WWE: John Cena, the Rock and the 20 Greatest WrestleMania Performers
WrestleMania season brings about the obligatory nostalgia reading, fully equipped with Hulk Hogan YouTube videos and memories of timeless moments that defined the biggest sports entertainment show of the year.
While many contributed unforgettable efforts in making WrestleMania the showcase it is today, the list of its greatest performers is one of great exclusivity as even some of today's most prominent names are without a hallmark moment at WrestleMania.
Like a Super Bowl quarterback who is able to get to the big game and win consistently, another extremely exclusive list, the list of the greatest Superstars of WrestleMania truly define some of the the greatest overall superstars to have ever competed.
But this list is not only limited to the superstars who headlined WWE's signature event, drawing immense box office figures that kickstarted the sports entertainment empire. A handful of non-wrestlers have also served to enhance WrestleMania with their own personal contributions.
A list as star-powered as it is elusive, these are the 20 greatest WrestleMania performers.
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20. Triple H
Dead last should be a position Triple H is used to come WrestleMania, as he has been slated to close the show in six of his 14 WrestleMania appearances.
The only problem is that Triple H rarely has the best match on a WrestleMania card despite his matches usually garnering the most emphasis on TV. If there are three certainties in life, they are death, taxes, and Triple H having his show stolen at a WrestleMania match, usually by Shawn Michaels.
In fact, it can be argued that the only time in his WrestleMania career where Triple H was featured in the best match was when he worked with Shawn Michaels as Michaels, Triple H, and Benoit waged war in a classic Triple Threat match at WrestleMania XX in New York, City.
Triple H still has yet to truly have a WrestleMania moment, and should his currently forced encounter with the Undertaker fall below expectations that history should have already tempered, such a moment may never come.
19. Rey Mysterio Jr.
Rey Mysterio Jr. makes this list on the merit of embodying the pageantry of WrestleMania. Every WrestleMania, Rey Mysterio dazzles (or confounds) with a new attire specifically designed for the WWE's biggest show.
Mysterio Jr.'s WrestleMania attire, which has ranged from Daredevil to the Joker, is usually inspired by the current year's highest grossing blockbuster movie, so don't be surprised to see Mysterio donning Mad Hatter get up at this year's festivities.
Let's see Sin Cara dress up like a mini Johnny Depp and make it look cool. He can't.
Kane's three-year series with Pete Rose, from WrestleMania XIV to 2000, helped vault him up this list as his entertaining exchanges with the should-be MLB hall of famer made for memorable encounters.
Rose willingly took tombstone piledrivers from Kane in his first two WrestleMania appearances, the second of which saw him disguised as the San Diego Chicken.
In his third WrestleMania appearance at WrestleMania 2000, Rose would once attempt to outsmart Kane by hitting the ring with a baseball bat whilst Kane was distracted with a San Diego Chicken mascot who he thought was Rose.
MLB's all-time hit king was choke slammed for his troubles and subsequently given a stinkface by Rikishi. And they say betting on baseball ruined his legacy.
17. Howard Finkel
Howard Finkel is the only WWE employee who has appeared at every WrestleMania event, and is credited with naming the event.
Despite Jim Ross' sustained brilliance at this card on a year-to-year basis, the Hall of Fame WWE ring announcer can be more accurately regarded as the voice of WrestleMania.
16. Chris Benoit
The late Chris Benoit competed in a handful of spectacular matches in his premature WrestleMania career. Among them, a technical clinic opposite Kurt Angle at WrestleMania X-Seven in Houston, an incredible triple threat match against Jericho and Angle at WrestleMania 2000 in Anaheim, and a Triple Threat Match against Shawn Michaels and Triple H at WrestleMania XX that saw Benoit capture his first WWE Championship.
Edge has made his hay in WrestleMania competing in ladder matches, including competing in Money in the Banks I & III, stealing the show with a tremendous triple threat tag-team ladder match at WrestleMania 2000, and contributing to perhaps the greatest WrestleMania of all time with his involvement in TLC II at WrestleMania X-Seven.
All three contest saw death-defying spots both performed and taken by Edge with Edge victorious in three of the four aforementioned ladder matches.
14. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper was just as valuable on the stick as he was in the ring, as Pipers' memorable WrestleMania moments include both talking and wrestling.
Piper's fire extinguisher scene with Robert Downy Sr. at WrestleMania V was one of the most memorable moments in WrestleMania history, and Piper had the distinct honor of headlining WrestleMania I. Piper also competed in a high profile boxing match against Mr. T, where Mr. T would be victorious via disqualification.
Piper also competed in one of the more under-appreciated WrestleMania matches in history opposite Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania VIII.
13. Bobby "the Brain" Heenan
Bobby Heenan was a staple of WrestleMania for the first decade of its existence. Like the Immortal Hulk Hogan, Heenan appeared at the first nine WrestleManias, and always found a way to seize the spotlight.
The legendary manager is lucky that win-loss records do not count for much weight in this list's criteria, as the wrestlers he managed at WrestleMania usually lost.
12. Ric Flair
Ric Flair's legacy will always be emblazoned with NWA heritage, however Flair submitted quite a few strong WrestleMania performances while employed with WWE.
During his first run, Flair battled the Macho Man Randy Savage in a tremendous duel for the WWF Championship in a match that should have been the main event of WrestleMania VIII in the Hoosier Dome.
Upon his WWE return, Flair would compete at WrestleMania X8 in a spectacular match against the Undertaker that saw a build, of the American Badass carnation of the Undertaker playing the bully, that suggested doom for Taker's feud.
Flair's final WrestleMania match was supposed to be the final match of his career as he went one-on-one with one of his biggest admirers, in Shawn Michaels, that brought out the best in the Flair at WrestleMania XXIV.
11. Vince McMahon
Always the consummate villain in each of his WrestleMania matches, Vince McMahon not only does a great job drawing heat as a maniacal heel, but the 60+ year old has also overachieved in his in ring WrestleMania career.
Despite being 0-4 at WrestleMania, McMahon's WrestleMania career is defined by competitive, emotional matches with some of the greatest wrestlers in history from Hulk Hogan, to Bret Hart, to a match of the year candidate with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXII.
10. Jim Ross
One of the keys to a great WrestleMania match is impeccable timing and delivery on commentary. Jim Ross has delivered some of the greatest commentary in WrestleMania history while calling a litany of high profile matches.
Ross' commentary has gone a long way in taking good matches and infusing the right amount of emotion and passion in them to make them great. Few WrestleMania performers are more important or valuable than Ross.
9. Kurt Angle
When he's not getting arrested for alcohol-related incidents, Kurt Angle is a damn good athlete and seemed to save his best stuff for WrestleMania.
Angle's legendary career has seen him work WrestleMania matches with Chris Benoit, Brock Lesnar, an instant classic against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXI in Los Angeles.
8. Randy Savage
The Macho Man helped build WrestleMania into what it is today, and remains as single most deserving WWE Superstar of a Hall of Fame bid.
Savage headlined WrestleMania IV opposite Hulk Hogan, and had a standout match with Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII.
However, Savage's most famous match at WrestleMania, a match that has stood the test of time as the greatest Intercontinental title match in event history, was against Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat at WrestleMania III.
7. Bret Hart
Despite rarely getting to properly headline WrestleMania, Bret Hart remained professional and always gave a spectacular effort.
Hart's match with his brother Owen at WrestleMania X is still widely regarded as the greatest opening match in WrestleMania history.
Hart's 60 minute iron match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII and his Submission match against Steve Austin stand on their own merits, and one has to wonder how far up this list Hart could still climb had he taken a paycut to remain with WWE in the late '90s.
6. John Cena
John Cena has competed in a championship match at every WrestleMania he's worked with, all but one of those matches (eight in total come WrestleMania XXVII) being for a world championship.
That's something not even Hulk Hogan can lay claim to, and when it's all said and done, Cena may go down as the most decorated Superstar in Mania history.
5. The Rock
The Rock exchanged fierce battles with Stone Cold Steve Austin in WrestleManias XV, XVII, and XIX. Rock also competed in a monumental matchup against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 in perhaps greatest WrestleMania match in terms of fan involvement.
With Rock leaving the door open for a return to the ring, and with the People's Champion set to host WrestleMania XXVII, the Rock may still be able to add to his WrestleMania legacy.
It's worth mentioning that WrestleMania XXVIII is in Miami, Florida: birthplace of the Great One.
4. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Steve Austin carried the WWE into its second, and most potent, boom period during the mid to late '90s.
Austin's rise to super stardom was bolstered by a handful of strong WrestleMania showings at WrestleMania 13 against Bret Hart, WrestleMania XIV against Shawn Michaels where he captured the WWE Championship for the first time, and three outstanding WrestleMania matches opposite the Rock (XV, X-Seven, XIX).
3. The Undertaker
The Undertaker owns the single most important record in WrestleMania history, if not the history of Sports and Entertainment. Going 18-0 at WrestleMania, the Undertaker adds prestige and an enhanced attraction to an already marketable card each year.
The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania match, against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXV, is widely regarded as the greatest WWE match of all time.
2. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was the main drawing card for the first nine WrestleManias, and without his likeness the event (and WWE) would have very likely flopped.
Hogan is to WrestleMania what Joe Montana is to Super Bowls, as Hulkamania nostalgia rises from the ashes to run wild during this special time of year for wrestling fans.
Despite being criticized for not being a traditional ring technician, Hulk Hogan managed to step up and give more than serviceable performances in big matches throughout most of his WrestleMania career.
Hogan's illustrious career in WWE's biggest showcase of the year is defined by Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III.
1. Shawn Michaels
One cannot earn the nickname of "Mr. WrestleMania" without being No. 1 on a list of the greatest WrestleMania performers.
Each year he was featured at WrestleMania, Shawn Micheals found new and innovative ways to reinvent himself and raise the bar for the WrestleMania brand.
No matter where he was placed on a WrestleMania card, Shawn Michaels always found a way to make his match the center of attention with both show stopping and show stealing performances.
Michaels is one of a select few crop of Superstars who has multiple WrestleMania moments that compete with one another as some of the all time great.
From his ladder match with Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X to his hotly anticipated WrestleMania XXV match with the Undertaker that lived well past, Shawn Michaels has earned every letter of his Mr. Wrestlemania moniker.
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