by Joe Thunder - March 18, 2012
Welcome to part two of my top 25 matches in WrestleMania history! In case you missed part one, here is a link to it: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150620118054537
I hope you enjoy reading part two!
12. Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit, WrestleMania 17: Nobody put on a wrestling clinic better than either one of these guys, and nobody wrestled a more technically sound match than either one of these guys. This pair would have a better match at the 2003 Royal Rumble, but that doesn’t make this match any less special. I believe this was one of the matches shown on the Chris Benoit tribute Raw in June of 2007. I recently made a comment that nobody executed a german suplex better than Kurt Angle, and I was asked if I thought Benoit was better at it. Honestly, they are both the best at executing a german suplex. Benoit did multiple suplexes without letting go of his opponent. Angle would do the same on occasion. How do you measure who is better? I can’t choose. These two took took a lot of hard bumps in their match and put on a showing at what is argued to be the best WrestleMania of all time. Angle won the match on a school boy rollup while holding Benoit’s tights. I remember after the match when Kurt was celebrating backstage and Benoit attacked him from behind. He locked on the crossface and made Angle tap out on the hallway floor. It showed that despite Angle winning the match, Benoit could still make him tap out. It was a great match and one that every true wrestling fan should see.
11. Edge vs Mick Foley in a Hardcore Match, WrestleMania 22: This is widely considered to be the best match on the entire WrestleMania 22 card. Edge had only held the WWE Title one time for just a few short weeks when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on John Cena at New Year’s Revolution in early January. He then lost the title to Cena at the Royal Rumble. Edge was considered by many to be a fluke champion and felt he had a lot to prove. Edge and Foley delivered one vicious battle. This was the version of hardcore that helped inspire the return of the ECW brand(despite it’s overall lack of hardcore). Foley and Edge took an absolute beating and physically destroyed one another to entertain the Chicago crowd. This match was incredible. I’ll never forget when I realized that Lita was going to set the table on fire. Edge spearing Foley through that table for the win was really the only to finish such a barbaric match. Edge walked away with his arm around Lita and his back full of thumbtacks. I know it was a hardcore match, but I feel this match is very underrated and told a story in a way that most matches that year couldn’t. It was really all about Edge showing that he can hang with the toughest superstar in their best element. In this case, Edge defeated Foley at his own game on the grandest stage and went on to regain the WWE Title just a few months later. We all know about the numerous title reigns that came after this match before his premature retirement from wrestling. For Foley, it was an incredible match and still not his last. He would go on to face Ric Flair down the road and would head to TNA for awhile. He also competed in this past year’s Royal Rumble match. Foley is a guy that will always give everything he’s got to keep the audience enthralled, and he succeeded once again in this contest.
10. Shawn Michaels vs Triple H vs Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship, WrestleMania 20: Benoit won the 2004 Royal Rumble match, lasting sixty-two minutes after entering in the number one spot. The trio put on what is considered by many to be the best triple threat match in WWE history. Hunter and Michaels were both bloodied up during this match and executed their finishers in this matchup without being victorious. Benoit’s stock had been rising in the company since his match with Kurt Angle the year prior. Guerrero had been victorious earlier in the night over Angle to retain the WWE Championship, and he was the first on hand to congratulate Benoit when he won the World Heavyweight Championship in this match. Benoit’s finish to the match was a counter out of Triple H’s pedigree directly into a crippler crossface, where Hunter was forced to tap out. It was the first time in WrestleMania history that a World Championship changes hands via submission(this has only happened two times since then). It’s a shame that history books don’t allow WWE to highlight this match more when looking back on WrestleMania because it was honestly one of the top ten matches up to that point and is still one of the best ever contested on the big stage.
9. Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship, WrestleMania 8: Back when the IC Title meant more than it does today, it was used to elevate some of the future stars in the eyes of the fans. Bret Hart had already been Intercontinental Champion. He was cheated out of the title by the Mountie and Roddy Piper had defeated the Mountie at the Royal Rumble to capture the title. Piper was a fan favorite going into this match and actually stopped himself from using the ring bell on Bret during this match. Bret was able to get a roll up pinfall out of a sleeper hold(the same move he used on Austin at Survivor Series ’96) and get the three count on piper. This match was everything you would look for in a championship bout and really showcased why Bret Hart was becoming one of the best performers in the company(Hart would capture the WWF Title in October that year from Ric Flair) and Piper did a great job putting him over. The respect between these two is what made this such a good ending as Piper embraced Hart at the finish. A lot of people don’t like Roddy Piper. I never cared for him. I thought he was overrated and only good on the mic. Then I watched his dvd set, Born to Controversy. I have a whole new respect for Roddy Piper after learning about his history and watching some of his matches from NWA and early WCW(Crockett promotions). This is definitely one of the best IC Title matches in WrestleMania history and worth checking out.
8. Undertaker vs Triple H, WrestleMania 27: Since WrestleMania 24, NBC has done a highlight special each year called “The World Premier of WrestleMania” and each year, it highlighted the top moments from each show. The 2011 edition showed the Rock’s WrestleMania intro and then went on to do a full forty-five minute highlight session of Triple H against the Undertaker. No other match was highlighted on the entire show. WrestleMania 27 had some good matches with CM Punk taking on Randy Orton, and Cody Rhodes taking on Rey Mysterio. It was also the last time Edge would compete in a pay per view when he successfully defended the World Title against Alberto Del Rio. Even with those matches, Triple H and Undertaker stole the show. Their match was simply far above the rest of the card. These two brawled and told a great story. You don’t find this sort of combat on a pay per view anymore. Because I didn’t expect Undertaker to lose, I was waiting the entire match for the big turn around. When Triple H grabbed the sledgehammer, I knew he was in trouble. I was thinking either a chokeslam followed up by a tombstone, or hell’s gate. We all saw what happened when Triple H tapped out less than three minutes after grabbing the sledgehammer. It was an incredible match and would have been a great way for the dead man to cap off his career. I’m hoping these two will repeat inside HIAC and give us another great match for the ages.
7. Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 21: This was an interpromotional match that featured Raw’s HBK against Smackdown’s Kurt Angle. The worst part of this entire rivalry was Kurt Angle dancing to and attempting to perform HBK’s sexy boy theme song. It was horrible. Kurt and Shawn were both at the top of their game for this match and they put on a classic encounter. I just watched this match the other night and remember asking myself why it wasn’t put on as the main event that night. The two championship matches were impressive, don’t get me wrong, but Kurt and Shawn went all out and told a story in this one. Michaels was the high flyer and yet Angle saw himself on the top rope a couple times in this match. At one point, Kurt hit a huge Angle slam on Michaels off the top rope but only got a two count. Kurt would also miss a huge moonsault on Michaels in the match as well. Ultimately though, Angle was able to make Michaels tap out after holding him in the ankle lock for what felt like forever. This would be Kurt’s second to last WrestleMania match, but it wouldn’t be his last encounter with Michaels as the two wrestled a stellar rematch at the Vengeance ppv in June.
6. Owen Hart vs Bret Hart, WrestleMania 10: Never before had a five star quality match opened WrestleMania, and never again has one. For the backstory, Owen was the only member of the Hart team eliminated at the ’93 Survivor Series and was angry at Bret for celebrating the team’s win without him. After working through their differences, the two challenged the Quebecers at the ’94 Rumble for the tag titles and lost due to Bret hurting his leg. Owen turned on Bret after the match and it led to these two going one on one for the first time ever at WrestleMania. They wrestled a technically sound one on one encounter that went inside and outside the ring, and kept the crowd alive while telling their story. The match ended with Owen countering Bret when he went for a victory roll off Owen’s shoulders as the rocket knelt down on the hitman and held on for the three count pinfall. The crowd was stunned, but it was a great finish to a great match. Bret would go to win the WWF Title from Yokozuna in the main event that night, but it was Owen pinning Bret to open the show that led to one of the greatest summer length rivalries in the history of WWE. Owen would go on to win the King of the Ring and challenge Bret for the title in a cage match at Summerslam and several more times at house shows before and after. Bret and Owen came from a wrestling family and were both masters of the skill. The two in the ring together made for some of the best wrestling you could find in 1994.
5. Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart in a Sixty Minute Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship, WrestleMania 12: What’s sad about this main event is the fact that it could have been the main event of the following Mania had these two been on better terms. Shawn was the rising star in the company for two full years. Bret had been carrying the company essentially since just before Hulk Hogan took off for the acting world and WCW. These two wrestled a great match for a full sixty minutes. Neither one had pinned the other. Neither one had made the other submit. Bret tried to walk away with the title. Gorilla Monsoon, the commissioner at the time, told Howard Finkel to announce that there must be a winner. They wrestled a sudden death overtime where Michaels nailed Bret with Sweet Chin Music and picked up the pinfall victory. Shawn had achieved his boyhood dream. At seven years of age, I was ecstatic, jumping up and down with my cousin , loving the celebration for Michaels. I was too young to realize that company politics were pushing Bret out the door at the time. I loved Bret. I wondered where he went until his return in late October, but then he was different. He became the heel Bret Hart until he left in late 1997. Shawn wrestled great matches the entire year as he defended his title. Shawn and Bret wouldn’t have a one on one rematch until the 1997 Survivor Series, and we all know what happened there. Despite their differences, Bret and Shawn wrestled an incredible bout in March of ’96 and one that is considered by many to be the best main event match of all time pre attitude era. I might have to agree with that.
4. Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker(HBK/Taker II), WrestleMania 26: When I watched this match the first time, I felt the faster pace made it a better match than the year prior. When I watched it again after re-watching the prior year’s match, I realized that they were two different matches(no duh, right?). Each match told a different story. This match told the story of a guy that brought absolutely everything to the table and put his career on the line. These guys brawled around the ring and involved the announce tables and really kept themselves on their feet for the majority of the twenty four minutes that they were in battle. Shawn had cost the Undertaker the World Title at the Elimination Chamber so that the dead man would grant him his rematch for a shot at the streak. The stipulation was that Shawn’s career was on the line. You knew when they booked the match that it was over for Shawn Michaels. Shawn had been back and entertaining the fans for nearly eight years after taking a four year in-ring hiatus. He deserved the time off. He gave us more great matches and moments after his return than he had given in his career prior to the injury(and that’s saying a lot considering what great years he had in 95 and 96). There wasn’t a better person to give Shawn one final classic match than the Undertaker. I knew when Shawn got up from the tombstone and slapped Undertaker that he was going to get another one and be history. I was somewhat emotional about Michaels as he left the ring after the match, but I think I was more emotional the next night when he gave his farewell speech on Raw. It was a great match with a sad but also great ending.
3. Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 19: The back story here was that Chris Jericho always wanted to be like Shawn Michaels when he broke into the business. Now Jericho was at a point where he felt he had become better than Shawn Michaels. Despite four big time matches going on after them on the card, Michaels and Jericho ended up wrestling the longest match of the night at twenty three minutes in length. These two wrestled around ringside, took all sorts of high flying risks, and worked one of the best wrestling matches I’ve ever witnessed. Jericho was arguably the best all around performer in WWE at the time and was the perfect return opponent at WrestleMania for Michaels after a five year hiatus from the event. After giving us a classic back and forth match, Michaels jumped up when he was standing behind Jericho and rolled him backwards into a pinfall victory. Shawn and Jericho hugged after the match, only for Jericho to turn into the sore loser that he was and kick HBK in the groin. This was Jericho’s heel run at it’s finest. Despite the attitudes towards one another after the match, these two put on a terrific encounter that sets the bar for what a quality WrestleMania match needs to be.
2. Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin in a submission match, WrestleMania 13: This match saw Ken Shamrock as the guest referee. It was his debut ppv in the WWF. I did a facebook status with updated comments as I watched this one just a few weeks ago. I’ve condensed my comments into paragraph form for the whole match. Here it is:
“Austin with an early stunner. Foreshadowing from JR when he said if hart is unconscious the match must stop. Figure four on the steel post. Austin’s poor legs. Lawler said repeatedly Austin would never submit to bret. More spoilers. Hart with a chair. This is such a good match. The crowd is soooo into it. Austin gets the chair and nails the hitman in the head, love that too. Lawler yelling “it’s wrestlemania baby hahahah!” I miss heel Jerry Lawler. Austin with his own diving forearm after the double middle fingers. He should’ve got a patent for that. Bret’s daughter is in the front row. wow. I hope she can’t hear lawler yelling at austin to break his neck. Austin with a boston crab. Hart won’t give up. He gets to the bottom rope. Austin going for the sharpshooter, hart with a poke to the eye. Hart thrown to the outside. Half the crowd is cheering, half the crowd is booing for Austin. that’ll change. Steve into the guardrail. Damn. Austin ran two WWF employees over. Austin bladed while in the corner, and here comes all the blood. Looks like a saw movie. Hart starts beating on austin. in the ring. Hart with fists to the skull. Anyone that calls wrestling fake needs to see this and then the texas deathmatch with Funk and Foley. Hart with a chair to the legs on austin. Austin is bleeding all over the mat. They didn’t change the mat in those days. The blood is like triple the amount that Bulldog poured against Hart in December ’95. I wonder if austin knew where he was. He kicked hart in the balls to counter. Austin whips hart into the corner sternum first, ouch. Austin mounts an offense, guess he knew what was up after all. Mudhole stomping! Love it! I remember watching this match with my cousins, I was 8. Great match. Austin with a suplex off the ropes. His face is solid crimson! He chokes Bret with an extension cord…now that’s hardcore! Hart hits austin in the head with the ring bell. Damn. Sharpshooter applied. Austin is bleeding like no other. He fights and fights and fights but can’t escape. Damnit. The crowd has a faint Austin chant. He nearly breaks it but Bret keeps it applied. The crowd has joined Austin’s side. Shamrock is asking a guy that’s clearly unconscious if he gives up. Brilliant. Shamrock stops the match and Bret Hart wins. Austin never gave up(x3 from the mouth of Jim Ross). That mat is disgusting, and this is still easily one of my favorite matches of all time. The show could’ve ended here without the six man tag and the main event and i would not have complained one bit. The crowd boos Bret after he leaves. Heel hitman worked for the time period. I just wish he hadn’t left. Austin stuns a ref and wants to walk out on his own. Austin chants loud from the crowd with a standing ovation. Damn right.”
^This really doesn’t begin to do the match justice. You really have to see it to understand just how great it was. It was my favorite match for a very long time. This was the start of Austin becoming a huge fan favorite. It was also the beginning of the end for Bret Hart in the WWF. He would reform the Hart Foundation with Bulldog and Owen the next night on Raw and would be gone from the company by November. Though it was sad that Bret left, I would say that this was his best match in 1997 and easily one of the top five matches of his career. Hart brought out the best in Steve Austin and really contributed to the start of what would become one of the greatest eras in all of wrestling history.
1. Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker, WrestleMania 25: Simply put, this match had everything. It was an all out war between these two. It defined the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania. Nothing was more fitting for this event. It should have gone on last. It was just that good. Shawn cut a great promo that was filmed in a mock cemetary where he talked about all of Taker’s past opponents that he had laid to rest. A match with this sort of hype could have been the solo match on the card and still defined WrestleMania. Shawn had a great entrance where he came down from up above on a platform, almost like coming down from heaven. He was wearing a white coat and hat. Undertaker did his traditional entrance. The show these two put on was just unbelievable. It didn’t make sense for the title matches to go on after this one did. Ultimately the match ended with Michaels being caught by Undertaker when he backflipped off the top rope and was tombstoned into a loss at the hands of the dead man. These two had kicked out of each other’s finishers already in the match and you had to know that it was going to take something that incredible to bring this one to a close. These two made history that night. It was so good that WWE realized their mistake and booked them for a rematch the following year and put them on as the main event. Nothing has ever topped what these two icons did when you put them in the ring together, and it could be a very long time before something does.
I love talking about these matches. I love watching them even more, and now I can’t wait for WrestleMania this year. Thanks for reading!
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