The Best And Worst WrestleMania Matches: Part Four – Wrestlemania XXV To Wrestlemania 32
The Undertaker cements his Wrestlemania legacy and the women's revolution steals the show in our final set of best and worst Mania bouts.
With Wrestlemania 33 on the horizon, and excitement or trepidation mounting as to what we will see on the night, we take a look at the best and worst match at each year’s “Showcase Of The Immortals”. In the final installment of this series we take a look at a period where Wrestlemania started to become defined by part timers more than ever before. It also featured Undertaker’s unbelievable run of high quality matches, one that is unlikely to be bettered.
Best – Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels
This is one hell of a match. There is a strong argument to be made that this is the best match ever to take place at Wrestlemania. It is certainly top 3. This is what happens when you have two of the best wrestlers of all time going full throttle for half an hour. The back and forth action builds and builds with both men throwing everything in their arsenals at each other. There is a scary spot where Undertaker dives over the top rope to the floor but lands headfirst. Miraculously he is fine and it actually ends up adding to the overall spectacle of the match. The finish of the match is fantastic, with Michaels trying to put away Undertaker with one last big move only to be caught in a Tombstone and pinned. It’s a must see match for anyone even remotely interested in pro wrestling.
Worst – Diva Battle Royale
The participants enter during a performance by Kid Rock, so it gets off to a blazing start. To be fair, this is to cover for the fact that one of the participants is Santino Marella. It’s a comedy battle royale really, but that doesn’t mean it’s funny. Or entertaining. Mercifully it only lasts 6 minutes and, obviously, Santino wins.
Best – Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels (No DQ, No Countout, Career vs Streak)
A rematch from the previous year and another classic. It isn’t quite at the same level but that’s splitting hairs. It is the Bogus Journey to the previous year’s Excellent Adventure. Michaels puts his career on the line to get this match and his performance throughout is that of a man giving everything he has one last time. The moonsault from the top rope to the announcers table is spectacular and the structure and psychology of the match is incredibly well done. It builds to an emotional climax that is the perfect send off for one of the very best wrestlers ever to grace the ring. Nobody did Wrestlemania like HBK.
Worst – Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon (No Holds Barred, Lumberjack Match)
This is one of the most awkward and uncomfortable wrestling matches of all time. It starts with Vince bringing out the Hart family as lumberjacks that he has paid to turn against Bret but, surprise, it’s a double cross. The rest of the match is numerous members of the Hart family beating down Vince and, as Bret couldn’t take any shots, Vince gets nothing in return. The really uncomfortable bit comes towards the end of the match though, as Bret absolutely goes to town on Vince with a chair. I have no idea how many times he hits him but it’s a lot. I think they were going for a feeling of Bret getting his payback, but it goes past that into more unseemly territory. I mean, is a gang beat down of an old man really a good revenge?
Best – Undertaker vs Triple H (No Holds Barred)
This is a different kind of match to the ones Undertaker had with Shawn Michaels. This is much more of a fight. Lots of weapon shots, bumps and finishers. The reaction of Triple H after Undertaker kicks out of a tombstone is priceless. It’s like he has just realised that Taker may not actually be human. Triple H has the match in his control towards the end, but it’s his overconfidence that proves his undoing. As he goes to put Undertaker away with the sledgehammer he gets caught in the Hell’s Gate and is forced to tap. The lasting image of the match, though, is Triple being able to walk out under his own power while Undertaker can’t.
Worst – Michael Cole vs Jerry Lawler
Absolutely everything about this is irredeemably horrible. This may well be my least favourite Wrestlemania match ever. It’s a sloppy, ugly, unfunny, abysmal cesspool of a match. It also lasts 14 hours. No, wait, apparently it’s 14 minutes. It’s the longest 14 minutes of all time though. The one thing I can take away from this though is never trust a match in which Stone Cold Steve Austin is the special referee.
Best – Undertaker vs Triple H (Hell In A Cell)
The End Of An Era. Triple H gets another shot at the streak due to the fact he was able to walk out of Wrestlemania XXVII under his own power and Undertaker wasn’t. Even though there is no blood and no big stunt spots this is still probably the roughest Cell match ever. It is also one of the best. Some of the chair shots they give each other are brutal and the welts on their bodies are clear to see. There are a few occasions in this match where it would have been believable for the streak to end, chief among them the spot where special referee Shawn Michaels hits Undertaker with a Sweet Chin Music straight into a Pedigree. In the end Taker outlasts a defiant Triple H and all three men walk up the ramp together. It’s a terrific match that should have main evented the show. It also should have been the day Undertaker retired, there would have been no better way to go out.
Worst – Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus (World Heavyweight Title)
Lesson one in how not to start a Wrestlemania card – have your well liked champion lose the title in 18 seconds. I get that Bryan was the heel but these two could have put on a great match. This was evident from the match we saw the following month at Extreme Rules. It just seems like such a waste. On the plus side Bryan would have his moment in the spotlight in a few years time.
Best – Undertaker vs CM Punk
It’s five in a row for Undertaker. I know I said he should have retired the previous year, and he should have. But he did have one more great Wrestlemania match left in him. The build up, with Punk making fun of Paul Bearer’s death, may have been dubious but the match was not. Punk plays the cocky heel, even trying to use Taker’s moves, and it makes for a unique dynamic in an Undertaker Wrestlemania match. The crowd buys into the match which helps greatly and both men’s near falls are really well done. This is unfortunately Taker’s last great Mania match.
Worst – Mark Henry vs Ryback
At the time I had misguided hopes that this would be a decent big man match. It wasn’t. It’s exactly as lumbering as I should have realised it would be. It’s basically eight minutes of two big guys running into each other. There is a nice spot where Ryback manages to pick up Henry for the Shellshock, but it leads into the horrible finish. As Ryback has Henry on his shoulders Henry grabs the rope causing Ryback to fall over and Henry just pins him. It’s terrible.
Best – Randy Orton vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan (WWE World Heavyweight Title)
This should really be a two part best match. Because without the build up and story progression from the excellent Bryan vs Triple H match that opened the show, this match wouldn’t have had quite the same emotional impact it did. This main event is a fantastic match too, with an injured Bryan having to overcome the odds and injury to thwart the Authority and come out with the title. Throughout the match Orton and Batista keep taking out Bryan, but he will not stay down. At one point they give him a double team powerbomb/neckbreaker through the announce table and he gets up off the stretcher and returns to the match. The moment where he wins is one of the great feel good moments in WWE history, and the closing shot of the crowd thunderously chanting ‘YES’ is a joy to behold.
Worst – AJ Lee vs Aksana vs Alicia Fox vs Brie Bella vs Cameron vs Emma vs Eva Marie vs Layla vs Naomi vs Natalya vs Nikki Bella vs Rosa Mendes vs Summer Rae vs Tamina Snuka (WWE Divas Title)
This starts off with all of the Divas, except for AJ, already in the ring. That tells you a lot. It also followed Lesnar breaking Undertaker’s streak, so the crowd was even more dead than it would normally have been. You get what you put in and if what you put in is 14 Divas what you get is a mess.
Best – Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins (WWE World Heavyweight Title)
This starts off like your typical Lesnar match, stiff strikes and a whole lot of suplexes. Roman also kicks out of three F5s. The match changes when Lesnar is shoved into the ring post and gets busted open. There is a time and place for blood in wrestling and this was one of them, as it added to the realism of the match. Roman makes his comeback, hitting three Superman Punches and a couple of spears before being caught in another F5 that leaves both men down. That is when Seth Rollins makes the greatest Money In The Bank cash-in ever. A couple of Curbstomps later and Seth is champion. This match does a lot with very little and that cash-in will never be bettered.
Worst – AJ Lee & Paige vs The Bella Twins
I feel a little bit bad putting this here because it really isn’t that poor a match, but this show is strong from top to bottom. It really isn’t any worse than you would expect from a random Divas tag match from the time. In fact, it might be a touch better. This was a good show.
Best – Charlotte vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch (WWE Women’s Title)
This wasn’t the most worthwhile of shows, but it did have a couple of really good matches. It was literally a coin toss between this and the Intercontinental Title ladder match. Sasha’s entrance makes her seem like the biggest star here and I remember from being in the stadium that most people wanted her to win. That was not to be though. You can tell throughout the match that all three women are trying to make a statement about the future of the women’s division and they handle the pressure well. They work the triple threat well, pull off a host of big moves and put on a very good match.
Worst – The Rock vs Erick Rowan
I was contemplating not including this as an actual match as it only lasted 6 seconds, but I feel like due to the sheer pointlessness of it I should. There was no need for an actual match. The same thing could have been achieved with a simple brawl and it wouldn’t have made Rowan look nearly as bad.