It is the year 2015. No flying cars. No hover-boards. No Jaws 19.
With October 21st having come and gone, like many others across the globe, I re-watched the Back to the Future Trilogy with Marty and Doc, travelling through time to reset the past and create a better future.
Which got me thinking; what if I had access to Doc Brown’s time-machine?
Could I travel through the space-time continuum and create an amalgam Wrestlemania, using some of the greatest matches & performers ever?
Sure, why not? With the poor quality of WWE at present, I have no choice but to look back to the past.
Before the dark times. Before the Empire.
Now of course, as always with time-travel, there are rules. In this case, to create the ultimate Wrestlemania using matches from the past:
- No wrestler can appear in more than one match (managers and run ins excluded).
- No championship title can appear more than once.
- The event still has to run under four hours in length.
With that in mind, let’s fire up the DeLorean and create the Greatest Wrestlemania of all Time(s).
First up: The Great Khali Vs…
Just kidding. Here we go…
John Cena Vs Big Show – United States Title – Wrestlemania XX – 09:14.
Back in 2004, John Cena was, as Michael Cole put it – ‘Smackdown’s fastest rising star’. Before he became stale, before ‘Hustle, Loyalty & Respect’, love him or hate him **cough** hate **cough**, Cena was on a roll going into Wrestlemania XX. This match gave him his first title and the two (then F-Us) on Big Show were genuinely impressive, paving Cena’s yellow brick road to stardom.
No one has had a run on top like Cena. Not Austin. Not Hogan. Not even Flair.
And this is where it all started. Back when the ‘Let’s go, Cena’ chants weren’t followed by ‘Cena sucks’.
Coming in under ten minutes and featuring the United States Title, this is your opener.
The Hardy Boyz Vs Edge & Christian Vs The Dudley Boyz – Wrestlemania X-7 – TLC Match for the WWE Tag Team Titles – 15:47.
In my opinion, the finest of the TLC matches, featuring the three greatest tag teams of the Attitude Era. Their triangular rivalry brought a sense of excitement and danger to the WWE tag ranks not seen before or since. As innovating and as intense as the first TLC match was at Summerslam the year before, here at ‘Mania it was perfected.
Also joining the match were the teams’ respective third members – Lita, Rhyno and Spike Dudley. Each complemented their teams, adding that unpredictable element to a match already full of dangerous high spots and wonderful teamwork, rarely seen these days in WWE.
Jeff’s swanton onto Rhyno, Spike and the ladder.
Bubba-Ray & Matt falling through four tables.
Edge’s spear on Jeff in mid air.
Chris Benoit Vs Kurt Angle – Wrestlemania X-7 – 14:04.
Now, before anyone gets all anxious, let’s just accept that Benoit was one of the finest in-ring mechanics ever. Add your Olympic hero, Kurt Angle to the mix and we have a match of old-fashioned wrestling to follow the craziness of TLC.
My favourite of Angle’s personas was the heel that didn’t understand why people hated him. Here it was in full effect. Angle’s pre-match promo riled up the Texan crowd and set the stage for a fantastic in-ring display. With early mat work, submission and counter-submission moves, multiple suplexes and even a few highflying spots, Angle and Benoit put on a clinic.
Rowdy Roddy Piper Vs Goldust – Hollywood Backlot Brawl – Part 1 – Wrestlemania XII – 03:44.
Again, because of the rules of this theoretical Wrestlemania, Piper can only appear once, which is a chance to showcase the Hot Rod in a different kind of spectacle. The backlot brawl with a young Goldust was rather unique to WWE at the time, (as was Goldust, himself) and the makeshift-hardcore nature of the fight really complimented Piper’s character. Of course, fans of Piper’s work in the film They Live can see the similarities between its most famous scene and this fight.
The craziness really took off when Goldust escaped in his car, only for Piper to give chase in an infamous white Ford Bronco. Of course, the live crowd had to wait for this match’s in-ring conclusion.
And so will we…
Ric Flair Vs Shawn Michaels – Career Threatening Match – Wrestlemania XXIV – 20:34.
From backstage madness to pure emotion.
Ric Flair had one of the greatest careers of anyone to set foot inside the squared circle. It was only fitting he also receive the greatest retirement angle of all time.
With his in-ring skills far from their best, and at an age where many a wrestler was either forgotten, a has-been or quite frankly, dead, Ric Flair’s final match (in WWE) is more than a must on this card. While some will say (and I agree) many of Shawn Michaels’s matches at ‘Mania were so much better than this one, (with Undertaker, for example) watching HBK reluctantly superkick a glassy-eyed Nature Boy into retirement was a moment no one will forget.
On this night, Michaels truly was the Heartbreak Kid, but for all different reasons.
Two of the best ever (many say the two best ever) in a fitting match for Slick Ric to call it a career.
TNA? What’s that?
Vince McMahon Vs Shane McMahon – Streetfight – Guest Referee: Mick Foley – Wrestlemania X-7 – 14:12.
Villain Vs Hero. Father Vs Son.
In his rare-yet-remarkable wrestling performances, Shane McMahon consistently proved what might have been had he not been the ‘boss’s son’ and just another wrestler. Vince too, always had the knack for getting the most out of a match. And this time, with his very own flesh-and-blood, they tore the house down in a streetfight officiated by the king of hardcore himself, Mick Foley.
A match based around character and passion than pure mat-based wrestling, both McMahons brought their A-game, highlighted by Shane’s leap onto the announce table. Of course, the McMahon name is synonymous with WWE, but on this night, father and son proved why in a whole different manner.
Cruiserweight Open, featuring: Akio, Tajiri, Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio, Nunzio, Funaki, Jamie Noble, Shannon More, Ultimo Dragon & Chavo Guerrero- Wrestlemania XX – 11:31.
WWE has never really been known for great cruiserweight action. Sure, they’ve dabbled, but nothing like WCW or ECW did back in the day.
So why not highlight this Wrestlemania cruiserweight open?
Featuring some of the greatest highflyers in history, this match gave the crowd a fantastic display of the pure, in-ring talents of some all-time greats, while mixing them with several young guns and seasoned Japanese stars. While not the greatest cruiserweight match in history by a long shot, this match is perfect for this card.
Rowdy Roddy Piper Vs Goldust – Hollywood Backlot Brawl – Part 2 -Wrestlemania XII – 07:28.
Finally, after several snippets involving footage of Piper’s Bronco, (why does that look so familiar?) the brawl hit the ring. When Goldust reappeared seemingly out of nowhere, only to be followed by an enraged Piper, the fans certainly got more than they expected.
The brawl perfectly encapsulated Piper’s maniacal character, while giving Goldust the spotlight to show he was more than just ‘Dusty’s kid’. Far from it. Goldust embraced his controversial character to full effect, even going so far as to almost planting a kiss on the Hot Rod.
Piper eventually prevailed of course, stripping Goldust to reveal more than anyone wanted to see, but nevertheless creating a Wrestlemania moment not easily forgotten.
Triple H Vs Sting – No Disqualification – Wrestlemania XXXI – 18:36.
While many will argue against this choice, sighting Triple H’s many epic battles at other Wrestlemanias, keep in mind the rules about wrestlers and titles appearing more than once. With the WWE Title & many of his ‘Mania opponents still to come, that eliminates a lot of the Game’s other matches.
Besides, this battle gave us two classic Wrestlemania moments;
- Sting finally wrestling in a WWE ring on the biggest stage of them all.
- The long-awaited and often fantasy-booked confrontation between the nWo and DX.
Despite both of these moments occurring fifteen years later than most fans would have liked, at least we got to see them at all. Even HHH’s sledgehammer made a cameo. (Some would argue, so did his shovel.)
The match itself was fun if nothing else, giving Sting his moment in the sun (literally) and showcasing two future Hall of Famers in an encounter no one thought we’d ever see.
Trish Stratus Vs Mickie James – Women’s Title – Wrestlemania XXII – 08:48.
Easily the greatest match for the Women’s Title at any Wrestlemania.
The build up took months. The slow burn of super-fan Mickie’s obsession with Trish, culminating in Mickie turning on and taking the title from her idol, was incredibly well done.
Particularly of note, was the way that Mickie James played her character so well, that the crowd actually sided with her against a babyface Trish. I cannot remember another instance of babyface Trish being booed.
Trish’s best opponent was of course, always Lita. But with their lone ‘Mania match a triple threat with Jazz, I’ve decided to go with this one instead.
As CM Punk once said, “I did crazy chicks…”
Ricky Steamboat w/George Steele Vs Macho Man Randy Savage w/Elizabeth – Intercontinental Title – Wrestlemania III – 14:35.
The match that stole the show.
While Wrestlemania III was all about Hogan and Andre, this was the match of the night, hands down. The in-ring work spoke for itself in a fast-paced match blending athletic prowess with fantastic storytelling. So much so, that this match is still considered one of the greatest to this day.
Leading into the match, the storyline with Savage viciously injuring the throat of Steamboat added to the intensity of the feud. For a man now so loved by the fans, Savage could play the perfect heel. Even with Elizabeth by his side, he was able to illicit boos from the crowd, who wanted nothing more than to see the heroic Steamboat take the Intercontinental Championship from the villainous Macho Man.
They got their wish. Thanks to George Steele and a classic Earl Hebner ref-bump, Savage’s nefarious attempt to re-injure Steamboat with the ring bell was denied, the bell instead slammed into Savage’s head to set up a small package by Steamboat.
It may have involved shenanigans, and Savage may or may not have been denied a legit three-count, but the crowd didn’t care. When it was all over, Ricky Steamboat was their new Intercontinental Champion in a match that brought the people to their feet.
Bret Hart Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin – I Quit Match – Special Guest Referee: Ken Shamrock – Wrestlemania XIII – 22:05.
It’s a big statement, but I honestly believe that without this match, WWE doesn’t eventually defeat WCW. It set forth a chain of events that culminated in Vince McMahon owning his competition.
While taking the title from HBK solidified Austin’s status as the new face of the company, this earlier match against the Hitman is what ultimately rallied the fans behind the Rattlesnake. The double-turn is regarded as the best ever, executed by two greats who knew how to play their characters to perfection.
Using MMA fighter Shamrock as the guest referee gave the match an extra touch of legitimacy. His post-match confrontation with Hart garnered fan support while furthering Hart’s new heel persona.
Of course, the match is most famous for the now iconic image of Austin, face bloodied, crying out in pain but refusing to give in. It would be a staple of his character and a defining point in his career, leading him to be biggest attraction the ‘sport’ has ever seen.
Undertaker Vs CM Punk w/Paul Heyman – For the Streak – Wrestlemania XXIX – 22:07.
After his record-breaking 434-day title reign unceremoniously ended at the hands of the Rock, CM Punk set his sights on the Undertaker’s legendary streak. The outspoken, self-proclaimed ‘Best in the World’ was certainly a stark contrast to the cold and solemn Undertaker, the two colliding at Wrestlemania XXIX in the highlight of the night.
The inclusion of recently-deceased Paul Bearer added that extra punch to the heated rivalry. Did Punk stealing Bearer’s ‘ashes’ cross the line of storyline/real life good taste? Perhaps. But really, WWE has done much, much worse. Besides, while many of the ‘Mania streak matches centred around respect for the Deadman, Punk showed none whatsoever, openly mocking many facets of the Undertaker’s supernatural characteristics and somewhat cartoonish personas over his lengthy career.
CM Punk was always one of the best in the ring. Likewise, Undertaker has always been able to hang with anyone. Together they united to create a near-perfect match. Punk’s use of ‘Taker’s ‘Old School’ was a classic heel move. Undertaker withstanding a barrage of diverse attacks from Punk (including a blow with Paul Bearer’s urn) helped keep the crowd on his babyface side, despite Punk’s continued popularity – even as a dastardly heel. And of course, the image of Undertaker sitting up in traditional Deadman style while locked in Punk’s submission (and Punk’s terrified reaction) was simply fantastic.
Another crucial reason this match was so great (and included on this list) was thanks in no small to Paul Heyman. In my opinion, not only the greatest manager of all time, but the best on the mic… period. Heyman’s treacherous, conniving character perfectly complemented Punk’s arrogance. Physically outmatched by Undertaker, Punk needed something to add credibility to the contest. Heyman’s dirty tactics and mind games did exactly that. With Punk and Heyman teaming up as many fans’ notion of a heel dream team, there were quite a few Undertaker fans worried the streak could come to an end.
But of course, it did not. Not on this night.
Undertaker stood tall, defeating Punk with a tombstone to further his streak (for the last time) and cap off one of the best matches in both men’s careers.
The Rock Vs Hollywood Hogan – Wrestlemania X-7 – 16:23.
Icon Vs Icon.
When the nWo arrived in WWE in 2002, it set up one of the greatest moments in pro wrestling’s history. The face-off between Rock and Hogan on Raw was an edge-of-your-seat experience, as the biggest name in wrestling stood face-to-face with arguably the most popular.
Unexpectedly, the crowd was divided on Raw. While many cheered for Rock, a sense of nostalgia kicked in to welcome Hogan home. By the time the match at ‘Mania rolled around, the Canadian fans were decidedly behind a heel Hogan. A lesser performer may have given into the crowd’s feelings and lost his head during the match. But not the Rock. The Great One held firm, refraining from embracing the boos and working like a heel, instead earning the fans’ support.
Never a great worker, Hogan’s character and charisma in the ring was always incredible. In this match, it was no different, the veteran performer holding his own against the most electrifying superstar in WWE.
As the match swung back and forth, so too did the crowd. Chants of ‘Hogan’ were soon overtaken with chants of ‘Rocky’, and then vice-versa. When the Rock finally prevailed clean over Hogan (a feat few can claim), and the Outsiders hit the ring, fans received the Hogan face-turn they’d been clamouring for.
A match that proved the WWE is as much about entertainment as it is about wrestling, this one saw Hogan pass the torch and revitalise his legendary career with a whole new legion of Hulkamaniacs to forever solidify his place amongst the immortals.
What could go wrong, brother?
Randy Orton Vs Batista Vs Daniel Bryan – WWE World Heavyweight Title – Wrestlemania XXX – 23:20.
Let’s finish with the feel-good moment of the decade.
Leading into Wrestlemania XXX, Daniel Bryan was one of the most over stars since the Attitude Era. The ‘Yes‘ chants added mainstream crowd support to a performer already known as a great in-ring general, but for some reason viewed by the WWE powers-that-be as a B+ player.
The rumoured headlining spectacle for ‘Mania XXX was Randy Orton Vs a returning Batista, fresh from his breakout role in Guardians of the Galaxy. But the fans would not accept it. They demanded change.
Orton’s title run was boring and Boo-tista’s comeback fizzled, both of which could be attributed to the fact that the people were more interested in seeing Bryan at the top of the card.
Finally, they got their wish. In this triple threat for the recently unified WWE World Heavyweight Title, Bryan faced off against the champ and the Royal Rumble winner. When Orton and Batista double-teamed Bryan on the announce table, it seemed like the stretcher (and WWE) would again deny the fans their victory.
However, the finish of the match could best be summed up with one little word…
Did Bryan win? Yes!
Did the heels get their comeuppance? Yes!
Did the unintentional slow build and underdog fan support culminate in an ecstatic Wrestlemania crowd, chanting in unison to end the show on a high? Yes!
And that’s what it’s all about. At least it should be.
SO THAT’S IT…
Picking these matches based on only one wrestling appearance and one title appearance narrowed my choices quite a bit, but I believe I’ve gathered together a good mix of straight-up wrestling, death-defying spots, storylines and showmanship.
With our combined match totals coming in at 3 hours and 45 minutes, there’s still time for vignettes and promos to help set the stage.
True, some legendary wrestlers missed the cut. Andre, Lesnar, Mr. Perfect, Chris Jericho, but when so many titles and champions overlap, something had to give. Nevertheless, every match besides Piper Vs Goldust features a former world champion. And Piper was more than worthy of holding the belt so he counts, right?
The WWE World Heavyweight, Intercontinental, United States, Tag Team, Women’s and Cruiserweight Titles are all defended. We get a triple threat, a streetfight, an I Quit match, a cruiserweight open. TLC is involved. We get a retirement match and the continuation of the Streak, not to mentions face turns by the two biggest names ever.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed our little theoretical trip through WWE history to create a worthy amalgam Wrestlemania. And if not, well, I’ve two words for you…