The Best And Worst WrestleMania Matches: Part Three – Wrestlemania X-Seven To Wrestlemania XXIV
We're out of the Attitude era and into the age of Cena, as we continue to countdown the hottest bouts and biggest stinkers of Wrestlemania history.
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 third part of this four part series we look at a period where the standard of Wrestlemania cards was at an all-time high. There are no poor shows between Wrestlemania X-Seven and Wrestlemania XXIV and many of them would appear on a list of the top 10 Wrestlemanias.
Best – Dudley Boyz vs Hardy Boyz vs Edge & Christian (WWF Tag Team Titles, TLC Match)
Wrestlemania X-Seven is one of the best wrestling shows of all time, and as such picking a best match is a tough task. Austin vs Rock is a fantastic main event, albeit one with a dubious finish, and Angle vs Benoit is a superb technical showcase, but for me TLC2 is the cream of the crop. It takes everything they had spent the last year building up and showcased it in a near perfect example of gimmick match wrestling. It’s got run ins, an unrelenting pace and all the crazy bumps you could ever want. Edge spearing Jeff Hardy from the ladder is one of the best looking spots in wrestling history. It’s the best TLC match ever.
Worst – Ivory vs Chyna (WWF Women’s Title)
This match isn’t actually that terrible, but something has to fill this spot. It’s the culmination of a storyline in which Ivory injured Chyna’s neck and Chyna fought her way back for revenge. The match starts with Ivory attacking the injured neck but it quickly turns into a glorified squash match. As I said, it’s not a terrible match but it’s not a good one either.
Best – Hulk Hogan vs The Rock
If ever there was a non-title match that should have main evented a show, it was this. The crowd is rabid for it, and the two matches that follow it suffer greatly as a result. Hogan walks in as the heel, but that doesn’t last very long at all as those in attendance are in no mood to boo him. There are numerous matches on this list that are better wrestling matches than this, but there are very few that are better examples of what makes dream matches, especially at Wrestlemania, so special. As far as spectacle and crowd excitement goes this is an all time classic.
Worst – Jazz vs Lita vs Trish Stratus (WWF Women’s Title)
There are a few poor matches on this card, including Edge fighting Booker T over a shampoo commercial and a clearly checked out Steve Austin wrestling Scott Hall, but this one is probably the worst. It suffers hugely from being the match that followed Hogan vs Rock as the crowd are completely burned out. It really isn’t a terrible match but it is really forgettable and that isn’t really much better.
Best – Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho
This is another fantastic Wrestlemania which had numerous matches that would be right at home in this slot. The Rock and Steve Austin finish their trilogy of Wrestlemania matches with a great effort that turned out to be Austin’s last. Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle have a match that would probably be in this spot if it weren’t for the scary shooting star press botch that overshadows the finish. I have always had a soft spot for this Michaels vs Jericho match, though. It’s HBK’s first Wrestlemania appearance since Wrestlemania 14 and from his return match he seemed like he hadn’t lost a step. Jericho was the perfect opponent for this, with the well told story of Jericho having idolised Michaels but now believing he has surpassed him. Both men go all out here and produce a match that is a bit of an overlooked classic.
Worst – Undertaker vs A-Train & Big Show
This was originally supposed to be a tag match, with Nathan Jones as Taker’s partner, but he was deemed not good enough for Wrestlemania. Judging by his run in late in the match that decision was completely justified. That does bring up an issue with this match: it was announced as a handicap match, so surely when Jones interferes it should be a disqualification. Even putting that plot hole to one side this match is not a fun time. It is another example of the WWF/WWE padding Undertaker’s streak with pointless matches. Thankfully they would eventually start booking the streak in a worthwhile manner.
Best – Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit (World Heavyweight Title)
It’s easy to look back and dismiss Benoit’s matches because of the monster he became, but doing so is disrespectful to the other wrestlers involved in putting on those matches. With that out of the way, the match itself is an absolutely flawlessly executed triple threat match. 3-way matches often suffer from having one participant stalling for time, but this match manages to get the balance down to a tee. There are some well thought out spots too, such as Triple H catching Michaels’ hand so that he can’t tap out. It has everything you could want from a Wrestlemania main event: fast paced action, intensity, emotion, blood, sweat and tears. It’s an absolute classic and possibly the best triple threat match ever.
Worst – Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg
This was a perfect storm of apathy. Both men were leaving the company following this match and the crowd wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. They chanted “you sold out” at a clearly annoyed Lesnar and even having Steve Austin as the special referee couldn’t save this. It really is a very boring match.
Best – Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels
HBK returns to this spot for the third straight Wrestlemania. This time it’s a technical masterpiece with Kurt Angle. It’s one of those rare matches where you go in expecting the world and still come out of it with no disappointment whatsoever. They start off slowly with Michaels outwrestling Angle, much to his chagrin, before shifting into a superb game of one-upmanship. The build is brilliantly done throughout and the closing stretch, including a very memorable ankle lock, is fantastic. It’s a 5 star classic between two of the best of all time.
Worst – Big Show vs Akebono (Sumo Match)
I will give this credit for at least having a somewhat similar appearance to actual sumo competition. At the end of the day though sumo is basically slapping, shoving and stalling. This doesn’t make for a very entertaining spectacle and Wrestlemania deserves more.
Best – Edge vs Mick Foley (Hardcore Match)
This is, for my money, one of the two best true hardcore matches the WWE ever put on. The other is Foley vs Randy Orton from Backlash 2004. Both are similar in that they provide a proving ground, of sorts, for future perennial main eventers. Foley is Cactus Jack in all but name here and Edge commits fully to the carnage. It has barbed wire, thumbtacks, Foley bumping like a lunatic and finishes with one of the coolest looking spots in Wrestlemania history: Edge spearing Foley off the apron through a flaming table. It’s glorious destruction.
Worst – The Boogeyman vs Booker T & Sharmell
The best thing about the Boogeyman is the bit in his entrance where he smashes a clock into his face. It’s so bizarre that I find it entertaining every time I see it. Unfortunately that is the career highlight for him. I will give Booker T all the credit in the world for trying his best to make this match work, but it was doomed from the start.
Best – Mr Kennedy vs CM Punk vs Edge vs Finlay vs Jeff Hardy vs Matt Hardy vs King Booker vs Randy Orton (Money In The Bank Ladder Match)
The only MITB match on this list. Terrible winner aside, this is a really fun spotfest. There isn’t really a great deal that sets this apart from other MITB matches, but that isn’t a bad thing as most of them are really fun to watch. Some of the stand out spots are an RKO, Bookend and Green River Plunge off the ladder, Edge viciously throwing a step ladder in to Punk’s face and Matt Hardy being suplexed onto a ladder that had been set up like a see saw. The most spectacular looking spot, though, is reserved for Jeff Hardy, as is traditional. He climbs the giant ladder and gives a sit down splash to Edge, who is positioned on a ladder which is perched between the ring and the apron. It looks brutal. All told, it’s a great way to kick off the show.
Worst – The Great Khali vs Kane
Just looking at the match on paper you know it’s going to be horrible. The Great Khali is one of the worst athletes ever to set foot in the ring and Kane, while a very capable hand, was never going to be able to drag something entertaining from this. It’s a slow, boring match that feels longer than the six minutes it lasts.
Best – Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair (If Ric Flair Loses He Must Retire)
“I’m sorry. I love you.” That is why this match is here. Make no mistake about it, Undertaker vs Edge is a better wrestling match than this, but it has nowhere near the level of emotion involved. Michaels gives Flair everything here and makes him look like a million bucks. Flair runs through a career of moves, spots and short cuts, even successfully connecting from the top rope, and it’s a joy to behold. Throughout the match Michaels is reluctant to pull the trigger on the Sweet Chin Music until Flair begs him to give him his best shot. Michaels utters that famous line with a tear in his eye, hits the Sweet Chin Music and ends the WWE career of The Nature Boy. In terms of sheer emotion this may be the best Wrestlemania moment ever. I’m not crying, I have something in my eye. I really wish Flair would have remained retired because this was the perfect send off.
Worst – Beth Phoenix & Melina vs Ashley Massaro & Maria Kanellis (Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjack Match)
I think the name of the match says it all about this one. During this time there was usually a Wrestlemania match that had a stipulation similar to this one and all of them are worthless. They are affectionately known as bathroom break matches. Beth Phoenix prevents this one from being truly terrible.