WrestleMania is often called the Super Bowl of pro wrestling for a reason. Since its inception in 1985, the show has become a staple of WWE programming, boasting some of the best and most storied matches in the company’s long history.
From the headline of WrestleMania I in Madison Square Garden (Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper) to the upcoming WrestleMania 39 in Inglewood, WrestleMania has become virtually synonymous with WWE itself.
So many of its most memorable moments have taken place on “the grandest stage of them all,” with many of WWE’s top performers — Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and John Cena — all having headlined the event in the past.
With how long WrestleMania has been around, it’s easy to think of the sheer number of matches the company has had on its WrestleMania match cards since 1985. However, as you’d expect, some matches are often less well-received than others, while some are often cited as some of the greatest matches in professional wrestling.
Here are 15 of the best matches ever featured on WrestleMania.
15. The Rock vs. John Cena
The Rock and John Cena. Two of the biggest names in WWE, both have gone on to achieve massive success in their post-wrestling careers. In 2012, after nearly a year of teasing a match between the two megastars, WWE gave fans what they’d long been anticipating with Rock versus Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Billed as a “once in a lifetime event” (even though they would have a rematch at the following year’s WrestleMania 29), seeing The Rock face Cena was like seeing two different eras of WWE clash in one ring. In one corner, you had The Rock — one of the most defining names of the Attitude Era.
In the other, you had Cena — the face of WWE throughout its Ruthless Aggression Era in the mid-2000s, who carried the company on his shoulders like Hogan, Austin, and The Rock before him.
While the match itself was okay, you can’t deny how epic the showdown was when these two men stepped into the ring together, having shades of other WrestleMania “past vs. present” meet-ups like Hogan-Rock or Owens-Austin.
14. Triple H vs. The Undertaker
No wrestler is as closely tied to WrestleMania than the Undertaker. From his debut at 1991’s WrestleMania VII, the Phenom went on to the greatest and long-lasting winning streak in WrestleMania’s past, beating the likes of everyone from King Kong Bundy and Jake “the Snake” Roberts to new-age stars like Randy Orton and Edge.
In 2012, though, Taker met his most formidable opponent yet in the form of Triple H. Challenged to a rematch from their previous outing at WrestleMania XXVII in 2011, the Game and the Deadman faced off in a Hell in a Cell match. To make matters even more interesting, Triple H’s best friend and the Taker’s most memorable rival, Shawn Michaels, acted as a special guest referee for the bout.
In what would be a grueling, hard-hitting match that tested the wills of both men, Triple H came incredibly close to putting the Undertaker away and breaking the Phenom’s undefeated streak. But in the end, the Deadman prevailed, all three men accompanying each other from the ring afterward in the ultimate sign of respect.
13. Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels
In what was supposed to be Ric Flair’s final match of his historic career, the Nature Boy was challenged by Shawn Michaels for 2008’s WrestleMania XXIV. Despite Flair being nearly 60 at the time and Michaels himself being only two years away from retirement, both men delivered one of the most celebrated matches in WrestleMania’s modern days, a match that was as emotionally draining as it was physically exhausting to watch.
After months of being challenged by various opponents trying to retire the Dirtiest Player in the Game, it was Michaels that finally managed to end Flair’s expansive winning streak, pinning his former mentor after two Sweet Chin Musics in quick succession.
Out of any WrestleMania image, few could compare to the sight of Ric Flair in tears, rising to his feet while challenging HBK to hit him with another kick. It was a moment that summed up Flair’s tenacity, love for the business, and willingness to put on an excellent show for the fans in attendance and the millions watching at home.
12. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels
In the first televised ladder match in WWE, Razor Ramon battled his real-life close friend/onscreen rival Shawn Michaels, with the Intercontinental Championship hanging in the balance between the two men.
Nowadays, it’s easy to forget how commonplace and tame ladder matches are, but in 1994, the concept of using ladders as a weapon or suplexing an opponent from the top was entirely new. Michaels and Ramon were doing things no one had ever seen before, giving the entire match an air of unpredictability and excitement unlike anything else that had come before it.
It was an influential match for two of the newest faces of WWE television during the mid-1990s, signifying a new match type for a new era of pro wrestling. And, of course, we owe it all to the Heartbreak Kid and the Bad Guy for making it all possible, setting the standard for every ladder match that followed.
11. The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan
In 1990, it seemed that Hulk Hogan’s prestigious career was beginning to wind down, prompting a new generation of young wrestlers to follow in his footsteps. One of the foremost among these was the Ultimate Warrior, a wrestler that seemed groomed to succeed the Hulkster’s spotlight as the main star of WWE in the early 1990s.
Before the Warrior could fully cement his place as the face of WWE, Hogan and the Warrior were booked in a winner takes all match with both the Warrior’s Intercontinental Championship and Hogan’s WWF Championship on the line.
There were no heels in this match. No dishonest tactics or cheating. Just pure sportsmanship — two top dogs going at it to see who would emerge as the better wrestler.
In the end, the Warrior would emerge victorious, with Hogan handing the title to his former adversary, symbolizing the end of one era and the beginning of the next. (Of course, this wouldn’t necessarily be the case, as Hogan held onto his critical place in WWE for the next decade via backstage politicking.)
10. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
No wrestling rivalry comes close to the years-long feud between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. A rivalry that blurred the line between fiction and reality, these two men truly seemed to hate each other with a passion on and off screen.
Whenever they met in a match, thankfully, Hart and Michaels managed to leave their personal animosities behind, wrestling with professionalism and vigor that left fans speechless and wanting more.
After years spent in WWE’s midcard in the early to mid-1990s, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were both on the top of the wrestling world in 1996, leading to an epic showdown between the two at WrestleMania XII. But alas, this was no regular match. This was an Iron Man match that saw both men competing for 60 minutes straight.
Wrestling for an hour is a feat few wrestlers can accomplish, but Hart and Michaels’ stamina and physical conditioning came in their favor. After a solid hour of endless grappling, impressive spots, and genuine-looking bumps, they fought to a draw, resulting in Vince McMahon ordering a sudden death over time that led to Michaels’ victory with a Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere.
9. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart
Commonly considered one of the finest WrestleMania opening matches, Bret Hart faced his younger brother, Owen, in the inaugural match of 1994’s WrestleMania X. As to be expected, the match was less physical as it was technical, with both brothers using speed, cunning, and a wide range of submission-based holds against the other.
There’s a reason why the Hart Family Dungeon is now seen as producing some of the most gifted wrestlers to ever lace up their boots. The style and discipline the Family emphasized in their wrestlers’ training gave way to some of the most influential wrestlers of the ‘90s — with no one coming close to the Excellence of Execution, Bret Hart, or his brother, the endlessly underrated Owen.
Interestingly, while losing in his match against Owen, Bret wrestled again in the night’s main event against Yokozuna, winning the WWF Championship for the second time in his career.
8. Edge & Christian vs. the Hardy Boyz vs. the Dudley Boyz
By 2001, the ladder match had become a novelty in WWE, having been featured numerous times in the several matches between Edge & Christian and the Hardy Boyz from 1999 onwards. When it came time for the Hardys, Edge & Christian, and their mutual rivals, the Dudley Boyz, to face each other in a triple three tag team match, it seemed only natural that WWE combine all three teams’ specialties into one grand match
Dubbed the Tables Ladders Chairs match, all three teams reenacted their WrestleMania 2000 match-up. In it, they used a plethora of tables (the Dudleys’ weapons of choice), chairs (Edge & Christian’s), and ladders (the Hardys) in their fight for the WWF World Tag Team Championship.
Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels may have done it first, but these three teams raised the stakes at WrestleMania X-Seven, going higher than anyone else before them. Even today, some of the bumps these men take is enough to knock the breath out of your lungs — like that unforgettable spear from Edge to Jeff Hardy off the latter onto the canvas below.
7. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan
The Rock and Hulk Hogan are without doubt two of the biggest and most recognizable names in pro wrestling there is. Both men enjoyed long and successful careers in WWE, with no two wrestlers coming close to measuring up to two of the most momentous periods in the company than the Hulkster and the Great One.
Before WWE’s acquisition of WCW in 2001, a dream match between the two was just that: a pipe dream, unlikely to ever come true. But when the Rock first crossed paths with Hogan and his NWO faction in a WWE locker room, the stage was set between the face of WWE throughout much of the 1990s, and the then-current star of WWE at the height of its Attitude Era.
In what was without a doubt the best match of WrestleMania X8, the Rock and Hogan completely blew the roof off the already-roofless SkyDome in Toronto, fighting in a fantasy match that fans could only ever imagine happening in the years prior. It was the greatest legend from WWE’s past versus current prominent WWE wrestler ever put to screen, better than Hogan-Warrior, Rock-Cena, and Owens-Austin put together.
6. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels
In 2002, Shawn Michaels shocked the wrestling world by returning after a four-year retirement that seemed to spell the end of the Heartbreak Kid’s career. From 2002 until his actual retirement in 2010, Michaels had some of the best matches of his career, facing everyone from his former friend turned archenemy, Triple H, to the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista.
In 2005, Michaels came across the most challenging in-ring technical wrestler he’d faced since Bret Hart in the form of Olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle. Their rivalry was one of the highlights of WWE’s Ruthless Aggression Era, punctuated by a fantastic matchup between the two at WrestleMania 21.
Opening to an initially slower, grapple-based opening reminiscent of Angle’s early career as an amateur wrestler, the match soon escalated into a slew of chops, suplexes, and high-flying dives from Michaels to the former Olympian. And while the villainous Angle eventually won, the real winners were the fans lucky enough to witness this showdown between of the two greatest to ever set foot in the ring.
5. Hulk Hogan vs. André the Giant
No WrestleMania match is more famous or well-publicized than the WrestleMania III main event between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. In 1987, Hulkamania was in full swing, with Hogan slowly rising to the top of WWE programming throughout the mid 1980s.
By 1987, Hogan was riding high on his momentous popularity, standing tall as the face of not just WWE, but the pro wrestling industry itself. That being said, when his former friend and close ally, André, abruptly turned his back on him, challenging the Hulkster for the World Heavyweight Championship, it seemed like Hogan had his greatest challenge yet lying ahead of him.
It was a classic David and Goliath scenario, billed as an event that would see the unstoppable force meet the immovable object. Amazingly, Hogan overcame the odds, wowwing the world when he picked up the 500 pounder and slammed him down on the canvas. It’s an image forever ingrained in the imagination of every wrestling fan there is — a moment that will live on as one of the greatest in WrestleMania’s history.
4. Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage
In the midcard of WrestleMania III, young up-and-coming star, Ricky Steamboat, met his bitter rival, Macho Man Randy Savage, in a match that had been built up for several long months. With George “the Animal” Steele in the Dragon’s corner, and Savage’s valet, Miss Elizabeth, in the Macho Man’s, the two faced off in what many considered to be an instant classic, competing for Savage’s Intercontinental Championship.
In a match that truly felt decades ahead of its time, Steamboat and Savage had a barnstormer of a bout, wrestling a highly technical match that seemed like a stylistic precursor to Michaels and Hart, Michaels and Angle, and the more modern mat-based wrestling of NJPW and AEW.
It’s an undisputed classic from WrestleMania’s vintage days, emphasizing a mix of submission holds, near pinfalls, and powerful moves like suplexes and diving attacks in a time when most wrestling matches were a series of unconvincing punches, body slams, and a pin.
3. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
Two names forever synonymous with WrestleMania are Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. For decades, both men had made a name for themselves delivering some of the most acclaimed matches ever featured on the pay-per-view, starting off as young talent and cementing their place as icons in the business in the years that passed.
As we’ve mentioned previously, the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania had become the stuff of legend in WWE, with numerous wrestlers attempting to become the first to break the Deadman’s streak. What better candidate to do so than Mr. WrestleMania himself — the man who’s name appears more times on this list than any other wrestler we’ve highlighted thus far.
While both men’s best days were behind them, the veteran performers still managed to clash in what would become the greatest match in either’s careers. At any moment, it truly felt like Michaels would close in on a victory over the Phenom, making history with one well-timed Sweet Chin Music when Taker least expected it.
The buildup to their later rematch at WrestleMania XXVI was perhaps superior, but it was their original 2009 match at WrestleMania 25 that is far and away the highlight of their feud.
2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart
No one — I mean, no one — could’ve anticipated a star as popular as Stone Cold Steve Austin. Abandoning his former WCW gimmick of “Stunning Steve,” Austin arrived to the WWE and almost immediately made a name for himself as the tough-talking, anti-authoritarian Texas redneck we know him as today.
Brash, crude, and living by his signature, “arrive, raise hell, leave,” Austin was a breath of fresh air in WWE’s stale programming of the late 1990s, setting the tone for the Attitude Era that followed.
Standing in Austin’s path of stardom was Bret Hart, the face of WWE after Hogan’s departure from the company in the early ‘90s, who seemed a man out of his time in WWE. Brandishing a straightforward, somewhat bland heroic persona, Hart was in desperate need of a change by 1997, leading to his WrestleMania 13 match with Austin that saw both men reach the genesis of their careers.
A submission match with MMA star (and later WWE wrestler) Ken Shamrock as the special guest referee, Hart and Austin pretty much created the Attitude Era when they stepped foot in the ring.
Their match was bloody, it was violent, it was in-your-face, with the villainous Austin emerging as the company’s unlikely hero, and the babyface Hart standing tall as WWE’s unexpected villain. It was a turning point in WWE from that point forward, and the match that made Austin a star in the world of professional wrestling.
1. The Rock vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
In 2001, the Attitude Era began its gradual wind-down. With the emergence of ECW and WCW’s most memorable stars (Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T, Rob Van Dam) later in the summer, it seemed the simpler days of Austin and Rock standing in as the sole faces of the company were at an end.
But before the Attitude Era officially came to a close in 2002, the Texas Rattlesnake and the Brahma Bull met in their second WrestleMania matchup for WrestleMania X-Seven. Unlike their earlier match at WrestleMania XV or their final match together at WrestleMania XIX, this bout saw the two at the height of their popularity, both going into the pay-per-view as two main heroes of WWE’s Attitude Era.
Like all of their matches, their main event at WrestleMania X-Seven was brutal, with both Austin and Rock battered and busted open mid-way through. And in a shocking turn of events, Austin won out over his famed rival with the help of his nemesis, Vince McMahon, closing the show in a gut-wrenching embrace with the incarnation of evil, Mr. McMahon, as the credits began to roll.
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