In honor of WrestleMania 33, members of the PTBN Staff has gathered to create a series of 33 lists, all dedicated to the rich history of WWE’s grandest spectacle. Each contributor assigned a ranking of 1-10 and votes were tallied accordingly. We will be releasing one list per day, with the final list to be posted on April 1, 2017, the day prior to WrestleMania 33! Be sure to share your feedback with us on social media! You can view the complete series here!
Day Thirty: Best WrestleMania Storylines
Others Getting Votes: The Icon vs. The Great One – WMX8 (16), Batista Challenges Triple H – WM21 (15), The Ultimate Challenge – WMVI (14), Steamboat’s Revenge – WMIII (14), Shawn Michaels Challenges The Streak – WMXXV (10), The Boyhood Dream – WMXII (8), Brother vs. Brother – WMX (7), Undertaker’s Streak (7), Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection WMI (5), Battle of the Billionaires – WM23 (5), Iraqi Sympathizer vs. American Hero – WMVII (5), Bulldogs Forced to Return to England – WM2 (4), Trish vs. Her Stalker – WM22 (4), Hogan’s Revenge in the Cage – WM2 (3), Triple H’s Revenge – WMXXV (3), The Undisputed Intercontinental Champion – WMX (3), NFL vs. WWF – WMXI (2), Undertaker Chases the Gold – WM23 (2), Guerrero & Benoit Atop the Mountain – WMXX (2), The Battle for Vickie – WMXXV (1), She Was Mine Before She Was Yours – WMVIII (1), Twenty Years in the Making – WMXIX (1), Michaels vs. The Boss – WM22 (1), Savage’s Revenge – WMX (1)
10. The Rise of the Macho Man – WrestleMania IV (19 Points)
Highest Ranking: #3 (Tim Capel)
After four years at the top of the World Wrestling Federation, Hulk Hogan had been dethroned by a crooked referee paid off by the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. A tournament was announced to crown a new undisputed WWF Champion. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who had recently forged an alliance with the Hulkster, wrestled four times, beating Butch Reed, Greg Valentine and One Man Gang on the way to the tournament final against DiBiase. With Hogan in his corner, Savage managed to overcome DiBiase and his cornerman, Andre the Giant, to win his first WWF Title. Savage’s friendship with Hogan would fuel the WWF for the next year, but we’ll talk about that more later.
9. Steve Austin’s Obsession – WrestleMania X7 (22 Points)
Highest Ranking: #3 (Mike Eller)
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was desperate to regain his WWF Title, telling champ The Rock that he “needed” it more than Rock could understand. He would anything to get back to the top of the mountain, and in his second WrestleMania main event match with The Rock, Austin proved it. In a no disqualification match that set the standard for main event title matches for years to come, the two superstars pulled out all the stops to win the match. But Austin wanted it that much more. He was willing to align himself with his archenemy, WWF Chairman Mr. McMahon, who nailed Rocky with a steel chair, shocking the wrestling world and helping “Stone Cold” win his fifth WWF Title.
8. Austin vs. McMahon – WrestleMania XV (31 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Scott Criscuolo)
Of course, two years earlier, in their first encounter, it was The Rock who was aligned with Mr. McMahon. The Rattlesnake had been getting under the Chairman’s skin since winning the WWF Title at WrestleMania XIV, and The Corporate Champion was McMahon’s best chance to put Austin in his place. McMahon even tried to stack the deck further by naming himself special referee, only to be foiled by WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels. While not the best WrestleMania match Austin and Rock have had, Austin’s victory was a great cap to a legendary feud.
7. Career vs. Career – WrestleMania VII (32 Points)
Highest Ranking: #2 (Neil Trama)
From the Royal Rumble, where Randy Savage cost The Ultimate Warrior the WWF Title, right through to the end of their retirement match, the story took a twist, like many great stories do. Warrior and Savage weren’t battling for a title. They were fighting for pride, for their livelihood, for their careers. Through shoulder tackles and press slams and through five top rope elbow drops, neither man would give in. Neither man wanted their career to end. It was an epic encounter between two men at the top of their games, but Warrior was able to outlast the “Macho Man” and send him into a (temporary) retirement. But it was Savage’s reunion with his former manager, the lovely Miss Elizabeth, that finally brought tears to the eyes of the LA crowd.
6. Blood From a Stone – WrestleMania XIII (32 Points)
Highest Ranking: #4 (Scott Criscuolo, Chris Jordan & Jason Greenhouse)
The veteran “Hitman” was frustrated. Not only was he robbed of his WWF Title, but he had the brash Austin nipping at his heels. During the submission match with Austin, he was trying to prove a point, that he was still the man that WWF fans should look up to. But his anger and frustration got the better of him. He busted Austin open and locked him in his finisher, the Sharpshooter, But “Stone Cold,” also trying to prove himself the better man, refused to give up. With blood flowing from his forehead, he repeatedly told special referee Ken Shamrock that he wouldn’t quit. But “The Hitman” wouldn’t let go, and Austin passed out from the pain, proving himself as a man to be admired. While Hart won the match, it wasn’t enough. He needed to destroy Austin and went after him despite the bell ringing to end things. Hart and Austin told a brilliant story within the confines of the squared circle and pulled off the rare double turn, with Austin going from boos to cheers and Hart becoming the company’s biggest heel.
5. “I’m Sorry, I Love You.” – WrestleMania XXIV (33 Points)
Highest Ranking: #3 (Scott Criscuolo & Chris Jordan)
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair had spent the months leading up to WrestleMania XXIV defending his career with every match, after Mr. McMahon told Flair that his next loss would be his last. The 16-time world champion beat everyone in his path, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted to prove himself against the best. So he issued a challenge to “Mr. WrestleMania” himself, Shawn Michaels. The Heartbreak Kid was reluctant at first, but he eventually agreed to Flair’s request. Flair fought valiently, but he was a step behind Michaels. The Nature Boy seemed ready for the end as he pulled himself up and told Michaels to come at him. Michaels nodded, mouthed “I’m sorry, I love you,” to his idol and knocked him out with Sweet Chin Music.
4. Career vs. Streak – WrestleMania XXVI (36 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Mike Eller)
Michaels couldn’t get the job done at WrestleMania 25, but he wanted another chance at The Undertaker. He forced the Dead Man’s hand, costing him the World Heavyweight Title at the Elimination Chamber and bringing out the Undertaker’s thirst for vengeance. But Michaels had to offer something himself: his career. The Heartbreak Kid battled tooth and nail to be the man who ended the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, hitting Taker with everything he had. Much like Flair two years earlier, though, Mr. WrestleMania knew his run had come to an end, despite surviving two Tombstone piledrivers. With a final, defiant slap, Michaels urged Undertaker to put him away, and the Dead Man did the deed with gusto, hitting Michaels with a final jumping tombstone to end Michaels’ career.
3. Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority – WrestleMania XXX (61 Points)
Highest Ranking: #2 (Chris Jordan & Steve Riddle)
Daniel Bryan was never supposed to main event WrestleMania. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon saw him as, at best, a “B-plus Player” who wasn’t good enough to be the face of the company. And from the moment Bryan beat John Cena at SummerSlam 2013, The Authority did everything they could to keep Bryan down. But the “YES! Movement” wouldn’t be denied. Bryan and his supporters hijacked an episode of Monday Night Raw and forced the Authority’s hand. They put one last roadblock in Bryan’s way: if he wanted in to the main event of WrestleMania XXX against champion Randy Orton and Batista, he had to beat Triple H first. The COO of WWE went down to a running knee strike. but he wasn’t done. Triple H assaulted Bryan after the match, but he was able to come back for the main event, where he managed to overcome the odds to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The entirety of WrestleMania XXX was built around Bryan’s quest to become champion, and the fans were sent home happy as the Superdome followed Bryan in a “YES!” chant to close the show.
2. The Mega Powers Explode – WrestleMania V (71 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Neil Trama, Tim Capel & Steven Ferrari)
From the moment Randy Savage won the WWF Title at WrestleMania IV, the build to WrestleMania V was underway. Whenever Savage teamed with Hulk Hogan in 1988, there were subtle hints that the Mega Powers weren’t the cohesive unit they claimed to be. Little jealous looks and sideways glances were apparent during the post-match celebrations at SummerSlam and the Survivor Series. And it all came to a head at February’s Main Event, when Hogan and Savage took on the Big Boss Man and Akeem. When Savage was tossed over the top rope and knocked out his manager, Miss Elizabeth, Hogan picked her up and brought her to the back, leaving Savage alone against the Twin Towers. When Hogan returned, Savage slapped him. The champion would accuse Hogan of having “lust in his eyes” for Elizabeth and the main event of WrestleMania V was officially a go. Two former friends torn apart by jealousy in one of the WWF’s best long-term stories. While Savage was trying to defend his dignity, Hogan used the power of his Hulkamaniacs to beat Savage and win his second WWF Title.
1. Hogan vs. The Giant – WrestleMania III (79 Points)
Highest Ranking: #1 (Glenn Butler, Chris Jordan, Jason Greenhouse, Brian Bayless & Steve Riddle)
This is the main event that defined WrestleMania as the biggest wrestling show of the year: the nigh-unbeatable Andre the Giant looking to dethrone his former friend, WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, in Andre’s first title shot. The best part of this story is how it was subtly built throughout the previous year. In 1986, manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan convinced WWF President Jack Tunney to suspend Andre, putting Andre out of action for months. But then, towards the end of the year, Heenan mysteriously had a change of heart, speaking on Andre’s behalf at a hearing and allowing the gentle giant to return to the WWF. But he was no longer gentle. Heenan had gotten in Andre’s ear, and now Andre wanted what he felt had been kept from him for too long: the WWF Title. Ripping the shirt and crucifix off of Hogan’s chest during an episode of Piper’s Pit, Andre told Hogan he wanted his shot at WrestleMania III. Hogan, bewildered and hurt by the betrayal, accepted and began to prepare for the fight of his life. The engaging story, and the uncertainty of whether Hogan could defeat his 7-foot-5-inch challenger, brought a record crowd to the Pontiac Silverdome to see history be made, as Hogan slammed Andre and hit the leg drop for the win.