Last week’s Notes from the Nosebleeds began a countdown of my personal favorite twenty-seven WrestleMania matches in celebration of WrestleMania XXVII. Over the course of three weeks you are seeing nine matches unveiled at a time. Last week counted down twenty-seven through nineteen. This week’s column showcases eighteen through ten, and next week you will see my top nine. I just want to reiterate that this is not me giving you a list of the best matches in Mania history. For me to claim to do so would be incredibly arrogant and impossible. I cannot claim this list is objective, but I promise you that several hours were spent going back through the Mania shows and re-evaluating these matches over and over again. This list changed several times during the assembly, and if I compiled a list again next year I am certain it would be drastically different. That being said, I am proud of what I have put together and wanted to share it with you. Enough wasting time! Let’ kick it off with number eighteen!
18. WrestleMania X – – Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match for the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
Ric Flair has said on more than one occasion that Scott Hall is famous for being in the vicinity when Shawn Michaels wrestled a ladder at WrestleMania X. To an extent Flair has a point. But that has little to do with Hall’s ability as a worker and everything to do with HBK stealing the show. Hall was a good wrestler and he was the face of the mid-card in 1994. Even through Razor walked away with the win, everyone remembers the HBK show more. When people point to a match that got HBK moving up the singles ranks, they point to this one. Michaels himself has said this match really wasn’t new. Ladder matches had been done for years before Ramon and HBK made it famous. The finish wasn’t even new or creative, but it didn’t matter. They brought the ladder match to the WrestleMania stage and put on a great show. Nowadays the ladder match is a human stunt show. Watching a TLC or Money in the Bank match is like watching an action movie car wreck. Putting together a meaningful ladder match seems lost on a lot of wrestlers. The WrestleMania X ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon is still a good ladder match by today’s standards, and it wasn’t all about stunts or spots. It was about telling a story and they did a great job.
17. WrestleMania XIV – New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie in a Dumpster Match for the Tag Team Championship.
Similar to a casket match, the dumpster match was about putting your opponent in a large container. The buildup to this match was very well done. Mick Foley needed a partner to face the Outlaws and brought in Terry Funk in the form of Chainsaw Charlie. After an incredible angle that saw the Outlaws toss Jack and Charlie in a dumpster and push it off the Raw entrance stage, the climax began building for WrestleMania XIV. This was a great brawl. The Outlaws were the young punks thinking they could do whatever they wanted without consequences while Jack and Charlie were about to beat some manners into them. The match had its share of spots but it never got ridiculous or became a stunt show. It was fun, yet brutal. The highlight of the match had to be Charlie popping out of the dumpster like Oscar the Grouch to beat the Outlaws with a cookie sheet. The fight made its way backstage where Jack and Charlie go the win by using a forklift to put the Outlaws in a backstage dumpster. It was a little cheesy but also clever as it transitioned to a rematch the following night in a steel cage. A lot of people point to the New Age Outlaws as one of the best tag teas during the Attitude Era. While they were both good at what they did, much of the credit has to go to Terry Funk and Cactus Jack for building them up.
16. WrestleMania XI – Razor Ramon vs. Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship.
The I-C title has a great history at Mania. Not only is there the ladder match between Shawn and Razor, but the first Mania saw a good match with Junkyard Dog challenging Greg Valentine, and Ultimate Warrior walked into WrestleMania VI as I-C champ and walked out with both that, and the World Championship. Many still point to Steamboat-Savage as the greatest WM match ever. The last few years the title hasn’t had the attention it used to, but the WrestleMania match between Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett was nearly as good of a WM I-C title match as I have ever seen. I think people tend to overlook this match because it ended in a DQ and was on a card many consider a lackluster Mania. It also took place during the middle of a program instead of the beginning or end. Ramon as the angry baby face coming for revenge against Jarrett made for a great match. These two were ideal opponents for each other with Ramon using his size and strength to toss around Jarrett. Ramon would never get his full revenge, but he would get a measure in when he won the title for a few days some weeks after the Mania encounter.
15. WrestleMania XV – X-Pac vs. Shane McMahon for the European Championship.
Another McMahon match makes the list. This was arguably the biggest match of X-Pac’s career. Shane played his role perfectly and worked the match very well. As a baby face, Shane was probably the best heel for X-Pac to face. For years he had played the underdog, but he did a great job as the angry baby face looking to beat up the little twerp that Shane had been. The quality was surprisingly good as Shane could work very well. The addition of the Mean Street Posse made for great television. Seeing them sit on a sofa in the front row only for X-Pac to beat all of them up was a great Mania moment. The ending saw the heel turn of Triple H that destroyed the era’s DX faction. After everything the faction had been through in the year prior, this was a devastating blow to the fans. This match was not only very good in quality, but launched the heel run for Triple H that led to him becoming the top villain for several years.
14. WrestleMania XVIII – Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock.
I think you can make the case that this was the last great Hulk Hogan match. This epic encounter was special because it was a dream match nobody ever thought we would see. I look back on this match as a nice surprise. Fans got so sick of Hogan at the end of WCW and said he was useless, yet he came back and put on an excellent match with Rock on the Mania stage. The crowd reaction too was very special. The fans knew how important the match was. The dynamic also shifted as they cheered the heel Hogan and mercilessly booed Rock. The Great One got the win on this night, but Hogan proved to the world that he still had it.
13. WrestleMania XVII – Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle.
This was the first of many great matches between Benoit and Angle. It seems like nearly all their matches became match of the year candidates. Angle and Benoit have the distinction that few others have as they competed at back-to-back WrestleMania shows. Of all the matches they had in 2001, their first encounter at WrestleMania XVII is still my favorite. Of all the matches that particular show is remembered for, Angle and Benoit put on what was probably the most consistent match of the night. Angle got the win this time, but their feud would go on for several more months before picking up again in 2002.
12. WrestleMania VIII – Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper for the Intercontinental Championship.
A few months prior Bret Hart had dropped his title to The Mountie, who quickly dropped the title to Piper. WrestleMania VIII was the stage where Bret would get his rematch. This was a great baby face vs. baby face encounter with Bret trying to reclaim what was rightfully his, while Piper had come to enjoy his reign and was desperately trying to keep it going. He viciously attacked Hart in the match and was venturing into his old heel tendencies. Hart was soon bleeding buckets in the ring. As Piper locked on his sleeper hold, Bret reversed it into a roll up for the win. The story of this match was great. It was about a man trying to beat down destiny and keep what he thought should be his. He used his desperation over his mind and in the end it cost him. Bret Hart winning the title that night just felt right. It was an incredible match. In a way, Bret used the formula for this match in his bout against Davey Boy Smith at SummerSlam some months later, except that time; Hart was the man trying to run from destiny and lost his cool, thus costing him the match. Hart-Piper stands today as my favorite I-C title match in Mania history.
11. WrestleMania XXI – Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero.
WrestleMania XXI is most remembered for the rise of John Cena and Batista, as well as the match between Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels. Overlooked was a fantastic opener between the WWE Tag Team Champions. Eddie and Rey easily had the best match on this night, but it gets overlooked because of the reasons I mentioned, as well as that it was not the high-flying affair fans expected. When fans of these two talk about their best match together, they point to the WCW match they had back in 1997. Indeed it was a great match. Nevertheless, they took a different direction during their Mania match. They mixed in the big moves while keeping it grounded. It had the rollercoaster feel that so many good matches have. After this mach they went on to feud over Rey’s son, which many hated. The beginning of their breakup, and Eddie’s last WM appearance, was my favorite their encounters.
10. WrestleMania XVIII – Dallas Page vs. Christian for the European Championship.
When I first started this list I figured DDP-Christian would make the top twenty-five. I had no idea it would crack my top ten! This is a match I go back and watch about once a year. When I first saw it I thought it was a solid match, but every time I watch it, I like it a little more. It’s a great match between two guys using counters to keep the edge up on one another. Regardless of all the counters they do, the match never feels rehearsed or choreographed. It has a steady, natural flow, and they didn’t overdo it and steal the show. They just went out and had a good match that served its purpose on the card. Say what you want about DDP, but he had some great matches. Randy Savage’s last great series was with him. Page had a couple really good matches with Sting. His matches with Benoit and Raven were also good. He arguably gave Goldberg the best match of his career, and he even pulled a really good match out of The Giant at the 1998 Starrcade back before the big man had really realized his full potential. Christian obviously is a go-to guy for WWE. You can always get a good match out of him. When people look back at the 2002 WrestleMania show they remember Hogan-Rock, but DDP and Christian put on a great Mania match that evening.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week for the top nine!