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(**ALL PHOTOS CREDIT WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT; I OWN NOTHING BUT THE TEXT**)
(UPDATE 5/17/12 - Now with WrestleMania XXVIII matches, based on my recent viewing of the DVD. Feel free to bitch me out for underrating your favorite match :-P)
(Knocked off the list: Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio, WM21, Triple H vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton, WM24, New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack/Chainsaw Charlie, WM14)
50. Chris Jericho vs. Edge (WrestleMania XXVI – March 28, 2010)
The build-up was horrible (SPEEEEEEEEEAR) and the crowd was dead for the most part, as Edge isn’t the most believable babyface after years of playing a scumbag philanderer, but the two pros put on a good match under the circumstances.
Jericho dominated much of the match, working over Edge’s still ailing leg (Edge had missed six months at one point after a tear), and the World Heavyweight Champion attacked like a vulture. Jericho, however, was vary of Edge’s promise of a spear, and was doing all he could to keep the challenger grounded.
The ref took a hit late in the match, and Jericho waffled Edge with the belt, but could only get 2. Moments later, Jericho landed the Codebreaker to retain his gold. After the match, a distraught Edge took the champion to the floor, and speared him through the retaining barrier as to gain a measure of revenge.
49. Undertaker vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania X8 – March 17, 2002)
Undertaker was bullying the roster with impunity at this juncture, not allowing anyone to get by without sustaining some kind of beating. Flair, who was part owner of WWF at the time, stood up to the “Dead Man”, only to see best friend Arn Anderson and son David Flair get bloodied for their association.
Flair fought Undertaker valiantly in a street fight, gushing blood while trying to make things right. Arn Anderson even interfered, planting Undertaker with his trademark spinebuster, but it wasn’t enough. In the end, Undertaker spiked Flair with his classic Tombstone piledriver to win. Afterward, Undertaker, in a meta-moment, extended all ten fingers, one by one, to mark his WrestleMania streak hitting double digits.
Of note, during the storyline between the two men, Flair tried to strike Taker, but ended up hitting a planted fan. That fan in the baseball cap was none other than Paul London.
48. Kane vs. Christian vs. MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Matt Hardy vs. Evan Bourne vs. Jack Swagger vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre (WrestleMania XXVI – March 28, 2010)
Likely the last Money in the Bank to be associated with WrestleMania involved ten participants, which is insider reasoning for “we couldn’t think of angles for everyone”.
But stories weren’t necessary when you had Jack Swagger being trapped under a ladder, getting sandwiched by other ladders that Christian and Hardy shoved into him. Evan Bourne also tried to steal the show with Air Bourne off of a ladder.
But Kofi startled the crowd with an insane attempt to take a ladder that was split in half, and walk on those halves like stilts toward the briefcase, but his creativity ended up being all for naught.
In the end, Swagger prevented Christian from winning, and then ascended the ladder, fumbled with the hook device for what seemed like an eternity, and then claimed the briefcase to win. He cashed in two nights later, beating Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship.
47. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk (WrestleMania XXVII - April 3, 2011)
Since WrestleMania XXVII was as maligned as a Uwe Boll movie, pretty much anything good outside of Undertaker-Triple H is forgotten. Truth is, Edge-Del Rio and Mysterio-Rhodes were both solid matches. However, the REAL crime is that this match right here isn't remembered, because it was epic.
For weeks, Orton had taken out Punk's Nexus flunkies one by one, punting their skulls with Landon Donovan-like fury. With no one to save Punk, the "Straight Edge Savior" was going to have to go it alone.
The two engaged in a slow-cooking, highly intense brawl in which Punk meticulously worked over Orton's knee. This came into play late in the contest, when "The Viper" was unable to land his patented punt, crumpling to the mat in pain. Punk saw an opening and tried a springboard dive, but the wily Orton leapt into the air, catching him with a picturesque RKO for the decisive win.
46. Vince McMahon vs. Shane McMahon (WrestleMania X7 – April 1, 2001)
Nobody does overbooked matches quite like McMahon-Land, and this street fight was no exception. After Vince had petitioned to divorce his wife Linda, driving her into a catatonic state, all while engaging in PDA with Trish Stratus, Shane attacked his father, and then swooped in and bought WCW before Vince could.
The street fight, which Mick Foley refereed, was a raucous affair, seeing Shane attack his dad with a kendo stick, and then miss a diving elbow through a table. In the end, as Vince punished his son with trash cans, Linda, who was brought to ringside in an unresponsive state, came around, kicked her husband in the crotch, and watched as Foley himself got in a few shots on the boss.
Shane then topped the proceedings by laying a trash can in his dad’s face, and then dropkicking him from the other side of the ring for the win.
45. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania 2000 – April 2, 2000)
The first fifth of this list ends with three fine technicians fighting over two belts. Angle had both Intercontinental and European gold, and would face Benoit and Jericho in a revolutionary “two fall” match. The first fall was for the IC Title, and the second would be for the European.
Angle fought valiantly, wearing Jericho down with a chicken wing, but Benoit dumped Angle into the crowd, and then finished Y2J with a diving headbutt to become Intercontinental Champion. Angle, now down one belt, was intent on keeping the other.
As Angle and Benoit jostled, Benoit had again tried for a diving headbutt, but missed this time as Angle rolled away. Angle rolled too far, and Jericho dropped a Lionsault onto Benoit’s prone body to claim the European Championship.
Angle became one of the few men in wrestling to lose two belts within minutes, without being defeated for either one.
44. Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon (WrestleMania XXII – April 2, 2006)
Leave it to Shawn Michaels to somehow take a one sided match and make it insanely entertaining. Generally accepted as the most gifted performer in modern wrestling history, Michaels was tasked with taking a 60 year old man, and somehow making a formidable WrestleMania brawl around him.
Michaels did just that, bloodying Vince, humiliating and assaulting Vince’s son Shane, and taking out five male cheerleaders known as the Spirit Squad (including future World Champion Dolph Ziggler), before setting his sights on avenging all of Vince’s wrongs.
Michaels punctuated this unusual encounter with chairs to the skull, trash can shots, and even putting Vince (wrapped in said trash can) through a table after diving off a 15 foot ladder with a flying elbow smash.
By the end, Sweet Chin Music scored the academic pin, and McMahon gave a tremendous visual on the stretcher by flipping Michaels off, even while nearly comatose.
43. John Cena vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXII – April 2, 2006)
Michaels/McMahon was a bizarre enough match, but the main event may have been the strangest occurrence of the evening.
Competing for the WWE Championship were challenger Triple H, who made his entrance on a rising throne, dressed as an overly muscled version of Conan the Barbarian, while champion Cena arrived moments later as part of a mafia procession, firing a fake gun into the crowd.
Cena, interestingly, was booed out of the arena, as this match was during a period of “we hate Cena” that may never be topped in terms of providing surreal reactions.
And speaking of surreal, while the two men wrestled a good, smart match, centered around Hunter trying to outwrestle the less-experienced champion who more than held his own, the fans showered Cena with such hatred that you’d think he was a terrorist conspirator. Cena won with his STFU, bringing the night to a strange close.
42. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XV – March 28, 1999)
The thrilling trilogy provided by the cornerstones of the Attitude Era sees all three matches make the top fifty, and the worst one of the group is still good enough for thirty-eighth overall.
Rock was still reigning as WWF Champion, and centerpiece of Vince McMahon’s Corporation, while Austin fought through Hell to get this shot.
And Hell it was, as Austin and Rock brawled through the First Union Center in Philadelphia, leaving carnage in their wake. In all, three referees would get taken out before Vince McMahon tried to take over the proceedings himself, in order to roadblock Austin’s path to the title. However, the original referee, Mankind, hit the ring and took Vince out of the picture.
Rock missed a People’s Elbow, and Vince could only watch as Stone Cold turned his meal ticket inside out with a Stunner, winning the WWF World Championship back for the third time.
41. John Cena vs. The Rock (WrestleMania XXVIII - April 1, 2012)
It had been hyped for a year, and was proceeded by a dual concert from Flo Rida and Machine Gun Kelly that felt just as long. But after a year of snipes and put-downs, The Rock and John Cena would finally meet in the "Once in a Lifetime" showdown.
The two icons would engage in a nice throwback-style main event, akin to epics like Hogan and Warrior in terms of not having a lot of flashy moves or dangerous spots, but prideful one-upsmanship and an obvious will to win on the part of both stars. As expected, the two took turns kicking out of each other's finishers, and both refused to submit to the STF and the sharpshooter when applied by their rival.
In the end, Cena, unable to put Rock away, got cute and decided to drop his own People's Elbow on the Great One. On the rebound, however, Rock sprung to his feet and snared Cena, planting him with one final Rock Bottom to win the match, and claim historic bragging rights.
40. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania X7 – April 1, 2001)
“The Phenom” hadn’t had many great matches at WrestleMania with his undead zombie persona to this point, so being that this was the first WrestleMania that he embraced his biker roots, it almost makes sense that he’d end up having a memorable brawl.
Undertaker and HHH brawled into the production area at the Houston Astrodome, after Undertaker decimated referee Mike Chioda, and the two vindictive fighters ascended a production tower. To the shock of all, but not so much the dismay, Undertaker chokeslammed HHH out of the tower for a seven foot drop (although a replay showed Hunter land on foam rubber, thus ensuring the firing of that cameraman)
Back in the ring, HHH nearly scored the win after he drilled Undertaker with his sledgehammer during a Last Ride attempt. Though bloodied, the Dead Man kicked out, and got that Last Ride after all to win, and to go 9-0.
39. Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XI – April 2, 1995)
CM Punk wasn’t around in 1995, so this match would have to be the company’s savior. While Lawrence Taylor and his surrounding media hype ensured a healthy amount of buys for WrestleMania XI, it was Diesel and Shawn’s main event-worthy performance that kept the show from being a total disaster.
Michaels’ journey toward beating his former best friend for the WWF Championship saw him pull out all the stops, diving to the floor amongst a sea of paparazzi onto Big Daddy Cool. Diesel refused to stay down, and was soon dishing out counterstrikes in a bid to save his gold.
After referee Earl Hebner fell to the floor and twisted his leg, Michaels blasted Diesel with Sweet Chin Music. Due to Hebner being slow to return, Shawn only got two. A frustrated Michaels fell victim to Diesel’s comeback, and ate a harsh Jackknife, securing the win for his former bodyguard.
38. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. MVP vs. John Morrison vs. Carlito vs. Shelton Benjamin (WrestleMania XXIV – March 30, 2008)
Can a match with seven participants, five of them heels, actually work? Jeff Hardy was to be the eighth participant, but a drug suspension saw him yanked out of contention.
Morrison chose this show to demonstrate the early-signs of his parkour-inspired offense, moonsaulting to the floor while clutching a ladder, as well as climbing one ladder stuck inside another. Shelton Benjamin continued to retain his title of “Craziest Athlete Alive” after taking a front-flip bump off of a ladder, sentoning through a ladder bridge on the floor.
MVP seemed to have victory in hand at one point, but Matt Hardy made his return after a four month absence, and rendered MVP null with a Twist of Fate.
In the end, the two lone faces, Jericho and Punk, made the final scramble for the briefcase. Punk pulled Jericho’s leg between the rungs and let him dangle, nabbing the briefcase for victory.
37. Batista vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXIII – April 1, 2007)
The great thing about WrestleMania is that, sometimes, a match will completely surprise you, especially one that didn’t have great expectations going in.
Batista’s second reign as World Heavyweight Champion saw lackluster matches with King Booker and Mr. Kennedy, but this match with The Undertaker, sitting on 14-0 at WrestleMania, was an excellent brawl that sparked one of the most dynamic feuds in recent years.
Batista took the fight to a higher level than his standard, dropping Taker with a diving shoulderblock, and then taking him outside to drive him through a table with a powerslam.
None of it was enough to keep Taker down, as Undertaker fought back with strikes, a diving clothesline, and his famed chokeslam. In the end, after Batista was exhausted of his options, Undertaker dropped “The Animal” with a particularly devastating Tombstone, winning the World Heavyweight Title, and bringing his legendary WrestleMania streak to 15-0.
36. Batista vs. John Cena (WrestleMania XXVI – March 28, 2010)
Some may say I’m overrating this match a bit, but it’s precisely the kind of match where Batista and Cena can be at their best: a stand up brawl with an exchange of high-impact power moves, where both men use their iron will to keep getting up. You know, brawling at its finest.
After the two engaged in a forgotten classic at SummerSlam 2008, was defending his ill-gotten WWE Championship here against Cena, the man he won it from. Batista dominated the early going, but Cena made his typical valiant comeback, even getting cute and landing his Five Knuckle Shuffle from the top rope.
Batista came roaring back, and landed his patented Batista Bomb, which only got two, prompting a legendary look of shock on “The Animal’s” face. Batista’s reign wasn’t long for the world after, as Cena snared him into his STF, and forced the champion to tap out.
35. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania XXIV – March 30, 2008)
If including Cena and Batista’s match wasn’t enough to ruffle some feathers, this match here might do it. While Michaels and Flair’s “career threatening match” was hailed as a classic at the time, due to the emotional value of Flair having his (perceived) last match, it’s actually quite overrated.
Make no mistake, the match is still pretty damn great, but it’s not without flaws. Michaels did most of the work, since his opponent was 59 years old, as well as his cherished mentor, and Shawn nearly ended his own career with a moonsault gone wrong, spiking his chestbone on an unforgiving table.
The two men exchanged pinfall attempts, with Flair having trouble finishing the sequences. In the end, Flair begged for Shawn not to let up, leading to the tearful ending: Michaels apologizing in advance, then nailing Flair with Sweet Chin Music, finally cradling his hero after he pinned him.
34. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVIII - April 1, 2012)
20-0 or 19-1? Would Shawn Michaels be a fair official? Was this truly the "end of an era"?
The Undertaker persisted to now-COO Triple H for one last match between the two of them, as Undertaker's win the previous year resulted in an ego-crushing gurney ride out of the Georgia Dome. Triple H resisted, but ultimately shed his refusal after some well-placed taunts from The Dead Man.
It was a slow match, especially compared to the previous year, but it was certainly an emotional ride, as Michaels interjected himself into the proceedings, mostly involuntarily. The Game bled above his eyebrow, and both future Hall of Famers took dangerous shots with the ring steps and steel chairs. Nothing Triple H could do, however, could break Undertaker's spirit.
With Hunter weakening, the savvy veteran tried one last strike with his sledgehammer, only to be pathetically stopped in his tracks by Undertaker's grip. One last Tombstone ended the war, making Undertaker an untoppable 20-0. He and Michaels respectfully helped Triple H away, and the three men shared a photo-op worthy stance on the entrance stage, an image that will forever be etched in time.
33. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIX – March 30, 2003)
If the previous entry was a bittersweet moment for Flair fans, then fans of Austin surely feel the same about this match.
Facing near-debilitating spinal problems, Austin sucked it up to face a man he’d never lost to in one on one competition: The Rock. Rock was now espousing his Hollywood attitude, and his ego needed him to beat Stone Cold.
The two men ran through their classic moves, stole each other’s finishers for old times’ sake, and then it happened. Rock landed one Rock Bottom that didn’t finish Austin. He then landed a second, which made Austin spasm all over the canvas in uncharacteristic fashion. Finally, Rock attempted a third, and Austin didn’t even fight back. Rock sunk him with it, and got that elusive win. Rock then broke character to check on his real-life friend, and then Steve Austin walked away as a wrestler for the last time.
32. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. King Booker vs. Finlay (WrestleMania XXIII – April 1, 2007)
For the first time in WWE history, a Money in the Bank ladder match would expand to a field of eight. Two extra bodies created opportunities for extra chaos to spill forth in Detroit.
Edge had previously been undefeated at WrestleMania, but his chance to keep his own streak going went out the window when Jeff Hardy laid him on a ladder bridge, and put him through with a seated senton, resulting in Edge being stretchered out.
King Booker had a shot at winning, but as the briefcase was in hand, Matt Hardy snatched Sharmell and threatened violence if Booker claimed the case. Booker jumped down to save his wife and ate a Twist of Fate for his efforts.
Hornswoggle attempted to climb the ladder for an injured Finlay, but was taken out by an annoyed Kennedy. Kennedy final took Punk down with a ladder shot, and climbed to victory.
31. Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIV – March 29, 1998)
Think of this as the Attitude Era having its umbilical cord cut. Mike Tyson was the (DX approved) outside enforcer, as Michaels defended the WWF Championship against the momentous Texas Rattlesnake.
Michaels, on a back more wrecked than Lindsay Lohan at 4 AM, put on a masterpiece of a performance, exchanging blows with Austin, who managed to knock Michaels off the apron and into a ringside table, prompting a look of sheer agony on Michaels’ face that is simply cringeworthy.
After a late ref bump, Michaels somehow landed his patented forearm smash and flying elbow, against his body’s will. Austin, however, wisely avoided Sweet Chin Music, and then planted the champion with the Stone Cold Stunner. Tyson made a quick count in the referee’s absence, and Austin’s first reign as champion commenced.
Michaels’ attempts to protest afterward earned him a hard right hand from Tyson, putting Shawn Michaels away temporarily.
30. Edge vs. Mick Foley (WrestleMania XXII – April 2, 2006)
Forget the convoluted reasoning that went into this match. While the feud between Edge and Foley seemed to have been hastily put together, the end result justified any booking quandaries.
Under hardcore rules, one may assume that Foley would have the environmental advantage. The hardcore legend proved to be rather smart, secretly wrapping his body with barbed wire in preparation for an Edge spear, which served to hurt Edge worse.
The two would go on to have your typical “Foley” hardcore match, complete with barbed wire 2X4’s and thumbtacks, but this time, Mr. Socko came into the picture, he himself wrapped in barbed wire. Lita’s attempt to help defend Edge found her throating some barbs in a gruesome moment.
Edge, however, took the win by spearing Foley out of the ring, through a table that was engulfed in fire. Edge going head first into the flames quite simply took balls.
29. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge/Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (WrestleMania 2000 – April 2, 2000)
It wasn’t quite TLC yet, but a triple ladder match for the WWF Tag Team Championship would set the stage for the future concept.
The Dudleyz were putting their gold on the line against two teams they’d run afoul of in recent months, and the chaos was swift and quick. Among the typical battery onslaught was the Dudleyz taking a sturdier table and wedging it between the tops of two ladders, forming a bridge under the belts.
But one by one, the bodies fell. Jeff Hardy, risk taker that he is, descended from a 12 foot ladder in the aisle way, putting Bubba Ray though a table with his trademark Swanton Bomb.
After Matt had taken D-Von out of the picture, the elder Hardy attempted a scramble onto the table bridge to get the belts. However, Edge and Christian flung him off through a table, and took the belts themselves.
28. Edge vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXIV – March 30, 2008)
If Shawn Michaels is Mr. WrestleMania, then Edge deserves some credit for bringing the goods to the big dance every year as well. As World Heavyweight Champion, and surrounded by an equally evil army of miscreants, Edge was tasked with trying to hold off the man he’d screwed out of the championship eleven months before.
A man putting up his WrestleMania win streak as collateral.
Like his matches with Batista, Undertaker had some strong brawls with Edge, and this would be one of them. Edge managed to counter Undertaker’s “vintage” offense long enough to make several needy comebacks, but could not put the Dead Man to rest.
Late in the contest, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder were mauled for trying to interfere. After the distraction, Edge landed two desperate spears on Undertaker. After the second one, Undertaker surprised Edge by applying the Hell’s Gate choke, and forced Edge to tap.
27. Rock n Sock Connection vs. Evolution (WrestleMania XX – March 14, 2004)
It was a handicap match that featured both a blood feud (Mick Foley vs. Randy Orton) and a fun game of one-ups-manship (The Rock vs. Ric Flair). Batista would be present to get an important rub from the proceedings.
Foley and Rock took turns embarrassing Flair early on, with Rock mocking the Flair Strut, all to build to Orton and Batista’s first WrestleMania moments. Rock took a beating, and Foley was champing for that tag, so that he could avenge Orton’s assault, as well as disrespect.
When Mick finally got into the match, all Hell broke loose. Flair was taken out after Rock’s People’s Elbow (complete with Flair-style theatrics), and Batista dumped Rock with a spinebuster. Foley took Batista down, and then produced Socko to try and Claw at Orton. However, before Foley could latch onto Randy’s mandibles, the WWE Intercontinental Champion hit the RKO, and scored the upset pin.
26. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XXVIII - April 1, 2012)
Jericho, after promising a landscape-changing run in WWE after his January return, became #1 contender to Punk's WWE Championship by winning a ten man battle royal on February 20. After previously hounding Punk over the rights to the moniker "Best in the World", Jericho made the feud personal by revealing the circumstances behind Punk's addict-addled family.
With a stipulation added pre-match that an enraged Punk could lose his championship via disqualification, Jericho did everything imaginable to goad Punk into losing his cool. The champion, however, remained calm, and took the fight to Jericho, exchanging vicious kicks, dangerous dives, and intense wear-down submission holds with the former six time World Champion.
Punk survived the Walls of Jericho, as well as the Codebreaker, and escaped one last attempt at the Walls to hook the Anaconda Vice. Jericho fought for as long as he could, striking Punk in an attempt to break out, but the hold was sunk in, and the challenger had no choice but to tap out.
25. Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania VIII – April 5, 1992)
Piper would defend his very first piece of WWF gold, the Intercontinental Title, against fellow good guy Hart, who’d lost the gold during a time in which he was seriously ill.
Despite their friendship, Hart and Piper tore into each other, with “The Hitman” using his wrestling expertise, while Piper resorted to his rough-and-tumble street brawling. Piper even busted Hart open with a cheap uppercut during a lull in the action, and then compounded the wound with a vicious bulldog.
Piper, however, couldn’t put Hart away after all of this aggression. After the referee took a fall, Piper brought the ring bell in, contemplating using it as a weapon. After a change of heart, Piper locked the challenger into a sleeperhold, but Bret kicked off the top rope into a complicated pinning predicament. Hart scored the fall, and Piper, ever remorseful, handed him the belt and declared his friend victorious.
24. Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania X7 – April 1, 2001)
This match wasn’t even added to the WrestleMania card until six days before the show, and viewers would be grateful for its inclusion.
It was dojo-based discipline vs. Olympic know-how, as Benoit and Angle brought an amped-up sense of “can you top this” to WrestleMania, spinning around on the canvas with attempts at holds, while the crowd, used to more violence and sexuality, greeted this change of pace with surprisingly open arms.
The referee was felled late and Benoit managed to snare a Crippler Crossface, to which Angle tapped out with no repercussions. Benoit, frustrated, attempted to revive the official, only to take an Angle Slam, which only got 2. The competitive warriors fought into a heated final sequence, with Angle floating over into a pin, using the ropes to gain victory.
Angle gave a celebratory interview backstage, but Benoit hunted him down and reapplied the Crossface to gain revenge.
23. The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan (WrestleMania X8 – March 17, 2002)
Who could have anticipated this match having such a colossal impact on wrestling’s immediate future, while determining a shift in focus for WWE long term?
The “Battle of the Icons” sees Hogan, after nine years away from WWF, returning as an unlikely conquering hero, despite playing a reprehensible heel. When Hogan was on offense, the Toronto crowd went berserk, cheering like it was 1986 all over again. Rock, meanwhile, was booed out of the SkyDome for his efforts.
After an offensive exchange that revealed an ebb and flow to the crowd’s emotions, Rock planted Hogan with a Rock Bottom, to which Hulk kicked out and began “Hulking Up” to the cheers and astonishment of all. Rock would kick out of the Leg Drop, and then land two more Bottoms and a People’s Elbow to win.
Afterward, Hogan would turn face, celebrating with Rock in what was a truly surreal visual.
22. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (WrestleMania XIX – March 30, 2003)
In a match for the WWE Championship, titleholder Angle was in dire need of spinal surgery. It was estimated that he could be out for one year after the procedure, and that any action in the meantime was a great risk to his health.
Angle, stubborn soul that he is, forged on with this main event, engaging with Lesnar in their typical smashmouth MMA-inspired tactical brawls. Angle couldn’t put “The Next Big Thing” away, and Brock struggled to win as well, with Angle kicking out of two F5s.
Late in the contest, Lesnar attempted a shooting star press, but due to Angle being too far away, Lesnar fell short and landed square on his head in a scary moment. Angle only got a 2 count from that, and Lesnar promptly landed another F5, while semi conscious, to win the title. The two men embraced afterwards, the ultimate show of respect.
21. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XIX – March 30, 2003)
The most intriguing match going into WrestleMania XIX was the generational battle between “The Showstopper”, and his self-proclaimed successor, a modernized contemporary. Jericho admitted that Michaels was his big influence in wrestling, but declared now to be the time to surpass his role model.
Of equal desire to Jericho were to not only beat Michaels outright, but to taunt him with his own theatrics. Jericho kipped up at one point in the contest after having laid Michaels out, but “The Heartbreak Kid” kipped up as well, and continued the counter attack.
Jericho seemed to have victory in hand when he locked Michaels into the Walls of Jericho, but Shawn somehow hung in there, reaching the ropes after several minutes. In the end, Michaels stunned Y2J with a backroll cradle to win. Jericho displayed respect after the epic match, embracing Michaels with a hug, but ended up kicking him down low.
20. Ric Flair vs. Macho Man Randy Savage (WrestleMania VIII – April 5, 1992)
The WWF Championship was on the line, but the match was far more personal. For weeks before the match, Flair taunted Savage by claiming that Miss Elizabeth, Savage’s wife, had been with him long before she’d ever been with The Macho Man. This declaration stirred Savage up to no end, and the challenger promised vengeance.
Savage threw caution to the wind, tearing into Flair like a man possessed. The title was secondary to his regaining dignity on behalf of his wife. As the match wore on, Savage dropped an axe handle to the floor, knocking the champion into the railing, and busting him open.
Flair, along with cornerman Mr. Perfect, managed to injure Savage’s knee. After a Figure Four couldn’t make Savage give up, Flair went back on the attack, but Savage landed a thunderous strike, and rolled Flair up, pulling the tights, to win the title, as well as redemption.
19. Edge vs. Christian vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Shelton Benjamin (WrestleMania XXI – April 3, 2005)
What started as a concept to get some talented midcarders onto the biggest stage in wrestling, remained such a concept
But at least it made for an exciting spectacle.
The inaugural Money in the Bank ladder match wasted no time in raising the bar for all future versions of the match. Whether it was Chris Benoit suplexing Chris Jericho, while Y2J was holding a ladder, or it was all of the participants dog-piling with dives to the outside, the crowd had ample reason to hold off on rushing to the concession stand.
Shelton Benjamin stunned viewers when he, as Jericho was about to pull down the briefcase, ran up a sloped ladder, skipping off each rung, and clotheslined Jericho to the mat.
In the end, Benoit seemed to have the match won, but an opportunistic Edge bashed him with a steel chair, climbed up, and took the goods for himself.
18. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania V – April 2, 1989)
One year after becoming WWF Champion, Savage found himself remaining jealous of friend/partner Hogan. After Hogan attempted to rescue an injured Miss Elizabeth during an episode of The Main Event, Savage’s envy spilled over into accusations of coveting on The Hulkster’s part. Savage clocked Hogan with the WWF Title, and the friendship was severed.
With Savage’s woman taking a neutral corner, Savage and Hogan went right at it, with both men holding nothing back. In a telling moment, Hogan went after Savage outside the ring, and Macho Man, once heroic, pulled Elizabeth in the way as Hogan went to swing at him.
After the champion busted Hogan open, Savage largely took control of the match. Ultimately, he landed the flying elbow smash, but Hogan, somehow, managed to kick out. Savage fell victim to Hogan’s patented finish, including leg drop, and Hogan had become the WWF champion for the second time.
17. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVII - April 3, 2011)
No one was quite sure what to expect after weeks of talking between the two future Hall of Famers, especially since The Dead Man had already thwarted Triple H at WrestleMania once before.
Turns out, the sequel may have had the most dramatic moments of Undertaker's streak to date.
After a wild brawl for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, Undertaker suddenly lost the ability to get to his feet to continue. Sensing that the streak had a foot in the grave, Triple H bashed Undertaker in the skull with a chair. When that wasn't enough, The Game used his own Tombstone against him. That didn't work either.
Finally, Triple H brought out the sledgehammer to finish the job. However, before he could land the maul, Undertaker snared him in Hell's Gate, suffocating and wrenching Helmsley until he finally got him to tap out. Undertaker won, advancing to 19-0 on his career at WrestleMania, but nearly killed himself doing it.
16. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania XX – March 14, 2004)
Guerrero’s impressive comeback from alcoholism issues led to his unlikely reign as WWE Champion. His first major task as Smackdown’s top dog in 2004 was to defend the gold against one of his fiercest rivals.
Angle did his best to outwrestle Guerrero, who had a swift counter for much of Angle’s onslaught. Angle, however, wisely worked the champ’s ankle, knowing that his ankle lock could fell men stronger than “Latino Heat”.
On three occasions, Angle had the ankle lock sunk in, but Guerrero, demonstrating iron will, refused to give in any of those times. Guerrero then loosened his wrestling boot, presumably to relieve pressure on pain and swelling. Angle, however, saw this as a sign that the ankle was softened up.
On a fourth ankle lock attempt, Guerrero kicked Angle off, with the boot slipping off as well. Guerrero then cradled a rightly surprised Angle to retain his hard-earned championship.
15. Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania VI – April 1, 1990)
Never before had two heroes the caliber of Hogan and Warrior faced off in such an important match. For that matter, with both belts, the WWF World and Intercontinental titles, respectively, on the line, perhaps no match had more significance.
Warrior and Hogan engaged in a test of strength early, with both men getting advantages at different points. Hogan, for his part, showed a new kind of aggression, wrenching Warrior with a chinlock and spiking his knees into Warrior’s back for extra torment.
After referee Earl Hebner took a spill, both men, concurrently, had the other man pinned. Since the fall didn’t count either time, the match resumed. Warrior landed the gorilla press and splash on Hogan, who kicked out. Hogan went into his finishing routine, but missed the leg drop. Warrior then landed a second splash to claim both belts, an upset victory, and an endorsement handshake from Hulk.
14. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXIII – April 1, 2007)
Two years after becoming WWE Champion for the first time, Cena was turning into a fixture of landmark main events, so who better to face off with than Mr. WrestleMania himself at WrestleMania?
Michaels, in an attempt to deconstruct the champ, worked the knee tightly try and take the FU out of the equation. Cena responded by casting Michaels into the ring post, opening a nasty gusher on the challenger’s head.
Michaels, however, wouldn’t be outdone in the anarchy department, as he separated the ring steps and piledrove Cena onto them, splitting the top of his head open. However, even that couldn’t keep Cena down.
With both men rapidly weakening, an exchange of finishers still wasn’t enough to finish. Finally, Cena latched onto Michaels with his STFU, and Shawn held on as best he could, before finally tapping out. Cena attempted a handshake, but a proud Michaels blew him off.
13. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XII – March 31, 1996)
For many fans, it’s a slow-paced exchange of holds that can’t get a grip on their attention. But for others, it’s a masterpiece of technical wrestling that very few wrestlers have the ability, or endurance, to duplicate.
Michaels tried to outwrestle the WWF’s resident master technician, spending the early portion of this Iron Man match for the WWF Championship by working Hart’s arm. After mat exchanges, the fight spilled outside, where Michaels would inadvertently give Sweet Chin Music to Tony Chimel, a then-ring attendant.
With the match deadlocked at 0-0 with the minutes ticking by, both men began to get desperate. Michaels threw his body around, while Hart continued to work Shawn’s back. In the final minute, Hart snared a Sharpshooter, and Michaels held on until the bell rang. The match went to overtime, where Michaels, two Sweet Chin Musics later, pinned Hart and realized his dream of being champion.
12. Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho King Randy Savage (WrestleMania VII – March 24, 1991)
After Warrior refused to grant a title match to Savage, the crazed Macho King cost Warrior his WWF Title at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Both men then agreed to face off in a match where the loser had to retire.
Warrior worked more conservatively as usual, slowing down his normal pace to merely try and overpower Savage. For Savage’s part, Queen Sherri interfered like mad to try and save her meal ticket’s job.
Late in the match, Savage hit five flying elbows, but still couldn’t win. Warrior then landed his finishing sequence, and couldn’t win either. After Savage took a hard landing into the railing, Warrior landed some hard shoulder blocks and pinned Savage to cost him his career.
As Sherri berated a wounded Savage for losing, Miss Elizabeth (in the crowd) jumped the rail to throw Sherri out. Savage and Elizabeth would then reunite in a tearful, beautiful moment.
11. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (WrestleMania III – March 29, 1987)
No, it wasn’t a technical classic, but who cares? Money-wise, hype-wise, it’s the biggest match to have ever taken place in the annals of professional wrestling.
Andre, allegedly undefeated for over 15 years, turned on Hogan and hired Bobby Heenan to be his manager. Hogan accepted Andre’s callous challenge for the WWF Title, and the match filled the Pontiac Silverdome.
Hogan couldn’t take Andre off his feet, and the big Frenchman wore Hogan down with slams, clubs, and an extended bear hug. Hogan, however, wasn’t going away lightly.
Hogan caught a break when Andre smacked his own head into the ringpost. That was the opening Hulk needed as, late in the match, Hogan charged into the Giant and took him off his feet, to the shock and awe of the world. And then it happened: Hogan slammed Andre to the canvas, landed his leg drop, and scored the monumental victory.
10. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXVI – March 28, 2010)
Expectations were high after their showstealer from one year earlier, and, since something had to give in this one (either the end of Undertaker’s magical streak, or Michaels’ career), the match had better be special.
Given the two pros involved, there wasn’t much need to worry.
The sense of urgency heightened late in the match, as both men (Michaels especially) can tease a crowd into believing anything. For what it’s worth, no wrestler has mastered the art of the “false finish” quite like Michaels.
The ending where Undertaker had confliction about finishing off Michaels seemed a bit out of character, as did his hugging Michaels afterward, but the match warranted a unique set of events, under the circumstances.
Michaels walking away, tearful, joking with the crowd about driving his kids nuts by being at home seemed appropriate, being his kids would rather he be “working” as much as we do.
9. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge/Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (WrestleMania X7 – April 1, 2001)
It’s my belief that nobody does a spotfest quite like WWE, since they have two things going for them: world class performers who have incredible timing and discipline (knowing when to do certain things and when not to), as well as Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson helping with the structures of the matches.
Say what you will about Vince, but when it comes to booking, he’s made more good decisions than bad.
This match may be the epitome of ‘organized insanity’, as all six men (plus the interfering Spike Dudley, Rhyno, and Lita) all took their lumps and wowed the crowd in just fifteen minutes.
The spot where Bubba Ray Dudley and Matt Hardy fell through a stack of four tables, plummeting from a painter’s ladder, might be the most frightening spot in ‘Mania history.
All nine participants were sore the next day, but they managed to steal the show.
8. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXI – April 3, 2005)
Angle and Michaels are athletic in different ways, but both are among the most adaptable wrestlers you’ll ever see. Both in their early forties, they’ve each, sadly, wrecked their bodies in years past by dragging even the most Neanderthal-like of performers to passable matches.
Against each other, you’d think they wouldn’t have to work as hard.
Both freakishly competitive to a fault, Angle and Michaels combined “WWE Main Event Style” with can-you-top-this technical wrestling, Michaels and Angle knew that they had a show to steal, mostly out of compulsion.
Little moments, like Angle being frustrated that he couldn’t put Shawn away, yelling at a bleary “Heartbreak Kid”, with Michaels pushing off and crushing him with Sweet Chin Music, are the little things that add to the collective.
By the time it was over, the World Title participants knew they couldn’t top this match. That’s how Angle and Michaels prefer it.
7. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania X7 – April 1, 2001)
Many fans consider the Attitude Era to have died after this match, as Stone Cold Steve Austin, the face and hero of the movement, had sold out to Vince McMahon. The company also shifted its focus more toward solid in-ring work and inane comedy, as opposed to shoving controversy down our throats every five seconds.
But what a way for an era to end.
Austin and Rock, the top two in the game at the time, brawled, wrestled, and bloodied each other for nearly a half hour. It was an even match the entire way, adding a mythic quality to a highly-anticipated showdown.
The match was legendary before it even took place.
Sure, the ending with McMahon aiding Austin does detract from the amazing story a bit, and Austin’s heel turn wasn’t handled too well, but for sheer drama, shock, and epic action, there’s few matches greater than this one.
6. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (WrestleMania X – March 20, 1994)
At the time, Bret was an eighteen year pro, and Owen was an eight year pro. Other than his sister Allison, Bret grew up closest to Owen. Both were spectacular wrestlers and, without argument, the most talented legit brother pairing in wrestling history.
In other words, how could these two men NOT have a great match?
Turns out, with Owen having just turned heel and needing that “oomph” to keep him in WWE’s upper tier, Bret had no problem going out of his way to help Owen have that elusive “five star match”.
Bret and Owen had a masterpiece, with Owen playing the whining cheat who wanted to win over his brother more than anything, and Bret playing the wiser, honorable brother. Anyone who wants to hone their craft as a technician could do worse than studying this match, which is a testament to both men at their very best.
5. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXV – April 5, 2009)
The stronger prequel saw Michaels determined to be the one to end Undertaker’s streak, thinking that his status as “Mr. WrestleMania” was enough to do the trick.
Many fans didn’t quite believe that this match would be as widely remembered as it ended up being, but leave it to Michaels to steal the show, whether invited to or not.
In hindsight, it ended up saving a rather lackluster WrestleMania that year.
Playing to Undertaker’s strengths, the latter half of the match became a contest of “This will finish you, no it won’t, damn it, now you have the upper hand, lather, rinse, repeat”, which suits both men perfectly. Both men have had years of main event experience, and thus have perfected this artform.
When it was over, fans immediately clamored for a rematch. It would take one year before they would meet again, and it was certainly worth the wait.
4. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (WrestleMania XX – March 14, 2004)
When you watch wrestling for so many years, and you follow the insider stories of the biz, you can develop a cynical shell that keeps you from enjoying the action, suspending your disbelief, at its potential maximum.
When Chris Benoit (before his rendezvous with infamy) finally broke the “glass ceiling” and made a relatively hated politician tap out to his finishing hold, becoming World Heavyweight Champion, to many fans, wrestling became real for a little while.
Benoit shed real tears. His friend, Eddie Guerrero, shed real tears. Real emotion wafted through Madison Square Garden, and in living rooms of Benoit fans across the world.
Leading to that wondrous moment was 25 minutes of pulse-pounding action. Was Benoit really going to pull this off? It was a delightfully nerve-wracking end to the longest WrestleMania ever.
The moment may be buried by WWE, but it lives forever amongst our most happy memories.
3. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (WrestleMania III – March 29, 1987)
Had this match happened in 2011, it might get ***1/2 from the smarks, tops. However, in 1987, this match was ahead of its time, and ushered in the format for wrestling main events of the future.
Savage and Steamboat cut a killer pace for the time period, unlike anything seen in WWE to that point. This has more to do with Savage’s anal-retentive preference of planning matches out as opposed to improvising, which is actually how WWE operates largely in recent years.
With no flaws, well-timed dramatic moments, and a satisfying ending that concluded a great angle (Steamboat getting revenge for Savage injuring his throat), this Intercontinental Title match was a pioneer, as well as an influence on many fans that later became famous wrestlers (such as Chris Jericho, Edge, and even Jay Lethal).
A #3 ranking for this match is to indicate great influence, as well as timeless relevance.
2. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania X – March 20, 1994)
One of the earliest examples of Michaels “stealing the show” in spectacular fashion on such a grand stage sees him and Razor set new standards for a “spotfest”.
While many subsequent ladder matches were just excuses to showcase pointless bumps and landings, Razor and Shawn worked much smarter, and it made the match more exciting, as well as historical.
Michaels, for his part, ricocheted around the ring like a pinball, doing bumps that nobody had ever seen before, all within the context of the logic of the match. Whether he was riding the ladder down onto Razor or, most famously, jumping off the ladder with a picturesque superfly splash, Shawn was evolving the business in 1994 in ways that nobody had previously dreamed.
Ramon may have won the match, but Michaels stole the show. It became a familiar role for Michaels, doing such up until he retired sixteen years later.
1. Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIII – March 23, 1997)
You may have your own opinion as to what the greatest match should be, but how can you go against a match as historical as this one?
Austin came in as a heel who was finding increasing respect among the fans, while Hart, a long-heralded hero, was losing such respect.
In the match, Austin bled buckets after hitting the guardrail, and both men went back and forth, maiming each other with blind fury. It was a hardcore match with reason.
When Bret slapped on the ultimate Sharpshooter, and Austin refused to give up, Stone Cold was MADE. Refusing to surrender, finally passing out from the extreme pain, there was no way a fan could boo Austin after that. Hart turned heel with a cowardly attack afterward as well.
But Austin’s hobbling away to a thunderous ovation, while Vince McMahon showered awed praise, makes this submission match #1 in WrestleMania history.
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