Ringside Remembrances: Top 30 Wrestlemania Matches
Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.
“I am easily satisfied with the very best” –Winston Churchill
Three decades. That’s the amount time that Wrestlemania has been going. When Wrestlemania first started, I was in my second year of college. I hadn’t been married, yet, as was so green you could throw seeds on me and they would grow. Over the years, so many things have changed. As a lead-in to my Wrestlemania series, I wanted to look at what I consider to be the Top 30 Matches to happen at Wrestlemania. I will place them in order, as I see it. Please feel free to e-mail with your thoughts on my choices and what you would list as your top picks. Enjoy.
My Thanks to the WWE Network for making these great matches available for me to relive.
1. Randy Savage (w/Miss Elizabeth) vs Ricky Steamboat (w/George “The Animal” Steele)
(Wrestlemania III, Intercontinental Title Match)
This match also included Miss Elizabeth and George “The Animal” Steele. This was an absolute wrestling clinic by both men. Steamboat captured the IC title after 14:36. The crowd was deafening as they exploded with delight for Steamboat’s win. For its excitement levels and technical perfection, this is, in my humble opinion, the greatest Wrestlemania match of all time.
2. Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels
(Wrestlemania XXIV, Career Threatening Match
Ric Flair had been warned that as soon as he lost a match, he was done as a wrestler. Several men had been sent, by Vince McMahon, to take out Flair but they had all failed. Shawn Michaels really didn’t want to face his idol, Flair, but he didn’t have much of a choice. This match was placed 5th on the card (literally mid-card) but it eclipsed almost everything else that night. Flair came out in an awesome sapphire-blue robe with white trim. This battle went just over 20 minutes (20:24) before Shawn, with tears in his eyes, put away the “Nature Boy”. Shawn, himself, would end up retiring just a few short years later. This match definitely stole the show.
3. Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior
(Wrestlemania VI, World and Intercontinental Titles Match)
This was a rare “Face vs Face” match. Hogan had been riding high for years. He had lost to Andre the Giant and Undertaker but wasn’t anywhere close to finishing his run as champ. Ultimate Warrior had ended the record-setting Intercontinental title run of Honky Tonk Man and was putting his title up, as well. This match went back and forth for 22:51. It looked as if Hogan was going to win this one with the Leg Drop o’ Doom but Warrior kicked out. Warrior then dropped Hogan and hit the Big Splash. He pinned Hogan in one of the few clean losses that Hogan would endure. Warrior would hold the title until the following year’s Royal Rumble. This match was first seen as a “Passing of the Torch” moment but Hogan would return to take the title back…from Sgt. Slaughter…at the next year’s Mania.
4. Undertaker vs Triple H
(Wrestlemania XXVIII, Hell in a Cell Match)
At Mania 27, Taker forced HHH to submit. Triple H decided to “stack the deck” against The Dead Man. He set the match inside the Hell in a Cell structure and put his best friend, Shawn Michaels, as the special guest ref. Shawn had issues with Taker because Undertaker had sent Shawn into retirement, two years earlier. The match was one of the most brutal contests ever in the WWE, not just at Wrestlemania. Shawn kept begging Taker to give up but he wouldn’t. Shawn even attacked Taker, at one point. Despite being in a no-win situation, the Dead Man kept his Streak alive as he defeated HHH. The site of the three men hobbling to the back has become iconic.
5. Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant
(Wrestlemania III, World Title Match)
This battle had some of the best build up of the Hulkamania era. Andre had turned Heel and employed Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as his manager. On an episode of “The Snake Pit”, Andre had come out and challenged Hogan. Hogan begged Andre not to fight him but finally agreed to the match. Hogan went for a Body Slam in the opening minute but Andre shifted his weight and almost pinned Hogan. In reality, Andre got the three count but the ref continued the match. The match went a full 12:30. Hogan eventually did the Triple Punch and Leg Drop o’ Doom to retain. Due to the controversy at the beginning of the match, Andre would get a rematch and eventually take the title from Hogan.
6. Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker
This was an incredible match. Shawn seemed to have this one won, so many times over. This huge war went to 30:41. Shawn was absolutely distraught when he failed to end The Streak. He would return, the next year, to put it all on the line in a rematch. See below…
7. The Rock vs Hollywood/Hulk Hogan
Hogan was still running in his black and white n.W.o. gimmick. It was expected that Rock would run the full match as the Face. Everyone was surprised when the crowd went back and forth in their support. After an intense 16:23 war, The Rock defeated Hogan. After the match, Hogan was attacked by Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. That attack triggered Hogan’s return to his original red and yellow Hulk persona. This match dwarfed pretty much everything else on an outstanding card.
8. Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon (Scott Hall)
(Wrestlemania X, Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship)
Both men were excellent in this wild match. Diesel was the 2nd for Michaels but Ramon walked alone. There were tons of near misses in this Ladder Match. At 18:47, Ramon beat the odds and captured the I-C strap. This was the template for many future Ladder Matches.
9. The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels
This was the highly anticipated rematch from Wrestlemania 25. Shawn asked for the match to be a no-disqualification match. Undertaker initially didn’t have anything to prove by defeating the “Heartbreak Kid”. The only way that Taker would accept the match would be if Shawn would put his career on the line. After 23:59 of wild action, Undertaker closed the lid on Shawn’s lengthy and storied career.
10. The Rock vs John Cena
This match was absolutely top notch. Much like the Rock vs Hogan match from a decade before, Creative had set the Face (Cena) and the Heel (Rock). Just like the WM19 battle, the fans decided for themselves to cheer and boo as they saw fit. At 33:34, The Rock finally overcame the younger Cena. The match was so intense and successful that the WWE almost immediately began planning the rematch at Mania 29.
11. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T (w/Jimmy Snuka) vs Roddy Piper and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff (w/”Cowboy” Bob Orton)
This match was the shining star of the first Wrestlemania. Technically, it wasn’t the best of matches. However, with the four competitors, as well as seconds of Jimmy Snuka and “Cowboy” Bob Orton, this match was the ultimate representation of 1985 WWF. The battle went 13:24 before Hogan pinned Orndorff. Piper would turn on his partner, after the match, which helped turn Paul into a Face.
12. Rey Mysterio vs Randy Orton vs Kurt Angle
(Wrestlemania 22, Triple Threat Match for the World Title)
This one was a heart-pulling battle. The previous November, Eddie Guerrero has died. Rey Mysterio went on a campaign to win the World title to honor his old friend. He had already scored the Royal Rumble win. He was originally set to battle just Kurt Angle but Orton got himself in the mix. The tears were flowing at the 9:10 mark when Rey completed his mission and won the title in honor of Eddie.
13. Ultimate Warrior vs “Macho King” Randy Savage (w/Queen Sherri)
(Wrestlemania VII, Retirement Match)
The Macho King (Savage) had cost Warrior the World title at Royal Rumble. He struck Warrior in the head with his royal scepter. Warrior demanded justice and thus this match was set. The stipulation was added that if Savage were to close, he’d have to retire. Savage had “Queen” Sherri at his side. After 20:47, Warrior pinned Savage. Sherri freaked out and attacked Savage. Miss Elizabeth rushed out of the crowd and took the fight to Sherri. This match would eventually lead to a marriage between Randy and Elizabeth.
14. Chris Jericho vs Chris Benoit vs Kurt Angle
(Wrestlemania 2000, Intercontinental and European Title Match, Triple Threat Match)
The winner of the first fall would get the Intercontinental title and the winner of the second fall would earn the European title. The whole match went 13:46. Chris Benoit would take the Intercontinental title and Jericho took the European strap. Kurt Angle walked in with both straps but didn’t leave with either one.
15. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs The Rock
(Wrestlemania X-7, No Disqualification match for the WWF Championship)
Austin and Rock have battled several times at Mania. This one was the best of their battles. Both men seemed to have this one won, at various times, but Austin finally took the win at 28.07.
16. Randy Savage vs Ted DiBiase
(Wrestlemania IV, World Title Tournament Finals)
The World title had been held up after Andre the Giant tried to sell it to Ted DiBiase. Jack Tunner, WWF President, decided to hold a tournament to find the new champion. Just about all the major players of the era were involved. Savage had already defeated Butch Reed, Greg Valentine and One Man Gang to reach the finals. DiBiase had one less match as he fought and defeated “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Don Muraco, before getting a Bye in the Semi-Finals. DiBiase was set to face the winner of Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant but both men were eliminated during their Quarter Finals Match. Savage went in to the match hurt. He overcame all the odds to come back and capture his first World Title Match. The battle went 9:27. Savage would hold the belt exactly a year, before dropping it to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania V.
17. John Cena vs Big Show
(Wrestlemania XX, US Title Match)
This was John Cena’s first attempt to win a title in the WWE. He didn’t disappoint his fans. He amazed everyone when he nailed the Attitude Adjustment/F-U on the massive Show. The match went a respectable 9:12.
18. Bret Hart vs “Stone Cold” Sreve Austin
(Wrestlemania XIII, Submission Match)
Ken Shamrock was the special guest referee for this vicious match. Austin ended up busted open and finally passed out from the Sharpshooter at 22:05.
19. Shawn Michaels vs Mr. McMahon
Vince had been berating Shawn for months. Shawn finally got his fill and decided to fight “The Boss”. This match turned into a make-shift Hardcore Match. Near the end of this 18:22 match, Shawn slammed a trash can over Vince’s head. Shawn then placed the canned McMahon on a table. Shawn finished the match by climbing up a ladder and flying onto McMahon, driving him through the table.
20. Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage
(Wrestlemania V, World Title Match)
Savage won the tournament at Wrestlemania IV to become champ. His jealousy over Miss Elizabeth eventually fractured the Mega-Powers (Hogan and Savage). Savage felt the need to prove he was superior to Hogan. At the 17:54 mark, Savage fell to Hogan. It would take quite some time before Savage would return to top of the mountain.
21.The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff (w/Freddie Blassie) vs Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda (w/”Captain” Lou Albano)
(Wrestlemania I, World Tag Team Match)
Four top competitors and (arguably) the two greatest managers of all time. This match just couldn’t lose. Iron Sheik was still stinging from his World title loss to Hulk Hogan and then was his path to redemption. While the match only lasted 6:56, it drew some of the best heat of the night. Blassie helped his team win when he cracked his trademark cane across Windham’s back, which led to the pin.
22. The British Bulldogs (w/Ozzy Osbourne and “Captain” Lou Albano vs Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake (w/Johnny Valiant)
(Wrestlemania II, World Tag Team Match)
Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid were one of the most beloved tag teams of the era. They recruited Albano, who brought in Ozzy. Valentine and Beefcake, collectively known as the Dream Team, were ready to pull any shenanigans possible to retain their titles. They failed and the Bulldogs captured the gold at the 13:03 mark.
23. Roddy Piper vs Adrian Adonis
(Wrestlemania III, Hair vs Hair Match)
This was announced as Piper’s Retirement Match. The battle seemed lost for Piper as Adonis applied his Good Night Irene Sleeper hold. Unfortunately, Adonis was premature in his release of the hold. Brutus Beefcake rushed in and woke up Piper. While Adonis partied at his believed win, Piper slapped on his own Sleeper and sent Adonis to Dreamland. Beefcake then shaved the bleached locks of the rotund Adonis. Adrian absolutely tripped out as he was shown his new image in a mirror. He actually punched the mirror. Pipe returned to the ring, after a extended break from the action.
24. Randy Savage (w/Miss Elizabeth) vs Ric Flair (w/Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig)
(Wrestlemania VIII, WWE Title Match)
Flair had won the World title at Royal Rumble. Hogan was hooked up in a feud with Sid Justice, so Savage got the chance to go after the “Nature Boy”. Savage would prevail at 18:04.
25. Hulk Hogan vs Mr. McMahon
(Wrestlemania XIX, Career Threatening Match)
Vince warned Hogan that if Hulk lost, he’d have to retire. Hulk didn’t have an easy match as Roddy Piper got involved. Despite the interference of the Hot Rod, Hogan overcame the odds and defeated McMahon at 20:47.
26. Undertaker vs C.M. Punk (w/Paul Heyman)
Punk was seen as one of the biggest threats to Undertaker’s Streak. Punk unloaded everything he had at Taker but fell at 23:07. The loss would drive a wedge between Punk and Heyman that would lead to a Face Turn for Punk.
27. John Cena vs The Rock
(Wrestlemania XXIX, WWE Title Match)
This was the year-long promoted rematch. Cena had been questioning if he still had what it took to be in the business. He proved he did have it when he defeated Rock at 24:32.
28.Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
(Wrestlemania XXIII, Hair vs Hair Proxy Match)
This one was a tad complicated to explain. Vince and Trump had gone back and forth as to who was the top guy, money wise. Both made fun of the other’s hair (both had been accused of wearing hairpieces). Vince put it on the table that he would choose his representative and Trump could pick his. If Umaga lost, Vince would lose his hair and if Lashley were to lose, Trump would go bald. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the special guest ref and got the honors of removing Vince’s hair when Lashley won.
29. Owen Hart vs Bret Hart
Owen was trying to break out of his older brother’s shadow and was ready to take his brother to the limit. Bret was reluctant to face his kid brother but eventually agreed. This match opened the Pay-per-view. There had been a Dark Match that fans, at home, didn’t see. This match was a solid 20:21 of back and forth action. Owen would take the win after reversing a Victory Roll into a Cradle. Bret would return, later in the night, to defeat Yokozuna for the World title.
Wrestlemania is seen as the Grandest Stage of them All. The WWE has done it’s best to bring the best matches to its millions of fans. This is, as I mentioned before, my personal choice for Best of the Best. As a companion piece to this one, I’ll also be showcasing the Worst of the Worst. It won’t be quite as big a list.