Continuing on from yesterday's opening gambit, here's part 2 in the rundown of the Best Wrestlemania Matches of all Time!
75 – Andre the Giant Memorial – WrestleMania 30: The inaugural ‘Andre Battle Royale’ was the latest WWE concept to get a bunch of guys on the show whilst also paying homage to one of its favourite legends, Andre the Giant. WM30 was a special night where everything seemed to come together perfectly and the battle royale was no exception, proving to be way above average with winner Cesaro garnering one of the strongest reactions of the weekend behind Daniel Bryan.
74 – The Brainbusters vs Strike Force – WrestleMania 5: NWA-mainstays and half of the legendary Four Horseman, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard had a one year run in WWE but put on some fantastic work-rate matches. This match was the vehicle for a Rick Martel heel-turn who walked out on his partner Tito Santana, leaving him to get decimated by the Southern tag-team. This is four of the best wrestlers of the 1980s shining on the biggest stage.
73 – Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho vs Kurt Angle – WrestleMania 16: I love the concept of the booking of this one. A two falls match, the first for the IC title, the second for the European title. Angle would lose both titles without losing a fall, allowing him to leave the match protesting he was never defeated but in reality a perfect vehicle to get the mid-card titles off of him as his destiny was to begin an ascent towards the top of the card. With the three workers in this one, it is a little surprising it features so low on the list, on paper this could have been a top 10 match, but like most things on WM16, it was just a little bit overbooked and a little bit sloppy and didn’t quite reach the level of expectation.
72 – Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins – WrestleMania 31: Seth Rollins would leave WM31 as the WWE champion but earlier in the night he had an exciting bout with Randy Orton that finished memorably when Orton caught an innovative RKO out of Rollins curb-stomp. Orton can barely contain his excitement at hitting the spot so crisply.
71 – Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy – WrestleMania 2: The main event to one of the worst WrestleMania’s. This wasn’t the sort of main event you’d expect from Mania’s nowadays, but Bundy performs to his best capabilities and Hogan vanquishes another monster inside of the classic steel blue cage.
70 – Rick Rude vs Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania 5: These two would have a far greater match months later at SummerSlam but whatever you say about Warrior, it is undeniable that he was a big match worker. His WrestleMania record is pretty impeccable and while he would have greater moments at WM6 & 7, his performance at WM5 was a launching point for his first great feud in WWE with the smooth operator himself, Rick Rude, and his weasel manager, Bobby Heenan, who made a big assist to put Rude 1-0 up in the series.
69 – Rey Mysterio vs Randy Orton vs Kurt Angle – WrestleMania 22: The Eddie redemption story doesn’t age well, and even at the time it was uneasy ground as the ultimate underdog Rey Mysterio finally won the big belt in the land of giants, dedicating it to his long-time friend, the recently deceased Eddie Guerrero. Regardless, the triple threat these three put on is highly entertaining, it suffers a little from being sandwiched in at about fourth of fifth billing in terms of importance on the show, and the knowledge that Mysterio’s title-run goes nowhere does affect how high I can realistically rank this.
68 – Undertaker vs Triple H – WrestleMania 17: The first of their trifecta of WrestleMania matches, each one will make the list but if it was down to personal opinion, none of them are particularly matches I have much time for. This was a solid encounter, and featured less of the bloviating ‘self-conscious epic’ style that would ruin their later two matches, but also it is the one with the least stakes. There are four other matches on the card that far surpass it and it becomes abit of an afterthought in Mania legacy. Unless you’re Sheamus, that is, who once comically said on some WWE DVD that it was the match that got him into wrestling.
67 – Charlotte vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch – WrestleMania 32: WM32 was bad. Really bad. The one bright spot was this triple threat. In the midst of the ‘women’s revolution’, which is currently still just about in vogue within WWE, these three were given the spotlight to shine in a feature match. They took it. The match itself is so-so when put up against some of the other matches from this 2015-2016 stretch. These women have had greater outings, especially in NXT, and some of the spots were rushed and botched. However, it was still a thoroughly entertaining match. Charlotte looked like a star getting the victory, as did Sasha Banks whose entrance with her real-life uncle, Snoop Dogg, would fall in my personal top 10 WM entrances of all-time.
66 – CM Punk vs Shelton Benjamin vs Jericho vs Carlito vs MVP vs Mr. Kennedy vs John Morrison – WrestleMania 24: The 2nd MITB entry to make the list is CM Punk’s first victory – a victory given to him after original proposed winner Jeff Hardy failed a drugs test, as legend would have it. By this point the expectations were laid, the fans knew what to expect, the superstars knew what to deliver, this was a complete entertaining spot fest full of high-risk and innovative manouvers with the ladders, such as ‘ladder jousting’, finishers off of ladders, finishers onto ladders, apples being spit into faces on top of ladders. The MITB briefcase facilitated Punk winning his first WHC title, however it would be a long time before he would ever be treated like a champion in WWE, which is a large part of the reason this match can’t go much higher on the list.
65 – Triple H vs The Rock vs Big Show vs Mick Foley – WrestleMania 16: This shouldn’t work. The concept, a ‘McMahon in every corner’, is indicative of their over-reliance on McMahon’s in storylines at a time when the roster depth no longer warranted it. Mick Foley had retired just a month earlier. The Big Show, already buried and completely out of place in this match. The match itself, a disjointed mess with a predictably screwy finish. There are no doubts in retrospect this should have just been a one-on-one between Triple H and The Rock, a match they went on to have very successfully at Backlash a month later. Despite all that, there is a charm to this one. Big Show is eliminated early, Foley gets his main event that he deserved to get a year earlier, Triple H and The Rock have an extended sequence at the end. Vince and Stephanie are very good in their roles on the outside. Heel Triple H was an absolute beast in 2000 and fully deserved to walk out of Mania as the first heel champion. This match shouldn’t work, and in many ways, it doesn’t, but there is enough here to earn it 65th place.
64 – Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie vs New Age Outlaws – WrestleMania 14: The build to this one was fun, the New Age Outlaws pushing Foley & Funk off the stage in a dumpster to essentially make a name for themselves as they began to catch the eye of popular main event act, D-Generation X. The match itself is memorable and fits in with the feel of the dirty, grungy WM14 show which featured Iron Mike Tyson as guest enforcer and the ‘Chris Warren Band’ singing the national anthem. The ‘Dusty-finish’ the next night on RAW with the Outlaws claiming they were put in the wrong dumpsters was a little bit silly – though it led to another memorable segment, the cage re-match which saw the NAO join D-X officially.
63 – Roddy Piper vs Adrian Adonis – WrestleMania 3: The first hair-vs-hair match in WrestleMania history and another classic from the Golden Age of WrestleMania. Piper put his locks on the line in what was billed as his retirement match and defeated the flamboyant Adrian Adonis with an assist from Brutus ‘the Barber’ Beefcake.
62 – John Cena vs Rusev – WrestleMania 31: A classic ‘USA vs Russia’ feud for the US-title. Rusev’s tank entrance is phenomenal and worthy of a place on the list on its own. Putting the mid-card titles on Cena & Bryan was very exciting at the time and seemed like a concerted effort by WWE to build these titles, in retrospect both eventually faded back to their meaningless status. The man who was once jibed with ‘you can’t wrestle’ chants, continued his late-career development as not only the undisputed biggest star of the past decade but also one of its most versatile and accomplished wrestlers, hitting moves you’d expect to see at on indy-show like a springboard stunner.
61 – John Cena vs Batista – WrestleMania 26: Given that this was, four years earlier, set up to be the feud of the generation, it always comes off as being quite low-key, a 13-minute match bumped off the main event by HBK/Taker II. By 2009 though both Cena and Batista were accomplished workers and they had a good title match that paved the way for Batista’s WWE exit while giving Cena his 9th world title.
60 – Undertaker vs Randy Orton – WrestleMania 21: Randy Orton was at the time known as ‘the Legend Killer’, a moniker he had earned by attacking the likes of Foley, Flair, Lawler, Piper and others but there was one legend left to defeat. The Undertaker had begun acknowledging his ‘streak’ at this point and it would play an integral role as the youngest world champion set out to prove the streak was myth by defeating the Deadman. This match was solidly built, there were some excellent near-falls like Orton’s RKO out of the Chokeslam and the ending was satisfying. It falls just short of the top-end Undertaker WrestleMania matches.
59 – The Rockers vs Haku & The Barbarian – WrestleMania 7: The last stand of the Rockers before the future HBK broke away to pursue a singles career. They had just come off a critically acclaimed match at Royal Rumble ’91 with The Orient Express, Michaels & Jannetty were rewarded with a relatively lengthy 10-minute tag-team opener on WM7 that blossomed into another fantastic bout. They worked the classic speed vs power formula with the Rockers performing various eye-catching double-team moves to the talented big men. This remains one of my favourite openers on what was an underrated WrestleMania show.
58 – Evolution vs The Rock N’ Sock Connection – WrestleMania 20: MSG was rocking for the return of the Great One, and he had his working boots on, rolling back the years. The Ric Flair vs Rock interactions were great. Foley has admitted in his books that he wasn’t at his best for this one, but the palpable storyline tensions between he and Randy Orton (and real life tensions between he and Naitch) were enough to make his performance memorable and set up for one of his greatest matches a month later at Backlash.
57 – Undertaker vs Diesel – WrestleMania 12: A forgotten match in the Undertaker’s streak legacy, the Deadman and Diesel were positioned as the (distant) second main event behind the Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart ironman at WM12 but they delivered a neat match that proved during 1995/1996 that with the right opponent, Diesel was a more capable worker than revisionist history would have you believe. He would go on to leave for WCW in the summer forming the N.W.O. as Kevin Nash with real life clique buddy Scott Hall.
56 – British Bulldogs vs The Dream Team – WrestleMania 2: The standout wresting match on the first couple of WrestleMania’s, the British Bulldogs were workers beyond their years as was Greg Valentine. They delivered an early WM classic which is enhanced with the celebrity involvement of Ozzy Osbourne (“BRITISH BULLDOGS FOREVAAA!”). If we were basing this completely on match quality, it would have been comfortably in my top 40, a very accomplished tag-team bout on a show with very little else going for it.
55 – Christian vs Chris Jericho – WrestleMania 20: A great storyline to this one, as sleazy ex-friends square off. Jericho, the bad-boy tamed by beautiful Trish Stratus, defends the honour of his woman against fellow Canadian, Christian. They have a good technical match that ends in double-cross when Trish kicks Jericho where it hurts, both literally and figuratively.
54 – Triple H vs Sting – WrestleMania 31: Nonsensical Attitude-Era nostalgia fun. Was this a great match? No, not really. Was this the match the fans wanted? No, the overwhelming consensus was that ‘Mr WCW’, Sting, should face ‘Mr WWE’, the Undertaker but for what we were left with, this was pretty fun as we finally get the D.X. vs N.W.O angle that would have been the hottest angle in wrestling back in 1998.
53 – Hulk Hogan vs Vince McMahon – WrestleMania 19: Billed as a match 20 years in the making, this was a brutal, stiff encounter that set out to settle the differences between Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon, arguably the two biggest names in professional wrestling. Did Hulk Hogan make Vince McMahon or did McMahon make Hogan? In the end, Hogan came out the victor, blood was spilled and two guys in their 50s told a hell of a story.
52 – Undertaker vs Triple H – WrestleMania 27: If we are talking personal favourites, of the three HHH vs Undertaker contests, this is probably my pick. I enjoyed most of the drama in this one, the near falls were excellent (Triple H hitting Taker with the tombstone was one of the few times I thought the streak has ever been in danger) and I wasn’t even that bothered by the MMA inspired ending, despite it being about 5 minutes too long.
51 – John Cena vs Triple H – WrestleMania 22: This is a good match with a hot crowd, my biggest opposition to it is the build, in which Triple H repeatedly dogged Cena with the ‘you can’t wrestle’ insults, trying, I suppose, to appeal to the smart marks. It was a dumb angle and it should have been enough to let the two biggest stars at the time go out in the main event and have a proper grudge or issue to play off of. Credit to Triple H though, he tapped clean to Cena, cementing him as WWE’s #1 player, in spite of crowd reactions.