Over their storied careers, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage probably wrestled each other more than 100 times. But when most of think about “The Hulkster” and “The Macho Man” tying up, we probably remember one, particular bout—that contested at WrestleMania V.
The fact is that when a match makes it to WrestleMania, it achieves a kind of wrestling immortality. It means that the bout was selected from hundreds of possible matches to be included in the most important wrestling card of the year.
And so it goes without saying that when the same match is featured more than once at WrestleMania, it takes on even more mythical proportions.
That will certainly be the case this year, when Triple-H and the Undertaker do battle at WrestleMania for the third time—tying the all time record for most times a match has been featured at WrestleMania.
With that in mind, here is a look at WrestleMania’s 10 greatest feuds.
10. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - WrestleMania 2000 (in a triple threat match that included Chris Jericho), WrestleMania X-Seven: As two of the most respected ring technicians of the modern era, it stood to reason that WWE would pair Benoit and Angle together at the biggest show of the year. Unfortunately, the first of their two bouts was overbooked, as was everything else on WrestleMania 2000. In the match, Benoit pinned Jericho to win the IC title, and was later pinned by Jericho for the European title. A year later, the two men had the match that fans expected of them—a barn-burning 14-minute affair won by Benoit that would have stolen the show, if so many other matches on it weren’t so damn good also. Better Match: WrestleMania X-Seven
9. Mr. T vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper - WrestleMania (in a tag team match that included Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorf), WrestleMania 2 in a boxing match): As the story goes, there was real life bad blood between Piper and Mr. T, based largely on Piper’s resentment over a Hollywood actor not showing proper respect for his business. The heat between Piper and T helped make the inaugural WrestleMania a big success, and launched WWE into the global wrestling juggernaut it is today. A year later, Piper started showing up at events with boxing gloves, and put out an open challenge to anyone to trade leather with him. Mr. T accepted, and we got one of the worst WrestleMania bouts of all time. Better Match: WrestleMania
8. Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart - WrestleMania IX, WrestleMania X: Yokozuna got a monster push right out of the gate, winning 1993’s Royal Rumble less than six months after debuting in WWE, and thereby getting a world title shot against Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX. It was, to say the least, a clash of styles. But Yokozuna worked hard, and had considerable athleticism for a man his size. Bret managed to get a watchable, if relatively short, match out of Yoko before losing the title to him. A year later, Hart and Yoko locked up again in the main event of WrestleMania X. With Piper as special guest referee, Hart won back the title from Yoko in a match that was only slightly worse than the original—which is to say it wasn’t very good. Better Match: WrestleMania IX
7. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant – WrestleMania III, WrestleMania IV: Twenty-five years later, Vince McMahon is still trying to recreate the magic of the first Hogan-Andre—arguably the biggest wrestling match ever contested in the U.S., and on the biggest show. Considering the limitations of the two men involved—particularly Andre—this match delivered on the high-end of expectations. Hogan’s “bodyslam heard around the world” not only stands as one of the most dramatic and memorable moments in wrestling history, but, technically speaking, it was also very well executed. WWE tried to go back to the well a year later for the rematch, which was a second-round match in the tournament to fill the vacant world title. With a dead Atlantic City crowd, and an even further-immobile Andre, this match was just atrocious, as was the finish: a double disqualification. Better Match: WrestleMania III
6. The Undertaker vs. Kane – WrestleMania XIV, WrestleMania XX: Putting aside this year’s WrestleMania main event between John Cena and The Rock, it’s nearly unheard of for WWE to build up to a match nearly a year in advance. And yet, that’s what WWE did between the Undertaker and Kane—the Dead Man’s supposed little brother whose arrival began being hyped in May of 1997. When the two siblings finally did battle in Boston in 1998, expectations were low because both competitors had a reputation as lumbering big men. But, while hardly a cruiserweight thrill-fest, ‘Taker and Kane showed some impressive athleticism and told a satisfying story in their first match. Six years later, Taker abandoned his “American Badass” biker gimmick and returned to the dark side to clash with his brother once again. The match wasn’t much good. If you need me to tell you the results of either of these bouts, then you’ve never heard of The Streak. Better Match: WrestleMania XIV
5. Triple-H vs. Randy Orton – WrestleMania XXIV (in a triple threat match that included John Cena), The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania: Cena won the 2008 Royal Rumble to get a shot at Orton’s WWE title, but instead chose to cash it in at No Way Out, where Orton was disqualified and retained. Meanwhile, Triple-H won an Elimination Chamber bout to get the Mania title shot against Orton, and it was later made into a three-way. Although triple-threats are usually not my cup of tea, the three WWE megastars had a heck of a match that probably wouldn’t have been as good if it included only two of them. Surprisingly, Orton won the bout to keep his title. Just a year later, Triple-H and Orton locked up again in an intensely personal grudge match that was also intensely boring. Triple-H won that one. Better Match: WrestleMania XXIV
4. Triple-H vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania X-Seven, WrestleMania XXVII: This one may move to the top of the list in just a few short weeks, when “The Game” and “The Dead Man” square off for the third time at WrestleMania, and in a Hell in a Cell match no less. But as it stands now, they’ve got two Mania bouts under their belts, and they were both quite good. In 2001, the “American Bad Ass”-version of the Undertaker had a heck of a brawl with Triple-H that went all over Houston’s Astrodome. And, of course, the two men engaged in an epic battle last year that’s widely considered one of the great WrestleMania matches in history. They’ve got their work cut out for them this year, but considering their reputations—and egos—I’m pretty confident they’ll rise to the occasion. Better Match: WrestleMania XXVII
3. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz – WrestleMania 2000, WrestleMania X-Seven: It’s rare enough that two wrestlers would face each other more than once at WrestleMania. But three tag teams? It speaks to the ground breaking matches that these three duos had in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A decade later, it’s apparent that those matches may have done more harm than good by raising the bar for stunt matches to a dangerously high level, and perhaps contributing to Edge’s great career ending earlier than it should have. But there’s no denying that the crash-and-burn series of bouts involving the Dudleys, Hardys and E&C were a sight to behold. Mania X-Seven gets the edge (no pun intended), if only because it had the breathtaking backdrop of 70,000 screaming fans. Better Match: WrestleMania X-Seven.
2. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker: The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, WrestleMania XXVI: For my money, The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25 is the single greatest match ever. And so, the expectations, quite literally, could not have been any higher when the two icons met again a year later in Atlanta. The rematch may have packed more of an emotional punch than the first, considering that it marked the end of Shawn Michael’s remarkable career. But, alas, it was not as good as the original—perhaps only reaching the level of amazingly, fantastically awesome. What a let down. Better Match: The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania
1. Steve Austin vs. The Rock: WrestleMania XV, WrestleMania X-Seven, WrestleMania XIX: Wrestling stars on the level of The Rock or Steve Austin may come around just once in a lifetime. And yet, amazingly, the peaks of their monumental careers coincided with one another in WWE in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And so, considering that WrestleMania usually features the biggest wrestling match available to be booked each year, it’s no surprise that WWE featured this match at three different WrestleManias. Also not surprising: They were all fantastic matches, featuring both stars at their athletic and charismatic best. While the 2001 version of the bout may have been the best-worked, my favorite remains the final chapter of the trilogy, which also marked the last singles match in the careers of both Austin and The Rock (until April 1 of this year, of course.) When the Rock finally beat Austin, then pushed away the referee so he could whisper into Austin’s ear how much he respected him and appreciated what he did for his career, it was downright moving. Best match: WrestleMania XIX