The lineup for this Sunday’s WrestleMania 34 is stacked. There are a number of matches capable of stealing the show, and when you throw in Daniel Bryan’s return and Ronda Rousey’s debut it appears on paper to have the chance to compete for the title of Best Mania Ever. But how many of its matches would make the ultimate WrestleMania card? What if you put together a Mania using only the best matches from the 33 prior editions, the best of the best competing on one all-star show?
The rules are simple: You can only use each wrestler and each title belt once. This sounds difficult until you realize that you can only have one of Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat and Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels because they’re both for the Intercontinental Title — at which point it becomes almost impossible to choose. We’re also trying to keep this somewhat realistic as a show, so please resist putting too many contests on the card. It would be fun just to make a list of the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time, but it would also be a lot easier. By locking in these rules you have to make tough choices, and, yikes, there are some tough choices to make.
Disclaimer: These are not the only good matches in WrestleMania history, and this is certainly not the only acceptable card using the rules we’re following above. A lot of exceptional contests were left out for one reason or another, and I trust that you might be able to come up with a better arrangement of the puzzle pieces. Without further ado:
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant – WWF Title – WrestleMania III
The most famous wrestling match of all time, as the unstoppable force battled the immovable object. It was Hogan’s three-year reign as champion against Andre’s 15-year undefeated streak, it was the contest that cemented Hogan’s legacy as Vince McMahon’s top draw. From a technical and work-rate perspective, this is by far the worst match on the card, but none of those other matches have Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 fans at the Silverdome before dropping the leg to finish things. Just watch this frenzy:
Considering they have the same lineage, we’re counting the WWF and WWE titles as the same thing, which means this is our title match on the show. I’m comfortable with that choice because it’s the main event we have to have, but it takes some classics off our board, including Rock vs. Austin, Hogan vs. Warrior, Flair vs. Savage, Guerrero vs. Angle, Lesnar vs. Angle, and Hart vs. Michaels.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat – Intercontinental title – WrestleMania III
We’re going to stick with the third edition of Mania and the city of Detroit for our Intercontinental title entry, a timeless match that wouldn’t seem even a hint anachronistic if it were to take place in New Orleans this weekend. It’s a tale of revenge, as Steamboat wanted both Savage’s championship and to get vengeance for an attack months earlier when the Macho Man had injured his throat with the ring bell. The finish is wild — involving a ref bump, George “the Animal” Steele, and another attempt by Savage to use the ring bell — but the journey is just as good, with the two legends cramming a flurry of near falls into just under 15 minutes of action. Gene Okerlund called this the “very best” match he’s seen, and it more than belongs near the top of our card.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – TLC Match – Tag titles – WrestleMania X-7
A rematch of a triangle ladder match at the previous Showcase of Immortals, this was a massive car crash in wrestling form. These three teams combined for nearly two dozen reigns as tag champions, with this match the peak of their feud. (To further the insanity, this actually ended up including nine participants, as Lita, Rhyno, and Spike Dudley injected themselves as the chaos rolled along.) It is tough to pick the most insane moment from this thrill ride, but Jeff Hardy dangling helplessly from the belts and then taking a spear from Edge certainly ranks up there. There might not be a better match from a sheer entertainment perspective in the history of Mania.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart – WrestleMania 13
A consensus five-star classic that launched Austin into the stratosphere. It was a brutal submission match that roamed all over the arena refereed by then-MMA fighter Ken Shamrock. Hart was the cold-blooded, efficient master and Austin the unstoppable brawler, the crowd slowly shifting its allegiances to Stone Cold over the course of the bloody match. By the time Austin passed out in the Sharpshooter, the double-turn was complete: Stone Cold was now the beloved baby face, the Hitman a reviled heel. Austin called this the greatest match of his career, and we must trust the Rattlesnake’s judgment here.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte – WWE women’s title – WrestleMania 32
There have been some solid women’s title matches over the course of Mania history, but this one is the longest and also the best. This is the Mania match where the modern WWE decided to take women’s wrestling seriously, retiring the butterfly Diva’s belt for the more formal Women’s Championship, and as an added bonus, it gets us Ric Flair in Charlotte’s corner. There’s also Snoop Dogg rapping for Banks’s entrance, a beautiful moonsault, and a great promo package featuring Demi Lovato’s “Confident.” There’s a chance Asuka vs. Charlotte on Sunday night could take this spot, but for now this triple threat reigns supreme.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania 25
The downside of putting these two against each other is you lose over a dozen potential Mania classics, with opponents spanning from Bret Hart to C.M. Punk. The upside is you get two of the best wrestlers in the history of WWE and an absolute classic, Mr. WrestleMania against the man who won his first 21 Mania matches. While both this edition and the Heartbreak Kid’s retirement match at Mania 26 are top-notch, I have a slight preference for the first battle. The finish is a perfect encapsulation of Michaels’s desperation at trying to take down the Deadman: Running out of options, he tries another moonsault, only to find it turned into a Tombstone Piledriver that ended things and set up the following year’s main event. If you’d rather go with the WrestleMania 26 version, I won’t fight you, but I think reasonable people can agree that no ultimate Mania card could be complete without these two in the ring together.
The Rock vs. John Cena – WrestleMania 28
We’re going with the 2012 version of this match because it wasn’t for the title and didn’t involve the Rock being injured in the early going. This is a relatively rare nontitle Mania main event, with two of the WWE’s biggest mainstream stars squaring off. The crowd was so into this, and it saw Cena flash some heel qualities at the end, his cockiness costing him when an attempt at a mocking People’s Elbow is turned into a Rock Bottom. The level of star power here is just silly: Both of these men have hosted Saturday Night Live, and both are starring in mainstream movies opening this month (the Rock in Rampage, Cena in Blockers). This isn’t the best Rock match at a Mania — that honor would go to his Austin trilogy or the showdown with Hogan — but it’s a dang good match against one of the few people in WWE who can approach his level of fame.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – WrestleMania XXX
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart is the best Mania opener of all time, but Bret’s facing Austin, so we can’t use it. Instead we’ll open with this, the penultimate step in one of the greatest wrestling stories ever told: Daniel Bryan’s rise to the WWE championship. The match itself is excellent, with Triple H managing to go move for move with one of the most talented technicians ever to step into a WWE ring. The Superdome crowd was absolutely on fire for Bryan, and there’s a near fall after a Pedigree where everyone is dead silent for a moment and the place feels like a funeral. Also, the Triple H entrance is properly over-the-top and absurd, which seems like a must-have for any ultimate Mania card.
(This is our opener — and what a fine opener it makes — but I do wonder if we could cheat and put Hart vs. Hart on here as well because Bret did pull double duty at WrestleMania X, losing to his brother in the opener before claiming the title versus Yokozuna in the main event. I set the rules, so I’m not going to break them, but if Bret pulled double duty once, he could potentially do it again.)
Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg – Universal title – WrestleMania 33
This is an easy, fun addition for a few reasons. First: It’s freaking Goldberg and Brock Lesnar hitting all their signature stuff. Second: They hit all of it quickly, so this isn’t going to bog down our show. Third: Since this was the first Mania with the Universal Title in existence, there’s no competition for it. If Sunday night’s Reigns-Lesnar is better than this — which it probably will be, but we can’t be sure — then prepare to slide it in here.
Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho – United States title – WrestleMania 33
It would be a federal crime to not include Y2J on this card, so let’s consider our options. A lot of his matches are either for titles or against guys who have other partners on this dance card, so that’s no good. There are also matches with Styles and Fandango and a European title clash with William Regal to consider, but I think this is the right choice. Is it recency bias? Perhaps, but it paid off the wonderful Festival of Friendship turn and was a tight match with a smart, clean finish.
Jake “the Snake” Roberts vs. “the Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase – WrestleMania VI
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit – WrestleMania X-7
Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton – WrestleMania 31
The easiest way to get on this show is to have a singles match with no title attached. Roberts vs. DiBiase for the Million Dollar Championship gets two legends who would thrive in any era involved, plus cameos from Damien and Virgil. Benoit vs. Angle is probably the best of the bunch (obligatory mention that having Benoit on this card in no way condones what he did at the end of his life), but Rollins vs. Orton is one of the best Mania finishes of all time, with Orton reversing the Curb Stomp into a flying RKO.
Kane vs Raven vs Big Show – Hardcore title – WrestleMania X-7
A quick, fun hardcore match with two WWE legends and a cult hero in Raven. It’ll make for enjoyable preshow fodder, and if it’s not your cup of tea, it’s a chance to load up on snacks.
Umaga vs. Bobby Lashley – WrestleMania 23
This one is kind of cheating because Austin is the special referee, but I think it would be fine for him to officiate a match as long as it took place prior to the conclusion of his blood feud with Hart. This match isn’t on the list because of the quality of the wrestling — it’s fine — but because it’s the Battle of the Billionaires between Vince McMahon and Donald Trump, which means the current United States president would be at ringside and involved in the action. If we’re trying to get eyeballs on our ultimate Mania, this seems like the easiest card to play.
Currently without matches, unfortunately: Mick Foley, Batista, Ric Flair, Ultimate Warrior, Razor Ramon, Diesel, C.M Punk, Eddie Guerrero, the Miz
A few of the many great matches not on here: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels ladder match, Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, Triple H vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels (HBK was very good at his job), Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle, Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart, the Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania 21 Money in the Bank (Edge vs. Benoit vs. Jericho vs. Christian vs. Kane vs. Shelton Benjamin), Triple H vs. the Undertaker, C.M. Punk vs. the Undertaker
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