Here is the continuation of my list:
#10. Wrestlemania XIX: WWE Title match: Kurt Angle © vs Brock Lesnar
I’m pretty sure that the amount of people who believed THIS match was going to main event Wrestlemania XIX (the same Wrestlemania that had the following people on it: Stone Cold, Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, The Rock, Triple H, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels & Big Show) was pretty damn low. It’s not that we, as fans, didn’t think this match would deliver (it’s Kurt and Brock in their primes…..of course, it’s going to be great)……we just didn’t think the company would have the balls to put these two in the main event and allow the new generation of wrestlers to take over. So, while the WWE does deserve a pat on the bat for allowing these two to main event the show, this one question remains: did they honestly regret their decision after seeing the match?
As we all know, Kurt Angle went into this match with a broken freakin’ neck and many believed it was going to be his last match (in the professional sense……and even in the “He might fucking die in the middle of this ring” sense as well) but Kurt practically begged to be in this match (which I’m pretty sure the WWE breathed a giant sigh of relief from when he did not die……talk about the PR nightmare they’d be in). The actual match itself was the usual greatness between these two but I won’t lie…..it’s hard to watch. We have Brock, who is only about 25 or 26 at the time, hitting these German suplexes on Kurt while the man is still recovering from a broken neck…..it’s cringe worthy at times.
However, for what it is, the match is an amazing example of why these two were considered the best at the time: smooth counter wrestling, emotion, selling, the works! Two big spots stick out however: the first is Brock kicking Angle off of an Ankle Lock (damaging Angle’s neck further) and the coup de grace itself…….the Shooting Star Press. Brock suffered just a concussion from the move when it could have been much worse. This match is both an amazing testament to the abilities of both men but at the same time, a cautionary tale of how you don’t go about things. Angle and Brock wanted to steal the show and both damn near died from it……we have a fantastic match out of it but I prefer these two actually still being here with us.
#9: Wrestlemania XX: WWE Title match: Eddie Guerrero © vs Kurt Angle
No Way Out 2004. Many WWE fans remember this night very well…..the night our Papi became champion! It was a moment nobody ever thought they would see and when it happened……it was one of the happiest moments in wrestling history. On that night as well, Kurt Angle became the #1 contender for the WWE Title (by making JOHN CENA tap out…..so yes, Mr. Cena has given up and tapped out before) and we had a hell of a Wrestlemania match set up. Angle turned heel during the build-up and was pretty damn good as this vicious, delusional individual who wanted to take his title back because he didn’t want a drug addicted Latino to hold a title that was created by America.
Unlike Angle/Brock, these two weren’t trying to kill each other to steal the show. They let the actual match play out naturally and hooked the crowd in. Angle dominated most of the match with a great mix of aggression and wrestling expertise but Eddie was never down for too long. Eddie’s ability to go hold for hold with Angle and hang with him was a great trait that he brought to the matches. He also had to outthink Angle, not outwrestle him, and because Angle kept dominating Eddie had to come up with a plan……especially when his Frog Splash failed to win the match. So he went a very ingenious move: he feigned an ankle injury, untied his boot, suckered Angle in and caught him off-guard for the win……it was a brilliant finish to the match and a perfect way for Angle to lose the match. Overall, it was a great wrestling match (although it does take the crowd a good minute to eventually get into it) and with a finish that has often been tried but never equaled, it was one for the ages.
#8: Wrestlemania XIX: Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho
Now we go from something depressing to something a little bit more upbeat. Of course, this was Shawn Michaels returning from his broken back in 1998 and had been back with the company in an on and off wrestling capacity since Summerslam 2002. While Shawn took part in two very long hardcore brawls with Triple H and competed in the Elimination Chamber, he wasn’t exactly having many straight wrestling matches during this time and part of that was because he didn’t have his full confidence back. So what do you do? Pair him up with the man who idolized him, someone who also was in a gigantic rut and have these two go out there, steal the show and revitalize both of their careers!
We all remember how much of a shit year Jericho had in 2002: his run as the Undisputed champion bombed, he wasn’t booked as a champion at all, he was treated as second and third fiddle, he main evented Wrestlemania X-8 but nobody remembers it (or they do and want to forget it), he got no PPV title rematch, jobbed out to a bunch of stars, jobbed clean to some punk rookie named John Cena (HAHA, YEA, LIKE THAT GUY WOULD GO ANYWHERE!!!! AMIRIGHT?!!!), jobbed clean to Ric Flair and was constantly treated as a joke for most of the year.
Both guys had something to prove: Shawn to show that he’s still got it and Jericho to show that he’s not a joke. The match was wrestling beauty, a graceful exhibition and story of a young man trying to usurp the man he idolized in his youth (despite Shawn only being about, like, 4 years older). The counters, the selling, the performances, the storytelling, the action…..it all blended quite well into a beautiful package that had the Seattle crowd on the edge of their seats. Jericho was ON FIRE in this match……mocking Shawn’s shtick, doing the kip up, mocking the HBK pose and even hit Sweet Chin Music at one point! Shawn hung with Jericho the entire way and used his veteran instincts to overcome Jericho’s cockiness. The match ended when Shawn caught Jericho napping with a roll up and picked up the huge victory……Jericho kicked Shawn in the balls afterwards. It’s a fantastic match and it was a great example of two guys stealing the show without trying to kill each other.
#7: Wrestlemania 2000: Triangle Ladder match for the Tag Team Titles: The Dudley Boyz © vs The Hardy Boyz vs Edge & Christian
In the late 90s, tag team wrestling wasn’t that important to the WWE. In fact, the 90s weren’t that good of a period for tag team wrestling at all for most of it, especially coming out of the 1980s. While there were teams like the New Age Outlaws and the veteran Legion of Doom in the WWF in the late 90s, they still weren’t making tag team wrestling important. That is……until two hot young tag teams were given a ladder and told to go steal the show. No Mercy 1999 was a huge day for tag team wrestling in the WWF when the Hardyz and Edge & Christian wowed audiences with a classic ladder match. No belts were on the line (one of the real stupid decisions of the match) but these two teams went out there and shocked the world with their amazing amounts of moves and offense that people didn’t give a crap about the belts. So eventually……the belts had to be introduced and another team was added.
The Dudleyz joined the WWF in 1999 then after a change in attire and a penchant for putting females through tables, they won the belts! So all three teams proceeded to face off in a Triangle Ladder match at Wrestlemania 2000……and stole the show again! The amount of suicidal bumps and moves in this match are endless (some are even quite stupid) but what you get from these teams is their ability to get noticed. They knew they had to get noticed to go somewhere and while a lot of the stuff they did back then seems dated now…….there was a purpose to what they were doing (whereas all they are doing now is throwing spots out there just because). The amount of chemistry and level of trust these six men had to do what they did was unbelievable and once again, there were no losers in this match. Jeff Hardy took some nasty bumps in this one: he missed a 450 Splash and landed on a ladder, he and Christian fell to the floor from the top of a ladder, Bubba Ray threw a ladder at his face to stop the guardrail run and of course, the famous Swanton Bomb (where he damn near broke his ass!) to put Bubba through the table. The match also gave Edge and Christian their first Tag Team Title win (the first of like hundreds right?) to begin their fantastic 2000 run (I did not have the benefit of flash photography though). And the Dudleyz were turned babyface because of the match…..awesome stuff. Let’s also consider this: this was all 6 men’s first Wrestlemania match and this is what they accomplished!
However, the match is not perfect. Going back, you can see some problems (hell, even a drunk Matt Hardy on Jeff Hardy’s “My Life, My Rules” DVD where they watched the match pointed out problems). Some of the bumps and risks were just stupid (like, instead of climbing the ladder for the belts…..they jump off of them instead) and the match is a little too long at 22 minutes (they would find that sweet spot at about 15 minutes). However, these 6 went out there and revolutionized an entire generation of suicidal stunt wrestling without ever making it seem fake or contrived (which was a hell of a feat actually).
#6: Wrestlemania X-8: The Rock vs Hulk Hogan
When it comes to wrestling, not every classic match has to be about the wrestling aspect. Sometimes…..in the moment……memories are created through a simple stare, reaction and movement. We as fans soak in moments and constantly look for that next defining moment that we can tell our children down the line. The Rock……demanding a match……with Hulk Hogan…..was one of those moments. I remember watching that RAW on TV and I got goosebumps watching The Rock criticizing Hogan and when Rock walked right up to him “…what about you headline one more Wrestlemania…..WITH THE ROCK???!!!” It sent a jolt of electricity through me and I was ready to see this one. Of course, the rest of the build to this match was completely fucking stupid because the WWE just can’t have two guys go out there and challenge each other to a match and have that be enough……they have to throw stupid bullshit out there like Hogan ramming an 18-wheeler into an ambulance that Rock is in or even another moment later on in the list.
I won’t lie when I say I used to be really harsh on this match. I looked at it purely from a wrestling standpoint and quite frankly, I undercut the historical and monumental aspect that the match truly had. This wasn’t about putting on a 5* wrestling match, it was about wrestling’s past meeting wrestling’s present…..it was about the emotion in the Toronto Skydome on that night, the fandom that brought people to this match and making them realize why they love wrestling in the first place. The loud cheers, the stare down in the middle of the ring, Hogan putting on a fantastic performance by rolling back the years, Rock meeting him right in the middle, both men laying the match out to get the maximum cheers from the crowd……..this is what wrestling is about! Nobody was a loser in this match…….everybody won and most importantly, the fans won! Hogan ended up staying for the next few months and worked surprisingly hard during that time while Rock went off to make movies. I put this one right in the pantheon of Hogan/Andre but I think this match (as a straight up wrestling match) accomplished a lot more than Hogan/Andre. It’s one of those matches that should be seen and praised until the end of time.
#5: Wrestlemania XII: 60 Minute Iron Man Match for the WWF Title: Bret Hart © vs Shawn Michaels
Two of the biggest stars of the 90s, two giant egos, 60 minutes of action…..AWESOME!! Talk about a match that has seriously taken quite the beating in the past few years. Most wrestling fans don’t even want to watch this match now because they don’t like the egos of both men going into this one, there’s not enough falls to keep the match exciting and it’s just plain boring. Well…..I disagree. To get the full sum of this match, I recommend watching the “Greatest Rivalries” DVD with these two on there to get a full scope of the story. The point of the match was building up to the rematch the next year with Bret getting his win back but possibly turning heel in the process. The goal was to work the fans and work the boys by making it seem like these two hated each other and that Bret was legitimately grumpy throughout…..but that was part of the plan! The first 30 minutes of the match rely on that a lot with Shawn frustrating Bret by outwrestling him and working his arm, something nobody thought Shawn could do. The next 30 minutes was Bret physically dissecting Shawn but neither one was able to get a fall over the over (to keep up with the ruse that these two had giant egos and didn’t want to take a fall) and through that, the match was getting more and more exciting. What’s surprising is that the fans were still hot for the match (how many 60 minute matches did WWF fans see during that time?) and it all built up to a crescendo in the final few minutes and to the electric finish. Shawn’s pop for winning wasn’t as great as remembered but it’s still a hell of a moment and it set up what should have been their future rematch until these two got grumpy at each other for real and ruined that (at least we got what we got). Fantastic stuff by these two and it’s one of the greatest wrestling matches ever if you look at it from the prospective that I did.
#4: Wrestlemania X-7: TLC II for the Tag Team Titles: The Dudley Boyz © vs The Hardy Boyz vs Edge & Christian
One year after stealing the show at Wrestlemania 16, these two teams were responsible for trying to do that again. This time, the stipulation of Tables, Ladders and Chairs was added to the match (although, in fairness, they used all three in the Triangle Ladder match) and this was set up with a sense of finality to this entire run of the tag team division. It also helped that all three teams had a third wheel to their team (Dudleyz had Spike Dudley, E & C had Rhyno and Hardyz had Lita) and all three played a massive factor in this one. Many have not liked their inclusion…..I find their inclusion to add to the chaos of the match. We know what the other 6 men could do, let’s add three more to the fun and the chaos and see what happens but it wasn’t cluttered like later ladder matches. Plus, this match features some of the most suicidal stunts and bumps of any other match before it! Jeff Hardy’s Swanton Bomb off the huge ladder to Spike and Rhyno through a table (he originally just wanted to cross his arms and fall backwards but he was told to do the Swanton), Lita murdering Spike with a chair shot, the Dudleyz powerbombing people through tables, Jeff attempting to walk across the tops of the ladders and failing and then of, course, the two big ones: Edge leaping off a big ladder to spear Jeff from the belts and Matt and Bubba getting shoved over and EXPLODING through four tables!!! Both of those spots, which could have failed horribly, were executed perfectly! Of course, this whole match did not end the entire feud between these three teams but it was one of the greatest car crashes in Wrestlemania history and it’s one of the most well-booked and well-executed car crashes ever!
#3: Wrestlemania X-7: No DQ match for the WWF Title: The Rock © vs Stone Cold
It’s the match that, in many people’s eyes, ended the Attitude Era. It boasts one of the most controversial endings and heel turns in wrestling history. It’s one of the greatest matches of all time! Let’s make no mistake about it: regardless of whether or not you agree with the final shot of the show with Stone Cold drinking a beer with arch nemesis Vince McMahon, you can’t deny the quality of the match! The build to the match was odd. Instead of just having it be Rock vs Austin II at Wrestlemania, the WWF decided to add Austin’s wife, Debra, into the mix. The reason…….the fuck if I know! Everybody hated it (outside of Vince) and quite frankly, all it did was waste TV time. However, things got back on track with a sit down interview where JR interviewed both men in the same room. The look in Austin’s eyes and the intensity of one sentence defined this match: “I need to beat you, Rock, more than you can ever imagine.” With that one line, everything became clear. This wasn’t the Austin of 1999 who was the top star of the promotion, this was Austin of 2001: a man who had been surpassed by The Rock and Triple H. He lost to Triple H at No Way Out in a classic 3 Stages of Hell match so that sense of desperation peeked into his mind: could he beat The Rock or is he truly not as good as he once was?
The match was magnetic, the video package was awesome, the big match feel was in the air, the fans were HOT for Austin, it was a grand stage indeed. JR and Paul Heyman were fantastic on commentary together (a very underrated announce team). Austin was a fucking machine in this match, acting more and more maniacal with each passing moment as The Rock tried desperately to keep up with him. For 22 minutes, these two stallions beat the crap out of each other, busted each other open, tried to force each other to tap out and just went through hell. All of a sudden, Vince McMahon made his way down to ringside, his intentions unclear. Rock and Austin started teasing finishers and Rock hits the People’s Elbow but Vince pulls the ref out. Rock Bottoms and Stunners were traded until Vince and Austin began working together…….what the fuck? Austin can’t put Rock away so he MURDERS him with multiple chair shots (Rock’s quivering selling is fantastic) and that finally gives Austin the title. After that, it was apparent: Stone Cold Steve Austin, the rebel and hero to the people, had sold his soul to the devil (Vince McMahon) to reclaim his past glory and to become the top star once again. As a business decision, it was a pretty questionable move (given that they lost Rock to Hollywood the next night and with Triple H not turning heel) but from a storyline and character perspective, it’s one of the greatest heel turns I’ve ever seen and needs the appreciation it deserves.
#2: Wrestlemania XX: Triple Threat match for the World Title: Triple H © vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit
To anybody who objects to this match being on this list, let me give my opinion of the matter: watching Chris Benoit matches does not bother me whatsoever. I will still watch Benoit matches, I will still look at him as one of my favorite wrestlers and I will still give them the full appreciation they deserve……that does not mean I condone what he did on June 24, 2007. Mostly, I view the matches on a professional level…..on an emotional one, a hint of sadness always passes through. Royal Rumble 2004, Wrestlemania XX and Backlash 2004 are three of the hardest PPVs to watch for any former Benoit fan and I won’t lie, they are hard for me to watch but I still watch……it’s difficult but I watch. Chris Benoit the wrestler was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time……Chris Benoit the human being was an emotionally and psychologically fucked up human being who went through tons of hardships in his life, took drugs, took steroids and after everything the man had been through in life…….he finally snapped in the most heinous of ways possible. Benoit is not a cold-blooded murderer in my eyes……recent examples like Junior Seau’s suicide or Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide of himself and his girlfriend (both suffered from a history of concussions) show that concussions are the worst enemy of athletes. That’s not condoning what Benoit did at all…….but I believe a healthy (hardly a concussion history, no steroid or drug use, nothing) and happy Chris Benoit, as do many of his friends, would have never murdered his wife and child. It’s easy to just throw blame at him for what he did, and he deserves it, but I’m kind of in the same stance of where Benoit’s friends (guys like Bret & Jericho, people who knew him well) are at with the whole thing.
As for the match, it’s a classic one. Shawn Michaels being added into the match was controversial, yes, but you can’t go wrong in adding HBK to the proceedings. The crowd was red-hot for Benoit and tired of Triple H and HBK being in the main event. The way they structured the match was fantastic, with Triple H and HBK cutting Benoit off every chance they had to generate the maximum amount of drama and fan participation possible. There were brilliant exchanges in the early going and everybody was looking great, including HBK busting out an awesome moonsault press to the floor. However, Benoit gets taken out with a suplex through the announce table, leaving the champ and HBK alone. Both men are bloody but they hate each other so they try desperately to beat each other. Shawn almost wins with the super kick but Benoit jumps in from out of nowhere to break it up at the last second. Another great moment (well…..not so great now but you know) was Shawn POPPING Benoit with a super kick to break up the Sharpshooter on Triple H. Then of course, we get the moment: Triple H sets up for the Pedigree, Benoit counters to the Crossface and after some fighting by the champion……Triple H taps out and Benoit is the new World champion. Nancy and Daniel were in the crowd, Eddie Guerrero came out to meet him, it’s a happy moment and a happy time…..one tinged with sadness and bitterness looking back on the whole thing. It’s a match that no one mentions anymore……despite it being one of the greatest wrestling moments of all time.
#1: Wrestlemania XIII: Submission Match: Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
And to think, we almost got Bret/Shawn II instead! I kid but this is one of the most defining matches in wrestling history and should never be denied for what it is. This one set the groundwork for the next few years of wrestling, defined a generation and created a new star that rose the WWF up from the ashes and got them to take out WCW! The build to the match was simple: Bret was the aging veteran who felt that the company and the fans had passed him by, Austin was the hot newcomer looking to take away Bret’s spot. In the early portions of the feud, we weren’t supposed to like Austin. He was a foul-mouthed, beer drinking, disrespectful SOB who was coming in here and ruining the squeaky clean nature of the WWF and Bret was at the center of that. However, times had changed……the fans wanted more attitude, they wanted foul language, they wanted beer drinking beer, they wanted Austin……they didn’t want Bret anymore. Even better…….notice the parallels between Bret here and Austin in 2001: paranoid about people taking his spot, worried about not being the top guy anymore, needing to prove himself……kinda scary, right? Bret beat Austin at Survivor Series in a straight up wrestling match so this was the rematch. The match was an old school fight…….two men hated each other and wanted to beat the holy shit out of each other. They brawled in the ring, around the ring, through the crowd, EVERYWHERE!! The two began working submissions but with awesome intensity until Austin gets busted open. Austin has an amazing comeback later in the match until Bret hit him with the ring bell and thus, we get the epic moment of Bret putting Austin in the Sharpshooter, the shot of blood running down Austin’s head and Austin passing out from the pain. Ken Shamrock made his WWF debut on this show as the referee, for those who didn’t know. In one night: Bret Hart went from a beloved wrestler to a hated man…..while Austin went from being a dick to the most beloved superstars in history. This match defined the next few years and defined everything of the Attitude Era while opening the door for the next generation. It’s a match to be praised and be remembered throughout history.
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