10 WrestleMania matches that stole The Show of Shows
Only one match can main-event WrestleMania. However, once the opening bell rings at The Show of Shows, every Superstar and Diva on the card hits the ring with the intention of stealing the show. As WWE’s premier event rounds the corner, several dark-horse contests are brewing as potential candidates for that elusive honor.
Whether it’s the multi-Superstar Intercontinental Title Ladder Match or this year’s revolutionary Triple Threat Divas Match, each and every WrestleMania contest seems like a perfect candidate to claim the spotlight for itself. If they do, they’ll follow in the tradition of these great matches that didn’t go on last, but lasted the longest in our hearts and minds all the same, presented by Cricket Wireless.
WrestleMania XXIV: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels — Career Threatening Match
Ask your average sports-entertainer whom they think is the greatest of all time, and you’ll probably get some combination of Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, both for their legendary careers and for what happened when they crossed paths on the biggest stage their craft afforded. With Flair’s in-ring career nearing its curtain and HBK riding high on the wave of his second prime, the two WWE Hall of Famers locked horns at WrestleMania XXIV, in a Career Threatening Match that ultimately ended one of the finest squared-circle tenures of all time.
The deal was this: If Flair loses, he’s done. So, The Dirtiest Player in the Game brought every underhanded tool he’d acquired to the make-or-break bout with his younger, faster opponent, even as HBK steadily wore him down. Yet, “The Nature Boy” refused to go out with a whimper; after getting hit with Sweet Chin Music twice, a deflated Flair got to his knees, looked The Showstopper in the eye and motioned for his opponent to bring it on.
HBK hesitated, stared at his boyhood hero and spoke five heart-pounding words: “I’m sorry. I love you.” He delivered a boot to Flair’s chin one final time, then pinned “The Nature Boy” before wrapping him in an emotional embrace. The crowd in Orlando stood and applauded. Not just for the show-stealing match or the display of sportsmanship that followed, but for, perhaps, the greatest sports-entertainer of all time.
WrestleMania 22: Mick Foley vs. Edge — Hardcore Match
Although Mick Foley was no stranger to The Grandest Stage of Them All, The Hardcore Legend had never experienced the one shining “WrestleMania Moment” that many Legends are known for. Leading up to a spotlight match at The Show of Shows against Edge, the very first Hardcore Champion felt he couldn’t go wrong in selecting his specialty contest — a Hardcore Match — to stake his claim on the spotlight. He was certainly right. Edge might have won the brutally intense contest, though the image of The Rated-R Superstar Spearing Foley off the apron and onto a flaming table outside the ring will never be forgotten. Wins and losses be damned: Foley stole the show with Edge in Chicago and ascended into immortality in a burst of flame.
WrestleMania VII: The Ultimate Warrior vs. 'Macho King' Randy Savage — Career Ending Match
This showdown between two of WWE’s most memorable Superstars was about more than just a WrestleMania Moment. Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage both put their careers on the line at the seventh edition of The Show of Shows, and both the battle and its aftermath became the most talked about events of the night. To further illustrate the magnitude of this match, Ultimate Warrior opted to forgo his usual mad dash to the ring, instead slowly stalking the ring as he eyed his opponent.
Once the bell rang, Savage emptied the entirety of his arsenal at Warrior, including five of his patented elbows from the top rope. The unpredictable Superstar kept kicking out, however, and his unbridled fury became too much for the Macho King to handle, forcing the former WWE Champion out of the ring for good. Though he lost his career, Savage regained something — or rather, someone — more important. After the match, Miss Elizabeth saved a battle-worn Macho King from an attack by Sensational Sherri, and the WWE Universe’s eyes teared up as the couple reunited, capping off the emotional highlight of WrestleMania VII. The lesson? Even when it comes to stealing the show, true love conquers all. Can you dig it?
WrestleMania XIV: The New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie — World Tag Team Championship Dumpster Match
Good Ol’ J.R. warned us all about what awaited at the outset of this gruesome tag team contest: “This is not gonna be pretty, and this is not gonna be scientific.” But as any avant-garde artist can tell you, sometimes the a masterpieces is made from the most rudimentary of ingredients. Granted, Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and the waiting maw of a dumpster make for a weird cocktail even by Attitude Era standards, but there’s no denying this hardcore sleeper hit — featuring weaponized cookie sheets, a giant Powerade bottle and the first (but not last) instance of a forklift swinging the result of a Mick Foley match — was as memorable as any of the Mike Tyson-related shenanigans that followed. Bang-bang!
WrestleMania 21: Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle
What do you get when you throw the Superstar who came to be known as Mr. WrestleMania in the ring with an Olympic gold medalist on The Grandest Stage of Them All? An unforgettable match, that’s what! Kurt Angle had retribution on his mind heading into WrestleMania in 2005, after Shawn Michaels had eliminated him from that year’s Royal Rumble Match. The ever-confident Olympian thought he’d have an easy go of it against HBK, but the thing that always clicked inside Michaels at The Show of Shows gave him even more adrenaline to push through Angle’s onslaught. The two battled back and forth for nearly a half-hour until HBK — having fought valiantly for several minutes while trapped in Angle’s vicious Ankle Lock — had no choice but to submit. Even in defeat, the the WWE Hall of Famer left the WWE Universe with a match to remember.
WrestleMania X-Seven: World Tag Team Title TLC Match
The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian. Whenever these three teams entered the ring, anarchy was sure to break out. This trio of duos met in only the second Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match in WWE history at WrestleMania X-Seven in Houston with the World Tag Team Titles literally hanging in the balance. The six Superstars battered each other with steel chairs, climbed to death-defying heights and went crashing through tables. Each team even had unofficial third members, as Rhyno, Lita and Spike Dudley all interfered on behalf of their comrades.
Ultimately, Rhyno gave Edge & Christian the upper hand. After shoving Matt Hardy and Bubba Ray Dudley off a ladder and through a massive stack of tables, The Man Beast carried Christian on his shoulders and up another ladder, getting him to the titles quicker than D-Von Dudley. Edge & Christian barely escaped from the wreckage with championship gold, but the WWE Universe was left in awe after all six Superstars risked their careers on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
WrestleMania X: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon — Intercontinental Title Ladder Match
The WWE Universe faced an unusual conundrum heading into WrestleMania X: There were two Intercontinental Champions. Shawn Michaels had been stripped of the title, but carried around a copycat championship and continued to lay claim to the accolade he never technically lost. Razor Ramon, of course, had actually won the vacant title several months before The Show of Shows, during HBK’s protracted absence from the ring. WWE officials decided there was only one way to decide the true champion: Hang the title over the ring, and declare the first Superstar to climb up a ladder and retrieve it the undisputed Intercontinental Champion.
What ensued left an indelible mark on the WWE Universe and locker room. Michaels and Ramon left no stone unturned in the iconic clash, smashing each other with steel weapons and falling from great heights, all in search of the right to be called champion. And yes, Razor Ramon emerged victorious, though that’s almost beside the point: It was the match itself that would inspire future Superstars to literally reach new heights.
WrestleMania 13: Bret 'Hit Man' Hart vs. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin — Submission Match
The year 1997 marked a changing of the guard. Bret “Hit Man” Hart had been the WWE Universe’s hero for many years, but fans were starting to clamor for something different. Coincidentally, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was taking WWE by storm, having won that year’s Royal Rumble Match and the previous year’s King of the Ring tournament, where he debuted the famous “Austin 3:16” catchphrase.
With both men and WWE itself at a crossroads, the two future WWE Hall of Famers met in a Submission Match to settle their differences at WrestleMania 13. Austin, the innovator of the “Stone Cold” Stunner, was not known for submission maneuvers, but Hart was internationally renowned for his use of the Sharpshooter. Ironically, that would prove to be Bret’s undoing as the WWE Universe’s champion of choice.
“Hit Man” eventually trapped a lacerated Austin in the Sharpshooter for an extended duration. However, The Texas Rattlesnake refused to submit, eventually passing out in the center of the ring. Special guest referee Ken Shamrock awarded the decision to The Excellence of Execution, but a frustrated Hart continued to attack his opponent after the match — much to the disgust of the WWE Universe, and resulting in a monumental about-face in fans’ allegiances. The image of Austin refusing to give up earned him his first of many spots in WrestleMania lore.
The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were certainly no strangers to one another. After all, they had both been a part of the WWE roster for nearly 20 years, but had never faced off on The Grandest Stage of Them All. More important, The Undertaker had never defeated HBK in singles competition. So, it came down to The Streak vs. Mr. WrestleMania himself. Leading into the match, HBK mocked The Phenom’s signature entrance, approaching the ring on SmackDown in a cloud of white smoke, and a white coat and hat reminiscent of The Deadman’s black garb.
Inside Reliant Stadium, The Showstopper seemed to descend from the heavens in front of more than 70,000 people, many of whom wondered if The Undertaker was finally in over his head. Each competitor kicked out of Tombstones, Last Rides, chokeslams and Sweet Chin Musics. Neither Legend was able to put the other away in what became a heart-pounding, evenly matched affair.
Finally, The Undertaker believed he had the match won when he executed a devastating Tombstone. The Phenom crossed Shawn’s arms over his chest, extended his tongue and rolled back his eyes, but somehow The Showstopper kicked out yet again. The WWE Universe was in disbelief, and The Streak seemed to be in genuine jeopardy for the first time. However, the doubt in The Undertaker’s supremacy at The Show of Shows was merely momentary. HBK climbed to the top turnbuckle to attempt a moonsault, but it turned out to be his one, single mistake. Catching Mr. WrestleMania in mid-air, The Phenom nailed another Tombstone and finally pinned his rival to end the jaw-dropping encounter, and advance The Streak to 17-0.
WrestleMania III: Ricky Steamboat vs. 'Macho Man' Randy Savage — Intercontinental Title Match
Many of the record 93,173 WWE fans in attendance at the Pontiac Silverdome were there to see a giant get bodyslammed at WrestleMania III. After the final bell of the evening, however, they could only discuss one match: The epic battle for the Intercontinental Title between Ricky Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
The two Superstars, though they were lacking size in comparison to the billed main eventers, dazzled the crowd in Pontiac, Mich., with their speed, aerial tactics and willingness to do anything for the title, waging war in a bout that is still referred to as one of the best, if not the best contest of all time. Steamboat came out on top in that encounter, which many of today’s Superstars regard as their inspiration for entering sports-entertainment.