The global phenomenon known as WrestleMania is right around the corner once again. The anticipation for this year’s event is at a level that hasn’t been seen since the attitude era. Besides the magnitude of the WWE’s biggest show of the year, 3 of the greatest superstars in the history of the business will help make this a must see event. “HBK” Shawn Michaels will be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame the night before the event. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin makes his ‘Mania return to be the special guest referee of the Jerry “The King’ Lawler’ vs Michael Cole ass kicking. And, the people’s champ, The Rock will be the guest host of this year’s event. WrestleMania is always the pay-per-view that I must purchase, and this year’s event is no different.
Vince McMahon’s vision has turned into one of the year’s biggest and best sports entertainment events. Legendary ring announcer and WWE Hall of Famer, Howard Finkel, is the person who actually came up with the name WrestleMania, and so on March 31, 1985, Vince McMahon took his father’s idea and turned it into the biggest wrestling extravaganza of all time. Madison Square Garden was the site and 19, 121 fans witnessed the start of something so big not many believed possible. Luminaries like Muhammad Ali, Cyndi Lauper and Liberace took part in the inaugural event. Hulk Hogan teamed with Mr. T to take on Mr. Wonderful, Paul Orndorff, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the main event. There was much debate as to whether or not this idea of a wrestling event on closed circuit pay-per-view would work. It was a tremendous risk by McMahon, but the greatest wrestling promoter in history set the bar high, and the company not only reached the bar, they leaped over it. After the first WrestleMania, Vince McMahon was asked “Where do you go from here?” Vince’s reply…….”WrestleMania 2.” It was on after that, and while most thought the WWE would never top the first event, it kept getting bigger and bigger. I attended WrestleMania 2 in Chicago, one of three sites the event was held. I was only 6 years old at the time, but I knew I was at something BIG. Here we are 26 years later, and WrestleMania is bigger than ever. WrestleMania holds some of the biggest attendance numbers in history. They held the world indoor record for what seemed like a lifetime at WM III with 93, 173, sold out Trump Plaza 2 years in a row, set a Skydome record at WM VI with 67, 678, set a Hoosier Dome record at WM VIII 62, 167, set a Houston Astrodome record for WM X-7 in 2001 with 67, 925, broke their own Skydome record in 2002 with 68, 237, set a Safeco Field record in 2003 with 54, 097, set a Ford Field record at WM XXIII of 80, 109, set a Citrus Bowl record in 2008 for WM XXIV with 74, 635, and a Reliant Stadium record for WM XXV in 2009 with 72, 744. Last year’s event in Phoenix packed 72, 219 fans into the University of Phoenix Stadium. Expect 75,000+ at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
So who will win this year’s big matches? Well…..
Edge(World Heavyweight Champion) vs Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio has taken the fast track to stardom in the WWE, and ‘Mania will be the day that he takes the world title from Edge. Del Rio is a solid heel, and should hold the title on Smackdown for the duration of the spring and into the summer of ’11.
John Cena vs The Miz(WWE Champion)
A match that has been overshadowed by Cena’s feud with The Rock. I like The Miz as WWE champ, I can’t lie. He adds the reality tv aspect to the company, and he will somehow retain the WWE title from the favored face of the company. I am awaiting the John Cena heel turn. It won’t happen because of merchandise sales, but it should. Cena needs to stop being lame, and get back to the edgy/funny personality he was when he became popular. His act now is for kids…..And it sucks balls. What would make this match even better would be if The Rock cost Cena the match, which would eventually lead to Rock vs Cena. It has to happen, doesn’t it?
Randy Orton vs CM Punk
The match that can potentially steal the show. The Punk-Orton feud has gotten personal, but nothing will stop The Viper from vanquishing the leader of new Nexus. It isn’t if RKO will win, it’s how long it will take him. Orton is the best in the game, and will prove it again in the dirty south.
HHH VS The Undertaker–The Streak On The Line–No Holds Barred
When HHH returned to confront the Undertaker upon his return, you knew the two icons were headed for a clash at the biggest event of the year. There is nobody more deserving to challenge ‘Taker at ‘Mania than the cerebral assassin. I can’t see ‘Taker losing, however. 19-0 is a formality. As cool as it would be to see HHH win, it isn’t happening.
Snooki, Trish Stratus, & John Morrison vs Michelle McCool, Layla, & Dolph Ziggler.
Morrison & Ziggler are up and comers who will carry this match. For me, I am excited to see Trish back in the WWE. One of the trainers/hosts of the new Tough Enough show will do Snooki’s dirty work, and then allow Snooks to get the pin. As Gorilla Monsoon used to say, “you can take that to the bank.”
Jerry “The King” Lawler vs Michael Cole with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the guest referee
Cole has done a great job of creating more heat on himself than anyone else leading up to ‘Mania. For that, I give him credit. It doesn’t change the fact that he is an enormous douche. I can’t wait for Lawler to exact his revenge on that fool who has embarrassed him in recent weeks. And, if we get to see a stunner or three, perfect. Stone Cold will make his presence felt at WrestleMania. You better run & hide, Cole.
WrestleMania XXVII will be a tremendous event, and a must purchase for all wrestling fans. But before we get to April 3rd, let’s go back in time. People debate the greatest ‘Mania matches of all-time, so why not rank them? Here then, are my top ten WrestleMania matches of all-time…..
10. WrestleMania VIII 1992: WWE Champion Ric Flair vs “Macho” Man Randy Savage–This classic match had it all. Ric Flair had won the Royal Rumble to capture the WWE title, and it set up a feud with Savage that was fantastic. Flair doctored photos to say that he had a past with Savage’s wife Elizabeth. Flair paraded around like the limousine riding, jet flying, kiss stealing, son of a gun he was. However, on this day, Savage was the better man, and on this day won his 2nd WWE Championship. The commentating by Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan for this match only added to the drama. The banter between the two was fantastic. Mr. Perfect, Heenan and Flair had a great faction going, and Perfect did all he could to help Flair, but Savage wasn’t going to be denied, and he walked out of the Hoosier Dome the new champion.
10A. WrestleMania 22 2006: WWE Champion John Cena vs HHH-I am adding this match as 10A because I was in the house at WrestleMania 22. The electricity that this particular match had was unreal. Cena made HHH tap out to retain the title as the sold out All State Arena was in shock at what just happened. The All State arena was 90% behind The Game which surprised A. Ruffolo and I. This event is the best sporting event I’ve ever been to. That’s how much fun it was. WWE pay-per-view events have to be on your bucket list. Trust me.
9. WrestleMania XIV 1998: WWE Champion Shawn Michaels vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin-Shawn Michaels had turned heel in the fall of ’97 and, along with HHH, formed Degeneration-X. The first DX was cutting edge, and you never knew what they would do on a given Monday Night Raw. They never stuck to the script, but people ate it up. Stone Cold also was hitting his peak in the spring of ’98 when this match happened. Austin won the Royal Rumble and was in line for a title shot. Michaels was battling a back injury that would put him on the shelf for 4 years following this match. This match makes the list because the anticipation was classic. Michaels and Austin held the tag titles the previous summer, and their rivalry was one for the ages. Michaels wasn’t ready to give up his spot as the Alpha Dog in the business, but nobody could stop Stone Cold. Mike Tyson was the special enforcer for this match which added to the intrigue. Tyson had aligned with DX, which clearly made Michaels the favorite, but on this day a legend was born. As announcer Jim Ross claimed after Austin hit the Stone Cold Stunner for the win…..”The Austin era has begun.” Yes it had, and Austin went on to become the most popular superstar in WWE history. The crowd was awarded a little something extra when Tyson shook off a Michaels punch and dropped the Heartbreak Kid after the match.
8. WrestleMania VI 1990: WWE Champion Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior- The match that still pains my ass. As Vince McMahon later said, this was supposed to be a passing of the torch from Hogan to the Warrior. Of course, it wasn’t because the Warrior lacked charisma, flair, talent and believability. The Ultimate Challenge was held on April 1, 1990 at the Toronto Skydome, and the anticipation for this match was unparalleled. The Ultimate Warrior was the Intercontinental Champion and Hogan was the WWE Champion. This was the first time champion met champion,and with two superstars at their peak….it was great drama. The 67, 678 were into the match the entire time, and in the end, the Warrior scored the upset and captured the championship. Also, a 10 year old Louie Ruffolo nearly threw a fit seeing Hulk Hogan lose the title in one of the biggest matches ever. This match makes the top ten because anyone at or around my age who likes wrestling knows where they were and where they watched this match. There was never a rematch, and that is a good thing looking back. On this day in 1990, The Ultimate Warrior stood atop the WWE universe.
7. WrestleMania XIII 1997: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin- Another Mania that was held in Chicago was an instant classic, and this submission match stole the show. It comes in at number 7 on my list because this rivalry started the previous November when Hart beat Austin in his return match at The Survivor Series. Why I love this match is the course of two careers in one match. By the time this was over, Hart was the biggest heel in the company, and Austin was suddenly the fan favorite. It was a blood bath, and Hart won when special referee Ken Shamrock noticed Austin had passed out from blood loss and Hart’s sharpshooter. Austin never gave up. This was Hart’s last WrestleMania, but he and Austin put on a classic show.
6. WrestleMania XV: WWE Champion The Rock vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin- Stone Cold appears on the list for the 3rd time. By March of ’99, the WWE had begun to take back the ratings from WCW, and it was because of the two immensely popular stars. Stone Cold and The Rock were carrying the WWE into the next decade and leaving WCW in their dust. The Rock was at the forefront of Mr. McMahon’s corporation, and Stone Cold was the outlaw who simply did what he wanted. McMahon proclaimed at the beginning of WrestleMania XV that Stone Cold had “No chance in hell of winning the WWE Championship.” Even though Vinny Mac tried to interject in the match, Stone Cold found a way to beat The Great One. After he gave the Rock a 2nd stunner, the WWE had a new champion, and the toughest S.O.B. in the WWE ruled again. Overall, Rock and Austin met 3 times at WrestleMania, and the mark they left on the business will never be forgotten. They delivered a Mike Tyson left hook to WCW, and put the WWE back in the mainstream. For Austin, after this win, he established himself as the top attraction in the business, and the most popular wrestler of all-time. Forgot what happened in this match? I got your back……
5. WrestleMania III 1987: “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat- The “other” match at WrestleMania III stole the show in front of 93, 173 in the Pontiac Silverdome. Steamboat and Savage were ahead of their time in ’87, and this match put Savage in “Main Event” status. The lead-in to this match had Savage as the heavy favorite because he crushed Steamboat’s larynx on the steel guard rail months prior. Steamboat vowed to return, and with help from George “The Animal” Steel, captured the win and the WWE Intercontinental Championship. 23 years later, this match still resonates with fans. Especially my father, who was a huge Savage fan. Savage went on to win 4 matches and the WWE title a year later at WM IV in Atlantic City, but his performance at WM III was one for the ages.
4. WrestleMania X-8 2002: The Rock vs “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan- This match was dubbed Icon vs Icon. Wrestling’s past vs wrestling’s future, and it was the best match of the night. It featured two of the biggest stars in the history of the business. Since they came along at different times, the thought of a Hogan-Rock match seemed like something that would only be done in a video game. Things changed in early 2002 when McMahon brought back the nWo of Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to destroy the WWE. Rock challenged Hogan, and Hogan accepted. This event was again held at the Toronto Skydome, and the crowd was outstanding. The Rock was Mr. Popularity while Hogan was the heel, but that changed quickly. Call it nostalgia, but fans loved seeing Hogan in the WWE for the first time since 1993. 68,000 plus turned back the clock and rooted for Hogan like it was 1988 again. The Rock had his share of the Skydome crowd, but Hogan was the fan favorite. The Rock was the better man on this night and eventually won the match, but Hogan was the story. Hogan had the fans on his side again, and second tour in WWE was a huge success. The Rock’s popularity grew as well, as it landed him in Hollywood where he starred in several movies. This match didn’t headline WrestleMania X-8, but it damn sure stole the show. It was the WWE’s version of Tyson vs Ali, and it somehow surpassed the hype.
3. WrestleMania III 1987: WWE Champion Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant- The most hyped match of all-time checks in at number 3 on my list, and what hype it was. Coming off the success of the firs-t two WrestleMania’s, Vince McMahon had his sights on coming up with the biggest match in the business’ history for the 3rd Mania. At that time there was only one option….Hulk vs Andre. Andre was undefeated in his career up to that point. Hogan, meanwhile, was in the middle of a 4 year reign as WWE Champion. Andre joined forces with Bobby Heenan and turned on Hogan setting up the then biggest match ever. You had a feeling going in that Hogan would win, but considering nobody had ever seen Andre lose, you just didn’t know. That’s what made this match what it was. It wasn’t a great technical match because neither guy was a technical wrestler, but it didn’t matter. You had two tremendously popular figures (Andre was quite the movie star after his Princess Bride cameo), that grew to really dislike each other. Andre was battling a back injury that threatened to derail the match, but he was a fighter, and he gave it his all. In the end, Hogan slammed the 8th wonder of the world from Grenoble in the French Alps, hit the leg drop, and captured the win. That match was the right match at the right time that helped WWE become as mainstream as any sport in America. Everybody remembers where they were when Hogan slammed Andre. Without McMahon and Hogan, there wouldn’t be WrestleMania. Hogan headlined the first 9 WrestleMania’s, and his win over over Andre at III was one of the best ever. Hulkamania was alive and running well. Here’s a little recap……..
2. WrestleMania XXV 2009 & WrestleMania XXVI 2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker- Both matches qualify for the #2 spot on this list. Two of the greatest superstars in the history of the business delivered the best matches two years in a row at ‘Mania. The first “HBK’ ‘Taker match was an instant classic. Michaels felt he was this close to ending the streak, and challenged ‘Taker again at WM XXVI. Michaels was so determined to end the streak that he put his brilliant career on the line. The two delivered another gem despite “HBK” being forced to retire. The first match had casual fans asking “so, was that match really that good?” It was, and the 2nd might have been better. These legendary matches are good enough for the 2nd spot on my all-time list. And from a wrestling die hard, thank you.
1. WrestleMania XII 1996: WWE Champion Bret “Hitman” Hart vs The “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels- We finally made it to the number one match in the history of WrestleMania. The Iron Man Match from WM XII was the best match I’ve ever seen. Nobody thought two guys could go for 60 minutes and keep the audiences attention. Not only did Michaels and Hart do that, they exceeded anyone’s expectations. You kind of had the feeling Michaels would win the WWE title for the first time when he entered the ring from the top of the Anaheim Pond, but it still was a nerve wracking ending. Hart had Michaels in the sharpshooter as the clock struck 0:00, and everyone assumed Hart had retained the title. However, it had been determined there must be a winner so the match continued, and Michaels eventually hit “Sweet Chin Music” for the 2nd time and pinned Hart to become the WWE Champion for the first time. Even in defeat, Bret Hart proved why he is the best there is…the best there was…..and the best there ever will be. It was an unbelievable match, and number 1 on my list of all-time WrestleMania matches. What helped put this match at the number 1 spot was the real life hatred these two men had for each other. It started long before the Montreal Screwjob. Hart hated how Michaels carried himself, and Michaels hated how Hart felt the WWE owned him everything. Michaels was the new blood and Hart felt threatened. Hart hated where the business was headed with Shawn leading it (The attitude era ’97-’03 was right around the corner). It’s why the rematch didn’t happen for 20 months. Hart felt HBK faked a knee injury in early ’97 around WM XIII to derail the rematch. Plain and simple….It’s the best rivalry the business has ever seen, and likely will ever see again. On this night in Anaheim in 1996, HBK and The Hitman made history together. They may have despised each other, but they are forever linked together as the men who had the greatest match in WrestleMania history.
To quote “Stone Cold” Steve Austin: “If you’re ready for WrestleMania, give me a hell yeah!” See you on April 3rd.
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