Muslims go to Mecca. Elvis fans flock to Graceland. And for every spring since 1985, wrestling fans have sought to make that pilgrimage to WrestleMania, that event that produces a thousand clichés and a thousand sign points. From its relatively humble beginnings at Madison Square Garden on March 24, 1985, WrestleMania has become a week-long event surrounded by any number of events from promotions around the world. It is bid on by cities, it generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and most importantly, still no event can match the moments that it produces for wrestling fans around the world.
Of course, not every WrestleMania was created equal. There are some that blow us away, and keep us talking for years and even decades, some that we would rather just forget, and those that maybe deserve a second look.
Leading up to this year event, to be held at the Silver-uh, er, SUPERDOME in New Orleans, Louisiana on April 2, FightBoothPW.com resident historian, Frank Anguiano, will go in-depth to find the good, the bad, and the hidden gems of WrestleMania, in this edition of POWER RANKINGS. Events will be judged in descending order on match quality, star power, segment quality, and pageantry.
As we get into the teens, most of the shows in this area seemed to be defined by a few characteristics-these are either the shows anchored by one incredible match support by not always good stuff or really good cards that are dragged down by certain booking decisions. These are the almost good, ones that often draw fond memories based on the one match or aren’t remembered as fondly as they should be because of the suspect booking. So let’s dig in…
19) WrestleMania 13 — March 23, 1997 — Rosemont Horizon (Rosemont, Illinois) Attendance: 18,197
Of all of the WrestleManias, this one lacked one thing more than anything else-pageantry. This was a bare bones WrestleMania held in a wrestling stronghold, and when you watch it now, it doesn’t look like WrestleMania. That counts against it. Then this show came a unique time and has such a fractured built up. One wonders what this show would have looked like if Shawn Michaels hadn’t lost his smile in February 1997. For the most part we got something that would have been a huge disappointment…
But then we got the best match in WrestleMania history.
That night, Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin had what is perhaps the greatest match in WWE history. It was a thirty-minute battle that is close to perfection, with it’s outcome setting the tone for all of wrestling for years to come. It is such a great match that enhances what is good around and cancels out what is bad around in your mind. But you get down to it, this a one match show surrounded by a bunch of mostly average stuff. But that one match…
18) WrestleMania XII — March 31, 1996 — Arrowhead Pond (Anaheim, California) Attendance: 18,853
More than any other WrestleMania, this one seems to be built around one match and history has mostly reflected that, with that one match being the excellent sixty-minute Iron Man Match pitting Shawn Michaels versus Bret Hart. This, of course, was an excellent match still holds up over twenty years later and shows just how incredible both these wrestlers were.
What gives this show a leg up is that the support here is a little bit better. Roddy Piper and Goldust tore it up in the excellent Back Lot Brawl and The Undertaker and Diesel had a pretty fun match. Otherwise, this is another one of the weak WrestleManias of the mid 1990s. But better times for the Showcase of the Immortals were right around the corner.
17) WrestleMania XXVIII — April 1, 2012 — Sun Life Stadium (Miami, Florida) Attendance: 78,363
You wanna talk about a show hurt by circumstance?
Honestly, this is a really good show with a lot of good wrestling, good segments, and solid stories. But the circumstances both during and after the show have hurt it in the eyes of many fans, and it’s hard to blame them. First, this show was colored from the beginning by the asinine decision to have Sheamus beat Daniel Bryan in just 18 seconds, which launched the Yes Movement, but pissed off the entire crowd and left them surly for the entire show. Second, the great “Once In A Lifetime” match with the tremendous year long buildup between John Cena and The Rock was totally devalued when they put the fucking match on the next year. The fact that WWE history also totally ignored the excellent “Battle of the Best in The World” between CM Punk and Chris Jericho was totally overshadowed by Rock-Cena and the famous “4/10” Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Triple H.
History has not been kind. But it’s still a fun show. Such is life.
16) WrestleMania 25th Anniversary — April 5, 2009 — Reliant Stadium (Houston, Texas) Attendance: 72,744
In terms of big, fun matches on one card, this is a hard one to beat. From CM Punk winning his second Money in the Bank, Ricky Steamboat turning back the clock for his part of the legends match with Chris Jericho, to Jeff and Matt Hardy nearly killing each other, this was a really fun card. But in history, everything on this show is eclipsed by Undertaker and Shawn Michaels having a truly incredible match, but one that WWE has put on such a platform that you feel tempted to hate it.
What isn’t hyperbole is how match this match exhausted the crowd and made the rest of the show minute. It eclipsed everything. It is legitimately hard to remember anything else on this show but Undertaker-Shawn Michaels. For that reason only, this show is probably lower than it deserve to be for me.
15) WrestleMania 10 — March 20, 1994 — Madison Square Garden (New York, New York) Attendance: 18,065
Wow! Maybe more than any other WrestleMania, the temptation is to remember this show as better than it actually is. It so easier, because we got not just one, but TWO legendary matches on this show. Both the opening match between Bret Hart and Owen Hart and the ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, the first on a major, international stage, are both legitimate two of the greatest matches in WWF History. They represent everything that we want wrestling to be and everything we love about it. That Bret goes and wins the WWF Title in the main event, after losing the opening match, and sort of kicking of the New Generation Era into overdrive once and for all, is icing on the cake.
The only problem with ranking this show higher is that the rest of the show isn’t that good. Macho Man Randy Savage is wasted in a weird Falls Count Anywhere Match with Crush, the tag team title match is longer than Hillbilly Jim’s induction speech at the Hall of Fame, and Doink and Dink are on the card. Man, the WWF in 1994…such contrasts!
14) WrestleMania X8 — March 17, 2002 — The Skydome (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) Attendance: 68,237
There was in a time in sports, which lasted from the mid-eighties to the late nineties, where the most important event in American pop culture, the Super Bowl, was plagued by an inescapable truth-it usually sucked. It was almost always a blowout, the NFC always won, and it felt like a big letdown every year. In some ways, WrestleMania was the same way from about 1988 to 1997. Then things started to cook a little bit.
But by this show in 2002, WrestleMania started to get really good. The WWF/WWE had talent out the ass and got very good at showcasing them when the lights are on bright. I am one of the very smart group of people that will tell you that the Ruthless Aggression era, which lasted from 2002 to 2008, was much better than the Attitude Era, and how WrestleMania got so much better is the crux of the argument.
That being said, X8 is also the weakest WrestleMania of the era. It has one amazing match, Hulk Hogan versus The Rock, which may be the loudest match in WrestleMania history. But with Undertaker/Ric Flair, Rob Van Dam winning the IC Title, a whole bunch of fun Hardcore Title segments, and a lot of good support stuff, this show is better than average. Of course, Hogan and Rock killed the crowd for a few matches and the booking was..iffy in some spots, but this show was pretty spectacular, and set up an incredible run of WrestleManias to come.
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