As we count down the days to the biggest show of the year, I’ll be looking back at how WrestleMania has changed since it debuted in 1985. Instead of doing recaps of all the shows, I’m looking to create a Top 10 WrestleMania matches and see how that list changes over the years. We’ll also discuss some other highlights and lowlights of each show.
WrestleMania IX – April 4, 1993
There are a few WrestleManias that are frequently mentioned as being the worst ever. And while WrestleMania IX gets brought up as a contender, it’s really not that bad, it’s just largely inconsequential.
If not for the last-minute addition of the Hogan-Yokozuna title match, this show would probably go down as the least memorable show in the history of WrestleMania. Nothing was overtly terrible, nothing was blow-away amazing. The card was just there, a consequence of the transition the WWF was going through at the time.
The best part of the show is probably the set dressing, as the outdoor Las Vegas arena was set up as the Roman Coliseum. The unique staging at least gives the show something memorable.
Best Match: The Steiner Bros. vs. The Headshrinkers. The second match on the card was a stiff tag team match featuring four guys who could probably legitimately mess someone up. My bias for a good tag team match may come into play here, but the Steiner Bros. were on another level in the early 1990s and the Headshrinkers were always good for a brawl. Another year on another card this may have been deemed middle of the road, but this year the match shines. The match is also notable for featuring the first WWF mention of “scintillating” and “slobberknocker” from debuting play-by-play man Jim Ross.
Worst Match: The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez. Three matches in to the legendary streak and the dead man from Death Valley has a match that is dead on arrival. I doubt anyone could have gotten a great match out of Gonzalez at any point during his career, but having a standard big man vs. big man match was a recipe for disaster. Even the ending is a disaster, with Undertaker winning by disqualification instead of getting a decisive, definitive victory. It’s entirely possible this is Undertaker’s worst WrestleMania match ever.
Don’t Call It A Comeback: Traditionally, heel WWF Champions have been transitional at best, but the transition between Bret “Hitman” Hart back to Hulk Hogan was ridiculous. In what is likely the first instance of the WWF pulling the rug out from someone’s first run with the title, Yokozuna beat Hart and then, after manager Mr. Fuji stupidly challenged Hogan for a title match, he lays down for a three count. Hogan had just returned to the WWF in February as back-up to Brutus Beefcake to fight against Tag Team Champions Money Inc, a match the “Mega Maniacs” lost by disqualification. The fans were definitely chomping to see Hogan again, chanting his name as Giant Gonzalez beat down the Undertaker. But the seemingly last-minute title change meant almost nothing in the long run. Hogan went on to team with Beefcake on house shows and then dropped the strap back to Yokozuna at the King of the Ring in June. It would be 9 years before Hogan appeared at WrestleMania again.
Title Kick-Off: For the first time in WrestleMania history, the pay-per-view kicked off with a title match, as Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels defended against the undefeated Tatanka. The WWF had no intention of putting the title on Tatanka or ending his undefeated streak, so the countout ending was pretty predictable. The match, which had at least some potential, was more of a backdrop for the start of the Sensational Sherri-Luna Vachon angle.
Longevity Award: Hogan was the only wrestler to appear in all of the first nine WrestleManias, joined by Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby “the Brain” Heenan, “Mean Gene” Okerlund and Howard Finkel in continuous appearances. Hogan somehow managed to be the only one of that group not wearing a toga. One other wrestler could have joined Hogan in that list. Tito Santana just missed the cut, beating Papa Shango in a dark match.
The Cut: After three straight years of having 14 matches on the pay-per-view card, WrestleMania IX dropped down to nine matches, tying the first WrestleMania for smallest card. The 2-hour, 45-minute card had one casualty – Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Kamala was scheduled but was cut for time. I doubt anyone missed it.
The Top Ten
No new matches break the Top Ten this year, because while I enjoyed the Steiners-Headshrinkers match, it wasn’t one of the 10 best WrestleMania matches.
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 – Ultimate Warrior vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage – Career Ending Match (WrestleMania VII)
4 – Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (WrestleMania I)
5 – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart – Intercontinental Title Match (WrestleMania VIII)
6 – Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake vs. The British Bulldogs – Tag Team Title Match (WrestleMania 2)
7 – Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant – WWF Title Match (WrestleMania III)
8 – Hart Foundation and Danny Davis vs. British Bulldogs and Tito Santana (WrestleMania III)
9 – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage – WWF Title Match (WrestleMania VIII)
10 – The Rockers vs. Haku & The Barbarian (WrestleMania VII)
Once again, no changes, as the only celebrity involvement was singer Natalie Cole in the audience (harassed by Todd Pettingil). No one sang to open the show, either. So all three lists stay the same this time around.
Top Ten Celebrities
Bob Uecker – WrestleMania III/WrestleMania IV
Mary Hart – WrestleMania III
Cyndi Lauper – WrestleMania I
Alex Trebek – WrestleMania VII
Vanna White – WrestleMania IV
Regis Philbin – WrestleMania VII
Muhammad Ali – WrestleMania I
Elvira – WrestleMania 2
Alice Cooper – WrestleMania III
Ozzy Osbourne – WrestleMania 2
Top Five Musical Performances
Ray Charles, America the Beautiful – WrestleMania 2
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
Willie Nelson, America the Beautiful – WrestleMania VII