Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 30 WrestleMania Matches - Part 1

Welcome to our annual tradition here at Kick-Out, the Top Matches in WrestleMania History, with the number growing each year to complement that year's show. When I launched the blog in 2009, we started with the Top 25, and (obviously) here we are at the big 3-0. 

This is also the most shuffling around I've done since I started, the list has remained largely unchanged in previous years, but thanks to WWE Network, I've gone back and rewatched a lot, history has changed my perception a bit, and to be perfectly honest, my tastes are pretty fickle... new is always better! And allow me to emphasize, these are my personal tastes, so I'm not acting as any sort of authority on the subject, but if you disagree with me, you're wrong.

In all seriousness, if you do disagree, please comment, tweet, reblog, Snapchat, whatever the hell you kids do these days and let me know. It's much more fun when you disagree and I'm always up for a hearty debate, even if I do think lists are kinda silly. Not as silly as the "star" ratings system, but there's little objective reasoning to say why match #14 is better than #15, but again, that's why I preface this with the fact that it's my personal tastes. 

And I have a pretty warped idea of what makes wrestling good. I was an 80s kid who got caught up in the spectacle of WWE, a 90s smark who had a huge stack of puro tapes and constantly talked on AOL message boards about "workrate," and finally, a 00s adult who just wanted to have fun watching wrestling. All those tastes blend together and I take athleticism, story and influence into account when ranking my favorites. Part 1 of the list will take us from 30-21.

30. 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.

29. Triple H vs. The Undertaker - WrestleMania X-7
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 lately to make their showdowns at the more recent WrestleManias more special, I think it will continue to be an underrated classic.

28. The Big Show vs. Floyd "Money" Mayweather - WrestleMania XXIV
I’m often asked “why do you watch that fake stuff?” My response is always “because it’s fun.” If I met someone that expressed an interest in watching wrestling, but didn’t really get it, this would be one of the first matches I showed them.


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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. WWE hasn't been as quick to put a celebrity in an actual wrestling match at WrestleMania since (unless you count The Rock), and I think it's because this one is too tough to top.

27. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XX
I hesitate even putting this match on the list every year 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. With the inception of the WWE Network, I’ve just started watching Benoit matches again for the first time since 2007, but this match, as good as it is, will forever be tainted.

26. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 23
We all agree that Cena is a good wrestler now, right? I know we had that long stretch in the 2000s where everyone insisted he “sucked,” but we’re all over that, right? John Cena is an incredible big match performer and while this match isn’t his best work – Cena’s WrestleMania resumé is surprisingly not as good as his work elsewhere – it was the highlight of his best year to date, 2007. And it’s a Shawn Michaels match, which drastically improves its chances of getting on this list. 

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The biggest problem the match had was that it got overshadowed by two other matches on the card, one a flat-out better match (more on that later) and the other being the Battle of the Billionaires between Vince and Donald Trump, which was perhaps the best use of a celebrity at WrestleMania until Money Mayweather a year later. Also, HBK and Cena would go onto have a vastly superior hour-long match just a couple months later on Raw.

25. Money in the Bank - WrestleMania 21
Featuring the birth of Edge's ascension into main event status and eventually becoming the best villain in the business, the first Money in the Bank Ladder Match is absolutely jaw-dropping and while some of the later ones may be better, but these are probably the hardest types of matches to “grade” and this one is where one of WWE's coolest concepts got its start.

24. Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin - WrestleMania XIV
Much like the Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII, I would not consider this match to be one of the top ten 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.

23. Edge vs. Mick Foley - WrestleMania 22
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 the 90s “X-TREME TO THE MAXXX” mentality, but 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.


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22. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania 21
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. It's a shame we never got the rubber match.

21. Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2 - WrestleMania X-7
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.


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Part 2 coming soon!



 

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