We’ve reached the summit.
36 years. 24 different cities. 356 matches.
These are the 25 best in WrestleMania history.
So, what makes a match worthy of earning this honor? Every bout listed here is intent on transcending professional wrestling, or pushing things in a new, exciting direction. In some cases, they manage to do both simultaneously. These are matches that manage to inspire, to surprise and to define the greatest event in sports-entertainment history.
At the Showcase of the Immortals, these stand the test of time.
25. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XIV)
24. The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania VI)
23. The Nasty Boys vs. The Hart Foundation (WrestleMania VII)
God bless tag team wrestling.
22. Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage (WrestleMania V)
21. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania X)
20. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (WrestleMania 21)
19. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania XIX)
Brock Lesnar’s WrestleMania debut is also the night he nearly killed himself. He wouldn’t be in the main event for another twelve years, but this is his best of The Beast.
18. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka (WrestleMania 34)
17. Daniel Bryan vs. HHH (WrestleMania XXX)
16. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania XX)
15. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz - Triangle Ladder Match (WrestleMania 2000)
14. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart - 60-Minute Iron Man Match (WrestleMania XII)
WWF was a mess in 1996, but the confidence it took to place a mechanical, patient match like this in the main event should not be underestimated.
13. Chris Benoit vs. HHH vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XX)
12. Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan (WrestleMania 35)
It almost feels trite to call something “bigger than wrestling,” but what they managed to do with Kofi’s meteoric rise, culminating in his WWE Championship victory, was as magical as it was important. The fact that the booking was predicated on a happenstance injury speaks to the fact that sometimes WWE can’t see a good thing if it slaps them across the face, but it’s also a testament to the unwavering work ethic of Kofi Kingston, a generational talent who, thirteen years into his run, got to fully shine and show out at WrestleMania.
11. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania X8)
10. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper (WrestleMania VIII)
By the time WrestleMania VIII rolled around, in front of over 60,000 people inside the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, the idea of what it meant to be a popular, marketable wrestler was starting to change. While he wouldn’t main event the show until the following year, Bret Hart was already starting to break the mold in this Intercontinental Championship match against Roddy Piper. Bret wasn’t patriotic like Hulk Hogan, he wasn’t a physical specimen like Ultimate Warrior and, frankly, he didn’t really have the charisma of somebody like Randy Savage. But what he did have was unbelievable professional wrestling ability, and that was fully on display here. With the setting sun shining through the Hoosier Dome, Bret got bloody, won the Intercontinental title and further ushered in a new era of athleticism and in-ring storytelling.
9. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 21)
Kurt Angle has one of the best WrestleMania resumes of all-time. Bar none. He’s not necessarily one of the first names that comes to mind when you think of WrestleMania, but his track record speaks for itself. He competed nine times at the event, and outside of a silly Farewell Match against Baron Corbin at ‘Mania 35, eight of those nine matches are inside the top 60 of all-time. That’s a ridiculously consistent output. This match against Shawn Michaels is his best. The two have a 30-minute clinic, culminating with Michaels tapping out to the Angle Lock. Angle as the unheralded MVP of WrestleMania? It’s true, it’s true.
8. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch (WrestleMania 32)
The best women’s match in WrestleMania history is the fully realized version of the women’s evolution and a welcome sign that, once a list like this is updated in years to come, more women’s matches will litter the top spots. All three of these wrestlers are innovative pioneers who, when given the opportunity to show what they were capable of on the grandest of stages, more than met the moment. This match marked the transition from the Divas Championship to the Women’s Championship. THAT HAPPENED JUST FIVE YEARS AGO. It’s easy to forget about how much progress has been made in such a short amount of time, and that’s largely thanks to these three performers. It’s a stellar match.
7. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock - No Disqualification Match (WrestleMania XV)
Austin vs. Rock is the defining WrestleMania rivalry. They met three times over the course of five years and every single match is fantastic. This one, where Rock defended his WWF Championship in a No Disqualification Match in the main event, is pure electricity. In 1999, you get the feeling that most people in any given WWF crowd would commit murder for Steve Austin. They eat directly out of his hand, and it’s easy to see why. The sheer charisma in play here is almost unfair. There will never be anything else like it. The match falls into some of the messy trappings of the era (multiple ref bumps, Vince McMahon interference, Mankind emerging from a supposed stay in the hospital to count the final pinfall, etc.), but despite being a little convoluted, it succeeds on every single level. I think that’s because, at its core, the Steve Austin formula is pretty simple. He’s a working man who drinks beer and gets to kick the shit out of his boss, and he executes every single part of it with such authenticity. This match features two absolute stars at the absolute height of their abilities, and it’s pure wrestling popcorn.
6. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage (WrestleMania III)
The early days of WrestleMania didn’t feature a lot of great wrestling. This is the only match from the first five years of the event inside the top 20, which makes this classic between Steamboat and Savage that much more impressive. It also went a long way to establishing the Intercontinental Championship as a coveted, mid-tier belt. For years, the WWF Championship was the top prize, but the battles for the Intercontinental strap was where the good stuff was. Savage, Steamboat, Hart, Perfect, Rude, Santana. The main eventers made me fall in love with the pageantry, but the Intercontinental Title made me fall in love with wrestling.
5. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels - Ladder Match (WrestleMania X)
When wrestling is good, it can change the course of the business. Prior to this Ladder Match at WrestleMania X, gimmick matches at WrestleMania weren’t much of a prominent thing, certainly not with this level of violence. This was only the second Ladder Match in company history (the first being a match between Michaels and Bret Hart two years prior on “WWF Wrestling Challenge”), and it largely set the standard for the era of destruction and savagery to come. Watching this match back, the brutality pales in comparison to what we’re used to today, but at the time it was revolutionary. Now we have entire angles, feuds and full pay-per-views dedicated to ladder matches. That’s all because of what Shawn and Razor did at WrestleMania’s tenth anniversary in the middle of Madison Square Garden.
4. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 25)
Pairing together two legendary, nearly household names doesn’t always equate to success at WrestleMania. At this point in their careers, both The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were in their mid 40s, with enough memorable WrestleMania moments under their belts to make anybody envious. But at WrestleMania 25, without absolutely anything to prove, they had the best WrestleMania match of each of their respective careers. For more than 30 minutes, they remind you why they take up residence on so many Mt. Rushmores. The build to the match, and the match itself, both evoke a bunch of bizarre religious metaphors and allegories (if you’ve never seen Shawn Michaels descend from the heavens like an angel during his entrance, I cannot recommend it highly enough), but much like my time in Sunday School, I chose to overlook it. The contrasting styles of Michaels and ‘Taker make for something otherworldly all by themselves. For two men synonymous with WrestleMania, this was their finest hour.
3. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock - No Disqualification Match (WrestleMania X-Seven)
Hey, it’s these two again! While their match at WrestleMania XV is phenomenal, this one manages to be slightly better. It’s two years after their first ‘Mania encounter and, somehow, the Texas crowd is even more rabid than it was then. First, let’s talk about the match itself. It’s more technical than its predecessor, highlighted by a sequence where the two men trade submission maneuvers while they’re both covered in blood. It’s awesome. Just like their first match, Vince McMahon is dead-set on getting involved, so he makes his way out to ringside and, much to the chagrin of 67,000 people inside the Astrodome, starts to assist Austin. It’s a fascinating thing to feel palpable anxiety from a stadium full of strangers. Their deepest fears come true, as Vince not only helps Austin win the match and the title, they shake hands and drink beer together in the ring to close the show. Thus, the Austin heel turn. There is genuine bewilderment percolating everywhere. It’s like watching an ex making out with your mortal enemy. So, let’s talk about this. Do I think executing a heel turn with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, arguably the most popular wrestler in the history of the sport, was a great idea? No, I do not! Do I think it dampens the legacy of this incredible match? No, I do not! The debate over what they did with Austin is best served for another day, because this list is about matches, not angles; and as far as matches go, it doesn’t get much better than this.
2. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania VIII)
Perhaps the most stunning thing about this match is how patently absurd the storyline heading into it was. In short, Flair alleged he had dated Savage’s (real life) partner Miss Elizabeth before him and, if he was victorious, would display a personal photo of her on the big screen at the Hoosier Dome. This was enough, as you can imagine, to get the Macho Man very upset! It was about more than the WWF Championship on this night, ladies and gentlemen!!!!! The match is like a simmering pot of water. Flair dominates early, Savage makes his comeback and then it boils over with repeated interference from Mr. Perfect, which leads to Elizabeth inevitably fighting her way to ringside to make herself the focal point of the match. Savage wins with a roll-up, Elizabeth attacks Flair after he makes a move on her post-match and the lovebirds celebrate in the ring to close things out. Elizabeth was such an interesting enigma. She was often treated like an object, but she was never overtly sexualized. You couldn’t help but love her. Despite all of the hoopla, shenanigans and threats of revenge porn, the match is exceptional. The pacing is brilliant, everything makes sense and it’s also the catalyst for Flair’s post-match backstage promo, which is one of the best ever. An immaculate display of everything that makes professional wrestling great.
1. Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin - Submission Match (WrestleMania 13)
There have been other matches, there have been other moments, there have been other memories. But there’s never been anything quite like this. It’s a match that manages to have reverence for the past, capitalize on the present and set the stage for the future. Ultimately, what makes this the best WrestleMania match of all-time is the fact that it seemed to matter. In one corner, Bret Hart: the technical legend, the cocky Canadian, the man with a legacy to uphold. In the other, Steve Austin: the renegade, the beer-drinking Texan, the newcomer with a legacy to write. It’s wrestling on the verge of a rebirth. The two of them spill all over the arena and you can literally feel the legend of Austin growing as the match progresses. And yet, the most successful part of the match might be the finish. Austin, dripping in blood, refuses to submit and, instead, passes out in the Sharpshooter. It’s Bret Hart saying “not yet” to the new kid on the block, but it’s also Austin refusing to admit defeat while setting himself up for a run as the top guy. The match manages to accomplish so many things at once. It’s two competitors meeting each other in the middle, pushing wrestling to greater heights. The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever (might) be.
It’s been a hell of a ride. Relive it all!
50 - 26
100 - 51
101 - 200
201 - 300
301 - 356
We hope it never ends. We’ll be back soon with a post-WrestleMania 37 update. No need to wait on that to discuss great ‘Mania matches though.