WWE WrestleMania: Top 25 Greatest Performers in Event History

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2017

WWE WrestleMania: Top 25 Greatest Performers in Event History

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    WrestleMania is an event typically referred to as The Showcase of the Immortals and, over its 32 years, has been home to some of the most skilled, talented and unforgettable stars to ever lace a pair of boots. Many have chased immortality through unforgettable individual performances or classic matches the likes of which will be embedded in the memories of everyone lucky enough to witness them.

    Yet only a select few of the hundreds to have competed on the grand stage are lucky enough to be considered the best.

    From in-ring performers to commentators and promoters, they are the performers who have left their mark on the event and ensured it will go down in history as the most significant spectacle ever associated with professional wrestling.

    On April 2, a new generation of stars will attempt to add to their legacies and establish themselves the best in WrestleMania history.

    The competition is tough, though, as these 25 Superstars have earned their place in the history books and recognition as the most definitive stars in the event's long and illustrious history.

    Relive three decades of sports-entertainment excellence with his look back at the best to ever compete at The Granddaddy of Them All, ranked according to quality of performance, significance of their contributions and the historical impact they have had on the event.

    Their stories are told from the standpoint of a few of their greatest moments at the event, not necessarily every match or appearance.

25. Batista

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    The student became the champion at WrestleMania 21 in 2005 as Batista defeated mentor Triple H to capture the World Championship in the night's main event.

    The contest, steadily built to over a number of months, was the culmination of The Animal's sudden rise up the ladder on the Raw brand.

    By 2007, he was the face of SmackDown and returning to the WrestleMania stage after injury prevented him from competing a year earlier.

    On that night, in front of 80,000 fans in Detroit's Ford Field, a frustrated and angry Batista delivered one of the best performances of his career against The Undertaker.

    Believing their match should have gone on last, the performers tore the house down and left fans wanting more. The Phenom planted The Animal with the Tombstone for the victory, but Batista was the real winner, silencing critics and proving he could hang with the greatest phenom in WWE.

    Batista realistically should have been the next great WrestleMania performer.

    He was a talented big man who always seemed to perform up to the level of competition. Injury and disenfranchisement with the WWE product caused him to miss out on several opportunities to strengthen his placement in these rankings.

    After dropping the WWE Championship to John Cena at WrestleMania XXVI, he would make one more appearance on the grand stage before focusing on his career in Hollywood, where he currently enjoys a blossoming movie career as a key member of Marvel's cinematic universe.

24. Jim Ross

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    Every once in a while, there comes a commentator capable of telling stories and setting moods better than the wrestlers in the ring could ever dream of. For two decades, that man was Hall of Famer Jim Ross.

    The voice of WWE during its hottest, most successful period, he related the action, story, emotion and drama of every marquee bout to audiences in a way that enhanced them to the point they became modern classics. He could also take the most menial midcard bout and make it feel like the most important on the broadcast.

    He could make the most awful bout entertaining, labeling it "bowling shoe ugly" as a way of warning fans to stay away upon replay.

    Most important of all his abilities, though, was the way in which he spoke in soundbites.

    "The Austin Era has begun" is an iconic call from WrestleMania XIV that capped off the night's festivities and announced to the viewing audience that the WWE it had once known was no more.

    His disdain for the vile, ruthless Mr. McMahon helped put over how despicable a human being he was and strengthened the emotion behind the CEO's battle with Shawn Michaels in 2006 at WrestleMania 22.

    So magnificent was Ross at his job that his absence in recent years has been more than noticeable.

    The quality of the commentating has taken a sharp decline. Fans are not as invested in stories because they do not have that father figure in Ross relaying the details to them.

    At the time, his contributions to WrestleMania were minimized because of the fast-moving nature of the industry but in hindsight, Ross' calls of the event's greatest matches helped make them the classics they have become.

23. Trish Stratus

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    Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks may have torn the house down in Dallas at WrestleMania 32, but it was Trish Stratus who made being a women's wrestler at the event cool.

    The Toronto native made her first major impression at X-Seven, slapping Vince McMahon and ending their torrid affair once and for all. From there, she set her sights on establishing herself as the greatest women's wrestler in company history.

    She may not have left her hometown victorious in 2002 but she captured the gold one year later in Seattle, dethroning Victoria in a Triple Threat match that also involved Jazz.

    Her greatest performance, though, came in Chicago in 2006.

    With a character growing staler by the day, she phased out the boos that greeted her as she squared off with the wild, psychotic Mickie James in one of the most anticipated bouts of WrestleMania 22. She was fantastic, holding together a match that very well could have become disjointed, sloppy and ugly were it not for her incredible ability to see past the enormity of the moment and focus on the task before her.

    Stratus dropped the Women's Championship to James that night, but she established herself the measuring stick for all aspiring female performers in McMahon's promotion.

    After five years away, she successfully returned to the WrestleMania stage, teaming with John Morrison and Jersey Shore's Snooki in a win over Dolph Ziggler and LayCool. 

22. Daniel Bryan

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    For a decade, Daniel Bryan was an independent wrestler who earned recognition for his technical ability and the intensity with which he approached every match. He demanded respect from diehard wrestling fans who watched as much product as they could get their hands on and established himself as one of the best mat-based workers in decades.

    When he arrived in WWE in 2010, many felt there was a ceiling to his career: There was a certain level he would reach and that was it. After all, he was small and did not work WWE style, two major strikes against any prospective star in Vince McMahon's company.

    McMahon and other management learned quickly though that, once a performer has the respect of the people, you can only hold them down for so long before they rise like a phoenix.

    Riding a wave of momentum created by The Yes Movement, fans' insatiable desire to see Bryan as the top babyface in WWE, the greatest wrestler of his generation entered New Orleans' Mercedes SuperDome for the most important show of his life.

    In 2014, after months of teasing a sustained main event push for Bryan, the Aberdeen, Washington, native took to the grandest stage in professional wrestling at WrestleMania XXX and accomplished the inconceivable: He defeated Triple H clean in the center of the ring to kick off the show. He then went on to beat Randy Orton and Batista in a Triple Threat match to claim the WWE World Championship.

    While his WrestleMania resume is small, with only four matches to pull from, that one night is more than enough to warrant inclusion on this list.

    In one of the most emotional broadcasts in recent WWE memory and one of the best WrestleMania events ever, Bryan was the central figure and biggest star.

21. Rey Mysterio

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    There are some stars who just are not meant to make it in Vince McMahon's WWE.

    They are too small, too fat or just do not have the look of someone he wants championing his company. Rey Mysterio was hardly what McMahon would consider a franchise star, with his lack of height and cruiserweight style the exact opposite of what he looks for in a Superstar.

    After years of hard work, and with emotions high following the untimely death of Eddie Guerrero, Mysterio earned McMahon's trust and battled Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in a Triple Threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22.

    The luchador shocked the wrestling world and captured the title in one of that show's most memorable moments. Guerrero's widow Vickie and nephew Chavo greeted him on the stage to celebrate the victory, capping off a night of emotional highs for the San Diego native.

    In the years that followed, Mysterio would defeat CM Punk and retire JBL at the event, establishing himself as the greatest underdog the extravaganza had ever presented.

20. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat

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    Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat will forever be remembered for his contributions to Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW, thanks to his incredible series of matches with Ric Flair.

    He makes this list, though, because of a single match against "Macho Man" Randy Savage that still ranks as one of the greatest contests in the history of professional wrestling.

    The grandeur and spectacle of WrestleMania III, with an audience of 93,173 fans, was the perfect place for the intensely personal rivalry between Steamboat and Savage to come to a head. The Dragon had been brutally attacked, with his throat damaged in a cowardly assault by the intercontinental champion.

    Hellbent on avenging his nearly career-ending attack, he returned just in time to set up a WrestleMania showdown between the two Superstars.

    The match they delivered was the closest thing to art that the industry has to offer.

    Athleticism, fluid movement, dramatic near-falls and a crowd-pleasing finish that saw Steamboat complete his comeback with championship gold came together to produce the first five-star match in event history.

    None of it would have been possible without Steamboat's ability to read a crowd, understand any match situation he encountered and be the best pure babyface the industry had ever seen. 

19. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper

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    "Rowdy" Roddy Piper may have spent most of his WWE career as a babyface, but his greatest contribution to WrestleMania was as a villain.

    In 1985, he was the loudmouth bad guy whom fans could not wait to see get his comeuppance. He spent months verbally lambasting Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Cyndi Lauper and any other fan favorite one could imagine, all while attaining the rare nuclear heat any heel would be so lucky to achieve. He was berating and degrading, and his voice was grating on the nerves.

    He was a master manipulator, every insult and action thoughtfully executed to elicit the desired response. 

    At the inaugural WrestleMania, he teamed with Paul Orndorff in a loss to Mr. T and Hogan. A year later, despite a very real, very intense dislike for T behind the scenes, he worked the television star in a Boxing match.

    Piper would lose it by disqualification but earn the respect of fans, who would rather throw their support behind the antihero than the Hollywood celebrity on his way out the door after fulfilling his obligations.

    "Hot Rod" would battle "Adorable" Adrian Adonis in a match that showcased his ability to be the fiery babyface, then return in 1996 for a physically intense Hollywood Back Lot Brawl with Goldust.

    It was a 1992 Intercontinental Championship defense against Bret Hart, when Piper flashed both the good and bad side of himself, that ranks as his greatest performance.

    Never a Superstar remembered for his in-ring work, Piper was a larger-than-life character whose knack for recognizing and understanding crowd psychology was a trademark of his performance. 

18. Ric Flair

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    The Nature Boy may have a limited WrestleMania resume, but his performances on the show prove that he was more than aware of the significance of every event.

    WrestleMania VIII saw his first venture into immortality as he defended the WWE Championship against "Macho Man" Randy Savage. That match, an emotionally charged brawl that saw Flair's golden main bloodied, stole the show and introduced longtime WWE fans to the level of performance they could expect from the NWA mainstay.

    Returning to the company in time for WrestleMania X8, Flair once again found his face the proverbial crimson mask, courtesy of The Undertaker. This time, his performance far exceeded moderate expectations, and the result was one of the better matches of the night.

    None of his showings at the event meant nearly as much as his WrestleMania XXIV battle, though, as Flair put his career on the line against Shawn Michaels. The good friends and competitive rivals delivered the most heart-wrenching performance in the history of the event, capped off with Michaels declaring, "I'm sorry. I love you," before blasting him with Sweet Chin Music.

    Flair's career came to an end in that moment, but his legacy as the best wrestler of all time was strengthened by his numerous showings on wrestling's biggest night.

17. Brock Lesnar

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    In his first WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle to win the WWE Championship.

    A year later, he and Goldberg were booed out of the building, both men on their ways out of the company.

    For the longest time, it appeared as though Lesnar would never again compete in WWE's premier event. After a successful stint in UFC, during which he became a major attraction, he exploded back onto the WWE scene.

    He lost to Triple H in 2013 but made up for it a year later, becoming the first Superstar to defeat Undertaker on the grand stage. It was a shocking and unforgettable moment that left the fans of WWE in stunned silence.

    The Beast Incarnate had taken from them the most storied and sacred win streak ever.

    A year later, he headlined the show against Roman Reigns and in 2016, pummeling Dean Ambrose to mush in a Street Fight.

    Lesnar is a big-money performer, a guy WWE utilizes in the most significant situations. There is no more significant a situation than WrestleMania, and no Superstar who brings a level of legitimacy to the show quite like the former WWE and UFC heavyweight champion.

    He will do just that April 2 when he challenges Goldberg for the WWE Universal Championship in yet another marquee match.

16. CM Punk

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    CM Punk won two straight Money in the Bank Ladder matches.

    That is an incredible achievement in its own right and may have earned him a spot on this list by itself.

    As it is, the Chicago native would go on to accomplish even more on the WrestleMania stage.

    Most notable was his WWE Championship defense against Chris Jericho at the 28th incarnation of the spring spectacular. On that night, with the threat of a disqualification loss to his hated rival costing him his title, Punk reined in his emotions and forced Jericho to tap out to the Anaconda Vise.

    For every one of his tremendous victories at The Show of Shows, it was in defeat that Punk delivered his finest performance.

    At WrestleMania 29, inside MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Punk became The Undertaker's 21st victim. It was a brilliantly wrestled match that added to the string of show-stealing performances by The Deadman and finally established Punk as a Superstar on the level of the most elite the industry had to offer. 

    Unfortunately, that night would feature Punk's final performance at the event.

    At least for the time being.

15. Andre the Giant

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    No one would suggest that Andre the Giant's greatest work came at WrestleMania.

    By the time the annual spectacular arrived, he was on the back end of his career, his body beaten down from years of travel and in-ring competition.

    His selflessness and willingness to do business were on full display at WrestleMania III, though.

    In the biggest match in professional wrestling history to that point, Andre did the right thing and passed the proverbial torch as wrestling's greatest attraction to Hulk Hogan in a WWE Championship match that still resonates with fans today.

    Andre would wrestle at three more WrestleMania matches, losing each of them. He touts a 2-4 record on the grand stage, but no one cares about that. No one remembers that he lost more than he won. They remember his presence, his stature and his star.

    In defeat to Hogan, Andre found his greatest victory and cemented his status as one of the most beloved and iconic stars in professional wrestling history.

14. Chris Jericho

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    Chris Jericho has always been one of the better wrestlers in WWE, but his accomplishments at WrestleMania are incredibly understated.

    There was the epic encounter with Shawn Michaels in 2003.

    That bout was a surreal one for Jericho, who idolized The Heartbreak Kid while training to become a wrestler himself. Though he lost, the contest elevated his star and highlighted his value to WWE.

    There was the hidden gem against Christian a year later in Madison Square Garden.

    The product of a love triangle story also involving Trish Stratus, the former friends-turned-bitter enemies turned in a solid performance that does not receive nearly enough consideration when discussing WrestleMania's most undervalued bouts.

    He revolutionized the industry by conceiving the Money in the Bank Ladder match in time for WrestleMania 21 and re-established himself as an elite worker by getting a thoroughly entertaining match out of retired legends Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat in 2009.

    Perhaps no match better demonstrates Jericho's selflessness as a performer, though, than his WrestleMania XXIX match with Fandango. The artist formerly known as Johnny Curtis was making his in-ring debut under the ballroom danger gimmick, and Jericho put him over clean.

    Of course, WWE went on to butcher the villain's push and ultimately relegated him to the dark abyss of the undercard, but Jericho did what few others with his star power would have done in the same situation.

    On April 2, he battles Kevin Owens in a grudge match months in the making. With pride, revenge and the United States Championship at stake, that bout has the potential to earn Jericho a higher ranking in a revised version of this countdown one day.

13. Edge

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    Whether it was capturing tag team gold alongside tag team partner Christian, beating Booker T in a match fueled by jealousy over a Japanese shampoo commercial or defending the WWE Championship against Big Show and John Cena in a Triple Threat match, Edge earned a reputation as one of the premier performers on the grand stage during the 2000s.

    He and Christian won the WWE Tag Team Championships in consecutive years, surviving Tables, Ladders & Chairs-fueled chaos against The Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz in 2000 and 2001. Ladders would play a key role in another signature win as he defeated Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Kane and the aforementioned Christian in the inaugural Money in the Bank match in 2005.

    It would be a 2006 Hardcore match with Mick Foley, though, that permanently established Edge as a main event performer. He would withstand thousands of thumbtacks puncturing his skin and deliver a massive spear through a flaming table to end The Hardcore Legend's dreams of a signature win at WrestleMania 22.

    The Rated R Superstar would battle The Undertaker, wage war with Chris Jericho and defeat Alberto Del Rio in World Championship matches in the years that followed—he was a go-to guy for high-profile bouts on the big stage.

12. The Ultimate Warrior

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    The Ultimate Challenge.

    A showdown between the two biggest babyfaces on the roster, it was the culmination of The Ultimate Warrior's meteoric rise up the ranks. The face-painted babyface and intercontinental champion rushed the ring for his battle with WWE champion Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania VI, the improbable journey of a former bodybuilder to the top of the industry complete.

    A sense of excitement hung over the audience in Toronto's SkyDome as the two fan favorites went to war for the right to leave with two championships draped over their shoulders.

    Never before had a match of its type occurred on the grand stage.

    Neither had the outcome.

    For the first time, Hogan lost in the WrestleMania main event as Warrior captured the gold and established himself the new face of WWE.

    Or so we thought.

    While he did not reach the heights of stardom that Hogan did, Warrior remained a marquee star for WWE. One year after his greatest triumph, he wrestled his greatest match.

    A Retirement match against Randy Savage saw the wild and chaotic babyface defeat Macho Man and seemingly end his Hall of Fame career. It was a match of theatrical proportions, a live-action spectacle. Warrior was phenomenal and, despite unfair criticisms of him as a performer, added another classic to his WrestleMania resume.

11. Vince McMahon

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    WrestleMania was Vince McMahon's grand vision, a spectacle that combined professional wrestling and celebrity to create a can't-miss event. It was to be the pinnacle of sports entertainment and would occur every spring. Most importantly, it would serve as the culmination of his promotion's top stories.

    He expertly brought together the hottest stars of television, film and sports over the event's initial few years and created an enormously successful product that consumers were all too eager to eat up. Fans and casual audiences alike could enjoy the presentation, making it mightily appealing to numerous audiences.

    As if historic promoter was not enough, McMahon took his place at the announce position, selling those same stories to the audience via commentary. After all, who knew what he was trying to portray on his television product more than the boss himself?

    With the advent of the Attitude Era came the creation of the Mr. McMahon persona. The evil and corrupt owner of WWE, he would make life a living hell for top babyfaces such as Steve Austin and The Rock. He was the billionaire boss rebellious fans loved to hate and one of the best heels to ever set foot inside the squared circle at WrestleMania.

    It was not until 2001's WrestleMania X-Seven and a Street Fight with son Shane that McMahon actually competed in a match. He would lose that bout, as he would the No Holds Barred matches with Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels that followed years later.

    Never one to shy away from an ass-kicking if it is best for business, McMahon has bled for his company, then returned backstage and continued to run the show from the Gorilla Position just behind the curtain.

    One day WrestleMania will not have McMahon to help it. It will not have the wealth of knowledge, creative vision or willingness to allow Donald Trump to shave his head in front of 80,000 fans to assist in achieving the notoriety and fan appeal it has in its first 32 years.

    When that time comes, McMahon's influence on the product and the sport will become even more apparent than it already is.

10. Triple H

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    Triple H is an interesting case in that he rarely saves his best performances for WrestleMania.

    In fact, The King of Kings has yet to deliver a classic match at the event that does not involve either best friend Shawn Michaels or The Undertaker.

    He has bled buckets, tapped out to John Cena and put over Daniel Bryan, but that one defining performance without the safety net of HBK or The Deadman has eluded him.

    There is still this insatiable desire to rank him near the top 10 of this list because of his contributions to the event, though.

    He is routinely one of the biggest stars on the card, and his matches are among the best built and most anticipated. His entrances alone should earn him consideration, and his ability to lend credibility to every event he has appeared on since becoming a main event attraction is commendable.

    So where does Triple H land on this countdown?

    The top 10 feels right, but any spot beyond 10 feels too high.

    Thus, The Game takes his rightful place at the No. 10 position, solidifying himself as...a solid B+ player.

9. Kurt Angle

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    Kurt Angle only competed at six WrestleMania events, but it is difficult to look at his body of work and not discuss him as one of the best to ever work at the extravaganza.

    The Olympic wrestling gold medalist proved his worth against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho in his first foray into the big show. A year later, his talents were once again on display against Benoit in a match wholly underrated and largely underrated by analysts and fans alike.

    A forgettable match with Kane in 2002 gave way to his first main event gig: a WWE Championship match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XIX.

    Entering the match with a severely injured neck, Angle very well could have been paralyzed. One wrong bump could have ended his career, but the Pittsburgh native battled through and delivered a mat classic with The Beast Incarnate.

    Another year, another classic as Angle and Eddie Guerrero took fans on an emotional roller-coaster ride with their WrestleMania XX battle for the WWE Championship. The 2017 Hall of Famer would be outsmarted by Guerrero, who lied, cheated and stole his way to victory, but his value as a performer was once again enhanced and on display.

    After a string of near-flawless matches, Angle and Shawn Michaels delivered a classic in Los Angeles at WrestleMania 21. An intense battle for nothing more than the right for the winner to call himself the best, the match was artistry inside a squared circle.

    Angle would win the match—and bragging rights—but not before immortalizing himself in the annals of WrestleMania lore.

    He was, is and forever will be one of the greatest to ever take to the WrestleMania stage.

8. John Cena

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    If Hulk Hogan represented one era of WWE's most prestigious show and Steve Austin championed another, John Cena is the third iconic Superstar to be at the forefront of an entire generation of WrestleMania events. 

    The leader of the Cenation has made the grand stage his own since 2004, when he won the United States Championship in his first appearance at The Showcase of the Immortals. A year later, he had risen to such heights that he defeated John Bradshaw Layfield to capture the WWE Championship.

    From there, he skyrocketed into the atmosphere of all-time greats, defeating the top names the industry has to offer on wrestling's biggest night.

    Triple H.

    Shawn Michaels.



    Big Show.

    He has worked with young talent like Bray Wyatt, Rusev and The Miz in an attempt to heighten their star power.

    Cena has done it all, but no one match defines how massive a star he had become over the last decade than his "Once in a Lifetime" showdown with The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII in 2012.

    A year of build went into the bout as two of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen battled to settle their differences once and for all. Cena proved he was every bit the performer of The Rock and, even in defeat, came away from the match much better and more secure in his place in WWE history.

    That he got his win back a year later, beating Rock for the WWE Championship, did not hurt matters.

7. The Rock

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    When one looks back at the WrestleMania career of The Rock, there are two chapters to look at and judge his work by: pre-Hollywood and post-Hollywood.

    Prior to his departure to the world of glitz and glamour, Rock was one of the faces of WWE. His iconic battles with Steve Austin helped establish their program as one of the greats of all time, but it was his showdown with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 in 2002 that will stand the test of time.

    Two of the greatest and most recognized stars ever squared off in front of 67,000-plus inside Toronto's SkyDome.

    Through the manipulation of spots and sequences that masked Hogan's weaknesses at that point in his career, they delivered a phenomenally dramatic match that ended with a People's Elbow from The Great One to The Hulkster that scored The Rock the biggest and most important victory of his career.

    He would return to WWE in 2011, hosting WrestleMania XXVII, then battle John Cena in the epic main event of the following year's broadcast. That match, one of the biggest in WWE history, solidified his status as an icon in the industry.

    A major A-list celebrity, Rock maintained a relationship with WWE in the wake of that match and its subsequent rematch the following year. He pops up right around WrestleMania every year, appearing on the worldwide phenomenon and giving back to the industry that made him a household name.

6. "Macho Man" Randy Savage

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    If Hulk Hogan was the face of the first 10 years of WrestleMania, "Macho Man" Randy Savage was the workhorse.

    A master of the in-ring game, Savage was responsible for three of the greatest matches in the event's long and illustrious history.

    In front of 93,173 fans in suburban Detroit for WrestleMania III, Savage and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat wrestled a match for the Intercontinental Championship that some still consider the greatest of all time.

    The blend of athleticism and drama helped make it a shining example of professional wrestling done right. That fans were as invested in the characters, their story and the in-ring action they provided only helped matters.

    The Retirement match with The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII and the emotional WWE Championship match with Ric Flair the following year only further established Savage as the original Mr. WrestleMania.

    It was the post-match antics of the aforementioned Retirement match that earned Savage a place this high up the rankings.

    Having just lost to Warrior and seen his career come to an end (for the time being), Savage was a beaten and broken man. When Sensational Queen Sherri attacked him, adding injury to insult, he transformed into a sympathetic figure before our very eyes.

    This man, who had been one of the company's most vile villains, was suddenly a sad and somewhat pathetic pile of mangled flesh.

    Then Miss Elizabeth rushed to his aid and proceeded to reunite with her real-life husband in one of the most emotional moments in WrestleMania history.

    His ability to generate legitimate feeling was always Savage's strongest attribute, and whether he was winning the WWE Championship and forming the Mega Powers at WrestleMania IV or disintegrating his partnership with Hogan the following year, he always made fans care about him and what he was doing.

    Never more did it show than on the grandest stage wrestling had to offer.

5. Bret "Hitman" Hart

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    Bret Hart grabbed hold of the ball relinquished by Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage and carried WWE on his back during the early days of The New Generation. He also introduced an element of work rate that had not existed before in the main event scene.

    It was that work rate that he reserved for the biggest matches, on wrestling's biggest night, resulting in his status as one of the elite performers in WrestleMania history.

    Whether he was defending the Intercontinental Championship against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in what was the best match of Hot Rod's legendary WWE career or waging war with brother Owen in a five-star classic to kick off WrestleMania X, Hart took pride in stealing the show and cementing his status as the best of his generation.

    In 1996, The Hitman defended his WWE Championship against Shawn Michaels in the first-ever Iron Man match in WWE history. The two ring generals waged war for over 60 minutes, spilling over into an overtime period. It was there that Michaels blasted Hart with Sweet Chin Music and scored his first WWE title.

    Hart would recover and, one year later, delivered an iconic performance in Chicago at the event's 13th incarnation. On that night, the heated rivalry between Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin would come to a head in a brutal, violent and bloody Submission match.

    Austin refused to give up and Hart was the tenacious (almost obsessed) aggressor, and for the first time in event history, a double turn was executed. The Hitman, long the respected hero of WWE, was now the ruthless pit bull-like bad guy, whose frustration and disenfranchisement with the direction the company was taking had suddenly changed him for the worst.

    That would be Hart's final go-round on The Grandest Stage of Them All until 2010, when he returned and demolished Vince McMahon in a No Disqualification Lumberjack match.

4. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

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    Blood from a stone.

    That is the best way to describe the visceral images from WrestleMania 13 as The Texas Rattlesnake endured tremendous pain and punishment while trapped in the Sharpshooter, blood pouring from his forehead and puddling on the mat below.

    Staying true to his word and refusing to submit to Bret Hart in one of the night's marquee matches, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin earned the respect of the Chicago fans for his toughness and in-your-face attitude. Though he passed out and was declared the loser via referee's decision, the night was essential in Austin's growth and evolution.

    On that night, he became an antihero for fans to throw their support behind.

    He also became the face of a movement that would carry WWE to its greatest heights. He brought the attitude necessary for the company to break out of the doldrums and fight back against WCW in the Monday Night Wars.

    For five of the next six WrestleManias, Austin would be at the forefront, and at the 14th edition, he defeated Shawn Michaels to capture his first WWE Championship.

    His trilogy of showdowns with The Rock represent, arguably, the greatest rivalry in event history.

    Whether they brawled in Philadelphia, waged war in Houston or brought their differences to a head in Seattle, the series of matches were every bit as wild and chaotic, yet beautifully structured, as one would expect from the iconic performers.

    Austin's career may have ended somewhat prematurely in 2003 as neck and knee issues continued to plague him, but The Texas Rattlesnake continues to make appearances from time to time and draw the deafening pops that greeted him every night at the peak of his popularity.

3. Hulk Hogan

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    There would be no WrestleMania without Hulk Hogan.

    Fans can point to celebrity involvement, the all-time great heel "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and the creative vision of Vince McMahon, but without the right babyface to build all of it around, the show fails.

    Hogan was that guy: a charismatic hero whom fans could root for as he vanquished the loudmouth Piper and cohort Paul Orndorff. He was the perfect choice to pair with Mr. T for the main event of the first incarnation of the event.

    After March 31, 1985, in New York's famed Madison Square Garden, Hogan became the guy around whom every major program in WWE was built around. He was at the forefront of every WrestleMania main event from the first through the eighth.

    Even when he was not officially involved in the headline bout, as was the case in 1988 at the fourth edition, he played a key role in the outcome of the match. Ditto in 1993, though under much more controversial and frustrating circumstances.

    Hogan defined WrestleMania for nearly its entire first decade, carrying McMahon's grand vision and convincing fans to tune in to watch him do the inconceivable by defeating Andre the Giant, throttle Randy Savage or lose valiantly to The Ultimate Warrior.

    While there are other Superstars who became more closely associated with the spectacular, Hogan was WrestleMania for nine straight years.

2. The Undertaker

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    The greatest phenom in WWE history is also the No. 2 greatest Superstar in WrestleMania history.

    For 21 years, The Undertaker stalked toward the squared circle, dispatched of his opponent and returned to the locker room with one more notch on his belt representing another unfortunate soul. His undefeated streak at the show of shows became as valuable a promotional tool as any championship bout or major grudge match.

    The Streak, as it was affectionately known, included memorable victories over Ric Flair, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk and Edge and became an essential piece in the WrestleMania puzzle over the years. It was also at the heart of one of the most unforgettable moments in the long history of the event.

    In 2014, Undertaker set out to defend his unblemished win-loss record against Brock Lesnar. The Beast Incarnate had smashed and dominated everyone put before him since his return to WWE, but at no time did it ever feel like he may be the one to end Undertaker's string of successes at WrestleMania.

    That is why the F-5 that floored Undertaker and led to his first defeat at the event left so many people inside New Orleans' Mercedes SuperDome stunned. An eerie silence fell over the arena, and the stunned look on the faces of fans drove home the significance of what had just occurred.

    It was an unforgettable and uncomfortable moment that will live in immortality.

    Even with the one loss, Undertaker continues to define the event.

    His presence alone heightens the importance of the event, while every single man lucky enough to be chosen to work with him is better off for it. It is an honor to stand across the ring from Undertaker, and the fact that he still comes out of semi-retirement every year to compete at the extravaganza signifies the place it has in his heart.

    An icon who has come to serve as the epitome of what makes the event an annual celebration of all things professional wrestling, his contributions are eclipsed by one man and one man alone.

1. Shawn Michaels

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    Mr. WrestleMania.

    That is a title not give to just any Superstar.

    To achieve that nickname, one must have repeatedly demonstrated greatness on the grandest stage known to professional wrestling and an unquenchable thirst to be the absolute best under the brightest lights the industry has to offer.

    There is no better description of Shawn Michaels, who owned the WrestleMania stage each and every time he set foot on it.

    Not only did ol' HBK work the all-time great matches with Undertaker, the emotionally charged Career Threatening match with Ric Flair and a mat classic with Kurt Angle, he achieved the defining moment of his career at the event.

    WrestleMania XII, 1996.

    Michaels was in the midst of his major babyface push as he took to the squared circle for an Iron Man match with Bret Hart. The two had battled before, to tremendous results, and were paired up for a 60-minute war of attrition at The Showcase of the Immortals.

    Overflowing into a sudden-death period, the match culminated with an exhausted Michaels blasting Hart with Sweet Chin Music and realizing his boyhood dream of capturing the WWE Championship.

    Always a controversial star, Michaels established himself the measuring stick when it comes to WrestleMania. The greatest Superstar to ever lace his boots for a match at The Showcase of the Immortals, Michaels tops this list and No. 2 is not even really that close.