As part of an ongoing series on the Place to Be podcast, Scott Criscuolo and Justin Rozzero have been reviewing pay-per-view cards from the WWF/WWE month-by-month and putting together their all-time shows, plucking one match from each year. It’s made for some awesome shows and riveting discussion.
But have you been listening and found yourself now and again yelling “That’s not how I would have done it!” and becoming that weirdo on the train or in your office in the process? Well, we certainly have, and we’ve decided to do something about it.
Every time Scott and Justin build their all-time cards, we will do the same, offering our commentary on the PiCs’ selections as well as each other’s. Here’s the original Place to Be Podcast where Justin and Scott come up with their card.
-One match must be selected from each year
-No competitor can be used more than once unless they undergo a drastic gimmick/persona change
-The WWF/WWE, World, Intercontinental and WWF/WWE Tag Team titles must all be defended
With that out of the way, let’s get to it…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Women’s Champion Leilani Kai vs. Wendi Richter
Ben’s Pick: Tito Santana vs. The Executioner
Ben’s Take: I had the Kai/Richter match slotted here for like 20 WrestleManias until I got back into a corner on a show down the line; it’s historically significant and I would have liked to have had it, but I could justify dropping it. With a lot of other talent and titles tied up in stuff I’ll need down the line and a wealth of forgettable matches, it basically came down to Tito/Executioner or King Kong Bundy squashing SD Jones. I went with the former, because it has some cache as the first ever WrestleMania match, plus I liked the idea of including early Mania stalwart Tito on my card.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Ricky Steamboat vs. Hercules
Ben’s Pick: Ricky Steamboat vs. Hercules
Ben’s Take: Pretty easy choice here, as it was for Scott and Justin. The Tag Team title match is about the only good thing on the card, but you want to save those belts, so if you know you’re not using Steamboat elsewhere—and I did—take advantage of him here.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis in a Hair vs. Hair match
Ben’s Pick: WWF Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Ben’s Take: The very first match I picked and I don’t have anywhere near Scott’s devotion, nostalgic or otherwise, to WrestleMania III. I knew I’d have the opportunity to get plenty of work rate elsewhere on my card, hence jettisoning Steamboat/Randy Savage, but I feel like you need spectacle at WrestleMania as well, and while arguments can be made, I’ll maintain nothing had this level of importance, both in feel and history. Even with all that, it’s a tough sell because you lose Hogan early, but more than that you lose the WWF/WWE title, and a score of huge main events, before you’re even four picks in. Still, I didn’t think about it overly much; for me, any all-time WrestleMania card missing this match may come off better on the whole pragmatically, but it’s got a cavernous gap in it as well; you need the biggest match in the history of the event.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Ted DiBiase vs. Don Muraco
Ben’s Pick: The Islanders & Bobby Heenan vs. The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware
Ben’s Take: I put this in as a placeholder and ended up keeping it. Fun six man that gets more guys on the show, including Bobby Heenan in a match, which I love. Basically, once I knew I wouldn’t need Davey Boy Smith somewhere else, this seemed like a minor steal. Also, I really didn’t want to use something from the tournament, because that feels like only including one chapter from a lengthy—lengthy—book without proper context.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: The Brain Busters vs. Strike Force
Ben’s Pick: Mr. Perfect vs. The Blue Blazer
Ben’s Take: Good pick by Scott and Justin, and one I considered. Interestingly enough, though, I had my match here in place even before I lost the use of Tito Santana, so I didn’t get backed into a corner. I just wanted to have Mr. Perfect and Owen Hart on my card in some form; Brain Busters/Strike Force is the better match, but just like I felt the need to balance work rate with spectacle, it was also important to try to include as many guys who had a major role in the WWF/WWE pantheon. Just give them some representation, even if it’s not one of their greatest all-time matches. Not everybody will agree with this strategy, which I get, but I feel it’s defensible.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WWF Tag Team Champions The Colossal Connection vs. Demolition
Ben’s Pick: Million Dollar Champion Ted DiBiase vs. Jake Roberts
Ben’s Take: I know how much Justin in particular loves the Colossal Connection/Demolition match and the Andre moment, but besides already having plans for Andre, I didn’t feel like burning off my Tag title opportunity. It makes sense when there were other matches I have in mind. I went back to the well on my “need to get them on the show” philosophy as few guys personify late 80’s WWF like the “Million Dollar Man” and the “Snake.” Decent match, great characters, and hey, a Million Dollar title defense to boot.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage in a Retirement match
Ben’s Pick: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage in a Retirement match
Ben’s Take: Very easy decision. One of my all-time favorite WrestleMania matches and moments, plus you get so much value with all the after-the-bell stuff with Sherri and Elizabeth. If you’re not using Savage/Steamboat or Warrior/Hogan, it would be weird not to use this match, but I’d pick it over either of those anyhow.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: The Big Boss Man, Sgt. Slaughter, Jim Duggan & Virgil vs. The Mountie, Repo Man & The Nasty Boys
Ben’s Pick: The Big Boss Man, Sgt. Slaughter, Jim Duggan & Virgil vs. The Mountie, Repo Man & The Nasty Boys
Ben’s Take: With Savage already used and Bret Hart needed for later, that takes the two really good matches on this show off the table. So this match, which is a bit of fun and has tons of guys, just makes sense.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Lex Luger vs. Mr. Perfect
Ben’s Pick: The Steiner Brothers vs. The Headshrinkers
Ben’s Take: Having already used Mr. Perfect wasn’t the issue for me in going against the guys’ pick here; I just really, really like Steiners/Headshrinkers. The Steiners are one of my favorites teams in wrestling history, and there’s nothing better than watching them go out and work stiff with a team willing to take and it and give back in kind like the Headshrinkers. I could watch Rick and Scott toss Samoans over their heads all day.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in a Ladder match
Ben’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in a Ladder match
Ben’s Take: Like Hogan/Andre, this felt like too seminal a match in terms of its importance to WrestleMania as a whole to not include. I flirted with using the Hart brothers opener because it’s one of my favorites and would also open up Shawn Michaels for one of his amazing post-comeback matches, but I couldn’t pass this one up.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Ben’s Pick: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Ben’s Take: Besides the fact that WrestleMania XI doesn’t have a lot going for it match-wise once you can’t use Shawn Michaels, this is a steal for somebody trying to put together one of these cards because it’s two guys you definitely won’t need anywhere else, no titles on the line, and it’s a fun, memorable match that surpassed expectations and brings a very different feel to your line-up.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Vader, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs. Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson
Ben’s Pick: Roddy Piper vs. Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl
Ben’s Take: Taking this one was a lot about feeling like I needed Roddy Piper on the card; he’s arguably one of the top five most important people in the history of WrestleMania in terms of it even existing, so not including him would be a disservice. Couldn’t use the main event from I because I needed Hogan elsewhere, couldn’t use the Adonis match from III because I had my pick locked there, couldn’t use him and Bret from VIII because I still needed Bret, and then the less said about him and Bad News Brown at VI, the better. Having this available made me happy because odd as it is, it’s a fun watch with some great street fight stuff and Goldust at his peak character-wise (though not as a worker).
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin in a Submission match
Ben’s Pick: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin in a Submission match
Ben’s Take: One of—if not the single—best matches in WrestleMania and really wrestling history, plus hugely important and unique with the double turn and Steve Austin getting made as a true superstar. To me, this is the best use of Bret Hart for this list and while Austin may have had more heavily promoted matches, this is the best and most pivotal. Believe it or not, I considered the Ahmed Johnson/LOD against the Nation street fight for a hot second because I like it more than most and figured I could split Bret and Austin up for separate use, but that thought passed pretty quickly.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Marc Mero & Sable vs. Goldust & Luna Vachon in a Mixed Tag match
Ben’s Pick: Light Heavyweight Champion Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila
Ben’s Take: Solid choice by Scott and Justin as you get a noteworthy name on there with Sable and it’s a memorable match, but ultimately, having to choose where to use Goldust, I liked him better with Piper at XII and felt I needed that one more. I was live for this show and really dug the Light Heavyweight title match (despite being on the opposite side of the ring from where they did all the big dives) and watching it recently, it holds up pretty well; also, never mind getting another short run championship on there for peculiarity’s sake.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean in a Brawl for All match
Ben’s Pick: Hardcore Champion Billy Gunn vs. Al Snow vs. Bob Holly in a Triple Threat match
Ben’s Take: Bart Gunn was the only wrestler who gave me a high five at a 1996 house show, so his crushing defeat, despite being a WrestleMania moment, still makes me sad. That aside, I went with the three-way not for that reason, but because it’s a fun train wreck at the arguable height of the Hardcore division—and again, I don’t mind getting a (relatively) short-lived belt on the show.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Kane & Rikishi vs. X-Pac & Road Dogg
Ben’s Pick: WWF Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz in a Three Way Ladder match
Ben’s Take: Honestly, I had this right up there with Andre/Hogan, Michaels/Razor and Hart/Austin as a match that needed to be on my card before I even started making it. This could be my nostalgia speaking as I definitely have fond memories of watching this with my friends at the height of my high school fandom, but I also feel it earns its place. It’s a star-making performance for six guys and sparked the renaissance of the tag team division; it redefined the Ladder match just as Shawn and Razor had six years earlier; it gave the first inkling of a gimmick match that would stand the test of time in TLC. That last point may beg the question why this and not the rematch from a year later, which was maybe more refined and certainly had more bells and whistles, but to me, I’ve always liked this one better than either of the subsequent entries simply because it was first and thus everything done in it had that seat-of-their-pants, making it up as they go feel and every spot felt totally fresh. It was a sacrifice to put this in, not because of the Tag titles—there was no other Tag title match I even considered—but because it takes at least two if not three or four guys I could probably use elsewhere out of the picture. That gave me pause for a second, but I not only like this match too much to exclude it, I do feel it’s vital enough to the tapestry of WrestleMania it has to be there. However, this was the first—and not last—time I worried about burning out a particular gimmick match…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon in a Street Fight
Ben’s Pick: Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon in a Street Fight
Ben’s Take: An amazing card, but I already talked about not using TLC, the WWF title was long gone, and I wanted to keep most of the other competitors available; I thought about Undertaker/HHH for a moment, but I thought both guys could be better used elsewhere. Luckily, you’ve got this awesome spectacle with participants I knew I did not need again, and they also happen to be more characters I need to have on my card. You’re not just getting the match, but also all the great stuff with Stephanie, Trish and Mick Foley (who I couldn’t slot elsewhere, so that was a nice bonus), plus the incredible Linda moment; lot of value here.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock
Ben’s Pick: The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair in a No Holds Barred match
Ben’s Take: To me, Hogan/Andre trumps Hogan/Rock in terms of spectacle, with neither being amazing matches, so that wasn’t a hard choice. I shocked myself a bit by using the Undertaker here as opposed to pulling one of his classics from the past decade, but most of his other opponents had other places I could use them. I really liked the idea of having something with Ric Flair, and also, this is a crazy and underrated match that was probably better than it had any right to be given that neither guy was exactly in their prime. An unorthodox pick, but the more I ruminate on it, the happier I am to have it. However, once again, I begin to think about repeating stipulations…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WWE Champion Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
Ben’s Pick: Women’s Champion Victoria vs. Trish Stratus vs. Jazz in a Triple Threat match
Ben’s Take: It would have been great to be able to use Angle/Brock, but here’s where taking Hogan/Andre with the title on the line really starts to limit your options. I also lose Michaels/Jericho because of HBK, Austin/Rock because of Stone Cold, and Hogan/Vince because of both guys. This was one of two moments where I hedged a bit on the Ladder match from 2000 just because I have a soft spot for Matt Hardy/Rey Mysterio in the opener here, but that would have been a somewhat insane trade-off. Instead, this is where I went back and reworked what I had done at the first WrestleMania to free up the Women’s title. This is actually a good match with three women who can really work, but I’ll admit, settling for (generously) the sixth best match from one of the best top to bottom Manias stung a little.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: United States Champion The Big Show vs. John Cena
Ben’s Pick: Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
Ben’s Take: Since I didn’t use Angle/Brock the previous year, I had the opportunity to pick this all-time curiosity, remembered not for being any good, but because of one of the earliest and perhaps still greatest “hijackings” by an audience. I have no problem putting it on for that, as it adds something I can’t get anywhere else and those are two more big names to include. I have other plans for John Cena, but I do like Scott and Justin’s pick too.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
Ben’s Pick: World Champion Triple H vs. Batista
Ben’s Take: A bit backed into a corner here because I needed a World title match and was starting to realize my options moving forward, while more attractive, would require pulling guys I wanted to use for other stuff from where I had them. It’s not Triple H’s best match, it’s not Batista’s best match, it’s not their best match with each other and it’s not the best World title match. But it had a really hot build and while they would improve the formula, they had something, so I’ll take this as a necessary sacrifice for the greater good.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Edge vs. Mick Foley in a Hardcore match
Ben’s Pick: United States Champion Chris Benoit vs. John Bradshaw Layfield
Ben’s Take: And here’s where the 2000 Ladder match really comes back to bite me as I can’t use the best match from this year, not to mention one of the best for both guys. I definitely went back and forth here, as it seemed kinda crappy and going against my “feature the important people” philosophy to only have Edge in a multi-man match and Foley as a referee, but I made my choice and decided to stick to it. Benoit/JBL is definitely a consolation prize, regardless of getting the U.S. title on the card.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: World Champion Batista vs. The Undertaker
Ben’s Pick: Bobby Lashley w/ Donald Trump vs. Umaga w/ Vince McMahon in a Hair vs. Hair match
Ben’s Take: Once again, not a classic in the ring, but a big moment with Vince having his head shaved, and the angle that led to this being the highest-drawing Mania of all-time, so I feel like for history’s sake it makes sense to have it. With stuff like Shawn/Razor, Bret/Austin and the Ladder match, at this point I definitely felt confident I was filling my work rate quota and had more good matches to come, so putting something like this in there didn’t worry me.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Finlay in a Belfast Brawl
Ben’s Pick: Money in the Bank (CM Punk, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho, Carlito, MVP, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison)
Ben’s Take: Much like I was so proud of managing to somehow work an Elimination Chamber onto my all-time February card, I am delighted that with just a bit of tinkering, I was indeed able to make a Money in the Bank feasible for this one. This also happens to be a particularly good one, with the big first Punk win, the awesome run-in by Matt Hardy and a great assortment of talent that allowed me to make sure Chris Jericho wouldn’t be left off my card. I owe Jeff Hardy for getting suspended before this one and thus allowing me to include it.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy in an Extreme Rules match
Ben’s Pick: Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal
Ben’s Take: Ok, maybe I regretted the 2000 Ladder match a little more here. Um… the novelty of getting to see so many Divas through the years?
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Triple H vs. Sheamus
Ben’s Pick: Michelle McCool, Vickie Guerrero, Alicia Fox, Layla & Maryse vs. Beth Phoenix, Kelly Kelly, Mickie James, Gail Kim & Eve Torres
Ben’s Take: Good match that Scott and Justin picked, but having already used Triple H elsewhere, I didn’t have it available to me. I feel like with each of these cards, I always end up including some sort of Divas tag match. This one I don’t mind, as it’s quick, fun, and Vickie Guerrero really shines in as close to a WrestleMania moment as she’ll ever likely receive. If only I hadn’t just taken a Divas battle royal right before it…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: CM Punk vs. Randy Orton
Ben’s Pick: Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio
Ben’s Take: Love that I could get this match, the sleeper of the show to me. Not having used Rey anywhere else, this slotted in nicely, and I like that I was able to include Cody as, to me, while he’s only been around a relative few years, he’s had quite a few noteworthy WrestleMania performances. I’d actually go so far as to say I’d rather have this than Rey/Matt Hardy from XIX.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Team Teddy (Santino Marella, R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder, The Great Khali & Booker T) vs. Team Johnny (David Otunga, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, The Miz & Drew McIntyre)
Ben’s Pick: The Rock vs. John Cena
Ben’s Take: Scott and Justin get a ton of guys a Mania pay day, I get an epic main event without the WWE title on the line. Both guys have technically better WrestleMania matches, but, with the exception of Rock/Hogan, neither have one with a more immense feel, and this one is better than that one in the ring. To be able to make it this far and have both these guys available so I can swing this, I’ll give myself a little pat on the back.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
Ben’s Pick: The Shield vs. Randy Orton, The Big Show & Sheamus
Ben’s Take: Speaking of saving the best for last, by holding off the use of Orton, Show and Sheamus for 29 WrestleManias, I get to include a Shield match on the card for my reward. It’s not long enough to be a classic, but that’s some impressive star power and the hottest rookies in memory. Definitely a last-minute steal in my eyes.
Ben: Well, I definitely dug my feet in certain places on my marquee matches and ended up paying elsewhere. I do think having Hogan/Andre on my card is a big advantage with Cena/Rock as a bookend spectacle match. Plenty of work rate with stuff like HBK/Razor and Hart/Austin. Some nice intangibles with Bam Bam/LT and the McMahon vs. McMahon match. And then plenty of sleeper picks and cool gimmick matches. I’d say my biggest accomplishment would definitely be getting a Money in the Bank in there. I do worry I have at least one Ladder match too many—and maybe an overflow of street fights as well—and certainly will be second guessing that 2000 tag team version, but I’m curious to hear what others think.