Friday, March 21, 2014

Top 30 WrestleMania Matches - Part 2

Miss Part 1? Read it here!

20. Triple H vs. The Undertaker - WrestleMania XXVIII
This is definitely a love it or hate it match, perhaps hurt a bit by the instant reaction culture of internet commentary, but I think it will stand the test of time and be looked back on fondly in a few years. You could argue that these two were just too broken down, but for the years leading up to this climactic battle, I've looked at it as a Clash of the Titans style battle where everything these guys did to each other was just brutal. Obviously it didn't have the story, the atmosphere and the culture of a Hogan vs. Andre, but in terms of working within their limitations and making it feel like they were killing each other, it felt somewhat similar. Their match the year before seems more divisive than this one, the addition of Hell in a Cell and Shawn Michaels being incredibly effective as the referee seemed to silence most (but not all) of the critics.

The Undertaker VS. Triple H - Hell in a Cell... by SmackDown54

19. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior - WrestleMania VI
This match is an integral part of any wrestling fan who grew up in the 90s, but I'd argue its influence has waned over the years. 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, the same cannot be said for the Hulkster (almost though), but it is a rare moment where the two top stars of the industry meet and it's everything you hoped for (at least at the time). I'm not so sure this match would work as well today, as evidenced by Rock and Cena trying to duplicate it in recent years.

18. The Undertaker vs. Batista - WrestleMania 23
Perhaps I'm biased because I was one of the 80,103 in attendance at Detroit's massive Ford Field, but I adore this match. The energy surrounding this match, the crowd EXPLODING when Taker won the World Heavyweight Title and extended his streak, it was perfect. The year before, Taker was in a very underrated match against Mark Henry, but it wasn't exactly a top tier bout, but this match was the moment that Taker's Streak became not just a big deal, but for many, the deal at WrestleMania every year. 

The following year, he headlined the show for the first time since WrestleMania 13 and then the next four were massive matches with Shawn Michaels and Triple H that overshadowed the rest of the show. While he had an enjoyable rivalry with Edge troughout 2008, this match feels like the last time The Undertaker was a regular part of the show, it's the beginning of his rise to the godlike character he is now.

17. Hulk Hogan vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage - WrestleMania V
The Mega Powers Explode! In my opinion, the two greatest wrestlers of the 1980s (for widely different reasons) in what I would say is Hulk Hogan's best pure wrestling match ever... maybe (more on that later). Randy Savage had all the tools to fill the role occupied by Hulkamania, but Hogan cast a huge shadow and it came to a boil in this 1989 main event. 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.

16. 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 HBK's 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 second retirement several years later.

Wrestlemania 19 Chris Jericho vs... by FrogSplashGuerrero

15. "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, perhaps he had the advantage since they were in his hometown of Parts Unknown?

And what happened after the match, with Miss Elizabeth reuniting with Savage after years apart is the sweetest moment in the history of an industry that’s not known for even basic human decency, let alone romance. Obviously not Savage’s final match as he was reinstated months later to get his revenge on Jake Roberts for putting a cobra in one of the gifts at his wedding. And not his final appearance on this list either.

14. The Undertaker vs. "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair - WrestleMania X-8
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.

13. The Ladder Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon - WrestleMania X
Not the first ladder match in history, but definitely the one everyone remembers. Michaels and Ramon laid the groundwork for what would become one of the more popular gimmick matches in wrestling today. One could argue that without this definitive ladder match, the careers of Jeff Hardy, Edge, Chris Jericho and many other stars would have never taken off like they did. I don't know what else to say about this match that hasn't already been said except that every ladder match you see today uses this battle as the blueprint.

12. Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage - WrestleMania VIII
"Elizabeth was MINE before she was yours!" Oh Ric, you played scumbag so well. It's scary that this match almost didn't happen, with Flair vs. Hogan scheduled and already promoted on WWE television, the match was changed after testing poorly on the house show circuit. The story for the switch was Sid Justice wanting a piece of Hogan for eliminating him from the Rumble, and then Flair started goading The Macho Man by saying Miss Elizabeth was his former lover... he even had pictures.

Wrestlemania.VIII - Ric Flair Vs Randy Savage... by dido67

It was a classic love story, Savage defending his bride and beating up that loudmouth asshole that besmirched her honor. Not exactly reinventing the wheel, even in 1992, but the three principle characters played it to perfection and we got a satisfying conclusion. It was one of those matches where the good guy had to win and Savage got his second (and final) WWE Title reign. 

11. Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper - WrestleMania VIII
After winning his first and only major singles title in WWE, Roddy Piper put the Intercontinental Championship on the line against the former champion, Bret Hart. Piper had been wrestling for almost 25 years at that point, but he put on arguably the greatest match of his career at WrestleMania 8. Bret Hart recaptured the IC Title and went onto become WWE Champion less than a year later, ascending to the upper echelon of professional wrestling, I like to think this match had a lot to do with that.

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