Why waste time? WrestleMania 31 is this Sunday – so here we go….the 31 greatest matches in WrestleMania history according to Stoney Keeley – have at it!
30. The Undertaker vs. Batista, WrestleMania 23 – Wasn’t too impressed with the event as a whole, but these two delivered a classic for the World Heavyweight Championship, when the title was still as relevant as the WWE Championship.
29. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XIX – The best of the 3 Austin/Rock encounters was also Austin’s last match…brilliant work that hits you right in the feels.
28. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania XX – Two of wrestling’s all-time great grapplers squaring off in a match that was the perfect showcase of their ability. The finish was as perfect as could be for both men.
27. Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania X-7 – ‘Mania’s forgotten classic. With no clear direction for either competitor, two of the WWE’s greatest technical wrestlers were paired at WrestleMania in 2001.
26. Money In The Bank I, WrestleMania 21 – The Money In The Bank briefcase has become the biggest stepping-stone in the WWE, replacing both the Intercontinental and United States Champion. The tradition started in 2005 with 5 former/future World champs….and an awesomely underrated Shelton Benjamin.
25. Edge vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania XXIV – Edge was the quintessential heel of the 2000s. WrestleMania XXIV finally delivered the ‘Mania main event he deserved – a title bout against the Deadman.
24. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H, WrestleMania XXX – WrestleMania XXX’s opening contest was a clinic in wrestling psychology and was the catalyst for one of wrestling’s most important nights.
23. Bret Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper, WrestleMania VIII – During the height of the Intercontinental Championship’s prestige, Piper and Hart put on a show – including one of the unforgettable, “grounded in reality” style Bret Hart finishes.
22. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar, WrestleMania XIX – The Shooting Star Crash. Multiple F5’s. The WWE Championship. The two greatest amateur athletes in wrestling history. Need I say more?
21. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania VIII – “She was mine before she was yours.” Savage and Flair delivered a barnburner. We should all be thankful that we didn’t get the much-anticipated Flair/Hogan confrontation.
20. Triple H vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania XXVIII – “The End of An Era” – a brutal Hell in a Cell contest with enough drama to make Shakespeare proud.
19. TLC II, WrestleMania X-7 – The second installment of Tables, Ladders, & Chairs featured the 3 tag teams that defined a generation: Edge & Christian, The Dudleys, & The Hardys.
18. Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania VII – Look – we all know “retirement” matches don’t mean much in wrestling, but this match could easily be the Ultimate Warrior’s best. Savage’s multiple appearances on this list is a testament to his rare talent.
17. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, WrestleMania X – the Intercontinental Championship ladder match that revolutionized the wrestling world with two of its greatest trailblazers.
16. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit, WrestleMania XX – the culmination of a career for long-time journeyman Chris Benoit, though Triple H’s performance in this match goes unnoticed.
15. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho, WrestleMania XXVIII – the match that stole the show, in my opinion. A heated and deeply personal rivalry turned out one of wrestling’s most underrated championship matches.
14. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton, WrestleMania XXX – the payout for one of the WWE’s greatest, slowest-burning storylines of all time. Bryan’s performance goes down as one of the all-time greats.
13. Undertaker vs. CM Punk, WrestleMania 29 – Punk’s epic reign as WWE Champion was over, but as a result, he got the slot against the Undertaker and earned ‘match of the night’ honors.
12. Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena, WrestleMania 23 – Cena has a notoriously bad reputation for the ‘5 moves of doom,’ but people lose sight of the fact that he can really hold his own with the proper dance partner. This could be his greatest match.
11. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker I, WrestleMania XXV – Yeah, I get it. I’m an idiot who knows nothing about wrestling…but, quite simply, I just didn’t enjoy this match as much as the rest of the world. I didn’t care for the story, and I didn’t care for the WWE failing to use the Undertaker’s slot at WrestleMania to help the career of and up-and-comer. Still, no one can deny the wrestling display these two put on in Houston.
10. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, WrestleMania X – I’m a fan of the “perfect storm” of wrestling and storytelling. I can’t think of many examples of that coming to fruition. This match is one of them.
9. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania XXIV – One of the most emotional matches I’ve ever seen, “I’m sorry. I love you.” Is the 2000s version of Hogan slamming Andre.
8. Edge vs. Mick Foley, WrestleMania 22 – An awe-inspiring performance perfect for the Chicago crowd. This was Edge’s coming out party (as a main event heel), and Foley’s WrestleMania moment.
7. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XIX – As a kid growing up in the 90s, Michaels was #1A. Jericho was #1B. This was a dream match that delivered in every way I could imagine.
6. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania 21 – What this matched in development, it made up for in production. Back when interpromotional matches were huge, none were bigger than this one.
5. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage, WrestleMania III – By many accounts, Savage/Steamboat is the greatest wrestling match of all time. It’s certainly one that stands the test of time, as entertaining today as it was in 1987.
4. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels II, WrestleMania XXVI – The story for the rematch was much bigger, better, and more important. With retirement on the line, this match was given its’ rightful spot atop an underrated WrestleMania card.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart, WrestleMania 13 – As a 28 year old who has gone back and watched all of these matches, this is undoubtedly the greatest wrestling match in WrestleMania history. So, why do I have it at 3?
2. Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania VI – I still have chills seeing the poster for “The Ultimate Challenge.” Hogan finally passed the torch in 1990, in a match that one would have to consider among his best.
1. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XII – For over 60 minutes, a 9-year-old Stoney Keeley watched two men duke it out for the WWE Championship…and so, my love for professional wrestling blossomed. Maybe it is a little biased of me, but this match certainly holds a special place in my heart.
For me, yes – Hart/Austin is the greatest display of wrestling in the event’s history, but, being a 90s kid, no two matches encapsulated the spirit of WrestleMania quite like the top two.
We all have our reasons as to why we love wrestling – if you have matches or superstars that elicit such emotions as the ones I feel regarding these matches, then you should have no problem in justifying your love for pro wrestling.
Here’s to 31 years of the greatest event in sports entertainment!
Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, and is 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.