With WrestleMania 33 this weekend, WWE fans the world over are preparing themselves to view what should be best matches of the year (at least that is the expectation). Of course, not every WrestleMania is a top-notch show and often times delivers some of the most questionable and god-awful matches on a WWE pay-per-view card. But more often than not there are some amazing gems that are presented on the show and are some of the matches that fans talk about for years and years to come. These are the matches that fans expect to see at every WrestleMania event and are the main reasons that many of us are fans of the WWE.
Being a pro-wrestling and WWE fan for the better part of 35 years, it’s been my pleasure to have seen every single WrestleMania throughout the years. Admittedly, the first two WrestleMania events I watched several weeks later because of the lack of closed-circuit TV in my neighborhood, but from WrestleMania III on I have been able to view the event the day of – even if it meant that I would have to miss school or work to watch the event. (Yes, I have used vacation days to ensure that I can be off that particular day.)
As such, I have enjoyed a great many WrestleMania matches over the years with some of them even going so much as to entertain me to no end. Those are the matches that I often relive seeing again and again, both in my mind and on the WWE Network. They are truly wrestling classics in terms of ring psychology, athleticism and pure spectacle – matches worthy of being featured on the grandest stage of them all. So before WrestleMania 33 airs this Sunday, please allow me to share with you my ten favorite WrestleMania matches of all time.
Honorable Mention: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XXIV, March 30, 2008
In a match showcasing two of the greatest in ring performers of all time, this match was both full of emotion and some of the best athletic work the two men ever put on – even though Ric Flair was already 59 at the time. Michaels was faced with the prospect of retiring the man he idolized and looked up to as an inspiration for becoming a professional wrestler… and as Shawn Michaels was poised to win the match and end the illustrious in ring career of the “Nature Boy”, his visible mouthing of the phrase “I’m sorry, I love you” added to the emotion of the match and cementing it as the 2008 PWI Match of the Year and earning Ric Flair the 2008 PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler award.
10. Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 21, April 3, 2005
These two were the top two athletic men in the WWE at the time of this match – and boy, did they deliver on everything fans expected from this match. For nearly 30, Kurt and Shawn Michaels delivered some of the best athleticism ever displayed at a WrestleMania event, going back and forth at full energy and speed, showing why both men were at the top of their game and why the crowd gave them men a standing ovation after Angle picked up the victory by making Michaels submit.
9. John Cena vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 23, April 1, 2007
John Cena is not the most technical wrestler in the world, but when you match him up against a very capable opponent, Cena has shown that he can rise up to the occasion and deliver a five-star quality match. So, when Cena was pitted against Shawn Michaels (his WWE Tag Team Co-Champion) at WrestleMania 23 with his WWE Championship on the line, both men delivered a match beyond what most fans had anticipated. Michaels pushed Cena to his athletic limits for 30 minutes before John Cena does what he does best: win the big matches – and after two STFU holds finally made Michaels submit to retain his championship.
8. Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs “The Rocket” Owen Hart – WrestleMania X, March 20, 1994
Two of the greatest performers at the time of this match, and both brothers trained by their father, Stu Hart, in the legendary Hart Dungeon, put on a wrestling clinic for 20 minutes in this match that had fans emotionally vested in the outcome as Owen Hart was looking for a way to move out from the shadow of his older brother, Bret Hart. As both competitors gave it their all in a back and forth match that had fans at the edge of their seats. And when Owen Hart finally managed to score the win against his older brother Bret, fans knew that a new age in professional wrestling had begun.
7. Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XIX, March 30, 2003
Only in wrestling does a competitor have a chance to face off against their idol in one on one matches to entertain their fans. And only in the WWE does a wrestling match of that nature have a chance to occur on the biggest event in the sports history. So, when Chris Jericho got to confront his boyhood idol Shawn Michaels in front of 54,000 fans at WrestleMania XIX, it was a dream match for both Jericho and fans as two men who were considered the best at what they did gave it their all for 22 minutes with Michaels earning the win over the younger Jericho – after which Jericho turned heel and low-blowed Michaels, leaving the winner a heap in the middle of the ring.
6. Eddie Guerrero vs Kurt Angle – WrestleMania XX, March 14, 2004
Personally, I consider both Kurt Angle and the late Eddie Guerrero to be amongst my top three favorite wrestlers of all-time and two of the greatest performers the sport has ever produced. Both men are legends in the professional wrestling world and they proved their mettle in this epic encounter – a 22-minute bout for Guerrero’s WWE Championship which saw some of the best ring psychology and emotion I have ever seen in a WrestleMania match. Only by living up to his “Latino Heat” ideals and using some chicanery did Guerrero get the best of Angle and pinned him for the victory to retain his title.
5. Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XII, March 31, 1996
This was the first WrestleMania I ever got to attend in person and the 60-minute Iron Man match between (then) WWF Champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels lived up to all of my expectations. For years, even throughout the Hulk Hogan years of the WWF, these two competitors consistently showed that they were the best the company had to offer. And after the 60-minute time limit had expired with both men leaving it all in the ring, a restart was issued which ultimately saw Michaels super kick Hart and win his first WWF Championship, fulfilling his boyhood dream.
4. Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – WrestleMania XIII, March 23, 1997
The ring psychology that this match presented is almost unmatched by any other match I have seen at any WWE event, much less a WrestleMania match. And by the end of the match, one of the hardest things to pull in a wrestling match, a double-turn of the competitors, felt as natural and effortlessly as anything any wrestling fan had ever witnessed. With Ken Shamrock refereeing the Submission match between heel “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and face Bret “The Hitman” Hart, the match ended up a bloody affair with Austin succumbing to blood loss, never tapping out to Hart’s crippling sharpshooter. And as Hart failed to release the hold, coupled with Austin’s refusal to quit, cemented both men in their new, reversed roles and cemented the match as the one which arguably ushered in the Attitude Era in the WWE.
3. Edge & Christian vs The Dudley Boyz vs The Hardy Boyz – WrestleMania X-Seven, April 1, 2001
Perhaps only rivaled by the 1998 King of the Ring PPV’s Hell in the Cell match between Mankind and the Undertaker in terms of action, this non-stop spot-fest created so much action, so much drama, so much balls-to-the-wall excitement that fans still hold it in such high revere even to this day. The sacrifices that all six competitors – Edge, Christian, Bubba & D-Von Dudley, and Matt & Jeff Hardy – made of their bodies to entertain the fans, as well as their companions – Rhyno, Spike Dudley, and Lita, respectively – made of their bodies was met with excitement and praise by the fans; and it will live fondly in my memory as Edge & Christian finally ended the match by capturing the WWE Tag Team Championship belts from above the ring.
2. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – WrestleMania III, March 29, 1987
For years, this match was my favorite WrestleMania match of all-time as the “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat showed the crowd in attendance that the big men Vince McMahon so favored for so many years weren’t always the best match of the night. While people turned on WrestleMania III for the spectacle of the Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant main event match, many fans witnessed the greatest display of athleticism in the events history and Savage and Steamboat put on a wrestling clinic, a match that would inspire generations of future professional wrestlers for years to come. The moves, the in-ring story, the sportsmanship displayed in the ring – all of it was wrestling perfection as ultimately Steamboat picked up the win over Savage and won the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
1. Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXV, April 5, 2009
This is the match that finally took over the top spot in my mind and in my heart as my favorite WrestleMania match of all time. And it pitted two legends of the WWE in an incredible match that no fan who has ever seen it will ever forget. As Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker faced off in a match that showcased both of the competitors’ strengths and played off of the few limitations both men had, this match was nothing short of spectacular and bewildering. Both men refusing to quit, both men fighting until they were spent and exhausted, they continued and pushed on, fighting with everything they had being left in the ring. Their best moves delivered numerous times with seemingly nothing able to stop either men. Finally, after a grueling 30-minute fight, and an emotional display between both men, the Undertaker was able to finally secure the victory over Shawn Michaels with a devastating Tombstone Piledriver – and earning the match the 2009 PWI Match of the Year, and becoming my favorite WrestleMania match of all-time.
So, what about you out there? What is your favorite WrestleMania match of all-time? Do you think any of the matches at WrestleMania 33 will live up to the expectations of the fans? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page; and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram.