Distilling 24 years of Wrestlemania matches into the top ten is a formidable task. However, in each Wrestlemania there are one or two matches that stand out. It is the match that fans can’t quit talking about, and often it continues to fuel WWE drama long after Wrestlemania.
With that in mind, I’ve tried to capture ten of the biggest Wrestlemania matches that stick out in my mind over the past 24 years.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Champion Floyd Mayweather and The Big Show at Wrestlemania 24
Who expected the WBC Welterweight, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, to beat the largest athlete in the WWE? Wrestlers don’t come any bigger than The Big Show and Mayweather, although toned and athletic looked like a dwarf beside him. The match became a show before the two ever locked up. The Big Show entered to a pyro show, which Mayweather matched by shooting money into the crowd.
The crowd was hyped about the match before it ever started.
When The Big Show started to drop a leg on Mayweather, Mayweather’s crew snatched him off the mat and headed toward the back. The Big Show took out the crew and tangled up with Mayweather in a no holds barred match. Everyone watching knew that a win was possible by pin down, submission, or knock-out. Following the failure of steel chairs to take down The Big Show, Mayweather pulls out the brass knuckles and takes them upside The Big Show’s head. The Big Show was down for the ten count.
I never expected the Goliath of a wrestler to be taken down by the Welterweight Boxing Champ, but then I never expected Mayweather to pull out the brass knuckles.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Wrestlemania 23 “Money in the Bank” Match
Wrestlemania 23 was one of the most hyped Wrestlemania events in WWE’s history. The event took place in Detroit, exactly twenty years after Wrestlemania 3. It turns out Wrestlemania 23 had two really memorable matches. The “Money in the Bank” Ladder Match was one of the best ever. Fighting for the money were Edge, Randy Orton, King Book, Finlay, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, and Mr. Kennedy. Every wrestler hung in the match to kick off the event and keep fans on the edge of their seats.
The most memorable moment was Jeff Hardy’s leg drop from the top of a ladder onto Edge, knocking edge off his ladder and out of the competition. Every wrestler fought hard in the “Money in the Bank” match and fans were wound up. Mr. Kennedy won after whacking Punk with a ladder.
This was one of those well-timed, all-out matches that keeps viewers turned into the entertainment sport.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Batista versus The Undertaker in the World Heavyweight Title in Wrestlemania 23
Arguably one of the best matches in Wrestlemania history Batista went up against the Undertaker. Batista had recently returned from an injury and had not wrestled with the same stamina since he had been back in the ring, not until he stepped in the ring during Wrestlemania against The Undertaker.
In a match that should have played as the main event. The crowd went wild as Batista and the Undertaker went from the mat, through the ropes, and through a table. Back in the ring Batista dropped the Batista Bomb, but couldn’t hold The Undertaker. Fans were treated to a repeat performance of The Undertakers big move in Wrestlemania 22, a suicide dive over the top rope. This time he landed on Batista instead of Mark Henry.
Batista put up a fight, but in a match in which many fans felt short-changed due to its length and billing as the fourth match, it wasn’t much of a surprise that The Undertaker walked away with another victory.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Wrestlemania 22 John Cena Beats Triple H for the WWE Championship
I’m not sure if this is so memorable because of the fight between John Cena and Triple H, or the drama that built up on RAW as Triple H wrestled his way through to the match, after having lost the World Championship match to Batista in Wrestlemania 21. John Cena had remained at the top of his game throughout the year but fell from the grace of his fans. It was a love-hate match, and fans were energized when Cena and Triple H made their entrance.
Fans who had formerly supported Cena now hissed and cursed him. The crowd was electric when Triple H brought down his signature sledgehammer. Several times it looked like Cena might lose the title to Triple H, even Cena’s signature moves proved ineffective. It was only when Cena eluded Triple H’s attempt at a Pedigree and reversed it into a match winning move.
Cena, once the people’s champion, left the ring with the WWE Championship title in hand, but with the fans no longer in his corner.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: 3 Man World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 20
Wrestlemania 20 was held in Madison Square Garden, New York. The event included a few good matches, but the show seemed rushed. Easily the greatest wrestling match of Wrestlemania 20 was Triple H versus Chris Benoit versus Shawn Michaels for the World Heavyweight Championship. The match brought three of the best WWE athletes together in the ring. The battle for the Heavyweight Championship went every which way but loose. The crowd was engaged and fixated on the ring because as take downs, pull outs, and signature moves seemingly changed the outcome from one moment to the next.
Chris Benoit came out of the match winning his first championship title, World Heavyweight Champion. It was a moment of glory for Benoit who had worked many long years to get to this moment in his wrestling career.
Chris Benoit shared the final moments of glory and history with Eddie Guerrero, who had just won the WWE Championship.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Steve Austin takes on Shawn Michaels in a WWF Title Match Wrestlemania 14.
Wrestlemania harkens back to the days of the WWF (The entire franchise is now owned by the WWE).
The show down between Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 14 is one of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history because it marked the beginning of an era for Austin, a.k.a. The Texas Rattlesnake. When Austin faced off in the ring against The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, the match was to be referred by Mike Tyson. Tyson’s presence didn’t set well with Steve Austin, who gave Tyson the finger, or Shawn Michaels. No one really knew what to expect because both of the championship wrestlers had challenged Tyson to a fight, so McMahon sidelined him as a “ring enforcer” during the Wrestlemania match.
The first big take down was when Austin clothes-lined Michaels. A few moves later he flipped Michaels out of the ring only to be taken into the crowd by nearby Triple H and Chyna. Following a brouhaha on the entrance ramp Austin and Michaels made it back to the ring where Michaels was met by another clothesline. Austin then hit the wrestler with an atomic bomb. Michaels looked like he was on his way out, but in typical Wrestlemania fashion he fought his way back. The match went on in and out of the ring, crashing tables and bouncing off turnbuckles. When Michaels tried to catch Austin with Sweet Chin Music, The Texas Rattlesnake grabbed Michaels and slammed him to the mat. The Stone Cold stunner took Michaels down long enough for Tyson to jump in the ring and declare Austin the winner.
Michaels recovered long enough to confront Tyson, who met him with a K.O. punch.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania 19 faceoff
The build up to Wrestlemania 19 was intense. The event was held in Seattle, with several matches that ignited the audience. One memorable match was Chris Jericho versus Shawn Michaels in a Grudge Match. Jericho, Y2J at the time, was as full of himself as always, but Shawn Michaels entered with his own brand of cockiness, dancing, and pyro effects.
The match moved quickly with grappling and take downs. Michaels took Jericho and the win after an intense match that had the crowd roaring. Jericho extended a reconciliatory hug to Shawn Michaels following the match, but followed it up with a knee to the groin shattering any image of good sportsmanship on Jericho’s part.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Icon vs. Icon Match in Wrestlemania 18
Wrestlemania 18 featured wrestling superstars The Rock and Hulk Hogan in a match they called the Icon vs. Icon match. You can imagine the tension that developed between old school fans of Hulk Hogan and a new generation of wrestling fans who worshipped The Rock.
The wrestling match between Hulk Hogan, icon of the past, and The Rock, icon of a new generation, filled the Skydome with emotion and excitement. Fans were ready for the wrestling match, with their hearts behind wrestling’s perennial champion, Hulk Hogan. The crowds, disenchanted with The Rock, were heartily behind Hogan and chanted offensively at The Rock.
The crowd was on their feet for a match in which the wrestlers matched each other in put downs and kick outs for several minutes. Hulk Hogan wrestled with heart, but in the end couldn’t withstand the stamina and power of The Rock. Two rock bottoms, followed by the “people’s elbow” were the finishing moves that took Hogan out of the match. The win went to The Rock, marking a definitive shift between two generations of wrestlers and wrestling fans.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Wrestlemania 17, The Rock versus Steve Austin
The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin have met at Wrestlemania several times, but this encounter was the main event at Wrestlemania 17 with personal drama, pride, and the WWF Championship title on the line. This Wrestlemania match was billed by WWF as “The match both men need to win and neither can afford to lose.”
The Rock owned the WWF Championship and to make matters worse McMahon assigned Austin’s wife, Debra, to manage The Rock. Austin wanted the WWF Championship title and revenge in a match that was personal, outrageous, and a no disqualification match.
The wrestlers faced each other with a vengeance. Austin, The Texas Rattlesnake, was the audience favorite, as the event was held in Houston, Texas. Austin wasted no time driving into The Rock who came back at him fiercely. It didn’t take long, however, before it looked like Austin might take an early lead. The wrestling match ended up out of the ring and over the railing into the fans. The Rock fought his way back after being taken into the Houston, Texas crowd. Both men fought viscously, but after numerous blows to the head and intervention by McMahon. The Rock lost consciousness, the match, and the WWF Championship wrestling title.
Top Ten Wrestlemania Matches: Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania 3 Championship title match
Wrestlemania 3 was in 1987. Hulk Hogan faced Andre the Giant for a title match when Wrestlemania was owned by the WWF franchise. Wrestling was still old-school in 1987 and adjusting to the newfound tap into mainstream entertainment and Pay-Per-View possibilities.
Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant had been friends for years, but friendship turned fuel for a grudge match when Hogan began to hog the spotlight. Andre the Giant was undefeated in the WWF for 15 year, while Hulk Hogan was the WWF Champion for 3 years. Even when the limelight belonged to Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan managed to talk more about himself than anything else. When Andre had enough he challenged Hogan to the match that took place at Wrestlemania 3.
The drama was perfect fodder for wrestling’s new media outlet, Wrestlmania on Pay-Per-View. Andre the Giant came into the match an underdog in terms of fan support, but he had never lost a match in 15 years. Hulk Hogan entered the ring to a raucous, supportive crowd. Early in the wrestling match it didn’t look good for Hogan, he couldn’t get the behemoth Andre off the mat for a body slam. Hogan appeared pinned just by Andre falling on him. Andre slung Hogan across the ring, ready to drop a boot on him, but Hulk Hogan bounced back with a clothesline. His closing moves took down Andre the Giant, won the match, and kept the Championship title.
I know I’m throwing in an extra match, but I can’t mention Wrestlemania 3 without mentioning the title match between WWF Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat. Ricky Steamboat surprised fans and took the match by reversing a scoop slam. Randy Savage’s loss of the WWF Intercontinental Championship was a historic moment in wrestling history.
25 Years of Wrestlemania Memories
This year marks the 25th year of the Wrestlemania event. There are more memorable matches than I’ve had the opportunity to mention here. Twenty-five years of Wrestlemania has produced some great moments in wrestling history.
Feel free to share your memories of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history below.