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 every 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’s event, to be held at the Silver-uh,er, SUPERDOME in New Orleans, Louisiana on April 2, FightBoothPW. Com resident historian, Frank Anguiano, sought to 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.
This is where things start to get really good. The shows that followed are ones that had a lot of quality matches, told great stories, and conjured up the kinds of feeling from fans that said “this show is special.” As this edition of WrestleMania sits two nights at the past, it is now out of the question that it could be somewhere in this range next year. The next year will determine just how come to see WrestleMania 34.
But here are some of the good ones.
12) WrestleMania XXVI — March 28, 2010 — University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona) Attendance: 72,219
The last of the era of great WrestleManias, XXVI came from a beautiful stadium, had beautifully built card and showcased a tremendous roster. The top three main events, Taker beating Shawn in a retirement match, Y2J retaining versus Edge, and Cena beating Batista for the WWE Title were all very good to great. And while Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon was what it was, the video that set it up was one of the best WWE has ever produced, and knowing Bret was back in the company after so many years just made you feel good. The Money in The Bank match at this edition was also pretty damn insane.
But at the same time, this show lacked that real breakout match that a truly great WrestleMania needs, and also had a real stinker of a ten Women tag (damn we have come a long way since then). This is a really good show but falls just short of all time great.
11) WrestleMania 31 — March 29, 2015 — Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, California). Attendance: 76,976
This show’s reputation has grown as time has gone on and time and circumstance may push this show into the top ten someday. This is show that started hot with an incredible ladder match and stayed pretty hot the whole damn way. From the Sting-Triple H match that we never thought we’d see with the cool DX vs the NWO spot, to the incredibly cool segment featuring Triple H, Stephanie, The Rock, and Ronda Rousey, at the height of her UFC run, this show had a little bit about everything.
A few things hold this show back a little bit. One, is the fact that this show took place on the West Coast in the daylight hurt a lot of the special effects and pageantry of the show, and Two the buildup to the show was freaking awful. They also missed the chance to make an incredible star in Damien Sandow this night, which can piss you off to this day. And we did have to endure Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns for the title for ten to fifteen minutes (although we got the birth of Suplex City, Bitch), but then Seth Rollins, who had already put on a MVP performance early that night against Randy Orton, saved the day with his golden briefcase. Where’s Seth when we needed him!
10) WrestleMania III — March 24, 1987 — Pontiac Silverdome (Pontiac, Michigan) Attendance: 93,173
Thirty years later, this show is still completely watchable, a testament to the booking and incredible roster back in the day, and while this show is a little long (actually, not really), from top to bottom, the action was solid, hard-hitting, and the stories told in this era were never better than they were this night. Of course, this was the night we got the match between Ricky Steamboat versus Randy Savage, which set the standard for show stealing matches at WrestleMania for years to come. We also got the main event between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, which while no technical classic, was one of the best built and best told main event stories in WrestleMania history.
But this show will always remain high on the list because this showed us what WrestleMania could be. The potential of the wrestling supershow, which had been coming to critical pass for the past seven years, was finally realized to its hilt and more than any show, established the modern WWE. For historical importance alone, you can argue to this day that no show can touch it.
9) WrestleMania XIV — March 29, 1998 — FleetCenter (Boston, Massachusetts) Attendance: 19,028
The WWF had fallen on it’s ass in the summer of 1992, rocked by scandals, failures, and the passing of time. The mid 90s were rough years, especially for WrestleMania, but the company had slowly been on the comeback trail since WrestleMania 12 and was ready to turn the corner. They proved on this night with an excellent show, the best WrestleMania the company had put out in over ten years. In an era where the product the ring didn’t always reflect the talent in the ring and quality of the stories, this show was good all around-in ring, storytelling, and even a little bit of pageantry-something WrestleMania had almost totally lost.
The only thing that holds this show back is the lack of a breakout match, and while the main event is really solid, Shawn Michaels back injury turned what normally been a five-star match into a three star match. But really, everything about this show was pretty damn enjoyable. It’s not what WrestleMania would become in the next six to eight years, but it so damn great wrestling.
The Austin Era Has Begun!
8) WrestleMania XXIV — March 30, 2008 — Florida Citrus Bowl (Orlando, Florida) Attendance: 74,635
Oh the emotions! Maybe no WrestleMania conjures up the kinds of emotions that this one, from the thrills of the Money in the Bank (which may be the best at any WM), to the mixed feelings of Big Show vs Money Mayweather, to the crying all over the place for Ric Flair’s last match against Shawn Michaels, which may legitimately be the most emotional match in WWE History. This one made you feel!
But as much really good stuff is one the card, there are a few stinkers here, including one of those are Playboy Women’s Matches that just make you hurt nowadays, and the whole story around the Raw World title match…just didn’t make any sense. Why would John Cena win the Royal Rumble and take a match at No Way Out, only for there to be a three-way at WrestleMania. How is it for all the matches Randy Orton and John Cena had, they just didn’t have a one on one match here? This has bothered me for years. Can’t you tell?
7) WrestleMania 23 — April 1, 2007 — Ford Field (Detroit, Michigan) Attendance: 80,103
For a long time this was the most successful WWE show ever financially, and it’s easy to see why, with the ingenious Battle of the Billionaires Storyline, that for gaga and pageantry, you really can’t get any better. This is the show that produced a thousand gifs, and the image of “The President” taking a Stone Cold Stunner is something that gives plenty of people of pleasure these days.
And hell, there’s very little not to like the show. The Money in the Bank that started the show was amazing, Chris Benoit and MVP tore it up in the middle of the card, and Shawn Michaels and John Cena had one of the more underrated WrestleMania main events ever, and The Undertaker and Batista weren’t too far behind. There are few real stinkers on this card though, which is the only thing that keeps in from the rarefied air. But top to bottom, this show was pretty great.
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