As we continue down the road to the biggest show of the year, I’ve been going through each event to prepare for the big day.
Instead of doing recaps for every WrestleMania (other people here do that much better), I’ve been putting together a Top Ten list of WrestleMania matches and have been updating it after each show.
WrestleMania XI – April 2, 1995
Something happened as the calendar turned from 1994 to 1995, and I don’t think it was a good thing. The WWF was in the middle of rebuilding after most of its stars from the late-1980s and early-1990s defected over to WCW. And while WrestleMania X was almost universally praised as a great show and a key kickoff for the “New Generation,” WrestleMania XI felt like a throwback to WrestleMania 2 – an underwhelming card where a lot of focus was put on football players.
With only seven matches on the card (and a lack of stars to focus on adding more matches anyway), the show was more focused on celebrity interactions, with a number of backstage segments with NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro, MTV’s Jenny McCarthy and Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas. This would all be forgiven if the matches were top notch contests. This is, of course, not the case.
Best Match: Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels – WWF Title Match. The story between these two former partners was actually built very well, from the moment Diesel won the Intercontinental Title from Razor Ramon. While this match pales in comparison to the “Good Friends, Better Enemies” brawl the two had a year later, it is easily the best match on this card. I remember being all in on Shawn Michaels beating Diesel when the match happened. Losing the main event, Michaels went away for a while and came back as a babyface, which made him a whole lot less interesting… to me, anyway.
Worst Match: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Bob Backlund – I Quit Match. This is not a condemnation of Bret Hart or Bob Backlund. This is a condemnation of the way the match was built and the way special referee “Rowdy” Roddy Piper inserted himself into the match. Constantly questioning if Backlund and Hart give up and sticking the microphone in their faces ruins the potential flow of the match and makes sure that nothing ever builds to anything even approaching good.
The Super Bowl of Sports Entertainment: Bam Bam Bigelow main-evented a WrestleMania. Think about that. The most hyped match of the show featured Bigelow taking on New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor in a grudge match that came about from a spat after an undercard tag team match at the Royal Rumble. Sure, Taylor far exceeded expectations and the pair put together a pretty good match. But still, the main event of WrestleMania featured a midcarder facing a football player. The person involved in the match who ended up in the best position was Steve “Mongo” McMichael, who parlayed an appearance as a member of LT’s All-Pro Team to being a lead commentator on WCW Monday Nitro just five months later.
Another note about the LT-Bam Bam match, Salt-N-Peppa performed “Whatta Man” before LT’s entrance, but that was cut out of the WWE Network upload of the show. So, combined with my apathy toward finding it online, Salt-N-Peppa get left off of the musical performances list.
Height Of Mediocrity: I feel like I’ve already spent too much time talking about one of the dullest WrestleManias of all time. The seven matches on the show feature a mediocre title change (Yokozuna and Owen Hart beating the Smoking Gunns), a mediocre Undertaker match (against King Kong Bundy, with future WWE Hall of Famer Charles Wright stealing the urn) and a mediocre opening tag team match (Lex Luger and British Bulldog vs. Jacob and Eli Blu). Really very little to discuss.
The Top Ten
1 – “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – Intercontinental Title Match (WrestleMania III)
2 – Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior – WWF Title vs. Intercontinental Title (WrestleMania VI)
3 – Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. “The Rocket” Owen Hart (WrestleMania X)
4 – Ultimate Warrior vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage – Career Ending Match (WrestleMania VII)
5 – Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – Intercontinental Title Ladder Match (WrestleMania X)
6 – Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (WrestleMania I)
7 – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart – Intercontinental Title Match (WrestleMania VIII)
8 – Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake vs. The British Bulldogs – Tag Team Title Match (WrestleMania 2)
9 – Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant – WWF Title Match (WrestleMania III)
10 – Hart Foundation and Danny Davis vs. British Bulldogs and Tito Santana (WrestleMania III)
A little bit of movement here. But not much.
Top Ten WrestleMania Celebrities
Bob Uecker – WrestleMania III/WrestleMania IV
Mary Hart – WrestleMania III
Cyndi Lauper – WrestleMania I
Alex Trebek – WrestleMania VII
Vanna White – WrestleMania IV
Burt Reynolds – WrestleMania X
Regis Philbin – WrestleMania VII
Jonathan Taylor Thomas – WrestleMania XI
LT’s All-Pro Team (Reggie White, Steve McMichael, Carl Banks, Rickey Jackson, Chris Spielman, and Ken Norton Jr.) – WrestleMania XI
Muhammad Ali – WrestleMania I
Top Five Musical Performances
Ray Charles, America the Beautiful – WrestleMania 2
Little Richard, America the Beautiful – WrestleMania X
Fife and Drum Corp performing Piper’s entrance – WrestleMania I
Steve Allen rehearses in bathroom with the Bolsheviks – WrestleMania VI
Aretha Franklin, America the Beautiful – WrestleMania III