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WWE WrestleMania: Building the Ultimate All-Time 'Mania Card

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2013

WWE WrestleMania: Building the Ultimate All-Time 'Mania Card

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    Since the inaugural edition back in 1985, WrestleMania has been an absolute staple of the WWE and professional wrestling in general.

    Nobody knew how big of a spectacle it would become, but with WrestleMania XXIX closing in fast, it is abundantly clear that 'Mania won't be slowing down any time soon.

    Some WrestleManias have been incredible, some have been lackluster and others have simply been average, but the show's impact on the business is undeniable. When wrestling fans are asked to name their all-time favorite match, it's inevitable that most of them immediately point to a WrestleMania bout. When amazing matches happen at 'Mania they are almost always accentuated by the big stage.

    It's a pretty common practice to rank the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time, but it all comes down to preference. With that in mind, I decided to put a different twist on things. There have been countless memorable matches from WrestleMania, and I have often wondered what the ultimate WrestleMania card would look like.

    I've decided to put that card together, but there are a number of rules that must be followed.

    My ultimate card will contain 10 matches, and a Superstar cannot be used more than once, which means that guys like Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan, who have each had multiple elite matches at 'Mania can only appear on the card one time.

    Also, the same title can't be on the line in more than one match, which obviously limits things to some degree as well. I attempted to get the vast majority of the WWE's biggest stars on the card, but I unfortunately I had to leave some legends like Ric Flair, Roddy Piper and Chris Jericho off.

    With that said, here is my ultimate WrestleMania card. Don't forget to leave a comment and feel free to offer your own ultimate 'Mania based on the criteria listed above.

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (WrestleMania 21)

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    Every great WrestleMania benefits from a strong opener, so the match between Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero at WrestleMania 21 gets the nod to kick off my ultimate card.

    While Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart at WrestleMania X was technically the best 'Mania opener of all time, I needed Bret for another match. Mysterio vs. Guerrero is easily No. 2 on that list, and there is no shame in including that bout.

    Mysterio and Guerrero admittedly had many better matches against each other than their WrestleMania 21 encounter, but an opening match doesn't necessarily have to blow the crowd out of the water. It does have to get their attention and get them into the action early though, which is precisely what Mysterio and Guerrero were able to do at WrestleMania 21.

    They are considered by many to be two of the greatest in-ring workers ever and their chemistry was undeniable. This match featured a ton of back-and-forth action and came to an end when Mysterio hit a hurricanrana and turned it into a pinfall. Guerrero was visibly upset with the loss, but the longtime friends shook hands as a sign of respect.

    This match probably isn't in my top-25 'Mania matches of all time, but it is an extremely underrated bout.

Raven vs. Big Show vs. Kane for Hardcore Title (WrestleMania X-Seven)

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    I doubt that any fan would complain if the WWE were to put together a card featuring 10 classic matches in a row, but most would probably have trouble sitting through that without a respite of some kind.

    That is why I decided to include the Hardcore Championship triple-threat match between Raven, Big Show and Kane from WrestleMania X-Seven. The level of importance doesn't measure up to most of the other bouts on this card, but it was very entertaining and provided some comedic relief.

    As most hardcore matches did during this time period, things got out of hand quickly. Raven, Big Show and Kane battled to the backstage area where they used pretty much every weapon known to man. Raven took the brunt of the punishment, as Big Show and Kane tossed him around. Raven attempted to escape on a golf cart, but Big Show stopped him. Kane proceeded to hit Raven with a golf cart of his own.

    They eventually found their way to the main stage, and The Big Red Monster proceeded to push both Raven and Big Show off of it. He then hit Big Show with a diving leg drop and pinned him to become the new Hardcore Champion.

    There were a lot of fun hardcore matches during the Attitude Era, but this one was probably my favorite. Also, since I couldn't find room for Kane or Big Show elsewhere on the card, this was a great way to get two future Hall of Famers involved.

Batista vs. Triple H for World Heavyweight Title (WrestleMania 21)

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    The World Heavyweight Championship match between Batista and Triple H at WrestleMania 21 is probably better known for the build leading up to it than the match itself.

    Batista was never a great in-ring worker, and Triple H usually needed to face a top-notch wrestler in order to put on a strong match. Even so, it can be argued that Batista vs. Triple H is the greatest WWE feud over the past decade, so it clearly deserved a spot on the ultimate card.

    Most of Triple H's great WrestleMania matches took place against Superstars like The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, who occupy other spots on this list, so this was the best way to include Triple H.

    Also, while Batista was a big star, he didn't have many memorable WrestleMania tilts besides this one and his match with Taker. What Triple H vs. Batista lacked in technical acumen, it more than made up for in emotion and meaning as Batista's win signaled his ascent to the top of the company.

    In addition to that, I felt like it was necessary to get the World Heavyweight Championship on the card in some capacity. There have been a couple better world title matches at 'Mania, but it can be argued that none of them were more important than this one.

    Having the luxury of making this match No. 3 on the card means that there are certainly many more great ones to come.

Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (WrestleMania X-Seven)

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    WrestleMania X-Seven is arguably the most stacked card in WWE history, so it should come as no surprise to see yet another match from that 'Mania on this list.

    Not every bout can be for a title, so the battle between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit is an ideal fit. There actually wasn't much effort behind the storyline leading to their WrestleMania X-Seven match, but Angle and Benoit didn't care about that. They went out and put on one of the best technical matches ever seen on the big stage.

    The stakes weren't high, but this match had a little bit of everything.

    It featured plenty of chain grappling, some brawling and even some hardcore wrestling outside the ring. Angle and Benoit were great storytellers between the ropes and had awesome chemistry. They attempted to submit each other with their signature Ankle Lock and Crippler Crossface respectively, but the moves were reversed on several occasions.

    Benoit had Angle beat late in the match, as he tapped to the Crossface, but the referee was incapacitated, so the bout continued. It ended in fitting fashion as Angle rolled up Benoit and used a handful of tights to pick up the sneaky pinfall victory.

    Angle and Benoit were so evenly matched that it was only right for it to end in that manner.

Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz TLC (WrestleMania X-Seven)

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    In all honesty, I could have just copy and pasted the WrestleMania X-Seven card into this slideshow and called it a day.

    That pay-per-view was truly that good and still stands the test of time. With that said, I promise that this is the last WrestleMania X-Seven bout that will be included. It may be last, but it most certainly isn't least. Arguably the greatest tag-team match of all time was staged at WrestleMania X-Seven as Edge & Christian battled The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz for the Tag Team Championships in a TLC match.

    It wasn't the first TLC match, as the three teams competed in the same match at SummerSlam, but it was the first at the show of shows.

    While picking between the first and second TLC match is a tough task, most fans point to the one at WrestleMania X-Seven as their favorite. Whatever the case, the match had a little bit of everything and is the only tag-team match regularly mentioned when talking about the best WrestleMania matches ever.

    Not only did the match feature three of the top-10 tag teams in WWE history, but all of the men involved went on to have varying degrees of success as singles competitors also.

    There were tons of memorable spots throughout the match, including Edge spearing Jeff Hardy in midair as Jeff was hanging onto the suspended titles.

    Edge & Christian ultimately won the match, but the true winners were the fans that witnessed it.

Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage for Intercontinental Title (WrestleMania III)

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    While it seems like the popular thing for fans to do nowadays is call great matches overrated, most agree that the Intercontinental Championship match between Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Randy "Macho Man" Savage at WrestleMania III truly was one of the greatest 'Mania matches ever.

    All of the hype heading into that event was about Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, but Steamboat and Savage managed to captivate the audience with their exciting brand of grappling.

    Steamboat and Savage were easily two of the best pure wrestlers during that time period, so perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that they were able to impress the 93,000 strong at the Pontiac Silverdome.

    The match went back and forth throughout and had something for everyone. Both Steamboat and Savage displayed incredible technical acumen, but Savage was also able to incorporate heel tactics. If the in-ring action wasn't enough to draw you in, then you could always watch George "The Animal" Steele chase Elizabeth around outside.

    Savage attempted to hit Steamboat with the ring bell from the top rope late in the match, but Steele stopped him. Steamboat then utilized a small package on Savage to pick up the victory and become the new Intercontinental Champion.

    The IC title is clearly devalued these days, but it truly mattered when Steamboat and Savage vied for it in this match. This card needs to have the perfect mix of star power and wrestling, and Steamboat vs. Savage possessed both.

The Rock vs. John Cena (WrestleMania XXVIII)

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    It may be a controversial addition to an ultimate WrestleMania card, but The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII is worthy in my book.

    With The Rock and Cena set to do battle once again this year, many fans like to trash their WrestleMania XXVIII match. It clearly wasn't the greatest match ever from a technical perspective, but the atmosphere surrounding it rivaled any professional wrestling match that came before it.

    Neither The Rock nor Cena have ever been mentioned among the all-time greats when it comes to pure wrestling, but that was never the point of their encounter. The WWE wanted to reach a wide-ranging audience and wanted fans to react.

    Everyone at Sun Life Stadium in Miami had a rooting interest and the crowd exploded when The Rock won, so obviously they did something right. We can argue until we're blue in the face about whether The Rock was tired or whether Cena knows how to properly apply a headlock, but the fact of the matter is that it was a great match for many reasons.

    It's important not to dismiss the financial impact The Rock vs. Cena had, as it helped the WWE break records in terms of ticket revenue and pay-per-view buys. On top of all that, it had a surprise ending as The Rock managed to beat Cena.

    Maybe this isn't the greatest match that The Rock ever had at WrestleMania or the greatest match that Cena ever had at WrestleMania, but they need to be involved on this card in some capacity, and this was the best way to do it.

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin Submission Match (WrestleMania 13)

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    As a whole, it can be argued that WrestleMania 13 was one of the worst 'Manias in WWE history.

    There was one shining light on that card, however, in the form of the submission match between Bret Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin with Ken Shamrock serving as special guest referee.

    If not for the fact that Shawn Michaels was dealing with an injury, then we would have never seen this match. That would have been a shame because Hart vs. Austin at WrestleMania 13 is one of the greatest wrestling matches ever, and it set the stage for a new era of professional wrestling.

    Hart entered the match as a fan favorite. Austin played the heel role, although he had gained a noticeable amount of fan support. Things began to change over the course of the match, as Hart was much more vicious than usual. Hart ultimately won the match by putting Austin in the Sharpshooter. Stone Cold refused to give up, but he eventually passed out due to pain and blood loss. Rather than accepting his win and walking away, Hart continued to assault Austin following the match. This led to a rare double turn, as Hart became one of the WWE's top heels while Austin became the company's next big star.

    Essentially everything that happened in this match was perfect.

    The wrestling was great, as Hart provided the technicality, and Austin preferred to brawl. The ending couldn't have played out any better either. There are probably about five or six matches that get tossed around in the conversation of greatest WrestleMania matches of all time, and Hart vs. Austin is definitely one of them.

    Hart and Austin had other memorable 'Mania matches against different opponents, but this one had to be included.

Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for WWE Title (WrestleMania III)

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    The WWE gained its footing with WrestleMania I and II, but once it was abundantly clear that the company had something big on its hands, it aimed to knock WrestleMania III out of the park.

    Holding it at the massive Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich. was a big step in the right direction, but the driving force behind WrestleMania III's success was undoubtedly the main event for the WWE Championship between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.

    In retrospect it is very easy to say that the Intercontinental Championship match between Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Randy "Macho Man" Savage stole the show. It was obviously a superior match from a technical standpoint, but nobody would have had the pleasure of seeing that match without Hogan vs. Andre.

    Hogan's popularity was at its zenith in 1987, and Andre was still a huge draw even as a heel. While both Hogan and Andre had lost before, the WWE was essentially able to bill it as undefeated vs. undefeated because records weren't kept as closely then as they were now.

    Also, the WWE played it off like Andre had never been body slammed before. He actually had been on a few occasions, but most fans had never actually seen it. That is why they went absolutely nuts when Hogan accomplished the feat and followed it up with a leg drop to retain his title.

    The match itself featured punches, kicks and rest holds for the most part, but the fans were involved from start to finish, and that is what makes Hogan vs. Andre one of the greatest 'Mania matches ever.

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXV)

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    When Shawn Michaels challenged The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXV, it wasn't the main event of the evening.

    That honor went to Triple H vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship, which is now considered one of the worst 'Mania main events of all time. While the WWE clearly made a mistake in not allowing its best match to go on last, I won't make that same mistake with my card.

    I consider Michaels vs. Taker at WrestleMania XXV to be the greatest match of all time, so it will serve as the headliner.

    Michaels is known as Mr. WrestleMania, while The Undertaker is synonymous with WrestleMania due to his incredible streak, so this truly was the ideal matchup.

    While Superstars such as Edge, Batista and Randy Orton gave Taker a run for his money in previous years, Michaels was the greatest test The Deadman ever faced at WrestleMania. HBK had him in precarious positions numerous times throughout the match and was nearly able to put him away. In the end it came down to Michaels making one mistake, as Undertaker stifled a moonsault attempt and turned it into a Tombstone for the win.

    From an in-ring perspective this was the finest hour for both men, but what they did psychologically may have been even more impressive. Taker had always had the mental edge over his opponents at 'Mania, but Michaels was equal to the task, and it seemed like he could actually beat The Phenom.

    Taker came out on top, but I was still exhilarated even as a Michaels' fan. Since this is the ultimate WrestleMania card, it simply has to end with The Undertaker preserving his WrestleMania streak against the greatest 'Mania performer of all time.

     

     

    Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter and listen to him on Ring Rust Radio.

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