This time next week every big wrestling fan in the world will be reliving the events of the night before as Wrestlemania 34 emanates from New Orleans, Louisiana and the grandest professional wrestling event of the year will have taken place. The annual extravaganza is always a can’t miss event and always delivers one way or another with its stand out matches, dream feuds and storyline culminations being blended with superstar returns, stunning presentation and entertainment unlike any other. Pro wrestling gets a bad rap for being “fake” but go and sit through the Eastenders omnibus and then come tell me what is clearly more entertaining. Either way, with Wrestlemania being less than a week away and with a stacked out card that has everyone excited and speculating the results, let’s take a look at some of the greatest Wrestlmanias from the past as I present my top 10 favourites…
10. Wrestlemania 31 / 29th March 2015 – Levi’s Stadium, California
The number 10 spot was tricky to figure out and it could have easily been Wrestlemania 12 or even Wrestlemania 18, but this one makes the list due to the fact that the previous year was just such a great story line year. Daniel Bryan had left and returned from injury, The Shield had broken up and gone on a singles path, Orton and Seth Rollins had been heating up for months and Roman Reigns obvious climb to the main event was now in front of us. We saw Bryan take the Intercontinental title, Rollins and Orton tear the house down, Reigns and Brock Lesnar beat the hell out of each other and finally one of the most incredible endings to a Wrestlemania main event when Seth Rollins hijacked the title by cashing in his money in the bank contract. Very memorable and often mentioned as well as being a fun show.
9. Wrestlemania 6 / 1st April 1990 – Skydome, Toronto
As Wrestlemania has evolved and grown through the years it leaves some of the older shows lacking in both athletic performance and show production, but Wrestlemania 6 makes the list. As one of only two that stepped outside of the USA, and one thing this one really stands out for is the main event. If the ranking was for marquee matches, this one would make top 5 easily as Hulk Hogan faced The Ultimate Warrior. The two biggest characters in pro wrestling at the time and also two of the fan favourites would battle for both the WWE title and the Intercontinental title in a real passing of the torch moment as Hogan allowed another to sit atop the main event scene alongside him. The match was epic and feels big even when watching it now. However I remember this one for another reason entirely as it produced one of the loudest crowd reactions of all time when Demolition defeated Andre The Giant and Haku for the Tag Team championships. What a huge roar that still shocks me even now.
8. Wrestlemania 33 / 2nd April 2017 – Camping World Stadium, Orlando
As it stands at this time, the most recent Wrestlemania was a truly great show and certainly deserves mention. With a lineup of matches that made sense and was stacked with not only great feuds but huge stars, it delivered massively from start to finish. Opening with possibly the match of the night featuring AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon delivering technical wrestling, high-flying moves and big spots that got the crowd excited. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho for the United States title made so much sense as a featured match and was also entertaining, as was Seth Rollins vs Triple H who also told a long story heading towards a match that you could now invest in emotionally. The Hardy Boyz returned for a four-way tag team ladder match and won the Raw tag team titles in a modern classic of a Wrestlemania moment. The issue with this one was length and change of pace. The second half slowed down and became laboured and by the time Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns and The Undertaker took to the stage, the crowd both at home and live were tired and worn out and had already been exposed to everything. The second half of the event was easily stolen by the Smackdown Women’s division in pace and creativity.
7. Wrestlemania 28 / 1st April 2012 – Sunlife Stadium, Miami Gardens
After coming off not only a couple of lacklustre Wrestlemanias in 26 & 27, but really a laborious couple of years in the WWE with the PG era beginning and the themed PPV’s kicking off, hopes were sure high for this one and it deliver. 2011 had turned everything around as CM Punk blew up and reignited the entire wrestling world, plus with a main event between The Rock and John Cena that had been set for an entire year, things were looking good. The show kicked off with one hell of a shock as Sheamus defeated World Heavyweight Champion by beating Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds. Everybody has different opinions of this but I remember still, jumping out of my seat when it happened. Some great mid card singles matches, an incredible, technical WWE title match between Punk and Chris Jericho and a Hell In A Cell match between Triple H and The Undertaker with HBK as the referee had already put the show up there as one of the greatest. The main event match between Cena and The Rock delivered massively too and finished off a great show with a “Once In A Lifetime encounter…. until the following year where they did it again.
6. Wrestlemania 25 / 5th April 2009 – Reliant Stadium, Houston
Billed as the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania despite it not really being at all, this one stands out for everything except its main event. The Money In The Bank ladder match still stands out as one of the best, JBL’s retirement match against Rey Mysterio was a short but memorable point, John Cena vs Edge vs Big Show in a Triple Threat match for the World Heavyweight championship was a lot of fun and had fans gasping when Cena lifted both of them up at the same time and the Hardy Boyz imploded as they faced off one on one in an Extreme Rules match. The card featured a lot of big moments and a lot of memorable events but without doubt, and the reason the is number 6 on the list was the match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. The match lasted almost 31 minutes and was dramatic, fast paced and had a string of big moves which, I remember, had me out of my seat screaming at the screen that they’d done enough, just end the match now. Both veterans did everything they could to create possibly the greatest Wrestlemania match in history which did include a hellacious dive from The Undertaker that could have gone terribly… go check it out if you’ve never seen it. Also, the reason Wrestlemania 25 isn’t higher on the list is that the main event sucked. Boring, slow and we’d seen it all before. A tiring end to a long show.
5. Wrestlemania 14 / 29th March 1998 – Fleet Center, Boston
People often romanticize the Attitude era for the WWE and this particular event seemed to be the start of a huge evolution in this era. The match card reads like a hall of fame induction list and each match was entertaining and meant a lot going forward. The Rock was steadily rising to the heights he’d soon enjoy in a brilliant heel Intercontinental champion, Stone Cold Steve Austin was finally in the main event and vying for the WWE title against Shawn Michaels, The New Age Outlaws would take on Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie in a brutal dumpster match which for a young lad was a match to be repeated over and over, we had a great Light Heavyweight title match, the coming out party Sable and the culmination of some incredible long-term story telling as The Undertaker faced Kane for the first time. Every match was epic and set the tone for one of the most memorable and important years in the business’ history.
4. Wrestlemania 22 / 2nd April 2006 – Allstate Arena, Rosemont
Following the earlier years of the first decade of the new millennium a lot had changed and Wrestlemania in the middle of the decade is almost unrecognisable compared to the beginning of it. A lot of the big stars were gone and new ones were being made. Not only were The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin gone, but Eddie Guerrero had recently passed away, Shawn Michaels was back, Bradshaw is now a former WWE champion and starts like John Cena, Edge, Batista and Randy Orton are now seen as the top players. However, this new direction seemed to have set in by 2006 and this new crop of wrestling talent was legitimized and respected meaning that John Cena vs Triple H was a big main event calibre match, Rey Mysterio was a believable champion and Edge was the perfect opponent for a legend like Mick Foley. We saw Rob Van Dam win an amazing Money In The Bank ladder, The Undertaker defeat a monstrous incarnation of Mark Henry in a casket match, Rey Mysterio beat a vicious and aggressive Kurt Angle as well as a wrestling super heel in Randy Orton, and Shawn Michaels beat the hell out of Vince McMahon. The highlight however was no doubt the aforementioned Hardcore match between Mick Foley and Edge as both took as good as they gave and after 15 minutes of barbed wire, tables, drawing pins and fire we;d all witnessed one of the most violent matches in WWE history and witnessed proof that Foley was still a Hardcore Legend.
3. Wrestlemania 19 / 30th March 2003 – Safeco Field, Seattle
You’d have to look back to realise it but 2003 had, without a doubt, the greatest roster of all time. The main card for Wrestlemania 19 featured Rey Mysterio, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, The Big Show, Chris Jericho, Triple H, Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Trish Stratus, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. It’s a hall of fame roster and they’re all in there for what would become a supercard. Each match was either one of the best of all time, the best of the night or a career highlight. Booker T vs Triple H for the World Heavyweight championship remains one of my favourite matches ever as Triple H relentlessly and creatively works on the leg of the former 5 time WCW champion. Hogan and Vince McMahon surprised the world by having an amazing Street Fight and Lesnar and Angle main evented with a technical masterpiece. Never before had a Wrestlemania marquee match been so technical and methodical and despite the botched Shooting Star Press by Lesnar (again, go and watch that) it was as close to perfect as a main event could be. A big time for WWE in 2003.
2. Wrestlemania 17 / 1st April 2001 – Reliant Astrodome, Houston
Deemed by many as the greatest Wrestlemania of all time, this one was the one that changed it all for me. After being a casual fan since the early 90’s, this show was mesmerizing from start to finish. Again with a stacked roster, it featured the second ever TLC match between Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz which was the absolute peak of a tag team rivalry that spanned around three years. We saw Triple H vs The Undertaker for the first of three times and it was a hell of a brawl that made its way around the arena. Speaking of fighting around te arena we saw a Hardcore Triple Threat between Kane, The Big Show and the champion at the time Raven and of course we also saw Vince McMahon vs Shane McMahon in a straight up crazy family feud involving every member of the McMahon family as well as Trish Stratus and Mick Foley. We were introduced to Shane’s unbelievable athleticism and mainly the “Coast to Coast” front dropkick move. However this stacked show was all about one thing and that being the main event, The Rock vs Stone Cold for the WWE title. It would be the second time they’d closed a Wrestlemania but by this point they were both mega stars, house hold names and the two biggest fan favourites in the business. The promotion and build up for the match was fantastic and Limp Bizkit’s ‘My Way’ was immortalised along with this feud. The shock ending when Austin was helped by Vince McMahon, his mortal enemy, left us all with a sour taste but not one that could ever dampen the spectacle of the entire event.
1. Wrestlemania 30 / 6th April 2014 – Superdome, New Orleans
AND THE WINNER IS… Wrestlemania 30. Anybody who knows me knows what a huge fan of Daniel Bryan I am and it’s all because of this event. This Wrestlemania once again stood as a huge sign of the times and the stars on top weren’t anything like it was ten years before. This event stood as a launching pad for names like Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan and The Shield. The whole point of Wrestling or even any entertainment is to tell a story, capture your imagination and draw you in, and I’ve seen very few examples as strong as this. With the Daniel Bryan saga having run since Summerslam of the previous year, the world was willing the eventual success of the ultimate underdog and after beating Triple H in a great opener and going in to defeat Batista and Randy Orton in the main event, we were left with the image of Daniel Bryan holding bot the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship high in the air as the crowd chanted “YES, YES, YES” right up until the closing seconds of the show. It was a journey we’d all witnessed and joined him on and after seeing him finally win it all, you could go to bed that night with a smile. On the flip side however, Wrestlemania 30 marked the first loss for The Undertaker at a Wrestlemania ending his 21 match winning streak. The streak had become so mythical that it had become unthinkable that he would ever lose but when faced with Brock Lesnar, the chances were higher than ever, and when Lesnar hit his third F5 I’ll never forget the silence in the room as everybody watching, not only with me, but in the Superdome, realised this could be it, and even when the referee counted to three nobody believed it was true. It was only as the graphic on the screen read 21 – 1 and Lesnar’s music began to play that everybody continued breathing and began asking what the hell we’d just seen. A rollercoaster from start to finish and that’s why it’s my favourite Wrestlemania.
So with less than a week to go I’m looking forward to seeing where Wrestlemania 34 will sit on my list. Let me know what your top 10 looks like and if you agree at all…