain, in the world’s most famous arena, in the biggest show in sports entertainment. The New York crowd then showed its appreciation to two of the hardest working men in the history of professional wrestling, as Benoit and Guerrero stood side by side. Best friends, both champions sharing a great moment. It’s so sad looking back now, but again, at the time it was the happiest ending in the show’s history.
2. WrestleMania XIX
Here we have the WrestleMania with the most star-studded lineup in the company’s history. Can you find another WrestleMania where Stone Cold, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Triple H and Chris Jericho are ALL on the same card? Nope.
The star power is really what drove this WrestleMania higher than its in-ring action would suggest.
The night really got to a high level when Y2J and HBK went at it. This match was worthy of a main event at most WrestleManias.
Hogan and Mr. McMahon compensated for a lack of athleticism and fast pace in theatrics and violence, with Hogan surviving over the evil chairman.
However, then you had the final encounter between The Rock and Stone Cold. The final match of Steve Austin’s career. An emotional ending with The Rock signalling to the crowd it was over for Stone Cold, before delivering a third Rock Bottom, giving Austin one of the best career-endings in history.
Finally Lesnar vs Angle closed the night for the title in a match featuring two decorated amateur wrestlers. It was the perfect showcase of both amateur and pro wrestling in the same match and Lesnar shined in his first WrestleMania winning the WWE title.
1. WrestleMania X-Seven
Wow. I just don’t think you can ever top this. A wrestling clinic. A demolition derby of a TLC match. An entertaining, fun street fight. Finally, the main event of main events.
The first few matches eased you into an epic second half of the show. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit had the show’s first memorable bout. Both men great technicians trying to outdo each other, before Angle picked up a three count.
The new storyline owner of WCW, Shane McMahon facing his evil father Vince, trying to stick up for his seemingly sedated mother Linda. Mick Foley adding a nice dimension as special referee. Trish Stratus slapping Vince, Linda rising from her chair, kicking her husband in his grapefruits and finally Shane going coast-to-coast.
The TLC between the Hardys, Dudleys and Edge & Christian brought a whole new standard to ladder matches. It was the perfect stage to display how great all three teams were.
The event gave us a touch of nostalgia with a Gimmick Battle Royal, featuring legends. The match didn’t overstay its welcome with the Iron Sheik getting the win after three minutes of action. This was also the last WWE match we’d hear called by Bobby The Brain Heenan.
Undertaker and Triple H had their first of three WrestleMania matches. While it falls short of their other two, it was still a good showing.
Finally, the two biggest stars, battling for the richest prize in the business. Stone Cold and The Rock at their best, delivering their best match together, capping off what many believe to be the greatest era in professional wrestling, concluded by a shocking heel turn by the Texas Rattlesnake.
Quite simply this show had everything. I can’t see any WrestleMania topping this one.
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