Let us take a trip, you and I, down memory lane and relive some of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history. Starting from the first decade of Wrestlemanias……we look back on the matches that shaped the event of what it was into what it is now. I will be doing the next two decades for the two weeks then I will post an underrated gems column, matches that don’t get enough praise but you should check out (spoiler….Hogan/Andre is not on this list but is on the underrated gem list). So, here we go….
#10. Wrestlemania VII: WWF Title match: Sgt. Slaughter (c) vs Hulk Hogan
In a match that was hastily booked for the sheer purpose of having Hulk Hogan be the conquering American hero against that turncoat scum, Sgt. Slaughter, this wound up being surprisingly good. The good for the match was rushed with Slaughter shocking EVERYBODY and winning the WWF Title from the Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble so Hulk Hogan made a vow to win the Rumble and to go after Slaughter at Wrestlemania (this was before the Rumble winner automatically earned a title shot so you could say it started here in some way). The story was quite controversial and we all knew the predictable endgame of it all but, at the very least, these two worked hard. What made this match, for me, was Slaughter’s bumping ability at the age of 42 with Hogan kicking his ass from pillar to post and Slaughter flying all over the place, including (I believe) a spot where Slaughter was sent over the top of the post to the floor!! Of course, Slaughter had Gen. Adnan in his corner and he gained the advantage through a chair shot, busting the Hulkster open. Hogan was able to not submit to the Camel Clutch, cue the formula and Hogan wins the title again! The first time I watched this match, I was surprised at how good it was. Hogan was moving with a sense of purpose (I guess going back to defending AMERICA rejuvenated him?) and I can’t praise Slaughter enough, who was AWESOME as a heel during this run. I would seriously put this as both an underrated gem and one of the Top 10 best WM matches of the decade.
#9: Wrestlemania V: WWF Title match: “Macho Man” Randy Savage (c) vs Hulk Hogan
I loved the storyline……HATED Savage turning heel though. Don’t get me wrong, Savage as a heel is fucking awesome but you have Hogan pretty much suckering Savage into a title match by telling him that the WWF Title is HIS title, tries to steal Savage’s girl and teams with him to hog the spotlight……and we say John Cena sucks as a best friend! Still, the match was easily one of the biggest main events of the early Wrestlemania era (I would argue it was second to Hogan/Andre) and with Elizabeth in a neutral corner, this was going to be a hot match. Indeed it was since Hogan and Savage had great chemistry around this time, both were younger and Savage was wrestling with a purpose. You can tell these two wanted to steal the show (considering that the rest of the show sucked…..there wasn’t much to steal) and I also appreciated how much they deviated a lot from the Hogan formula for most of the match. The biggest problem people have with this match is the finish, which is Hogan Finish 101 and I will admit that I was expecting a lot from this match than what I got. But, I believe it had better star power than Hogan/Slaughter and was a slightly better match…..but just barely.
#8: Wrestlemania II: WWF Tag Team Title match: Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake (c) vs The British Bulldogs
This is a match that doesn’t get NEARLY enough credit for being as good as it was. First of all, it takes place on one of the WORST Wrestlemanias of all time (like, it gives IX a run for its money). Secondly, it involves BRUTUS BEEFCAKE, the career Hogan lackey who never amounted to jack shit. Third, it was overshadowed slightly by Ozzy Osbourne (plus, I’ve read this isn’t even their best match between them). However, there are three great workers in this match and Beefcake is carryable so this wound up being quite good…..although it was mostly a showcase for the Bulldogs’ offense (which isn’t a bad thing). The finish was pretty nasty with Davey Boy running Valentine into Dynamite Kid’s head (who was on the top rope) and that got the pin on Valentine while Dynamite took one of his infamous nasty bumps to the floor. Kind of funny to see Ozzy and Capt. Lou Albano celebrating while Davey and Dynamite look all beat up and stuff. But yes, definitely a lost gem and one I believe you should definitely check out.
#7: Wrestlemania VIII: WWF Title match: Ric Flair (c) vs “Macho Man” Randy Savage
To sum this one up: I LOVE this match and this feud…….and it’s still #7 on the list…..that shows you how great the rest of the matches are. This one had a great yet simple build: Flair wins the title at the Rumble, Flair insinuates that he and Elizabeth used to bump uglies, Savage gets pissed and wants a title shot. Sure, this was originally supposed to be Hogan/Flair for the title but the match was bombing on the house show circuit and this was a great backup match to have. These two were TREMENDOUS with each other in the ring with Savage having to fend off both Flair and Mr. Perfect, who was on the floor. Flair gets busted open and was fined for it, damn near fired for it too, and Savage hit the Elbow Drop and everybody thought he had it won. That is until Mr. Perfect hit Savage in the knee with the chair and the match REALLY got good after that. The second half of the match was Flair DESTROYING Savage’s knee, cheating left and right, and the crowd was going freakin’ nuts. Many younger wrestlers should pop this match in to see how to effectively work a body part, cheat like a son of a bitch and SELL THE FREAKIN’ KNEE like Savage does here. Some may not be high on the finish (Savage counters the Figure Four with an inside cradle with the tights to win) but I thought it was a great little move with Flair getting cocky and Savage having to resort to a desperate move to win. Even better, Savage sells the knee during his post-match interview…..HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT!!!
#6: Wrestlemania VIII: Intercontinental Title match: Rowdy Roddy Piper (c) vs Bret Hart
It’s the perennial bridesmaid, Roddy Piper, taking on Bret Hart for the IC Title at Mania 8. Bret lost the title to the Mountie (*snickers*) but at least the WWF was smart in coming up with an excuse for Bret losing……he had a fever (and no, there was no cow bell). Piper won the belt at the Rumble and Bret was given his rematch. This match really picked up during the interview segment before the match where Piper was getting a little too lippy and Bret didn’t like that. The match followed the classic babyface vs babyface formula where both guys start respectful but over the course of the match, they begin to act like bastards towards each other (like Bret acting like his shoulder was really hurt only to sucker Piper into an inside cradle for a near fall and Piper slapping him for that). Bret got busted open during the match (the story is that he bladed but he did the cut so well that he was able to convince the higher ups that it was legitimate to avoid punishment……something Flair could not do) and Piper assaulted the cut throughout. The final few moments are filled with amazing drama with Piper thinking about using the ring bell to hit Bret and the crowd losing its mind (they didn’t want Piper to turn heel) and of course, we get the awesome “walk the buckles” counter to the Sleeper and Bret regained the Intercontinental Title. A truly great match, one of Piper’s greatest wrestling matches and quite honestly, it was fantastic stuff.
#5: Wrestlemania VI: WWF Title match: Hulk Hogan (c) vs Ultimate Warrior (IC champion)
The biggest surprise about this match was how well it came off. We all know that Hogan is no Flair in the ring and Warrior is about as far away from Ricky Steamboat as you can get. However, knowing that these two spent weeks preparing for this match, choreographing everything, knowing how to work the crowd and trying to go away from doing their regular formulas makes me appreciate this match. It was a huge match, a match everyone wanted to see at the time and a match that still gives people goosebumps when they see their interaction at the Royal Rumble. It’s the traditional babyface vs babyface match but unlike Piper/Bret, where they were just bastards to each other, these two would gain the advantage through skill and power, not by suckering each other in. Hogan, in particular, deserves a ton of credit for carrying Warrior through this match. It could have been a disaster (like Ultimate Warrior gassing himself before the match by running all the way down to the ring on a night where people were using those little ring carts to preserve their energy) but these two held things together and gave the fans a dream match worth seeing. Hogan kicking out of Warrior’s finisher, Warrior avoiding the Leg Drop (in a great spot) and Warrior hitting the Big Splash to win the WWF title was a fantastic finish for its time. Warrior’s run with the title was utterly forgettable and Hogan probably regretted laying down for him after it but at the time and to this day, this match is STILL great stuff and, at the very least, Jesse Ventura is AWESOME on commentary in his final WWF PPV.
#4: Wrestlemania X: Ladder match for the vacant Intercontinental Title: Razor Ramon vs Shawn Michaels
I’ve gone back and forth on this one for a while. I love the match but I can see the argument of how it hasn’t aged well (although I can see the argument of why the match is still a classic because I believe it excels in psychology over high spots). However, compared to the other three matches on this list, this match is not as emotional, dramatic nor as impactful as far as storytelling is concerned as the other three. The match, of course, is remembered for Shawn Michaels doing things with a ladder that people thought wasn’t possible. From him riding the ladder down onto Razor’s back, leaping off the ladder in a Splash and several other memorable bumps, Shawn stole the show. However, what helps this match a lot is the story of Razor being able to physically dominate the smaller HBK but HBK used the ladder to gain the advantage and to wear Razor down. This match ages well due to the ladder being used to inflict violence instead of being a launching pad and the psychology and story carrying through a lot better than some of today’s more spotty ladder matches. The finish is awesome (no matter what Bret Hart says) with Shawn getting caught in the ropes and Razor climbing the ladder and posing with both belts. Their rematch at Summerslam 1995 is longer and sloppier but it’s still an awesome match in its own right but this match introduced everybody to a new match concept that people took and revolutionized to what it is today (whether good or bad).
#3: Wrestlemania VII: Retirement Match: Ultimate Warrior vs “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Personally, this match is easily one of my favorites. If the other two matches weren’t SO GOOD, this would win. I love everything about it: the angle, the drama, the emotion, the psychology, the characters, the action, the strategies, EVERYTHING!! Not everything is perfect in this one but so much goes right with this one that it’s hard to nitpick the faults. The story began when Savage wanted a shot at Warrior’s WWF Title……Warrior kindly refused (in the form of a head shaking, stuttering “Nooooooo!” to Sensational Sherri). Savage was irate and proceed to cost Warrior the title at the Rumble to set this one up with the stipulation that the loser would have to retire. To make matters better, Elizabeth is sitting in the crowd. The match structure is awesome with Warrior actually WALKING to the ring for once to preserve his energy. Warrior dominated the first half of the match (like the first 13-14 minutes, a little too long in my opinion) until some cheating from Sherri allowed Savage to take control. Of course, the big spot is Savage dropping FIVE CONSECUTIVE MACHO ELBOW DROPS on Warrior and Warrior kicking out at 2!!! Savage kicked out of Warrior’s finishing sequence and there’s a great moment where Warrior is looking to the Gods to ask what does he need to do to beat Savage! Savage recovered, Warrior cracked him with three flying shoulder tackles and ended Savage’s career (for like 6 months). However, the often remembered portion of this match is the aftermath with Sherri attacking an injured Savage, Elizabeth running into the ring to make the save and Savage and Elizabeth reuniting, putting women in tears EVERYWHERE (probably men too, it was a hell of a moment)! However, while this is a fantastic match and there is a great amount of happiness involved……the sadness creeps in when you realize that the only person alive out of this whole match is, I believe, the referee. Elizabeth met her end first (shockingly enough), Sherri followed that years later, Savage’s end was freakin’ heartbreaking and shocking and of course, Warrior had the sendoff of legends and then sadly passed away. It gives this match an extra vibe to it but it’s still one of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history.
#2: Wrestlemania X: Bret Hart vs Owen Hart
No match has ever surpassed this one when it came to opening a PPV. When someone makes a list of fantastic opening PPV matches……this one is constantly at the top of the list. The feud was fantastic with Owen wanting to break out of big brother’s shadow and Bret not wanting to fight his brother. It was a classic feud and one you can see both sides of the story. The match was a technical masterpiece where two men were in sync with everything they were doing. The story was anything Bret can do, Owen can do better and they kept with that theme the entire match. The most impressive thing about this match was how polished Owen looked and how comfortable he looked in a big time matchup. This was Owen’s shining moment and with big brother Bret there to help him out every step of the way, Owen came out of it looking like a potential main eventer and a potential threat to the WWF Title (which he would become). The finish was fantastic where, with no chancery of any kind, Owen blocked a victory roll and covered Bret for the win and picked up one of the most shocking wins in wrestling history and one that elevated him to the big time. Bret winning the title later in the night meant that we would get more Bret/Owen but this was the beginning of that and it’s one of the greatest wrestling matches ever.
#1: Wrestlemania III: Intercontinental Title match: Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
It was inevitable…….this IS one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time. Everything about this match was perfect. The build was fantastic, the intensity was off the charts, the moves were crisp (it helps that these two were practicing the match constantly beforehand), the fans were electric and it’s just one of those matches that sticks with you as a wrestling fan of what two pros could do in the ring. The story was that Savage tried to end Steamboat’s career by assaulting his throat to set this one up and Steamboat knew that he wasn’t just going to get revenge on Savage……he was going to take his title too. Both men were fantastic in their roles with the fans soaking everything up as best as they could. The match is only 14 minutes but the action flies by and not one single minute is wasted between these two. The match has several memorable moments throughout: Savage’s running hotshot, Steamboat’s flying chop OVER the referee, Steamboat lifting Savage up in a double handed choke, George “The Animal” Steele making his appearance, the near falls, the finish, EVERYTHING!!! The final few minutes sees an EXPLOSION of near falls between these two that had the crowd on their edge of their seats until Steamboat had the epic counter: hooking the leg on a body slam and grabbing an inside cradle for the victory. From there……Savage turned babyface and Steamboat……well……didn’t last long with the company. Even worse, the legend is that both were berated backstage for putting on such an awesome match. However, despite all of that…..I’ll let a classic line from the late great Gorilla Monsoon sum this one up: “If you live to be a hundred, you’ll never see a match better than this.”
Tags: Douces Wild