WrestleMania Sweet 16 — Ranking The Best WrestleMania Matches Of All Time
With WrestleMania this Sunday and Brock Lesnar announcing his re-signing with WWE on ESPN, what better time to rank the best WrestleMania matches of all time? And with the 2015 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 happening this same weekend, why not list the "Sweet 16" of WrestleMania matches. I'm sure plenty of you will be angry if your favorites didn't make the cut or rank the same...
Feel free to voice your rage, but either way, I'm sure you'll be watching plenty of old matches on the WWE Network just as I will this week.
16) Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, WM III
When people think WrestleMania, heck, even just Hulkamania moments, this match comes to mind atop the list. "The irresistible force meeting the immovable object." The excitement and meaningfulness put the match this high, even higher in many minds, but the match itself wasn't actually all that terrific thanks in part to both wrestlers' in-ring skills (or limitation of). Andre the Giant was carrying his 15-year unbeaten streak and Hulkster the belt. The iconic moment happened when Hogan picked up and slammed the massive giant, something that seemed impossible. That scene is still one of the greatest in WrestleMania history and will live forever.
15) Undertaker vs. Triple H, WM XXVIII
Special nod to their WM27 match that barely missed the list. The year prior saw Triple H leave the Undertaker unable to walk out under his own power, seemingly satisfying Triple H's desire to destroy Undertaker. However, we got a rematch, as Triple H wanted to end the streak and career of Undertaker. It was made even better by Shawn Michaels being the guest referee, someone who had his own history with Undertaker (more on that later). This "End of an Era" match went down in a Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker recovering from a HBK super kick and follow-up Pedigree to maintain his streak. Taker has better matches on his resume, especially at WrestleManias, but you can argue that near pin for Triple H and this match was the highlight of his career.
Photo Credit: Ed Webster
14) The Rock vs. John Cena, WM XXVIII
Back-to-back WrestleMania 28 nods, even though not everyone may agree. Take your Cena opinion out of it and just re-watch the match, and you will see that it deserves its spot among WrestleMania's best. The feud started right after WMXXVII, when The Rock cost Cena a win, and this match highlighted The Rock's return both to WrestleMania for the first time in nearly a decade and to his hometown of Miami, Florida. As said, the match was great with near-falls, character work (Cena actually deserves credit here) and terrific moves highlighted by Cena rolling through a cross body into an AA. Even better was seeing The Rock actually win - something few people expected since he was leaving the WWE yet again. I don't get the hate for this match.
Photo Credit: Simon Q
13) Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, WM X
Brother versus brother. That's all you needed to sell this match, and what a match it was. Owen wanted to prove that he was just as good as big bro Bret, and in the end, he succeeded. When true wrestling fans think of perfect in-ring work, this match stands out as the prime example. Up-and-comers should watch this match repeatedly, as it's a testament to what hard work can produce. In the end, Owen made the most of his opportunity, blocked Bret's Victory Roll and reversed it for the win, showing everyone that both Hart brothers were among the best in the WWE.
12) The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, WM X-8
It marked Hogan's return to the WWE, and even though Hogan came in as the nWo version, fans still cheered. The Rock challenged Hogan to the main event at WrestleMania in what was known as the "Icon versus Icon" match. Even though Triple H and Chris Jericho ended up headlining, the crowd was loudest for this match and went completely bananas when Hogan's music hit. Whether Hogan did a classic Hogan-esque move or pulled a heel-ish trick, fans still cheered. As a result, the Rock was forced to heel it up a bit, but it all mattered little in the end. After three Rock Bottoms and a People's Elbow, the Rock won and then fought off Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as they attacked Hogan. All was right in the world as the People's Champ and Hulkamania stood tall.
Photo Credit: Impact Monster Wrestling
11) The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian, WM X-7
Ah, the dayz of using a "z" instead of an "s." WrestleMania X-7 is arguably the best in history. If VCRs were still around, I'd bust out my tapes (took two to record) from it. Thankfully, the WWE Network lets me watch it now. This TLC (Tables, Ladders, Chairs) match was just one of several classic matches. I also have a special place in my heart for this match, as I saw the first PPV TLC match ever, live at SummerSlam 2000. That match featured the same three tag-teams, but they upped the ante at WrestleMania. This match is proof that wrestling is not "fake," as each athlete risked body - and life - to entertain. Bodies through a table off of ladders? Childs play. The defining moment, and one that rivals the scene of Hogan slamming Andre the Giant, was when Edge leapt off a ladder and speared Jeff Hardy, who was dangling mid-air from a cable. Simply amazing.
10) Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart, WM XII
This match gets both unfairly criticized and slid down the ranks as the years go on. It used to rank among the best ever in some wrestlers' minds, but it's possible expectation versus execution soured many. Having this match ranked next to the TLC one could not show two ends of the spectrum better. After all, you can't expect two technical wrestlers to go all-out crazy for 60 minutes. Yes, this was an ironman match, and it even went into overtime! Watching these two wrestle is technical wrestling personified, as Michaels and Hart are some of the best ever. Unfortunately, in the "steroid era" and with the hype surrounding this match (HBK taking the throne from Hart as the face of the company), fans often overlook this greatness of this match in the same way they barely cheered during it.
Photo Credit: Lana Burns
9) Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle, WM XXI
Get used to seeing the Showstopper here. HBK checks in again with another high-level technician style match. Michaels started calling himself "Mr. WrestleMania" leading into this match, and rightfully so. This was another "if you want to see how great wrestling is done, watch this match" moment. The high point of this match saw Angle hit the Angle Slam off the top rope, HBK kick out, Angle moonsault and miss, Michaels hit Angle with a super kick and then Angle put HBK in the ankle lock for the win.
8) Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho Man Randy Savage, WM 7
This is when a "Retirement Match" actually meant something because, you know, the loser would actually leave the WWE for some time (possibly permanently) as opposed to nowadays when they're back in a week. Macho King, as Savage called himself for this match, wanted Warrior in a match and cost the Ultimate Warrior a win at the Royal Rumble versus Sgt. Slaughter. With former mate, Miss Elizabeth, in the crowd, Macho combined with Warrior to put on a terrific show, as they took their game to new levels. Savage actually hit five consecutive Elbow Drops, which still didn't stop the Ultimate Warrior, who even failed to pin Savage after his press slam and running splash. In the end, Warrior won, but the aftermath was just as memorable, as Sensational Sherri beat on Macho Man after the loss but was tossed out of the ring by Miss Elizabeth. Savage eventually got up and embraced a crying Elizabeth. Emotional chills.
Photo Credit: Passion Warrior
7) Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, WM X
Some argue that the Hart brothers WrestleMania X match was better, but it's hard not to love or have this match overshadow it. The story behind the match was that Michaels was stripped of the Intercontinental Championship (you know, when other titles mattered) with Razor winning the vacated title and then both men claiming they were the true champ. The match saw Michaels' faux belt and the real one suspended above the ring for one wrestler to claim by climbing a ladder and grabbing them. This was the first main stage ladder match experience for the WWE universe, and it delivered on every level. The match paved the way for all ladder matches (or variations of them) for the rest of wrestling time. Ramon tossing Michaels off the ladder as it bends and twists causing Razor to fall himself, Michaels driving the ladder into Ramon from the turnbuckle, it was all great. In the end, Michaels got hung up in the ropes allowing Razor to grab the belts and win this historic match.
6) Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior, WM VI
If you grew up with wrestling and/or during the early days of WrestleMania, this match will forever have a place in your heart and mind. It's probably the best thing ever to happen to Toronto, Canada. Fans never thought they would see Hogan versus Warrior, but we all got to witness a true face versus face match as Hulk passed the torch to Warrior. This match featured another moment that anyone who saw it can picture to this day - the double clothesline. The crowd stood in shock, as both men laid on the mat, and in the end, "Hulking up" couldn't stop the Ultimate Warrior from hitting his splash for the win. Neither man was the best at in-ring performances, but it was the spectacle and excitement surrounding both that puts this match among the best.
Photo Credit: Passion Warrior
5) Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker, WM XXVI
The first of two on this list (actually second WrestleMania matchup in a row) and just another one in HBK's belt. It was "The Streak" versus "The Career." Either Undertaker's WrestleMania's undefeated streak ended or Michaels' WWE career did. Michaels wanted the rematch from WM25, Undertaker declined, HBK didn't win the Rumble in his attempt to challenge Taker for the title but then got his wish after costing Undertaker the title at Elimination Chamber. Multiple tombstones finished Shawn Michaels, but not before HBK moonsaulted off the turnbuckle on to Undertaker lying on the announce table. Let that sink in. This was the end of Michaels' career, yet he never stopped "showing off" with a move no one else would dare attempt. You watched this match thinking Michaels could actually end Taker's streak, but in the end, Undertaker won and we watched HBK shed tears on stage, as the crowd endlessly cheered for one of the best ever.
4) Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, WM III
More proof that other belts mattered back in the day, as this is another one that was for the Intercontinental Title. You know a match has to be downright amazing if it overshadows Hogan slamming Andre the Giant.
The buildup involved a revenge angle thanks to Savage crushing Steamboat's throat with a ring bell. It also helped that both men sold their storylines and moves better than most through history. Steamboat was the face, Savage the heel and the match filled with intensity and reversals… the ultimate one coming at the end as Steamboat rolled Savage into a small package for the win. Yes, a small package finished a match. If you think that sounds crazy, go back, watch this match and enjoy the wrestling history it signifies.
3) Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WM X-7
The height of WWE. The pinnacle of the Attitude Era. Blood flowing in the ring. Limp Bizkit pumping from the speakers. This was as hyped as you can get. The Rock, just as with his Hogan match, ended up as the less cheered star partly thanks to WrestleMania being in Austin's home state of Texas, but he rolled with it in classic Rocky fashion. This match started out hot and maintained the heat throughout. From signature moves to in-crowd fighting to chairs, ring bells and more, the match pace never let up. Both men were bloodied even before the midpoint, and after several momentum swings, The Rock nailed Austin with the People's Elbow. With the match looking finished, McMahon intervened. The Rock went after Vince and chased him back into the ring… and into a Rock Bottom from Stone Cold, who then helped McMahon blast The Rock with a chair. The Rock kept fighting and kicking out, stunning everyone, but Austin, McMahon and the chair were too much, as Stone Cold won.
2) Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker, WM XXV
I think we all thought Undertaker might have died in this one. Or, was I the only one thinking that after he dove out of the ring only to land on his head because the camera man didn't get in the way properly? But that's getting ahead because this is another example of how proper buildup can make great matches amazing. Michaels claimed he could end the streak, Taker said it would be hell to do so and we had a light versus dark setup. It even included HBK descending in white light for his entrance, and the Undertaker rising in fire/darkness. The execution was near flawless, the stakes never felt higher and the emotion investment was real for all of us. There are few finishes better than the caught moonsault into a tombstone by these two. Only one match can top this.
Photo Credit: vanessa silveira
1) Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, WM
Hart departed the WWE for a brief time as it moved from the "steroid era" and into the "Attitude Era." That's when Stone Cold started to take control of the WWE and its fan base. It was the disregard for "rules and the right way" that Hart wanted to fix when he returned, and to do so, that would include defeating Austin. However, Hart's attempt to change the company back was derailed several times by Austin's interfering, and it all led to these two going toe-to-toe at WrestleMania in a submission match, topped off with UFC legend Ken Shamrock refereeing.
The fans were still a bit split on loving/hating Austin, but that would change. Both the fans and Austin knew he wasn't a "submission" guy, but that didn't stop him, as Austin simply looked to beat the living hell out of Hart, maybe even trying to win by a beatdown submission. As Hart went to work on Austin's knee, relentlessly attacking it and topping it off by a figure four around the ring post, more and more fans turned in support of Stone Cold. The combination of Hart going after Austin in a semi-dirty manner (even using chairs) and Austin selling the heck out of his pain increased Stone Cold's appeal by the minute. Hart eventually locked in the Sharpshooter as blood poured off Stone Cold's head. Austin refused to tap, screamed in pain and fought out, but Hart locked the Sharpshooter back in with Austin eventually passing out… although, never giving up. With Hart losing the fans, he attacked Austin post-match further turning himself heel and elevating Stone Cold more. That scene of Austin bloodily screaming is one of, if not the, most famous of all time, and this match was the moment that Stone Cold and the Attitude Era would start rocketing to the apex of WWE entertainment history.
Main image Photo Credit: Randall Chancellor
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