WrestleMania weekend is upon us, as WWE prepares to stage the 38th edition of the biggest event in professional wrestling. ‘The Showcase of the Immortals’ has been the proving ground for every great WWE superstar through the decades, serving as the stage for more classic matches than you can count.
Here at The Sportsman we like a challenge, so we have whittled it down to one must-see match per event. These are the very best matches from the biggest show in the industry. Fire up the WWE Network and put some of these absolute bangers on to get yourself in the mood for a huge WrestleMania weekend.
WrestleMania 1: Hulk Hogan and Mr T vs Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (1985)
The headline match from the event that started it all, this star-studded tag team attraction heralded the start of the WrestleMania era. Beyond its historic significance, this is well worth a look to see how surprisingly good at wrestling Mr T is. He ain’t gettin’ on no plane, but he throws a mean clothesline.
WrestleMania 2: The British Bulldogs vs The Dream Team (1986)
The second WrestleMania was bigger than the first, hosted across three different cities simultaneously. It was not necessarily better, but this bout from the Chicago portion was fun. Ozzy Osbourne accompanied his countrymen The British Bulldogs to the ring in a salmon pink suit, in perhaps the most 80s moment in the history of professional wrestling
WrestleMania 3: Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat (1987)
The most famous image of the 1987 extravaganza is Hulk Hogan bodyslamming Andre The Giant, but long-time fans will tell you this match was superior. Startlingly athletic, balletically performed and filled with storyline nods throughout, ‘Macho Man’ and ‘The Dragon’ made magic in Michigan. A match that would inspire a generation of heavyweights that could move like cruiserweights.
WrestleMania 4: Randy Savage vs Ted Dibiase (1988)
The one-night tournament format to crown a new WWE Champion did not lend itself to memorable bouts. Most of the evening’s outings were short and to the point. The final, pitting the maniacal ‘Million Dollar Man’ against Savage takes the cake for being a good story well-told. ‘Macho Man’ captured the title from the villainous Dibiase, kicking off a year-long storyline that saw him drop it to Hogan at the following year’s event.
WrestleMania 5: Mr Perfect vs Blue Blazer (1989)
One of the most exciting five minute matches ever staged, Perfect and Owen ‘Blue Blazer’ Hart combined for an incredible wrestling match. The smooth, athletic exchanges were a world away from the heavily-muscled throwdowns elsewhere on the card. This match was small, but perfectly formed.
WrestleMania 6: Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior (1990)
‘The Ultimate Challenge’ felt like the biggest moment wrestling had ever seen back in 1990.
The match is better than it had any right to be, considering the Ultimate one’s untidy ring style and Hogan’s reliance on style over substance. The pair exchanged dramatic power moves in front of a red-hot Toronto crowd before Warrior was declared victorious. A star-making moment, despite Hogan admitting to trying to usurp Warrior in the aftermath when he handed his WWE title belt to the new champion.
WrestleMania 7: Randy Savage vs Ultimate Warrior (1991)
Another entry for the superb Savage, his retirement match with Warrior was even better than the latter’s Hogan bout. Savage hit five of his signature elbow drops on Warrior, but it was not enough to put the man from Parts Unknown away. Savage lost the bout and his career, but reunited with his wife and former manager Miss Elizabeth in an emotional aftermath. This being wrestling, the retirement wouldn’t last a year.
WrestleMania 8: Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart (1992)
A rare example of two babyface superstars meeting in a major match, this one brilliantly played upon the idea of Piper returning to his heel persona. At one point, the ‘Rowdy Scot’ picks up the ring bell and ruminates on hitting Bret with it. The crowd implore him not to and he remains on the side of the light, deciding to fight a fair fight. Hart would win the match, but Piper won the heart of every fan in the building.
WrestleMania 9: Steiner Brothers vs Headshrinkers (1993)
Infamously thought of as the worst ‘Mania of all time, the Roman Empire-themed ninth instalment is not without its charms. This hoss-fight was the best of the bunch, as the two giant teams hammered each other with stiff shots throughout. A real hidden gem.
WrestleMania 10 : Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon (1994)
The first televised Ladder Match in WWE history, ‘HBK’ and ‘The Bad Guy’ immediately perfected this new artform. A high-octane stunt-fest, it would inspire legions of imitators and millions of admirers. The moment Michaels first asserted himself as ‘Mr WrestleMania’.
WrestleMania 11: Lawrence ‘LT’ Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow (1995)
‘The Granddaddy of Them All’ had long been characterised by celebrity appearances, but NFL star ‘LT’ became the first famous outsider to actually wrestle a match on the show since Mr T at the inaugural event. He did stunningly well, helped in no small part by legendary big man Bam Bam. A surprisingly entertaining and athletic contest worthy of its headline slot.
WrestleMania 12: Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels (1996)
This sixty-minute Iron Man match is perhaps the most divisive in ‘Mania history. Classic to some, hour-long bore to others, it is definitely one for the purist. But if you appreciate technical excellence, thoughtful pacing and slow-build storytelling then this is one to savour. Michaels’ crowning moment as WWE Champion pointed the way for the company’s next two years.
WrestleMania 13: Bret Hart vs ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (1997)
Another masterclass from ‘The Hitman’, so much was accomplished during perhaps the greatest WrestleMania match of them all. Austin’s bloodied face as he passes out in Bret’s Sharpshooter hold is one of wrestling’s great visuals, and the double-turn finish set up Austin to take WWE into the mainstream stratosphere.
WrestleMania 14: Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie vs New Age Outlaws (1998)
This chaotic, violent Dumpster Match sums up the excesses of the Attitude Era. The stipulation was ridiculous, with victory coming once one team had put the other literally in the bin. But hardcore veterans Terry Funk and Mick Foley combined brilliantly as rivals turned partners in a memorable outing.
WrestleMania 15: Shane McMahon vs X-Pac (1999)
X-Pac was one of the most consummately skilled high-flyers of the decade, Shane McMahon was the boss’ son. This match should not have been as good as it was, but the pair combined to put on a real humdinger. The crowd were with this one every step of the way, as McMahon of the evil Corporation went up against X-Pac, representing the wildly-popular D-Generation X faction.
WrestleMania 16: The Hardy Boyz vs The Dudley Boyz vs Edge and Christian (2000)
A three-way Ladder Match that kicked off an incredible era of tag team wrestling. The three teams incorporated chairs and tables along with the ladders, expanding the scope of a match type that had stayed relatively unchanged since Razor and Shawn six years before. This dangerous but viscerally exciting battle would end up spawning the TLC Match.
WrestleMania 17: ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs The Rock (2001)
The main event of the greatest Mania there ever was, between the two biggest stars the industry has ever produced. If you ever want to show someone what pro wrestling is all about, this 28 minute corker is the ideal place to start. The Attitude Era peaked here, and the Austin heel turn was a watershed in wrestling’s popularity.
WrestleMania 18: Hollywood Hogan vs The Rock (2002)
Hulk was in his villainous ‘Hollywood’ persona here, wearing the black and white of the New World Order. The crowd of 68,000 in the same Toronto Skydome that had witnessed his classic with Warrior didn’t care. They partied like it was 1986, cheering Hogan vociferously as he battled The Rock in a generational dream match.
WrestleMania 19: Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho (2003)
A lot of water had passed under the bridge since Michaels’ last WrestleMania outing. ‘HBK’ had spent four years out of the ring with what appeared to be a career-ending back injury. His return had been a runaway success, and this classic with ‘Y2J’, a wrestler very much in his own brash image, was his best match since his 1990s heyday.
WrestleMania 20 : Chris Benoit vs Triple H vs Shawn Michaels (2004)
Chris Benoit had always been judged too small and not bombastic enough to reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. But fans had rallied behind the Canadian, and his title victory at the 20th ‘Mania was rapturously received at the time. The 2007 double-murder suicide that saw Benoit take the lives of his wife, son and then himself will forever cast a shadow over a match and a career that WWE have effectively erased.
WrestleMania 21: Shawn Michaels vs Kurt Angle (2005)
A dream pairing, Michaels’ high-flying style meshed with Angle’s mat-based ring savvy perfectly. Michaels’ spectacular splash through a table on Angle is the definition of the company’s much-loved “WrestleMania Moment” tagline.
WrestleMania 22: Mick Foley vs Edge (2006)
A brutal hardcore encounter, you are unlikely ever to see something like this in a WWE ring again. Barbed wire, blood and brawling punctuated this gripping fight. The ending saw Edge spear Foley through a table that had been lit on fire. A horror film made flesh.
WrestleMania 23: Undertaker vs Batista (2007)
‘Taker’s ‘Mania undefeated streak would go on to become the yearly highlight of the annual showpiece. Arguably that status was crystallised here, as ‘The Animal’ took ‘The Deadman to the limit in this high-stakes near-fall festival for the World Heavyweight Championship.
WrestleMania 24: Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels (2008)
An emotional farewell to an icon, 16-time world champion ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair went toe-to-toe with the ‘Heartbreak Kid’ in his final WWE outing. The closing sequence, featuring Michaels’ “I’m sorry, I love you” dialogue, is one of the most famous in WWE history.
WrestleMania 25: Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker (2009)
The start of a storyline that unfolded across four WrestleManias, Michaels and Undertaker combined to put on a classic that tops many lists of the best matches ever. Even a hair-raising ringside dive onto a cameraman that saw ‘The Deadman’ fall on his head could not derail this lesson in wrestling excellence.
WrestleMania 26: Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker (2010)
WWE went back to the well again for a rematch, this time with Michaels’ career on the line. While it did not reach the heights of the previous year, this was a fitting last outing at the event for the man they call ‘Mr WrestleMania’.
WrestleMania 27: Undertaker vs Triple H (2011)
A chaotic and wild brawl, ‘The Game’ fought Undertaker to a standstill, but it still was not enough to end the vaunted streak. ‘Taker being helped backstage by medical staff, unable to leave under his own steam, was a plot thread that the company picked up a year later
WrestleMania 28: Undertaker vs Triple H (2012)
Billed as ‘The End of an Era’, this Hell in a Cell collision was refereed by Shawn Michaels, bringing the four-Mania storyline to a close. It was the most dramatic of conclusions, with Undertaker’s kick-out of a Michaels superkick followed by a Triple H pedigree becoming an all-time great near-fall.
29: Undertaker vs CM Punk (2013)
His feud with D-Generation X might have been over, but Undertaker still knew how to light up the big occasion. This time CM Punk stood across the ring, as the charismatic ‘Best in the World’ duked it out with ‘The Deadman’. At this point, Undertaker winning at WrestleMania felt like a foregone conclusion. Little did anyone know it would be the last win of the 21-match streak.
30: Daniel Bryan vs Triple H & Daniel Bryan vs Batista and Randy Orton (2014)
Bryan was involved in one of the most compelling WrestleMania stories ever, as his dispute with The Authority played out throughout the show. First, he had to beat Triple H to gain entry into the show’s WWE Championship main event. Bryan then beat Helmsley’s Evolution cohorts Batista and Orton to lift the title. The show-long tale was captivating, and minted Daniel Bryan as a main event talent.
31: Sting vs Triple H (2015)
‘The Stinger’ made his WWE in-ring debut in this fantastic nostalgia-fest. From Triple H’s ‘Terminator’ entrance, complete with Arnie cameo, to the interference from D-Generation X and the NWO, this was a pure trip down memory lane. Triple H winning was the wrong result, but how they got there was tremendous fun.
32: Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles (2016)
Echoing his ‘Mania 19 effort with Michaels, Jericho squared up to a relative newcomer cut from the same cloth. The pair had formed a short-lived but well-received tag team dubbed ‘Y2AJ’, but their break-up was even more entertaining. This match went big on the sort of thrilling action you’d expect from these two.
33: Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar (2017)
A whole new generation had been introduced to Goldberg when he returned from a 12-year hiatus to defeat Lesnar in 85 seconds. This rematch was under five minutes, but played out like a wrestling version of Hagler/Hearns. A short, sharp shock of hard-hitting violence, and the finest match of Goldberg’s comeback.
34: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (2018)
A vehicle to establish UFC legend Ronda Rousey in the world of professional wrestling, this mixed tag match worked like a charm. Triple H worked overtime, bumping selflessly for ‘Rowdy’ Ronda, while Stephanie played a brilliantly evil foil. The perfect way to introduce a new superstar.
35: Kofi Kingston vs Daniel Bryan (2019)
A clever inversion of the way he won the title five ‘Manias before, Bryan was in the role of villain this time. Kingston was now the under-valued but beloved superstar on the cusp of greatness. The New Day member’s title victory was a moment of pure blissful catharsis.
36: The Boneyard Match (2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic forcing WrestleMania behind closed doors meant WWE had to get creative. They knocked it out of the park with their idea for AJ Styles’ grudge match with the Undertaker. The pair fought on-location at a graveyard, as ‘Taker returned to his much-missed ‘American Badass’ biker character for one last ride. To date this is Undertaker’s final match, and it was the perfect way to go out.
37: Roman Reigns vs Edge vs Daniel Bryan (2021)
Sometimes the best stories are the easiest to follow. Reigns was (and still is to this day) the Universal Champion, and Edge and Daniel Bryan wanted to beat him for it. This no-fuss premise made for a gripping night of action, as the three men vied to take home the title in a match packed with exciting and believable false-finishes.