WWE WrestleMania 29: Ranking Every Outdoor 'Mania in Event's Storied History
Photo courtesy of WWE.com
When WrestleMania XXIX takes place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on April 7, it will be the sixth outdoor 'Mania of all time. WrestleMania has certainly evolved over the years as it used to be held in smaller arenas, but now only large stadiums play host, and many of them have been outdoors as of late.
Professional wrestling has always been an indoor attraction for the most part, but there have been some special circumstances that have lent themselves to outdoor events. WrestleMania is obviously the biggest show in wrestling and there is nothing conventional about it, so it's great to see different venues that aren't used at other points during the year.
MetLife Stadium should certainly provide an interesting atmosphere, especially due to the fact that weather could play a factor. Every outdoor WrestleMania to this point has featured pristine conditions, so the WWE has been lucky in that regard. No matter what the weather is like, though, outdoor 'Manias have a special feeling to them, and I enjoy them immensely.
Ahead of WrestleMania XXIX, here are my rankings of the five outdoor WrestleManias that have taken place thus far. Match quality, atmosphere and a number of different factors were taken into account in trying to order these events, but all of them were fantastic for one reason or another.
5. WrestleMania IX (Caesars Palace)
The first-ever outdoor WrestleMania took place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1993. WrestleMania IX arguably remains the most unique WrestleMania of all time to this very day.
Not only was it out in the elements, but it also featured an ancient Roman theme. The WWE definitely went all out in creating a big-event feel and that alone made WrestleMania IX one of my all-time favorites, although the actual card fell short to some degree.
That isn't to say that WrestleMania IX was awful from an in-ring perspective because it wasn't, but it doesn't measure up to the other outdoor 'Manias in that regard. I maintain that the best match on the card was the opener between Shawn Michaels and Tatanka for the Intercontinental Championship. It was a lengthy bout with a lot of back-and-forth action, and it was the first on many times that HBK would steal the show as Mr. WrestleMania.
The rest of the card was fairly hit-and-miss. Lex Luger vs. Mr. Perfect didn't have a lot of rhythm, The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez was a chore to watch and Money Inc. vs. The Mega Maniacs was fun, but I didn't like the disqualification ending. Yokozuna beat Bret Hart for the WWE Championship in a surprisingly short main event, but what happened after that is still ridiculed by many fans currently.
Immediately following Yokozuna's victory, Hulk Hogan came to the ring and challenged the new champion. Mr. Fuji accepted on Yoko's behalf on some reason, but he proceeded to accidentally blind Yokozuna with salt.
Hogan won the match and the title. Hogan maintained that WrestleMania needed to end with a face standing tall, so even though he later dropped the title back to Yokozuna, he was given the big victory.
That incident aside, WrestleMania IX was a great event due to its imaginative setup and theme, but the card left a lot to be desired.
4. WrestleMania XXVI (University of Phoenix Stadium)
WrestleMania XXVI isn't talked about much aside from the main event between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, but it is a WrestleMania that I enjoyed immensely from start to finish. Although some might argue its status as an outdoor WrestleMania, the University of Phoenix Stadium roof was open as the conditions were actually quite nice in Glendale, Ariz. on that night. Because of that, it qualifies for this list.
As I already mentioned, the highlight of the night was clearly Taker vs. Michaels. The two of them locked horns in a classic 'Mania match one year prior, so they had huge expectations to live up to. Even though most fans expected The Undertaker to extend his streak and Michaels to retire, there was excitement throughout the encounter and plenty of heart-stopping moments. Taker ultimately won the match and stood tall, but it was a spectacular way for Michaels to go out.
On top of that match, fans were treated to a number of solid encounters. John Cena beat Batista for the WWE Championship in a match that was much better than many expected going in. Also, Chris Jericho successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Edge. Even the Triple H vs. Sheamus match on the undercard as well as the Money in Bank ladder match won by Jack Swagger were entertaining affairs.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the event was the match between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart. Fans were excited to see Hart back in the ring, but the entire match featured Hart beating down McMahon and it simply went on for too long.
I was fine with Hart getting redemption, but the match either should have been shorter or more competitive. Pretty much every other match was worthwhile, though, so I view WrestleMania XXVI as an underrated gem of sorts.
3. WrestleMania XXVIII (Sun Life Stadium)
Many fans headed into WrestleMania XXVIII last year with enormous and perhaps even unrealistic expectations, so it may have fallen a bit short in the eyes of some. With that said, there is no question that WrestleMania XXVIII was a strong show overall that featured a few very memorable matches.
If that isn't enough, Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Fla., made for an incredible atmosphere. Aside from WrestleMania IX at Caesars Palace, WrestleMania XXVIII was easily my favorite setup of all time as the palm trees and the rest of the set really popped on television.
There were never any secrets about the fact that WrestleMania XXVIII was predicated on The Rock vs. John Cena. The match was an entire year in the making and was arguably the most anticipated battle in WWE history.
The Rock hadn't wrestled a singles match in several years, so it was only fitting that he did so in front of his hometown fans against the face of the WWE's current era. Fans can argue about the quality of the match until they're blue in the face, but there is no doubt that the electricity could be felt across the world.
The Rock winning was a feel-good moment for me and I was captivated by the match from start to finish. As much as I loved that match, it admittedly wasn't even the best one on the card. The "end of an era" Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Triple H was one of the best in recent memory.
The main complaint was that they didn't use the cell to their advantage, but that didn't matter. They along with special guest referee Shawn Michaels told an amazing story in the ring and had the crowd eating out of the palms of their respective hands.
The WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Chris Jericho was also a fantastic bout regardless of how some people felt about it. The one legitimate gripe that some fans had related to the World Heavyweight Championship match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan. Sheamus won the title in 18 seconds, so we didn't get to see an actual match, but that loss did launch Bryan to new heights in terms of popularity.
Maybe WrestleMania XXVIII wasn't the greatest 'Mania of all time as some hoped it would be, but it was a really fun event nonetheless.
2. WrestleMania XXIV (Citrus Bowl)
It seemed like most fans were unsure if the WWE would be able to pull off a great WrestleMania atmosphere at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., but WrestleMania XXIV ended up being excellent on so many levels.
Not only was the venue dressed to impress by the WWE staff, but the in-ring work was strong throughout the night. Of all the outdoor WrestleManias, this one probably had the best mix of aesthetics and substance inside the squared circle.
Above all else, WrestleMania XXIV featured two of my all-time favorite 'Mania matches. The main event was an encounter between The Undertaker and World Heavyweight Champion Edge. Although the smart money was on The Undertaker to win and extend his streak, Edge was precisely the type of superstar who could conceivably knock him off.
Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins distracted Taker and allowed Edge to hit a spear at one point, but The Undertaker kicked out and soon locked in Hell's Gate for the win.
Arguably, an even better match took place earlier in the night when Ric Flair put his career on the line against Shawn Michaels. Despite Flair's age, he turned in an incredible performance in what was his last WWE match.
HBK hit him with Sweet Chin Music three different times over the course of the match. Before the decisive one he told Flair, "I'm sorry, I love you." Michaels won the match, but Flair received a standing ovation from the fans. It was truly a special moment.
The undercard was hit-and-miss to some degree, but the match between Floyd Mayweather and Big Show was surprisingly good as Mayweather cheated to win.
Also, Randy Orton beat John Cena and Triple H in a triple-threat match for the WWE Championship. That bout fell a bit short of expectations, but it was acceptable due to the other strong contests that surrounded it.
WrestleMania XXIV doesn't always get the respect that it deserves, but it was a great event that future outdoor WrestleManias should emulate.
1. WrestleMania XIX (Safeco Field)
WrestleMania XIX may be a somewhat controversial inclusion on this list, but since Safeco Field in Seattle had part of its roof open, it was technically outdoors.
I supposed WrestleMania XIX technically deserves to have some points taken away due to the fact that it didn't necessarily have an outdoor feel, but the card was so good from top to bottom that I was willing to turn the other cheek. It may not be the best 'Mania of all time, but it's certainly up there.
There were easily four main-event-caliber matches contested and there was a solid undercard as well. Due to the fact that I'm a huge Shawn Michaels fan, my favorite bout was easily Michaels vs. Chris Jericho. They are easily two of the best in-ring performers ever and they put on an incredible show. There were counters throughout and plenty of back-and-forth action, but HBK ultimately prevailed.
Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the third WrestleMania match between The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The Texas Rattlesnake was on his last legs due to injury, but he still managed to captivate the crowd. It took three straight Rock Bottoms from The Rock, but he finally managed to defeat his greatest rival.
That match was so good that it almost seems like people forget about the main event, which featured Brock Lesnar beating Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship. The mix of power, speed, athleticism and technical skills that they displayed was awe inspiring.
I even loved the street fight between Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon. It obviously wasn't a technical marvel by any means, but Vince has always managed to have entertaining WrestleMania matches. This one was no different.
Add supporting matches such as Triple H vs. Booker T and The Undertaker vs. Big Show and A-Train, and it can be argued that WrestleMania XIX was the deepest 'Mania of all time from an in-ring standpoint.
While most fans probably don't associate WrestleMania XIX with the other outdoor WrestleManias, it was simply too good to leave out. If WrestleMania XXIX is even half as good, it will likely be considered a huge success.