It’s that time of year again – the time when wrestling fans feel that something special in the air as we approach WrestleMania. Over the past 30 years, Mania has been home to some of the biggest and best matches and some of the most unforgettable moments in wrestling history. Every performer seeks to leave their mark on the grandest stage of them all. However, much like any other prestigious event, there are always debates over which shows stand the test of time and deserve to be considered the best of the best. With that in mind, we felt it might be appropriate this year, with 30 WrestleManias now in the books, to take a look back and determine which shows truly are the greatest in WrestleMania history.
So, we assembled an all-star panel of Place To Be Nation writers and personalities to weigh in. Each participant submitted a list of all 30 WrestleManias, ranked 1 through 30. The list of 10 voters includes Nick Duke, JT Rozzero, Greg Phillips, Todd Weber, Jordan Duncan, Glenn Butler, Jason Greenhouse, Aaron George, Tim Capel and Matt Davis. A points system was utilized, awarding each show 30 points for a first place vote, 29 points for a second place vote, and so on. Once the points were totaled, we came up with Place to Be Nation’s definitive WrestleMania rankings.
10. WrestleMania VI (201 points)
Lowest ranked by Greg Phillips at No. 21
Highest ranked by Glenn Butler at No. 2
Glenn Butler: It begins in the stars, as we are all made from starstuff. As our view scans the celestial realm, we see the Scorpion, the Pegasus, the Hulkster, and the Warrior. Scorpio is controlled by Mars, the god of war, making it an obvious analogue for the Ultimate Warrior; Hulk Hogan must then be represented by Pegasus, bringer of lightning from Olympus on high and master of the twenty-four-inch pythons. Fair enough; Hogan has already disposed of Zeus by this point.
Just as star systems, over time, collide with each other as they orbit the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the superstars of the World Wrestling Federation collide as they all seek the nearest orbit to the World Title. Gravity draws them in slowly, inexorably, just as the collision course for The Hulkster and the Warrior was set far in advance. By 1990 Hulkamania had been the reigning force in the WWF for six years, and in his promo in the middle of WrestleMania VI the Warrior speaks of some rumblings of concern: there are those who question where Hulk is taking them, and whether he still wants to step into the darkness that awaits anyone holding the WWF Title in the form of continual challengers, the powerful and the brutal and the psychological among them. The Warrior comes not to destroy the Hulkamaniacs and Hulkamania, but to bring them together with the Warriors to confront the dire challenges of the darkness that awaits us all. Warrior has confronted a version of this darkness as Intercontinental Champion, but his star is on the rise. It’s a true babyface-versus-babyface matchup, the first such main event in WrestleMania history and one of very few put on by the WWF in this time period, so of course the focus has to be on the championship itself and on each man as a mythic force in opposition to the dark ones either one would face as champion.
Even moreso than the story leading into it, the match itself is a classic. Both Hulk and the Warrior are showcased excellently, and the match is structured perfectly to keep them both heroes, an amazing feat considering how many people have become top-level heels only because they presumed to challenge Hulk Hogan. Ultimately, Hogan’s torch is passed to the Warrior to hold for the next generation of fans, and despite the fact that that didn’t work out and Hogan would be needed to resume his role at the top of the promotion, with this one match, on this one night, with Jesse Ventura finally admitting that Hulkamania will live forever, the future seems bright.
On the undercard, WrestleMania VI is in transition between the era when most of the matches were thrown together to showcase a few people and get everyone else on the card to an era in which WrestleMania itself carries so much prominence as a showcase that every match has a specific feud invested in it. A few big moments come early in the show when Andre the Giant and Haku lose the tag titles to Demolition in a match in which Andre’s mere presence made the Demolition underdogs despite the dominance they’d showed in previous years. The crowd is incredibly hot for both the title win and Andre’s face turn following the match; if Demolition was put over that much more by Andre’s presence, Andre was put over that much more by Bobby Heenan’s bumping and his later promo, letting the Giant leave his final WrestleMania match a hero. Later, Mr. Perfect slips on a banana peel and falls to Brutus the Barber Beefcake, the man whose name is three nicknames; struts are administered to Perfect, and cuts are administered to The Genius. Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire have a fun match with Randy Savage & Sherri, taking full advantage of everything Sherri brings to the table as a manager and a partner in the face of Rhodes’ populism. Some of the other parts of the show don’t stand out as much — and Roddy Piper’s half-blackface stands out quite uncomfortably — but the highlights carry it to places it shall never have been.
And how is your sister tonight?
9. WrestleMania 21 (203 points)
Lowest ranked by Nick Duke at No. 16
Highest ranked by Matt Davis at No. 2
Aaron George: It’s amazing to me that after watching the promo commercials for WrestleMania 21, they decided to run with John Cena the actor. His Denzelish delivery in the courtroom proved if nothing else that he should be kept as far away from movie cameras as humanly possible. Christ when screaming JBL out acts you, there should be something that goes off in your brain that tells you “maybe fake fighting is more for me. If I may be so bold, I would state for the record that the “A Few Good Men” promo was far and away the worst, when it came to hyping WrestleMania going Hollywood. It lacked the charm of the Booker T and Eddie Guerrero “Royale With Cheese” bit, the intensity of the Dave Batista stare-off. Hell it even lacked the over the top ego-mania on display in the Triple H vignette. The man thinks he’s William Wallace! Let that sink in… The man who played Conan The Barbarian at WrestleMania 22 and Skull King 2000 at Wrestlemania XXX began by humbly pretending to be Mel Gibson!!! I bet they filmed the Ric Flair stuff with a body double after HHH left the set. No way Hunter allows the Nature Boy to blemish his bad assery in any way. All that to say, we should have seen the warning signs: John Cena is not Denzel Washington, try as he might. Kudos to the Undertaker, Kurt Angle and the love of my life Christy Hemme for having a good sense of humor about the whole thing. I would only give 5 stars to Hemme and Angle, but that might be me just being a workrate nut. Now I’m sure you’re asking yourself “why has this asshole/idiot/migraine sufferer spent so much time talking about the damn commercials?” It’s a valid question that deserves an answer.
WrestleMania 21 is an eight match show. I think it’s safe to say that after match number five most of us are thinking this could be the greatest WrestleMania of all time. The night started off with an underwhelming, albeit very good contest between longtime rivals Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero. Unfortunately, Guerrero and Mysterio never expected that at the exact same time Rey Mysterio was having another match, this time with his mask, that would completely upstage them at the Granddaddy of them all. I’ll bet Mysterio never regretted any wardrobe choice more than picking the ensemble that turned a surefire classic into a decent opener.
The Money In The Bank ladder match is a staple of WWE programming to this day, and it all began here. It’s still easily one of the better iterations of the MITB concept , which is a tremendous accomplishment considering Kane is in the match. Come to think of it this is probably Kane’s best WrestleMania match. Poor Chris Benoit’s arm was beaten into a million pieces to sell the story that Edge was the most diabolical man in wrestling who would stop at nothing to win the title. I’d wager a lot of money that that’s the first time anyone has referred to Chris Benoit as “poor” since 2007. Shelton Benjamin also had a star-making appearance in the match that was promptly ignored.
Hulk Hogan saved a mentally challenged man from a terrorist. See? That’s a movie! The crowd lost their collective shit here, and I can’t say I blame them. The sight of Hogan pummeling any foreigner always brings a tear to my jingoistic eye. He truly is a Real American. It was also a treat to hear that song again.
The Undertaker versus Randy Orton gave us one of the first times where someone was out to end the streak. This concept would go on to make a metric ton of money for Vince and company. Orton was game and gave, in my opinion, Taker his best WrestleMania match to date. The RKO out of the choke slam was a thing of beauty, and was one of many times we believed the Dead Man was about to fall to the Legend Killer. Poor Bob Orton even showed up with his arm STILL IN THE CAST. I feel way more comfortable referring to Bob Orton as “Poor” as he only has hepatitis.
Christy Hemme is a goddess. If you say anything bad about her, I will follow you home and burn your family to the ground.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Angle vs. Michaels? They took the two best workers in the promotion and let them have a great match. What a crazy idea. Such a crazy idea that they rarely do it anymore. I get the criticism of Michaels being in the ankle lock for an actual eternity, but in the end the collective catharsis of him tapping made the movie theatre where I was watching this explode with joy. I love this match and it’s something I’d gladly show new fans to help them get more into wrestling.
Wow! Pretty great show so far. Quite the all-timer. So what happened? Why isn’t this one the greatest WrestleMania of all time? Is it because a fat Big Show (who my auto correct insisted in calling BI Show) wrestled a celebrity no one cared about in a sumo match? Yes. That’s part one. Is it because John Cena was crowned WWE champion? No, it was the fact that he an JBL would have the most non-descript title match in WrestleMania history. I mean how do you set up the guy who’s destined to be your top draw for the next ten years with this match? Nothing happens. Nothing. You can’t say it’s their fault, they had a killer “I quit” match a couple of months later that FINALLY legitimized John Cena’s title win. So that’s part two. What’s part three?
Batista should have been a bigger deal. In the months preceding WrestleMania the reactions he was getting were on par with any wrestler the company had seen pass through their doors. I distinctly recall going to see a RAW taping and the crowd chanting Batista ALL NIGHT. For an hour before the show to during the show, to as everyone was filing out into the cold it was all Batista. Of course poor Batista, (and this time I know I’m using “poor” in the right context) was given the death knell to any wrestling character: a feud with HHH. The main event of Wrestlemania 21 is a shining example of ego trumping proper storytelling. This should have been as close to a squash as a Wrestlemania main event would allow. Batista should have beaten and bloodied Triple H from pillar to post to the delight of the entire planet. Instead we got a somewhat plodding main event that would become a staple of HHH WrestleMania matches from here until Daniel Bryan.
It’s a shame. Had the two top matches delivered, we would have forgiven Big Show in a sumo suit and rightfully would have placed 21 in the pantheon of greatest WrestleManias of all time. That being said you can’t discount the historical value of this one either. Bad main events aside it still “launches” the top level runs of Batista and John Cena who would headline for the next decade. Money in the Bank is born here and the Streak is strengthened to the point that it becomes a focal point of every Mania from here on out. There’s also great joy to be found here. Hogan saving Eugene popped EVERYONE, as did Angle tapping Michaels out in a classic. They also took the first major step in legitimizing their Hall of Fame by inducting the aforementioned Hulkster along with all his friends from the 80’s. WrestleMania 21 is an easy show to throw on for a fun afternoon. It’s unfortunately all too easy to shut it off after the Michaels/Angle match.
8. WrestleMania VII (218 points)
Lowest ranked by Matt Davis at No. 20
Highest ranked by Jordan Duncan and JT Rozzero at No. 3
Jordan Duncan: Wrestling fans love to rank things. We rank our favorite wrestlers, our favorite matches, and right now, our favorite WrestleManias. What you don’t see a whole lot is ranking the greatest wrestling MOMENTS. And I think I know why.
Because there would be a unanimous #1 across the board, no matter how many people voted.
The greatest moment in professional wrestling history took place at WrestleMania 7, and it was when a battered, broken, newly retired Randy Savage saw the error of his ways and reunited with his true love, Miss Elizabeth. It was the perfect storm of awesome-two of the biggest stars in wrestling history, on the biggest stage, had an absolutely incredible match. If it had ended there, with Warrior walking out triumphantly, it would still be great.
But it didn’t.
You probably know what happened, but just in case, here’s what went down: Sherri hits the ring, furious with Savage. She lets him have it, even getting physical. The man we just spent 20 minutes rooting to take a beating is suddenly sympathetic. And then, Elizabeth hits the ring. She dispenses of Sherri, Savage stares her down, and they finally HUG IT OUT, 22 years before Daniel Bryan made it cool!
The great thing about WrestleMania 7? Even without this match and moment, it’s a good show. The Rockers have a heck of a tag match to start the show, The Undertaker’s streak begins and Jake Roberts and Rick Martel have one of the most memorable gimmick matches of all time.
WrestleMania 7 is just a lot of FUN, and that’s what wrestling is supposed to be! It shouldn’t infuriate, it shouldn’t annoy, it shouldn’t make you question why you watch. It should be fun, and that’s what this show is.
On the night of WrestleMania 7, most of us went into the show as fans of the Ultimate Warrior, wanting to see the Macho King put out of his misery. By the end of the night, we were still Warrior fans, but we had once again found a hero in Randy Savage. We believed in love again, thanks to Elizabeth rescuing him. We believed that chivalry was not dead, as Randy held the ropes for Liz, one of the greatest character moments ever. Yes, on the night of WrestleMania 7, Randy Savage gave us hope, joy and reason to celebrate.
On that night, we were ALL that weirdo wearing that giant yellow hat….or was it a turban?
Oh yeah, Hogan-Slaughter was pretty awesome too.
7. WrestleMania X (221 points)
Lowest ranked by Glenn Butler at No. 26
Highest ranked by Tim Capel and Jason Greenhouse at No. 4
Jason Greenhouse:This is the first Mania to feature TWO five star matches. Bret vs Owen is still arguably the greatest opening match in WrestleMania history. The ladder match between Shawn and Razor was a first of its kind on a grand stage and after 21 years, it still holds up.
The company officially pulled the plug on Lex Luger being “their guy”, but it was the right decision. They had more faith in Bret than Lex to carry the them as the face of the New Generation.
Sure the mid-card had its fair share of fluff, but in the end, the good out weighs the bad. Randy Savage had his final Mania match with a win in his blow-off match with Crush. This is a forgotten feud from that era that deserves more praise than it gets.
A decent enough tag title match between one of the most underrated tag teams of all time, the Quebecers, as they faced Men on a Mission. Jacques and Pierre did what they could against MOM.
The Women’s title match and the mixed tag-team match served their purpose. As did Earthquake squashing Adam Bomb. How can’t anyone like Earthquake?
Overall, a phenomenal night at MSG. From Little Richard and the Harlem Boys Choir performing one of the best renditions of America the Beautiful to Bret Hart regaining the heavyweight title, a lot of love for this show.
6. WrestleMania VIII (224 points)
Lowest ranked by Matt Davis at No. 21
Highest ranked by Aaron George at No. 2
Aaron George: Here comes my bias: this was the first WrestleMania I ever got to watch live. I was also in love with Ric Flair, but torn because Randy Savage was (and still is) my favorite wrestler of all time. And… I loved Sid… I always have… I always will…
And you know what? I’m right to love Sid! He’s friggin awesome. When he waltzes down the aisle (to the beat of his scary music I may add) he looks like he’s going to murder Hulk Hogan. Little did we know he was in league with a living skeleton and would eventually herald the return of The Ultimate Warrior. I’ll argue that the entire package of Hogan/Sid was totally worthy of a WrestleMania main event. I’m even a mark for Sid’s pre-match promo where he screams at Gene the “Bald headed little oaf,” and curses Hulk Hogan. Holy shit, I just put it together… he curses Hulk Hogan and he’s in league with the voodoo guy!!!! This is a true to life revelation I’m having right now and if you were sitting next to me you’d see the joy and innocence of a child beaming from my eyes.
Michaels wins a big one, Jake dies and Bret Hart manages to convinces Roddy Piper that he won’t combust if he takes a pinfall. The second half is a bit dreary, with Tatanka, Martel, Earthquake, Typhoon, Dibiase and IRS stinking up the joint to various degrees. It’s all forgiven though.
It’s all forgiven because we’re given, what I feel, is the most underrated title match in WrestleMania history, Ric Flair defending against Randy Savage. Any Savage WrestleMania match is generally pretty good, but when you give him an adultery storyline to snap into you’re going to have a classic on your hands. No one did emotional matches like Savage. He beats and bloodies Ric Flair from pillar to post while Ric and Perfect cheat as though their very lives were depending on it. We bite on every near fall and we worry that Savage can’t pull it off as Flair destroys his knee. The crowd is rabid. RABID for the entirety of this war and I can’t say I blame them. When Savage finally rolls up (with the tights!!!) Flair for the win and the title the roar is deafening. It’s a wonderful match enhanced by the brilliance of the performers. An absolute classic.
There’s no way someone can tell me this isn’t a great show. Sure it has some warts, but the good more than outweighs the bad. I can throw it in any day and be taken back to my youth where wrestling was fun and no matches ended on finishers. Also Bobby Heenan probably needed to be hospitalized by the end of the night. He didn’t stop.
That does it for the fifth installment of P2B’s Definitive WrestleMania Rankings. Check back tomorrow for Nos. 5-1!