WrestleMania. The Show of Shows. The Granddaddy of Them All. Whether you’re a fan of WWE, or have long since abandoned Titan Towers, WrestleMania is the time every year where even the most jaded or lapsed fan’s eyes turn toward Stamford to see what the biggest company in the world has up their sleeves for the biggest spectacle of the wrestling year.
In the event’s 36 years, and with its 37th iteration coming on April 10th and 11th, it has produced no shortage of memorable moments, matches, and turned countless men into icons of the sport. With an eye turned toward that history, I set out to create an all-time WrestleMania card, using matches based on the 36 prior events.
But first, a few ground rules:
- Only matches from WrestleMania main cards.
- Ten matches per night, over two nights
- Each superstar can only be used once. While Wrestle Kingdom has used performers on both nights since it moved to a two night structure, WWE has not. Since WrestleMania is our framework, it only seems fair to do it their way.
- Only one match from each WrestleMania
- A title can only be defended once.
- All men’s Tag Team titles are rolled into one for these purposes.
- The Women’s Title/Divas Title pre-WrestleMania 32 is recognized as its own title, as its lineage is separate from the title Charlotte won. Plus, more women’s wrestling was needed on this card anyway.
With all that said, let’s get to it!
- Strike Force vs. The Brain Busters – WrestleMania V
We’re going to kick things off with a classic tag team match. Strike Force was always criminally underrated in the realm of classic WWF tag teams, and The Brain Busters, of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard could have a good match with anyone. A memorable match with a great post-match angle, what more can you want to kick things off?
- Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Kevin Thorn & Matt Stryker vs. RVD, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer & The Sandman – WrestleMania 23
Not a five star classic, but notable for getting the only WrestleMania payday of Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman’s careers. To me, that makes it worthy of inclusion. Yes, I looked it up and I know Tommy was in the dark match ECW battle royal at WrestleMania 24. No, I’m not counting it.
- Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – Submission Match – WrestleMania 13
An absolute all-timer. What more can you say? There were lots of candidates for both Hart (10 vs Owen, plus any of several tag title matches with Jim Niedhart) and Austin (any of his matches with The Rock), but it’s hard to go wrong with this match, featuring fantastic action, an iconic visual, and a perfect double-turn.
- Trish Stratus(c) vs. Mickie James – Women’s Championship – WrestleMania 22
A strong argument could be made for this as the best women’s match in WrestleMania history to this point—and some might even hold it up to that level today. Great story going in, and they delivered in the ring with Mickie as a veteran of the US indies and Trish showing once again just how far she had come as a performer.
- CM Punk vs. Christian vs. Finlay vs. Kane vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Mark Henry vs. MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin – MITB Ladder Match – WrestleMania 25
For several years in the early 2000’s, WrestleMania was the home of the Money in the Bank ladder match, so I wanted to get one in. And surprisingly, I was able to find one that didn’t take any talent away from any other match. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen most of them, but they’re all fantastic, and were a great way to elevate new talent and put on a banger of a match in the process.
- The Undertaker vs. Diesel – WrestleMania XII
A lot of people are probably shocked at this choice for The Undertaker, but most of his best matches at WrestleMania were title matches (Edge and Batista immediately come to mind), and those that weren’t were against people I wanted for other things on the card. So we’re left with this. It’s an underrated gem from the early days of the streak, before it really became a thing. Winning this match made The Undertaker a measly 5-0 at WrestleMania. That, plus seeing a motivated looking Diesel makes you remember how talented he really was before injuries really took their toll on Big Daddy Cool.
- Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross(c) vs. Asuka & Kairi Sane – WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles – WrestleMania 36
The Women’s Tag Titles get on the show! The team of Bliss Cross Applesauce (I don’t care if it’s an official name, I’m using it) was one of the few times that the titles felt relevant, and their defense at last year’s WrestleMania against the Kabuki Warriors made them feel important and valuable—and the match itself was excellent to boot.
- Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage – Career Ending Match – WrestleMania VII
A career-threatening match stipulation gave extra gravitas to this one, as Randy Savage helped the Ultimate Warrior to easily his best match ever (Sorry, Rick Rude). This one is also notable for the post-match angle which saw the vanquished Savage turn face again in defeat, reuniting with the estranged Miss Elizabeth. It was a phenomenal match with an all-timer of a WrestleMania Moment.
- Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow – WrestleMania XI
What’s WrestleMania without a celebrity match? And what better way to go about it than one of the best ones ever done? You can definitely argue that Michaels vs. Diesel should have main evented WrestleMania XI over this, but you can’t argue that LT didn’t show up to play and have a heck of a solid match in the process.
- Chris Jericho(c) vs. Edge – World Heavyweight Championship – WrestleMania XXVI
The first of two world championship matches in the course of this card, Chris Jericho takes on Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship. This had plenty of build, with Edge’s surprise return to win the Royal Rumble in 2009, and their history as a tag team prior to Edge’s injury. In the end, these two delivered in the ring, as you would expect. A fitting main event to Night 1.
- Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio – WrestleMania 21
You need a card opener? How about two guys for whom it is impossible to have a bad match with one another, who can engage a crowd, and a genius in Eddie Guerrero who can work equally compelling as face or heel? They had better matches than this one, sure, but even one of their lesser ones is still miles better than so many others’ best.
- TAKA Michinoku(c) vs. Aguila – WWF Light Heavyweight Championship – WrestleMania XIV
This is going to be a bit of a controversial pick, but I always really enjoyed this light heavyweight sprint from WrestleMania 14. Michinoku never really got his due in the federation, mostly due to their inconsistent booking of the division and lack of quality opponents. But this was still a blast to watch at the time, and is one of the few Light Heavyweight or Cruiserweight matches that wasn’t stuck on the pre-show (see: Cedric vs. Mustafa Ali from 34, Neville vs. Aries from 33).
- Daniel Bryan vs. HHH – WrestleMania XXX
The WWE World Heavyweight Title match from later in the night isn’t available as I’ve got a different pick in mind for that title match. But this card opener from WrestleMania XXX is just a fantastic technical match backed up by a great story with the underdog Bryan getting revenge on the personification of the corporate structure holding him down. I mean, it’s Triple H busting out a Tiger Suplex at a WrestleMania. What more do you want?
- Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock – WrestleMania X8
Like the majority of Hogan’s big matches, it’s more spectacle than match, but wow, what a spectacle this one was. The Toronto crowd forced an audible in real-time when they steadfastly refused to boo Hogan, who was coming in as the heel, and both men switched their alignments to work the match the crowd dictated. It’s not a five-star classic, but it’s still great pro wrestling, and saw Hogan pass the torch to the star of the new generation. Too bad Rock would depart for Hollywood just two years or so after this.
- The Dream Team(c) vs. The British Bulldogs – World Tag Team Championship – WrestleMania 2
A bit of an out-there choice for the tag team titles, but it’s definitely a struggle to find good tag matches at WrestleMania that don’t feature Bret Hart. Now you see the fun in putting this together. I very strongly considered the four-team ladder match at WrestleMania 33 for this spot, but given the MITB match on Night 1, and the upcoming match on Night 2 here, another one felt gratuitous. The upshot is that we get the British Bulldogs on the card. This one was the best match at WrestleMania 2 in a walk, and is absolutely a hidden gem. The Bulldogs were ahead of their time, and with the right opponent, pre-barber Beefcake and Valentine could do great things as well. Check it out on the Network.
- Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – WWF Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match – WrestleMania X
If you’re talking Intercontinental Title matches at WrestleMania, this and Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage are 1 and 1a in the conversation. This turned the Ladder Match into a true gem in the WWE crown, and absolutely turned both Michaels and Ramon into made men and stars in the company. Also considered Miz(c) vs. Rollins vs. Balor here from WrestleMania 34.
- Rusev(c) vs. John Cena – United States Championship – WrestleMania 31
Yes, none of us liked how the match ended, with Big Match John notching another win in his belt and effectively torpedoing Rusev in the process. But that said, this was an excellent match, led to the US Title Open Challenges, which gave us a number of phenomenal title matches on free TV, and was a very good match unto itself. Rusev riding out on a tank was a fantastic visual, and he more than held his own against a top guy in a big time spot.
- Charlotte Flair(c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch – WWE Women’s Title – WrestleMania 32
To me, it remains the best women’s title match in WrestleMania history, and it kicked off the lineage of what is now the Raw Women’s Title, finally leaving the Divas butterfly belt in the dustbin of history. These were three tremendous competitors signaling to the world that they had arrived, and women’s wrestling was to be taken seriously, in a way that WWE hadn’t genuinely done consistently since Alundra Blayze was tearing it up with Bull Nakano in the mid 90’s.
- Steiner Brothers vs. The Headshrinkers – WrestleMania IX
WrestleMania IX rightly gets pilloried by a lot of fans as not being a very good show, and I won’t argue too strenuously. But this is definitely an enjoyable match amidst the rest of that card. The Steiners never really felt at home in WWE, but this was one of the few matches that clicked for them. They had several matches against the Samoan SWAT Team in WCW, and this brought some of that same ‘slobberknocker’ energy, to quote Good Ol’ J.R.
- Kurt Angle(c) vs. Brock Lesnar – WWE Championship – WrestleMania XIX
The main event. One of, if not the best, WWE Title matches in WrestleMania history. Angle and Lesnar always tore the house down every chance they got, and this one was no exception. It’s a shame that it might be most remembered for the Shooting Star Press, because preceding it was one of the best title matches and main events in Mania history.
As you can see, things got complicated quickly. Lots of things wound up having to get disqualified because of their status as title matches, and saying yes to one fantastic match means saying no to several others. I toyed with a few different formulas, and was shocked at the ripple effects it had up and down the card. That said, I’m happy with how it came together, and would watch either of these cards any day. Hopefully you all feel the same. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy WrestleMania season!