Grab me on ten different days and I’m liable to give you ten completely different lists. But, for the moment, here’s how I’d rank all the previous WrestleManias from best to worst. Post your own lists in the comments section or email them to
1. WrestleMania X-Seven, 2001, Houston: The first ‘Mania to really bring it all together – a massive venue, awesome production values, great workrate throughout the whole show, historic showdowns, and a five-star main event in Austin-Rock II. This is the show that brought WrestleMania into the modern era.
2. WrestleMania XXIV, 2008, Orlando: A nearly-perfect Mania. The outdoor setting was memorable, and allowed WWE to up its production like never before (even if some fans were nearly set on fire along the way.) The two world title matches were in the four-star plus range. The publicity-stunt match with Floyd Mayweather was well executed. And the Michaels-Flair match was a masterpiece of wrestling storytelling, and offered arguably the most emotional moment in wrestling history.
3. WrestleMania III, 1987, Detroit: For 23 years now, WWE has been trying to duplicate the enormity of this show, and of its main event – still, in my opinion, the biggest wrestling match ever. This was before WWE put much value on workrate, so aside from the Steamboat-Savage classic, the show may have been light on quality wrestling. But, top to bottom, the feuds were built tremendously well (Adonis-Piper, Snake-Honky Tonk). And Hogan and Andre delivered exactly what fans came to see.
4. WrestleMania XIX, 2003, Seattle: Not remembered as well as some other Manias in recent history, this show had a great mix of terrific matches (Jericho-Michaels), epic battles (McMahon-Hogan), and WrestleMania moments (Lesnar’s shooting star press.) It also had, for my money, one of the greatest and most historically significant matches in WrestleMania history – Austin-Rock III. The sight of the Rock thanking Austin in his ear for helping make him a star – right after pinning him – was tremendous.
5. WrestleMania 25, 2009, Houston: It can take several years of perspective to be able to objectively figure out a particular WrestleMania’s place in history. But, just a year removed from Mania 25, this much is for certain – the show hosted, arguably, the greatest WrestleMania match of all time in Undertaker-Michaels I. There was some other good stuff on the show, including the Cena-Edge-Big Show match and a strong Money in the Bank. The flat main event of Triple-H vs. Randy Orton, however, takes away a few points.
6. WrestleMania 21, 2005, Los Angeles: This show was historically significant in that it marked the coronation of two of WWE’s biggest stars of the modern era – John Cena and Batista. It also had a bona fide dream match in Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle – and it delivered. In fact, there was plenty of good action throughout the show – including the first ever Money in the Bank match. Having gotten used to, by this point, Mania being a largely a stadium show, it was a bit of a come down to see it held in the same place a Monday Night Raw might emanate from.
7. WrestleMania 23, 2007, Detroit: Ford Field looked incredible for the 20th anniversary of WrestleMania III in the same city. While there was at least one great match – Batista vs. the Undertaker – and a true WrestleMania moment – Vince McMahon getting his head shaved, this show was hurt a bit by a slightly disappointing main event in Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena, and the over-pushing of Bobby Lashley.
8. WrestleMania XX, 2004, Madison Square Garden, 2004: I’m a big believer that Manias should be held in stadiums, but Madison Square Garden may be the exception every ten years. There were lots of big matches throughout the night, including the reunited Rock n’ Sock Connection vs. Legacy, Goldberg vs. Brock, and the triple threat main event – one of the best Mania matches in history. Ultimately, this event may be remembered best for its tragically historic closing shot – Eddie Guerrero celebrating with Chris Benoit and Benoit’s family in center ring with both the world titles.
9. WrestleMania X, 1994, New York: Although this event took place near the peak of WWE’s cartoonish, kiddie entertainment period (as evidenced by the involvement of Doink & Dink and Men on a Mission), it also featured some of the best and most historically significant matches in WrestleMania history up until that point. Bret Hart and Owen Hart put on a clinic to start the show. And the ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels was unlike anything WWE fans had seen up until that point. Bret Hart’s title win also provided a happy ending to the show.
10. WrestleMania VIII, 1992, Indianapolis: The Hogan-Sid match may have been one of the very worst to ever close a WrestleMania, but before that dud, Randy Savage won the WWE title from Ric Flair in arguably the best Mania world title match up until that point, and Bret Hart had a four-star match with Roddy Piper for the IC title. The massive Hoosier Dome also provided one of the better settings for the earlier Manias.
11. WrestleMania VI, 1990, Toronto: Aside from the main event, there was probably not a good match on this entire card. But, oh, what a main event. The "Ultimate Challenge" between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior still holds up as, arguably, the second biggest WrestleMania main event, only behind Hogan-Andre. And unlike Hogan-Andre, this was quite a good match, with what many considered a surprising ending. The show was also greatly helped from WWE’s return to a stadium setting, which gave Mania the gravitas it has been lacking for the two years it was held in the tiny and antiseptic Trump Plaza.
12. WrestleMania X8, 2002, Toronto: Skydome looked awesome for this event, which featured another of the biggest and most memorable matches in Mania history – Hogan vs. the Rock. The atmosphere for that one was truly electric. What this show was desperately missing, however, was great wrestling action. While there were some OK to good matches, including Flair vs. Undertaker and Jericho vs. Triple-H in the main event, none of the matches stood out as anything special. As memorable as Rock-Hogan was, it was something of a mess from an execution standpoint.
13. WrestleMania 22, 2006, Chicago: Another modern show that I think was hurt by being held in too small a venue (even though the Chicago crowd was probably louder and hotter than those of some Manias held in stadiums.) There was some good action on this show – including in the Triple H-Cena main event and the Edge-Foley brawl. But very little that went on that night stands out as historically significant. The show did, however, feature arguably the greatest American women’s match in modern history in Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James.
14. WrestleMania XIV, 1998, Boston: The Mania that launched Steve Austin into megastardom, and helped WWE take over the Monday Night Wars. Mike Tyson’s involvement in Austin’s match with Shawn Michaels was memorable as were several other moments throughout the night including the return of a repackaged LOD, Foley and Terry Funk’s tag title win over the New Age Outlaws and Kane tombstoning Pete Rose. But this show lacked a single, great match.
15. WrestleMania I, 1985, New York: It’s hard to judge this event against all those that followed. There wasn’t much in the way of good action or expensive production value here. But this much is for certain – the top matches and celebrity involvement were hugely over with the crowd, and the event was a tremendous success – as evidenced by the fact that we are days away from the 25th sequel.
16. WrestleMania 2, 1986, Long Island, Chicago, Los Angeles: The experiment of hosting an event in three different cities was ultimately a failure, but I give WWE credit for trying to be innovative at the time. Most of the matches were quite short and not very good, but there were several moments for the highlight reel, including Andre’s win of a battle royal that included NFL players, Hogan’s cage match win, and the Bulldogs capturing the tag titles in the best match of the first two WrestleManias.
17. WrestleMania VII, 1991, Los Angeles: Vince McMahon originally hoped to shatter WrestleMania III’s alleged attendance record with this show, set to be held in the LA Coliseum. Instead it ended up being one of the smallest Mania crowds ever as the show was moved to the LA Sports Arena. The Hogan-Slaughter main event was well built, and reasonably well executed. And Randy Savage got arguably the Ultimate Warrior’s best match out of him. But the rest of the card was bloated and filled with one dud after the other.
18. WrestleMania XII, Anaheim, 1996: This show featured one of the most over rated matches of all time – the original WWE Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Certainly, as the first to do it in the modern WWE era, both men deserve lots of credit. But the match dragged for much of its 60-plus minutes and lacked drama. The rest of the card was rather short and included the return of the Ultimate Warrior in a squash against Triple-H, an absurdly silly Hollywood Backlot Brawl, and a better than expected bout between the Undertaker and Diesel.
19. WrestleMania 13, 1997, Chicago: It’s ironic that one of the most lackluster WrestleManias of all time also included one of the very best matches. For a number of reasons varying from poor planning to injuries, this card seemed to be thrown together at the last second. And with matches like Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan, it showed. But the submission match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin remains one of my very favorite WWE matches. Too bad it was followed by the God awful Undertaker-Sid main event.
20. WrestleMania V, 1989, Atlantic City: It was a big mistake to bring WrestleMania back to Trump Plazain Atlantic City, NJ, where the disinterested crowd killed WrestleMania IV a year earlier. This show benefited slightly from not being bound to the tournament format a year earlier, and Hogan and Savage was a well-booked feud that climaxed with a very good main event – Hogan’s best match of his WWE career until that point.
21. WrestleMania 2000, 2000, Anaheim: Vince Russo may have been gone from WWE at this point, but his influence remained. The only one-on-one match on this forgettable card – the Kat vs. Terri Runnels. The rest of the card featured way too many multi-contestant matches – many of which had no reason to be booked that way. However, this show did have the memorable Dudleys-Edge & Christian – Hardy Boyz ladder match, and a strong triple threat with Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle.
22. WrestleMania XI, 1995, Hartford: This show was all about getting WWE some mainstream publicity through the main event match pitting NFL legend Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow. Thanks to Bam Bam, the match was entirely watchable. The rest of the card was shoddily thrown together. Some matches were not even advertised ahead of time. Shawn Michaels got a very good match out of his close friend Diesel, but it wasn’t enough to save this show.
23. WrestleMania XV, 1999, Philadelphia: Thanks in large part to Vince Russo’s cutting edge writing, WWE was red hot around this time. But that dated "Crash TV" philosophy is also why this show does not hold up well at all. There were far too many three and four way matches, convoluted finishes, run-ins, and predictably unpredictable turns. In other words, it was TNA ten years early. Rock-Austin I was good, but the two sequels were better.
24. WrestleMania IV, Atlantic City, 1988: A year after hitting a home run with WrestleMania III, WWE seemed to go the complete opposite direction with this show. The Trump Plaza crowd was small and dead for most of the card, which, because of the tournament format, featured a bunch of meaningless matches that could not be promoted ahead of time – none of which were very good.
25. WrestleMania IX, 1993, Las Vegas: Just a real mess of a show. The outdoor setting was novel, but the silly Toga Party theme made the whole event seem like a joke. The card was a mish-mosh of mediocrity, ranging from Bob Backlund vs. Razor Ramon to Doink vs. Crush. Bret Hart did what he could to make his match with Yokozuna watchable, but Hogan’s big-footing of everyone in the company at the very end made for one of WrestleMania’s all-time lowlights.