Ahead of Sunday's main event, we at Lion of Vienna Suite have taken a bit of a diversion from our usual Bolton Wanderers musings, entering the world of professional wrestling. Our new podcast, LOVPodAMania will be released at the end of this week and James, friend of the site, got in touch to share his greatest Wrestlemania matches of all time.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading it.
WrestleMania; the Grand-Daddy of them all, where it all begins again, the Ragin’ err…climax, it’s the event of the year for most wrestling fans and now through 32 editions, it has been host of some of the most iconic matches in WWE history.
Like the list-making fool I am, I decided to watch them all and rank all 309 matches to determine the 100 greatest matches in WrestleMania history, as well as the 25 worst.
Some important distinctions to make off the bat:
Greatest Matches – we’re not talking purely snowflakes (stars). Whilst quality of match is a big factor; historical value, build, legacy, crowd reactions, importance on the card and other intangibles are taken into account. This is not purely a list of my favourite 100 matches.
Worst Matches – potential and expectation weighed heavily. I could’ve made a list filled with 10 second squashes, Dino Bravo matches and multi-Diva invitationals but no-one expected those to be anything other than dud’s, this list is looking at matches that had potential to be good and flopped.
100 – John Cena vs The Big Show – WrestleMania 20: The coming-out party for what would become the face of the WWE for the next decade. The MSG crowd was alive for Cena in this hot opener for the US Title which he won memorably, hitting Show with his signature chain before hoisting the 500lb monster on his shoulders to deliver the FU to win his maiden title in WWE.
99 – Hardcore Battle Royale – WrestleMania 16: Pure Attitude-Era fun. The 24/7 rule made for some fast-paced entertaining segments on RAW – and anomalies like Raven being a 27-time champion – and it bled over into PPV in 2000 where the Houdini of Hardcore, Crash Holly eventually lost his title to his ‘cousin’ Hardcore Holly – with a further 9 title switches in the 15 minutes in-between. The MVP of this match was without question Mean Street Posse jabroni, Pete Gas, who bled buckets after being smashed in the head with a metal sheet courtesy of Bradshaw.
98 – The Twin Towers vs The Rockers – WrestleMania 5: The classic template of monster tag-team vs. young, good-looking underdogs had worked in the NWA for years and in the Rockers, WWE had finally found their answer to the popular Rock ‘N Roll Express. You see in this glimpses of the potential of the future ‘Mr. WrestleMania’, Shawn Michaels and the lost potential of Marty Janetty while Boss Man and Akeem are serviceable, bumping for the young tag-team before picking up the victory.
97 – The Shield vs Big Show, Randy Orton & Sheamus – WrestleMania 29: The WrestleMania debut of one of the few success stories in modern WWE booking. The Shield were a dominant stable and looked impressive here dismantling the experienced trio.
96 – Matt Hardy vs Jeff Hardy – WrestleMania 25: ‘Feuding brothers’ is a storyline that will always work and the build-up to this one was great, if over-dramatic, with Matt going full-on comic-book heel, taking credit for setting fire to Jeff’s house and killing his dog. These two always worked best when the matches were heavily gimmicked and there were weapons aplenty under ‘Extreme Rules’ with Matt eventually finishing his brother with a sick-looking twist-of-fate inside a chair.
95 – Taka Michinoku vs Aguila – WrestleMania 14: WWE’s Light-Heavyweight division was a complete failure, especially in comparison to WCW’s popular Cruiserweight division but it’s one bright spark was at ‘Mania 14, Taka Michinoku looked like a genuine under-card star and the high-flying tope’s were well executed and great highlight reel material.
94 – Matt Hardy vs Rey Mysterio – WrestleMania 19: Fast-paced hot opener to a great show. These two made the most of their 5 and a half minutes of ring-time at the impressive-looking Safeco Field.
93 – Davey Boy Smith vs The Warlord – WrestleMania 7: On paper, this match has no business being anywhere near the top 100 but I urge you all to go and find this match. It is a hidden gem, certainly the best match of Warlord’s career and an impressive job by Davey as they put on a solid power-match worked at a great pace with lots of big bumps and an impressive-looking powerslam to finish.
92 – World’s Greatest Tag-Team vs Los Guerreros vs Chris Benoit & Rhyno – WrestleMania 19: The remnants of the ‘SmackDown Six’, this didn’t quite reach the bar that some of these guys had set in the previous six months but it was an entertaining mid-card match on a show that many consider to be top 3 WrestleMania’s of all-time.
91 – Chris Jericho vs Edge – WrestleMania 26: Probably the first entry onto the list where the ranking reflects somewhat of a disappointment. These two guys could and perhaps should have had a top 25 WrestleMania match but the match was off-pace with a cold-finish. Both these guys will feature high on the list for other efforts but this match was ultimately a let-down.
90 – Randy Savage vs Crush – WrestleMania 10: This perhaps wasn’t the swansong that one of the greatest WrestleMania performers of all-time deserved, but it was a fun brawl. The ending with Savage tying-up Crush by his legs backstage so that he could not respond to the 60-second count was as silly as it sounds but the MSG crowd were happy to see the veteran win one last time on the big stage.
89 – Mr. Perfect vs Blue Blazer – WrestleMania 5: It was apropos that two of the most underrated workers in WWE history got just five minutes to showcase their talents but they make the most of it, cutting a fast-pace and hitting their moves with the crisp technical accuracy that defined the careers of Curt Hennig and Owen Hart.
88 – Shane McMahon vs X-Pac – WrestleMania 15: X-Pac, a relied-upon worker and Shane McMahon, a consistent big-stage performer put on a solid mid-card European title bout that was really just there to provide foil for the swevy, back-and-forth Russo over-booked Corporation vs D-X storyline.
87 – Batista vs Triple H – WrestleMania 21: This match flirts around the edges of the disaster that many other Triple H main-events spilled over into. Triple H is at his worst when he tries to have the ‘Ric Flair NWA epic wrestling classic’. Later in 2005 these two have an excellent Hell in a Cell match which if they’d had here, may have put WM21 into discussion for the greatest WM of all-time, as it is, like the show, this match starts off with promise but falls off. Still, it holds a worthy place on the list, it is a rare example of 00s WWE booking a character strong and following through to give them the big WrestleMania moment. The build-up to the Batista face turn was well-done and executed to perfection, testament to Big Dave’s natural charisma.
86 – John Cena vs Bray Wyatt – WrestleMania 30: Critics of this match say that Wyatt should have gone over and whilst I’ll tentatively agree that Wyatt would have gotten more out of the win than Cena did, it was a solid wrestling match with some very cool visuals, such as the crowd swaying and singing ‘he’s got the whole world in his hands’. Big Match John carried the inferior Wyatt to a decent match.
85 – Randy Savage vs Ted DiBiase – WrestleMania 4: The tournament final and the dirge that was WrestleMania 4. This was probably a disappointment for match quality in terms of what these two could have achieved but they’d both wrestled several times already on the four-hour show and the moment of the Macho Man finally being crowned WWE champion is rightly iconic and worthy of a place of great WrestleMania moments.
84 – Yokozuna vs Bret Hart – WrestleMania 9: Their WM10 encounter had the greater ending, with Bret finally being crowned the new leader of the WWE, this one had arguably the worst Mania ending of all-time but the match is far stronger. This is probably Yokozuna’s best WWE match and it is a shame that the match is so soiled by what happens after Yokozuna claims the tainted victory over Bret.
83 – Randy Orton vs Triple H vs John Cena – WrestleMania 24: Somewhat forgotten because of its surprising lack of length, its positioning on the card and its surprising ending with heel Orton going over the two big babyfaces. Coming in at just under 15 minutes and being given 3rd billing to Edge/Taker and Mayweather/Big Show was a rare show of disrespect for the ‘A-Brand’’s world championship but these three veterans put on a tight match with a well-conceived finish with Orton hitting a punt and stealing victory away from Triple H.
82 – Bryan vs Barrett vs Ziggler vs Stardust vs Harper vs R-Truth vs Ambrose – WrestleMania 31: The most egregious part of this match was that Bryan, who had been suffering from legitimate neck-problems and had been shunted out of the main event picture much to the chagrin of fans, was then placed in an environment where he had to take even more high-risk bumps. It was cool how WWE placed so much focus on the re-branded IC title though, going as far as bringing back big-name legends to talk about its importance and attempt to focus the Bryan furore into making it a top-tier title again.
81 – Rey Mysterio vs Eddie Guerrero – WrestleMania 21: A respect match with long-time real-life friends and tag-team partners. These two were almost incapable of having a bad match together they knew each other’s stuff so well but what I love is the nuanced frustration towards the end of this bout that would eventually lead to an Eddie heel turn. Such a great worker and this would sadly be his last WrestleMania appearance before his untimely death late in the year.
80 – Mickie James vs Trish Stratus – WrestleMania 22: One of two women’s matches to make the top 100, this match had a great build, with Mickie coming in initially as a Trish fan that devolved into an obsession with strong lesbian overtones. There is an infamous spot in this match that Vince McMahon apparently blew a gasket over backstage, where Mickie grabs Trish’s crotch and makes what I’ll delicately describe as a universal gesture.
79 – Chris Benoit vs MVP – WrestleMania 23: Notable for being the final WrestleMania of Chris Benoit, who 3 months later would go on to kill his wife and youngest child before committing suicide. This was a hard-hitting, stiff encounter as most of Benoit’s matches tended to be with the young MVP looking every bit his equal before losing to a diving head-butt.
78 – Rey Mysterio vs CM Punk – WrestleMania 26: Punk’s run as leader of the ‘Straight Edge Society’ was the launching point of WWE management finally seeing Punk as more than ‘the indie guy’ and that he could be a serious main event talent. His feud with Mysterio continued past WM26 and this match wasn’t the best in their series, but the 7 minute sprint was enough for them to stand out on a show that had much bigger marquee matches.
77 – Mr. Kennedy vs Edge vs Jeff Hardy vs Matt Hardy vs Finlay vs CM Punk vs Randy Orton vs King Booker – WrestleMania 23: I made a conscious effort not to rank every single MITB match. They are so entertaining and became a bankable draw during the late 00s for a guaranteed highlight reel match on a WM undercard and so I tried to be selective when choosing which ones would make the list. In saying this, it may be surprising this one makes the list as its winner, Mr. Kennedy, went on to do the least with his opportunity, losing the briefcase to Edge after picking up a real-life injury but the match itself was of a very high quality. All the participants were top-tier stars and there are a number of memorable moments, the one that stands out most being when Kennedy hit his finisher, the Green Bay Plunge from the top of the ladder on midget-manager Hornswoggle.
76 – Hart Foundation & Danny Davis vs British Bulldogs & Tito Santana – WrestleMania 3: Rounding out the final spot in the first part of this list is a match all the way back at the first really great WrestleMania which took place in 1987. The Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs were long rivals and the inclusion of fans favourite Tito Santana and hateable referee Danny Davis (who was a sort-of an 80s Vickie Guerrero style heat-magnet in that his ability to draw a strong negative reaction from the fans far outweighed what his diminutive stature or in-ring ability would have suggested), provided extra heat as the Silverdome crowd ate up this contest as Davis bumped around for the babyfaces before hitting Davey Boy Smith with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone to steal the victory.