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 VIII – April 5, 1992
This is the first of what I consider to be two transition years for the WWF, moving away from the over-the-top cartoon characters and towards the Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels era that defined the mid-1990s.
The event was also cut down from the four hour extravaganzas they had been in previous years and comes in with nine matches over a lean 2 hours and 40 minutes, so the card runs through quicker, but there are still too many useless matches.
The seeming musical chairs of main events for this event, too, gave it a disappointing feel at the time. Originally announced as a main event of Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan – an exciting match for someone reading the Apter mags in the 1980s, it was eventually switched to a double main event of Hogan vs. Sid Justice and Flair vs. Randy Savage for the WWF Title. A 12-year-old Extant was crushed.
Best Match – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart – Intercontinental Title Match. A case could be made for the WWF Title Match as the best match here, but Piper-Hart felt like the better story within the match and I thought the work between the two flowed much better. Hart’s first real great WrestleMania match was the first step toward propelling him to the main event level
Worst Match – Money Inc. vs. The Natural Disasters – Tag Team Title Match. After years of great tag team matches at WrestleMania, lovers of the genre were wildly disappointed with WrestleMania VIII’s entry. Unfortunately, this seemed to kick off a trend that continues to this day.
Tag Team Death – As Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart transitioned into singles competition this year, the tag team division in the WWF, which had been a strength over the previous 7 years, is severely depleted and of significantly less quality. One traditional tag team match this year (Natural Disasters vs. Money Inc. for the titles) and a lousy 8-man tag team match are all we get. The Legion of Doom also returned with manager Paul Ellering, but that definitely did not lead to a tag team renaissance.
WWF Midcard Title – At house shows, the WWF Title match frequently was placed before intermission when the title match was going to end in a countout or DQ and the company wanted to send the crowd home happy. But this is the first WrestleMania to see the title match placed in the middle of the show. Savage-Flair was one of the best matches on the card, culminating what felt more like an NWA-style story to lead to the title switch, but it wasn’t enough to merit the last match of the show.
Send Them Home Happy – Maybe the title match would have gone on last if Flair defended against Hulk Hogan, but the company’s top star instead won via DQ against Sid Justice in what may be the worst main event in WrestleMania up to this point. The match featured interference from Papa Shango, a run-in from the Ultimate Warrior and really didn’t lead to much of anything in the long-run. Disappointing on all fronts.
The WrestleMania 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 – 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)
Very little changes in celebrity lists and musical performances this year. Ray Combs was basically useless and Reba McEntire’s America the Beautiful was tolerable at best.
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
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