Overshadowed by Rock/Cena and Triple H/Taker, Many feel that CM Punk and Chris Jericho could steal the show when battling for the WWE Championship. Throughout the history of WrestleMania, there have only been 4 events in which the Main Event was not for the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship. The most recent was Michaels vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania 26 in Arizona.
As we remember some of the great moments WrestleManis has produced, this week's Top Ten focuses on the best WWE Championship matches. I did not include the "World Heavyweight Championship" matches that began at WrestleMania 19.
Number 10: WrestleMania V: Macho Man vs. Hulk Hogan
Holding the WWE Championship, Macho Man was at the top of his game in many ways. His ability to create magic in the ring while keeping his flashy and flamboyant persona was fantastic to watch. Savage was the best, and he would face the most popular in Hulk Hogan. Battling for the WWE Championship and the love of Miss Elizabeth, this feud struck gold with everyone who invested their time into. I can remember when Savage hit an elbow onto Hogan's throat, and the pain that was in Hogan's face. I loved the progression of the match, back and forth, not knowing who had the upper hand at each moment. Finally, Hogan hulked up, hit punches, and connected with a Leg Drop to capture his second WWE Championship. Lasting just under 18 minutes, this is considered one of the best matches that Hogan has put on, and he has Randy to thank for that. Great story, better build, and a match that did not disappoint.
Number 9: WrestleMania XIX: Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle
One of the fastest rising stars in the history of the WWE, Brock Lesnar had it all. The athleticism for a freakishly powerful 290 pound superstar, along with the amateur wrestling background, and the desire to become the best. At the time, Kurt Angle was the best. Technically, nobody could compete with the former Olympic Gold Medalist. As Lesnar won the 2003 Royal Rumble, he would go on to face Angle in a classic bout in Seattle. The build was solid, but the in ring match was fantastic. Two guys who knew how to work the crowd and put on classic wrestling did just that. Lesnar and Angle fought to perfection, besides a botched shooting star press that stopped the crowd. Lesnar looked to have broken his neck, but he got up and connected with a picture perfect F-5 to win the WWE Championship. Back and forth for 20 minutes, this deserves to be number 9 because of the great story telling between the ropes.
Number 8: WrestleMania X-8: Triple H vs. Chris Jericho
With the Unification of the WCW and WWE Championship, the level of importance in Toronto was huge. Chris Jericho was on the top of his game and it showed. his in ring ability was fantastic, but it was the return of an injured Triple H that carried this story. Adding "ex wife" Stephanie McMahon, Jericho had everything on his side. The match was great to watch because two different styles mixed together to give us a great finish to a night overshadowed by Rock/Hogan. Triple H's comeback was fantastic from beginning to end, and the ending scene of him holding both titles sent chills down my spine. A WCW guy vs. a pure WWE guy, you knew The Game would win this and once again take his place at the top.
Number 7: WrestleMania VI: Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan
"The Ultimate Challenge." Hogan vs. Warrior was huge, and Toronto loved every minute of it. For the first time ever, Hogan's popularity and strength wsa tested by a young and dominating force. The Ultimate Warrior was considered the "other choice" when choosing who the favorite was. I feel he would have been an internet darling if the web was around at this time. Warrior and Hogan fought over 20 minutes, a slow and structured match. The level of importance from the IC Champion and the World Champion made this match even more important. Go back and watch these two larger than life stars fight. It was not the best technical match, but it's level of importance in the long run of sports entertainment speaks volumes. For once, Hogan was booed more than cheered. 67,000 plus witnessed history.
Number 6: WrestleMania XV: The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
It all started in Philadelphia. The beginning of arguable the best feud in the history of professional wrestling. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin started the attitude era, continued the popularity into the 21st century, and ultimately made returns that we can never forget. WrestleMania 15 was the first of 3 Mania matches between the two, this one being a no DQ match that faced extreme physical attributes between the two. Back and forth, a t shirt choke to start the match would tell you how personal it really was. Austin and Rock went back and forth, showcasing the classic Lou Theis press, countered with a Samoan Drop. The Rock was frustrated towards the end, Rock Bottoming the official Tim White. Earl Hebner came out, Austin was on the attack, and Mankind threw McMahon out of the ring. All chaos broke loose. Austin countered an elbow with a Stone Cold Stunner for the win. Once again, The Texas Rattlesnake bit, and was on top of the mountain. The feud began here and would not be stopped.
Number 5: WrestleMania XIV: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels
At a time where professional wrestling was infiltrating itself into the world of entertainment, Vince McMahon called upon Mike Tyson. The Baddest Man on the Planet would be the special enforcer between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels. Two men with two completely different career paths would face off in Boston in 1998 with the WWE Championship in the balance. Power and brutality described Austin, while athletic and intelligent would describe the champion. Austin, never a world champion, would have to get past his personal beef with Tyson and beat Michaels. Michaels, although hurt, put on quite a show. His cocky, arrogant, and degenerative state would counter the bad ass mentality of Austin. At the end of the night, JR says it right, "The Austin Era has begun." It was an era we could never forget. Great physical match, even better story heading into X-Rated WrestleMania.
Number 4: WrestleMania VIII: Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair
In 1992, Flair and Savage were the best wrestlers in the world. Flair, considered number 1, signed with WWE and quickly became champion at the Royal Rumble. Savage was ready for a fight, so the main event at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis featured the two legends. The telling piece of this match was not the 18 minutes of magic from beginning to end or the chemistry both men had with one another, but it was the blood that was spilled on the mat from Flair. He poured out his blood, sweat, and tears with Savage in an instant classic. I was shocked when I realized this did not close the night, but Sid vs. Hogan did. Savage won the WWE Championship, and still continued to prove he was the best the WWE had to offer. A classic wrestling story inside the ropes, I will never take that for granted after watching this.
Number 3: WrestleMania III: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Over 93,000 fans witnessed the largest WrestleMania of all time. Let me start off by saying that this match was probably the worst in ring match in this top 10. That was not taken into consideration because of the level of importance in this match. There was and has been no other match with such importance and a large view of entertainment. Hogan and Andre were on such a bigger level than anyone else, and the marquee told us all we needed to know. The Pontiac Silverdome was packed with fans from all over the world. There has never been a bigger spotlight on two superstars ever. The Unstoppable Force meeting the Immovable Object. The body slam heard around the world. Hogan did something nobody else came close to doing. He made a short match extremely memorable without doing much.
Number 2:WrestleMania XII: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
An Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship featured two of the best workers the world had to offer. Bret and Shawn, in two completely different stages of their careers, battled in Anaheim in an instant classic. Could a match of this magnitude and length be duplicated? Absolutely not. Bret and Shawn pulled out all the stops in this match that lasted 1 hour, 1 minute, and 52 seconds. Technicality, athleticism, and big spots filled this match. With the fans on the edge of their seat, we had the pleasure of an overtime since both men were tied with victories. Shawn Michaels became Mr. WrestleMania here on March 31, 1996. His career speaks for itself, but give kudos to Hart who was able to swallow his pride and give Michaels the spotlight. The childhood dream came true, Bret continued to be the best there was, and Michaels solidified himself as one of the best ever after this match. Unbelievable from beginning to end.
Number 1: WrestleMania X-7: The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin:
Rock. Austin. Vince. The storyline was perfect. The absolute two biggest stars in professional wrestling got a chance to steal the show and make Houston go absolutely crazy. With no DQ, Rock and Austin had a fast paced brawl, which led to a lot of outside fighting. Austin locked in the Million Dollar Dream, a move from the Ringmaster gimmick that got him nowhere. Rock would lock in a Sharpshooter. Remember, at this time, Austin was huge thanks to his feud with Vince McMahon. Rock would become the heel in Texas tonight, but when Vince helped Austin win, the crowd and the fans were in absolute shock. The match was incredible from beginning to end, with a pace that cannot be matched. Rock would carry a lot of the offense late until Austin would shed blood all over the ring. Chair shot after chair shot on The Rock gave Austin the victory but more importantly, his alliance with the "devil" Vince McMahon. Just over 33 minutes, there has never been a match with outside and inside story telling that was better than this. Rock and Austin go simultaniously together, and round two in Houston went to Austin when the dust cleared.
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