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The 10 Hottest Roads to WrestleMania

Part of the fun of WrestleMania season is watching Raw and SmackDown each week to see where superstars are going to fall on the “Showcase of the Immortals.” For years, the WWE has provided us with intense, emotional storylines to help sell the biggest event of the year.

Some years hit. Some years miss. In this article, we’re taking a look at the hits. These are the 10 hottest roads to WrestleMania:

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10. WrestleMania XXVIII

For the first time in the (at the time) 28 years of WrestleMania, the main event was announced a year prior to the show. It was a “once in a lifetime” contest between WWE’s workhorse, John Cena, and one of entertainment’s most popular stars, The Rock.
The feud was personal, as Cena questioned Rock’s passion for the business. The Rock fired back on numerous occasions, and the electricity between the two was apparent from the start.

Throw in the extremely deep and enthralling feud between Chris Jericho and WWE Champion, CM Punk, and you had a pair of matches that fans salivated to see.

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9. WrestleMania VIII

“She was mine before she was yours” is one of the quintessential storylines of the WWE in the 1990’s. The rivalry between Randy Savage and Ric Flair reached new heights when Flair promised to unveil compromising photos of Savage’s wife, Miss Elizabeth.

The two wrestled for Flair’s WWE Championship at WrestleMania VIII. The event’s second main event was another personal contest between former friends Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice (Sycho Sid).

Between the anticipation of the WWE Championship match, and the questions surrounding Hogan’s future with the organization, WrestleMania VII’s buildup ranks in the top 10 of the event’s history.

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8. WrestleMania XX

The road to WrestleMania XX was pretty simple, though still exciting. The premise was that WrestleMania was returning to the birthplace of the show, and the WWE packed 12 matches onto a card designed to celebrate the heritage of the event.

Madison Square Garden featured the return of “The Deadman” Undertaker, The Rock, and the culmination of the careers of Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero.

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7. WrestleMania XXV

If not for the buildup leading to such a disappointing show, the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania would likely be in the top 3 of this list.

The events transpiring in the lead-up to the WWE Championship match between Triple H and Randy Orton should have led to the greatest brawl in WrestleMania history.

Instead, the two were stifled with an odd stipulation that Orton would have won the WWE Championship had Triple H been disqualified or counted out.

The result was a main event cast in the shadow of the legendary Undertaker-Shawn Michaels match, and never really clicked.

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6. WrestleMania XIV

WrestleMania XIV’s spot on the list of best ‘Manias ever is up for debate. For the most part, fans tend to either love it or hate it. Regardless of what you think of the event, you can’t deny that the buildup for the show was one of the greatest in WWE history.

The main event featured Stone Cold Steve Austin challenging Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship. Austin was meteorically rising to stardom, while Michaels played the degenerate, disrespectful champion. The two would host a public workout that drew thousands of people, and a guy named Mike Tyson was involved.

Not to mention the personal war waged between The Undertaker and his newly introduced brother, Kane. WrestleMania XIV may have been the final catalyst to ignite the Attitude Era.

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5. WrestleMania XXX

If you had a pulse, you were behind Daniel Bryan as 2013 ended. You were also increasingly angry with the WWE week-by-week, and you probably voiced your displeasure with the scheduled main event of WrestleMania XXX: Randy Orton vs. Batista.

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Thankfully, the organization listened to your pleas and took us all on an incredible journey with a guy who was never supposed to make it.

The story, as heart-wrenching as it was from August 2013-February 2014, was beautifully crafted, and led to (perhaps) the most satisfying payoff in wrestling history. Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority now stands as one of the biggest programs in WWE history.

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4. WrestleMania 21

2005 marked a crossroads for the WWE – after the height of the Attitude Era, the product was searching for its’ next direction. That direction would be John Cena and Dave Batista. The two biggest stars of their era won their first World/WWE Championships in Los Angeles, California when WrestleMania “went Hollywood.”

The event is widely considered one of the most successful ones in history, but it was the long-awaited match between Batista and Triple H that earned the #4 spot on this list.

For nearly 2 years, Batista had been the muscle behind Triple H’s stable, Evolution. Though Randy Orton was intended to be the golden boy to take down Triple H, Orton proved unready for the main event.

The fans lost interest in Orton, and turned to Batista as their guy. After winning the Royal Rumble and teasing a challenge for JBL’s WWE Championship, ‘The Animal’ gave the famous thumbs down, and handed Triple H a Batista Bomb through a table.
The rest, as they say, is history.

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3. WrestleMania VII

Wrestling has always fancied itself on blurring the lines between fiction and truth. The WWE, specifically, has always jumped at the chance to tie in current events with their product.

The tangled web of Sgt. Slaughter, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and the Ultimate Warrior was intricately weaved in the months prior to WrestleMania VII. Savage cost the Ultimate Warrior his WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, which led to a “retirement” match that many consider the Warrior’s best match.

However, it was the new champion, Sgt. Slaughter’s actions that would drive WWE fans into frenzy. Sarge aligned himself with Iraq during the heart of the conflict in the Middle East that led to Operation Desert Storm. He defaced the American flag, and fans wanted justice. So, who did they turn to?

Naturally, the answer was Hulk Hogan. The result was one of the most intense rivalries in WWE history – one that culminated when Hogan finally vanquished Sgt. Slaughter in the good ol’ USA.

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2. WrestleMania X

Though 1994 was somewhat of a down period in WWE history, the road to WrestleMania X was a trail of fire. Perhaps the biggest storyline heading into the event was that of Owen Hart’s betrayal of his brother, Bret.

The two had what is considered one of the greatest WrestleMania bouts of all time to open the show, and the match proved to be Owen’s coming out party.

Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels both laid claim to the WWE Intercontinental Championship, and over the course of months, the two battled for the gold. The dispute was settled in a groundbreaking ladder match that saw the winner emerge the undisputed Intercontinental Champion.

Throw in the journey Lex Luger endured to face Yokozuna for the WWE Championship, and you’ve got the second best road to WrestleMania of all time.

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1. WrestleMania III

In 1987, the wrestling world was stunned when Andre the Giant aligned himself with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, ripped Hulk Hogan’s shirt (and cross pendant) off, and challenged the Hogan to a match for the WWE Championship.

Hogan had reigned over the WWE for 3 years at the time of the feud’s inception. Andre was billed as being undefeated for fifteen years, without being so much as body slammed once (of course, this wasn’t true…but, given the magnitude of the match, raised the stakes even more).

To this day, the contest remains one of the biggest (though certainly far from the best) matches in WrestleMania history. However, fans often tend to forget just how personal some of the other feuds were leading up to the event.

Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat brawled for 6 months after the “Macho Man” crushed Steamboat’s larynx during a battle for the Intercontinental Championship. “King” Harley Race and the Junkyard Dog wrestled in a “loser must bow” match. Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules Hernandez attempted to find out who was the true master of the Full Nelson.

The crooked referee Danny Davis finally faced the British Bulldogs and co., Jake “The Snake” Roberts was out for revenge against the Honky Tonk Man, who injured Roberts’ neck by hitting him over the head with a guitar. And, who can forget the battle of the ‘Flower Shop’ vs. ‘Piper’s Pit’ that led to Rowdy Roddy Piper’s “retirement” match against Adrian Adonis?

Hype for the event was at a definite fever pitch. WrestleMania III laid the blueprint for effectively building the biggest show of the year, and remains the quintessential “Granddaddy of ‘em All.”

Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, and is also a Tennessee Titans Staff Writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT’s Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.