We’re down to the top ten.
10. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit – Wrestlemania X-Seven
The first 5 minutes of this match were surreal. You had two “smaller” wrestlers on Wrestlemania in front of 50,000-plus (really over 67,000) WWF fans, doing nothing but amateur wrestling. It was hold and counter hold….. AND IT GOT OVER…. it got over huge. I don’t think anything like that would have been envisioned in 1987. Heck, it wouldn’t have been envisioned in 1997. But Angle and Benoit were just that good, and while they would go on to have better matches, this remains a technical classic. It was the first time we witnessed their display of countering each other’s finishers which became a staple of their matches, and at the time that was really really cool. The finish was perhaps not what you’d ideally want from these two, but it’s non-conclusiveness left things open for rematches.
Winner: Kurt Angle
9. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle – Wrestlemania XIX
At one point in this match, I thought to myself that I was watching one of the greatest matches I’d ever seen in my life. In fact, as the match was going on, I thought this could possibly be the greatest match in Wrestlemania history. Kurt Angle was injured going into the match and there was worry that he wouldn’t be able to work. But this is Kurt Angle. You knew he’d be there. And he went on to have a fabulous performance. Brock Lesnar held his own and it was a match mixed with fast and hard hitting action. It fell off near the end as Brock tried a shooting star press and nearly broke his neck. There was a bit of a breakdown as Lesnar was in a fog, but Angle led him through to the finish. While the ending didn’t allow it to achieve its full greatness, it’s still one of the greatest Mania matches of all time.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Wrestlemania was Vince McMahon’s baby. Technically Stephanie and Shane were his kids, but one could imagine that Vince took just as much care in his raising and handling of Wrestlemania as he did with his own children. And shame on those of you who just said that he might’ve shown more love and care for Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania was live in Madison Square Garden in 1985, and Wrestlemania 10 was also at the Garden in 1995. It didn’t take a genius to figure that Wrestlemania XX would call the Garden home. The line-up was stacked for Mania XX and Vince started promoting the event at Mania XIX. It had an entire year of promotion and it delivered.
There were a couple big ifs about this PPV. Or maybe a couple of big woulds. Would Vince McMahon give Chris Benoit the World Championship? Would Vince McMahon give Eddie Guerrero more than a one month reign as WWE Champion? Would Mick Foley be the Mick Foley of old? And would Hulk Hogan make a triumphant return at Wrestlemania XX?
Well, the answer to the first three questions was yes, but sadly, at least from this old Hulkamaniac’s point of view, the fourth was a big fat no. The PPV was set up with making Chris Benoit the superstar wrestling fans have always wanted him to be as well as establishing Eddy Guerrero as a fighting champion. And it did those things very well in my opinion.
The problem with having a PPV of this magnitude is that if it is a solid event, but doesn’t quite match the hype, it almost feels like a failure. And while that wasn’t the case here, if it wasn’t for the two championship bouts, it might’ve been looked at as a failure. The reason for that is because there were two huge matches that were advertised just as hard and maybe even harder than the two championship matches, and those failed miserably.
20. Mick Foley vs. Edge – Wrestlemania 22
This match is definitely one of the best brawls in the last couple of years. The match was about two things – giving Mick his “Wrestlemania Moment” and solidifying Edge as a top star. The twists and turns in this match were absorbing and extremely creative (i.e. Foley concealing barbwire under his flannel). Lita of all people took the bump of the match when Foley hit Edge with the Cactus Clothesline with her on his back. It was great. Also great was the finish, which will go down as one of THE classic Wrestlemania moments.
You can see the awesome finish at the 2:25 mark.
When you think of Wrestlemania X-8 in five years, you will remember one match, and only one match. You’ll be surprised to see that Edge had a match with Booker T which started because Edge swiped a commercial deal that Booker T thought he should’ve received. You’ll forget that there was Diamond Dallas Page’s one and only Wrestlemania match. You might even forget that Chris Jericho and Triple H were in the main event.
The match you will remember however is the one that pitted Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock. Hogan had just come back to the WWF with his NWO cronies Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. McMahon brought them in to come shake up the foundation of the WWF. He wanted them to “poison” his own creation as he was afraid that Ric Flair was ruining his promotion. That was the storyline. The real story was that McMahon, as always, wanted to bring in some surprises right before Wrestlemania, to make Mania the most talked about show of the year. However, what he should’ve known was that the NWO was so “five years ago” and that it wouldn’t work today unless it was brought back as a new idea. Hogan was accepted back by the fans, but Nash and Hall weren’t seen as anything more than just regular guys. Hogan is a great manipulator and he positioned himself with a match against The Rock, who already had a great buzz on him as he was finishing up The Scorpion King. The initial build-up was excellent. Rock challenged Hogan and the audience was split on who they were cheering for. What they did afterward was hogwash and unbelievable, but let’s just forget that ever happened.
I can start this off by stating that this is the single greatest WWE card from top to bottom that I have ever witnessed. Although there were a few rocky match-ups and it took a while for the Houston crowd to get into, this is the greatest of all the Wrestlemanias.
One thing that helps this show standout that might get overlooked is the announcing. Paul Heyman took Jerry Lawler’s place as Lawler had quit the company when his wife, Stacy Carter (The Kat) was fired. Carter soon left Lawler. Talk about being ungrateful. Anyway, Heyman is outstanding in building up feuds and making matches seem important, and not yelling “puppies” every 5 minutes. And Jim Ross is at his usual high standard.
The marquee match-up pitted the People’s Champ, The Rock against Stone Cold Steve Austin. It was a babyface vs. babyface match-up, however in Austin’s home state, Rock was going to be turned heel by the crowd. The show was held at the old Astrodome in Houston and Austin was over like nobody’s business.