FEARLESSRiOT COUNTDOWN: My Top 15 Favorite WrestleMania Matches

Yesterday, I took a look at the worst WrestleMania had to offer since the year 2000. Today, I end my series of WrestleMania Week Countdowns by taking a look at the matches from WrestleMania history that I actually enjoyed. Although I haven’t watched any WrestleManias before X-Seven in full, I have seen certain matches on certain 80s and 90s cards, so the matches that I have seen on those shows do contend. Will they be able to compete with the new millennium matches that I’ve seen, many of which I revisit time and time again around this time? Keep reading and maybe you’ll get a feel for what kind of action I generally tend to enjoy when it comes to WrestleMania. As WrestleMania Week draws to a close, let’s go out big.

#15) Undertaker vs. CM Punk at WrestleMania 29Screenshot (524)

Despite a legitimate claim to being the Best in the World, CM Punk shockingly does not have many super-memorable WrestleMania matches. You have to assume that the fact he never completely won over Triple H and Vince McMahon over might have made this deliberate. In fact, in all of his matches at WrestleMania, only two were actually up for consideration on this list. The first was the Money in the Bank Ladder Match from WrestleMania 23 and the second was this one. If CM Punk wasn’t going to get the main event that he felt he deserved, he was going to make sure his match with The Undertaker would be match of the night. And it certainly was. This match does have a slight black eye over it in that WWE exploited the real-life death of Paul Bearer for the story and CM Punk was at his peak level of despicable to make the drama seem all too real. But the match certainly delivered and was the one saving grace of an overall terrible event in New York/New Jersey.

#14) Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair at WrestleMania XIVScreenshot (525)

Mr. WrestleMania vs. a man who may as well refer to himself as Mr. Pro Wrestling. While The Rock may easily be the biggest crossover star pro wrestling history (those box office receipts and popularity with non-wrestling fans do NOT lie), The Nature Boy is one of the earliest examples of global megastar in the sport. So much so that it comes as no surprise that fellow legend Shawn Michaels was heavily inspired by him. So like Shawn’s match with Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, this was a match between a man and the youngster he inspired. OK, maybe youngster isn’t the right word; Michaels was up there in age at the time of this match, but the point is that the two put on a match that was exactly as good as you’d expect. Really, while action in the match was good, it was the emotions that made it so memorable. This was Ric Flair’s retirement match (just pretend that TNA run never happened, aside from his interactions with Jay Lethal) and we all had a feeling he was going to lose. Tears were shed as soon as Michaels said “I’m sorry; I love you”, and that’s when this match was crystallized as a WrestleMania classic.

#13) Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIXScreenshot (526)

One thing was can always count on these days is Brock Lesnar being a complete disappointment on WrestleMania, either kayfabe or not. He either puts on terrible, boring, or disappointing matches or he just ends the night on the losing end in a big match. It hasn’t always been this way, though. In fact, his very WrestleMania match – which was a main event – was actually very outstanding. Sure, even in that match, he had his own brush of bad luck when he crushed his cranium on a Shooting Star Press, but at least that one earned his a spot in WrestleMania highlight reels. Scraping for silver linings everywhere today, aren’t we? But honestly, like a WrestleMania Ladder Match, it’s almost impossible to mess up a match between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar; two men with legit wrestling credentials had solid chemistry with one another and closed out the show with a simply impressive contest. And tragically severe pains coursing through in their bodies, of course, but let’s focus on the positive.

#12) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H at WrestleMania XXXScreenshot (527)

Wrestling wants to relive Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon so bad. The feud was arguably a product of its time that still holds up for what it is today, but it doesn’t work for modern feuds for a reason. A concept can only be repeated so many time before fans want it vanquished and buried. But luckily, WWE managed to get it right with Daniel Bryan’s World Championship story, even if it wasn’t the narrative they had planned for WrestleMania Season. Fan demand landed Daniel Bryan in two matches for WrestleMania XXX. First he had to go through Triple H, and if he could, he’ll take his rightful place against Batista and Randy Orton in the main event. The Triple Threat was decent, but the opener with Triple H, despite being quite long, was really enjoyable, primarily because Bryan actually got to look like an equal opposite Captain Burial. After all that hard work, it would have been a massive disappointment for Triple H to be the victor and become the missing piece of an all-Evolution Triple Threat. But with Bryan coming out on top, it made the contest all the better.

#11) Undertaker vs. Edge at WrestleMania XXIVScreenshot (528)

Time for more Undertaker, this time with another Superstar who’ll be on this list a few times. For Edge, it’s the only time he was allowed he privilege of going on last at WrestleMania. He was the reigning World Heavyweight Championship who was willing to do whatever he needed to if it meant his championship never left his shoulder. This included marrying his boss; the man was talented, but was also without shame, hence why it was so easy to despise him. And he had no problem provoking the Deadman, who he’d cashed in Money in the Bank on a year previous. The feud between the would reach one of its highest points on this might, where Edge’s title was on the line against Undertaker’s streak. Edge had also never been pinned to made to submit at WrestleMania up to this point, with his only loss being in a multi-man Ladder Match. Undertaker put an end to that, in a match where both men looked incredibly impressive, but Edge still received assistance anyway. Though the Flair/Michaels match had more emotions behind it, I personally have a soft spot for this match as well.

#10) The Rock vs. Steve Austin at WrestleManias X-Seven and XIXScreenshot (512)

I know, it’s a tie, but I have justification. Even though all three WrestleMania clashes between these men are considered really good, the main event battle at WrestleMania X-Seven is the one that receives the most praise. I feel like that’s the case because it bought what many consider the greatest WrestleMania of all-time to a close. And truth be told, it is a pretty solid fight; not even a wrestling match, even. This was a fight, as both men wanted the WWE Championship so badly, but Austin was willing to sell out to his boss for a funny-yet-failed heel turn just to get it. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna push their match from XIX to the side. This match was very different from the X-Seven match in that there was no title on the line. Rock was fighting to get a chip off his shoulder and another notch on his belt while Austin just wanted on final great match, and they got it. The Rock’s wit and cunning matched with Austin’s fighting spirit made this one amazing match to witness. And Jerry Lawler’s hilariously biased commentary for The Rock made it a lot of fun to listen to, believe it or not.

#9) Undertaker vs. Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIIIScreenshot (513)

Triple H is the only man to face Undertaker three times at WrestleMania. If ever there was a barometer to measure how important WWE feels like Triple H is, there you go. With all due respect, Triple H is that damn good and has proven it time and again. It’s just mind-blowing that he’s shared the WrestleMania ring with Undertaker one more time that Undertaker’s greatest WrestleMania opponent. Actually, Undertaker has technically been in the WrestleMania ring with both men three times, as HBK was the guest referee for this one. And while the X-Seven and XXVII matches were fine in their own right, I went with XXVIII because this was the one that featured the best acting, the best drama, the most emotional input, and showed Triple H at his most vicious to try ending the streak. Undertaker also had to endure so much in this one, not just to keep his streak intact but also to prove that just because he was physically unable to walk out of the previous WrestleMania doesn’t mean he should be taken lightly. And Shawn Michaels should’ve won an Emmy for everything he did to make this match work. It’s barely the end of an era like they said, since two of these men still show up to wrestle on WrestleMania, but as long as they made us feel something, they succeeded in their motivations.

#8) Money in the Bank Ladder Matches at WrestleManias 21 and 23Screenshot (514)

Proof that thinking outside the box really is a good idea that should be encouraged in pro wrestling. I’ve said it before that it’s seemingly impossible to mess up a WrestleMania Ladder Match. Ever since the first one between Razor Roman and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania IX and following the two straight years of Edge & Christian, the Hardys, and the Dudleys putting so much on the line at 16 and X-Seven (one of which we will get to), throwing a Ladder Match on WrestleMania is guaranteed entertainment. Throw in a briefcase guaranteeing the winner a World Title Match anytime they want one for an entire calendar year and you have on intriguing contest on your hands. Turns out, however, that choosing a hands-down favorite one of these matches is pretty hard. So instead of picking just one, I’m giving one spot to my two personal favorites. Edge, Chris Jericho, Christian, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, and Kane set the standard for these things with the memorable inaugural affair at 21. The eight-man match between Edge, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Finlay, King Booker, and Mr. Kennedy that opened WrestleMania 23 featured way too many fun and memorable moments to count. I recommend watching both matches and picking a favorite, but for me, I felt like leaving either off would do an injustice.

#7) Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXScreenshot (515)

I should not be comfortable talking about this match. We should all feel uncomfortable talking about Chris Benoit. Some people certainly are; when a person leaves this world in the mind-blowing way he did, it’s understandable to squirm a little at the mention of his name. But one thing I will not forget is that he is part of one of three Triple Threat Matches in the Top 10. His only WrestleMania main event pitted him against Shawn Michaels and Triple H for World Heavyweight Championship, a match where Benoit was miraculously the only one of the three to not bleed his own blood. While Shawn entered the match under the mission of settling the score with Triple H for the last two years of agony he’s caused him, Benoit’s mission was mighty clear: win the World Title by any means necessary. And the resulting match, which saw all men take huge amounts of punishment, was a barn burner the likes of Madison Square Garden may probably never see again.

#6) Undertaker vs. Batista at WrestleMania 23Screenshot (516)

WrestleMania 23 was overall a pretty decent show, but if feels like the thing people most remember about it was that Donald Trump was there and he helped give Vince McMahon a haircut after giving him some of worst punches in the history of anything ever. But what about the actual wrestling on the show, because it was mostly solid. And while some may point to the main event between John Cena and Shawn Michaels as a can’t miss contest, I feel like Batista vs. Undertaker is a little underrated. I enjoyed this match even as it aired live and I watched at home on PPV, so I figured this would be one of those matches that would be widely talked about for years to come. Why isn’t it? I have no idea. First of all, this match should’ve gone on last since Undertaker won the Royal Rumble. Second, this was the match that proved Batista’s status as a main eventer was legit. He and The Deadman brawled around the ring and still found time to trade some moves and create some astounding drama between the ropes. Undertaker’s streak may not have been in question, but at the very least, they did a great job making Batista seem like a huge threat to it. Let’s hope Roman Reigns can pull out a performance this year anywhere on this level.

#5) Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 32Screenshot (517)

This weekend will be a family reunion of sorts for former WWE women as the likes of Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres will be in the house for the Hall of Fame induction of Beth Phoenix. These three were some of the biggest names of the Diva Era, but even despite their star power, they still had struggles getting WWE to take them seriously. Last year, however, WWE showed they were up to the task of present the women in a more respectable manner with the death of the Divas Title and the resurrection of the Women’s Title, with the three women competing for it being three women who were widely praised for helping put NXT on the map. What they ended up with was the best match of the night on WrestleMania 32. Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte pulled out all the stops to make sure they won the night, pulling out all the high-flying and submission offense they could think of. And it worked. A match that furthered the cause of the revolution within women’s wrestling, three of NXT’s Four Horsewomen captured the attention of the fans in Dallas and watching from home and convinced the wrestling world that wrestling wasn’t just a man’s world.

#4) Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz at WrestleMania X-SevenScreenshot (518)

This year’s Ladder Match stop is going to the tag teams; Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Gallows & Anderson, and Sheamus & Cesaro – three teams so cool that none of them even have official team names – will attempt to climb the ladder into immortality and capture the Tag Team Championship. They have quite a legacy to live up to, however, because Edge & Christian, the Hardys, and the Dudleys became WrestleMania legends this same way that’s to two straight years of high-risk action. The Triangle Ladder Match was a brutal car crash, but TLC II took things to another level, with spots that have aged way better. The Swanson off the ladder, the Spear from many feet in the air, Matt and Bubba falling onto a bed of tables on the outside. Even Lita, Spike Dudley, and Rhyno got in on the action and took their own bumps. In the end, Edge & Christian reigned supreme for a second year in a row in what is dubbed TLC II, back when TLC matches were so rare and spectacular that we could actually number them and their uniqueness was able to be appreciated much more. I wish the current teams luck, but it’s highly doubtful they’ll be able to Top this awesomeness.

#3) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25Screenshot (519)

Talk about praise; this match has been talked up to the point of worship, I think. It was such a showstealer that it spawned a sequel the following year. Aside from the action, the greatest talking point of this match has to be the fact that without it, WrestleMania 25 would have been absolute garbage. Look up “one-match show” in the wrestling dictionary and WrestleMania 25 is surely going to be a point of reference. The amazing thing is that this match didn’t even really have much of a story to it. It was just Undertaker’s yearly streak defense, which for a while seemed to be locked in for Vladimir Kozlov to occupy. Luckily, there was a change of plans. Could you imagine Undertaker going up against Santino‘s future partner-in-crime facing The Deadman at WrestleMania? This match wasn’t necessarily perfect, honestly. There were a few spots that seemed slightly off and the Sim Snuka “catch” will live in infamy, but the overall atmosphere and chemistry of the combatants made for an entire half hour of magic and a PWI Match of the Year winner.

#2) Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13Screenshot (520)

If any 90s WrestleMania match was a lock to make it on this list, it was definitely this one. The image alone of blood running down the face of Stone Cold Steve Austin while he was trapped in Bret Hart’s ruthless Sharpshooter is one of the most infamous sights in pro wrestling history. But that does not make this a one-moment match on a one-match show. Everything about this is what Triple H vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania 25 should have been. Hart and Austin went in with boiling hatred for one another, and the fact that one man would have to tap out to the other meant that one would no doubt have to willingly surrender superiority to the other. And the entire match featured both men doing the most to accomplish a vicious, hard-fought match. In additional to occasionally using traditional wear-down tactics, they brawled in the crowd and the used whatever weapons they could find. Austin was the only one wearing blood by the end, but Hart took a crazy amount of punishment as well. In the end, an iconic double turn occurred by the time Ken Shamrock called for the bell and a new main event star was on the way to being created.

#1) Edge vs. Mick Foley at WrestleMania 22Screenshot (521)

With that last match, Austin and Hart certainly earned the right to call themselves R-rated grapplers. An R-rating is something that just truly be earned. While some hardcore swearing and maybe even oozing sex are great starting points, nothing really drives the point home quite like being able to take as much as you can dish out. Even though Edge had previously been through the ringer of ladder and TLC matches at past WrestleManias, it was small potatoes compared to the hell Mick Foley has gone through in his career. So after Edge blamed guest referee Mick Foley for his first WWE Championship run ending prematurely, her went on to call Foley overrated and question whether or not that Hardcore fire still burned. Along with barbed wire and maybe a few singed hairs, he’d come to eat those words at WrestleMania 22 in Chicago. This may not be the hands-down best match in WrestleMania history, but it’s certainly my favorite as it’s the one I always find myself rewatching and coming back to. Mick Foley already had his hardcore stripes, and he put Edge to the test to rightfully earn his. Even Lita got in on the action and lost a few droplets of blood. Fun match with a ton of replay value to boot.

Honorable Mentions

+ Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania X – This only missed the list because, truth be told, I just recently watched this match for the first time and need some time to marinate my enjoyment of it. But yes, that match was technically really, really good.

+ Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage at WrestleMania III – One of those classic matches that I have yet to actually watch in-full. Maybe I’ll revise this list a year from now after watching this and place it on.

+ Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania X – The boundaries that were pushed with Money in the Bank and the Hardys/Dudleys/E&C match made this look tame by comparison. But it’s still groundbreaking for what it is.

+ Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XIX – Quite a lengthy match between two equal talents, and the one that made me, who was only watching wrestling for a few months at this point, realize Chris Jericho really is that good.

+ Mr. McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 22 and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania XIX – If I respect Mr. McMahon for anything, it’s the fact that he really is willing to hemorrhage for the sake of an entertaining match or story.

+ Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XX – One of Eddie Guerrero’s greatest winning tactics. The chemistry between Angle and Guerrero was off the charts, too.

+  Shane McMahon vs. Mr. McMahon at WrestleMania X-Seven – This match has so much going on that the wrestling was the least important part of it. Also, this is the peak of on-screen Linda McMahon moments. Her terrible Stunner wishes it was this iconic.

+  Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22 – The best women’s one-on-one match in WrestleMania history. Then again, look back through WrestleMania history and you’ll notice there hasn’t even been many one-on-one women’s WrestleMania matches. Fact.

+ Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Eve Torres & Beth Phoenix at WrestleMania XXVII – Fine match, though not groundbreaking. I just wanted to mention Eve Torres somewhere in here and honestly, this is the only of her three WrestleMania matches that was worth a damn.

+ Evolution vs. The Rock n Sock Connection at WrestleMania XX – One of the most entertaining Handicap Matches I have ever seen. The interactions between The Rock and Ric Flair were absolutely priceless.

+ Undertaker vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania 21 – Another underrated match in the history of the Undertaker’s streak. That Chokeslam into an RKO was simply baller, but it was not enough to put away the Deadman, it seems.

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21 – While I don’t revisit it as much as the other matches on this list, hence why it only had an honorable mention, this is a match that I know both Hall of Famers are proud of and they should be.

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