Wednesday, March 27, 2013

5 Surprisingly Good Wrestlemania Matches

Hello everyone. It is time for another Top 5 list!

Today, I look at five surprisingly good matches from past Wrestlemanias. What do I mean by surprisingly good? Matches that many people probably didn't expect to be good but turned out to be rather entertaining. So this isn't a list that is going to include the likes of Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage or Bret Hart. It is a list full of wrestlers that aren't known for their in ring work, or weren't expected to put on a good match. But on the big stage of the WWE, they delivered a good match.

This isn't a list of the best Wrestlemania matches. It is a list of matches that exceeded expectations and should be given credit for it.

5. Shane McMahon vs X-Pac: Wrestlemania XV
-At the time, not many people knew Shane McMahon was a pretty good athlete. The thought of him in an upper card match at Wrestlemania was kind of scary. What kind of match would he be able to put on in the ring? And while X-Pac was decent in the ring, could he carry Shane to a good match?

There were a lot of distractions going on during the match, with interference from Test, the Mean Street Posse and eventually Triple H. But it played into the story of the match well. Again, was it a classic? No. But I would put it right around the *** star range. X-Pac was a good fit with Shane because he was a veteran who could bounce around in the ring. Shane showed in the match that he could hold his own in the ring and was surprisingly quick and athletic for someone who had never wrestled in the ring before. I wouldn't have expected a quality match out of these two, but they did a good job.

4. Trish Stratus vs Mickie James: Wrestlemania XXII
-Anyone who reads what I write know that I'm not the biggest fan of the current Divas Division. It isn't that I don't care. It is the fact that the WWE doesn't seem to want me to care. There is not a good crop of women's wrestlers in the WWE nowadays. They care more about looks than they do about in ring talent. They haven't put much effort or time into Divas matches at Wrestlemania the last few years.

The last time the WWE really cared about a Divas match at Wrestlemania was at WM22 with Trish Stratus and Mickie James. The feud between these two was great. Mickie played the psycho stalker role perfectly. The match both women had was great and was a good culmination of their program. The crowd backed Mickie, which probably threw off a lot of people in the WWE. It definitely threw off Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. I think the crowd just appreciated the work Mickie had been doing in her role.

While there was an obvious botch at the end of the match with Mickie attempting Startusfaction, overall it was a great showing. The crowd was into it the entire time. When was the last time you could say that about a Divas match. There was good in ring psychology as well with Mickie working over Trish's leg the entire match. This match makes the list because you normally don't expect the Divas to put on a good match, but they did here and it was a pleasant surprise.

3. Hulk Hogan Vs Vince McMahon: Wrestlemania XIX
-This was a pretty stacked Wrestlemania card. We had two great wrestling matches with Shawn Michaels/Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar/Kurt Angle. There was also the culmination of The Rock/Steve Austin feud with Rock finally getting his win over Austin at Wrestlemania. The HHH/Booker T feud was also very hot heading into Wrestlemania.

Then there was Hulk Hogan vs Vince McMahon. The backstory made sense. Vince said Hogan would be nothing without him while Hogan disagreed. Both of these men were over the age of 50, so you knew it wasn't going to be anything special in the ring. It was going to be a Street Fight. Usually, stipulations like that are added to these matches to mask the limitations of the performers in the ring.

But in this match, it made it watchable and surprisingly good given everyone involved. It is a good brawl hidden in a Wrestlemania card full of good in ring matches and star studded matches. The crowd was into the match, fully behind Hulk Hogan. I know Vince is crazy, but even I wouldn't have expected him to do a leg drop off a ladder onto the announce table. We also got a cameo from Roddy Piper, which again ties into the backstory of Vince, Hogan and Wrestlemania 1. Perhaps the best part of the match was the visual of bloody Vince peering from the apron with an evil grin on his face. Great job by the production crew.

Even with the Street Fight stipulation, I doubt most people thought this would be an enjoyable match. But both men put on a strong showing and delivered a watchable brawl. I wouldn't put it anywhere past the *** star range, but it was a good brawl. Vince may not be great in the ring, but he can deliver on the big stage. With the chairs, tables, pipes and blood involved in this match, it was fun to watch.

2. Batista vs The Undertaker: Wrestlemania XXIII
-I don't know why, but a lot of wrestling fans I know tend to forget about this match when it comes to Wrestlemania 23. Everyone remembers the "Battle of the Billionaires" with Donald Trump and Vince McMahon. People also remember the very good Shawn Michaels/John Cena match for the WWE Title. But the World Title Match between Batista and The Undertaker was very entertaining. I said in my first Top 5 list that you could make an argument for this being match of the night over HBK/Cena. After watching both matches again, I'm willing to make that argument.

This match was surprisingly full of non-stop action throughout it. Batista was not known as a very good worker in the ring. Undertaker, while having strong matches, was getting up their in age. But Taker always seems to bring it at Wrestlemania, and he did here as well. Batista stepped up his game too, and the two worked very well in the ring.

The crowd was very much behind Undertaker. Both men were faces going in, but the crowd respected Taker more and wanted to see him win. There were very believable nearfalls toward the end of the match, including Batista kicking out of the chokeslam and Taker kicking out of the Batista bomb. They hit some big spots with Taker's dive over the ropes and Batista's running powerslanm through the announce table.

Many people going in were expecting Shawn Michaels to steal the show again and get a good match out of John Cena. But I think the bigger story was Undertaker and Batista putting on a surprisingly great match given the limitations of Batista and Undeertaker's increasing age. A very strong showing that hopefully more people can appreciate after this.

1. Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior: Wrestlemania VI
-The WWE took a couple of big risks heading into Wrestlemania VI. It was the first Wrestlemania held outside of the United States. It was the first time two babyface wrestlers were going head to head in the main event of Wrestlemania, with both major singles titles on the line. And the WWE took a big risk trusting that Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior, two average workers at best, could put on an entertaining match in the main event of Wrestlemania.

One thing that definitely helped this match was the sheer spectacle of two huge stars going one-on-one. It had never been done in the WWE before. That alone was a big enough risk heading into Wrestlemania. But the crowd was into the match the entire time. The WWE hyped the crowd as being split 50/50, but I would say that the crowd was definitely leaning to the side of Hulk Hogan (they would do the same thing 12 years later). Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura also played a big part of making the match work on commentary. Jesse did a great job of pointing out the frustrations Hogan and Warrior were facing, something they were never used too. It played an important role in the match.

Then there was the actual match. As I said, Warrior and Hogan weren't exactly the greatest of technicians in the ring. You wouldn't trust them to carry someone to a good match. They didn't have a great move set. But the way this match was laid out was great. Each man hit moves that you weren't used to seeing. And the crowd was into every move made. They knew they were seeing something unique in the ring. Overall, I would probably put the match just under four stars. Probably a ***3/4 rating. There were still some clunky spots, and the ref bump, but it was much better than anyone would have expected.

It was definitely a very good match for its era. It handed the Ultimate Warrior the keys to the top of the WWE, and it was the first time the WWE fans saw Hogan lose clean in a WWE Title match. You could tell Warrior truly appreciated the moment. While fans were expecting a spectacle, I would say the match definitely surpassed expectations. Good nearfalls and action throughout, something these two weren't known for.

There might be other matches that you would want to include. But again, think about matches that you didn't expect to be good but delivered. Go ahead and share your thoughts!

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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