The 1990s was the most progressive decade in WWE's history. Look back at how far the product came from throughout the decade and into the millennium, there might never be an era that sees that much advancement in every possible category measurable.
The viewership, spectacle, natural talent, plot and marketability of the overall product went for a wild ride of improvement in the '90s.
Each WrestleMania during that span seemed to up the ante from the preceding one when it comes to the fundamental elements of wrestling storytelling. But, not every WrestleMania in the '90s was an improvement upon its previous iteration.
Being that we're in the midst of WrestleMania season now, I decided to look back at the WrestleManias that are nearly 15 to 20 years behind us, ranking them from worst to best, in terms of quality and what they now mean to the product.
The ranking is based on reflection of where they stand in history for their overall entertainment and contributions. Simply as a wrestling fan―which WrestleMania do I want to watch first from the '90s?
The worst of the decade came in 1993. WWE took a chance building an arena outside in Nevada for WrestleMania 9.
I've always held this WrestleMania in higher regard than many other wrestling fans. I liked the Caesars Palace theme. I enjoyed many of the matches, even the hokey moments like a second Doink coming out from under the ring to attack Crush. I enjoyed it as a kid, so it always stuck with me.
However, looking at it in retrospect 20 years later, it didn't bring much to the table. It demonstrated that, on the biggest stage of them all, Hulk Hogan could walk out of an event as world champion, while never being advertised to be in a world title match.
It was the least enjoyable of The Undertaker's WrestleMania matches, as he took on Giant Gonzalez.
This does mark the first WrestleMania for Jim Ross, but that's not enough to bump it up in ranking.
WrestleMania 9 will go down as the worst WrestleMania in the '90s and one of the worst ever.
The significance of WrestleMania 7 is based around one big fact: the Undertaker's first WrestleMania match.
The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak has took on a life of its own in a way nobody could have imagined back in 1991. The Undertaker made his WrestleMania debut beating Jimmy Snuka.
That debut, along with the culmination of a year-long international feud between Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter, are what carry WrestleMania 7 through history and give it the ninth spot on the list from the '90s.
A golden opportunity for WWE was blown in 1992 at the Hoosier Dome.
Ric Flair had joined the company just months earlier and won the world title at Royal Rumble. He would go to WrestleMania and defend the title against Macho Man Randy Savage, which was a good match, but not of the caliber many fans were expecting. The most anticipated opponent for Flair was Hulk Hogan.
WrestleMania 8 saw Hogan battle Sid Justice in a match that hardly went down as a classic. They did what they could do and then waited for the big return of the Ultimate Warrior, which ended the show.
It was a big card that featured a lot of names, both faces and heel. The best match was the solid Intercontinental title match between Bret Hart and Roddy Piper. The promo before the match is one of my favorite Piper's promos.
This was also Jake “The Snake” Roberts' final match before leaving the company for WCW, as he lost to The Undertaker. This holds the distinction of Shawn Michaels' first WrestleMania as a singles star, as he kicked the show off in a match against Tito Santana.
Verdict: not a terrible show, but in the tough competition of the other WrestleManias in the '90s, it does not belong in the top half of the list.
WrestleMania 15 in 1999 was centered around two stars that were nothing like anything WWE had ever seen.
Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock would meet in their first of three WrestleMania main events. WWE had top guys in the past, such as Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Diesel, but nothing like the characters of The Rock or Austin, who were on a collision course, often in competition for the top spot.
The show also had the first Hell in a Cell match ever at WrestleMania. The match itself was not particularly memorable from bell to bell, but everyone still talks about The Undertaker hanging the Big Boss Man inside the cell.
There was a Brawl For All before contest, along with some other good matches, but Austin and The Rock are the faces of WrestleMania 15.
Two names carry WrestleMania 6 in any conversation involving significant history: Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan.
In the days where of longer feuds, larger-than-life characters and fewer pay-per-views, the magnitude of Warrior vs. Hogan, champion vs. champion, was huge.
Hogan passed the torch to Warrior, which didn't go as well as planned. The overall WrestleMania wasn't terrific, but the importance of the main event separates it from the WrestleManias in previous slides.
WrestleMania 13 is sandwiched between some really historical and entertaining WrestleManias.
The bulk of the show was pretty bad. The world title match with Sid and The Undertaker was average at best. The entire buildup to the world title match was confusing. Shawn Michaels was out with an injury, which I think put a kink in the booking plans.
There is no question the most valuable thing WrestleMania 13 offered was the I Quit match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart. This match put Austin on the map and saw the unprecedented double turn in characters.
Hart walked in the fan favorite and left with a sour Canadian chip on his shoulder. Austin walked in rude and disliked by the fans and left the match rude and worshiped by the fans.
Without this match, Austin's eventual ascent to the top of the WWE mountain would have looked entirely different.
That said, this was a terrible WrestleMania overall to sit through, but that match alone saves it from being further down the list. The I Quit match made significant contributions to the business.
When I say that WrestleMania 11 saw the biggest mainstream attraction of any WrestleMania in the '90s, I am taking into account the venue in which the event was held.
A viewer in Hartford, Conn., just outside of New York City, a New York Giants football legend in Lawrence Taylor up against a classic wrestling heel in Bam Bam Bigelow. This was a money main event.
Various NFL players had Taylor's back paired up against the Million Dollar Corporation backing Bigelow.
Rap group Salt-n-Pepa sang Taylor to the ring. Pamela Anderson was looped into a minor storyline and eventually escorted Diesel to the ring. Jenny McCarthy, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Donnie Wahlberg and more all filled out the VIP list of Hollywood stars who got involved in WrestleMania.
I will never forget the amount of press surrounding the ring. It was the first time I can recall ever so much hype and media attention for a WrestleMania.
WrestleMania 11 was also the first WrestleMania main event for Shawn Michaels, as he was unsuccessful at beating Diesel for the world title.
WrestleMania 11 is in the top five for best WrestleMania's in the 90s, as it sent WrestleMania to the next level, bringing it a broader appeal than just (as it had previously been) almost exclusively the viewership of the WWE fanbase.
WrestleMania 12 was headlined with what is now remembered as one the best wrestling matches ever: the Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, a phenomenal match that ended with Michaels winning his first world title.
This classic was complemented by one of the first “attitude era” type WrestleMania moments with the Roddy Piper vs. Goldust brawl that took place throughout the entire night.
This WrestleMania is characterized by the same brand of attitude that we would is now a staple of the product from week to week. WWE took some comic shots at WCW for acquiring all of their old talent. Particularly memorable are jabs at Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Ted Turner. The Hollywood Backlot Brawl between Piper and Goldust was very controversial with its content.
All in all, looking back at history and the '90s, WrestleMania 12 is one of the best.
It was the WrestleMania that turned it all around.
WCW held the edge in the ratings war with WWE, but WrestleMania 14 was essentially the first punch landed in a comeback that ultimately knocked WCW out.
Mike Tyson as a DX member and special enforcer of the WWE title match garnered amazing attention.
Shawn Michaels was defending against Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was the hottest superstar, since Hulk Hogan. Austin would win his first world title with Tyson turning his back on DX.
The night also saw the first meeting between Kane and The Undertaker, which is, to this day, one of the best storylines ever. The video package that was produced highlighting their story and the buildup to the match is still top-notch.
WrestleMania 14, which was dubbed “DX-Rated” in the tagline and gets a high rating from me as the second-best WrestleMania of the '90s.
WrestleMania 10 tops all other WrestleManias of the '90s.
It took place in Madison Square Garden, which provides added value to an event that took the audience on an emotional ride.
We start with a fantastic match between brothers Bret and Owen Hart in their first match ever in WWE. Owen would get the surprise roll-up win on his big brother after a 20-minute, hard-fought match.
Lex Luger would be the first to challenge world champion Yokozuna. Yokozuna beat Luger, but later would have to defend the title again against Bret Hart because Hart and Luger were both declared winners at the Royal Rumble.
The match that stole the show was the ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon. Nearly 20 years later, the match is still looked at with tremendous historical significance. It's one of the must-see matches for anyone who is a wrestling fan.
The emotional roller-coaster of a night cultminated with Bret Hart beating Yokozuna for the title and going on for the rest of 1994 to have his best WWE title reign.
In terms of historical value, WrestleMania 10 is the best '90s WrestleMania from start to finish.