Every April (or March depending on the year), a show of epic proportions takes place that forces fans to abandon logic and to suspend belief. It's a show that creates legends and even in some cases, makes legends icons. It's a show that gathers tens of thousands of people from around the world to witness a show unlike any other. The show I speak of is the "greatest spectacle in sports entertainment" WrestleMania.
Every year since 1985, the WWE (F) has held the annual event that has become synonymous with pro wrestling and sports entertainment (whatever you prefer to call it). While wrestling was always considered something that you did not want to admit that you liked, everyone knows about the event called WrestleMania. The magnitude of the event has even garnered celebrity support from such names as Muhammad Ali, Liberace, Pete Rose and even Donald Trump. WrestleMania over the last 30 years has become as a part of society as baseball, Scorsese movies and selfie photos.
As we move towards WrestleMania 30 on April 6 from New Orleans, Louisiana, memories begin to float around the minds of longtime wrestling fans of past WrestleMania moments and the matches that helped shaped our thoughts about the "sport" of professional wrestling. Images like Hulk Hogan boyslamming Andre The Giant or Macho Man winning the WWF Title in a one-night tournament are things that people remember as pivotal points of their fandom and what sticks in their mind as to what makes WrestleMania a big show to them.
In this article, we will examine the top five WrestleMania shows of all-time. As usual, this list is subjective and you will probably not agree with the list completely. The cards on this list are not only based on in-ring action but historical significance and crowd reactions throughout the show. Not every WrestleMania is perfect (see WrestleMania 2000) but there are five that come to mind as being the best of the best. We start the list where it all began.
Tito Santana def. The Executioner
King Kong Bundy def. Special Delivery Jones
Ricky Steamboat def. Matt Borne
David Sammartino and Brutus Beefcake ended in a double disqualification
The Junkyard Dog def. Greg Valentine by count out (Valentine retained Intercontinental Championship)
Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik def. The U.S. Express (Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham)
Andre the Giant def. Big John Studd in the $15,000 Body Slam Challenge
Wendi Richter def. Leliani Kai for the Women's Championship
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T def. Roddy Pier and Paul Ornodorff
This first WrestleMania had to appear on the list. The sheer guts that Vince McMahon had to even put on this show on was insane. This type of show was never done up to that point (Starrcade from the NWA was a big show but never like this) and the money that was being fronted for the show was of epic proportions at that time in 1985. McMahon even took out loans to the point where WrestleMania had to be successful or the WWF could have taken a serious financial hit and possibly folded down the line.
Of course the big match of the show was the main event between Hogan/Mr. T against Piper/Orndorff. Was it a technical masterpiece? No. Was the card full athletic feats of brilliance? No. What the card did have was bigger than life characters and the crossover to mainstream society which help put pro wrestling and the WWF in the center of society. That is why this show deserves to be on this card.
The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel & Tom Zenk) def. Bob Orton & Don Muraco
Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules ended in a double count out
Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, & Haiti Kid def. King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, & Little Tokyo by disqualification
Harley Race def. Junkyard Dog in a Loser Must Bow And Kneel Match
The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake & Greg Valentine) def. Jacques & Raymond Rougeau
Roddy Piper def. Adrian Adonis in a Hair vs. Hair Match
The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis def. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana
Butch Reed def. Koko B. Ware
Ricky Steamboat def. Randy Savage to win the Intercontinental Title
Honky Tonk Man def. Jake Roberts
Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff def. The Killer Bees by disqualification
Hulk Hogan def. Andre the Giant to retain the WWF Title
Everyone remembers Hogan picking up Andre and bodyslamming him but the highlight of this card was the classic between Steamboat and Savage. Many have said that match was the greatest in WrestleMania history and I would have to agree with that statement. They went almost 15 minutes and there wasn't a slow point in that match to speak. It was all out action and something that showed wrestling as an artforrm and not just two guys in a four-minute sleeper hold during a match to kill time.
Of course I have to mention the Andre/Hogan match as that match was the official passing of the torch from Andre to Hulk. Andre was getting up there in age and knew that he didn't have much time left in his career. Hogan was a star but didn't have that signature win that would catapult him to the moon. By slamming Andre in the middle of 93,000 fans in the Pontiac Silverdome, his star exploded while also giving Andre a proper sendoff, even though he stayed around for a few more years.
Rick Martel def. Koko B. Ware
Demolition Axe & Smash def. Andre the Giant & Haku to win the WWF Tag Team Title
Earthquake def. Hercules
Brutus Beefcake def. Mr. Perfect
Bad News Brown and Roddy Piper fought to a double countout
The Hart Foundation def. Nikolai Volkoff & Boris Zuhkov
The Barbarian def. Tito Santana
Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire def. Randy Savage & Sherri Martel
The Orient Express (Sato & Tanaka) def. The Rockers
Jim Duggan def. Dino Bravo
Ted DiBiase def. Jake Roberts
Big Boss Man def. Akeem
Rick Rude def. Jimmy Snuka
WWF Intercontinental Title Ultimate Warrior def. Hulk Hogan to win the WWF World Title.
Stay with me here...this WrestleMania may have had the best in-ring performances of the early WrestleMania shows. Yes, Earthquake vs. Hercules doesn't scream of the most technical, catch if catch can style of matches but that may have been the exception that night in the Toronto SkyDome. DiBiase/Roberts, Rude/Snuka and The Rockers vs. The Orient Express, while not given a lot of time, were good matches and showed some of the in-ring talent that the WWF had at the time besides the stupid, cartoony characters.
This was also the pay-per-view that we started to see Hulk Hogan being pushed away from the main event stage. Yes, he would go on to the win the belt again and have a prominent role in the WWF for a few more years but him losing to The Ultimate Warrior was really done to begin the pushing of new talent and the start a new era in the WWF. Unfortunately The Warrior proved to be the wrong person to start that new era with and frankly, it was the wrong move to start de-emphasizing Hogan when he was still over with the crowd.
LOD 2000 won a Tag Team Battle Royal. The other teams in the match were: Savio Vega & Miguel Perez, Recon & Sniper, Chainz & Bradshaw, D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry, The Quebecers, The Rock-n-Roll Express, Jesus Castillo & Jose Estrada, The Headbangers, Scott Taylor & Brian Christopher, Steve Blackman & Flash Funk, The Godwinns, Skull & Eight Ball, Farooq & Kama, and Bob Holly & Bart Gunn.
Taka Michinoku def. Aguila to retain Light Heavyweight Title
Hunter Hearst Helmsley to Owen Hart to retain European Title
Marc Mero & Sable def. Goldust & Luna
Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia def. Ken Shamrock by disqualification
Terry Funk & Cactus Jack def. Billy Gunn & Jesse James in a Dumpster Match to win the WWF Tag Titles
The Undertaker def. Kane
Steve Austin def. Shawn Michaels to win the WWF World Title. Mike Tyson was the special referee.
The Attitude Era of the WWF began at this WrestleMania. Austin beating Michaels, who reportedly did not want to do the "job" to Austin, was the end of an era for the company has they changed their product to more of an edgier product to compete with WCW. Austin, with his profanity and beer drinking, was the focal point of a new WWF where rules would be broken regularly and storylines took on a more realistic tone to them.
The return of the Legion of Doom and the continued rise of The Rock also happened at the WrestleMania, where we even saw a Dumpster Match featuring two hardcore legends, Mick Foley and Terry Funk. This was the time in pro wrestling where I started to care again. I was not "taking vitamins and saying my prayers" anymore and frankly I was mad as a teenager. The Attitude era fit in with my teenage angst and how a lot of us were feeling in the late 90's. It also helped that Sable was there so that added a little something to it.
John Cena def. The Big Show to win the WWE US Title.
Rob Van Dam & Booker T def. Mark Jindrak & Garrison Cade, Rene Dupre & Rob Conway, and Bubba & D-Von Dudley in a Fatal Four Way Match to retain WWE Tag Team Titles
Christian def. Chris Jericho
Ric Flair, Randy Orton, & Batista beat Mick Foley & The Rock in a Handicap Match
Torrie Wilson & Sable def. Stacey Keibler & Jackie Gayda
Champ Chavo Guerrero won a Gauntlet Match to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Title
Bill Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar. Steve Austin was the special referee.
Rikishi & Scotty Too Hotty beat Doug & Danny Basham, Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas, and Farooq & Bradshaw in a Fatal Four Way to retain WWE Tag Team Titles
Victoria def. Molly Holly in a Title vs. Hair Match to retain the Women's Title
Eddie Guerrero def. Kurt Angle to retain the WWE Title
The Undertaker def. Kane
Chris Benoit def. Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a Triple Threat match to win the World Title
I know he is not to be mentioned in the world of professional wrestling but Chris Benoit winning the title was somewhat unexpected. Once Shawn Michaels inserted himself into he match between Triple H, who was the current World Champion, and Benoit, who won the Royal Rumble, I pretty much figured either Michaels or Triple H would win. Benoit was a mid-card guy in WCW for so long, you assumed he would never win a major title. Once Benoit won, it was a genuine feeling of "What!" and then he and Edie Guerrero sharing an embrace in the win as the two world champions of the WWE was amazing.
In addition to the main event, we saw John Cena get his first singles title (United States Title) and the return of The Undertaker. Throw in a tag match featuring Mick Foley and The Rock and the ending of the Goldberg/Lesnar match (the match sucked but Austin saved it) and it was a great show that had everything.
So this is the list. Is it perfect? Of course not and this is where I want to hear your input. Which WrestleMania should be on the list? Is there one that needs to be taken off the list? Is WrestleMania 2000 an underrated show (I hope no one says that)? Let me know in our comments section below.