John Carberry, Jamie Lithgow and Craig Wilson
The countdown to WrestleMania is firmly on. With that in mind, we felt we were long overdue a WrestleMania Top Five. Today we take a look at the best matches which took place on the Hulkamania era events, covering WrestleManias 1 through to 9.
While it was marred by Hogan’s ridiculous last minute comeback, this match had one of the greatest storylines of all-time leading in and was a tour de force performance by Savage. This was the first great WrestleMania main event.
4. Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI
Somehow this match managed to live up to expectations. Warrior and Hogan, despite their limitations, delivered an incredible main event that delivered everything it promised and more.
3. Ric Flair vs Macho Man Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII
While it wasn’t the match these guys would’ve had five years earlier, it’s still a pretty special bout with a great storyline leading in with Flair claiming to have carnal knowledge of Miss Elizabeth before her relationship with Randy.
2. Rowdy Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII
A great bloody back and forth brawl for the Intercontinental Championship and probably Pipers finest showing on the big stage with a tremendous sleeper reversal finish.
1. Macho Man Randy Savage vs The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII
This career vs career match was probably the best match the Ultimate Warrior ever had and one of the best Macho Man had too which is saying something. A dramatic, epic encounter that blew away the main event between Slaughter and Hogan.
5. Hulk Hogan & Mr T. vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff at WrestleMania I
Let’s be honest, as a wrestling show the first (first several in fact) WrestleMania was grim viewing. However, as a sports-entertainment attraction, the first WrestleMania main event holds up against today’s offerings. At the time Mr. T was a genuine A-list celebrity and Vince McMahon manged to persuade him to get into the ring. At ringside we had Liberace and the greatest sportsman of all time; Muhammed Ali. As wrestling matches go it’s basic, but as a spectacle, it sure beats The Rock playing with a flame thrower.
4. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat at WrestleMania III
I don’t love this match as many others do, but this is easily the best actual wrestling contest from the first six WrestleManias. It’s so far removed from every other match at this time, which broadly fitted into one of two categories; a star-studded main event or card filler. This is neither, and benefits from that.
3. Ric Flair vs. Macho Man Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII
It really should have been Flair vs. Hogan at ‘Mania 8, but is anyone complaining? As a kid WrestleMania 8 was my favourite and in no small part to this match. It was a super-heated personal feud, but also for the title. So much to grasp onto with this one, and if you look closely you might even spot a young Shane McMahon making his WrestleMania debut too.
2. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII
The best of Macho Man continues with him wrestling the best match The Ultimate Warrior ever had. This was far more gripping and compelling than the silly main event from this show. Far more iconic too.
1. Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII
This might be controversial to have this at number one and not three or four, but I love this match. It was shorter and had comparatively little build compared to Savage vs. Flair, but that’s why I love it. In the age of the WWE Network, this match is perfect to just pick up and watch completely out of context. I’d like to think that this is the match that made-up Vince’s mind regarding putting the title on Hart too.
5. Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 5
Highlights are few and far between on the two WrestleManias that took place at Trump Towers. This main event, however, definitely stands out. A slow building feud going from the two being the top two babyfaces and teaming as the Mega Powers to the duo exploding, leading to this main event. A rivalry based predominantly on Savage being suspicious of the attention that Miss Elizabeth was getting from the Hulkster. Unsurprisingly, it was Hogan who left with the spoils – ending Savage’s run with the WWF title, which had begun the previous year.
4. Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII
I loved everything about this programme on the night. From the interview where Mean Gene caught them together, which eventually descended into an argument, right through to this blistering match-up. You seldom got to see Piper lose a match on PPV but he knew it would help catapult ‘The Hitman’ right to the top. This is a lovely match, tonnes of psychology and a neat finish with Hart using the turnbuckle to turn Piper’s sleeper into a pinning combination.
3. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3
OK, so unlike the previous match, this one isn’t an in-ring classic but again this is all about star-power. The WWF needed something huge to sell out the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania 3 and what was bigger than turning the previously babyface Andre the Giant heel and having him go one-on-one with his former friend Hulk Hogan. Throw in Bobby Heenan for extra heat and you’ve got a main event, kids. Unsurprisingly, with the condition Andre was in, this certainly isn’t a classic. Thinks have been spoiled in the years since with Hogan’s endless bleating about fearing that Andre wasn’t going to do the job but from a storyline standpoint and a meeting of stars, this has it all.
2. Macho King Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII
Two icons? Absolutely. Greatest Ultimate Warrior match? Undoubtedly. The culmination of a tear-jerking love story? Totally. This match has it all. The expectation would always have been ‘if anyone can get a great match out of Warrior then it would be Savage’ but even the most optimistic person wouldn’t have expected it to be this good. Much like he did the previous year, Warrior brings all that he has to this and there really is no doubt that this was the best match that Warrior ever had. There is even the bit during the match when Warrior starts to doubt his own abilities, adding an extra layer to a character that previously hadn’t existed, before he eventually retires ‘Macho King’, Sherri desserts him and Miss Elizabeth returns to the fray providing a fairytale happy ending to the end of a fantastic wrestling spectacle.
1. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat at WrestleMania III
This week’s Top Five has been a bit of a Savage love-in, hasn’t it? When you watch those early WrestleManias, then it isn’t much of a surprise. Hogan might be pulling in the viewers for the matches at the top of the card but it’s the matches featuring Savage that you look for first. The prime example being this all-time classic from the third instalment of WrestleMania. I recently watched an interview with Steamboat where he waxed lyrical about Savage and his role in this match but it takes two to tango and he also deserves enormous praise for what he brought to the party here. It’s classic stuff: a heel injures a top babyface and puts him out of action. Babyface returns vowing revenge, which leads to a PPV match between the two where the face triumphs. It’s wrestling 101. When you add two wrestlers with the talent of Savage and Steamboat to the mix, then you get a flawless match to add to a classic storyline. Nothing comes close to this in those early WrestleManias.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.