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WWE WrestleMania: Ranking the 10 Greatest 'Mania Performers of All Time

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2013

WWE WrestleMania: Ranking the 10 Greatest 'Mania Performers of All Time

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    WrestleMania is the pinnacle of professional wrestling, so it should come as no surprise that the very best in the business tend to perform at their highest level on the 'Mania stage. That isn't the case for all wrestlers, as some have a difficult time handling the immense pressure, but the best of the best are able to raise their game.

    The likes of John Cena, The Rock, CM Punk, The Undertaker, Triple H and Brock Lesnar will be expected to bring the house down at WrestleMania XXIX. Luckily for the WWE, many of them have already done so in the past, so they know what it takes to captivate the fans at 'Mania. Even if some of them fall flat, they are still among the all-time greats.

    Although the pride and pageantry attached to WrestleMania is a big part of what makes it great, it would be nothing without the men who step between the ropes and put on a show for the fans. It would be nearly impossible to list every superstar who has had a positive impact on WrestleMania, but it is only fitting to recognize those who have transcended WrestleMania.

    Here are the 10 greatest WrestleMania performers in WWE history.

10. Edge

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    Edge is easily among the greatest superstars in WWE history, but he is often left out of the conversation in favor of others. One thing that can be said about Edge, however, is that he always laid it all on the line at WrestleMania.

    It started in tag-team competition at both WrestleMania 2000 and WrestleMania X-Seven. Edge teamed with Christian at both of those events to take on The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz. The first encounter was a triple-threat ladder match and the second was the first ever TLC match at 'Mania. Both bouts were unbelievable, but most remember Edge spearing Jeff Hardy in midair while Hardy was hanging onto the suspended belts.

    Edge also won the very first Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 21 and he beat Mick Foley in a classic hardcore match at WrestleMania 22, so Edge may very well be the most extreme competitor in WrestleMania history. When you add in his World Heavyweight Championship match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXIV, it is impossible to leave The Rated-R Superstar off a list such as this one.

9. Triple H

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    Triple H is one of the most seasoned WrestleMania veterans in WWE history and he will add to his legacy this year when he faces Brock Lesnar in a No Holds Barred match.

    It wouldn't be accurate to say that all of Triple H's WrestleMania matches have been great since there have been so many of them, but he has certainly been in enough classics to qualify safely for this list.

    The Game's greatest WrestleMania encounters have unquestionably come against The Undertaker. Their Hell in a Cell match last year with Shawn Michaels as special guest referee was spectacular and many considered it to be the match of the year. They did battle the year before that as well in a No Holds Barred match that placed fans on an emotional roller coaster ride. Their bout at WrestleMania X-Seven was fantastic as well, although it often gets overlooked in favor of their more recent collisions.

    As incredible as those matches were, some might argue that Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX was Triple H's finest hour at WrestleMania. Perhaps Michaels and Benoit carried the match from an in-ring perspective, but Triple H played an extremely important role and deserves to be praised for that and for his other WrestleMania contributions over the years.

8. Kurt Angle

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    Kurt Angle may not be as iconic of a WrestleMania performer as some of the other superstars on this list, but he put on a fantastic show essentially every time he competed on the 'Mania stage. It's easy to forget how much Angle meant to the WWE during the early and mid-2000s since he has been part of TNA for so long, but he was among the WWE's top in-ring performers and he had plenty of personality to go along with it.

    Angle's match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21 is a bout that wrestling fans will always remember. There were no titles on the line and they were only fighting for pride, but they went at it for nearly a half hour and left everyone watching in complete awe.

    Much like Michaels, Angle had a knack for stealing the show at WrestleMania. He and Brock Lesnar put on an awesome show in the main event at WrestleMania XIX, and his match against Eddie Guerrero at WrestleMania XX was even better.

    The Olympic gold medalist wasn't always involved in main-event-caliber matches, but he made the most of them anyway. Angle's match with Chris Benoit at WrestleMania X-Seven is one of the best undercard matches in 'Mania history, and his triple threat against Benoit and Chris Jericho one year earlier was terrific as well.

    Even if Angle isn't viewed as larger than life like some of the others mentioned in this slideshow, he was most definitely a top performer.

7. Randy "Macho Man" Savage

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    Randy "Macho Man" Savage competed during a difficult time in professional wrestling as he was first overshadowed by Hulk Hogan and then by The Ultimate Warrior.

    Despite that, Savage managed to become one of the most beloved faces in WWE history, as well as one of the most despised heels when he went head to head with the aforementioned wrestlers. He was a better in-ring worker than both of them combined, though, so he always came up big on the WrestleMania stage.

    Savage's first big 'Mania contribution came at WrestleMania III when he defended the Intercontinental Championship against Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Savage lost the match, but many still consider it to be the greatest match in WrestleMania history.

    Savage reached the next level the following year as he won a tournament to become WWE Champion for the first time. He was heel again one year later as he lost to Hulk Hogan in a classic main event.

    My favorite Savage match came at WrestleMania VII when he lost to The Ultimate Warrior in a retirement match. It wasn't always easy to get great matches out of Hogan and Warrior, but Savage managed to do it with both at WrestleMania. Add in a strong WWE Championship bout against Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII, and there is no doubt that Savage was among the best.

6. Bret Hart

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    Bret Hart was often overshadowed on the WrestleMania stage by Shawn Michaels, but his long track record of success at 'Mania shouldn't be forgotten.

    Hart's early WrestleMania matches were nothing to write home about as he often competed in brief tag-team matches along with Jim "The" Anvil Neidhart at the Hart Foundation. Once Hart went off on his own, though, he took things to another level.

    His most memorable match is his submission match against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. Most remember that bout because it led directly to Austin becoming the biggest star in wrestling, but Hart's involvement shouldn't be shrugged off. If not for Hart effectively turning heel, Austin may not have transitioned so seamlessly into the face role. Also, even though Austin pulled his weight in that match, Hart was clearly the general who called the shots.

    The Hitman had a more traditional match against Owen Hart at WrestleMania X, and that is still considered to be the greatest opener in 'Mania history. Bret lost the match, but it was chain wrestling at its finest between two brothers who knew each other better than anyone.

    Hart's Iron Man match against Michaels at WrestleMania XII takes a lot of heat for packing in too many rest holds and down moments, but I thoroughly enjoyed that match as well. In terms of pure wrestling, Hart is probably just a notch below HBK at WrestleMania.

5. Hulk Hogan

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    There are many elements involved in being a great performer in professional wrestling. Technical wrestling ability definitely factors in, so Hulk Hogan is at a disadvantage in that regard. When it comes to entertaining the fans and creating memorable moments, though, Hogan may be second to none.

    There is a reason why Hulkster was involved in the final match at eight of the first nine WrestleManias, and that is because the fans generally wanted that to be the case.

    Some of Hogan's 'Mania matches fell flat such as his encounter with King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania II or his battle against Sid Justice at WrestleMania VIII. At the same time, he was part of some of the biggest moments in WrestleMania history and WWE history for that matter. His match against Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III was filled mostly with punches and rest holds, but Hogan's body slam is iconic and the two of them drew more than 93,000 fans.

    Hogan had a huge match against The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI as well. Two faces had never gone head to head in the main event at WrestleMania before, but Hogan and Warrior proved that it could be done. Hogan even managed to get a solid match out of Warrior, which was no small feat.

    Hogan's match against Randy Savage at WrestleMania V shouldn't be forgotten, and his encounter with The Rock at WrestleMania X8 tore the house down as well. Say what you will about Hogan as a person, but he always brought his best at WrestleMania.

4. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

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    "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was the man who essentially singlehandedly helped usher in the Attitude Era for the WWE, and along with that came the most lucrative time in the business' history. With that in mind, Austin was naturally featured in several WrestleMania main events. He didn't headline as many WrestleManias as he could have due to injuries, but the ones he did were both extremely successful and entertaining.

    Austin's three-match series against The Rock at WrestleMania XV, X-Seven and XIX gave the fans three unbelievable bouts with high stakes to boot. Austin and Rock were the two biggest stars in the company at the time, and many consider their WrestleMania trilogy to be among the best series of matches in WrestleMania history.

    As good as those encounters were, my favorite Austin match remains his submission match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. Even though Austin came up short, his valiant effort got the fans firmly on his side and launched him to superstardom.

    Even though Austin's WWE Championship match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV isn't often mentioned among the great WrestleMania bouts, it signaled a changing of the guard. Austin was already a huge star, but winning the title cemented his status, while HBK went on to take several years off due to injury.

    In terms of creating memorable moments at WrestleMania, Austin was responsible for more than almost anyone.

3. The Rock

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    "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock probably deserve to be tied on this list since they both contributed so much to WrestleMania during the same time period, but based on longevity, The Rock gets the nod at No. 3.

    He and Austin helped elevate each other in all three of their WrestleMania matches, and The Rock's match against Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 is an all-time classic like Austin vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, but the fact that The Rock is still competing carries a lot of weight with me.

    There are fans out there who still hold a grudge against The Rock because he left to become an actor during his prime. However, he has decided to come back despite his fame. Some maintain that it's all about the money, but The Rock has more money than he'll ever be able to spend, so a love for wrestling surely has something to do with it.

    Maybe The Rock's match against John Cena last year wasn't among the greatest in WrestleMania history, but in terms of overall atmosphere and importance, there is no doubt that they created some memorable moments.

    The Rock and Cena will go at it once again at WrestleMania XXIX, and fans are predictably lukewarm when it comes to the match as Cena is a near lock to win. The Rock and Cena are elite performers, though, so the fans will be engaged regardless. With The Rock pretty much locked in to compete at WrestleMania XXX as well, he will continue to add to his legacy and may be able to move up a spot or two in due time.

2. The Undertaker

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    When a wrestler is 20-0 on the WrestleMania stage, it is pretty safe to call him one of the greatest 'Mania performers of all time. That, of course, is the case when it comes to The Undertaker.

    Ever since dispatching of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka at WrestleMania VII, The Phenom has been a WrestleMania institution. Not only has he never lost on wrestling's biggest stage, but many of his matches are also among the best in WrestleMania history.

    Interestingly enough, The Undertaker is much like fine wine when it comes to WrestleMania: He simply gets better with age. Many of Taker's early WrestleMania matches were nothing to write home about, as he wasn't featured prominently on the card. Since The Undertaker's streak became a talking point for the WWE, however, The Undertaker has had some unbelievable bouts.

    His trilogy with Triple H was fantastic as were his one-time matches against the likes of Ric Flair, Edge, Randy Orton and Batista. His clashes with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXV and XXVI clearly take the cake, though.

    Taker's matches against Michaels were all about ending the streak, but not even HBK could get the job done. Both of their matches were back and forth and captivated the fans from start to finish. Even though most expected The Undertaker to remain undefeated, Michaels clearly posed the greatest threat to the streak. The Undertaker will face CM Punk at WrestleMania XXIX, and while there are no guarantees, it figures to add to Taker's already impressive legacy.

1. Shawn Michaels

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    Shawn Michaels was given many nicknames over the course of his career, including "The Heartbreak Kid," "The Showstopper" and "The Main Event." None, however, rings truer than "Mr. WrestleMania."

    Michaels competed in many WrestleMania matches, and you would be hard pressed to find a bad one. Even his bouts against El Matador Tito Santana and Tatanka early in his singles run were solid, but Michaels' WrestleMania legend grew with each passing year.

    It is nearly impossible to determine Michaels' greatest WrestleMania match, although his WrestleMania XXV and XXVI battles with The Undertaker deserve special mention. His ladder match against Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X was unbelievable as were his various matches against the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, John Cena and even Vince McMahon. It almost isn't fair to name a handful of HBK's 'Mania matches because some great ones are bound to get left out.

    The fact of the matter is that Michaels could be put up against anyone in any situation at WrestleMania and he would come up with an amazing effort. There aren't many wrestlers who you can say that about. Even if there wasn't a strong storyline surrounding Michaels' feud, he would find a way to steal the show.

    It's unfortunate that Michaels will likely never compete on the big stage again, but he has given wrestling fans so many memories that he will probably always be remembered as the greatest performer in WrestleMania history.

     

     

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

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