We’re just a couple of days from WrestleMania 26 from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Despite what the WWE told you last year, this year’s event will be 25 years after the first WrestleMania that took place at Madison Square Garden. To celebrate the real silver anniversary of the biggest wrestling show on the planet, we are counting down the 25 best matches to grace the squared circle at the granddaddy of them all.
Today, we count down the Top Five WrestleMania matches of all-time.
#5 Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boys vs. The Hardy Boyz (WrestleMania X-Seven)
This match was hard to rank because it wasn’t so much a wrestling match as a demolition derby. This was a triple-threat TLC match for the Tag Team Titles that ended up three-on-three-on-three by the end. The reason that this match is hard to rank is because there wasn’t so much story telling as a bunch of huge spots. While guys like Ric Flair, Bret Hart and Lou Thesz aren’t likely to think much of matches that involve guys trying to kill each other rather than tell a proper story, there is a place for this in wrestling. After all, a lot of kids think that the best match is the one with the most extreme action. While this wasn’t a purist’s dream, it was enjoyable and unbelievable amazing that everyone involved was able to walk away from this one.
#4 Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (WrestleMania III)
This may not have been the greatest match of all-time but it was easily the most important match in WWF history. If people didn’t want to see it, this wouldn’t have set a world indoor attendance record. If this match didn’t live up to the hype, nobody would have been watching after this match. This event- Hell, this match was the make or break moment for the WWE. A failure here would have wiped out the WWE. Thanks in large part to this match, cities everywhere want to get their hands on WrestleMania for the economic boost from wrestling fans coming to town. And the fact that this was a pretty good match doesn’t hurt it either.
#3 The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 25)
There may be a bit of a recency effect in putting this one so high. If you look back at the first two parts, there weren’t many matches from recent WrestleManias on the list. In fact, of the three matches on this list from the past five years, HBK was in two of them. If I recall correctly, this match was hyped as who will step up to beat the Undertaker’s streak. Well, HBK, Mr. WrestleMania, stepped to the plate to try and end Taker’s WrestleMania win streak at 16 in a row. What ensued was an epic match that easily overshadowed everything else on the card. It had proper wrestling, false finishes, high spots, and everything else to make a match an instant classic. It was so good that the WWE have them performing an encore this year. Will the sequel live up to the original? When you watch Taker-HBK I (well, not actually their first meeting, but for the sake of the post, work with me), you’ll find that it’ll be hard to top the original.
#2 Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage (WrestleMania III)
Andre and Hulk may have convinced 93,000 people to pack the Pontiac Silverdome for the Immovable Force against the Unstoppable Object but it was Steamboat and Savage that really brought the house down. Of course, no one short of the old-school wrestling fans would pay this match much attention. It was two smaller guys wrestling (and I use that word intentionally) for the Intercontinental Title. In a time when the smaller wrestlers like Steamboat and Savage couldn’t get over with Vince because of their size, they would use their superior work rates to get them over with the fans. Well, even then, a guy like Savage didn’t really get over with the crowd until he got the rub at WrestleMania IV but he started to get noticed here. Anyway, this match wasn’t quite a Flair/Steamboat match but for the WWF, it was quite a departure from the usual. It’s probably the best pure wrestling match on the list but it’s not #1…
#1 Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin (WrestleMania 13)
Submission matches have a tendency to be a bit dull. It’s hold, counterhold, submission attempt, narrow escape, and on and on until someone wins. However, when a match breaks the mould, it’s noteworthy. When that same mould-breaking match launches the career of the superstar that would take win Monday Night Wars, you have to call it an all-time classic. When Shawn Michaels “lost his smile” and wouldn’t face Bret Hart in their WrestleMania rematch, Steve Austin was brought in as The Hitman’s nemesis. It was a perfect setup, Hart was the classic WWF hero while Austin was a heel that defined the change in direction of the WWF. The match wasn’t so much a submission match as a war ending with a passing of the torch. The match had wrestling, violence, and gratuitous blood which would come to define the WWF until they bought WCW and ECW. It may not be the greatest pure wrestling match in the history of WrestleMania but it is the greatest and most important match in the first 25 years of WrestleMania.