For many in the NAIborhood, the last few weeks have been spent binge watching Wrestlemanias of old in preparation for next weekend’s festivities.
However, not everyone might have had the time (or interest, honestly) to do so. Still, some sort of homework must be done, so leave it to “The Teacher” to have you covered.
This is the first of what might be a couple of Wrestlemania Watch Lists, where I offer a series of matches for your entertainment and education.
How do I select these? Well, I’d love to say that I’ve spent hours upon hours scouring through the entire Wrestlemania archive and using a carefully constructed criteria, have ranked everything myself. But sadly, even I don’t have that kind of time.
So I’m using Meltzer’s ratings.
Disclaimer: I am NOT in love with Dave Meltzer’s ratings system. In fact, it’s confusing and seems to have a whole lot of personal bias thrown in. However, until I find a better system (one with a clearly understandable rubric), this is all I’ve got.
This week: The Highest Rated Matches of Each Wrestlemania
Wrestlemania 1 – Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne – 3.25 stars
Note: If you don’t know who Matt Borne is. . . It’s Doink. The Dragon is wrestling Doink.
Wrestlemania 2 – The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake) – 4 stars
Wrestlemania 3 – Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage – 4.5 stars
Note: This match would appear on anyone’s ratings system, I believe. Some consider it, from a WWF standpoint at least, the first “modern” match. If you have never watched it, fix that promptly.
Wrestlemania 4 – (3 WayTie) – 2.25 stars
Note: As the low rating suggests, Meltzer wasn’t a huge fan of these tournament matches. I seem to recall finding them better than he did, but none of them were stand-outs. As for the winners, we have Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine, Randy Savage vs. Greg Valentine, and Savage vs. Ted Dibiase.
Tangent: Greg Valentine and Ricky Steamboat are really the standouts of the very early Wrestlemania years, as either man was part of the best matches of the first four Manias.
Wrestlemania 5 – Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage – 2.75 stars
Wrestlemania 6 – Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior – 3.75 stars
Note: Yes, Hulk Hogan had the best match 2 years in a row. Obviously Meltzer considers storytelling alongside (if not above) in-ring action.
Wrestlemania 7 – Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior – 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 8 – Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair – 4.25 stars
Tangent: The first decade of Wrestlemanias belonged to the Macho Man, as we can see, which makes the fact that he didn’t wrestle at Mania 9 so curious. Was he injured? Was it really that Vince thought it was time to move on, since obviously Savage still had some gas in the tank. I mean, he had a very enjoyable match with Crush at Wrestlemania X. . . Odd.
Wrestlemania 9 – Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka – 3.25 stars
Wrestlemania 10 – Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – 5 stars
Wrestlemania 11 – Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel – 4 stars
Note: Really? I remember very little from Mania 11, despite it being as close to my hometown as you could get. I certainly don’t remember this main event being anything good. . .
Wrestlemania 12 – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart – 4.25 stars
Tangent: It’s a shame we never got to see a prolonged feud between HBK and Macho Man. Apparently there’s a match or two floating around out there on the Internet, though.
Wrestlemania 13 – Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin – 5 stars
Note: According to Meltzer, this and the ladder match from WMX are the only 5 star matches in Wrestlemania history. If you want proof that his ratings system is totally wrong, that’s probably exhibit A.
Wrestlemania 14 – New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie AND Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin – 3.25 stars
Wrestlemania 15 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock – 3.5 stars
Note: Impressive 3 year run for Stone Cold, especially when you consider he broke his neck in between Mania 13 and 14, forcing him to drastically alter his wrestling style.
Wrestlemania 16 – Dudleys vs. Edge and Christian vs. The Hardys – 4 stars
Wrestlemania 17 – Dudleys vs. Edge and Christian vs. The Hardys – 4.75 stars
Note: Only three matches will repeat as the best match of back to back Wrestlemanias – Without cheating, can you name the other two? Bet you can.
Wrestlemania 18 – (3 Way tie) – 3 stars
Note: Ric Flair vs. Undertaker, The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan and Chris Jericho vs. Triple H all share the victory here. Having just recently seen this PPV, I agree with the first two, but Y2J vs. The Game doesn’t belong here. Good match, but not on the level of the others.
Also, despite this being the second decade of matches for The Deadman, this is his first appearance on the list, but nowhere near his last. More on that later.
Wrestlemania 19 – Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar – 4.25 stars
Note: Imagine how good it would have been had Lesnar NOT landed on his head!!!
Wrestlemania 20 – Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Chris Benoit – 4.75 stars
Note: This is a 5 star match to me. Not sure what the .25 was Meltzer deigned to deduct from this Triple Threat, but it was as good as you can get.
Wrestlemania 21 – Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle – 4.75 stars
Note: I originally was trying to devise a formula one could use to accurately calculate “Mr. Wrestlemania”, but after looking at this list, there’s no point. Even the Undertaker, at 21 and 1, doesn’t hold a candle to the Heartbreak Kid. Four Best Matches in a row in the 1990’s, then 3 more consecutive ones in the 2000’s, and we’re STILL not done!
Wrestlemania 22 – Money in the Bank and Mick Foley vs. Edge – 4 stars
Note: Foley vs. Edge should be ranked higher, and not just because MITB is a glorified spot-fest (albeit a thoroughly enjoyable one). Mick Foley and Adam Copeland damn near killed each other (and Amy Dumas, while they were at it) and if you want to choose a single moment when Edge went from being a good wrestler to a main event juggernaut, I imagine this was probably it.
Wrestlemania 23 – Money In the Bank – 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 24 – Edge vs. Undertaker – 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 25 – Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker – 4.75 stars
Note: This is not only a 5 star match, it probably goes beyond that. In the NAI150, most people picked this match as the best one OF ALL TIME. Yet Lord Meltzer deemed it unworthy of such distinction.
Tangent: Seriously, why can’t somebody come up with a better ratings scale? Do I have to do this? Is this what my life will become now?
Wrestlemania 26 – Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker – 4.75 stars
Note: Shawn Michaels stole the show at just about one third of all Wrestlemanias. Forget you, Triple H, let’s all bow down to the REAL king, the guy. . . . The guy who probably wouldn’t find it religiously appropriate for us to bow down to anyone. How about a hearty handshake, Shawn? Nice work!
Wrestlemania 27 – Triple H vs. Undertaker – 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 28 – Triple H vs. Undertaker – 4.75 stars
Wrestlemania 29 – CM Punk vs. Undertaker – 4.5 stars
Note: It’s worth mentioning here that Undertaker turned 40 years old in 2005, yet this Streak, if you will, didn’t start until he was 43. From ages 43 to 48, Undertaker had the best match at Wrestlemania. Now, granted, his opponents (Edge, HBK, HHH, Punk) were among the best in the world at the time, but regardless. This might be even more impressive than being 21-1. Any other wrestlers you know that peaked in their 40’s?
Wrestlemania 30 – Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan – 4.5 stars
Wrestlemania 31 – Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (guest starring Seth Rollins) – 4.5 stars
Note: Curious thought experiment would be what the ratings, and crowd response, would have been had we not been TOTALLY SHOCKED by Rollins cashing in during this match.