Tomorrow, the biggest spectacle of half naked, greased up men, who pretend to hit each other for our amusement, takes center stage in the world of…entertainment. Sports. Entertainment. See…see what I did there?
Wrestlemania 29 is fast approaching, set this year in Giants Stadium Part Deux, (I refuse to call it Metlife Stadium) with a card that seemed extremely predictable even as long as four months ago, but should promise for a rousing night of entertainment. At least more so than Walking Dead has been this year.
In honor of the grandest spectacle of them all, I wanted to go through the years, and pick out what I felt were the greatest Mania matches of them all. I’ve seen them all, multiple times, (Ladies…) and while picking favorites is a daunting challenge, (as daunting as one can get while eating ho-ho’s..) I feel that this list is a comprehensive history into what Wrestlemania has delivered over the years in terms of quality, historical perspective, and excellent storytelling.
Does any match this year have the capabilities of cracking the top ten? Absolutely. Undertaker vs. CM Punk purely in hype, and the Shield vs. Launchpad McQuack, (Randy Orton) Sheamus, and that Guy Who’s Still Boring Even After Approximately 20 Years in the Company. (Big Show) The nature of these matches with the Shield lends itself best with the attitude era type matches of a decade ago with its relentless brutality, quick pace, and one giant spot that will awe the audience. It very well could be the show-stealer of the night.
Let’s run some honorable mentions on here though shall we?
Edge vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian — Money in the Bank Ladder Match — Wrestlemania 21 — The first ever Money in the Bank Match happened at Mania 21 in Los Angeles. The idea itself emerged from being a complementary part of the card, to getting it’s very own PPV in the middle of the year. The first one however still remains as the best one in my view. Shelton Benjamin, a criminally underused talent while employed with WWE, was on full display of his athletic ability climbing rungs of ladders like Spiderman and dropping onto people full force. Chris Benoit, (who? exactly WWE Universe…don’t say Universe) Edge, Chris Jericho, and Christian, all amazing athletes were able to play off one another to heighten the drama, and the dangerous spots in the match. Kane was there too. So that counts…I guess. Edge went on to win this match, and in such, starting his Hall of Fame career as the Rated R Superstar.
Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit — World Heavyweight Championship — Wrestlemania 20 — Probably the most overhyped main event in terms of quality. Don’t get me wrong this was a very good match, that had a super amount of pre-hype to it, but it just fell short of expectations. Rumor had it that after Benoit won the Royal Rumble, Trips didn’t feel that Benoit could carry the company as it’s champion, (He couldn’t) so he didn’t want to lose to him. After many rounds of discussion and negotiation, Vince McMahon added Shawn to the match to appease Hunter. No one knew if Hunter agreed to lay down. So before the PPV happened, there was genuine reason to believe that Benoit would lose, and Hunter would retain his title. (Which at the time, would have made Internet smarks spontaneously combust. This was the time when Hunter winning a match was due to him marrying the bosses daughter. Not due to his talent or anything…) The Madison Square Garden crowd unfortunately was dead after the colostomy bag of a match between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg earlier in the night, so the lackluster noise lessened this match’s quality. This is the “What Could Have Been” Main Event.
Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat — Intercontinental Championship — Wrestlemania 3 — The first great Mania match is also it’s most overhyped. The World Wrestling Federation at the time was not known for spectacular athletics and match quality. It was about “Superstars”, MTV, and being a grand spectacle for the audience. Wrestlemania led the WWF to mainstream appeal and attention from the media, but anyone who actually watched wrestling for the quality of the athletic display, you were sorely missing out. The NWA and Jimmy Crockett Promotions throughout the 80’s had put together incredible matches with Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, Terry Funk, the Midnight Express etc. etc, but was never shown on a national stage like the WWF was in it’s heyday. After two successful Wrestlemania’s, Wrestlemania 3 trumped the previous two in terms of mainstream attractions and garnering an attendance of over 90,000 people watching, but little was done about the quality of the matches themselves. The Mr. T/Roddy Piper “boxing” match at Wrestlemaina II was one of the worst matches ever put on. Savage and Steamboat put on an NWA quality type match in front of a national audience and completely stole the show which was supposed to be Hulk Hogan’s night of beating the undefeated Andre the Giant. No one had seen athleticism in the ring at a high level like that…unless you were watching other promotions at the time. The audience didn’t know what to think watching these two perform, but they gave their complete appreciation after the match had concluded with Steamboat ending Savages more than year long title reign. Watching the match now however, it’s a bit dated in terms of move quality, pace, and shock factor. This match however started the term “show -stealer”, and for that it receives a ton of credit, but it’s just dated enough to leave it off the list entirely.
10. The Undertaker vs. Triple H — No Holds Barred Match — Wrestlemania 27 — After two incendiary matches with Shawn Michaels at the previous two Mania’s, the Undertaker faced off against a man whom he’d already defeated at Wrestlemania 17 in Houston — Triple H. Ten years prior to this match, no one really thought Triple H had a chance to end the Undertaker’s streak. At Wrestlemania 27 however, there was a shred of doubt in the air. Trips had been a 13 time WWE Champion at that point, and if anyone was semi “untouchable” in the company, it was him. Would the WWE really end Taker’s streak? Could Triple H be the guy to do it? Will they LET him do it, was the more prevalent question. Could this match surpass both Michaels/Taker encounters? No. Not this part anyway. For the first time really at Mania the Undertaker was made to look weak. A curious decision on their part at first, but considering the sequel a year later, it was a brilliant first part to an epic rivalry. It was Stars Wars, to the Empire Strikes Back.
9. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart — Wrestlemania 10 — The opener for Wrestlemania 10, set in Madison Square Garden. This event came ten years after the inaugural event at MSG, which propelled professional wrestling into the mainstream. A lot had changed since Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper main evented that event however. Hogan was no longer “Hulking Up, Big Footin, and Leg Droppin” bad guys. Bobby Heenan sadly left the company. Gorilla Monsoon retired from commentary, and would unfortunately pass away a few years later. A new breed of stars came into the forefront in the “Not as many Roids, but you can definitely tell they were readily available” Era, like Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, and their biggest star at the time — Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Bret became the face to end all faces, giving out sunglasses to young fans at ringside, being the heartthrob for ladies who watched the product, but in addition to all that, he was also one of the best wrestlers in the world, which was a complete change of pace from the First Golden Age of Wrestling when Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were hamming it up for the cameras. Bret did have one thing in common however with the Hulkster — I don’t remember him losing cleanly much. It was kind of a rule/dirty secret in the WWF/WWE which still somewhat stands today. The Ace of the Promotion, in most cases their best face, didn’t lose cleanly. Almost ever. You can see it with John Cena now. He’s a Superman. Bret was just about the same way back in the mid nineties only no one ever really called him out on it like they do with Cena. It’s interesting. But at MSG, Bret ended up opening the card against his brother Owen, for whom he vowed he would never face willingly. In a excellent turn of events, Bret had a title match in the main event against the winner of Lex Luger vs. the WWF Champion Yokozuna, whom Bret lost the title to at the previous years Mania. He would go on win the belt later that night. The best opener of a Mania to date with a surprising ending, that started a brilliant rivalry that year.
8. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels — Career vs. Streak — No Holds Barred Match — Wrestlemania 26 — A funny thing happened on route to Wrestlemania 29 — The most important match of the night, shifted from the Heavyweight Championship, to a fictional streak. Since the 2nd Wrestlemania, the WWF/WWE/World Heavyweight Championship match, took center stage as the closer for the event, par for the course in pro wrestling tradition. The Champion is held in high regards as what the company feels is the person who will draw the most money, and bring people to their live events. Wrestlemania usually concluded or came damned close to concluding every event with a World Title Match, usually closing out rivalries, pitting the two biggest stars in the company against each other, or pushing who they thought would lead them into the promised land of buttloads of cash. Then Wrestlemania 25 happened. HBK vs. Taker I. This changed everything. The Streak (Undertaker being undefeated at Mania) became the story of the show, and catapulted itself into the main forefront of the hearts of the audience. Was there anyone who would be able to stop the Streak? More importantly would the WWE LET Taker lose? Taker vs. Michaels ended up being in the middle of the card, and despite being one of the best matches anyone had ever seen, it ruined the momentum of every match that followed, including both World Title contests, one of which was the main event. For the sequel, HBK put his career on the line against beating the Streak. There was genuine intrigue going into the night. No one really knew if HBK was actually going to retire. It was unthinkable at the time. The greatest in ring performer in history was going to walk away? No. Couldn’t happen. The WWE did not make the same mistake twice, as this match main evented the night. It sent some folks home happy, others sad, but everyone appreciative, of two historic careers.
7. The Rock vs. Steve Austin — No DQ, No Count-Out — WWF Championship — Wrestlemania 17 — The two biggest stars in the history of the industry. Both at the peaks of their careers. Squaring off in front of 80,000 people at the height of the second Golden Age of Wrestling. That’s really all that needs to be said.
6. The Dudley Boys vs. The Hardys vs. Edge/Christian — TLC Match — WWF Tag Team Championship — Wrestlemania 17 — It may not be the greatest tag team match ever, but it may be THE GREATEST TAG TEAM MATCH EVER! Sorry. This match still after twelve years gets me amped. Brutality, violence, mayhem, unpredictability, and that’s just from my ex girlfriends. Heyo! Is this thing on? I’ll quit while I’m behind. These three teams would feud over the tag team championships (Remember Tag Teams?) through the 00-01 year, and in the process revolutionized the industry with Ladder and TLC Matches. This was the sequel to their match at Summer Slam 2000. These matches had been done on a small scale at ECW events and smaller WWE Pay Per Views, but never at a Wrestlemania. The crowd reactions are still the best part of this match.
5. The Undertaker vs. Triple H — Hell in a Cell Match — Wrestlemania 28 — The Empire Strikes Back/Dark Knight/Gremlins II. The sequel to a year long storyline, in which the Undertaker did not appear on camera for an entire calendar year to sell the injuries (real and kayfabe) that he suffered at the hands of Triple H a year previous. Taker demanded a rematch from Triple H. Hunter said no. He begged. Pleaded. Stood outside of his house with a boombox/Ipod, playing Peter Gabriel. (or One Direction…whatever the hell the kids listen to these days) Nothing worked. Until Taker mentioned the mere notion that he wasn’t as good as his best friend Shawn Michaels. (He wasn’t. Then again no one is.) Shawn having almost beaten Taker in two straight Mania’s, pride took over and Hunter accepted the rematch on condition that it be a Hell In a Cell Match. Alrighty then. Shawn was also booked to be the special guest referee, a decision I questioned at the time, but with his involvement, the storyline became much more grand in scope especially once the match started. Would Shawn help his best friend end the streak? Wisely the WWE placed this match in the middle of the card as to not dwarf the main event of Rock vs. Cena. It was dwarfed regardless. On a side note, Taker has a very interesting history with the company. Historically he has never been the ace of the promotion. The top dog. He was the specialty guy on the card. The carnival show. He’s clearly the greatest big man ever to step foot in the ring. It’s not even close really. But never from his debut in 1991, to present time, was he considered the most important guy in the company. Until now. He comes out once a year, for the biggest show. He seemingly is the main attraction, if not the main event of the show. John Cena is considered the ace, because he has the most main event matches, and he makes the most money in terms of merchandise. But Taker can be considered the most important wrestler in the promotion. It’s a fascinating career. If this match really was “The End of an Era” as the company described, it was such a fitting end.
4. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels — Wrestlemania 25 — When I first moved to Los Angeles, a buddy of mine said that a local bar screened Wrestlemania every year and that we should tag along. I had never watched a Mania with a large group of people before, and figured it could be a great time. The card was solid, the beer was flowing, and they served a pretty damned good cheesesteak. So far so good. For added comedic value there was a guy in a lucha libre mask demanding cans of Tecate Light ala Stone Cold, downing them, then putting up two middle fingers. I wish I had recorded that. Anywho. Taker/Michaels came up on the card. Now we were all fairly intrigued by this match. In 1997, they fought in the first ever Hell in a Cell Match, a brutal, unforgiving affair which saw Michaels lose approximately his weight in blood that night. It was more a showcase debut for Kane, who appeared at the end of the match, but the fight was extraordinary. So we knew that this match could be really good. We didn’t realize how good it would be though. The bar crowd started off ok, but then became more jazzed after every couple of minutes. By the three quarters point, we were full on marks. It was sensational. The aftermath of the match remains ingrained in lore. This is the match that for better or for worse, caused the audience to care more every Wrestlemania about who is going to face Taker, than about the WWE Championship. For me that’s fine. For everyone who was in that bar that night, we would never forget it. Now where’s my Tecate…
3. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle — Wrestlemania 21 — Execs in Titan Tower: Hey I have an idea. Why don’t we put our two best wrestlers we have against each other in a match? That could be fun right? This is followed by 48 seconds of silence. Another exec: My god…that’s a great idea. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Exec: Cause we’re bumbling morons who push the Great Khali. Everyone laughs. Then Vince McMahon hits that exec with a steel chair, 42 times. A no brainer idea. The two greatest American in ring performers of all time, wrestle for the first time. Simple. Elegant. This is just purely one of the greatest encounters in Mania history. The drama that unfolds in this match rivals almost any match to date. Before Taker vs. Michaels I, this was the last great match the WWE had put on. The weird transition to Cena being the ace of the promotion, didn’t at the time provide many main event moments, so the mid card or lower main event had to step up their game. Angle/Michaels had two other fantastic matches in 2005 that blew away most others for years to come.
2. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels — Ladder Match — WWF Intercontinental Championship — Wrestlemania 10 — A match that’s been talked about ad nausuem but still needs to be addressed. This match happened almost 20 years ago, which makes me feel ridiculously old, but it still holds up today, unlike Savage vs. Steamboat. Pro Wrestling was the first athletic event (not sport) I was ever introduced to. I was captivated by the theatricality, grace, and drama of it. Which is probably why I gravitated towards the film and tv industry so heavily in high school and college. My uncle, who introduced me to wrestling, and I were watching Wrestlemania 10, and we were curious as to what could happen in a Ladder Match. We had never seen one before, and didn’t know what was about to happen. Even as a youngster I knew I was watching something special. My uncle had no clue what to think. He was raised on territorial wrestling, the NWA and Jimmy Crockett Promotions. This was a foreign concept to him. The stuff that Razor and Michaels were doing were just mindblowing. A lot of people tend to forget considering all of the personal issues he’s been dealing with, but Scott Hall (Razor) was an amazing wrestler for a guy his size. He matched up with Michaels perfectly. There was just something there with them. They destroyed each other in this match, and for the first time, audience members realized what Michaels could do in the ring, and maybe WWF/WWE officials did too, as he main evented the next years Mania. A match that was at least 4 to 5 years ahead of it’s time. Even McMahon and Lawler were sometimes speechless watching this. They had no clue what they unleashed. But it’s legacy will always remain intact.
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin — I Quit Match — Wrestlemania 13 — The most important match in WWE history. Let me explain. Bret had been the ace of the promotion for the previous four years along with Shawn Michaels, but unfortunately he had to follow the Hulk Hogan/Rock N Roll Wrestling/First Golden Age era. The WWE wasn’t making near as much money as they had been used to, due to Hulk leaving for WCW. Bret becoming the main guy, was the reaction to the Vince McMahon steroid trial in the early nineties. Smaller wrestlers. More athletic. And while the matches were better, the casual fan became disinterested. It’s different when your heroes were larger than life like in Hogan’s time as compared to Bret’s. Bret looked average in comparison to other athletes, as did Shawn Michaels. I’m as big as Shawn was. The money and gate revenue suffered as a result. When Stone Cold Steve Austin won the King of the Ring in 1996, the aftermath of one little speech started the spark of the Second Golden Age/the Attitude Era. Vince McMahon is smart. He knows which way the wind was blowing. And it wasn’t in Bret’s direction. It was in Austin’s. So at Wrestlemania 13, in essence a rematch from Bret’s comeback match against him at Survivor Series 96, Bret faced Austin in an I Quit Match. But something bigger was to be done on the horizon. They would pull the very very rare double switch. Bret would become the heel, and Austin would become the face near the end of the contest. An extremely convoluted and different feat to pull off. Austin however was gaining traction as a face, strange at the time considering he was a heel. The match was intense, and fantastic. Both men beat each other up a ton. At the end, Bret took the victory, but Austin gained the praises and gained respect for the future. For the nasty cut he got during the match, to the standing ovation he received afterwards. Shortly after, Austin became the biggest icon in wrestling history, and the leader of the Attitude Era. Bret shortly after would leave for WCW after the Montreal Screwjob, and unfortunately had his career altered, all while the WWE became the largest company in wrestling. Basically, because of one match. Also a little side note: Submissions in the WWE were counted by the refs, and by shaking your head yes if you had given up. This was a terrible visual for the audience, especially if you were watching it live. Ken Shamrock being the special guest referee, and being from the UFC, introduced the concept of tapping out, which is what we see today in the WWE as a visual cue for when an opponet gives up. Huge improvement. Very visual. Another reason this match is the greatest Wrestlemania match of all time. Unless another match can change the course of a company, all while making a massive star out of someone, while introducing a completely new concept at the same time, I doubt that any match will claim the top spot from this one.
I’d rather not do a ranking order of films this year. Just wanted to acknowledge my favorite films of the year, while granting a few additional awards to movies and people that deserve it.
Mind you I have not seen the Perks of Being a Wallflower, the Master, the Sessions or the Impossible yet. If they deserve to be on the list when I see them, then they’ll be included at a later time.
Life of Pi
Marvel’s the Avengers
Silver Linings Playbook
Favorite Film of the Year — Silver Linings Playbook
Performances of the Year — Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence — Silver Linings Playbook
Most Well Written Film — Silver Linings Playbook — David O’Russell
Most Memorable Soundtrack — Life of Pi
Most Well Made Film — Skyfall — Sam Mendes
Funniest Film — 21 Jump Street
Best Use of Masculine Femininity — Matt Wells and Phil Obaza
Bands aren’t marriages. They’re affairs. Fiery, passionate affairs that may last the rest of your life. But usually don’t. And aren’t meant to.
I had a love affair with the Mars Volta for twelve years. Saw them six times live. Purchased every one of their albums. Some multiple times. Deloused in the Comatorium I can honestly say changed my life. Frances the Mute got me through my father passing away, which in retrospect is an extremely odd grieving album to relate to. There was just something about their music. The way they carried themselves on stage. You knew at one point in their lives, they all had been bullied, teased, and probably beaten down in life. But whenever they took the stage, they were the coolest motherfuckers in the room. And they made sure everyone knew it. They were anti-moshing, which is kind of punk rock in a way. They were pretentious but made no bones about it, however they were accessible in ways that I think other hipster-ish bands weren’t.
I mourn them breaking up. Affairs are never meant to last though. Burn brightly yes. Make impressions yes, but never last.
Thank you for making music. Thank you for being a band that had the balls to do what made you happy. Thank you for helping me in tough times.
You were one of my greatest loves.
Baltimore vs. Indianapolis: I liked Baltimore before, considering they were playing a rookie quarterback at home. I like them even more now that Ray Lewis said he’s retiring at the end of the season. Good luck…Luck. God that must have been annoying to hear growing up. Luck, who earned the distinction of becoming the ugliest quarterback in the NFL, will gain a huge amount of experience in this loss. That’s a good thing for them, trust me. Baltimore for the win.
Houston vs. Cincinnati: The Bengals just aren’t quite there yet, and Houston isn’t as bad as their last four games will lead you to believe. This team has 08 Cardinals written all over it. (Peak in November. Suck down the stretch. Crush people in the playoffs, where people wondered where the hell that was at the end of the regular season.) Houston still to me has the total package in the AFC. Houston.
Green Bay vs. Minnesota: As amazing as Peterson was this year, (let’s be real though, he should split the MVP with Peyton. No way is a running back more valuable than a quarterback. You would never pick AP first overall in a fantasy draft, where you were head coach, and you needed to win one game if your life depended on it.) he’s not playing defense against Aaron Rodgers. I mean he probably could, and be the 2nd best guy on that D, but since he won’t play both ways, Green Bay easily takes it.
Washington vs. Seattle: RG3 vs. Wilson. Two of the brightest young qb’s in the league. RG3 wins in the excitement, most upside, and ugliest categories. But Wilson has the far better team. Their running game, and defense will smother Griffen and the Skins running game, as they’ll cruise. Seattle and Patrick Dempsey for the win.
Next round predictions which I’ll be 1 for 4 —
New England vs. Houston: Not buying this Pats team. Not at all. At some point, not having a legit defense, and throwing 7 out of 8 times will hurt you in the playoffs. Especially against a ball hocking defense like the Texans. Schaub does just enough, and Foster cremates the Pats run D for the win. Houston.
Denver vs. Baltimore: The Ray retiring/win one for the gipper/let’s fuck these boys up speeches swing makes this a far better game than it should be, but Denver has too many weapons on defense, and Manning leading the charge to win. However, my old adage of never trust Peyton on a playoff game that he’s supposed to win, still adheres. I’m going to ditch it for now, and trust that he wins. Denver.
San Francisco vs. Green Bay: Easily has the potential to be the best playoff game this year. I was back and forth on this game for a while…and it hasn’t even happened yet. And very well may not happen. I need a hobby..anywho. I’m a firm believer at least in terms of the NBA, that a team needs to suffer a soul crushing loss, in order for them to take a leap to the next level and win a title. The Thunder losing to Miami last year in the NBA Finals, helped them a lot more than they care to admit. I think the Niners being two muffed special teams plays away from beating the Giants, and probably beating New England for the title, made them all the more hungry, and focused. Green Bay getting screwed out of a win in Seattle, made them determined and pissed off to get their title back. San Fran pulls this out, because Kaepernick makes some otherwordly plays, and Gore keeps the GB offense off the field. San Francisco, begrudgingly.
Atlanta vs. Seattle: Rookie QB on the road against a cohesive, better than I thought they were playoff tested team. Not even close. Atlanta in a rout.
Denver vs. Houston: NEVER TRUST PEYTON MANNING IN A PLAYOFF GAME THAT HE’S SUPPOSED TO WIN!! Houston plays ridiculous defense, and shuts Manning down to make their first Super Bowl. Houston.
Atlanta vs. San Francisco: Don’t trust Matt Ryan at all against this defense. Maybe Tony Gonzalez should say he’s retiring at the end of this year, so he can fire up the Falcons. Until he does though, the Niners win.
Super Bowl — Houston vs. San Francisco: Two solid quarterbacks. Monster run games. Beast defenses! Welcome back 1991! We missed you! Now where’s my trapper keeper, and Arizona flannel hoodie…I don’t necessarily trust Kaepernick one hundred percent, or even seventy five percent, but this team has an 05 Steelers ring to it. Roethlistetdfbsnbdjbdjberger played horribly but the Steelers were jacked enough on defense and the running game that they slipped by a great Seattle team to win. I think the same happens here. Frisco’s defense, and relentlessness should be enough to take the victory. Not to mention Gary Kubiak is coaching on the other side against Jim Harbaugh which is like handing the script for Lincoln, to Paul W.S. Anderson, and telling him to go with his first instinct. (No one is curious for Milla Jolavich to play Mrs. Lincoln…) You know…cause Kubiak has the keys to a great team…or something. Fuck I don’t know, that was a terrible tangent. Point is. The Niners will win their 6th Super Bowl.