When the pandemic started and WrestleMania 36 was the horizon, I decided to make the most of my time and watch every single WrestleMania in order. Questionable use of the phrase “make the most of my time” aside, the binge taught me so much about what makes ‘Mania special, what makes it frustrating and, ultimately, what’s allowed it to persist as the biggest day (or days) on each year’s wrestling calendar.
Along the way, I made a running list of every single ‘Mania match in order of preference. That translates to 356 matches in total.
Sorry, Kickoff Show matches. For the purposes of this exercise, you don’t count.
Now, what makes a memorable WrestleMania match? Of course, it’s mostly to do with the in-ring action itself, but a true ‘Mania classic exists on a different plane. It manages to create an aura all its own, to take on a larger than life persona and, in the best cases, pushes the world of sports entertainment in entirely new directions.
To get to the good, you have to start with the bad. First up, it’s WrestleMania matches 356-301. These range from the offensive to the unfathomable, the lame to the utterly unremarkable. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always fun. But that’s what makes it WrestleMania, baby!
Let’s get into it.
356. Roddy Piper vs. Bad News Brown (WrestleMania VI)
Any match that uses blackface automatically comes in last place. Those are the rules.
355. Butterbean vs. Bart Gunn - Brawl For All (WrestleMania XV)
354. The Rock vs. Erick Rowan (WrestleMania 32)
353. Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal (WrestleMania 25)
352. Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon (WrestleMania XXVI)
351. Michael Cole vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler (WrestleMania XXVII)
350. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus (WrestleMania XXVIII)
349. Chavo Guerrero vs. Kane (WrestleMania (XXIV)
348. Kat vs. Terri - Cat Fight (WrestleMania 2000)
347. Big Show vs. Akebono - Sumo Match (WrestleMania 21)
346. Candice Michelle vs. Torrie Wilson - Playboy Pillow Fight Match (WrestleMania 22)
The word “Playboy” appears three different times when describing women’s matches on this list. That’s not even counting when the Miller Lite Catfight Girls (who could forget?) showed up at WrestleMania XIX and had a pillow fight on stage with Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson. This company loved pillows and it loved degrading women. It all sucked back then, but it’s even worse to watch now.
There’s something so inherently grotesque watching these two women forced to set aside their athletic abilities for the, let’s just say it, the sexual pleasure and fantasies of grown men! Especially on a night that’s meant to highlight the best everybody has to offer. It just goes to show how far women’s wrestling has come in terms of being accepted by the powers that be. The talent pool has exploded so ferociously that they haven’t had a choice. At WrestleMania 35, less than 15 years after this Playboy Pillow Fight Match, women would headline the show.
345. Roddy Piper vs. Goldust - Hollywood Backlot Brawl (WrestleMania XII)
344. Crush vs. Doink The Clown (WrestleMania IX)
343. Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania IX)
More on this next time...
342. The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WrestleMania XII)
341. Earthquake vs. Adam Bomb (WrestleMania X)
340. The Undertaker vs. John Cena (WrestleMania 34)
339. King Kong Bundy vs. Special Delivery Jones (WrestleMania I)
338. The Red Rooster vs. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan (WrestleMania V)
337. Gimmick Battle Royal (WrestleMania XVII)
336. The Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre (WrestleMania 2)
335. Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman (WrestleMania 36)
334. Maven vs. Goldust (WrestleMania X8)
333. Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio (WrestleMania 35)
332. The Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man - Hell In A Cell Match (WrestleMania XV)
It’s impossible, of course, to discuss WrestleMania and not talk, at length, about The Undertaker. Nobody’s name is more synonymous with the event and nobody has competed at WrestleMania more. ‘Taker has wrestled 27 (!!) times at ‘Mania, winning 25 of those and creating some indelible memories along the way. The truth of the matter, however, is that most of The Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches aren’t very good. Some of them, frankly, are awful. The Hell In A Cell Match against Big Boss Man at WrestleMania XV is one of the awful ones.
It was just the fifth Cell match in history and the first at WrestleMania. It’s also the only Cell match to feature one competitor getting raised to the arena roof with a noose around his neck, so that’s fun! When your career spans decades, not every match is going to be a barnburner, but many of The Undertaker’s matches on the grandest stage fell into the same trap. Far too often, he was pitted against somebody well past their prime, as was the case here. Boss Man joined a line of opponents like Jimmy Snuka and King Kong Bundy, and paved the way for future matches against the likes of Mark Henry. The Undertaker’s WrestleMania legacy is unmatched and undeniable, but his matches frequently missed the mark.
331. The Boogeyman vs. Booker T and Sharmell (WrestleMania 22)
330. The Mountie vs. Tito Santana (WrestleMania VII)
329. Big Boss Man vs. Akeem (WrestleMania VI)
328. Divas Invitational (WrestleMania XXX)
327. Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella and Kofi Kingston vs. The Corre (WrestleMania XXVII)
326. Kane vs. The Great Khali (WrestleMania 23)
325. The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez (WrestleMania IX)
324. Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin (WrestleMania 35)
323. Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley (WrestleMania 36)
322. Randy Savage vs. Crush - Falls Count Anywhere Match (WrestleMania X)
Not to give too much away about the rest of this list, but there’s a case to be made that Randy Savage has one of the best WrestleMania careers of all-time. He was directly involved in some of the event’s most instantly iconic matches, so it’s a bummer that his final WrestleMania match was absolutely terrible and ended with him hanging Crush by his feet backstage at Madison Square Garden. Whereas contemporaries like Hogan and Flair would leave the company and then return for epic ‘Mania moments down the road, Savage never got a chance to. It’s a shame his WrestleMania career ended so meaninglessly.
321. King Corbin vs. Elias (WrestleMania 36)
320. Alicia Fox, Layla, Maryse, Michelle McCool and Vickie Guerrero vs. Beth Phoenix, Eve Torres, Gail Kim, Mickie James and Kelly Kelly (WrestleMania XXVI)
319. Snooki, Trish Stratus and John Morrison vs. LayCool and Dolph Ziggler (WrestleMania XXVII)
318. Ryback vs. Mark Henry (WrestleMania 29)
317. Beth Phoenix and Melina vs. Ashley and Maria - Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjill Match (WrestleMania XXIV)
316. Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger (WrestleMania X)
315. Melina vs. Ashley - Lumberjill Match (WrestleMania 23)
314. Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal (WrestleMania 32)
313. JBL vs. Rey Mysterio (WrestleMania 25)
312. Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme (WrestleMania 21)
311. The Hart Foundation vs. The Bolsheviks (WrestleMania VI)
310. Andre The Giant vs. Big John Studd - Career vs. $15,000 Body Slam Challenge (WrestleMania I)
309. Demolition vs. Genichiro Tenryu and Koji Kitao (WrestleMania VII)
308. Sable and Torrie Wilson vs. Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie - Playboy Evening Gown Match (WrestleMania XX)
307. ECW Originals vs. The New Breed (WrestleMania 23)
306. The Shield vs. The New Age Outlaws and Kane (WrestleMania XXX)
305. Chyna vs. Ivory (WrestleMania X-Seven)
Chyna was one of the most recognizable, dominant forces for the company during arguably its strongest run, so it’s regrettable that her only singles WrestleMania match was a two-minute squash. She also competed in a six-person tag match at WrestleMania 2000 the prior year, where she was able to show off more of her skillset, but for a woman who had so much talent and power inside the ring, she deserved more of a solo showcase on wrestling’s biggest night.
304. 15-Man Hardcore Battle Royal (WrestleMania 2000)
303. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon vs. Doink The Clown and Dink The Clown (WrestleMania X)
302. Earthquake vs. Greg Valentine (WrestleMania VII)
301. The Texas Tornado vs. Dino Bravo (WrestleMania VII)
Join us on Wednesday when we’ll start to get into the messy middle of our rankings. In the meantime, well, you know what wrestling fans do when they see a list.
Just bring it.