Every year around this time you start seeing people putting together lists of the greatest WrestleMania matches. Of the lists I’ve read, I have never agreed with one all the way. It’s not nice of me to say, but some of these lists are downright laughable. It’s as if the writers just grabbed matches from memory and legend and then put them in a list. I decided to embark on a mission. I would go through all the WrestleMania matches with a fresh and open mind, and then come to a more objective ranking. My goal was to honor WrestleMania XXVII by ranking the top twenty-seven matches in WrestleMania history based on quality. What at first felt a like a vast yet thrilling undertaking quickly turned into a cold dose of reality. There was no way I could realistically go through every WrestleMania match and rank it objectively. To do so would require developing a scoring system or some other type of formal judging to accurately rank the matches. If I really wanted to put it in perspective, I would gather together the Wrestleview staff and spend the next year going back and re-watching every WM match over and over, then spend countless hours collaborating and debating.
I realized that all other lists out there people have put together were constructed by wrestling fans like me. I am a wrestling fan and what I think are the best matches are not what other people think are the best. Still, I decided to soldier on. The list I had begun to construct was already different from the others. Why not keep going? The difference is that I would not lie and pretend this is an objective list. I would go through and say here are the matches that I have come to claim as my twenty-seven favorite WrestleMania matches. My hope is to bring a new perspective.
I will say first that those who read this list will not agree with it for the most part. I expect that there will be those who are angry over not only what makes the list, but by what doesn’t make the list. That is fine as I expect there to be a vast range of matches fans consider the best. What I have done to honor WM XXVII is to take my top twenty-seven matches and rank them over the course of three columns, nine matches per column. This week will kick off the list with numbers nineteen through twenty-seven. Let’s get down to it. Enjoy.
27. WrestleMania XXV – JBL vs. Rey Mysterio for the Intercontinental Championship.
I am sure a twenty-one second match kicking off the list surprises a lot of people. This match just worked. It was priceless seeing JBL coming out to the ring all cocky, only quickly drop the I-C title to Rey. The look on his face as he sat on the mat pouting was great as he cried out that he was quitting. Not a lot of people can say they retired at WrestleMania, but JBL can. He played his character to perfection in a match that had as good of storytelling as anything else the whole night.
26. WrestleMania XXII – Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon in a No Holds Barred Match.
WWE touts Shawn Michaels as Mr. WrestleMania. What I have noticed about HBK lately is it’s not his matches that are great, but his individual performances. His matches seem to be more about him as a performer than the match at hand. This is not a knock on Michaels. It just seems to be his way of doing things. In that respect, Vince was the perfect opponent for Shawn. Michaels was able to perform around McMahon and it was a fun match. Stu Saks from PWI expressed his disappointment in the readers of the magazine in their end-of the-year issue for 2006. The readers had voted Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon as best match of the year. Saks felt let down by the readers. In a way I sympathize with Saks. I agree that HBK-McMahon was not the best match of 2006, but I do believe it was a very good Shawn Michaels performance and worthy of recognition. The inclusion of the Spirit Squad made for great interference.
25. WrestleMania I – Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne.
Most people probably don’t remember this match even happened. If you were to name a Ricky Steamboat match at WrestleMania, it would likely be his critically acclaimed match with Randy Savage at WrestleMania III. If you were to do the same for Matt Borne, it would probably be his match as Doink with Crush at WrestleMania IX where they had the two Doinks. But when I think of a Mania match for either one, I think of their one-on-one meeting at the first WrestleMania in which Steamboat picked up the win. This wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a really solid match and really gets forgotten about.
24. WrestleMania XXII – Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus for the Women’s Championship.
When people mention great Mania matches, they never mention a women’s match. I liked the Kai-Richter match at Mania, but I loved this one. Victoria made an okay crazy lady in 2002 and Tori did the obsessed fan with Sable back in 1999, but Mickie took both of those and put on my favorite WrestleMania women’s match. These two played so well off each other. Trish was great as the angry baby face whose anger gets the better of her, while James used that to her advantage. The sexual overtones may have bothered some, but I don’t think that took anything away from the match. Trish had been on a roll back in 2002 and 2003, but her matches those years at Mania didn’t come off too well. She wasn’t on the 2004 show and her match in 2005 was pretty bad. But in 2006 Trish got the Mania match she deserved. Even as a heel, James was the crowd favorite in Chicago as she picked up the championship.
23. WrestleMania XXVI – Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk.
It was not all that long ago when CM Punk said his dream WrestleMania opponent would be Rey Mysterio. In 2010 he got his wish. The build was very well done as Punk tried to make Mysterio part of his Straight Edge Society. When match time came, these two put on a great show. Many will say it was not the best of the meetings these two had, but it certainly was WrestleMania-worthy. Between Mysterio’s Joker tribute in 2009 and his Avatar costume in 2010, 2011’s outfit will be interesting. Any guesses?
22. WrestleMania VII – The Hart Foundation vs. The Nasty Boys for the WWF Tag Team Championship.
In the lists of memorable tag team matches at WrestleMania, this one gets overlooked. The Nasty Boys did a great job of cutting the ring in half while Bret struggled and struggled to get the hot tag. I shot with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone got the Nasty Boys the win and the tag belts. This would be the last pay per view that feature the traditional Hart Foundation tag team as Bret went on to defeat Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam. That same night, Knobbs and Sags would drop the Tag Team Championship to Legion of Doom.
21. WrestleMania XXIV – Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair in a Career Threatening Match.
When Shawn Michaels retired at WrestleMania XXVI it felt like WWE was trying to recreate the moment Flair and HBK had at the end of their match in 2008. Every so often there is that magical WrestleMania moment. As HBK said, “I’m sorry. I love you.” before he reluctantly gave a sobbing Flair Sweet Chin Music, all watching felt the sadness of Flair’s career ending yet all celebrated his years of performing. Most people knew Flair would not retire on this night, but that takes nothing away. These two still had a great match at WrestleMania XXIV.
20. WrestleMania II – Terry and Hoss (Dory) Funk vs. Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog.
Chairs, cowboy hats, and mustaches. What else could you ask for? Many probably don’t even remember that this match took place. This fun little tag team match took place at WrestleMania II in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena just before Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy battled it out in a cage. There was a brief stare down with chairs before the match began. JYD and Tito took turns tossing Funk around the ring like a ragdoll. This was just a fun match to watch. There was even a table spot at the end as JYD slammed Terry onto a table outside the ring, which then tipped over. The ending came with another shot from Jimmy Hart’s megaphone to give Terry and Hoss the win.
19. WrestleMania IV – Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase for the WWF Championship.
The first three WrestleMania events have that big main event. The fourth Mania didn’t have that one going in. After a controversial match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, the WWF Championship was put up in a tournament on this night at Trump Plaza. On this night Randy Savage went through four different opponents to claim the WWF Championship. One of the fond memories of this night was both Savage and Elizabeth changing outfits so that they had a different one for each match. The finals came down to Savage and Dibiase. Savage was unable to get the better of Dibiase at first since Andre, who was in Ted’s corner, kept trying to trip Savage up. Randy sent Liz to the back, who came back with Hogan to even the odds. After a pretty good match, Savage won the belt. It was a great night for Savage, who got the stamp of approval by Hogan on this night. It was the night the Mega Powers began, and the night the build for their clash at WrestleMania V began.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to check back next week for numbers ten though eighteen.