The road to WrestleMania is almost over as the biggest night of pro-wrestling is mere nine days away. This will be the night when many young stars will have their first taste of the grandeur. In many ways, WrestleMania 27 is an event, where we can see the future.
Therefore, it is an apt moment to traverse through the history of WrestleMania and to revisit some of its legends.
Over the course of these three decades, some of the finest wrestlers and biggest of the stars have decorated the stage of WrestleMania. They have given us great matches to relish and great moments to cherish forever.
I am going to take this opportunity to acknowledge 27 such superstars, who in their own way have stood out.
I am not going to rank people here. I am not the right person to allot rankings to people who have put their body on the line for their art. I have instead made four categories. Following are those categories.
- 1. Superstars of WrestleMania
- 2. Legends of WrestleMania
- 3. Icons of WrestleMania
Now, let us begin the ride without any further ado.
At WrestleMania X, Kevin Nash saw the atmosphere of the mania for the first time as he accompanied HBK in his classic ladder match.
Just one year later, he retained the WWF championship against HBK at WrestleMania and if that is not enough, Pamela Anderson accompanied him.
Now, that is how you rise. Next year, he wrestled the Undertaker and was of course beaten. It also remains his last proper WrestleMania appearance.
His interferences in Scott hall vs. Stone cold match were rather reminiscent of his first appearance. So, in a way, he completed a full circle.
Big show deserves his place solely for the fact that he has endured some atrocities at WrestleMania. He has endured Sumo Match, Floyed Money Mayweather and most painfully Nathan Jones.
Big show debuted at WM in big fashion, as he faced of the Mankind at WM XV. Next year, he competed in a fatal fourway match for WWF championship alongside Triple H, Rock and Mankind.
At WM 19, he fail victim to the Undertaker on the same night he barely escaped from Nathan Jones.
He has faced John Cena twice, at WM 20 and WM 25. Both the times, he was used as the perfect dumbbell for showcasing John Cena’s super strength.
From good matches to atrocities, this man has done a lot for company and we got to respect that.
Ricky ‘the Dragon’ steamboat was the part of first ever WrestleMania. He defeated Matt Born at WM 1 and then he beat Hercules at the second edition. He also showed us that even at the age of 55, he was still better than half of the roster at WM 25.
His most special WrestleMania however, would always be the third edition. He defeated Randy Savage in probably the greatest ever WrestleMania match in history. Ricky ‘the Dragon Steamboat’ and Randy ‘the Machoman’ Savage were feuding for months leading to the Mania. They had put on some spectacular matches but the ending was simply epic. This match went to be the match that stole the show even when Hogan and Andre were going to face off in the main event
Had this been his only appearance at WrestleMania, I would have still included him.
If any superstar can ever think of matching Big Show in experiencing mismatch of fate at WrestleMania, it is Kane.
Kane, the same person who entered into his first ever WrestleMania as the favourite against legendary Undertaker, has found himself against Great Khali in the later years.
He again faced his big brother at WM 20, as the Deadman returned. He remains one of three people to face Undertaker twice at WM. HBK and now Triple H are the other two.
Other than appearing at MITB and fighting not so important matches, Kane has also won the ECW championship in few seconds at WrestleMania 24.
His random run will continue this year as well as he takes on The Corre, and his partner is none other than Big Show. That is fate, you see.
Owen Hart is a name that is very close to every older wrestling fan’s heart. His tragic demise took away many potential big things.
It is a travesty that Owen in his career participated in only three singles matches. He participated in several tag matches with partners like Yokozuna, Jeff Jarret and British Bulldog. At WM 13, when he was the reigning European champion, he put over Triple H for Triple H’s first championship win at WrestleMania. That was his last appearance in singles match at WrestleMania.
His match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania X would however always be defining moment of his career. Their match was the instant classic and it was also the biggest win of Owen’s career.
One of the four pillars of Attitude Era has left his mark on WrestleMania as well.
He made his debut at WM 13 as he teamed with Vader to take on Owen hart and British Bulldog. His next big WM match was against Big Show, which he won by the DQ.
He then made his only appearance in the championship match at WM 16. He wrestled with Linda McMahon in his corner as he returned from his very short lived retirement. His next WM appearance was an underwhelming Rock ‘n Soc connection 5 years later at WM 20.
His last appearance at WrestleMania is however his best one as he took on Edge in one hell of a hardcore match. This match was truly brutal and for me match of the night.
This crazy superstar with one of the craziest entrances may not have given us the best matches. In fact he has one of the worst squashes under his belt.
At WrestleMania in 1996, he refused to put over one young star and no-sold his finishing move. He won the match in few minutes. The young star was Triple H.
He also faced off Randy Savage in a retirement match with Savage’s career on the line at WM VII. He had some not so memorable matches at WM IV and V respectively.
However, he is a part of one of the iconic matches in history. And that match is the single reason he is here. At WrestleMania VI, Intercontinental champion Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan in what was supposed to be the passing of torch. He became the first person to hold IC and WWF championships simultaneously.
Ultimate Warrior never realized his planned destiny, but the match would always remain one of the biggest of all time.
Rey made his WrestleMania debut at WM 19. After that, every year his graph has just soared to new heights. He missed WM 23 and WM 24 due to injuries. At WM he retired JBL and retained his Intercontinental championship. At WM 26, along with he faced off CM Punk in what would be the second best match of the night.
His dream moment however was WrestleMania 22. He entered the Mania as Royal Rumble winner and went to win the World Heavyweight Championship in a fairy tale moment. It was one of the most special title wins as he dedicated it to Eddie Guererro.
The Natureboy defined his career in NWA and WCW. He made his legend outside of WWE. However, that has not stopped him from giving us some great moments at WrestleMania.
He made his first appearance at WrestleMania as the WWF champion in 1992. He lost the title to Randy Savage. It took 8 years before he appeared at the grandest stage once again as he became the victim of Undertaker.
His most notable and memorable match remains his retirement match at WrestleMania 24 with HBK. This was very emotional bout and fans showered all their love on Natureboy that night.
WWE may erase his name from history books, but for fans history is much more than a book. However tarnished it may be, legacy always remains a legacy and I will acknowledge it.
Spectacular performance was a habit for Chris Benoit. He won WWE’s European championship in his WM debut at WM 16. At WM 17, he had a great match with Kurt Angle.
His greatest WrestleMania moment came at WM 20. He defeated Triple H and HBK in what has gone to become the greatest triple threat match in the WWE history. He won his first and only World championship that night.
What transpired next was one of the greatest sights this business has seen. As Benoit was celebrating, Eddie came down to the ring to devour a night when he and his best friend had finally realized the dream. It was one of the most heart-warming ending Mania has seen.
Eddie Guererro is perhaps the greatest entertainer our generation has seen. He made his WM Debut at WM 17 against Test and won the European championship. At WM he challenged team angle for the tag team gold along with Chavo Guerrero but he fail short. At WM he competed with his best friend Rey Mysterio in a great encounter but again just always Rey won.
His greatest WrestleMania moment was WrestleMania XX. He fended off challenge of Kurt Angle in a classic encounter. This rivalry is one of the best of our times and so is the match.
Later in the night, as Chris Benoit won the WHC, Eddie walked down the ramp to celebrate with his best friend. The celebration that followed is one of the best WrestleMania moment.
Batista could have been the face of WWE and his WrestleMania record shows that. He debuted at WM 20 when Evolution took on Rock and Sock connection.
Next year, he was headlining WM as he defeated Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. Then in 2006 he missed WrestleMania. In 2007, he wrestled best match of his career when he became 15th victim of the Undertaker.
In 2008 he defeated Umaga in a fairly entertaining match.
His last appearance at WM was, WM 26 when he lost his championship to John Cena. It was the time when Batista was finally cutting good promos and was really entertaining. Sad, that he left WWE soon afterwards.
Here comes the viper and current resident of main events. Randy Orton made his WrestleMania debut along with Batista against Rock and Mick Foley.
Next year, he aimed at breaking the undefeated streak of the Undertaker. He reached to the point where nobody had reached before as he proved to be the credible threat to the streak.
He headlined WM 22 along with Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio for the World heavyweight championship. At Wrestlemania 23, he participated in the MITB. He entered WM 24 and achieved one rare feat of beating Cena and Triple H at the same time. At WM 25, he entered the night as red hot Royal Rumble winner but Triple H still prevailed.
At WrestleMania 26, he completed his organic face turn as he destroyed his former puppies Ted Di’Biase and Cody Rhodes.
Randy Orton has been in a constant fixture in WrestleMania’s spotlight and this year he may well win the vote for match of the night as he takes on CM Punk.
Chris Jericho was set to appear in the main event of his first ever WrestleMania. But for some reasons it did not happen.
Truly the best at what he does, Jericho has fought some of the memorable matches in the WrestleMania history. May it be his championship defence against Triple H or his match with Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho has hardly ever failed at delivering his best at the Mania. At WrestleMania 25, he challenged several legends and defeated them.
However, His greatest WrestleMania moment would forever remain his match against HBK at WM 19. In what would be the one of the best matches in WM history, he indeed lost to HBK, but his performance in that match will always be in our memories. It would always be his best match of his WWE career.
The most decorated superstar in the history of WWE is one of the rare breed. He is set to appear in the fourth consecutive championship match at WrestleMania. It is a feat that only Hogan, Cena and Triple H have managed so far.
Along with Christian, he won the legendary TLC match at WrestleMania 17. Moreover, he is the winner of first ever ‘Money in the Bank’ ladder match. At WM 22, he had one hell of a hardcore match with Mick Foley.
Afterwards, at WrestleMania 24, he defended his World heavyweight championship against the Undertaker in a memorable match. Edge took Undertaker to the limit unseen before. He headed into WM 26 as the Royal Rumble winner and challenged Chris Jericho.
The only dark spot on his legacy is he has never been successful at either defending or winning the world championship at WrestleMania.
He also has a dubious distinction of having participated in a WrestelMania match over a shampoo ad.
I was in a fix as to whether to put John Cena in legends category or this one. But I think, it will take him one or two more years to reach that status.
John Cena made his debut at WrestleMania in 2004 against big show. He challenged the Big show for the US Championship in a successful attempt. Since then, Cena has appeared in 6 consecutive main events of the WrestleMania. He has taken on superstars of the calibre of Triple H, HBK, Batista, Randy Orton, Edge and JBL and has only lost one match thus far. WM 27 will mark his seventh match for the world or WWE championship at WM.
It is apparent that John Cena is going to break the record of Hulk Hogan for most main event appearances. He is also the last threat left to ‘The Streak’.
One amazing fact is that throughout his career, Cena has only been in championship matches at WrestleMania. That must be a record in itself.
This inclusion may raise eyebrows but he deserves this place.
Randy Savage has participated in some of the great matches at WrestleMania. He was the part of what may be the greatest match in WM history along with the Ricky Steamboat.
After that he made consecutive high profile and mostly main event appearances. At WM 4 he won his first WWF title followed by one of the most beautiful celebrations. His reign lasted till next Mania when he dropped it to immortal Hogan. He faced Ultimate Warrior at WM VII.
At WM VIII, he won his final WWF title as he beat Ric Flair.
Randy Savage is the only person of his era who has faced the big three at Mania, Hogan, Warrior and Flair.
Triple H has always been the controversial superstar. We have often attributed his success to various factors apar from his talent. But we cannot deny that he is a legend in his own right. His association with the WrestleMania is big one. If you may have noticed, his name has appeared in almost half of the earlier slides.
Right from taking beating from washed up Ultimate Warrior to giving the similar beating to Randy Ortons and Sheamus’s of the world, Triple H has come a long way.
After Hogan and Cena, he has made the most appearances in WM main events. He would also become the third person to have faced Undertaker twice at WM this year.
One of the most underrated legends, Kurt Angle is second best WrestleMania performer in the history in my opinion. Every year he wrestled, he gave us phenomenal matches. His matches with Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guererro, and Chris Benoit are some of the best matches I have ever seen.
His best WrestleMania match to me would always remain his match with HBK at the WrestleMania 21. That one was the underrated gem.
To me Kurt Angle’s biggest contribution would always remain something different. In his early appearances at WrestleMania, he filled up the shoes of HBK and gave us amazing matches.
Rock has given us some of the greatest moments of WrestleMania and he is set to give few more. Rock has wrestled in the iconic triology of WrestleMania and also in erhaps the biggest match in WrestleMania history.
His matches with Stone Cold were simply enthralling. The way they played with emotions of the crowd was simply awesome.
Rock’s control over crowd’s emotion however has never been more apparent than in his match with the Hulk Hogan. At Wrestlemania XVIII, Hulk Hogan and the Rock faced each other. The person who put WWF on the map and another who elevated it further in the mainstream were going to battle it out. They were by far the most popular two wrestlers of all time and had mesmerized respective generations. This match in my opinion still remains the biggest draw in WM history.
I would have liked Rock to have a last encounter with WrestleMania than the tag match against evolution. It seems our wishes may come true sometime in future.
The Ring master made his debut at WM 12 in a quite fashion. Then however, he went wild and just in one year transformed into the biggest superstar in WWE history.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was born at WrestleMania and he left the stage at WrestleMania. Right from being one of the biggest wrestling draw in WM history to being the biggest ever refereeing draw, he is associated with the legacy of Mania in a big way.
Stone Cold wrestled in seven matches at the Mania. Barring one with Scott Hall and his debut, his other 5 matches are iconic in every sense of the word.
His championship match with HBK at WM 14 kick started the Attitude Era and Stone Cold gained the thrown from HBK.
His three matches with Rock are defining matches of Attitude Era. Together they never failed to mesmerize audience. Their WM 19 match remains special because of the closing moments. It was also last match of Stone Cold.
However, his match with Bret hart at WM 13 would remain his best WM match in my opinion. This match is one of the greatest Wrestlemania matches and one of the most historically significant matches in the history of WWF. This match saw an excellent double turn as at the end Hart turned heel due to his vicious assault and Stone Cold turned face because of undying resilience.
The image of unrelenting Bret hart's sharpshooter and Stone Cold's denial to submit while lying in the pool of own blood is a moment that gave birth of Anti-Hero. It was a moment, when Stone Cold rose from normal league to join the legion of legends.
This may be another eyebrow raising selection. To me Bret Hart is one of the biggest legends of WrestleMania. He has done a lot for WWE. And especially when it came to WrestleMania, he gave his all. He let Hulk Hogan hog his glory at WM 9. He gave his brother a moment for life. He wrestled Yokozuna twice at consecutive manias in the main event. And that is not all.
His biggest contribution to WM came at back to back manias as at WM he put over HBK in an amazing iron man match and passed the torch over.
Next year he raised the stakes as he orchestrated the biggest double turn in the history of WWE. He was the person because of whom we could get Steve Austin - the Anti-Hero’.
Bret hart has competed in numerous championship matches, in numerous great matches and moreover he put over two superstars, who would go on to be legends.
Hulk Hogan is the first and foremost reason for WrestleMania’s such a long existence. Hulk Hogan carried Wrestlemania for almost a decade on his drawing power. He put it on the global map. Hulk Hogan gave Wrestlemania its defining moment as he slammed Andre on the mat.
Hogan still holds the record of maximum Main Event appearances at Wrestlemania. He appeared in nine WrestleMania main events. Hulk winning the title was almost the customary ending of WrestleMania.
If that all is not enough, almost a decade after his last Mania he reminded us as why he almost owns Mania, when he took on The Rock. That match would always be the biggest match in WrestleMania history.
The Undertaker is the longest reigning biggest draw in WrestleMania history. There is nothing left to speak about the undefeated streak of Undertaker. In total 16 men have tried and 16 men have failed.
Undertaker has thrice won the WWF or World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania.
He has had some of the great matches with Kane, triple H, Randy Orton, Edge and Batista. However, the greatest of matches of the Undertaker are back to back epics with HBK.
Both the times these two greatest legends of WWE come across, they wove magic. Their First encounter remains one of greatest matches at Mania and second is the best ever rematch. No word is left to describe what they did. Both legends just left one uphill task to future generations with those two epics. Shawn Michaels and Undertaker proved that you don’t need gimmick matches, violence and abuse to create a masterpiece
I did not make an error when in introduction slide I said I have four categories and mentioned only three. The fourth category is Mr. WrestleMania, and it should have been obvious.
If you have noticed, many of the superstars who feature in this list had their greatest WrestleMania match with Shawn Michaels. He therefore has more number of great WrestleMania matches than anybody else. The biggest quality of HBK is that he transcended his own aura and brought out the best of his opponents. When he faced the outstanding performers like Bret Hart, Jericho or the they did not delivered matches, they created a memory for us that we will keep close to our hearts till our last day.
Emotions run wild at WrestleMania. If ever, anybody has struck the chord of surreal WrestleMania emotions, then it is HBK.
WrestleMania is a theatre of dreams and that is where the boyhood dream came true. Years will pass by but I am sure, Shawn Michaels would always have his aura around WrestleMania.