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If we were to start this counting down the worst, we end it with the best. Here are the five greatest WrestleManias, ever.

01. WrestleMania X-Seven, April 1, 2001
The apex of the “Attitude Era” happened here. In terms of match quality top to bottom, there is no WrestleMania that can top what WrestleMania 17 gave people. There’s the technical mastery that was Kurt Angle versus Chris Benoit, The Undertaker fully embracing his Big Evil/Biker Taker gimmick by battling Triple H in an outright fight all over the Astrodome and then the coup de grace – Rock/Austin II for the WWE TItle.

Rock/Austin always had a sense of magic to it and for three separate WrestleManias, the two of them battled in main events. The first of course was an Attitude-era style brawl that created the whole multiple finishers/big spot approach that The Rock attempted to recreate with John Cena to two rather “meh” matches at consecutive Wrestlemanias a decade later. The third was the last hurrah and serves as officially, the last match “Stone Cold” Steve Austin wrestled for the company. Both had their own wrinkles but neither can really top what we got out of the second match.

In terms of location, WrestleMania in Texas was almost like giving the Seattle Seahawks a Super Bowl in Seattle — while the Seahawks were in said game. The difference in crowd reaction between Austin’s massive Disturbed entrance and The Rock’s is night and day. One is deafening and the other is modest and both men were easily THE guys in the company at the time. The psychology between both in terms of who needed it more of course made it feel like a giant deal that they’d do whatever to win the WWE title, including systematic destruction with a chair if necessary. If Taker and HHH telling each other to “stay down” after vicious chair shots was one thing, imagine Austin completely breaking a chair over The Rock just to claim something he’d been searching to have for almost two years.

Mania X-7 had even the complete melodrama that was a McMahon family affair as Shane went coast-to-coast on his own father in an ECW homage and how could we forget Tables, Ladders & Chairs II? Yeah, there’s nothing better than Mania X-7, easily the greatest PPV in wrestling history.

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02. WrestleMania X, March 20, 1994
The WWE needed a huge makeover after WrestleMania IX, hell for much of 1993 they needed one. WrestleMania X, heading back to New York City at least planted the seeds for the next five years of WWE storylines here and there. Follow me on this one.

1) Shawn Michaels & Razor Ramon wrestled in the most definitive match of its kind at the time. The Ladder Match for its time was original (okay, Michaels had the first one with Bret Hart but still), featured innovation on behalf of both Ramon & Michaels and legitimized both men as future main event players. It also of course created the whole “Showstopper” motif for Michaels later on and kind of signalled that even though Michaels would at least guarantee you the best match on the card – he’d probably lose.

2) Bret Hart/Yokozuna II was a hell of a lot better (and smarter) than the original which took place a year prior. After all, this was the same PPV that finally reminded us that Lex Luger was not a WWE box office attraction and he soon found himself back in WCW later that year. Yoko may have never gotten the chance to hold the WWE title again but his lengthy reign was rather memorable — it even gave us to the terrible Undertaker/Undertaker match at Summerslam 94. Bret also realized that fat people getting rolled up from the top rope is far easier to deal with than putting them in the Sharpshooter. Remember, psychology and common sense tend to make wrestling matches fun.

3) If you want to rank the best opening matches of any wrestling card ever – Bret vs. Owen Hart may either be one or two and I wouldn’t argue it down with you. Nevermind that it’s a five-star match that Owen (!) won, it set the stage for easily the best Bret Hart related feud that didn’t involve “Stone Cold” Steve Austin or politics (and by politics of course I mean Shawn Michaels). Their cage match rematch at SummerSlam ’94 is also pretty damn good with Owen also winning King of the Ring in ’94. King of Hearts, we sorely miss you sir.

4) The last WrestleMania for “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Okay, it’s a minor deal but him fighting Crush in a brawl that was an early precursor to a lot of current WWE “falls count anywhere” brawls is something to remember.

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03. WrestleMania 7, March 24, 1991
There are really two main reasons why WrestleMania 7 is thismuch better than WrestleMania 6. For one, WrestleMania 6 had one seriously memorable match which was Hogan/Warrior and that was easily the best Hogan match you’d ever seen to that point. WrestleMania 7 however had TWO of the best matches of either man’s career.

You explain all of the dramatics involved in Savage/Warrior’s retirement match where Warrior actually WALKED to the ring as opposed to blowing up five minutes in. You explain how Savage hit Warrior with FIVE elbow drops from the top rope and Warrior calling on the children and the fighter planes from Parts Unknown to keep everything in balance. You explain how Warrior just put his foot on Savage’s chest after a gorilla press in a form of conquering hero ideology to beat him. You explain the most emotional reunion in WM history between Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Yeah, deal with all of that.

If WrestleMania VI is Hogan/Warrior in their best respective superhero match then WrestleMania 7 was Hogan at his most cartoonish “say your prayers and eat your vitamins” phase. Hogan literally let himself get demolished by Slaughter, made the “Iraqi sympathizer” look like Sadaam in Los Angeles trying to win the Gulf War and bled buckets for him as the two really put everything out there. There have been more all out Manias for sheer entertainment (21 being the closest here with the MITB debut, Angle/Michaels & the two title matches, XIX being a strong contender with Lesnar/Angle, Austin/Rock III, Hogan/McMahon & Michaels/Jericho & even WrestleMania VIII for Flair/Savage and Hart/Piper) but for the sake of super drama – you’ve got this to deal with.

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04. WrestleMania XX, March 14, 2004
Sigh.

Given what happened after this PPV, everything really – and I do mean really feels like we’re in a giant time warp. Benoit and Guerrero having a real life moment surrounded by confetti holding both titles aloft should have been a memory forever. Now it gets the dreaded WARNING, WARNING ONE OF THESE GUYS DID SOMETHING TRULY UNSPEAKABLE label by the WWE.

Face value however, the twentieth WrestleMania was a pretty damn good one just for the two main events of Eddie facing off against Kurt Angle and the greatest triple threat match in the history of pro wrestling. But I’ll continue. XX featured possibly the most fun handicap match you’ll ever have with Rock teaming up with Mick Foley to face Evolution (Batista without his favorite Jordans and T-shirt, Randy Orton & Ric Flair) and The Undertaker making a return to the Deadman gimmick and the first official HIJACK moment in WWE history where the crowd absolutely shitted on Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg which, on paper looked like a complete money grab by all parties involved and should have been.

But everything really circles back to those two main events.

I can’t absolve Chris Benoit’s actions in June 2007 in any way, shape or form. I was there at Vengeance wondering why he wasn’t facing CM Punk for the ECW Title in a match pretty much every technical wrestling fan would have loved to see and when I found out what happened the next day I was completely stunned. I’ll keep it strictly about his in-ring work here and how on this night, he was able to get his due. Truly one of the more technical marvels in wrestling and to have his best friend pull off a title win in rather Guerrero fashion? Touching.

But damn if that final moment doesn’t get completely tarnished.

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05. WrestleMania III, March 29, 1987

If WrestleMania I felt like a glorified house show & WrestleMania 2 felt like Vince being bigger than life but he was only a year short – then WrestleMania III was where for the first time, Vince McMahon was an absolute genius.

Truly, Mania III is a two match card (much like how Mania XXV was a one match card with Michaels/Taker I which is not only the greatest match I’ve ever seen in person, it may be the greatest Mania match ever). It features the first show stealer in Mania history, the greatest straight up wrestling match of the ’80s which would shape a generation of wrestlers going forward with Ricky Steamboat versus Randy Savage. By the way, Savage by and far was the MVP of the first five Manias but that’s neither here nor there. Steamboat and Savage literally wrestled the first true classic for plenty of wrestling fans who could see it as opposed to those Flair/Steamboat matches you only heard about thanks to Pro Wrestling Illustrated and if you traded wrestling tapes with your friends.

Hogan/Andre is still, the most important match in wrestling history. You don’t just legitimize the idea of superheroes and that Hulk Hogan may possibly be the strongest man in the history of the known universe without that signature moment of the decade – the bodyslam. Know this – every WrestleMania since has been looking for that to really make you think in terms of why you still watch wrestling in the first place. Only wrestling could put 93,000 people inside of the Silverdome in a way that the Lions, Pistons & even the NBA All-Star Game couldn’t. Mania III made wrestling for a lot of people. Simple as that.

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