Saturday, April 2, 2011

Top 27 Matches in WrestleMania History (Part 1)

Today is Kick-Out's second birthday, so I hope you're ready for the terrible twos! When I started this blog the weekend of WrestleMania 25 back in 2009, I just wanted to create a different kind of wrestling website. Thanks to your support and awesome, like minded bloggers, I think we've created something really special, at least to me. My goal was for this to eventually turn into some kind of new wrestling media, and I think with Fair to Flair, we've gotten the ball rolling on that.

The site's grown quite a bit in the last two years, but on WrestleMania weekend, I always like to go back to where it all started, my Top 25 26 27 Matches in WrestleMania History list. This was my first project I worked on for the site and I always like to revisit it during WrestleMania weekend. This year, things have been shuffled around quite a bit and I've added a bit of new commentary for things that are relevant to this year's show. Enjoy!

27. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XII
A lot of people have soured on this match over the years, probably due to the overwhelming amount of praise that was heaped onto it soon after it happened, but it's still a damn good match. I wouldn't put it in either man's top 25 matches of all-time, but that's just how good they both were; a decent Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart match is still one of the best WrestleMania matches in history. Love it or hate it, they wrestled for 62 minutes... I'm exhausted after typing for 62 minutes.

26. The Big Show vs. Floyd "Money" Mayweather - WrestleMania XXIV
Is it a "good" match, in what your typical, overly-analytical wrestling fan would describe? No, you probably won't be seeing anything like this on any Ring of Honor highlight reels in the future, but if you ever want to watch something that exemplifies what American pro wrestling is, watch this match.

Wrestling has an iffy history with celebrity involvement - sometimes it works, and sometimes you have a disaster like Jay Leno beating up Hulk Hogan. WWE executed this crossover with perfection and the match did what it was supposed to do: it received loads of mainstream attention, entertained those watching and kept The Big Show looking strong even though he lost to a guy that's more than a foot shorter and 300 lbs. lighter. All for the low cost of $20 million to "Pretty Boy" Floyd.

25. Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero - WrestleMania XX
I often find it difficult to write about Eddie Guerrero due to his untimely death in 2005, but this match always makes me smile. After years of being a perennial midcard talent, Guerrero finally got his shot at the big time and won the WWE Championship. Eddie was always one of my favorite wrestlers, but I never expected to see the day where he'd be the top champion in the biggest wrestling promotion in the world and then go on to headline WrestleMania. The match itself is absolutely phenomenal and essentially the epitome of Guerrero's "lying, cheating and stealing" character.

24. Money in the Bank - WrestleMania XXI
Featuring the birth of Edge's ascension into main event status and eventually becoming the best villain in the business today, the first Money in the Bank Ladder Match is absolutely jaw-dropping and while some of the later ones may be better, this one is where one of WWE's coolest concepts got its start.

23. Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin - WrestleMania XIV
Much like the Iron Man Match, I would not consider this match to be one of the best for either man involved, but you can't deny its historical significance. This match marked the beginning of the Attitude Era, where WWE became the edgy, intense, hyper-sexual, pop culture icon of the late 90s. It also featured another successful celebrity crossover with Mike Tyson counting the pinfall to give Steve Austin his first World Championship.

22. Edge vs. Mick Foley - WrestleMania XXII
A few months after this match, Edge and Mick Foley ran an angle saying hardcore wrestling could no longer continue because they already put on the greatest Hardcore Match in history... they were right. This match takes the best elements from garbage wrestling without becoming a toned-down slasher movie, it tells a brilliant story, and it solidified Edge's status as a top player in WWE. It's also only one of a handful of times WWE has ever used fire in the confines of a match.

21. "Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior - WrestleMania VII
The World Wrestling Federation was just too big for both of them after the Macho Man cost the Warrior the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble months before. Their feud had to come to an end and it would do so at WrestleMania VII in a retirement match. Despite hitting The Warrior with five of his signature flying elbow drops, Savage could not keep him down and wound up succumbing to the overwhelming power of the man from "Parts Unknown."

The real story came after the match when Randy Savage reunited with his long-time manager Miss Elizabeth. The two would go onto get married five months later at SummerSlam 1991, only to have their reception ruined when a cobra was discovered in a gift box courtesy of The Undertaker and Jake "The Snake" Roberts; Savage was reinstated soon after to get revenge... God I love pro wrestling.

20. Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2 - WrestleMania XVII
Following the first TLC match at SummerSlam the previous year, three of the greatest tag teams in history - The Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz (this was back in the day when the letter 'z' was considered edgy) - battled it out in an epic brawl featuring items that would generally belong at a Home Depot instead of a wrestling ring. Technically, they had a similar match at WrestleMania the year before, but it was only a ladder match that featured tables and chairs and not the cute TLC name. Of all the insane ladder/TLC matches these guys have had, I would say this one is the best.

19. Triple H vs. The Undertaker - WrestleMania XVII
Depending on who you ask, they'll either tell you this match is overrated or underrated. Personally, I love this match and am surprised at myself for having it this low on the list. Despite being with the company since 1990 and 1995 respectively, The Undertaker and Triple H never really had their first feud until 2001 and it was somewhat hastily thrown together in time for WrestleMania. Despite that, the two unsurprisingly put on one hell of a brawl and you can add me to the "underrated" column. With WWE ignoring this match this year to make their showdown at WrestleMania 27 more special, I think it will continue to be an underrated classic.

18. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior - WrestleMania VI
I'm sure any old school wrestling fans reading this will cry blasphemy for this not cracking the top ten, as it is such an integral part of any wrestling fan who grew up in the 90s, but don't get too upset. I love this match as much as the next guy, but it's just not as historically significant today as it was in 1990 since Hulk Hogan didn't retire soon after (as was expected) and The Warrior obviously wasn't the guy to "pass the torch" to (as was expected). Unquestionably the pinnacle of The Ultimate Warrior's career and his best match, but the same cannot be said for the Hulkster.

17. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania XXI
Shawn Michaels next (and far from final) appearance on this list is a dream match of sorts. What would happen if the greatest wrestler from the 90s took on arguably the greatest wrestler of the 00s? What we got was the 2005 Match of the Year. Two years ago, I wished I could see these two lock up one last time, but with Shawn Michaels retiring and Kurt Angle's issues, it looks like the final encounter between these two joins the list of matches we'd love to see, but will ultimately never happen.

16. Hulk Hogan vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage - WrestleMania V
In my opinion, the two greatest wrestlers of the 1980s and what I would say is Hulk Hogan's best match ever... maybe (more on that later). Randy Savage is often the forgotten man when it comes to the legends of the industry, but if it weren't for the giant shadow cast by Hogan, I think he had all the tools to fill the role occupied by Hulkamania. A tremendous match with one of the best build-ups in WrestleMania history, this was the biggest match possible for a certain five year old that never grew out of watching these larger than life characters.

15. "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena - WrestleMania XXIII
Maybe I'm biased because I was one of the 80,103 setting a new attendance record for Detroit's Ford Field, but I absolutely love this match. I know a lot of people rag on John Cena for not being the best wrestler, but let me just say that those people are wrong. Easily Cena's best match to date and definitely on HBK's long list, this match shut up a lot of haters that deny the fact that John Cena is the most valuable commodity in wrestling today.

14. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart - WrestleMania X
Much like the childhoods I ruined by having Hogan/Warrior so low on the list, I'm going to lose my wrestling nerd cred by keeping this match out of the top ten. Make no mistake about it, this is a tremendous match, but it was really just a building block in the bigger feud that was to come. It was the first time two real-life brothers did battle in a WWE ring and they put on a wrestling clinic with Owen Hart sneaking out a surprise victory. The reason I don't have this match in the top ten is it's overshadowed by Bret Hart going onto win the WWE Title later that same night and what I would say is a superior match several months later at SummerSlam 1994, which I would call the greatest Steel Cage match of all-time.

13. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho - WrestleMania XIX
A match between two of my favorite wrestlers of all-time? Sign me up. This match is special in three ways: one, Chris Jericho lists it as his favorite match he's ever had; two, it was Shawn Michaels' first WrestleMania appearance in five years; and three, it marks when Shawn Michaels made a full-time return to wrestling. Shawn had been working sporadically for seven months prior to WM19, but after this match, he fell right back into a normal routine and didn't miss a beat until his retirement five years later.

12. The Undertaker vs. "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair - WrestleMania XVIII
Ric Flair is the greatest professional wrestler to ever lace-up a pair of boots, want to know one of the dozen reasons why? Because at the age of 53, after years of being told it was time to hang it up, he made his return to WrestleMania and put on an absolutely astounding match with The Undertaker and restarted his illustrious career. And Arn Anderson's Spinebuster cameo is one of the coolest moments in WrestleMania history.

11. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XX
I hesitated even putting this match on the list due to the horrific events surrounding Chris Benoit's final days, but it is certainly one of the most memorable moments in WrestleMania history. I'm not one of those people who get all whiny about Chris Benoit being "erased" from WWE history, why would they ever want to associate themselves with that incident? But I'm also not going to go on some long rant about how a man I did not know was evil. All I can say is, the whole situation surrounding the man just makes me extremely sad; I haven't watched a Benoit match since June 2007 and I don't know if I ever will again, but the match and its aftermath was absolutely incredible at the time.

Part 2 will be posted soon!

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