To be clear, I said “performers”, not “wrestlers”...because while there have been some awesome technical wrestling classics at ‘Mania, and the best ones will be represented here, I personally feel that this is the one wrestling event where showmanship of the sport is best displayed. The column is about splendor and pageantry of Wrestlemania and not necessarily about who does the nicest drop toe-hold. Keep that in mind!
So, let’s not waste any more time and get to the list! The first guy...crap...does a pretty sweet drop toe-hold.
10. Kurt Angle
He may be working for “the other organization” at the moment, but Kurt Angle is without a doubt a wrestler that is etched in WWE history, and his run in the company was something to be admired and acknowledged.
Kurt is one of those guys that was special the moment he arrived in the WWE and had the rare talent of being hilarious on the mic AND phenomenal in the ring. He was one of the guys that could wrestle a broomstick and create a classic.
From his match against Eddie Guerrero (Wrestlemania 17) to the barn burner with Brock Lesnar (Wrestlemania 20) to his epic with Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 21), Angle stole the show in nearly every ‘Mania he was a part of. It’s true. It’s damn true.
I have no idea if we will ever see him in another Wrestlemania or even in the WWE ever again, but we always have Youtube! And that show on Thursday nights...I guess.
9. John Cena
Oh no, I didn’t! Yes I did!
Boo all you want, the man puts his best foot forward and loves the business JUST as much as we all do. He wouldn’t be the top guy for so long if he didn’t. Cena eats, sleeps and drinks wrestling. And y’know, it’s not his fault that he’s competent in the ring, has the looks and physique of a superhuman, and the admiration of every kid under the age of 13. Well, it is his fault actually...because he WORKED for it.
And he especially worked for it in his Wrestlemania matches over the past decade. From his wins against Big Show (Wrestlemania 20) to his first WWE Championship win against JBL (Wrestlemania 21) to his series of matches against The Rock (Wrestlemania 28 & 29), John Cena doesn’t always have the best match at ‘Mania, but it’s always the most talked about. That means something.
This year’s no exception, as he goes up against the guy who I think is the best villain in the business right now, Bray Wyatt, who is a delightfully evil mix of Robert DeNiro from Cape Fear, Charles Manson, Heath Ledger’s Joker and a little bit of the Duck Dynasty guys thrown in for good measure. He’s the perfect arch-nemesis for WWE’s boyscout superhero...and once again, the match everyone NEEDS to see.
Cheer him, boo him, or cheer him when you're alone in your living room and boo him in front of your friends (let’s be honest, a LOT of us do this...I'm not saying I do this!), we will ALL be thanking this guy when he hangs up his signature jean shorts for his efforts and heart in entertaining us for so many years. “Mark” my words.
8. Hulk Hogan
Well, let me tell ya somethin’, brother!
Here’s another guy not known for his technical ring work but dang, you can’t have ANY Wrestlemania list without Hulk Hogan! There wouldn’t BE a Wrestlemania without Hulk Hogan!
How can we not talk about when he bodyslammed Andre The Giant (Wrestlemania 3)? Or when he went toe-to-toe with Ultimate Warrior (Wrestlemania 6)? Or when he passed the torch when he faced The Rock (Wrestlemania 18)?
The Hulkster was a hero to every 80’s baby out there and still thrills us with those 24 inch pythons to this very day!
“Immortal” is an understatement when talking about this man and his talent for entertaining generations of people. What'cha gonna do!?
7. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
This guy is the unique entry, I’d think. If not just because, well, Steamboat is really only known for one match at “the show of shows”.
BUT...what a match it was! At Wrestlemania 3, it wasn’t just Hogan bodyslamming Andre that made the event special, it was the match Ricky Steamboat put on against “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championshipthat people were talking about just as much! We still talk about that match to this day.
It was a technical masterpiece that astounded people all over the world, and inspired most of the guys and gals in the business today to become wrestlers.
Ricky himself was the perfect babyface (or “good guy”) back then, with his amazing physique, limitless agility and skill in the ring and striking resemblance to Bruce Lee, “The Dragon” was just a guy you could not root for.
At the third 'Mania, Ricky faced someone as uncontrollable and unruly as Macho Man who had done some pretty devious things to Ricky including trying to crush his throat! Well...let’s just say, that match had it all: a good story, two top-level performers, twists, turns...and Miss Elizabeth. Let’s not forget about her. She was the classiest woman ever in wrestling, wasn't she?
One match was so memorable that its sole merit has placed Ricky Steamboat on this list of Wrestlemania’s top performers! If you have never seen it...words cannot properly do it justice, you need to treat yourself to it!
6. The Rock
FINALLY! The Rock has made it to the list! I don’t think I need to tell you who Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is. He’s one of the most money-making action stars these days. But he did get his start in the squared circle, and he was just as (if not more) entertaining in his days when he was regularly Rock Bottoming and People’s Elbowing roody-poo candy-asses in the WWE.
I wish I made up those great terms...but even I'm not that witty. I don't know if anyone is just as creative as they are physically talented as this guy. Ever. In the history of the universe.
Wrestlemania is always a special night with Rock on the card, and his bouts against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (Wrestlemania 15, 17 & 19), were just plain magical.
Especially at WM 17...which is one of my favorite matches of all time, if not because it was basically the culmination of the Attitude Era with the unpredictable ending featuring Austin finally joining the dark side and allying with Mr. McMahon and the both of them screwing over Rocky. Jim Ross’ commentary when that happened alone made it all the more entertaining.
Not to say it’s always great to see Rocky at Wrestlemania, but nothing tops the chemistry he had against Austin at this event.
5. Bret “Hitman” Hart
I got a chance to briefly meet this man this last year, and although he was a class act and took a few photos with me, I probably could have talked to him for a couple of hours about his matches at Wrestlemania (and you know I tried).
Bret maybe didn’t have the mic skills or charisma of a Rock or Stone Cold, but he didn’t need them. When the Hitman stepped in the ring, he let his ring work do all the talking necessary.
The Iron Man match against Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 12) is probably my favorite ‘Mania match ever...but let’s also not forget his VERY underrated match against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (Wrestlemania 8), his match against his own brother, Owen Hart (Wrestlemania 10), and of course his brutal match against Steve Austin (Wrestlemania 13).
The bloody “crimson mask” Austin was sporting as Bret had him in the Sharpshooter is etched in every 90’s wrestling fan’s memory. Austin was the bad guy in this match...and you felt sorry for him!
The Excellence of Execution. The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be. The Hitman. Whatever you wanna call him, Bret Hart is the man who made stealing the show at Wrestlemania his business. Not to mention making pink and black look quite manly.
4. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty. And nobody was more nitty OR gritty than “The Rattlesnake”!
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a guy that was so legitimately a badass, that we just HAD to cheer for him. With the beer swilling tenacity and demeanor of Wolverine, nobody wanted to mess with him. He could have an entire packed arena in the palm of his hand and when that glass broke at the start of his entrance theme, he was ready to open a can of whoop-ass! To this day when I’m in a bar and I hear a glass or mug fall to the floor and shatter...I always half expect someone is going to get a Stone Cold Stunner! But ...I’m a dork.
And ‘Mania was no exception. We’ve already spoken against his bouts against The Rock and Bret Hart, but we should also mention the classic he had against a fully “DX’d” Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 14) that saw Austin win his first WWE Championship.
Let’s just say Austin was so mean in that match that he won the respect of “the Baddest Man on the Planet” Mike Tyson by the end of it. And sent HBK on a 4 year hiatus (let’s pretend it was Austin’s beating that sent him away...it was really a serious back injury he suffered months earlier...SHHH!).
Nonetheless, Austin was not just one of the greatest performers we’ve ever seen at ‘Mania with nearly every single of his matches being a “slobberknocker” (you know I was gonna use it sooner or later), but he was one of the best entertainers wrestling has ever seen, period.
And that’s the bottom line, cuz the Bleeder King said so!
3. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
The late, great “Macho Man” Randy Savage cannot be left out.
When this man went up against an opponent at Wrestlemania, he entertained millions of fans.
From his hilarious, whacked-out pre-match interviews with Mean Gene Okerlund, to his always bright and flashy ring attire to his absolute brilliance in the ring, Macho just was a special performer.
We already marveled at his match against Ricky Steamboat, but Savage also had so many memorable bouts against the likes of Ric Flair (Wrestlemania 8), his former tag-team partner, Hulk Hogan (Wrestlemania 5) and his “retirement” match against Ultimate Warrior (Wrestlemania 7), which is probably best known for what happened after he lost the match, because he reunited with his long-lost love, Ms. Elizabeth.
This literally had people in the arena tearing up...because even wrestling fans are suckers for a good love story!
Savage is the one of the craziest AND gifted wrestlers I’ve ever seen, and he will always be remembered for his matches at Wrestlemania. OOH YEAH! DIG IT!
2. Shawn Michaels
Mr. Michaels (NO relation...I’m sure of it), is known as Mr. Wrestlemania, so you KNOW he’d be placed quite high at the top of this list. You don’t get that name for no reason.
Shawn is the guy that is a tradition that when the wrestlers are lucky enough to be placed in a match at ‘Mania, they had to make it special. Shawn was one of first guys to always wear new, flashier ring gear at the event, and had a special entrance almost every year and HBK ALWAYS...ALWAYS tried to make his match memorable.
We’re talking his Ladder Match with Razor Ramon (Wrestlemania 10), which is still regarded to this day as one of the best ever at the event, and his match against John Cena (Wrestlemania 23), his match against Ric Flair (Wrestlemania 24) which ended the legendary Nature Boy’s career...heck, Michaels even stole the show in a No Holds Barred match against The Chairman of WWE himself, Mr. McMahon (Wrestlemania 22)...he’s Mr. Wrestlemania because he always brought his A-game at Wrestlemania, and subsequently made his opponents and peers follow suit. I would say that's his legacy to the event and maybe the sport in general!
So..if Michaels is Mr. Wrestlemania and STILL isn’t the show’s top performer ever...who is #1?
Every true wrestling fan knows there’s only one man that has made performing at Wrestlemania his legacy in the business. And he also RETIRED Shawn Michaels!
Cut the lights, Cue the smoke...DONG!
Of course! The one wrestler that has NEVER lost at Wrestlemania!
His name is The Undertaker, and for 21 matches, this man has dominated Wrestlemania.
His ominous entrance, his mind games against his opponents and his very character has made Wrestlemania HIS show, and these days, he may not wrestle for the entire year, but he always returns to see just who will challenge his streak of 21-0 at ‘Mania.
I can’t name them all, but Taker has Tombstoned just about every big name the business has to offer from his first ‘Mania match against Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (Wrestlemania 7) to his own brother Kane..TWICE (Wrestlemania 14 & 20) to “The Heartbreak Kid”, Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 24 & 25) which were some of the best matches ever and ended Michaels’ historic career in fine fashion.
Taker rules Wrestlemania with an iron fist much like Dr. Doom rules over Latvaria, and the past few years the matches have been quite epic, so much so that it’s practically more prestigious to battle The Deadman for the streak than it is to win the WWE Championship at the show!
We just don’t know at this point if ANYONE will put an end to the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at this point...but whoever does, will be instantly made a legend in their own right! It’s that big of a deal!
There's just nothing more to say!
Well, that’s it for this list, I hope everyone enjoyed...wait. Your top guy didn’t make it?
Well, I’m sorry about that. If you’re really hurting about it, now you can let me hear it in the comments section! Have at it!
That’s all for now, Enjoy Wrestlemania 30, and keep it cool, Bleeder Nation!