38. WrestleMania 32 (aka WrestleMania Lone Star)
Where to even begin? WrestleMania 32 is top to bottom one of the most strange, off-putting nights in the history of WrestleMania. A showcase of all of Vince McMahon’s eccentricities and bad habits. Let’s put aside the interminable length of the show (five hours long — seven if you include the pre-show), the card itself has no outstanding matches or memorable moments unless your favorite wrestler is Zack Ryder.
The main event is arguably the low point in the babyface Roman Reigns experiment as he wrestles an endless 27 minute brawl with Triple H (that the crowd boos out of the building). Undertaker and Shane’s 30 minute Hell in a Cell slog was more sad than exciting (in spite of Shane-O-Mac once again risking serious injury to delight the crowd). Even the Women’s championship match — the best match on the card — had a head scratcher of a finish (it was Sasha’s night). Just the dirt-worst way to spend a Sunday evening.
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37. WrestleMania IV
Live from Atlantic City, New Jersey and just across the street from the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. WrestleMania IV is a show that is mostly remembered as a footnote in the setup for WrestleMania V rather than a high point in the career of Randy Savage as it should have been. The problem here is that the PPV attempts to have an entire 14 person tournament for the then-vacant WWF Title in one evening. What we end up with is a four hour long show that is a formless parade of short matches, many with disappointing finishes.
The outcome is the right one, and Randy Savage would make for a great champion, but it just takes too long to get there. There’s a reason this one is often referred to as WrestleMania Bore.
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36. WrestleMania IX
We all should have known something was up when Hulk Hogan appeared in the mid-card in a nothing Tag Title match with Brother Brutus.
The show is of course infamous for its inexplicable ending. After Yokozuna steals a victory in the main event from Bret Hart, the new champion is stupid enough to accept a challenge from the Hulkster and loses in less than 30 seconds. Terrible.
The show does have a few things going for it. It was the first Mania to be held outdoors. It took place in Caeser’s Palace(‘s parking lot) and was themed as such with the announce team and backstage crew dressed for the “world’s largest toga party.” Shawn Michaels and Tatanka have an underrated opening match that would be remembered better if not for the terrible finish. Undertaker even comes to the ring with a big bird.
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35. WrestleMania II
The premise of WrestleMania II is at least unique, with the PPV taking place in three different venues across the United States. Unfortunately, two of the three so-called “Main Event” matches were total duds and most of the rest of the card was completely forgettable. Mr. T and Roddy Piper’s Boxing match in particular was an unmitigated disaster. All that saves this show is two fantastic tag team matches that are worth seeking out: First, the WWF Tag Title match that main evented the Chicago portion of the show between the Dream Team and The British Bulldogs; and second Terry & Hoss Funk vs Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog, a forgotten (pseudo) classic that is the semi-main event in Los Angeles.
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34. WrestleMania XI
Some people argue that this is the worst WrestleMania of the bunch. It’s not.
But it might be the dullest.
The undercard is underwhelming. Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett threaten to have a good match, but are let down by the finish. Bret Hart and Bob Backlund disappoint in what Hart has called his “worst PPV match [he] ever had.”
On the other hand, the double main event is quite underrated. Shawn Michaels and Diesel have a fine title match where Big Daddy Cool looks as dominant as ever. And Bam Bam Bigelow carries NFL star Lawrence Taylor to unquestionably the best celebrity match in WWE history not featuring Bad Bunny or Logan Paul (with Pam Anderson sitting ringside).
Not great, but not the worst.
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33. WrestleMania 2000
The year 2000 was arguably the best year in the company’s history. It possessed one of the most talented rosters the WWE had ever had, in a year where nearly every PPV delivered at a high level. The one show that fell laughably short was WrestleMania.
The card construction is inexplicable. The only one-on-one match on the entire show is a “Cat Fight” between Terri Runnels and The Cat — the kind of exploitative trash that has been rightly left in the dustbin of history. Everything else is a multi-man match of some kind.
There are still some gems here. The Triangle Ladder match featuring the early 2000’s tag team trifecta of Edge & Christian, the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz is another early prototype for the car-crash ladder match that would become a WWE staple. Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit have a triple threat match that is years ahead of its time.
Yet, everything else is a mess. The main event cheapens Mick Foley’s “retirement” the month before. It distills what is supposed to be the biggest match of the year down to what amounts to no more than McMahon family infighting.
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32. WrestleMania XV
If you can say one nice thing about WrestleMania XV, it’s that it is a perfect distillation of everything good and bad about the Attitude Era. A vertical slice, if you will.
The show is best remembered as the first of three Mania main events that saw The Rock take on Stone Cold Steve Austin. In this iteration, the weakest of the three, anti-authoritarian Austin clashes against corporate Rock on behalf of Mr. McMahon.
Everything else is a mess. Matches thrown together at the last second, multiple heel turns, a Brawl For All shoot boxing match that essentially ends a wrestlers career (credibility-wise, not health-wise) and one of the worst Hell in a Cell matches that ends with The Undertaker literally hanging Big Boss Man following his victory.
It was fun in the moment but this hasn’t aged well.
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31. WrestleMania 33 (aka WrestleMania Sunshine)
This placement might be controversial. This is of course the show where the Hardy Boyz made their triumphant return to WWE, where Naomi finally captured the Smackdown Women’s Championship, where Cena proposed to Nikki, and of course where AJ Styles carried Shane McMahon to a shockingly good match to open the main portion of the show. All good stuff.
But the show was also yet another pre-two night Mania death march at nearly seven hours (including the pre-show). Lesnar and Goldberg traded finishers in a brief part-timer classic that was immediately forgettable, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho inexplicably disappointed despite the compelling build, and Reigns had a slow and depressing main event with an Undertaker that should have retired when The Streak ended.
Also, there were the bugs. During the Orton and Bray Wyatt match. Remember the bugs? So, yeah. Lots of not great.
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30. WrestleMania XXVII
There’s more going wrong with this PPV than the fact that one of the two people in the main event is The Miz. Though that is a problem. Nothing against Michael Gregory Mizanin, but he just is not a credible world champion — not here, not ever.
The real issue with this show is that in the end, it just feels like one long commercial to get us all to buy WrestleMania XVIII. The Rock is of course the host of WrestleMania, and he is all over the broadcast. He not only restarts the match after a terrible double count-out, but also delivers the victory to Miz to set up next year’s main event. Sure, that match was fun, but on a rewatch the whole thing leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
The best thing on the show is Triple H vs The Undertaker’s No Holds Barred match. Unquestionably great, yet a match that they would go on to top the following year.
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29. WrestleMania XII
This is definitely a “your mileage may vary” WrestleMania as it is essentially a one match show and that one match remains incredibly divisive to this day.
For some, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels’ 60 Minute Iron Man Match is a mat classic where two of the all-time greats go for well over an hour putting on a clinic that rivals the kind of Broadway matches that made Ric Flair famous. For others, it’s a total bore that drags on for 60 minutes, ends in a draw, and keeps going.
The quality of the show depends entirely on where you fall on either extreme.
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The original WrestleMania. Vince McMahon’s brainchild. The story goes had WrestleMania not been a success in 1985, McMahon and Titan Sports would have likely gone bankrupt. Fortunately for the millions of fans of WWE today, that was not the case.
The show itself is not very good. The entire appeal was premised on the star power of not only the main event but of the impressive undercard that McMahon had built for himself by poaching stars from other territories. For modern audiences, there isn’t much there there.
What puts it this high on the list is its historical significance. It’s a show that every WWE fan — every wrestling fan — should check out at least once.
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27. WrestleMania 23
The Battle of the Billionaires was a massive success for the WWE. Until Mania XXVIII beat this iteration, this was the most purchased wrestling event in history. The match itself was an overbooked mess with Bobby Lashley and Umaga acting as avatars for their respective billionaires. All the while, Stone Cold Steve Austin hammed it up as special guest referee. A technical masterpiece it was not, but it gets the job done.
Outside of that circus, the rest of the show is fine enough — though nothing stands out as a classic. For example, the main event is great. However, John Cena and Shawn Michaels would quickly top themselves on Raw soon after.
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26. WrestleMania 36 Nights 1 & 2 (aka WrestleMania Pirate Ship)
Live from the WWE performance center, with a jam-packed capacity crowd of zero fans, WWE presents to you the WrestleMania that is “Too Big For Just One Night!”
The show that started the trend of two night WrestleManias, this COVID-era spectacle is sure to be increasingly divisive as time passes. While WWE fans got used to crowd-less wrestling in 2020 (they had no choice), one wonders how tolerant future fans will be when revisiting this show and watching their favorite wrestlers compete in silence. Looking back even in 2023, it is shocking at how quiet and subdued everything is.
And what of the “cinematic” matches on nights 1 and 2? How will those age? Similar to the “Final Deletion Match” made popular years earlier in Impact Wrestling, both the “Boneyard Match” and the “Firefly Fun House Match” are polarizing.
All you can really say about WrestleMania 36 for sure is your mileage may vary.
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25. WrestleMania V
The Mega Powers EXPLODE.
WrestleMania V features the payoff to one of the single greatest stories in the history of the WWF. Beginning exactly a year before at WrestleMania IV with Randy Savage winning the World Title, the story beautifully built the friendship between the champion and his newly found ally Hulk Hogan. Unfortunately, egos got the better of both men as Savage was slowly driven mad by his jealousy and paranoia towards the Hulkster. All the while, Hogan couldn’t help but resent his friend for holding the belt that he still felt was rightly his. The match isn’t any kind of classic by modern standards, but it is a proper blowoff to a monster feud.
The rest of the card varies from forgettable to downright bad, but that’s just how these classic-era Wrestlemanias were constructed.
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24. WrestleMania VI
Come for the main event, stay for that stellar Toronto atmosphere. The Canadians are hot hot hot for this one at the Skydome, all 67,678 of them.
This was supposed to be a major passing of the torch show for the WWF, setting up the company for continued success going into the 1990’s. They called it “The Ultimate Challenge.” A winner takes all match between World Champion Hulk Hogan and Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior.
The match absolutely lives up to the hype. In the rarest of rarities, Hulk Hogan is defeated clean as a whistle by The Ultimate Warrior, anointing him as the new top dog in the WWF. Of course, things don’t work out quite as planned for Warrior’s reign, but that doesn’t take away from this moment.
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23. WrestleMania 13
Many people consider WrestleMania 13 a one match show. That really undersells how fun the Chicago Street Fight is on the show. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that it is. How, then, could the show rank this high on the list? For one, this WrestleMania is quite short, so one great match holds a lot more weight on the overall watchability of the PPV.
Also the one match on the card happens to be arguably the greatest single match in the history of WrestleMania, both from an in-ring as well as an historical perspective.
The match is of course Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s flawless Submission Match. It features a double-turn that sets up a feud between babyface Austin and heel Hart that would carry the WWF through most of 1997 and begin the process of making Stone Cold into the biggest star in the history of wrestling. The lasting image of Austin passed out in a pool of his own blood would not only sell thousands of t-shirts, but would become a signature visual of the Attitude Era.
Few matches in wrestling are as important for their technical brilliance as they are their historical significance.
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22. WrestleMania VII
The main event is preposterous. Hulk Hogan defeats Sgt. Slaughter and his Iraqi-sympathizer ways, and helps put the final nail in the coffin of the Gulf War — a conflict that had officially ended the month before. Very silly WWE-style patriotic nonsense.
That being said, the undercard is one of the best of the early classic era. The Hart Foundation takes on the Nasty Boys in a fun tag title match. The Rockers are… rocking against Haku and The Barbarian. Bring the tissues because the ending and post-match angle to the Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior Retirement match delivers some of the highest emotional highs in the history of wrestling.
Heck, even the Blindfold match between Jake Roberts and Rick Martell is a curiosity worth seeing once. The show doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is a perfectly cromulent Hogan-era WrestleMania.
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21. WrestleMania 29
The sequel to WrestleMania XVIII, it’s Rock/Cena II “Once Twice In a Lifetime!”
As so often happens, the sequel doesn’t live up to the original. This isn’t entirely their fault though, as it was later reported that Dwayne had torn his abdominal and abductor muscles off the bone, and suffered a hernia to boot. Ouch.
CM Punk and The Undertaker hold up their end of the bargain with an excellent match, overshadowing a disappointing Triple H/Lesnar brawl. We also get the WrestleMania debut of The Shield on this show as they defeat Orton, Big Show and Sheamus.
Funnily enough on rewatch, one of the most enjoyable matches is the major upset by Fandango over Chris Jericho. It’s a shame that there wasn’t any follow through there for ole Dirty ‘Dango.
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20. WrestleMania 37 Nights 1 & 2 (aka WrestleMania Jolly Roger)
More proof that two night WrestleManias are much more easy to digest than the seven hour slogs that had become the norm in previous years — especially if WWE insists on including this much filler on their shows (host segments, commercials, and concerts get old fast on rewatch).
The main events of each night accomplish what they set out to do. Bianca Belair ends night one as an established top star of the women’s division, put over strongly by Sasha Banks. Roman Reigns re-establishes himself as an unstoppable monster and sets the stage for the next chapter in his career after dominating Edge and Daniel Bryan.
The rest of the card is mostly good verging on very good. Unfortunately, this show has one match that drags it down like an anchor and that is — you guessed it — the infamous Randy Orton/Fiend “Black Goo” match. The kind of angle so embarrassing and preposterous that you hope nobody walks into the room while you’re watching it.
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19. WrestleMania VIII
The main event is awful. The final match of WrestleMania with a DQ finish that involves mistimed interference by Papa Shingo — and mistimed help by The Ultimate Warrior isn’t a satisfying way to close the biggest show of the year (even if Warrior did get a monster pop from the crowd).
Looking back, the main event should have been the World Championship match between Randy Savage and Ric Flair. Not only did the match deliver, but the build involving Ric Flair using primitive photoshop to throw doubt into Randy and Miss Elizabeth’s relationship was great stuff.
The show also features an unforgettable Intercontinental Title match between Bret Hart and Roddy Piper. The psychology at play in this one should be taught in schools. Is this a two match WrestleMania? Yes. But those two matches were fantastic
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18. WrestleMania 24
“I’m sorry. I love you.”
That’s what Shawn Michaels says in the final moments of his emotional 20 minute match with The Nature Boy Ric Flair. Seconds later, Shawn superkicks his idol and pins him, ending the legendary career of one of the all time greats.
Had Ric Flair’s story ended there, this might be remembered as one of the greatest moments in WrestleMania history. Unfortunately, Flair would continue to wrestle and have a number of additional retirement matches, each with diminishing returns. Regardless, the match is still a rollercoaster of emotions that is always worth riding.
The rest of Mania 24 is mostly forgettable. Only the main event for the World Heavyweight Championship is worth revisiting. We saw the Undertaker defeat Edge in the process.
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17. WrestleMania XIV
Like the original WrestleMania, XIV gets additional points for historical significance. Here we see an ascendant Stone Cold Steve Austin taking his place at the top of the card and putting the last piece in place to launch the major angle that would dominate WWF programming for the next two to three years and beyond. A gutsy performance by Shawn Michaels here. From all reports, he was dealing with a major back injury. In spite of that, he managed to throw himself all over the ring like a champ to put over Austin.
Other highlights on the card include a brief but fun Intercontinental Title match between two rising stars in The Rock and Ken Shamrock — as well as a shockingly enjoyable mixed tag match that sees Sable and Marc Mero defeat Goldust and the criminally underutilized Luna Vachon.
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16. WrestleMania 34 (aka WrestleMania Fleur-de-Lis)
This is a tough PPV to pin down. There is a lot of great wrestling on this show. Charlotte vs Asuka is amazing, as is the Triple Threat Intercontinental Title match. The mixed tag featuring Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle defeating Triple H and Stephanie is the best kind of sports entertainment. For the first half of the show we get some amazing cuts to John Cena in the front row of the crowd, pretending like he definitely isn’t wrestling tonight. Fun stuff.
There’s also some things that will leave you scratching your head. Both Royal Rumble winners — Asuka and Shinsuke — come up short…and it’s completely deflating. Cena and The Undertaker’s “match” is a nostalgia rush but also awkwardly constructed. And the main event? Woof. Reigns and Lesnar get booed out of the building.
Just a total mixed bag here.
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15. WrestleMania 38 Nights 1 & 2 (aka WrestleMania Lone Star Again)
Here’s another “your mileage may vary” WrestleMania — as this two night entry is banking heavily on nostalgia.
Night 1 is far better than night 2. Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch tear it up in the middle of the card with Cody Rhodes returns to a monster pop, and he and Seth Rollins deliver in the ring. The night ends with pure nostalgic bliss as Steve Austin returns for his first match since WrestleMania XIX. A game Kevin Owens eats a stunner to send the fans home happy.
Night 2 is far more uneven. Shockingly, the best match of the evening might be Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville’s 14 minute tribute to Jackass. The Vince McMahon “match” is either another shot of uncut nostalgia or total cringe depending on your mood. Then, everything wraps up with yet another Reigns/Lesnar main event that — at the very least — sets up Roman to ascend to his final form as leader of the Bloodline.
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14. WrestleMania 35 (aka WrestleMania Liberty)
Another overly long modern WrestleMania that is elevated by two moments that will be replayed and celebrated by WWE fans for years to come.
The first comes smack in the middle of the show. After a groundswell of fan support makes it all but impossible for the WWE to not get behind him (not unlike the momentum that carried his opponent to his WrestleMania moment), Kofi Kingston defeats eco-warrior Daniel Bryan to win the WWE Championship. Vindication for Kofi-Mania in a moment that means more than just a kayfabe title victory for millions watching at home.
Then, the main event. For the first time in WrestleMania history, the show will end with a match featuring the top women of WWE. In a Winner Takes All match for both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships, Becky Lynch defeats Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair. Despite some wonky booking in the final moments, the importance of this match is undeniable.
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13. WrestleMania 25
Unsurprisingly, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker steal this show with a 30 minute classic that was so good they decided to run it back the following year as the actual main event of WrestleMania.
25 has a few memorable matches, including the rare Matt Hardy vs Jeff Hardy match that actually works. There was also a fun lower card with Chris Jericho showing where he clashes with a handful of wrestling legends. Unfortunately, the final two matches fail to deliver — though for different reasons. In our first of two main events, the problem is Big Show, who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. This would have made a million times more sense as a straight singles match between John Cena and Edge.
Then, to close the show, a boring Randy Orton and Triple WWE Championship match that never gets out of 2nd gear. If only Hunter had the same chemistry with Randall that he does with his other Evolution stablemate, Batista.
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12. WrestleMania X8
Every so often, you watch a PPV that feels like there must be something special in the water back in the locker room. One thinks back to WrestleMania X-Seven when it just felt like everything was clicking and the show managed to exceed all expectations.
Then there are those shows like WrestleMania X8 where it’s as if the entire roster collectively got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Nothing is really bad here, per se, but only one of the matches on the card comes close to delivering to its potential. Perhaps it’s because the rest of the roster knew that the next day the only match that anyone would be talking about was the “Icon vs Icon” match between The Rock and Hulk Hogan?
Either way, this is a perfectly fine WrestleMania card with one incredible standout match.
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11. WrestleMania XXVI
Oh, Shawn. Why did you have to come back for that terrible tag match in Saudi Arabia?
What’s that? How many zeroes? Understood.
Let’s not let one match take away from the drama of the incredible main event of WrestleMania XXVI. Streak vs career, with a desperate Shawn Michaels putting everything on the line to try and prove that he can do the impossible. High stakes, high drama, a bittersweet ending.
The rest of the card delivers a number of bangers. John Cena and Batista in the semi-main is excellent and highlights the chemistry the two had together. It is a shame that Big Match John didn’t get to wrestle Batista half as often as he wrestled Randall.
The only major disappointment on the card (other than the matches that we all knew would be bad) was this years’ Money in the Bank entry. Things just didn’t shift into that higher gear and the winner, Jack Swagger, was a disappointment.
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10. WrestleMania 22
WrestleMania 22 has some unique selling points that help it stand out. Mick Foley and Edge’s hardcore match, for example, remains to this day the only time a flaming table has made an appearance at WrestleMania.
Likewise, Mickie James and Trish Stratus’ Women’s World Title match is the best women’s match at a WrestleMania in the pre-Women’s Revolution era (so basically 1985-2015).
Even Triple H’s extravagant main event entrance is notable. The Conan-esque throne would go on to be parodied at AEW’s first ever PPV where Cody would smash a facsimile with a sledgehammer.
The only disappointment was lack of time given to the triple threat match between Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle and Randy Orton. We all should have seen Rey winning the Smackdown World Title in less than 10 minutes for the bad omen that it turned out to be.
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9. WrestleMania 31 (aka WrestleMania Play Button)
The headline for this WrestleMania will of course always be “The Heist of the Century.”
Famously, Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract during the main event of the show. He effectively made what was supposed to be a singles match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns into a triple threat match. Some chicanery and a few curbstomps later, Seth is exiting Levi’s stadium the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion while helicoptering the belt like a madman. It was an incredible moment and a brilliant bit of booking that kept everyone looking strong.
As for the rest of the show, Orton and Rollins have an incredible highlight moment (the springboard RKO), the ladder match for the Intercontinental Title is a fun demolition derby, and the Sting/Triple H match is the best kind of overbooked Attitude Era nonsense for those into that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, Undertaker and Bray Wyatt have little to no in-ring chemistry, and John Cena and Rusev have a fine US Title match that gives us the wrong winner (it completely clipped Rusev’s wings). A lot more great than bad on this one
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8. WrestleMania XXVIII
Once in a Lifetime! We swear!
The Rock, now one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, returns to WrestleMania after an 8 year hiatus to battle the biggest star the WWE has in John Cena. No surprise that this is the most purchased PPV in wrestling history. Thankfully the match holds up its end of hype bargain, a 30 minute clash of the titans that’s as fun and entertaining as any match in Dwayne’s in-ring career.
Also on the card, a stone cold five star classic from Triple H and Undertaker in a sequel to their match from Mania XXVII. The final visual of Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker going up the ramp together having come to a newly earned respect through mutual annihilation is unforgettable.
CM Punk’s title defense against Chris Jericho is overshadowed but also superlative. A great show, especially with the hindsight to be able to forgive how they did Daniel Bryan dirty in the opening match.
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7. WrestleMania 21
WrestleMania 21 stands out for a few reasons. As part of his “Legend Killer” gimmick, Randy Orton was the first WWE superstar to explicitly call out The Undertaker’s streak and challenge him for a match with the intent to break it. He was of course unsuccessful, but it set a precedent that would create drama for the next 9 years.
This PPV also held the inaugural Money in the Bank ladder match, a WrestleMania tradition until the gimmick match was offloaded onto its own PPV. The six men involved hit a home run, delivering one of the best, most influential multi-man ladder matches in the genre. Edge’s victory would also lead to one of the best uses of the cash-in in the history of the gimmick.
The match that stole the show was, unsurprisingly, Shawn Michaels taking on Kurt Angle. An incredible build leads to an incredible match with a split crowd and an outcome that will leave you guessing on first watch through.
Finally, the main event. Not a technical masterpiece by any means, but Triple H and Batista have always had excellent chemistry. This match is the payoff to a long build that started with the formation of Evolution. An excellent PPV with a high batting average of delivering action.
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6. WrestleMania XX
The final image of this show, where close friends Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero embrace while confetti rains around them, was a moment of validation for fans in 2004. It was proof that “your guys” might actually win. Just like Bret Hart paved the way for these guys, they paved the way for someone like Daniel Bryan years later.
There are other matches worth checking out as well. Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection took on Evolution in Rock’s final WrestleMania appearance before he left for Hollywood. Likewise, Christian and Chris Jericho have an underrated match that has been largely forgotten about.
Additionally, WrestleMania XX also has the benefit of a great atmosphere. It embraces its setting and celebrates the strange, intimate layout of Madison Square Garden.
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5. WrestleMania III
This gets a significant bump for historical reasons. It’s difficult to understate how big of a deal WrestleMania III was at the time. If the original WrestleMania was the make-it-or-break-it moment for Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation, then WrestleMania III was the victory lap. The main event of World Champion Hulk Hogan defending his title against former friend and (in kayfabe) undefeated monster Andre the Giant drew somewhere between 78,000 and 93,000 fans to the Pontiac Silverdome. The image of Hogan body slamming Andre isn’t just a major moment in wrestling history, but in the pop culture of the 1980s.
Looking back, in 2023, is the main event really that good of a match? Not really, at least not in the way that any modern fan would recognize. But when you see the reactions of the fans, the way they hang on every punch, every slam, every bit of hot-dogging from Hogan, it’s plain to see that that didn’t matter.
Of course the other highlight of the show is Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage. The “workrate” match to define all workrate matches in the WWF. These two men changed the business, and pioneered a new way of getting over in the land of the giants. Every WWE fan should watch this show at least once in their lives.
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4. WrestleMania X
WrestleMania X is the first post-Hogan era WrestleMania — and the first time the Granddaddy of Them All begins to resemble something familiar to modern audiences. The show begins with arguably the greatest opening match in WrestleMania history as Bret Hart wrestles his younger brother Owen. The match ends in a shocking upset, made all the more brilliant by the fact that Bret then goes on to defeat Yokozuna in a serviceable match at the end of the show. Brilliant booking as Owen now has a pin over champion and a clear claim to be number one contender.
The show also features the first high profile ladder match in PPV history. While not the first ladder match of its kind, this is the one against which all others were measured until Edge & Christian and the Hardy Boyz came along. Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon do things that blew people’s minds in 1994 and continue to hold up to this day.
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3. WrestleMania XIX
This one takes a few matches to get going, but by the time we get to (who else) Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho’s 31 minute clinic, the PPV is off to the races. Only a few months after returning from what was thought to be a career-ending back injury, HBK has completely reinvented himself into the performer that would define the latter half of his career. This match with Jericho is Shawn dialing in the blueprint that he would use to have instant classics years later with Kurt Angle, Undertaker, John Cena and Ric Flair.
Steve Austin and the Rock close out their trilogy with a match that acts as a greatest hits between the two of them. It also marks what was (until WrestleMania 38) Stone Cold’s final match in the squared circle. This one doesn’t reach the heights of their clash at X-Seven, but its still an excellent main event caliber fight.
Finally, the main event: Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. A technician’s dream. These two put on a clinic in match that is often only remembered because of the unfortunate (and almost fatal) accident that immediately precedes the finish to the match. Had Brock Lesnar successfully hit that shooting star press to pin Kurt Angle, this entire PPV might rate even higher.
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2. WrestleMania XXX
There’s nothing like a happy ending.
The final moments of WrestleMania XXX, with Daniel Bryan celebrating in the middle of the ring, delivers the kind of dopamine shot that wrestling fans spend their whole lives chasing. After months of withholding, teasing and taunting, WWE finally gave in to the growing popular outcry for Daniel Bryan to be champion. It delivered a perfect coronation at the biggest show of the year. Bryan wrestles two incredible matches to get there, each one main even caliber, proving that he deserves to be in the spot that fans demanded for him. Even on a re-watch, the moment lands perfectly. This is wrestling.
Oh, there was something else important that happened at this show. Suppose it is worth mentioning. After 21 consecutive victories at WrestleMania amounting to an unmatched perfect record on the biggest stage, The Undertaker was finally defeated by Brock Lesnar. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it sounds like when 75,000 plus people gasp and then fall silent all simultaneously, this show is worth a watch.
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1. WrestleMania X-Seven
It couldn’t be any other show.
Considered the “end of the Attitude Era ”, WrestleMania X-7 is a victory lap for a company that not only defeated and then bought it’s only competition, but is also coming off one of their best creative and financial years to date.
The entire locker room must have felt that company-wide confidence because it permeated nearly every match on the show. When people still talk about how good the Hardcore Title match was years later on a show that also had an incredible multi-man ladder match, a Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit technical showcase, and the best of the trilogy between The Rock and Steve Austin in the main event, then this was a very special show indeed.
Even Vince McMahon managed to have the best match of his in-ring career, battling his son Shane in a match that by all rights should have imploded under the weight of all its bells and whistles.
The ending will remain controversial. One wonders how different things are for the WWE in the following year, particularly as the company begins to work towards a WCW invasion angle, if Austin hadn’t turned heel and aligned with McMahon. We will never know.
But we do know that WrestleMania X-Seven is the best WrestleMania of all time.
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