Part Two: Greatest matches in Wrestlemania history No. 11-15


Courtesy of K. Sizemore

Matthew Rago, Editor-in-Chief

With WWE billing Elimination Chamber as the final stop before Wrestlemania, it’s time to reminisce on the iconic moments and legendary contests that helped morph Wrestlemania into the must-see spectacle it has become today. Compiling a subjective listing of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history is a trying task. Due to the overwhelming amount of era-defining contests that have taken place at “The Granddaddy of Them All,” deserving candidates were omitted from our top 15. Such exclusions are not meant to operate as an indictment on the performance put forth by the participating superstars, but rather a testament to just how spectacular of an event Wrestlemania has become.

We hope this list will allow readers to fondly revisit their childhoods while also celebrating the moments that had viewers gripping the edge of their seats during their formative years. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at part two of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history.

15. Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels: Iron Man Match for WWF Championship (Wrestlemania XII)

Match Background: After a tumultuous 1995 that saw Shawn Michaels tarnish his reputation with both kayfabe and real-life setbacks — Michaels failed to win the WWF Championship at the previous year’s Wrestlemania, was assaulted and suspended for a fight involving a U.S. Marine, forfeited his Intercontinental Championship and suffered a kayfabe concussion at the hands of Owen Hart — 1996 was set up to be a vindictive year for the transcendent superstar. As the 18th entrant in the 1996 Royal Rumble, Michaels overcame staggering odds to win his second consecutive Royal Rumble, last eliminating Diesel in a match that can be accurately described as “the land of the giants.” Bret Hart would fuel the redemption narrative by outlining each of Michaels’ shortcomings, claiming that he wanted to plant the final seed of doubt within Michaels’ mind. After defending his Wrestlemania main event berth at In Your House 6 against a bitter Owen Hart, the stage was set for champion Bret Hart to square off against Michaels in an Iron Man Contest for the WWF Championship.

What Made The Match Great: After years of relying on over-the-top gimmickry and formidable physiques to headline their grandest pay-per-view, WWE opted to hand the reins to their two top performers in the most physically demanding Iron Man Match,, much to the appreciation of its fan base. Fans who followed the career trajectories of the two participants noted how similar their paths had been up to that point, as each men ascended through the tag team ranks, excelled in the midcard and earned their place among the elite in spite of their less-than-ideal size (relative to Vince McMahon’s standards). Though a bit long, the match itself was a technical masterpiece, providing the in-ring apex of one of the greatest personal and professional rivalries in WWE history. Furthermore, the conclusion was one of the more brilliant finishes this writer has ever seen.

Result and Aftermath: Hart, on the verge of victory, locked Michaels in a deep Sharpshooter during the waning moments of the contest. However, despite maintaining complete control during the dying embers of the bout, Hart was unable to force the “Heartbreak Kid” to submit before time expired, ending the match in what many perceived to be a draw. Out came WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, demanding a winner be declared and initiating a sudden death rules overtime period. Approximately one-and-a-half minutes into the overtime period, Michaels landed consecutive Sweet Chin Musics flush on Hart’s chin, incapacitating his opponent and earning the “Heartbreak Kid” his first WWF Championship.

Michaels would hold onto the WWF Championship until November of that year, feuding with the likes of Diesel and the British Bulldog before dropping the title to Sycho Sid at Survivor Series 1996. However, this contest will always be remembered as the launching pad that helped propel Shawn Michaels’ storied legacy to new, unforeseen heights.


14. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (Wrestlemania III)

Match Background: Prior to the buildup to Wrestlemania III, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan were presented as allies, even claiming to be best of friends. During an edition of Piper’s Pit in January of 1987, Hulk Hogan received recognition for his remarkable accomplishments, finding himself the recipient of a trophy for his three-year reign as WWF Champion, to which Andre the Giant came out to congratulate his friend. 

The following week, also on Piper’s Pit, Andre the Giant received a much smaller trophy for an undefeated streak which spanned 15 years, to which Hogan returned the congratulatory message.

 However, rather than fading into the background of the segment, Hogan found himself the focal point of Piper’s follow up interview, much to the annoyance of Andre the Giant, who responded by walking out of his own ceremony. Bobby Heenan, who had long been recruiting talent in an effort to thwart Hulkamania, revealed himself to have taken up managerial duties for Andre, challenging Hogan for his championship and claiming Hogan only befriended Andre to avoid defending his championship against the undefeated superstar. After Hogan refused to accept Heenan’s taunts, Andre proceeded to rip Hogan’s shirt from his body and tore his crucifix from around his neck, detonating their relationship.

What Made The Match Great: The drama, the suspense, the participation and the “moment.” Make no bones about it, this match was not technically sound or particularly entertaining from an in-ring perspective. In fact, outside of the pre-match staredown and Hogan’s iconic bodyslam on Andre, hindsight exposes this match as for plodding, slow and very heavily reliant on strikes.

By the time this dream match took place, Andre was far past his in-ring prime, suffering from the same health issues that eventually contributed to his death. However, while the remaining matches on the list warrant inclusion through precise in-ring execution and excellent storytelling, this match is celebrated for solidifying Wrestlemania as the must-see spectacle it has become today.

Nevertheless, we’d be remiss if we didn’t admit that watching this match 28 years after it took place won’t provide much excitement from a pure in-ring standpoint.

Result and Aftermath: After the infamous bodyslam that grounded Andre the Giant, Hogan executed his patented Leg Drop to earn the three count and retain his WWF championship. The two men would have a rematch at “The Main Event ” on NBC on Feb.5, 1988, a match which drew a record 33 million viewers. Andre the Giant would proceed to end Hogan’s four-year reign as champion thanks to a perceived screwjob orchestrated by referees Dave and Earl Hebnar. The feud would culminate at Wrestlemania IV during the tournament to crown a new WWF Champion, though both men were disqualified after using a steel chair, an underwhelming conclusion to a rivalry that helped shape the landscape of the WWE.


13. Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior; Retirement Match (Wrestlemania VII)

Match Background: During the latter half of 1990, Randy Savage exhibited an unyielding desire to regain the WWF Championship he lost at Wrestlemania V. Savage repeatedly prodded then-champion the Ultimate Warrior for a title shot, But Warrior continuously refused, classifying Savage as “unworthy.” To the outrage of “The Macho Man” the number one contendership went to Sgt. Slaughter instead, provoking Savage to take matters into his own hands. At the 1991 Royal Rumble, Savage and valet Sensational Sherry interfered during Warrior’s championship contest against Sgt. Slaughter, striking the champion with a scepter and costing the Ultimate Warrior his WWF Championship. Over the next few weeks, the feud rapidly escalated before boiling over when the Ultimate Warrior challenged Savage to a retirement match at Wrestlemania VII.

What Made The Match Great: For its time, the match was spectacular, though if you watch it today, you may quickly find yourself disenchanted by the dated in-ring mannerisms and awful theatrics employed by the Ultimate Warrior. However, what this match is best remembered for is the emotion elicited by its conclusion.

Though the retirement stipulation has since become diluted and–depending on the circumstance–telegraphs predictability, the stakes were high back in 1990, adding an iconic feel that was difficult to capture in that era. The match itself was very entertaining, seeing Savage carry the Ultimate Warrior to the best match of the latter’s career. Additionally, despite his status as a heel, fans sympathized with Savage’s vulnerability as his contributions were already recognized as some of the greatest to ever grace the industry. However, what truly memorialized this match in the minds and hearts of fans was its role as the culmination of the greatest love story in WWE history.

After losing the WWF Championship to Hogan at Wrestlemania V, Savage would rebound by winning the King of the Ring tournament and dumping the services of his valet (and real-life wife) Miss Elizabeth in favor of “Sensational” Sherri Martel. After suffering defeat following consecutive leaping shoulder blocks, Savage lay dejected and alone in the middle of the ring as “Sensational” Sherri looked on in disgust. However, rather than supporting her client, Sherri opted to viciously assault a vulnerable Savage with kicks and strikes, prompting Elizabeth, who had been sporadically shown throughout the match as an onlooker, to jump the barricade and make her way to the ring. Elizabeth proceeded to grab Sherri by the hair and deposit her through the middle ropes before attempting to help the battered Savage to his feet, only to have her attempts swatted away by a panicked and disoriented Macho Man.

Tears streaming from her eyes, Elizabeth allowed Savage to regain his bearings. Initially, he had wrongly identified her as his attacker, eyeing her questioningly before spotting Sherri outside the ring screaming at him with fury and malice. After realizing Elizabeth had come to his aid rather than harming him, Savage embraced Elizabeth and raised her atop his shoulder, much to the delight of the openly weeping attendees and viewers at home. 

Result and Aftermath: Following consecutive flying shoulder blocks, The Ultimate Warrior defeated Randy Savage via pinfall, forcing his retirement. However, Savage soon returned to the WWF as a color commentator, “marrying” Miss Elizabeth on-air at Summerslam 1991. By the following year, Savage returned as an in-ring performer, competing against Ric Flair for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania VIII.


12. Owen Hart vs Bret Hart (Wrestlemania X)


Match Background: The feud between Owen and Bret Hart began at Survivor Series 1993, when Bret Hart, hobbled from a sustained injury, caused Owen to lose his balance and focus, subsequently contributing to Owen’s elimination from the match. A confrontation ensued, seeing Owen persistently demand a match with Bret before their reconciliation prior to the 1994 Royal Rumble. However, a similar scenario unfolded, as another Bret injury caused the referee to award the match to the Quebecers, provoking Owen to attack his brother in a fit of rage.

What Made The Match Great: Universally regarded as the greatest opening contest in Wrestlemania history, the Hart Brothers treated us to a display of both excellent chemistry and technical prowess. Each wrestler showcased an array of technical and stiff maneuvers, complemented by Owen’s expert heel tactics, which involved him celebrating each small accomplishment as if he had just won a presidential election. Additionally, the feud began via one of the great, relatable themes: jealousy toward a figure unfairly perceived as superior. However, to the pleasant surprise of many, Owen received his moment of triumph after countering Bret’s roll-up attempt into an inescapable pinning predicament of his own, earning a long overdue victory over his elder sibling.

Result and Aftermath: Owen pinned Bret after countering a sunset roll-up into a pin of his own. After Bret’s victory over Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania X, Owen and Bret continued their feud for the remainder of the year, seeing their immediate family’s allegiance divided between the two. Owen Hart further solidified his credibility by earning the honor of 1994 King of the Ring, but would find himself unable to dethrone his brother as WWF Champion in a Steel Cage Match at Summerslam. The rivalry would come full circle at Survivor Series 1994, when Bret Hart, embroiled in a championship submission contest against Bob Backlund, found himself trapped in the Crossface Chickenwing. Owen Hart, feigning concern for his brother, coerced their mother into throwing the towel on Bret’s behalf, costing him both the match and his Heavyweight Championship.


11. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon; Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (Wrestlemania X)

Match Background: After finding himself in a troubling predicament with the WWE front office, then-WWE Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels would be forced to vacate his title under storyline citation for violating the championship “30 Day Policy,” which states that without a proper title defense within a 30 day time frame, he would no longer be recognized as the official champion. With a vacant title on its hands, WWE announced a battle royale would take place to determine the two competitors that would face off in a Intercontinental Championship match. The two final competitors of the battle royale, Rick Martel and Razor Ramon, would compete at the Sept. 27, 1993 Monday Night Raw for the vacant championship, where after an impressive Razor’s Edge, Razor Ramon was crowned champion.

However, while Razor Ramon was recognized as the official champion, Shawn Michaels returned from his real-life suspension claiming that since he had never actually been defeated for the Intercontinental Championship, he remained the rightful champion. Both men began to carry two indistinguishable title belts, each staking their claim as Intercontinental Champion. It was decided that the two champions would settle their dispute at Wrestlemania X in the second ever WWE ladder match (the first being contested between Hart and Michaels in a forgettable match at Wrestling Challenge).

What Made The Match Great: Who can forget the iconic image of Michaels’ body splash onto Razor Ramon from atop the ladder? Second, innovation engraved this contest in the hearts of fans, as it was the first ladder match to be featured on a pay-per-view card. Fans quite literally had no idea where to set their expectations for such a contest, allowing each spot to be received with awe. An inspired Michaels and Razor Ramon put on one of the greatest performances of their storied, Hall Of Fame careers, and though Razor Ramon was credited with the victory, each man solidified his place among the upper echelon of WWE superstars.

Result and Aftermath: After Shawn Michaels found his right foot bound between the two top ropes, Razor Ramon was able to ascend the ladder unobstructed to retrieve the two Intercontinental Championship belts. A couple of weeks after the infamous contest, Razor Ramon would lose his Intercontinental Championship to Diesel on the April 13th edition of WWF Superstars with assistance from Michaels. The victory would spearhead a major push for Diesel, which saw him obtain the WWF Triple Crown within a calendar year.

Part three of our four-part series will be available in the next edition of the NEIU Independent.