25 greatest matches in WrestleMania history
Nothing is more replenishing to the soul of a sports-entertainment fan than WrestleMania, and with good reason: More great matches have happened there than at any other event.
So, it was with a heavy obligation that a crosssection of editors at WWE.com attempted to rank the 25 best showdowns to take place at The Grandest Stage of Them All. The criteria was an imprecise mashup of match quality, big-fight feel and historical significance. And let’s face it: You just know a great match when you see one.
As difficult as it was to compare, for example, a TLC Match with Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart and not question whether the two bouts belong to different genres altogether, the task was shouldered, and what follows is a list of WrestleMania classics that are all stellar, regardless of the number beside it, presented by Snickers.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock — WrestleMania XV
The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin shared the greatest rivalry in WrestleMania history. They battled three times on The Grandest Stage of Them All, and their first encounter at WrestleMania XV pitted Mr. McMahon’s hand-picked corporate champion against the Superstar that The Chairman did not want to be the face of WWE. After Mr. McMahon failed to keep The Texas Rattlesnake out of the bout, the WWE Universe was treated to a brutal No-Disqualification Match that kept them on the edge of their seats.
There was no telling who would reign supreme. Given the match stipulations, Austin and The Rock used everything they could at their disposal — from T-shirts to steel chairs — to gain the upper hand. They battled back and forth as Mr. McMahon tried to distract Austin to give The Rock an advantage. Nevertheless, The Texas Rattlesnake managed to count The Rock Bottom and execute a blistering Stunner to secure the hard-fought victory. Oh, hell yeah! — KEVIN POWERS
Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper — WrestleMania VIII
Intercontinental Champion Roddy Piper and challenger Bret Hart walked an ethical tightrope at WrestleMania VIII. Respected peers and fellow white hats at the time, the two Superstars were like family; Piper even took meals at the famed Hart Mansion in Calgary.
Yet, with competitive pride and championship ambition acting as their guides, both men took shortcuts — none more potentially disheartening than Piper’s plot to strike the “Hit Man” with the ring bell when the referee was down and out. The Hoosier Dome pleaded with “Hot Rod” to stay the course of righteousness, which he did. Ultimately, The Excellence of Execution scored the three-count by deftly countering Piper’s sleeper hold into a pin. In a bout pocked with uncharacteristic rulebreaking, the winning fall was clean and the post-match was reserved for pure sportsmanship, with Piper strapping the Intercontinental Title around Hart’s waist. — JOHN CLAPP
The Undertaker vs. Edge — WrestleMania XXIV
WrestleMania XXIV was one of those few instances when The Streak went head-to-head against a World Champion — in this case, a fearless, Machiavellian World Champion. Maybe more than any Streak challenger before him, Edge gave the impression that The Undertaker’s untarnished record was legitimately at risk of coming to an end.
There’s much to love about this installment of The Undertaker-Edge rivalry. You can pinpoint The Undertaker’s dive, perhaps the most graceful in his storied WrestleMania career; the sinister manner in which The Rated-R Superstar worked over The Phenom’s hurt back; or referee Charles Robinson’s mad dash down the aisle, which was rendered meaningless when Edge kicked out at two and three-quarters. The Undertaker wound up preserving The Streak in a manner that was equal parts exhilarating and unbelievable, much like The Deadman himself. Although Edge Speared The Phenom, The Undertaker suddenly rose from the grave and locked in the Hell’s Gate for the submission victory. — JOHN CLAPP
Money in the Bank Ladder Match — WrestleMania 21
Ladder Matches on The Grandest Stage of Them All tend to be great — no surprise there’s a bevy of them on this list — so the inaugural Money in the Bank Ladder Match, with its novel, game changing stipulation and can’t miss lineup of topflight athletes, Evel Knievels and a real-life monster, was bound to be excellent.
The second bout at WrestleMania 21 played out like a Michael Bay trailer with exploding robots replaced by guys like Christian and Kane. Fifteen minutes of gratuitous carnage led to Edge coming out on top — setting in motion what would become a defining run as a villain — but it was Shelton Benjamin who stole the show (and defied physics) by running up a diagonal ladder to deliver a diving clothesline to Jericho. This was the sports-entertainment equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster. No wonder it spawned so many sequels. — RYAN MURPHY
Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle — WrestleMania XX
WrestleMania XX’s WWE Championship Match had everything you’d want and expect from an Eddie Guerrero-Kurt Angle encounter. From blazing-fast takedowns and big suplexes to breathtaking near falls and even a little chicanery, it was all there.
That last quality is far from stunning. After all, Latino Heat made no bones about his willingness to lie, cheat and steal when the situation called for it, and if he did, it was just because he was adhering to the first of those three pillars. After enduring a grueling, 20-minute-plus contest against The Olympic Gold Medalist, the second-generation Superstar didn’t think twice about employing a creative distraction. Between the fourth and fifth Ankle Lock attempts, Guerrero untied his boot under the pretense he was tending to his limb. As soon as Angle went to reapply his namesake finisher, the boot slipped off, stunning Angle and leaving him vulnerable to a sudden small package.
But don’t let Eddie’s late-game theatrics distract you from the takeaway here: This match is dynamite. — JOHN CLAPP
Mick Foley vs. Edge — WrestleMania 22
Mick Foley and Edge go way back. The Hardcore Legend often discussed his friendship with Edge in his best-selling memoirs, and even wrote the forward to Edge’s own book. But The Rated-R Superstar felt betrayed when his supposed pal, performing referee duties during a WWE Championship Match on Raw, counted the winning pinfall for John Cena. Ever The Ultimate Opportunist, Edge unleashed a brutal assault on the extreme icon. More attacks and a Con-Chair-To later, Foley finally accepted Edge’s challenge for a WrestleMania encounter under the condition that it be in his wheelhouse — a Hardcore Match.
Although Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy was no stranger to The Grandest Stage of Them All, he had never experienced one shining “WrestleMania moment” that has defined so many legendary careers. The very first Hardcore Champion felt he couldn’t go wrong in selecting his specialty contest, and he was right. While Edge might have come out on top, the image of Foley being Speared off the ring apron and onto a table set ablaze on the floor will never be forgotten. The man in flannel had finally attained his elusive moment, and most definitely stole the show. — ZACH LINDER
The Undertaker vs. Triple H — WrestleMania XXVIII
Hours before the WWE Universe witnessed a “Once in a Lifetime” confrontation at WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami, the assembled thousands at Sun Life Stadium beheld something just as epic: The End of an Era. Specifically, the final battle of the old guard’s two most enduring Superstars — The Undertaker and Triple H — waged inside the confines of Hell in a Cell.
With Shawn Michaels donning the referee’s stripes, The Game unleashed hell in his final attempt to defeat the man who retired The Showstopper. But whereas their confrontation a year earlier had all but destroyed The Last Outlaw, The Phenom came to this fight with twice his typical strength: He shook off both The Game’s fury and the inevitable, revenge-driven assist from The Showstopper. The Deadman put Triple H to bed, ascended to 20-0, and sent his Era out on a high note. May it rest in peace. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar — WrestleMania XIX
You can’t have WrestleMania without “wrestle.” So it’s not all that surprising that the two most technically accomplished amateur grapplers in WWE history put on a master class of wrestling — both amateur and professional — in their main event WWE Title Match at WrestleMania XIX.
Angle, who cut seven pounds during his training to improve his quickness, flitted around his much larger opponent, picking away at Brock’s injured torso and wearing him down with an endless arsenal of amateur maneuvers. As the bout wore on, the two men switched seamlessly between amateur and professional move sets — this was undoubtedly the first example of a spladle (look it up) in the main event of WrestleMania — and if Lesnar was the better man, he was the better man by a hair. Following a gruesome, missed Shooting Star Press, The Anomaly sealed the match by unleashing his third F-5 of the night to fell The Olympic Hero and ensure his maiden voyage to WrestleMania ended in glory. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels — WrestleMania 23
In his first WWE Title Match at WrestleMania in nine years, Shawn Michaels pushed WWE Champion — and fellow World Tag Team Champion — John Cena to the limit in a show-stopping, nearly half-hour long instant classic at WrestleMania 23.
It was a fierce, personal battle waged in front of 80,000-plus at Detroit’s Ford Field, in which each Superstar found a way to reverse his opponent’s signature maneuvers. While Cena avoided Sweet Chin Music, Michaels squirmed out the Attitude Adjustment and the STF. The action was intense and unpredictable, with HBK even hitting the champion with a brutal piledriver onto the steel steps.
Cena, however, endured and at the height of the action finally caught Michaels in the debilitating STF for the submission victory on The Grandest Stage of Them All. For Mr. WrestleMania, it was a tremendous addition to his unmatched Show of Shows legacy, even in defeat. For Cena, it represented one of the highlights of his career and concrete proof that he could hang with the best of them on The Showcase of the Immortals. — JAKE GRATE
Undertaker vs. Triple H — WrestleMania XXVII
After seeing his best friend, Shawn Michaels, have his career ended in pursuit of snapping The Streak, Triple H believed he could be the one to make a blemish on The Undertaker’s WrestleMania record. It didn’t take long for WrestleMania XXVII's No Holds Barred showdown to spill to the arena floor, with Triple H spearing The Phenom through Michael Cole’s plexiglass booth. The two competitors threw bombs at each other the entire bout: Triple H connected with three Pedigrees and a Tombstone, while The Undertaker hit a chokelsam and Last Ride.
Sledgehammers, tables and chairs all found their way into the bout at some point, brutally wearing down both men. In the end, The Undertaker locked Triple H in Hell’s Gate, forcing The King of Kings to tap out. Though his Streak was still intact at 19-0, The Undertaker looked worse for wear. While Triple H was able to leave under his own power, The Phenom had to be carted off The Grandest Stage of Them All, a shocking first. — BOBBY MELOK
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho — WrestleMania XIX
Chris Jericho grew up idolizing Shawn Michaels. So when the two decorated Superstars locked up in Seattle at WrestleMania XIX, it was a meeting of similar styles in a bout that became the ace in a stacked deck of a card.
The perfect mix of technical mastery and main event-level appeal, Michaels and Jericho traded kip-ups and Superkicks in a fast-paced affair that saw HBK walk away with a big Show of Shows victory. Though their post-match hug was short-lived, their meeting at WrestleMania will go down as one of the true show stealers on The Grandest Stage of Them All. — ALEX GIANNINI
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H — WrestleMania 30
There was something in the air the night Daniel Bryan did the impossible at WrestleMania night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Deemed a "B+ player" who didn't belong in the main event scene, let alone in a marquee position at the biggest show of the year, Bryan was met by a gatekeeper in the opening bout of WrestleMania 30 in the form of Triple H.
The Game and Bryan battled back-and-forth — from ring and apron to barricade and announce table — throwing everything they had at one another. Fans worried if Bryan’s arm would give out every time the COO targeted the injured limb, all while Stephanie McMahon shrieked encouragement to her husband and insults to the supposed “B+ player.”
But Daniel Bryan would not be denied. After a Pedigree silenced the crowd, there was an eruption of joy when Bryan kicked out. When Bryan’s running knee connected with The Games’s face minutes later for the shocking victory, it became a special, practically euphoric, moment. It would only be topped when Bryan completed the miracle by capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Title in a Triple Threat Match against Randy Orton and Batista later that night. — MIKE MURPHY
Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair — WrestleMania 24
You know when Jim Ross calls a match an instant classic before it even happens that the thing is gonna be good. The stakes were as high as possible here — following an edict from Mr. McMahon that Flair’s career would end the next time he lost a match, the “Nature Boy” handpicked HBK as his prospective final foe on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
The Showstopper initially balked at the idea of potentially ending Flair’s livelihood, but the mutual admiration society disbanded about five minutes into the match when when HBK promised to “Old Yeller” the WWE Hall of Famer and slapped him square across the face. Flair went down, but the supposed old dog went down clawing and foaming. The Dirtiest Player in the Game emptied his entire bag of dirty tricks on Michaels, who was slowed by a failed moonsault that splintered the commentary table. Three Sweet Chin Musics finally brought the curtain down on the 16-time World Champ, but it was as gutsy and perfect an ending as Flair could have hoped for (hell, Lil’ Naitch even refereed the thing). Once more, with feeling: WOOO! — ANTHONY BENIGNO
Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage — WrestleMania VII
The atmosphere surrounding Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man’s” Career-Ending Match was uniquely bittersweet. Everybody wanted to see the fierce rivals go at it, but no one was quite ready to see either Superstar — even the unscrupulous Randy Savage, who’d taken up company with the villainous Sensational Sherri — leave WWE. Contributing to the emotional charge was the presence of former Savage flame Miss Elizabeth in the audience.
With such high stakes, it’s no wonder Warrior and Savage upped the physicality for their Show of Shows showdown. Mach landed no fewer than five consecutive Elbow Drops and still couldn’t get the job done. Not that the battle was any easier for the face-painted powerhouse, whose tried-and-true press slam/running splash combo wasn’t enough to finish off Savage. In this fight, the galaxy-surfing Warrior ultimately prevailed, and when he seemingly closed the door on Macho Man’s phenomenal career, Sherri saw the result as an excuse to berate the suddenly retired Savage.
Literally kicking a Macho Man when he was down, Sherri was soon pried off her former partner by a teary-eyed Elizabeth, who’d hopped the rail. Go ahead and try not to smile when Macho Man realizes who saved him and WWE’s most iconic couple embraces once again. — JOHN CLAPP
Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair — WrestleMania VIII
There were several dream matches lined up for Ric Flair by the time the “Nature Boy” found his way to WWE in the early ’90s, but none of the Superstars he faced during that tenure presented him with the same thrilling challenge that Randy Savage did. When the kiss-stealing NWA expat-turned-WWE Champion suggested he and Miss Elizabeth were romantically linked, he lit a fuse named “Macho Man.” The bomb went off at WrestleMania VIII.
Savage’s scary intensity balanced out Flair’s sparkling gratuitousness. “Nature Boy” ally Mr. Perfect seemingly provided a foil, though, interrupting near falls for Savage and slipping a pair of knux to a damaged Flair, whose bleach blond hair had turned blood red. Savage’s ultimate triumph — which came by way of a quick rollup — was sudden and uplifting, as the eruption of the WWE Universe proved. — JOHN CLAPP
The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian — WrestleMania X-Seven
What is the best tag team match ever wrestled? Hard to say for sure, but there’s no doubt this brutal melee from the Houston Astrodome is on the short list. The final match in an epic trilogy, this one — featuring bigger stakes, a bigger stage, bigger ladders and bigger surprises — was by far the most captivating.
In the weeks leading up to the event, the Hardys, Dudleys and Edge & Christian had exchanged the World Tag Team Titles with a dizzying pace, and they were all primed for a “WrestleMania moment.” The entirety of their WrestleMania X-Seven encounter felt like that moment, but one indelible image from the contest endures. In the thick of the match, Edge Speared Jeff in mid-air as the daredevil hung from a cable high above the ring, driving him perilously to the canvas below. The impactful crash landing not only defined TLC Matches, but raised the bar for all of tag team competition. — ZACH LINDER
Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle — WrestleMania 21
How could this match not have been good? Pitting two of the best ring technicians — one of whom just happened to be the greatest WrestleMania performer of all time — against one another on The Grandest Stage, WrestleMania 21’s HBK-Kurt Angle throw-down was an instant classic.
In what could easily serve as a tutorial video to any aspiring Superstar at WWE’s Performance Center, Angle and Michaels put on an absolute wrestling clinic in Hollywood. Trading reversals that no mere mortals could possibly pull off, the Olympian and the The Showstopper illustrated what happens when styles clash in the best way possible.
It ended with a devastating variation of the Ankle Lock to finally make HBK tap, but this match was more about the journey than the destination. And what a ride it was. — ALEX GIANNINI
Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon — WrestleMania X
At WrestleMania X, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon competed in WWE’s first high-profile Ladder Match and set a standard for the contest that, arguably, has still never been matched.
After being stripped of the Intercontinental Championship, Shawn Michaels took to carrying a copycat title. Razor Ramon, meanwhile, captured the vacant Intercontinental Title in late 1993. WWE officials decided to determine the true champion by suspending both titles over the ring and declaring the first Superstar to climb up a ladder and retrieve them the undisputed Intercontinental Champion.
In a fight unlike anything the WWE Universe had seen before, the fearless Superstars smashed each other and tumbled from great heights in pursuit of the illustrious title and right to be called true champion. In the end, Razor Ramon emerged victorious from a match that brought the WWE fans at Madison Square Garden to their feet and inspired future generations of daredevil Superstars. — JAKE GRATE
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart — WrestleMania X
Stu and Helen Hart could’ve raised a couple master pianists, and it might’ve been the ticketholders of Carnegie Hall who witnessed an archetypal sibling rivalry play out between world-class performers. Instead, the Harts wrestled, and WWE fans inside Madison Square Garden got Bret vs. Owen. The immensely talented, if petulant, Owen demanded to be held in the same regard as his more accomplished older brother, and if there was ever a night for “The Rocket” to break out of the “Hit Man’s” shadow, WrestleMania X was that night.
For enthusiasts of Dungeon mechanics — the type of rock-solid mat work that’s instilled by countless hours training in a low-ceiling basement — there’s hardly better. The turning point came when Bret tweaked his knee on a pescado. From there, Owen heartlessly took over, targeting the injured leg like a younger, smarmier Excellence of Execution. Bret’s influence on Owen is apparent throughout: Check the “Hit Man” nailing an enziguri, which Owen might’ve noted and stored away for future use; the way Owen slammed into the turnbuckle sternum-first while trying to halt an Irish whip; The Sharpshooter.
Bret tried putting The Black Hart away with a victory roll, but Owen sagely reversed it into a compact pinfall, proving that he belonged in the same class as his older brother and, on this occasion, was even a step ahead. — JOHN CLAPP
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels — WrestleMania XII
Every generation of ring fans has its own dream matchup between the era’s best pure grapplers. In the ’70s, there was Funk vs. Brisco. The ’80s had Flair vs. Steamboat. For fans of the WWE New Generation, it was all about Hart vs. Michaels. A true departure from typical WWE fare, the headlining match of WrestleMania XII was contested as a 60-Minute WWE Iron Man Match — a suitable, if unfamiliar, forum for the slow-burn “Hit Man” and cardio-freak Showstopper to ply their trade.
Caution: This watershed match — which actually exceeded the hour that it was allotted — isn’t universally adored, perhaps due to its methodical pace. Yet, without the valleys, the peaks are less apparent. For the patient, detail-obsessed observer, Hart vs. Michaels is nothing short of a piece of art, with the squared circle serving as their literal and figurative canvas. Not all art is meant to be easily digestible all of the time. — JOHN CLAPP
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels — WrestleMania XXVI
A return match from the previous year’s Show of Shows, WrestleMania XXVI’s duel between The Phenom and The Showstopper carried with it only two possible ending scenarios, both of which were untenable to many WWE diehards: either The Streak was coming to an end or Mr. WrestleMania’s career was. There was no agreeable middle-ground option.
The match itself felt like a trumped-up version — almost a caricature — of The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, suggesting the sands of time still hadn’t begun working their way into The Undertaker and HBK’s machinery. The creative and athletic Mr. WrestleMania, who could do any move he wanted, moonsaulted from the top rope onto a tabled Deadman. The Last Outlaw Tombstoned Michaels on the floor. After kicking out of a second Tombstone, Michaels put up one last brassy act of defiance, slapping The Phenom in the face. A high, leaping Tombstone later, and WrestleMania was saying goodbye to its most remarkable performer. — JOHN CLAPP
Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — WrestleMania 13
Sports-entertainment fans have dissected the WrestleMania 13 Submission Match between Bret “Hit Man” Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as if it were the Zapruder film. That’s because every second of the bout — from Hart’s precision assault on Austin’s left knee to a sera-soaked Rattlesnake boldly passing out in the clutches of The Sharpshooter — mattered.
Those willing to look for it found a passion play in the excessive punches and generous bloodletting, one that allowed Hart to walk into Chicago a hero and Austin a villain and for them both to leave the opposite. How that happened is harder to explain — although The Texas Rattlesnake’s newfound valor played against Hart’s budding petulance certainly helped — but what’s impossible to miss is the grisly masterpiece that was created when the “Hit Man’s” emphasis on subtlety met Austin’s backwater bombast head-on. — RYAN MURPHY
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock — WrestleMania X-Seven
The two most iconic Superstars of WWE’s most popular era meeting at The Showcase of the Immortals in a No-Disqualification WWE Championship main event. What’s not to love? OK, besides the jaw-dropping ending, a Faustian bargain struck by “Stone Cold” and Mr. McMahon that left everyone feeling uneasy and uncertain about what they were watching.
Before that unsettling bit of business transpired, there was a glorious half-hour brawl that never let up from its initial breakneck pace. The Bionic Redneck ground his knee brace into The Great One’s face before lacerating The Brahma Bull with a strike of the timekeeper’s bell. “Stone Cold” similarly saw red after being run into an exposed turnbuckle. Then, to the disbelief of the almost 70,000 fans in attendance at Houston’s Astrodome, The Texas Rattlesnake did the unthinkable and solicited the WWE Chairman’s help in putting down The Great One. WrestleMania and WWE would never be the same again. — JOHN CLAPP
Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage — WrestleMania III
For a WrestleMania classic, the Intercontinental Championship showdown between Ricky Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage was less spectacle and more personal — a bout that was set in motion after Savage crushed “The Dragon’s” throat with a ring bell.
Savage and Steamboat traded holds for 15 minutes, every move pulling the WWE Universe deeper into the drama they were creating. They may not have possessed the size of WWE's typical main event players, but they used their speed and agility to prove that they deserved the spotlight just as much. By the time Steamboat rolled up Savage to win the title, an entire generation of smaller wrestlers was inspired to begin their journey to Superstardom. — BOBBY MELOK
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels — The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania
Of all the dramatic moments in the greatest WrestleMania match of all-time — and there are plenty — none reached the visceral rush of watching The Deadman fly headfirst over the top rope and land directly on his skull on the outside of the ring. For a brief moment, you expected the worst. And then The Phenom rolled over — leaving a divot behind where forehead met mat — and continued to wrestle for another 15 freaking minutes.
Dedication like that is what shaped the ultimate showdown between WrestleMania’s definitive players. Everything’s here, from the subtle (HBK desperately gripping onto the top rope to avoid a Tombstone, the look on Undertaker’s face after Michaels powers out after said Tombstone) to the overt (namely Shawn Michaels completely whiffing on a moonsault to the outside). No hyperbole necessary: This one’s an epic, a modern classic and, most importantly, the best WrestleMania bout of them all. — RYAN MURPHY