It is the grandest stage in professional wrestling. It is where legends are made matches live on forever.
At WrestleMania, a good match becomes an unforgettable one. No other venue in sports magnifies the importance of a moment quite like WrestleMania does. The Super Bowl, World Series and Final Four all fail to meet the bar that WrestleMania's importance has on its sport. While those can disappoint on a certain year, WrestleMania always has that one moment that you can look back on.
To create this list, I tried to combine the hype leading up to the match, the match itself and the impact that the match had on wrestling history. Narrowing this list to 20 was very difficult and I'm sure that your favorites may not be in the mix. As WrestleMania XXVII in just 34 days away, there will be seven honorable mentions to bring the total to 27.
Triple H vs The Undertaker: WrestleMania X-Seven
They'll collide in a few weeks, but they also met each other 10 years ago. This was your classic "I don't have anything to do, but I am better than you" buildup, but it was done so well that you knew this match was going to be great. It was one of the best matches that Taker has had at WrestleMania, despite being one of the matches that doesn't come to mind.
Bret Hart vs Owen Hart: WrestleMania X
A match that was overshadowed by a member of the top 20, a collision of the two Harts was a classic Mania moment. Owen won, which may be the most shocking thing to take out of it. Brothers facing brothers is always a good sell. Keep that in mind for the list.
Mick Foley vs Edge: WrestleMania 22
There may not be a motive for a Mania match that I love more than to establish that "WrestleMania moment." So many great wrestlers never got that marquee moment that they could hang their hat on. This match did great things for both men—although I can think of one moment that overshadows it for Edge.
Big Show vs Mick Foley vs The Rock vs HHH: WrestleMania 2000, "A McMahon in Every Corner"
Leave it to the McMahon Family to make a Fatal 4-Way all about them. It was built up the right way, though. With four of the best in the business at that time aligned with a different personality of the royal family of wrestling, it combined multiple feuds and made a huge main event for that year's WrestleMania.
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart: WrestleMania VIII
This was Piper's finest match at WrestleMania. The Hot Rod—who would never be a WWE Champion—walked into this match with his only Intercontinental Championship around his waist. At a WrestleMania that showed so much promise with Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan—only to have that match split into co-main events—Piper and Hart stuck to what they did best.
The ending was one of the best I have ever seen in a WrestleMania match. Piper holds the ring bell about to hit The Hitman, but decides against it. He then locks him in a sleeper hold only for Hart to use the ringpost to flip into a small package for the pinfall. The rise of The Hitman began that night.
Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage: WrestleMania V
The two men who used to make up The Mega Powers squared off in WrestleMania V with Miss Elizabeth standing in between. It was a classic matchup between two demigods of their time. Savage became jealous of Hogan after he took care of Miss Elizabeth when she was hurt during a match. Elizabeth was never going to be romantically involved with Hogan, but it did make for a solid build to the breakup of one of the dream tag teams of the 80s.
Randy Savage vs Ric Flair: WrestleMania VIII
Two of the most entertaining mic workers to ever work the WWE. Flair was the world champion at the time and—as previously stated—was supposed to wrestle Hulk Hogan in the main event. However, it got scrapped and split apart.
While Hogan faced Sid Justice in the last match, Flair defended the WWF championship midway through the night against The Macho Man. Savage teased Flair, to which Flair responded by saying he had been with Miss Elizabeth and had pictures to prove it. The pictures were phony but the match was not. Savage was not Hogan that night, but it was the definitely the better match.
I love innovation at WrestleMania.
At this point, Kurt Angle was on the fast track to main-event status and was holding both the European Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. However, unlike many others who have held multiple titles at the same time, Angle was slated to defend both belts against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit.
It was a two-fall triple-threat match, with the first fall being for the Intercontinental Championship and the second fall for the European title. It was the first WrestleMania for all three men and they got put rather late on the card. The only two matches after it were a random tag match between DX and Rikishi and Kane and the Fatal 4-Way main event, which was featured in the honorable mentions.
The match had a good pace and made all three look strong. Angle lost both of his titles that night as he was pinned. Benoit won the first fall and the IC title, while Jericho managed to win the European belt in the second fall. Jericho would lose the belt 24 hours later on RAW to Eddie Guerrero, who used Chyna and began the Latino Heat gimmick. This match helped to shape the upper mid card for the tail end of the Attitude Era by vaulting Angle toward the main event and establishing Benoit with his first WWF belt.
Yet another great concept that debuted at WrestleMania.
Say what you like about it not necessarily being the best Money in the Bank ladder match—but it was the match that started it all. If the Money in the Bank ladder match didn't have its moments or get over with the fans, it might as well have been the triple cage from WCW. It was the success of this match that has led to it being a WrestleMania tradition and its own pay-per-view.
Edge outlasted the likes of Christian, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit and Kane to hold a briefcase with a title shot whenever he wanted. Part of the intrigue of the briefcase is that it has historically been cashed in on a weakened champion. Money in the Bank has given wrestlers like CM Punk, Edge, Rob Van Dam, The Miz and Jack Swagger their first world championships. The match has also made legend of wrestlers like Benjamin and John Morrison who,—while failing to win—have had show-stealing moments.
This was the sleeper match of all sleeper matches.
As oxymoronic as it sounds, Chris Jericho against his idol Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIX was the kind of match that stole the show while not being as high-profile as the rest of the card. 22-and-a-half minutes of a simple grudge match was the longest match of the night in Seattle.
It was HBK's first WrestleMania match after returning from an injury that we all assumed ended Michaels' career. Jericho brought out the best of the Heartbreak Kid. It was a match that you could mark as a passing of the torch between two wrestling greats.
Forget Andre and Hogan—which is obviously in this list.
It was Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage that had the best match at WrestleMania III. For a card with 12 matches and only two that lasted more than 10 minutes (this one and Andre/Hogan), can anyone even name one of the other 10 matches?
That's what I thought. That's because WrestleMania III was an absolute dud until Steamboat and Savage tore the house down. If you have not seen this match, go find it on the Internet. If you think that you have seen how to wrestle a great match on a large stage, this match is a benchmark. The simple fact that I have this match so low on the list is something that not even I can explain.
Do you get the feeling that the best WrestleMania matches usually have nothing on the line but bragging rights?
Angle eliminated Michaels in the Royal Rumble that year, only to see Michaels come back into the ring to eliminate the Olympic gold medalist. Angle then brought up Michaels' past, including former tag partner Marty Janetty and former manager Sherri Martel.
The Heartbreak Kid and The Wrestling Machine put on a fantastic match that year and were an easy choice for 2005's Match of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
I didn't include the triangle ladder match between these three teams—which also took place at a WrestleMania.
I love that match because the ladders were a great innovation; the TLC match perfected that innovation. The TLC match was perfected with the second TLC match at WrestleMania X-Seven.
Teams of Edge and Christian, Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz put on one of the great ladder matches in history. Edge's most unforgettable moment at WrestleMania was when he speared Jeff Hardy, who held the tag titles above the ring with no ladder underneath him. It was one move—along with some assistance from Rhyno—that won Edge and Christian yet another tag team title.
The Rhyno part gets lost in the minds of many wrestling fans but Edge's spear lives on as an unforgettable moment.
WrestleMania is known as the greatest stage in wrestling but it is also known as a place where celebrities join the show. From Lawrence Taylor to Floyd Mayweather, there have been many men stepping into the squared circle that may not have normally been in there.
One example was "Iron" Mike Tyson.
This match is seen as a major turning point in WWE history. Not only did Tyson, as special guest enforcer in the match, count to three for Austin's first world title reign, but it was also expected to be the final match in the career of Shawn Michaels. Michaels had suffered major injuries at Royal Rumble and wrestled this match hurt.
This was also believed to be the unofficial start to the Attitude Era.
Two of the best pure wrestlers that WWE has ever seen faced off in the main event at WrestleMania XIX when Brock Lesnar faced Kurt Angle. There was no Champion's Advantage, which meant that the champion would not retain the title if they got disqualified or counted out.
This match is mostly known for Lesnar attempting a shooting star splash, which he botched and gave himself a concussion. Lesnar would win the match and win the title from Angle.
Both men were battered following the contest. Angle suffered hamstring and neck injuries and would be out until June. Lesnar, on the other hand, suffered multiple concussions but held onto the belt while nursing his injuries.
"The Double Turn"
It is very rare to see a double turn, which is when the heel and face switch spots in the same match. This was Bret Hart's first heel turn in the WWF, while Austin—who was well-liked despite being a heel—was a sympathetic face.
Hart and Austin had been going after one another for months and costing each other matches. They collided in a submission match with Ken Shamrock as a special guest referee. Due to a lot of blood loss, Bret Hart's sharpshooter on Austin led to the Texas Rattlesnake passing out from the pain.
Austin never officially tapped out but lost the match when Shamrock called for the bell. Hart refused to break the hold, leading to the double turn.
Hart's heel turn would eventually be altered into a USA vs. Canada angle as Hart stayed face in Canada but was heel everywhere else.
For months, the teasing was there: Ric Flair was going to retire the next time he would lose. Flair went through a long losing streak leading up to WrestleMania, where he faced Mr. WrestleMania—Shawn Michaels.
The two put on a wrestling clinic.
Even though we all knew Flair was going to lose this match, they certainly had The Nature Boy go out with a bang. You could really tell that Shawn Michaels had some emotion come over him when he was ready to kick Flair for the finishing blow. Flair walked away from WWE that night but was not done with wrestling all together, as we all know.
The Ultimate Warrior was a major fan favorite during the middle of Hulkamania, which seemed to hold back the superstar. The Warrior had his difficulties with the company toward the tail end of his tenure but not before his major push to the main event. That push culminated with this match against Hulk Hogan with the WWF and Intercontinental titles both on the line.
How important was this match? Without this WrestleMania match, The Ultimate Warrior might be known as a solid mid-card wrestler instead of one of the major superstars of his era.
This is the third mention of Chris Benoit in this countdown.
We can skip past the criticisms of WWE without mentioning the man by name and cutting most of his appearances from video footage. The point is that not only were some of his matches mentioned on wwe.com as the best WrestleMania matches of all time, but Benoit was the victor of the main event at the 20th WrestleMania.
Competing against The Game and The Heartbreak Kid, Benoit raised his game in the only way that he could on the stage of WrestleMania.
This was widely considered to be Benoit's first reign with that world title, but it is often forgotten that he was awarded the belt shortly before leaving WCW for WWE. The image of Eddie Guerrero and Benoit—two lifelong friends—as the two world champions in the company was an unforgettable moment, even if WWE won't show this image to us anymore.
Rest in peace, you two.
I know that The Undertaker has seemingly beaten Kane at WrestleMania like five times but it is the first one that matters the most for this list.
The billing of "brother vs. brother"—even if it was just storyline brothers—gave The Undertaker a very high profile buildup to his match.
Kane appeared in the first-ever Hell in a Cell match and attacked The Undertaker, costing him the WWF Championship. The Undertaker vowed to never harm his brother, but Kane kept trying to harm his brother. Kane eventually put The Undertaker in a casket and set it on fire, believing that he had taken care of him.
The Undertaker returned to face Kane for the first time at WrestleMania. After this match, a rematch was set up. It was not just any rematch; it was the first-ever Inferno match.
The Undertaker's victory expanded the streak to 7-0 and Taker has never looked back.
The Iron Man Match.
They said it couldn't be done. Two men couldn't wrestle for sixty straight minutes. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart proved them all wrong by wrestling for an entire hour in one of the most fascinating matches I have ever seen. The best part about the match: There were no pinfalls or submissions for that hour so they had to go to even longer to get a fall from one of the men.
One minute and 52 seconds into the sudden death, Michaels managed to finally defeat Bret Hart and win the WWF Championship for the first time.
There may not be a harder way for anyone to ever win their first world championship. This match is truly an all-time classic if you have never seen it. It may sound like a soccer game, with the lack of scoring and a long time passing by, but you grow to appreciate the effort from both of these men as they literally have nothing left.
There may not be a more must-see matchup at WrestleMania than the appeal of The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Say what you like about other memorable matchups, but these two were both in their primes athletically and in popularity around the same time. While this was not the only time these two squared off at WrestleMania, we need to single out this one: the first WrestleMania matchup between these two at what is arguably the best WrestleMania of all time.
For nearly a half hour, these two brought the house down in the Astrodome. It was an absolutely enjoyable match and an all-time classic no matter what the venue. Vince McMahon's inclusion at the end was also very fitting.
10 years later, I can only hope that there is another Mania that measures up to this one. However, I find it hard to think that The Miz and John Cena could hold a candle to this match. No offense, guys.
The Ladder Match.
Say what you like about the Money in the Banks and the TLCs of the world. They'd mean nothing if it wasn't for Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania X.
These two squared off for the Intercontinental Championship in the first ladder match in the company's history. The image of Michaels freefalling onto Ramon below is one of the great images in the career of The Heartbreak Kid.
Not only did this match innovate all ladder-related matches but it also helped to create the legend of the man that they call Mr. WrestleMania. What John Morrison is today is what Michaels was back then. If Morrison was around back then and did half of the things he has done, he would be a god among men. Instead, it was Michaels having to break barriers and open up ideas for men like Morrison to wow us with.
Yes, I put this match fourth. And the match itself is pretty bad.
It's digestible, but it is certainly not up to the hype that it put forth. That hype is exactly why this match is even on this list to begin with: "The Irresistable Force vs. The Immovable Object."
The emotion when Hogan slammed down Andre the Giant is the exact type of moment that made WrestleMania thrive. It was the first time that WrestleMania had become a pop culture phenomenon. In that case, it doesn't really matter how the match went.
The sheer spectacle of the memorable energy from the match is the reason that WrestleMania is what it is today. Without it, WrestleMania is just another pay-per-view.
Last year's encounter between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker was fantastic, but it wasn't quite as intriguing as the original.
Once The Undertaker had defeated HBK the year before, many of us immediately wondered if we could see it again. We did, but it was a little bit different.
The rule that only allowed a pinfall or submission finish came into play. DQs and countouts were not allowed in a simple grudge match, which led us all to believe that we could see where the match would end. We wouldn't see Taker win in a cheap way and we wouldn't see The Streak end in a way that would be difficult for any of us to handle.
Also, take into account the additional year that both men had gone through. Both were visibly hurting—especially The Undertaker. The simple fact that Michaels had to carry his opponent—mostly in a literal sense—during his retirement match would have been difficult to do with someone he had never worked with.
Icon vs. Icon.
I know that it isn't an absolute all-time great match, but the majority of what WrestleMania is about is the hype that surrounds it.
This match was pure hype: the face of the company against the older face of the company.
It was one of those fantasy matchups that you think could only be seen in a video game simulation. Both men were on the top of their game and wanted to deliver.
The match didn't write any books on how a match should go and it certainly didn't show anything truly spectacular or fresh. It was a lot of what we had seen before from the two, but it was the presentation of it that made this so memorable.
It was the stare down. It was the stealing of mannerisms. It was the copying of moves. It was the lack of being able to hear what was going on and what to make of most of it.
To this day, I can't remember who I wanted to see win—and it doesn't really matter. They gave us all the collision of the icons. The match itself may not have been legendary but the matchup was and it provided exactly the kind of match that it needed to in order to succeed.
What else is there to say?
Nothing beats the original matchup between these two.
As good as it was to see it the second time, the unpredictability of these two living legends at WrestleMania for the first time is too much to ignore. The injuries, ages and any other obstacles these two men had before were all out the window during this match.
It was the perfect amount of build, the perfect amount of countering, and it wasn't unbelievable when they just kept fighting and wouldn't give up. It was the first time in a while where we honestly believed that someone could end The Undertaker's streak. If it was done by anyone and they weren't ready to hold the honor, it would lose all of its meaning.
Michaels could wear that honor proudly and we would all be okay with it. The fact that Michaels didn't do it almost assumes that no one will get closer to beating The Deadman than The Heartbreak Kid did.