The countdown to the biggest show of the year in pro wrestling is on. WrestleMania is to pro wrestling what championship games are for professional sports. No matter how may pay-per-views the WWE may hold in a year, WrestleMania is always the biggest. In counting down to the big event, I will take a look at my top five WrestleMania shows of all time.
The criteria in determining the top five WrestleMania shows is a little complex. For one, I look at historical significance. The first WrestleMania is historic as the original and gets high consideration on that alone. Other WrestleMania shows may be historic for crowd attendance, availability, a particular point in wrestling history, matches, appearances, or a variety of other reasons.
There are a lot of great matches from WrestleMania but only a few are considered the greatest. It is common for a terrible WrestleMania to be looked upon far more favorably years later due to one great match. One great match can make a WrestleMania and put the show in the history books forever.
Star power is another big component in the mix. The power of the stars may be just as much about wrestling star power as it is power from the outside world. There is a big difference in a WrestleMania stacked with great stars as opposed to a show without a Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Steve Austin, The Rock, Bret Hart, etc. One WWE superstar doesn’t make a show, but a collection of stars is something that can truly make a WrestleMania special.
2 – WrestleMania X8 03/17/02 Toronto, Ontario
WrestleMania X8 will go down as arguably the most remembered WrestleMania behind WrestleMania III. As grand as the event is today, WrestleMania X8 was truly bigger than life. WrestleMania X8 featured what one could argue one of the greatest lineups in WrestleMania history. That was an easy feat to achieve, as free agents from WCW and ECW were readily at the disposal of Vince McMahon and the WWE.
This was the first WrestleMania after the integration of ECW and WCW within the WWE. WrestleMania X7came shortly after the sale of WCW to the WWE. Stars from WCW were present, but nobody from WCW had actually wrestled yet in the WWE. ECW was still closed, yet fans still had dreams that it was still alive. The failures of the WCW and ECW invasion angle also prompted Vince to bring back WrestleMania’s greatest hero for the first time in over ten years at WrestleMania X8.
WrestleMania was Hulk Hogan’s show from day one. The event was created in big part to capitalize on Hulk Hogan’s popularity in the 1980s. Hulk Hogan was the center piece of the first eight WrestleManias. WrestleMania IX was closed and remembered for Hogan’s triumph over Yokozuna for the WWF title. WrestleMania was Hulk Hogan and Hulk Hogan was WrestleMania until Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and a new generation of stars ascended to the top.
All of the stars truly came out for WrestleMania X8. Several worlds of nostalgia collided as WrestleMania saw several heroes of WrestleMania past make their returns. Ric Flair, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Curt Hennig, all joined Hulk Hogan in returning to WrestleMania. It was truly the only WrestleMania that featured stars from three generations competing on one big show.
WrestleMania spawned a new generation of heroes once Hogan left for WCW in 1994. WrestleMania wasn’t just about one guy anymore. WrestleMania now produced a variety of heroes. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, the Rock, and the Undertaker were all WrestleMania heroes yet none of them truly epitomized WrestleMania the way the Hulkster did. As great as they were, something was still missing from the biggest show of all-time. 2003 was the first time in almost ten years that fans from all generations could watch their heroes on the same stage in one night.
WrestleMania X8 had the one of the last great dream matches featuring the Rock and Hulk Hogan. The Rock was the new generation’s Hulk Hogan. The Rock had overtaken Steve Austin as the number one babyface in the WWE and arguably the biggest star in all of pro wrestling. The Rock had a love affair with the fans that may never be duplicated. The immediate rivalry between the Rock and Hogan was a natural.
Hulk Hogan returned at No Way Out as part of the N.W.O. with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. It was apparent from the start that Hogan was bigger than the group. Hogan’s return to Monday Night Raw was one of the most chilling moments in wrestling history. Hogan returned as a heel, but nobody wanted to boo him. The hero had returned, yet the circumstances were much different than they were ten-years ago.
The match between the Rock and Hulk Hogan is one of the most fun matches that you will ever see. Both men had a natural chemistry, yet the crowd was truly the show in this one. The crowd went wild for both wrestlers throughout the match. Both wrestlers had the crowd in their hands and the scene was just absolutely electric. The Rock won the match, but Hulk Hogan won the show.
Triple H defeated Chris Jericho for the first-ever undisputed championship. The WCW and WWE titles were combined for the first-time in wrestling history before WrestleMania. Chris Jericho won a tournament with the likes of Steve Austin, Rock, and Kurt Angle to become champion. Even with Stephanie McMahon, Jericho was no match for Triple H. Triple H used the Pedigree on Jericho to beat him for the title and claim his WrestleMania moment.
For the first-time since WrestleMania 13, Steve Austin wrestled on a WrestleMania and wasn’t in the main-event. Austin took a backseat to Hogan and the Rock for a match with Scott Hall. This would also be Scott Hall’s first WrestleMania since WrestleMania XI.
The feud never seemed to click, yet the two had a really good match. Austin has talked in interviews about the fact he didn’t like the match. I think the two wrestled well together and had some decent chemistry. There was something off about seeing Austin so low on the card at a WrestleMania. Austin would pin Scott Hall with the Stone Cold Stunner to win the match. Austin left the WWE shortly after the match. Austin would return to next year’s WrestleMania main-event losing to the Rock.
WrestleMania X8 is known by some as Ric Flair’s last stand. Flair was once the greatest of all-time, and WrestleMania X8 was one of Flair’s last great moments. Ric Flair returned to WrestleMania for the first-time since WrestleMania 8. Flair would leave WrestleMania X8 the same way he left WrestleMania 8. A bloody and battered Flair lost the match, yet won the house.
Flair had an unlikely classic against the Undertaker. On paper, this didn’t look like a good match. Nobody expected much from these two and quite honestly, Flair hadn’t had a great match in years up to thet point. Yet, the two tore the house down with both men giving Hogan and Rock a run for the money in stealing the show. The added stipulation of a street-fight added to the intrigue and excitement of the pre-match hype.
A bloody Flair would lose a valiant fight to the Undertaker. The match was a roller coaster of emotion for the fans. Flair’s ex-Horsemen buddy Arn Anderson even made a surprise run-in during the match. Undertaker beat Flair with a Tombstone in one of the greatest matches in Flair’s career.
Other notes from WrestleMania X8 – Rob Van Dam and Booker T made their WrestleMania debuts. Mr. Perfect returned to WrestleMania for the first-time since WrestleMania IX in a dark match. The WWE Hardcore title changed hands five times this night. The live attendance was over 68,000 while the show did a 1.68 buyrate.
Rikishi, Scotty Too Hotty, & Albert beat Mr. Perfect, Test, & Lance Storm when Rikishi pinned Perfect
Rob Van Dam pinned William Regal to win the WWF I-C Title.
WWF European Champ Diamond Dallas Page pinned Christian.
WWF Hardcore Champ Maven NC Goldust. Throughout the show, the title changed hands several times
Spike Dudley pinned Maven to win the title
Hurricane pinned Spike to win the title
Mighty Molly pinned Hurricane to win the title
Christian pinned Molly to win the title
Maven pinned Christian to win the title
Kurt Angle pinned Kane
The Undertaker pinned Ric Flair in a “street fight” match.
Edge pinned Booker T
Steve Austin pinned Scott Hall
WWE Tag Champs Billy Gunn & Chuck Palumbo beat The Acolytes, Matt & Jeff Hardy, and Bubba & D-Von Dudley in an “elimination” match
The Rock pinned Hulk Hogan
WWE Women’s Champ Jazz beat Trish Stratus and Lita in a “triple threat” match
Triple H pinned Chris Jericho to win the WWE World Title
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.
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