Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wrestlemania's Top Performers

Hello everyone. Starting with this write up here, every non-RAW Review piece I write from here on out will involve some type of Wrestlemania related history. We are getting into the heart of Wrestlemania season. There is only so much I can write about The Rock not being on RAW, another HHH/Brock Lesnar match and if CM Punk will be the one to end the Undertaker's Streak. It gets repetitive sometimes. Its something we pointed out on the Creatively Endeavored Pulsecast this week.

So I will be doing a handful of Top 5 lists in the weeks to come. I might stretch some out to a Top 10 list, but that would only be for the bigger categories I might do. Stretching a list out too far can be reaching sometimes. Getting it down to the Top 5 means you are looking at the very best for whatever it is that the topic is about. Plus it leaves room for more debate about who should and should not be on these respective lists.

Most of these lists won't be too long. Unlike my in-depth posts, I will only have some shorter write ups here. Enough to defend my points and my justification for pointing something where it is on the list, but nothing too long. I am going to try and put out at least two of these every week. I can't make any promises, but if I keep things simple and to the point than I should be able to accomplish that.

My first list will take a look at the Top 5 performers in Wrestlemania history. I'm sure there isn't much debate about who is number one, but I could see spots 2-5 being debatable between some readers. While match quality played an important part in this list, the overall spectacle and lasting memories of a certain wrestler's performances also did as well. Drawing power was also taken into consideration.

5. The Undertaker
When fans think about Wrestlemania, especially the last few years, the first thing that comes to mind is The Undertaker.

The Undertaker's match at Wrestlemania has become a co-main event in recent years. A lot of wrestlers want to fight Taker at Mania. His Streak has become a tale of legend at Wrestlemania. Even with Undertaker getting older in recent years, he has still been able to put on quality matches with HHH and The Undertaker. Before those matches, Taker also put on some very good matches with Edge at WM24, and Batista at WM23. I really liked the match with Batista and thought it was right up there with the HBK/Cena match from that night, maybe just a little bit below it.

But the one thing Undertaker will always be remembered for at Wrestlemania will be the spectacle that he created every time he stepped in the ring. Although the match was not the greatest, his match with Kane at WM14 was a pretty big deal at the time. And who can forget his memorable return at WM20, again against Kane. The Paul Bearer return made it that much more special. While Shawn Michaels may be called "Mr. Wrestlemania," there is no doubt that the Undertaker and Wrestlemania will be synonymous with each other in the history of the WWE.

4. Hulk Hogan
Similar to The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan didn't put on the greatest matches at Wrestlemania. But there is no denying the drawing power he had in the early stages of Wrestlemania. Especially the first three. Hogan gets the nod at 4 over The Undertaker because he was more of a draw for Wrestlemania than the Undertaker ever was.

Wrestlemania 1 was very important to the growing business of the WWE, and people wanted to see Hogan and Roddy Piper finish their feud. And of course we all know how big Wrestlemania 3 was, and it gave everyone a mega match in Hogan vs Andre the Giant that sold out the Pontiac Silverdome. Hogan also put on a surprisingly good match with the Ultimate Warrior at WM6. It was a unique match because it was the first time we saw two faces go one-on-one in the main event of a WWE PPV.

While Hogan was never the greatest in ring performer the WWE had, there is no denying the drawing power he had during his time in the WWE. And even when he returned in 2002, he was still a huge draw and had a "dream match" with the Rock at WM18. And he even had a properly built match with Vince McMahon at WM19. Should it have been the main focus of the show? No. But the story made sense.

Hulk Hogan was the man in the WWE during the 1980s and 90s, and if it were not for him, Wrestlemania may not have ever happened. He deserves to be on the list for the drawing power he had during his time with the WWE. His match quality is what keeps him from going farther up the list.

3. Steve Austin and The Rock
I put these two together at this spot because they almost go hand-in-hand at Wrestlemania. They have wrestled each other three times at Mania. At WM15, Austin was a top star and The Rock was just starting to get at that level. At WM17, both men were at the top of the WWE and were arguably the two biggest stars in the wrestling business at the time. They also put on a great main event that is definitely in the Top 10 when it comes to Wrestlemania matches. At WM19, their rivalry came to a great end with Rock finally getting his win over Steve Austin at Mania. These two have one of the best rivalries in WWE history and their best stories were told at Wrestlemania.

Both men also had two historic matches against other opponents at Wrestlemania. While Steve Austin and Bret Hart put on a classic match at WM13, The Rock and Hulk Hogan put on spectacle at WM18 that was made even better than it already was by the Toronto crowd. As I said above, this list just isn't about the match quality, it is about the lasting memory each performer had on Wrestlemania. While Hart/Austin was a great in ring match, Rock/Hogan was a great spectacle.

The Rock and Steve Austin also put on other good matches. Austin with HBK, The Rock with Mick Foley against Evolution. Rock/Cena was also decent. Austin played a role as special guest referee in a few matches as well, and Rock was host of WM27. While some may not like these two men being put together on this list, I justify by saying these two fought each other 3 times, and each had one great match outside of those three matches. It's tough to separate these two.

2. Randy Savage
When it comes to getting the best out of the person you are wrestling, Randy Savage did the best job of doing that at every Wrestlemania match he was involved in. There are a couple of obvious top matches that he was involved in that he didn't need to worry about. His match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania 3 was full of great counters and near falls, and it was something you really didn't see out of wrestlers during that time in the WWE. His WWE Title match with Ric Flair at WM8 was the same way and had a great backstory to it. If it happened 5 or 6 years later, Elizabeth would have joined up with Ric Flair (like she did in WCW).

But as I said above, Randy Savage did a great job of getting ***+ star matches out of some lesser quality in ring talent at Wrestlemania. Hulk Hogan was never known for putting on good in ring matches, but Randy Savage got a good match out of him at Mania. That was also a well built up year long story with Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan teaming up then splitting a year later. Randy Savage probably also got the best singles match out of Crush in his entire career. It was a fun little brawl that was different for the time it took place in.

The best example of Randy Savage carrying someone to a career match, however, too place at Wrestlemania 7. The match Randy Savage had with the Ultimate Warrior was outstanding. Once again, easily the best match Warrior ever had in his career. I like it better than his match with Hogan at WM6. Despite some of their promos being out of whack and at times incoherent, it was a great and simple build up to the match. And it had a lot of drama in it. Randy Savage may be the best storyteller to ever step foot in the ring. And he told a great story with the Ultimate Warrior. And it was a great redemption story after the match with Savage and Elizabeth.

In an era where the WWE wasn't known for putting on great matches, Randy Savage did his best to change that perception. Savage was the best in ring performer of his time. I would have loved to see what that era's Randy Savage could have done 10 years later in the WWE.

1. Shawn Michaels
There is a reason they call him "Mr. Wrestlemania." When you talk about someone who put on show stealing performances year in and year out at Wrestlemania, you look no further than Shawn Michaels. I would say that HBK was a part of the match of the night at Wrestlemania's 11, 12, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 26. The only Wrestlemania on that list where I would say there is some debate would be Wrestlemania 19 (you could argue Lesnar/Angle was better).

Every year HBK goes all out at Wrestlemania. He put on an entertaining match with Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania 22. There were a lot of people disappointed seeing HBK wrestle Vince at Mania (before his death there were rumors that it would have been Eddie Guerrero) but Shawn put on a very entertaining match with a great spot to end it. HBK got a great match out of John Cena at WM23. I think it would have been a great story to see him walk out with the Title at that one, but Shawn was never a full time performer at that point and he didn't want to do house shows at the time.

Even at this past year's Wrestlemania, HBK played a vital role in the HHH/Undertaker match. Shawn's two matches with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25 and 26 were two of the best matches I have seen in the past five years. The match at WM25 stole the show and had the crowd in it at every moment. The crowd put so much energy into that match that they barely had anything left for the two Title matches. The WWE was smart to put Taker/HBK on at the end of WM26. They didn't want to risk that again. Plus, there was more on the line this time for HBK.

When I decided to do this Top 5 first, it was pretty obvious that Shawn Michaels would be #1. There is no argument for anyone else. The performance Shawn Michaels gave at every Wrestlemania he was involved in shows exactly why he is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in ring performer of all time.

So go ahead and talk about this list amongst yourselves. Agree or Disagree? Feel free to discuss!

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

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