Sunday, April 03, 2005

Top 5 Wrestlemanias

Top 5 Wrestlemanias

5. Wrestlemania X-7 (2001)

Because all those Roman Numerals are Hard!

Benoit vs. Angle, in a great match. Another crazy-ass match with the Dudleys, the Hardys and Edge & Christian. A really cool match between Triple H & the Undertaker. My favorite match from the card, believe it or not, is Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon.

Stone Cold beat The Rock, turning heel in the process, to win the World Title. Stone Cold's heel run, allying himself with his former enemy Vince McMahon in the process, was for me his most entertaining run in the WWF.

4. Wrestlemania XX (2004)

I almost ranked this one a little higher on my list. We're a year removed from what was one of the very best sells leading up to a Wrestlemania by a company, and one of the best executions from top of the card to the bottom.

It helps that two of my favorite performers, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero came out of the show wearing their respective brand's championship belt. The Benoit/Triple H/Shawn Michaels match is very good, if a little busy (I still wish they'd just let it be Benoit vs. Triple H, instead of throwing Michaels into the mix to make sure people would want to see it). Guerrero and Angle hold their own in their match.

It also features Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg, in what is to date, each man's last match in the WWE. Lesnar went to try professional football. Goldberg, tired of the WWE (Triple H's) politics, wanted out of the picture. The Madison Square Garden fans knew this going into the match. Both participants seem a bit rattled (Brock especially) at the negative vibe coming at them from the crowd.

My favorite match from the card is probably the Chris Jericho/Christian match. Trish Stratus's heel turn is one of the best done at a Wrestlemania. Just expertly done.

3. Wrestlemania XII (1996)

There really wasn't a whole lot that happened on this show. The WWF was still reeling from the first volley of shots in its Monday Night War with WCW. A lot of the card shows a kind of lack of direction. There aren't many big name stars...and what few there are, a lot of them are shoved together in four man and six-man tag matches.

Still, it features three absolutely solid segments.

Roddy Piper and Goldust have a memorable Hollywood Backlot Brawl. Goldust, was doing the gay schtick (which Piper had fought once before, in the form of Adrian Adonis). Piper was acting as Commissioner (Gorilla Monsoon had gotten laid out by The Man They Call Vader, newly entered into the WWF). The two begin the fight in the street. It features an O.J. Simpson White Bronco style chase, and ends with Piper standing victorious. After, of course, we learn what we've always suspected. That Dustin Rhodes wears women's lingerie.

The Undertaker and Diesel wrestle in what is, to my mind, the finest match either big man has ever worked. It's not a slow and plodding affair. It's a quick paced, hard hitting brawl. Diesel, on his way out of the WWF, does the job for Taker, ending what was one of the better feuds the WWF did in that era.

But this card is dominated by what is one of my favorite matches of all time. Bret "the Hitman" Hart and Shawn Michaels put on a clinic of a wrestling match which maintains an incredible amount of intensity for its 60+ minute total. For as much as these two didn't like each other outside the ring, I can't think of mny combination of wrestlers who worked better together inside the ring than Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels (Ricky Steamboat/Ric Flair being the only other tandem that is even in the same ballpark).

These two put on a spectacular match over that 60 minute period, in a time when a 15 minute match is considered long even for a pay per view. It caps off the show brilliantly.

2. Wrestlemania X (1994)

I juggled for a long time, trying to put this one on top.

Another two of my favorite matches came out of this one.

To open the show, Bret Hart faces his brother Owen. As big a Bret fan as I was, I was an even bigger Owen fan. And from a storyline standpoint, I felt like Owen had a legitimate grudge, and that this was an excellent way to kick Owen up to a higher, main event level status. It's a wrestling clinic from the two boys trained in Stu Hart's dungeon. Owen wins with a pin out of nowhere. Which is how it should have been in the see-saw contest.

Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon put on their memorable ladder match for the Intercontinental Title I remember watching this for the first time and just being completely floored. (Of course, it would be within days that I would first see ECW, which had stuff that made the ladder match in ECW seem like a walk in the park....)

Still, Michaels and Ramon worked well together. Their match manages to carry more psychology then most ECW matches ever could.

And you can't argue with a card that ends up with Bret Hart walking out with the World title on his shoulder. The previous year, Hart had really gotten the short end of the stick. At Wrestlemania IX, he was to defend his title against Yokozuna. The card also featured a returning Hulk Hogan in a tag match. There were last minute politics, and Hart ended up doing the job to Yokozuna, losing the title. then we watched Hogan win the WWF Title for the fifth time.

A year later, Hart got his retribution, taking the title back from Yokozuna. It's hard to have a classic wrestling match against a 500 pound Samoan who couldn't haul ass even in two trips. But somehow, Hart brings Yoko to a watchable match. A good show, from top to bottom

1. Wrestlemania III (1987)

You know, I juggled between putting this one or Wrestlemania X at the top.

Wrestlemania III was probably right about the last Wrestlemania that I believed that the whole shebang was real. I was 10, and in the third grade. I can still remember arguing out on the playground about whether Hulk Hogan could beat Andre the Giant (I was firmly entrenched in the Andre will squash Hulk like a Bug camp).

Hogan and Andre did have their match. Hogan won. Only problem was we in Mrs. Duke's third grade class didn't know the result until the next week when Superstars rolled around. We didn't have PPV in this neck of the woods, and there weren't any closed-circuit locations nearby anyway. So nobody knew. It was a topic of much debate the ensuing week.

Notable matches for the card include the first Roddy Piper retirement. Embroiled in a feud with Adrian Adonis, Piper announced that his match at Wrestlemania III would be his last. He was going to Hollywood to make movies. Piper wins the match with the help of Brutus Beefcake. He shaves Adrian's head. And he retires from active competition. (He'd be back.)

But the best match, easily, was Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage, for the Intercontinental title. Remember I said I still believed wrasslin' was real in those days, so I hated the shit out of Randy Savage, who was mean to George the Animal Steele, his manager Miss Elizabeth and who had crushed the windpipe of my personal favorite, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, with the ring bell.

It's still one of the all-time great sells, watching Steamboat writhe in agony, clutching at his neck, after Savage had come sailing off the ropes with the bell, striking Steamboat in the throat.

Steamboat returned from his "crushed larynx" and fought Savage in one of, if not The Best, matches put on at a Wrestlemania. It clocks in right around 15 minutes, if my memory serves, and there are roughly 22,000 near falls in that time period. It just goes back and forth. Savage brings out the ring bell again, but can't use it this time. Steamboat takes the day with another pin that just comes out of nowhere. It's one of the best matches I've ever seen, still today.

Well, that's the top five.

Tonight's #21. Don't know how it'll stack up. I'll be honest and say I'm not optimistic. Somehow, the great shows seem to follow up the next year with not so great ones.

Quickly, parenthetically, the bottom five:

5. Wrestlemania 2
4. Wrestlemania 13 (Hart vs. Austin is a great match)
3. Wrestlemania 11 (L.T. vs. Bam Bam sucked)
2. Wrestlemania 18
1. Wrestelmania 9 (hoo boy, was this one bad....)

This year's show just hasn't had the right vibe to it. It's like they've been throwing crap on a wall to see what sticks since the last Wrestlemania, and they got to a point with this show that they need to go with something, anything, and run. And they were going to promote this show regardless as to whether it was the best they could do or not, simply because it's what they had on the plate.

Plus, the pendulum of favor to the type of wrestlers favored by the WWF has swung from your flyboy technician, Chris Benoit and Jericho types to your powermove, plodding, musclebound freaks, like Batista and Triple H.

Will I watch? Shit no. I never watch live. That shit's like $50. Do I look like I'm made of money? It's just fake fighting. Jeez....


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