Follow Blue Bar Cage!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Top 100 WrestleMania Matches Ever (UPDATED with XXXI)

Yeah, a few matches from Sunday made it....

100. Owen Hart/British Bulldog vs. Vader/Mankind (XIII)
Odd heel vs. heel pairing made Bulldog the de facto babyface, since he was growing tired of Hart's constant cheating and underhandedness. The match ended up going to a double countout, making it more dismissable, but the work at hand was pretty good up until the bad ending.

99. Chris Jericho vs. William Regal (X7)
It's the seventh best match of a WrestleMania, and it's still a pretty good bout, which only bolsters the greatness that is WrestleMania X7. Jericho and Regal kicked off the show with a hard-hitting flurry, packing lots of action into seven minutes before Jericho won with the Lionsault.

98. Mr. Perfect vs. Big Bossman (VII)
Always a promising combination: Bossman's jaw-jacking strikes, and Perfect's penchant for overselling every move like a crash dummy. Andre the Giant's presence late in the match would be his final WrestleMania appearance, clocking Perfect in an attempt to aid Bossman.

97. The Undertaker vs. Kane (XIV)
Doesn't get the credit it deserves for the big fight feel it was presented with, and both men certainly lived up to its hype. Kane looked like an absolute monster in defeat, with Undertaker needing three Tombstones to finish the job. The match was the first to reveal Kane's in-ring potential.

96. Ted Dibiase vs. Jake Roberts (VI)
So what if the Toronto fans were doing the wave during a resthold? Roberts' quest to make Dibiase pay for all of his sins fell short via a countout, but as is the case with all Jake matches, the psychology and slow-build made for an entertaining bout. Shame the feud ended with a cheap finish.

95. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (XXX)
A dumping ground for the storyline-deprived (31 guys, mind you) got pretty good once the herd thinned out. The match should've elevated Cesaro into the stratosphere after he easily body slammed Big Show to the floor, but such a move apparently doesn't constitute a brass ring.

94. Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton (XXII)
A victim of time constraints what was to have been Mysterio's crowning moment was stunted when the shortened match (nine minutes) mostly put over Angle's wrestling acumen. Mysterio pinned Orton to kick off an ill-fated, ill-recieved reign, but the action was really good.

93. Hulk Hogan/Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper/Paul Orndorff (I)
Charming conclusion to the first WrestleMania pits Piper and T in some spotlight-grabbing moments. Far from a technical classic, it was the right mix of celebrity, absurdity, and brawling, and with the drawing power of the stars at hand, WrestleMania would become a thriving concept.

92. Strike Force vs. Brainbusters (V)
Action was more of a background to Rick Martel's heel turn on Tito Santana following a miscommunication spot, but you can't go wrong with anyone involved here. Arn Anderson scored the pin, which is actually one more pin than Ric Flair has at WrestleMania. Whod've guessed?

91. John Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show (XXV)
The story with Edge and Show both macking on Vickie Guerrero was beyond ridiculous, but the match made up for it with some Attitude Era-style overbooking and brawling. Another reason the match looked as good as it did was because HHH/Orton following was so comparatively dull.

90. John Cena vs. The Rock (XXIX)
"Once Again in a Lifetime" was a vastly inferior sequel to the original, as this version was mostly just finisher, kick out, finisher, kick out. That's not to say the match was dull, but rather the two performers have so much main event experience, they can cut and paste to great success.

89. The World's Greatest Tag Team vs. Los Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit/Rhyno (XIX)
Not quite the original "Smackdown Six", but a nice follow-up the standards set by the 2002 crew. You wouldn't think Benoit and Eddie Guerrero would have been elevated like they were one year later from watching this live, as they carried the body of a solid match, once their regular role.

88. CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio (XXVI)
Sardine-canned into a six-minute frame, Punk and Mysterio wrote the early chapter of their war over morality and role models, dazzling fans in half the time it took Triple H and Sheamus to tell their story. There's a metaphor for latter-day WWE in there, but I won't make it.

87. Test vs. Eddie Guerrero (X7)
The most recent WrestleMania singles match in which both participants are now deceased, it felt like a throwaway European Title bout going in, but carried its weight well, bridging a fun hardcore bout with a frill-less scientific exhibition. Test could have pretty good matches with the right opponent.

86. Chris Jericho vs. Triple H (X8)
Gets a deserved bad rap for the hideous storyline going in, emasculating Jericho as though he were a eunuch with two title belts. Factor in Stephanie taking center stage over the defending champion and it gets worse. Despite the story ailments, the match itself ended up being enjoyably good.

85. Jeff Jarrett vs. Razor Ramon (XI)
A non-finish with a Jarrett disqualification wouldn't fly today, and barely had wings then. Ramon and Jarrett were both highly reliable in this time frame, and ended up with the second best match of a piss-poor WrestleMania. Bonus: 123 Kid busts out crotch chops afterward - in 1995!

84. Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka (IX)
Speaking of Intercontinental Title matches that lacked a finish, you get Tatanka in one of his better WWE matches, undefeated going in, and you don't want to put the belt on him. Michaels doesn't need the rub of ending the streak, so you have him get disqualified to disappoint everyone watching.

83. Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega (XII)
This would be the only time that Austin would have a match play second fiddle to Roddy Piper 'chasing' Goldust down a Los Angeles freeway. Austin's first pay-per-view win in WWE came with the use of the Million Dollar Dream, and he and Savio would top themselves in May.

82. Rob Van Dam vs. William Regal (X8)
You forget that Van Dam's as flexible as an elastic band, because Regal's late-match half-nelson suplex looked like it snapped RVD's neck. This would be Van Dam's first of numerous Intercontinental Title wins, and a good way to kick off X7's lesser sequel.

81. Money in the Bank (XXV)
The worst of the Money matches at WrestleMania was far from a bad match, but a few blown spots at critical junctures diminished the quality. Amazing that CM Punk was heavily booed when he won over preferred-choice Christian. The fans should've chanted "CM PUNK" to voice displeasure.

80. Shawn Michaels vs. El Matador (VIII)
Michaels' singles push needed a good boost to get itself going, and there was nobody of the time frame more suited to helping someone get over than Tito Santana. Michaels and Matador opened WrestleMania VIII with a textbook veteran-upstart battle, serving the necessary purpose.

79. Rusev vs. John Cena (XXXI)
Pretty sure that Rusev going full Michael Dukakis-with-a-satin-jacket is enough to make the list on its own, but the two had a pretty typical Cena-brand struggle-for-supremacy. The match would have rated higher had the drama been as engrossing as their showing at Fast Lane.

78. Hart Foundation vs. Nasty Boys (VII)
The Nastys in their day could go, much more gifted athletically than their doughy physiques indicated. It's almost impossible to have a bad match with the Harts, and the Nasty Boys didn't disappoint. Bret Hart's singles run to the top would begin right after Jim Neidhart was pinned.

77. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase (IV)
Savage had already worked three matches and Dibiase had in two, but there was plenty left in their tanks for the WWE World Title tournament final, made more dramatic by the presences respectively of Hulk and Andre. 30 years later, Savage would've gotten a "YOU DESERVE IT" chant in victory.

76. Steiner Brothers vs. Headshrinkers (IX)
This one doesn't get nearly the love that it deserves. For almost fifteen minutes, these four went out there and beat the holy hell out of one another, taking big-man bumps that were rarely seen stateside in 1993. It's also the best match of WrestleMania IX, which sadly doesn't say a whole lot.

75. Triple H vs. Owen Hart (XIV)
Once the tag team battle royal and Light Heavyweight spotfest were over, the last six matches of WrestleMania XIV became an authentic Attitude showcase, beginning with this European Title match. Triple H's tainted win with Chyna's help was a harbinger of the era to come.

74. Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James (XXII)
Easily the best women's match in WrestleMania history, partially because the work was largely good, mostly because Mickie James won over a lot of men (and some women) with her hypersexual performance. Sadly, the most memorable part of the match is edited out of the DVD version.

73. Kurt Angle vs. Kane (X8)
This may have been the best match from a wrestling standpoint at X8, and Kane was startlingly involved. The two had a mini-epic on Smackdown months earlier, and this was a worthy sequel, off by just a few degrees. In 2002, it seemed that Kurt Angle could do no wrong.

72. The Undertaker vs. Diesel (XII)
The first good match in the Streak's lineage came from a wrestler that had already given his notice for WCW, though nobody knew what madness lay ahead. Diesel's arrogance in refusing to cover Taker only hurts the match a tad; I'm just happy Taker got a worthy big man to work with.

71. Ahmed Johnson/Legion of Doom vs. Nation of Domination (XIII)
If you wanna hear Vince McMahon at his most frightened on commentary, listen to him when the Nation goes to put a noose around Ahmed's neck. His breathless terror (thinking of sponsors, I'm sure) betrays his standard carny chatter. Aside from that, it's an ECW-style brawl done well.

70. Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes (XXVII)
Rhodes' first great singles match took place at a time where he was channeling Patrick Bateman's vanity, as well as his psychotic streak. The delayed superplex made me think of CW Anderson's version in ECW, and won the Atlanta crowd to his side. A good match with lots of time to shine.

69. British Bulldogs/Tito Santana vs. Hart Foundation/Danny Davis (III)
To think, if this match happened now, people would bitch that the Tag Team Titles weren't on the line. The story here is that the faces wanted to murder Davis for his crooked transgressions as referee, and the crowd foams at the mouth in kind. Davey Boy's tombstone on Davis was fantastic.

68. Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude (V)
Aside from some house show matches with Randy Savage, this was really the first match where Warrior showed he could hang in a longer exhibition with layers of story. Everybody remembers Rude going over to win the IC Title, but few remember his awesome missile dropkick.

67. The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton (XXI)
This was probably the last time before the second match with Shawn where I thought Taker's Streak was in legit danger of being snapped. Orton hitting the RKO out of a chokeslam attempt I would have sworn was the ascent of the Legend Killer, but it wasn't to be. Bonus: Cowboy Bob's cast returns!

66. Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy (XXV)
Probably the best match the two have ever had against one another. Of course, you'd expect a blood feud after one wrestler admits to burning down the house and killing the dog of his brother's. The match was viciously brutal, and the ending, a chair-wrapped Twist of Fate, was ghoulishly sick.

65. Rockers vs. Haku/Barbarian (VII)
Fun formula match pitting two hard-headed brutes against a pair of quicker, flashier 'tag team specialists', the dynamic was well done, and the crowd rallied fiercely behind The Rockers, making it more special. Duggan provided guest commentary and proved himself quite solid, to boot.

64. British Bulldogs vs. Dream Team (II)
If the sight of Ozzy Osbourne in a melon-colored suit isn't enough to get you to see this match, seeing Beefcake hang with three superior grapplers is also a piercing-enough hook. I always dug his throwing hammerlock slam on Dynamite, who sacrificed himself mightily in the finish.

63. Money in the Bank (XXII)
Bobby Lashley and Ric Flair were a bit too awkward to be totally effective in this match, especially Lashley's tentative climbing. The likes of Van Dam and Benjamin made up for it, especially with Shelton's springboard leap from the ropes to one side of the ladder in order to halt Van Dam.

62. Junkyard Dog/Tito Santana vs. Funk Brothers (II)
I always liked this match just a bit more than the previously-mentioned Tag Team Title bout, because Terry's antics, especially in his prime, are never dull to watch. Terry also gets slammed onto a table, adding onto the truth that The Funker was hardcore in any era, even when facing JYD.

61. New Age Outlaws vs. Hardcore Legends (XIV)
Speaking of Terry, he and Cactus performed lighter hardcore fare (by their sick standards) in the first ever Dumpster match, which saw Funk get his back sliced up after a Billy Gunn powerbomb into the receptacle. Funk later got his revenge via driving a forklift, which is just goddamn unnerving.

60. Triple H vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton (XXIV)
I'll never forget the pop that Orton, the heel, received when he won. If Orton is the lesser of three evils, there's a chance that the other two are a wee bit overexposed. Orton's World Title retention was a bit of a surprise, even if he did bust out the two-man draping DDT for the first time here.

59. Chris Jericho vs. Christian (XX)
Though the storyline cast the thirty-somethings as high-school jocks fighting over one's love for a 28-year-old cheerleader, the gusto with which they played it carried over into a spirited match won by Christian. Trish Stratus turned heel in the aftermath, which nobody complained about in the slightest.

58. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio (XXI)
Guerrero's final WrestleMania match had high expectations in the minds of those who remembered their Halloween Havoc 1997 masterpiece. Mysterio's fidgeting with a loose mask unfortunately slowed things down here, but not enough to keep the two from kicking off the show in grand style.

57. Chris Jericho vs. Edge (XXVI)
The two had their work cut out for them, forced to revive the crowd after Bret and Vince lulled them into a coma. Jericho worked the leg, which didn't really wake everyone up, but the work and story were more than solid, culminating with Edge spearing Jericho through the railing afterward.

56. John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (XXX)
Wyatt's WrestleMania debut turned out to be a cat-and-mouse psychological battle, with Wyatt attempting to raid Cena's subconscious, home-invasion style. Some vigorously argue that Wyatt should have won here, and I agree, but the match was a fine slice of something a bit different.

55. The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair (X8)
The Streak reached 10-0, despite Arn Anderson's best efforts to spinebust Taker into the depths of hell, as JR might yell. It'd have been better if Flair had gotten more offense, but the personal nature of the story and the tense pacing are what puts the brawl above many other similar bouts.

54. Money in the Bank (XXVI)
Shelton Benjamin was released about a month after this show, and the evidence is here: with Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne busting out zanier stunts on the big stage, they'd inadvertently made Benjamin's foundering midcard act expendable. Still, I ask: why did Jack Swagger win?

53. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk (XXVII)
Follows some of the same tenets as Orton's hellbent mission to slaughter Seth Rollins at XXXI, only with David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty playing J&J Security. Punk's general douchiness, especially when Orton's bad leg collapsed a punt attempt, boosts the match's overall output.

52. Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon (X7)
On the list of "matches that were so overbooked, they had to be great", Steve Austin and Dude Love from Over the Edge '98 pins the five-star meter. This is a pretty awesome example of non-wrestlers using bells and whistles to assemble an entertaining clusterfuck, and doing so with a smile.

51. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle (2000)
Anaheim crowds, for whatever reason, seem to be comprised of narcoleptics. Unless it involved Rock, Foley, or ladders, the crowd at 2000 seemed mostly dead, even for this two-fall battle for the Intercontinental and European titles. Eh, their loss; the match(es) were quite fluid.

50. Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon (XXII)
The most deliciously-comical one-sided beating since Tyson pulverized McNeeley in 1995, Michaels made such a show out of embarrassing the McMahons and the Spirit Squad, and Vince took his beating like a champ. His subconscious middle finger from the stretcher is always hilarious.

49. John Cena vs. Triple H (XXII)
The entrances have to be mentioned, with Hunter as Conan the Barbarian and Cena as gun-toting gangster (Al Capone got a face-pop in the pre-entrance video), plus CM Punk debuts as a fedora'd henchman. Eventually, there's a pretty good scientific bout, and Cena wins, yada yada yada.

48. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XV)
Saved WrestleMania XV from being a complete disaster from a quality standpoint, and survived enough overbooking to choke a whale (three ref bumps!). Foley's dramatic run-in at the end to officiate the closing moments helped conclude a shit-show on a high note, with Austin winning.

47. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (XXVIII)
Yeah yeah, I know, there's a lot of people that hail the "End of an Era" match as a five-star classic, but I disagree. It's pretty damn good, but near perfection? If the referee tries to stop the match because Undertaker received three spinebusters, because HHH delivered them, then that's absurd.

46. Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels (XI)
Michaels has been accused of subtly outworking Diesel to the point where he made the champion look inferior to himself. Bret made the accusation and hey, Nash did so too, albeit with an understanding smile. Best match of a bad WrestleMania; Shawn saves the day once more.

45. The Rock vs. John Cena (XXVIII)
A year's worth of hype is a lot to live up to, especially when one of the biggest stars in wrestling history is returning to hold up one end of a colossal main event. The match mostly lived up to the billing, giving tired wrestling fans something to cheer for when Cena jobbed out cleanly.

44. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (X7)
Maybe it's out of spite, but I'd put this one over their Hell in a Cell match, even with the three-hour ref bump. There was more hatred on display here, and much more character motivation to destroy one another, and that to me is better than a couple of part-timers engaging in legacy-smoothing.

43. Money in the Bank (XXIV)
John Morrison showed how insane he can be at times, moonsaulting to the floor with a ladder held horizontally, and taking a crotch-bump off of a vertical ladder wedged in another ladder that was laid out. The match began Punk's first real main event push, even if it was short-lived.

42. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (XXIV)
Flair fans hold this one in higher esteem, and I see where they're coming from. The tension's there, absolutely, but it's difficult watching 59-year-old Flair fail on the spots he once did so easily (i.e. the bridge-out-of-the-pin). They worked hard, but it was clear that it was Flair's time to exit.

41. Batista vs. John Cena (XXVI)
WrestleMania XXVI had begun to run long, after Hart/McMahon and Edge/Jericho had each dragged the clock. This WWE Title bout was compressed at a little over 13 minutes, and yet the two put together a damn good heavyweight battle within the restrictions, which is quite an achievement.

40. Bad News Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. R-Truth vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust (XXXI)
WrestleMania was missing those jaw-dropping Money in the Bank epics of the mid-2000s, so the Intercontinental Title became a worthy stand-in. Ambrose gets his head busted up on a bridged-ladder powerbomb, and Bryan wins after headbutting Ziggler into oblivion.

39. Batista vs. The Undertaker (XXIII)
The best feud of 2007 didn't even have a story to it. It was between Batista and Taker, and it was simple: one had the belt, the other didn't and thus he wanted it. The titanic struggles were some of the best modern-era WWE brawls, and it began with this surprisingly great bout at WrestleMania.

38. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XIX)
A sad match to watch, really. Austin worked hard, knowing it was his swan song, but the obvious pain he's in during the match's latter stages makes the viewer cringe. His discomfort after the second Rock Bottom is obvious. Rock breaking character afterward to well-wish his friend was a nice touch.

37. Money in the Bank (XXIII)
What should have been Mr. Kennedy's ascent into the WWE stratosphere was merely a false start due to recurring injuries and a lack of McMahon faith. Edge getting put through a ladder at ringside by Hardy was a quaint little call-back to the brand of ladder matches they helped put on the map.

36. Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins (XXXI)
If Orton has a great opponent, then he's capable of great things. Rollins is always topping himself as a performer, and two put on the expected magic, clashing arrogant finesse with the best in primal rage. And the ending? A curb stomp countered into an RKO? That's what Vine was made for.

35. Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XIV)
The Austin Era begins with an emphatic Stone Cold Stunner and a hyperactive count from guest enforcer Mike Tyson. If you thought Austin gutting out at XIX was amazing, Michaels dragging himself through this with a ravaged spine was a true miracle, and he hadn't even found religion yet.

34. Edge vs. Mick Foley (XXII)
Foley is a main eventer's Tito Santana. The likes of The Rock, Triple H, and Randy Orton all found passage to the top with victories in bloodbaths with Mick, and Edge got his rite through WrestleMania XXII. The spear through the flaming table is still positively horrifying.

33. Edge/Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz (2000)
Not to detract from the work any, but this triple ladder match was actually downright slower and more primitive compared to the TLC-branded spectacles that were to follow. Hard to believe that this was Edge and Christian's first Tag Title win, and Edge's first televised title win, period.

32. Edge vs. The Undertaker (XXIV)
Good: Zack Ryder does a run in, proving he's 'main evented' WrestleMania. Bad: Coachman's bland-as-rice commentary for a main event. Worse: the pyro accident beforehand that nearly killed several fans. Truly an unconventional main event, but a great performance from both men.

31. Rock n Sock Connection vs. Evolution (XX)
This handicap match served two masters: the push of Orton got a big boost when he cleanly pinned Foley with the RKO, and it was entertaining as hell whenever Rock and Flair shared the ring with each other. Wouldn't 1999 Rock vs. 1985 Flair have been the greatest feud ever?

30. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (XXVIII)
A rarity at modern WrestleManias, where the big matches are all about legacy-building: the WWE Championship bout pitted an evil bastard and the champion that wanted to murder him. The final sequence with an incensed Punk cinching the Anaconda Vice on a fighting Jericho seals its greatness.

29. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (XXVII)
I did enjoy the drama of Undertaker on the verge of breaking down in the match's final stages, but still refusing to completely die. It's a subtlety that was lost in the Streak's ending at Lesnar's hands, because the sense of dread as HHH closed in on a near-win was drama done expertly.

28. Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart (VIII)
Pity that Piper's full-time career ended after this match; it was his greatest match since the dog-collar war with Valentine in 1983. Piper teased going heel in order to fend off the quicker, slicker Hart, and his second thoughts ended up costing him the Intercontinental Title after a swank sleeper reversal.

27. The Undertaker vs. CM Punk (XXIX)
Gee, imagine if WWE let Punk go over here, and he still walked out ten months later. How often do you suppose *that* would have been internet clickbait fodder? Punk was having fun hamming up Undertaker's mannerisms and moves and that energy helped translate into a great match.

26. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista (XXX)
The sports-entertainment screwiness and overbooking served to enhance the match. Fans wanted so badly for Bryan to win, so The Authority involvement and Bryan taking a stretcher ride only drenched the maw even more. Bryan's win capped off the best WrestleMania in many years.

25. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (X7)
In an era where every big match seemed to involve weapons, interference, or high spots at a breakneck pace, Benoit and Angle slowed things down into a mat masterpiece, one well received by a Houston crowd not recently used to such sights. Showed WWE's range and potential.

24. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan (X8)
If Rocky and Ata Johnson were in the crowd, they'd have been cheering for Hogan too. The crowd reaction never gets old, especially Hogan's bewildered expression in the early going. By the time he Hulks up, it's 1985 and you're cheering for him to take Rock's head off in the name of Hulkamania.

23. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (XIX)
When Angle's still wrestling at age 60 with mechanical body parts and a red Terminator eye, you'll understand a bit more how he pulled himself through this match with such athletic resolve. And yet, it was Lesnar that nearly died in the finish, after a shooting star press fell a tad short.

22. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (XIX)
Jericho's dream match lived up to all expectations, and beyond those of cynics. Michaels proved himself capable of living up to his old unmatchable standards with this seesaw battle, rooted in the story of an envious, bitter Jericho attempting to outdo one of his earliest idols.

21. Ric Flair vs. Macho Man Randy Savage (VIII)
Here's a winning formula: do a story involving Miss Elizabeth, pit Savage as crazed and murderous, and have Flair play it with arrogance and panache. You couldn't have cast any two wrestlers better, producing a match with more blood and angst than you'd expect from the company in 1992.

20. Money in the Bank (XXI)
The inaugural Money in the Bank still rests as the gold standard, elevating Edge in victory, and Shelton Benjamin through some of his patented shows of insane agility. There was even a story tie-in, with Chris Benoit selling an injured arm that Edge exploited evilly in the finish.

19. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan (V)
With a heated split from The Main Event to pay off, Savage's paranoid mania was the perfect catalyst to lure Hogan out of his routine offense, and got him to up the ante of his own aggressive side. Hogan's usually only as good as his opponents, and Savage gets the best out of everyone.

18. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (XXX)
That clever Hunter. If Daniel Bryan was the choice of the majority, then the aging corporate officer could elevate him with a win, but not before showing that he still had it. Helmsley absolutely keeps pace with Bryan throughout a great opening match, and cleanly does the honors like a wise boss.

17. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (XX)
The storyline build-up featured a heel turn and the babyface getting arrested in a one-month stretch, which is Attitude-gone-berserk. The match needed none of that pomp, as it's a 20-minute game of one-upsmanship, culminating with Guerrero's unique counter to the ankle-lock.

16. Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior (VI)
Some will say that the match was scripted and rehearsed to perfection, but who cares what road they took to get there? It's one of the most epic main events of its era, with two outsize characters putting on paradoxical human/superhuman performances, and features a rare clean Hogan job.

15. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (XXIII)
The match didn't exactly stem the tide of Cena's declining popularity, but it proved that "Da Champ" could hold up his end of a half-hour long war of human spirit. The piledriver onto the ringsteps by Michaels was especially nasty when Cena was badly cut up on the back of his head.

14. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (XII)
I wouldn't blame you for calling this one boring. Admittedly, I'd prefer it if there were a couple falls along the way for Michaels to build a comeback around, and a ton of armbars in the middle don't equate to exciting. Its standing is based on the work involved, and both worked supremely hard.

13. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins (XXXI)
This may be a can-of-worms ranking, but it had all the elements of a near-perfect closer: blood, brutality, lots of crowd heat, a great comeback from Reigns, well-timed drama, and a sorta-shock ending that played with everyone's emotions. Nobody anticipated this sort of greatness.

12. Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho Man Randy Savage (VII)
Both men were fighting for their careers, and the psychological warfare at hand (particularly from Warrior) made this unlike most matches of the era. A big part of its legendary status comes from the aftermath, and the tearful reunion from defeated Savage and unconditional Elizabeth.

11. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (III)
A token spot for the most iconic match in the history of the company, it's wholly watchable in spite of the understandably-slow pace at hand. It's a match where hyperbole reigns, and Hogan slamming Andre is moment that never diminishes in its picturesque greatness. Always worthy of inclusion.

10. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (XXVI)
The prequel was slightly better, not that this one is chopped liver. The Tombstone on the floor and the moonsault through the table were a great prelude to a million kickouts near the end, before Michaels gave a concession through a defiant slap. Sums up Michaels' career: emphatically defiant.

9. Edge/Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz (X7)
Neck and neck with their SummerSlam battle for the best TLC match in WWE history, the faster pace from a year prior makes for a more exciting and dynamic stunt show. The bump taken by Matt Hardy and Bubba Ray Dudley through four tables in the aisleway is an incredible visual.

8. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (XXI)
There aren't many big-match performers that are more focused and driven than these two, so a five-star rating was almost academic. The match helped re-cement Angle as a physical machine after 2004 undid much of that good will. That's Michaels for you; he alters reality with his work.

7. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (X7)
Even with the controversial ending of Vince McMahon aiding Austin's victory, I still consider it a match without flaw, and easily Rock's greatest match ever. The blend of sports-entertainment brawling and aggressive wrestling has rarely been done better in this WWE era.

6. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (X)
One year ago, Owen was aimless, floating away from the wreckage of High Energy. In the hands of brother Bret, his career was elevated to unexpected, yet totally deserved, heights following the greatest opening match not just in WrestleMania history, but in wrestling history, period.

5. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (XX)
Sooner or later, I'll be able to write about this match without having to mention the icky feelings it now causes some fans. In 2004, the match was headed for match-of-the-year status as soon as it ended, and Benoit's celebration with Guerrero under a hail of confetti hit everyone in their feels.

4. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (III)
Some fans today don't understand what makes this match so special, but they may not be ones for subtlety and grace. There isn't a wasted motion in this match, as Savage and Steamboat dance divinely through a story of revenge and competitive fire, all so believable and other-worldly.

3. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (XXV)
I figured it'd be good, I figured it'd probably be great, but I never wagered it would be considered one of the greatest matches in years. The two pieced together a 30-minute epic around Michaels' humble determination and Taker's endless resilience. Taker's face following the Tombstone kickout said it all.

2. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (X)
Another winning formula: Razor's punishing strikes and Michaels' capacity to bounce around like a superball was enhanced by the ladder, for which both of their creative minds came up with oh so many amazing visuals. It's still the greatest ladder match ever, time has not changed that fact.

1. Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (XIII)
The match that kicked off Austin 3:16 and the birth of the Attitude Era (more or less) may just be the greatest match in wrestling history. Austin was a made man in defeat, refusing to submit despite the blood loss and pain. Bret's heel turn was big, but Austin's face turn? It's absolutely immeasurable.

No comments:

Post a Comment