John Carbery & Jamie Lithgow
In last week’s Top Five we looked at the best WrestleMania matches covering the New Generation and Attitude Era. We follow that up today by looking at the best matches to feature between WrestleMania 18 and 32.
5. Undertaker vs Batista (Wrestlemania XXIII)
I had ZERO expectations for this match. I’d been a fan of the Undertaker for years but was well aware of his limitations. While Undertaker has had dozens of classic matches and is an amazing performer he’s never been someone who was able to carry a lesser opponent to great matches the way someone like Bret Hart or Kurt Angle could. Batista up to this point hadn’t really shown me anything special so I didn’t expect much from him and to be honest when the bell rang I was disinterested and distracted. By the end of the match I was engrossed. Both of these guys rose to the occasion and delivered a fantastic match that stole the show at WM 23.
4. Hulk Hogan vs The Rock (Wrestlemania XVIII)
This was easily Hogan’s finest Wrestlemania moment. This match is a masterclass in ring psychology and crowd control from the Hulkster. To be able to step into the ring with someone as charismatic and all powerful as the Rock and completely steal the match away from him might be Hogan’s biggest achievement. The atmosphere for this one was electric and what they didn’t bring in moves they brought in everything else that makes a great match. Deserving of its hype.
3. Chris Benoit vs HHH vs Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XX)
When putting together this selection I was trying to justify leaving this match out due to Chris Benoit and his well chronicled crimes. But there’s no denying that this match was a stunning piece of work.
2. Undertaker vs HHH, (Wrestlemania XXVIII)
Brilliant work from both in this match that relied as much on psychology and drama as it did athleticism. A clinic when it comes to big match wrestling.
1. Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XXVI)
For me this match eclipsed their previous effort at WM 25. Shawn Michaels has declared himself Mr Wrestlemania without challenge but I think if anybody can claim that title over him it would be his opponent here. One of the best matches both men had ever taken part in and one of the best retirement matches of all time. I don’t think any wrestler has gone out looking as good as HBK did here.
5. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (Wrestlemania XXX)
Sandwiched between WWE’s attempts to convince us to cheer for Roman Reigns and the twice in a lifetime suckfest featuring The Rock and John Cena; WWE actually delivered the goods at Wrestlemania 30. This was Daniel Bryan’s night and although he went on to capture the title in the main event, I personally enjoyed his opening contest with Triple H more. Fans wanted to see Bryan win the title and beat Triple H, and on this occasion at least, we were not disappointed.
4. Edge vs. Mick Foley (Wrestlemania XXII)
Granted Edge won his first WWE Title a couple months prior to this match, but for my money this is the bout that truly catapulted The Rated R Superstar into the main event picture. A flaming table spot in WWE sounds outrageous, but to do it at Wrestlemania sounds like I’m just making stuff up.
3. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Wrestlemania XIX)
A good match that, if I’m judging based purely on that variable, was probably only the second or third best match on this card. However, it is with hindsight that I appreciate this bout. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last time Austin wrestled a match. Add to this the condition he was in at the time and that it completed a trilogy against The Rock and there is more than enough reason to justify its inclusion here. Austin’s subtle embrace with The Rock after the finish remains a poignant moment.
2. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (Wrestlemania XXIV)
Wrestling is a funny old game. Fans often complain about predictability, but deep down the best stories are often entirely predictable. Everyone who saw this match must have known, on some level, that we were watching The Nature Boys’ retirement match. Fair play to Michaels for yet another world class performance, but it was the feeling of when rather than if that had he me hooked to the screen for this one.
1. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XXV)
Their second match was, from a technical stand point, better. However, I’m going to contradict myself here. Based on the Flair match at ‘Mania 24, I always figured that we were watching Michaels’ retire in similar fashion at ‘Mania 26. Thus, I prefer his match with Taker at 25. We knew it would be good, but nobody could have predicted a match that good. So, while the second match was probably better, personally I prefer this one because it exceeded expectations by that little bit more, or, rather, it set the bar for the following year’s match.
You can read all previous ‘Top Five’ pieces here.