Saturday, March 26, 2011

JC's Take: The 27 Best Matches in Wrestlemania History

JC's Take: The 27 Best Matches in Wrestlemania History

Hey everyone. Again, I apologize for the lack of updates recently.

Anyway, Wrestlemania is one week away. With that in mind, I plan on doing a couple of postings looking back at Wrestlemania's past. This first blog will take a look back at the best matches in Wrestlemania history. This list will take into account mostly the actual in ring action, but will also be judged on drama, build to the match, and historical significance.

I don't know if any of this year's matches will make the list. HHH/Undertaker maybe.

Here are some matches that just missed the cut:
Wrestlemania V: Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage
Wrestlemania VIII: Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart
Wrestlemania XI: Diesel vs Shawn Michaels
Wrestlemania XV: Steve Austin vs The Rock
Wrestlemania XVI: The Rock vs HHH vs Mick Foley vs Big Show
Wrestlemania XVII: The Undertaker vs HHH
Wrestlemania XVII: Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit
Wrestlemania XXIV: Edge vs Undertaker

So lets get to the list, starting at 27 and working all the way to #1.

27. Wrestlemania XIV: Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to win the WWF Championship:
Match Rating: ***1/2  Drama Factor:6/10  Build:7/10  Historical Significance: 9/10
In many ways, this could be considered Shawn Michaels best performance as a WWE competitor. It wasn't his best match, but it definitely was his most gutsy performance. Shawn had a really bad back heading into the match, and you could definitely see the pain he was in throughout it. But HBK went out there and gave it his all. This match could be considered a changing of the guard in the WWF. The past two years, the company featured HBK at the top. Now, it was Austin's turn to take the ball, and he definitely rolled with it. The Austin Era began here. Mike Tyson also gave this match a big time feel to it.

26. Wrestlemania XVIII: The Rock defeated Hulk Hogan
Match Rating: ***1/2 Drama Factor:9/10  Build:7/10 Historical Significance: 10/10
Yeah, this match has high ratings. But one has to be honest: it wasn't the best wrestling match in the world. It was still good, but it wasn't great. But there is no denying the overall atmosphere the entire match brought. The Toronto crowd made this match one of the most memorable matches ever. The Rock was suppose to be the face, Hogan the heel. But they changed that aspect of the match quickly. It was one of those rare Icon vs Icon matches that you never thought you could see. You almost wish The Rock could see this again, and maybe he would like to recapture this one more time with John Cena.

25. Wrestlemania XXIII: John Cena defeated Shawn Michaels to retain the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ***1/2  Drama Factor: 8/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 5/10
I was one of the people who thought HBK was walking out with the WWE Title, especially with the match going on last. But instead, Cena retained, and the WWE made it known that it was his time. The first half of this match was very slow and methodical. When watching it I was disappointed. But the two definitely picked it up in the second half of the match. These two actually went on to have an even better match on RAW in England about a month later. Just another typical Wrestlemania performance from HBK.

24. Wrestlemania XXII: Edge defeated Mick Foley in a Hardcore Match
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
This wasn't your typical Wrestlemania match. This was the first really hardcore match at Wrestlemania. Sure there had been ladder matches, and matches for the Hardcore Title, but this was an all out slugfest. They used all of the weapons perfectly. The barbed wire, thumbtacs, and of course the flaming table. It'll be one of those matches people will remember years from now because it wasn't your traditional wrestling match. Mick Foley got his Wrestlemania moment, and Edge stepped out as a main event performer and showed he belonged at the top.
Edge and Mick Foley gave us one of the most memorable brawls in WWE History

23. Wrestlemania XXIII: Undertaker defeated Batista to win the World Heavyweight Title
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 5/10  Historical Significance: 5/10
Yes, in the past 7 Wrestlemanias, someone did have a better match than Shawn Michaels. While this match didn't go on last, it was definitely the best one at Mania 23. Both men put on a surprisingly good match. It almost seemed like these two knew they were lost in the shuffle between HBK/Cena & Trump/McMahon and wanted to go out there and put on a really good match. The crowd was firmly behind Taker here, and this match also showed the early signs that Batista could handle a heel turn down the line.

22. Wrestlemania XIX: The Rock defeated Steve Austin
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Signifcance: 7/10
The last match in the trilogy of these twos Wrestlemania battles. The build going into this match was simple: The Rock had done everything possible in his WWE career, except one thing, beat Steve Austin at Wrestlemania. The Rock was hell-bent on winning here, and he showed it throughout the match. Both of these men know how to work the crowd, and they did it beautifully here. The Rock got his win before moving on to Goldberg, while Austin walked out with his head held high in his final match in a WWE ring.

21. Wrestlemania VI: Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 8/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
This match is one of those matches new wrestling fans go out of their way to find. It was a rarity at the time: two fan favorites going one-on-one in a main event matches. Rewatching the match, it's obvious that the crowd was split in the Skydome. During that time period, nobody knew who was winning that match. Now if they did Title vs Title today, it'd be obvious who would win. But not back in the 90s, when there was no Internet. According to some, this match was laid out move for move well before hand. These two put on a show for the live crowd and didn't disappoint. Too bad they tried to recreate the magic at WCW Halloween Havoc, but bombed big time.

Wrestlemania VI saw the Ultimate Warrior take the reigns of the WWF from Hulk Hogan

20. Wrestlemania XX: Eddie Guerrero defeated Kurt Angle to retain the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor: 6/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
There was nothing fancy about this match. Just two professionals going out there and doing what they do best: wrestle. Eddie won the WWE Title a month earlier. This was his first big match as Champ, and he didn't disappoint. I thought it was a bit slow early in the match, but it picked up in the second half. I wasn't a big fan of the finish, with Eddie cheating again and holding the ropes to win, but it was a part of his "Lie, Cheat, & Steal" gimmick. It's over-shawdowed by the other Title match, and possibly the Brock/Goldberg debacle, but it was a good match nontheless.

19. Wrestlemania XXII: John Cena defeated Triple H to retain the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor: 8/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
This match happened at the height of the Cena Hate era. Even though HHH was the heel, the majority of the crowd was behind him here. Cena had won the WWE Title a year earlier, but fans were already getting tired of his constant SuperCena antics, and the fact that his rapper gimmick became very waterdowned. Even though Cena wasn't known for it yet, he put on a surprisingly good Wrestlemania match. The two played the crowd perfectly. HHH was the cocky heel who knew he was a better wrestler than Cena. Cena was the defiant Champion who overcame everything to be where he was at the time. A surprisngly good Mania match that many, including me, didn't have high hopes for going into it.

18. Wrestlemania XIX: Shawn Michaels defeated Chris Jericho
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
Lots of people probably have this match higher. I thought I would too, but after a rewatch, there was just something I didn't like about it. It's still a good match, but it was just a bit too slow for me. It was a great performance by HBK, wrestling his first match at Wrestlemania in 5 years. The story going in was that HBK was Jericho's childhood idol, and he wanted to show that he was this generation's HBK. Jericho was good in this match mocking all of HBK's mannerisms. The one thing I did like about this match was that it ended with something other than a finisher.

17. Wrestlemania XVI: Edge & Christian defeated the Hardyz and Dudleyz in a Ladder Match to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor:7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
This match set the bar for their next two matches in the coming year. It was defintely different from the two HBK/Razor Ramon matches from the mid-90s. They used the ladders in creative ways that hadn't been used before. It was definitely unique and the best match of the night. The crowd was into it throughout the match and "oooed" and "awweeed" at every big moment. Jeff Hardy showed a bit of his high-flying style in this match by jumping off the ladder onto Bubba Ray through the table. Like I said, this set the bar for their upcoming matches, and other ladder matches to come in the WWE.

16. Wrestlemania XXI: Edge wins the 1st Ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Match Rating: ****1/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build 5/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
We're on a run of ladder matches here. This was the first ever Money in the Bank match involving Edge, Chris Benoit, Christian, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, and Kane. They used the ladders effectively here. Everyone got a nice high spot in. Shelton Benjamin had what many people considered a star-defining performance here, but it was never properly capitalized on. Chris Benoit also sold very well in this match. I remember reading people thought he was actually injured during the match. The right man went over in the end. Edge used the briefcase to catapult himself to the main event level and win his first ever WWE Title.

15. Wrestlemania XIX: Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle to win the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ****1/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
I think this match suffered from being last on a stacked card. Watching it, the crowd didn't seem as into it as they should have. It followed HBK/Y2J, Hogan/Vince, and Rock/Austin. But out of all of those, it was the best wrestling match on the card. It was similar to Wrestlemania 14, where Shawn Michaels was in bad shape. Kurt Angle had a very bad neck problem at the time, and needed surgery after the match. There were concerns that he may not have even been able to wrestle at Mania. But it was a great wrestling display. It probably would have been a 1/4 star better had Lesnar hit that Shooting Star Press at the end.

Brock Lesnar went for the Show-Stealing Moment at Wrestlemania XIX but came up short

14. Wrestlemania XVII: Edge & Christian defeated the Dudleyz & Hardyz in a Tables, Ladders, & Chairs Match to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles
Match Rating: ****1/4  Drama: 7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
This is the third match in the ladder match trilogy between these teams, and probably the best out of all of them. These three teams again managed to raise the bar on the biggest stage of them all. I'm not the biggest fan of outside interference in matches, but it played in well here because of the build to the match. The one moment that stands out from this match is Edge spearing Jeff Hardy by jumping off a ladder while Jeff was hanging from the belts. This match helped make this Wrestlemania one of the best ever.

13. Wrestlemania X: Owen Hart defeated Bret Hart
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 6/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
This is easily the best opening match in Wrestlemania history. The build to this match was great. Owen had been stuck in his brother's shadow his entire life. He was becoming frustrated with everyone loving his brother and nobody paying attention to him. This was Owen's opportunity to show he was just as good as his big brother. And he did. Bret & Owen apparently worked on this match for weeks leading up to Mania. Owen got the recognition he deserved by upsetting his brother. But again, Bret got the better of his brother at the end of the night by winning the WWF Championship. I thought the end to the show was great. Bret being celebrated in the ring as the new Champ by other top stars, and Owen standing in the entrance way, not believing that his brother got the best of him again. A good match and good storyline that lasted for a year.

12. Wrestlemania XII: Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart in a 60 Minute Iron Man Match to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 6/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
This was the beginning of the Shawn Michaels Era in the WWF. Shawn had been putting on great matches for the last two years, and his time had finally come. There were a lot of people who didn't think these two could put on a good 60 minute match without losing crowd interest. But these are two of the best in ring workers in wrestling history, and they put on a classic. Lots of in-ring psychology went into this match. That's what you have to do to make a match like this work. The build up to this was good. Shawn was chasing his boyhood dream, Bret was trying to hang on to his title. With the bad blood that was starting to boil between these two at this point, it was nice to see them go out there and put on a good match.

HBK's Boyhood Dream Came True at Wrestlemania XII

11. Wrestlemania VIII: Randy Savage defeated Ric Flair to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
This was the first Wrestlemania where the WWF Champion was not in the last match of the show. That's because of Hulk Hogan. But this was easily the best match of the show. Mr. Perfect's outside interference took away from the match a little bit, but Savage & Flair put on a great performance here. Bobby Heenan added a lot on commentary here, with an obvious bias towards Ric Flair. I liked the angle leading up to the match, with Ric Flair implying he had slept with Elizabeth, which got Savage mad. That was the first time that type of angle had been done in the WWE. The crowd was definitely into this match, which helped as well.

10. Wrestlemania VII: Ultimate Warrior defeated Randy Savage in a Career Ending Match
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 8/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
Who would have ever thought Ultimate Warrior would be in a Top 10 best match list? This was easily the best match of Warrior's career. Randy Savage apparently planned out this match well in advance to make sure it played out perfectly. And it did. The crowd was very much into it, knowing both men's careers were on the line. Macho Man's multiple Elbow drops, then Warrior's multiple Shoulder Tackles just showed how much both men wanted it. The reuniting on Macho Man and Elizabeth at the end of the match was one of the classic Mania moments that they show in highlight packages. The stipulation didn't stick, because Warrior was the one who was gone in six months and Vince needed Savage back. But this is a classic Mania match that I would recommend people go out of their way to see.

9. Wrestlemania XXIV: Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair in a Career Ending Match
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama: 8/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
Sometimes matches are good because they tell a great story in the ring. This is exactly what this match did. Ric Flair had been wrestling with the stipulation for months: He could keep wrestling as long as he kept winning. Ric Flair was announced to go into the Hall of Fame, and he wanted to wrestle HBK in what could be his last Wrestlemania match. Michaels was reluctant at first, but accepted. Both men went out there at Wrestlemania and put on a great match. Flair was giving it his all in his final WWE performance. The crowd was behind Flair. Most of them knew the end was coming, but they just didn't know when. The final images of the match were perfect. Flair telling HBK to bring it, then Michaels saying, "I'm sorry, I love you." before hitting the Superkick. The match would probably be higher on the list had Ric Flair actually retired, but his run in TNA ruined this moment a little bit.

8. Wrestlemania XXI: Kurt Angle defeated Shawn Michaels
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama:7/10  Build:7/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
Leading up to Wrestlemania 21, this was the match everybody was hoping for. It was obvious that the title matches were being built up to transition the top guys from the veterans (JBL & HHH) to the new guys (Cena & Batista). The undercard gave the WWE an opportunity to put this classic together. HBK and Kurt Angle were the two best in-ring workers at the time in the company. It was a dream match that everyone wanted to see. The build up to the match was simple. It did give us the great scene of Kurt Angle singing HBK's theme with Sensational Sherri. For me, the only thing that kept this match from being 5 stars was the slow mat work in the beginning of the match. But they kicked it into high gear halfway through. I was surprised how there was a good amount of the crowd supporting Kurt Angle. These two veterans put on a show that got the crowd into. It lead to a rematch in the summer that was just as good.

7. Wrestlemania XXVI: Undertaker defeated Shawn Michaels to end HBK's career
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama: 9/10  Build: 10/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
I think this would have been a five star match had it not had to live up to the hype of the previous year's match. The build was definitely better than the previous years because of everything that was on the line: The Undertaker's streak and HBK's career. When the stipulation was announced there were some people, including me, who thought HBK could win. Some of us didn't believe that Shawn was ready to retire. He was still going out there putting on great matches. But HBK thought it was time, and he went out swinging. The crowd was into every near fall. I liked the ending. Shawn knew he couldn't win and signaled the end to Taker, and Taker gave HBK the mega Tombstone for the three. It seemed like a proper ending for Shawn Michaels: Mr.Wrestlemania going out as the show came to a close.

Shawn Michaels and Undertaker put on Classics two years in a row

6. Wrestlemania III: Ricky Steamboat defeated Randy Savage to win the WWF Intercontinental Title
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama: 9/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
This one will always stand the test of time. It will always be talked about in the history of pro wrestling. There are many reason it stands out. It was the first Wrestlemania classic match. Also, the WWE wasn't known for putting on great technical matches at the time. But Rick Steamboat and Randy Savage were the WWE's two best in ring workers at the time, and they put on one of the best matches ever. It was short, but they fit a lot into a short time. There were so many near falls in this match that it was tough to keep count. But the near falls and counters sucked in the crowd. There are some people who say that these two were criticized after for putting on such a good match, and taking heat off of Andre/Hogan. Who cares. It would have been great to see Steamboat get more of a push, but there was no way he could pass Hogan as the top face in the WWF. Plus, urban legend has it that Hogan was nervous that Steamboat would overtake his top spot in the company, and Hogan helped get Steamboat released. The only thing that kept this from being 5 stars was the ref bump, and the George "The Animal" Steele involvement in the finish. It would have been nice to see a clean finish, but it doesn't take away from this match being a classic.

5. Wrestlemania XX: Chris Benoit defeated HHH and Shawn Michaels in a Triple Threat Match to win the World Heavweight Title
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
Now we are getting into the classics. These are the matches that were perfect. You could not get any better than these five matches. I'm not taking anything that happened with Chris Benoit's personal life into account here. The build was good. Chris Benoit's dream was to be a World Champion. He'd been in wrestling for years at this point, but never at the top. He won the Royal Rumble from the #1 spot. He was the guy the crowd was behind. The fans could associate with Benoit as the hard working guy who never got his due. Here he was going against two established main eventers who have been at the top forever. All three guys worked their asses off here. I'm assuming they put Michaels in because they were nervous Benoit/HHH wouldn't sell on its own. The crowd made this match great. When Benoit was on the outside laid out after being out through a table, and HBK/HHH took over in the ring, the crowd started chanting for Benoit. Seeing Benoit win at the time before everything happened was a great Wrestlemania moment, and lead to the Benoit/Eddie Guerrero hug in the ring, which now is tarnished forever. But just an absolute classic that justified the triple threat stipulation.

4. Wrestlemania X: Razor Ramon defeated Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
This was the first big time ladder match in wrestling. It happened before in the WWF, and in other wrestling territories, but it never happened on this grand of a stage. In lots of ways, as Ric Flair said, it was Shawn Michaels vs a Ladder, and there just happened to be another guy in the ring. But you can't take away from Razor Ramon's performance in the match. But there is no doubt that HBK was the star. Some of the spots he took with the ladder were great. His dive off the ladder was awesome. This was something new in wrestling at the time. Now compared to ladder matches of today, it'd be considered boring and dull. But looking at it when it happened, 1994, it was unique and exciting. This was also the launching point of Shawn Michaels single's career. He had wrestled some top matches before, but this showed that he was more than capable of being a top guy to potentially build the WWF around in the future.

Shawn Michaels stole the show at Wrestlemania X

3. Wrestlemania XIII: Bret Hart defeated Shawn Michaels in a Submission Match
Match Rating: *****  Drama:8/10  Build:8/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
While Wrestlemania XIV officially began the Austin Era, this match made that Era happen. By this point, Austin had been climbig the ranks of the WWF. The fans were starting to get behind him, and the whole attitude of the WWF began to change. The company was moving from the "New Generation" era to the "Attitude" era. This match was just an all out brawl. They brawled ringside, through the crowd, and of course in the ring itself. This match showed Austin was capable of handling a role on the main event level. Bret Hart of course deserves credit here as well. They pretty much pulled off a double turn in this match. Austin began transitioning into a top face, while Bret became more of a heel before his exit from the company later that November. Even in losing, Austin was put over here. He never tapped out, he passed out while in the Sharpshooter. Any Austin doubters or haters were silenced after this match. This match was the launching point for Austin into stardom.

2. Wrestlemania XVII: Steve Austin defeated The Rock to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 9/10  Build: 10/10  Historical Significance: 9/10
I was really debating between this match and my #1 choice, but if I'm making my decsions mostly on in ring work, this has to come #2. This was a 5 star match based on everything that happened during the match. The build was great. One of the best, if not THE best, promo packages of all time was the one for this match. Austin needed to the WWF Title, he said he would do anything to get it. And he did in the end. Austin used the help of Vince McMahon, his archnemesis, to help him win it. This was the one time where outside interference played in perfectly. Austin was willing to go to any lengths to regain the top prize in the business, and he did here. The crowd was very pro-Austin here, mostly because it was in his home state of Texas. Austin & Rock brought out the best in each other when they were in the ring. They're two of the best of all time. This match was also important from a historical perspective. It all but ended the Attitude Era, and launched the Austin heel era, which wasn't as great as some hoped for. But this match is a great one and made Wrestlemania 17 one of the best Wrestlemania's of all time.

Steve Austin made a "Deal with the Devil" to win the WWF Title at Wrestlemania 17

1. Wrestlemania XXV: The Undertaker defeated Shawn Michaels
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 9/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 9/10
This match may have lower secondary ratings, but it was one of the best in ring matches of all time. Shawn Michaels showed that he was Mr. Wrestlemania. Undertaker showed that when given the right opponent, he can be just as good as anyone in the ring. Right after this match ended, I said to myself, "I just watched one of the best matches ever." People had high expectations for this match, and it didn't disappoint. While the rematch had more on the line, this one was just better from an all-around in ring perspective. Nobody, myself included, was expecting HBK to kick out of the Tombstone. But he did. This is the kind of performance that solidifies both guys status in wrestling, and Wrestlemania history. Shawn Michaels is Mr. Wrestlemania, Undertaker has his Wrestlemania streak. They are arguably the two biggest wrestlers associated with Wrestlemania. There's nothing else that can be said about this one.

So there you have it. This week, I'll definitely be doing a Wrestlemania preview, and I'm going to try to rank every Wrestlemania as well.

Until next time,
Justin C

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