1 legend, 1 match – the ultimate Wrestlemania card

Over the last 31 years, Wrestlemania has provided fans with some of the most memorable moments in wrestling history. Everyone’s got their list of favorite Wrestlemania matches and rather than just rattle off my selections, I decided I’d do something a little different. I’d cobble together the best of the best to put together the ultimate Wrestlemania.

Wrestlemania 31 -Brock beats down ReignsThe only catch was I could only use each wrestler once meaning Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and Randy Savage were going to require significant deliberation.

In ‘Mr. Wrestlemania’ HBK’s case, it proved very tricky as expected, but it also eliminated a number of great matches featuring Kurt Angle, Edge, Chris Jericho and Randy Orton and pretty much every viable Money in the Bank.

Secondly, I couldn’t double dip Wrestlemanias. If one match from Wrestlemania 2 was chosen, I couldn’t use another one and that cost a few guys specifically Brock Lesnar.

Despite those limitations, I think this is a pretty amazing Wrestlemania. As we approach the build to this year’s installment, give these 13 matches a watch and let me know what you think.

The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team
(Wrestlemania 2)wrestlemania 2 - british bulldogs vs dream team

The second Wrestlemania had an odd three location format with a main event for each site. Hulk Hogan’s WWF title defense was the featured attraction, but the Chicago card saw Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid finally unseat Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine and Brutus Beefcake to cement their legacy as one of the all-time top teams. Considering the other matchups on the card, this was easily the match of the show no matter the location.

Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.
(Wrestlemania 27)

wrestlemania 27 - cody rhodes vs rey mysterio_2Cody Rhodes has long been an underrated performer. No matter what WWE gives him, he turns it into gold such as his feud with Rey Mysterio Jr. after Rey ‘disfigured’ Cody, forcing him to wear a mask to hide his distortion. In a Wrestlemania tradition, Rey rocked a comic book inspired attire — this time as Captain America. Rey still had enough in the tank at this point to deliver a sensational match and Cody kept right up with him leading to what at the time was a defining win in Cody’s career.

Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie vs.
The New Age Outlaws (Wrestlemania 14)

wrestlemania 14 - cactus jack grabs road dogPaying off an early classic Attitude Era highlight when the Outlaws tossed Mick Foley and Terry Funk from a Dumpster off the ramp, this wild battle was a precursor to the many hardcore style battles to come at Wrestlemania.

Funk and Foley had experience teaming and working in a garbage match environment thanks to their ECW feud with Public Enemy. The night ended on a high note for the wily veterans and the next night set the stage for The Outlaws ascension into the main event by officially joining Degeneration X.

The Brain Busters vs. Strike Force
(Wrestlemania 5)

wrestlemania 5 - brainbusters vs strike forceFor all the Road Warriors, Freebirds, Rock n Roll Express fans out there, Tully and Arn top them in my all-time list and are in a jumbled Top 5 with the Steiner Brothers, the Midnight Express, the Hart Foundation and Edge & Christian.

Strike Force was outstanding tag team champions before succumbing to Demolition a year earlier thanks to Rick Martel injuring his back. Reunited, but it didn’t feel so good when Tully and Arn are pounding away on them taking advantage of Strike Force’s extended hiatus to dominate their foes with superior teamwork and vicious moves such as the spike pilderiver on Tito.
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X-Pac vs. Shane McMahon
(Wrestlemania 15)

wrestlemania 15 - shane mcmahon vs x-pacShane McMahon’s reputation for delivering surprisingly high quality matches can be traced back to this exciting clash with Degeneration X’s X-Pac. As part of the ongoing DX vs The Corporation feud, Shane had stolen the European title from X-Pac as well as lured Chyna to The Corporation.

Earlier in the night, Chyna aided Triple H in turning on Corporation member Kane once again reuniting DX.

With his full squad behind him, X-Pac was in the rare position of being the favorite as Shane-O-Mac only had Test and The Mean Street Posse for backup. Even more shocking than Chyna and Triple H turning against X-Pac was the fact that Shane more than carried his end of the match leading to runner-up Match of the Night behind Stone Cold’s clash against The Rock.

Triple H vs. Sting (Wrestlemania 31)Wrestlemania 31 - Triple H and Sting

The Game suffered from some of his opponents having better matches — most notably his Wrestlemania 20 triple threat against Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels, which is an all-time Wrestlemania classic. But looking back on it, Sting’s first WWE match at Wrestlemania against Triple H no less, was pretty darned entertaining as a coda to The Monday Night Wars. It was an overbooked throwback with involvement from both the nWo and Degeneration X, but it was a lot of fun … even if the wrong guy won.

Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton
vs. Batista (Wrestlemania 30)

wrestlemania-30-daniel-bryan-with-both-world-titles_5This was the culmination of the Yes Movement story line, which saw the WWE fans go to war with the promotion over its treatment of Daniel Bryan.

Orton robbed Bryan of his storybook ending after beating John Cena for the world title at Summerslam and since that point it seemed the WWE was intent on keeping Bryan far out of the title picture in favor of returning prodigal son/movie star Batista. But thanks to a RAW sit-in, Bryan got a chance at the title provided he defeat Triple H. With that accomplished, Bryan battled the other two members of Evolution in a triple threat, which eventually ended when Bryan pinned Batista.

While Bryan’s career would quickly get derailed due to injuries afterward, watching him celebrate his victory as undisputed champion in a sea of confetti was one of the all-time great Wrestlemania moments.

Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle
vs. Chris Benoit (Wrestlemania 2000)

wrestlemania 2000 - benoit vs jericho vs angleI strongly considered Angle’s match at Wrestlemania 19 against Lesnar, but I wanted this bout instead. Angle was at his most obnoxious at this point in his career having won both the Intercontinental and European championships dubbing himself the Eurocontinental champion. He’d been battling both Jericho and Benoit and for the only time in Wrestlemania history a dual champion would defend both his titles. This was a fun triple threat match that featured three of the WWE’s hungry rising stars trying their best to steal the show. It was also one of the smarter booked triple threat encounters as Angle ended up losing both titles without getting pinned.

Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus
(Wrestlemania 22)

wrestlemania 22 - mickie james vs trish stratusVince McMahon and his writing staff typically trip over complex, slow-burning storylines these days, but the Mickie/Trish angle was arguably the best Divas/Women’s story line ever for managing to smartly develop instead of just going for salacious T&A.

Mickie, like most guys, was crushing hard on Trish and became more and more frustrated that Trish didn’t reciprocate.

It culminated in a fantastic women’s match where Mickie, playing one of the best psycho stalkers in WWE history, took advantage of every opportunity to make her intentions known while also shocking Trish to earn the women’s title.

Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz
vs. The Hardy Boyz (Wrestlemania 17)

wrestlemania 17 - TLC 2_3You can take your Money in the Bank matches, for my time this battle of the Attitude Era’s dominant triumvirate competing in a death-defying Tables, Ladders and Chairs match still holds up. These were three teams who’d battled each other for years looking to once and for all end the rivalry using all of their favorite things.

Edge spearing Jeff Hardy in mid-air is one of those indelible moments in Wrestlemania history and the carnage waged by all six men led to one of Wrestlemania’s greatest train wreck gimmick matches.

John Cena vs. The Rock (Wrestlemania 28)

wrestlemania 28 - john cena vs the rockOne of my more difficult choices was settling on a match for The Rock. His Wrestlemania 18 match against Hollywood Hogan was a legitimate classic, but I’ve got Hogan reserved for another match and this was essentially that match’s sequel.

The Icon vs. The Franchise, only this time The Rock was playing the role of the grizzled conquering icon battling the upstart franchise star looking to secure his legacy.

In a surprise since The Rock was barely even a part-time player in the WWE, he got the victory — giving Cena incentive to train and hone his skills further for their Wrestlemania 29 rematch.

Like most dream matches, the first time is pretty much always the best and this encounter was no different thanks in no small part to the legit behind the scenes tension that spilled out on camera between the two.

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The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage
(Wrestlemania 7)

wrestlemania 7 - macho man vs the ultimate warriorI can already hear the cries of blasphemy for using this as Savage’s entry instead of his Wrestlemania 3 classic with Ricky Steamboat.

In all honesty, this was the toughest decision of the entire list. That was the match that made a generation wrestling fans, but Savage’s retirement match with Warrior is not only a classic matchup, but arguably one of the best post-match moments ever.

As Hulk Hogan proved in Wrestlemania 6, Warrior could be carried to a great match and he was up for the challenge of keeping up with the Macho King.

More than any other match — with one exception on this list — this was wrestling at its best from the clash of the titans build, the significant stakes and the fallout with Savage’s seeing the ‘end’ of his career and completely unexpected reconciliation with Elizabeth.

This was a storybook ending to Savage’s first run in the WWF and was a rare case where a retirement match had no losers.

Shawn Michaels vs.
The Undertaker (Wrestlemania 25)

wrestlemania 25 - the undertaker-michaels-wrestlemania-25The encore was almost as good, but there was something magical and epic about the first Wrestlemania match-up between HBK and Taker. It started with that awesome entrance with HBK descending in angelic lights and Undertaker emerging from the depths of hell. It’s my favorite point/counterpoint entrance and the match is even better.

Undertaker’s streak began taking a life of its own, but against guys like Edge and Batista, it could be threatened, but never in jeopardy. Enter Mr. Wrestlemania. While Shawn didn’t have an undefeated streak to preserve, he’d beaten Taker countless times before and was eager to test his mettle against The Phenom. This wasn’t the first time Taker and HBK locked up as they’d already delivered a thrilling series of matches from 1997 to 1998 starting with In Your House: Ground Zero, the epic Hell in a Cell and the 1998 Royal Rumble Casket Match. The added 11 years of experiences and big money match helped season this reigniting of their rivalry.

The pair delivered a clinic that for the first time since Randy Orton clashed with Taker at Wrestlemania 21 offered a sense that The Streak was actually in jeopardy.

Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
(Wrestlemania 3)

wrestlemania 3 - hulk hogan vs andre_0The most iconic match featuring the most classic face off in the history of the showcase of the immortals. Without this match, it’s possible we wouldn’t still be getting hyped for Wrestlemania.

Before Wrestlemania became this glitzy, over-produced mega event the matches were sometimes years in the making with threads culminating in the big showdowns something you could see develop naturally over time. None were better than this battle of the WWF’s colossal titans. The dominant champion facing the WWF-version undefeated giant, who turned on him for a shot at the championship.

There were better friends turned foes story lines (Mr. Wonderful, Randy Savage immediately come to mind), better back and forth contests (vs. The Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 6 and The Rock at WM18) and more shocking moments (that still questionable WM9 outcome), but this was Hogan’s signature WWF moment and in front of the biggest crowd in wrestling history, Hogan shined. Prior to the commentators trying to sell us on something being a ‘Wrestlemania Moment,’ this match was the ultimate Wrestlemania Moment. No air quotes needed. And the sight of Hogan body slamming Andre is every bit as impressive today as it was in 1987.

For fans whose wrestling obsession didn’t coincide with the dawn of Hulkamania the lure of this match may be lost, but it’s easily one of the most important battles in wrestling and Wrestlemania history.

Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
(Wrestlemania 13)

There can’t be any way this one was a surprise. This is my favorite WWF/WWE match of all time and right alongside War Games 1992 as my absolute top wrestling match.

wrestlemania 13 - stone cold vs bret hartI will always consider the Wrestlemania 12 Iron Man match between Bret and Shawn highly overrated. As a single-fall must be a winner it would have been fine, but it completely fails as an Iron Man match, which are so much fun because of the numerous pinfalls and strategy to top your opponent. If anything was going to top Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude’s clash at Beach Blast 92, I assumed it would be The Hitman vs. The Heartbreak Kid. And it failed me.

A year later, Bret wouldn’t disappoint in consecutive years and in Steve Austin he had his best rival who brought out the best in him and vice versa. Like the best Wrestlemania matches, this was a confrontation long in coming stemming from their outstanding initial encounter at Survivor Series 96. Their rivalry built to a head when Austin cheated Hart out of a Royal Rumble victory and cost Hart the WWF title to Sycho Sid.

Everything culminated in a submission match at Wrestlemania and in one of the worst events in Mania history, the fans were treated to a legendary match featuring two of the all-time best in their prime writing the prologue to the Attitude Era. Everything about this match was perfect from the hatred the two displayed toward one another, flawlessly executed double turn and iconic visual of a bloody Austin refusing to submit.

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