3/16/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
What better day than 3/16 to finish ranking every Wrestlemania ever? As a reminder, the project breaks down like this:
To compare Wrestlemanias on a more level playing field, I ranked each Wrestlemania from 1-10 in the following five categories to give a composite score to rank the events.
Matches– How good were the best matches? All-time great matches or unusually high number of very good matches are ways to earn additional points.
Storylines- Includes quality of the storylines building up to the event and coming out of it. Main event storylines get most weight.
Production- Factors include the site, announce team, special guests, set, entrances, and other non-wrestling elements.
Filler- How bad were the worst parts of the show? Can include both wrestling and non-wrestling elements.
History – Outside of the importance within the wrestling narratives, how much impact did the show have on the history of the company or the business?
Without further ado, here is the top 10.
- Wrestlemania XXIV
The Citrus Bowl started the fun trend of outdoor stadium shows that has repeated almost every year for the last decade. Edge gave Undertaker one of his best pre-Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania matches. Meanwhile, Michaels provided one of the most touching moments in the history of the event when he beat Ric Flair to send him to retirement. Floyd Mayweather was one of the most famous celebrities to ever participate at Wrestlemania at the peak of his fame. A so-so match between Randy Orton, HHH, and John Cena was not enough to overwhelm these positives.
- Wrestlemania XXVI
Another strong setting, this time just outside of Phoenix, hosted an underrated Wrestlemania. The second Undertaker-Michaels match saw HBK retire in grand fashion. Both title matches also delivered- Cena-Batista was better than expected and Chris Jericho gave Edge a great match. Bret Hart’s return against Vince McMahon was more sentimental than classic, but both the Legacy triple threat and Rey Mysterio-CM Punk matches meant that there was very little filler on the card.
- Wrestlemania XV
This event and the next one are similar in that they are remembered for high quality main events between era-defining stars at the peak of their popularity. Steve Austin and The Rock definitely delivered in this classic main event, but the rest of the card was not as strong as the event that follows. Mankind beat Big Show, though they had a better match the next month at Backlash. Undertaker had one of the worst moments of his career when he “hung” the Big Boss Man after their Hell in a Cell match. Butterbean’s presence for the Brawl for All was another negative mark. Still, it’s important to remember how red hot guys like Shane McMahon, Billy Gunn, Owen Hart, and the Road Dogg were at one of the best periods of business in WWE history.
- Wrestlemania V
Like Austin and Rock, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage had a great storyline that led to a great match. In fact, it was probably the best PPV main event Hogan wrestled in WWE. Unlike some of the other big events from this era, WWE stacked the undercard, as well. Andre the Giant was almost immobile, but brought his star power to a match with Jake Roberts. Rick Rude gave the Ultimate Warrior a rare loss with Bobby Heenan’s help. Mr. Perfect and Ted Dibiase had solid matches. Virtually every great tag team from the era had a match, as well: the Twin Towers, Rockers, Demolition, Powers of Pain, Brain Busters, Strike Force, and Hart Foundation all made it onto a loaded card.
- Wrestlemania XXXI
The most recent event checks in just outside of the top-5 all time. From top to bottom, there was almost nothing on the card that didn’t belong there. Many fans were skeptical of Roman Reigns in the main event against Lesnar, but he put on a good match even before Seth Rollins intervened and created a memorable finish. Rollins also wrestled an excellent singles match against Orton earlier in the show. An Intercontinental Title ladder match was a fun gimmick, and the guest appearances by The Rock and Ronda Rousey fired up the fans.
- Wrestlemania XVIII
Like many of the events in the heart of the Attitude Era, this event was full of great narratives, including the rivalry between Hulk Hogan and The Rock and the HHH-Jericho title feud. Unlike some other big events, this one filled out the card with very good matches. In addition to Rock-Hogan, Rob Van Dam vs. William Regal, Undertaker vs. Ric Flair, and Lita vs. Trish Stratus vs. Jazz were all good or better. Factoring in a fun return to the Skydome, this was a very entertaining event.
- Wrestlemania XX
We have now entered rarified air. The top four Wretlemanias stand out above everything below this point. While it’s certainly debatable, I would argue that Wrestlemania XX had the best wrestled main event matches in the show’s history- the HHH-Michaels-Chris Benoit triple threat is a classic, and the Eddie Guerrero-Kurt Angle semi-main was no slouch. The undercard had lots of fun elements, including a young Cena beating Big Show for the US Title, the “deadman” Undertaker returning against Kane, and a cool Cruiserweight Open. The Rock and Mick Foley faced Evolution to bring even more star power to the always excellent Madison Square Garden. This event could have been the all-time greatest if the Lesnar-Goldberg match delivered. Of course, we all know how that went.
- Wrestlemania XVII
The second installment of the Rock-Austin trilogy was the best wrestling match of the three, but had the worst storyline due to Austin’s ill-advised heel turn. Fortunately, the rest of the Astrodome card was stacked. TLC 2 was one of the five greatest matches in Wrestlemania history. Undertaker-HHH and Benoit-Angle were also very good. The silliness of the gimmick battle royal was a great way to use comic relief and only took a few minutes of the show. It’s probably not a coincidence that the only Wrestlemania called by Paul Heyman on commentary is considered one of the best of all time.
- Wrestlemania XXX
While it’s difficult to properly contextualize historical events in the moment, a couple of years later, it’s clear that Wrestlemania XXX was a classic. Whether the Daniel Bryan triumph was WWE’s original plan or not, the finished product could not have been much better. His opening match with HHH was a classic and his main event win over Orton and Batista perfectly bookended his long-term story. Lesnar’s win over the Undertaker left something to be desired, but the historical impact is unquestioned. The distinctive New Orleans feel of the whole weekend, the Ultimate Warrior’s Hall of Fame speech, and the Austin-Rock-Hogan promo at the top of the show were all pitch perfect for a great event.
- Wrestlemania III
From the very beginning of the show, when the great Aretha Franklin sang America the Beautiful, it was clear that Wrestlemania III was a cut above everything that came before it or would come after. The event featured one of the greatest storylines in wrestling history, in which the previously beloved Andre the Giant turned on the heroic Hulk Hogan. It also featured one of the best matches in wrestling history, in which Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat put on an intricately detailed, fast-paced classic that was far ahead of its time. Jake Roberts, Harley Race, the Junkyard Dog, Roddy Piper, the British Bulldogs, and the Hart Foundation populated the rest of the card in matches that were much better than the filler from several of the early Wrestlemanias. It’s amazing that 30 years later, WWE still hasn’t been able to match its high standard.