2/29/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
All wrestling fans have their favorite Wrestlemania matches, stars, and moments, but what about Wrestlemanias as a whole? Even for the very best Wrestlemania shows, it’s easy to forget details about the lower card matches, celebrity appearances, or production elements. To compare Wrestlemanias on a 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 an 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 location, 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?
Over a three part series, I will count down from the worst Wrestlemania to the best. Some of the results might surprise you.
- Wrestlemania XI
On the heels of a good Wrestlemania X, almost everything about the following show failed. April, 1995 was a low point for WWE. Several of the company’s legends had deserted for bigger money in WCW and several other stars were about to join them. This event featured the most forgettable main event in Wrestlemania history- Bam Bam Bigelow against Lawrence Taylor. It’s one thing for celebrities to be involved in Wrestlemania storylines. I’m skeptical of whether it ever makes sense for celebrities to wrestle. I’m certain that it’s always a bad idea for them to wrestle in the main event. To make matters worse, MLB umpire Larry Young pointlessly refereed a horrendous Unddertaker-King Kong Bundy match. Shawn Michaels did his best to carry Diesel in their WWE Title undercard match. Even the site, the Hartford Civic Center, was not memorable in any way.
- Wrestlemania IX
Although I have a soft spot in my heart for the first outdoor Wrestlemania from outside of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, almost everything else about the show was miserable. Bret Hart lost the main event title match to Yokozuna after Mr. Fuji threw salt in his eyes. Hulk Hogan ran out and beat Yokozuna in an impromptu match that lasted less than a minute. It was the last gasp of Hulkamania’s invincibility in WWE and it did not work. The best match on the card was probably the inconsequential tag bout between the Steiner Brothers and the Headshrinkers. Looking at the whole card, it’s shocking how many bad matches WWE squeezed onto one Wrestlemania. On the positive side, Jim Ross made his WWE and Wresltemania debut here.
- Wrestlemania VII
You might notice that several of the worst Wrestlemanias took place in a concentrated time frame from the late ’80s to early ’90s. It’s not a coincidence, since that era was a nadir for WWE in many ways. WCW had some of their best years around Ric Flair, Vader, Sting, and several young stars who would go on to great success in WWE. Meanwhile, WWE was stuck in the dying gasps of Hulkamania. Wrestlemania VII was a great example; Ultimate Warrior’s uneven main event run led to Hogan reentering the main event against Sergeant Slaughter. On the positive side, Undertaker made his Wrestlemania debut and Warrior had one of his best matches ever against Randy Savage. Those positives do not make up for the abominable blindfold match between Jake Roberts and Rick Martel or the rest of the lackluster card. Jesse Ventura’s absence and the relocation from the LA Coliseum to the LA Sports Arena were also negatives.
- Wrestlemania II
While the concept of holding Wrestlemania at three sites sounds fun, it failed in multiple ways. It led to fans seeing substandard main events at two of the sites (imagine buying a Wrestlemania ticket and having the Roddy Piper-Mr. T boxing match as your main event). It also caused mediocre production at the three sites, like Lee Marshall on commentary for the main event. King Kong Bundy was a poor main event challenger and numerous Hall of Famers faced uninspiring opposition.
- Wrestlemania VIII
Another poor Wrestlemania main evented by a stale Hulk Hogan, this time against Sid. This one slots in ahead of several others due to excellent Randy Savage-Ric Flair and Bret Hart-Roddy Piper matches. It was one of the few Wrestlemanias to pair the legendary Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan together. Rumor has it that the original plan was for this event to pit Flair against Hogan with both still reasonably close to their primes. It’s a shame we never got that PPV matchup.
- Wrestlemania XXII
The worst relatively recent Wrestlemania had several elements that almost worked, but very few that fulfilled their potential. John Cena and HHH did not live up to the star power involved. Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, and Kurt Angle could have a great match in their sleep, but this one was missing something. Even Shawn Michaels, in the midst of an historical run of great Wrestlemania matches, had to wrestle Vince McMahon.
- Wrestlemania XII
Everybody knows that the best thing about Wrestlemania XII was the Hart-Michaels Ironman Match. It’s hard to come up with a second best part. Ultimate Warrior squashed HHH as punishment for his Kliq MSG sendoff. Steve Austin made his first Wrestlemania appearance against Savio Vega. The Goldust-Piper Hollywood Backlot Brawl was creative and memorable, but was it good? Even the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim felt like a forgettable host site.
- Wrestlemania XIII
Much like its predecessor, Wrestlemania XIII has one memorable match and a lot of filler. The I Quit match between Austin and Hart is my favorite match in the history of Wrestlemania. On the other hand Sid faced the Undertaker in an aggressively bad main event. WWE was on the verge of a major creative turnaround, but it had yet to hit its stride at this point.
- Wrestlemania I
The historical impact of the first Wrestlemania earned one of only two perfect 10 scores in this entire ranking. It would be easy to say that the rest of the event was bad, but that sells short the heat in the main event. Hogan and Mr. T against Piper and Paul Orndorff would not work today. At the time, though, Hogan and Mr. T were enormously popular and the fantastic reaction from the MSG crowd serves as a reminder that this event was a big deal.
- Wrestlemania IV
When I started this project, I thought Wrestlemania IV would rank much higher by virtue of its fun tournament. Instead, the show tried to do too much and ended up missing a great opportunity. I’ve never been a big fan of Hogan’s unnecessary involvement in the Savage-Ted Dibiase title match final. There were also so many unclean endings that more than half of the four-hour show felt like a waste.
- Wrestlemania XXVII
Sometime around Wrestlemania XXIV, it felt like WWE figured out the formula to ensure that Wrestlemania would be very good every year- a decked out stadium, some crazy theatrics in the undercard, and star power in the main event that would deliver memorable matches. Unfortunately, Wrestlemania XXVII missed on the main events. The Miz-Cena with The Rock involved was obviously a set-up to a Cena-Rock rivalry, which is a waste of the biggest show of the year. HHH and Undertaker had a solid match that did not live up to the Shawn Michaels-Undertaker pair of matches. The Corre, Snooki, and Michael Cole in matches did not help.
Thanks for reading Part One of this three part series. What are your Wrestlemania rankings? Comment below to weigh in.
Check back next week for Part Two or follow us on Twitter @WrestleRosters for updates on this series.