House of Hangman

HoH: The Ultimate WrestleMania Card?

As we’re all getting ready for the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania 24, I thought to myself; “What would make the ultimate Wrestlemania?” As I thought about this some more, I thought about how some people, to get in the mood, would watch old Wrestlemania cards and use them to get hyped up. So with that in mind, I decided to compile which matches from each of the previous Wrestlemania events would, in my opinion, make it onto the imaginary WWE DVD release, ‘The Best of Wrestlemania: The Ultimate Wrestlemania Card’.

As we’re all getting ready for the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania 24, I thought to myself; “What would make the ultimate Wrestlemania?”

As I thought about this some more, I thought about how some people, to get in the mood, would watch old Wrestlemania cards and use them to get hyped up. So with that in mind, I decided to compile which matches from each of the previous Wrestlemania events would, in my opinion, make it onto the imaginary WWE DVD release, ‘The Best of Wrestlemania: The Ultimate Wrestlemania Card’.

The premise of the “DVD” is that each of the previous twenty-three Wrestlemanias have one match on the play list; either the best match on the card or the one contest that made Wrestlemania so-and-so into something memorable.

If only we had Slipknot to serenade us with “America the Beautiful” before the feature begins…

Wrestlemania – March 31st 1985

The original Wrestlemania was a huge milestone in professional wrestling, but it was also a huge milestone in the role of Pay-Per-View in professional wrestling.

Held in what is considered WWE’s home arena, Madison Square Garden, this show had a WWE Tag-Team Title change, the Intercontinental Title defended and a mega-hyped celebrity crossover for a main event… and it’s this main event that begins our retrospective.

Ignoring the celebrities on hand (Cindi Lauper, Liberace and Ali), this match was the culmination of a lot of preparation. It’s Hulk Hogan and the A-Team’s Mr.T (with jimmy Smuka in their corner) versus Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (with “Cowboy” Bob Orton in their corner).

The fans were at a fever-pitch for this match, and the wrestlers didn’t disappoint. The seconds and the special referee (Ali) did their jobs without overshadowing the contest and Mr.T, as a non-wrestler, didn’t embarrass himself either.

For those who have only seen Roddy Piper in his recent WWE appearances, it’s hard to fathom how loathed a heel the man was, ditto with Bob “Randy is my son” Orton and his ever-present cast on his arm. As for Piper’s partner, Paul Orndorff was a vastly underrated talent who deserved more from his career than having his last decent run in a team with Paul Roma.

The match was good, the finish was heated and it did what every good PPV main-event should; close the door on one rivalry and start the wheels in motion for the next. Orndorff became a face due to being berated by Piper and Orton for losing the fall to Hogan. In fact, he went on to team with Hogan for awhile and feud with his former associates.

This match is what was used to sell the original show, and it didn’t disappoint.

Wrestlemania 2 – April 7th 1986

Held (on a Monday???) in three separate locations (New York, Illinois and California), this show had three main-event matches, which is the norm now, but was virtually unheard of back then.

There were some decent matches on the card, including the infamous NFL v WWE battle royal that was won by Andre the Giant when he lastly eliminated Bret Hart, as well as the main-event matches themselves.

New York was headlined by a worked boxing match between Roddy Piper and Mr.T in a semi-rematch from the first Wrestlemania, California (as well as the entire show) ended with the cage match that pitted a young King Kong Bundy trying to win the WWE World Title from Hulk Hogan (in a vastly overlooked match) and Illinios was headlined by The British Bulldogs taking on The Dream Team for the WWE World Tag Team Championship… and it’s this match that takes the second slot on our list.

Tag matches are a lost art in today’s WWE, but back in the mid- to late-eighties, tag team wrestling was something to be proud of. The British Bulldogs are arguably the best team in pro-wrestling history, having had success in Europe, the US, Canada and Japan, and outside their feud with The Hart Foundation, this was the greatest night of their careers.

The Dream Team, comprised of Greg Valentine and (a pre-Barber) Brutus Beefcake, were managed by Johnny Valiant and were also the reigning champs. The Bulldogs weren’t long with “The Federation”, but had been making a good reputation for themselves by putting on great matches and showing the fans things they hadn’t seen before. Captain Lou Albano was in the ‘Dogs corner, and with him being the most successful tag-team manager in history, the odds were in the faces favour.

The action was fast and frantic, with everyone looking good throughout, and the finish was inspired genius. Dynamite is on the second rope on the outside and Davey Boy simply grabs the head of Valentine and rams it, full-speed, into Dynamite’s skull (sending the Englishman to the floor). Greg is out cold and the most successful British wrestler in US wrestling history covered for the pin and the titles.

The Bulldogs deserved the titles and with some great feuds against the former champions, The Hart Foundation and others, helped keep the titles as something worth having. I sometimes find myself wondering what heights the team would have reached had Dynamite stayed healthy.

Wrestlemania III – March 29th 1987

The most famous PPV in wrestling history needs no introduction. An awesome attendance (inflated figure or not) was on hand to witness the match, and the moment, that is Wrestlemania; Andre the Giant, “undefeated in 15yrs”, being slammed and then pinned by Hulk Hogan. It was, and still is, the pinnacle of one wrestler passing the torch to another.

Wrestlemania III some good matches on the undercard, but everything was overshadowed by the aforementioned main event.

Andre was the good guy, the gentle giant, who was happy for Hulk Hogan, his best friend, and the way his title reign was going. This didn’t last though, as Bobby Heenan got in Andre’s ear and started to turn him against the champion.

The last straw was when Hogan was presented a trophy to celebrate the length of his current run as the WWE kingpin and then Andre was given a (slightly) smaller trophy in honour of being undefeated for a decade and a half.

Hulk came out to congratulate his friend, but when the promo became focused on Hogan, the colossus simply walked off, leaving the announcers and the champion dumbfounded… but not for long. Hogan was a guest on Piper’s Pit when Andre came out with Heenan in tow and issued a challenge for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania.

Hulk was shocked and in disbelief, so Andre ripped of his t-shirt and crucifix to show how serious he was. The match was set and it took on a life of its own. 93,000+ (allegedly) showed up in Detroit to witness history, and truth be told, the match itself isn’t that great, but it is the perfect example of hype and spectacle overcoming in-ring shortcomings.

A short match that ended with the “slam heard around the world” followed by the leg drop was all that anyone really remembers, but the ramifications of that match live on today, and will probably be a featured highlight when Wrestlemania 50 rolls around.

Wrestlemania IV – March 27th 1988

The first of two consecutive ‘Manias to be held at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Wrestlemania IV was dominated by a tournament to crown a new WWE Champion after the Andre/DiBiase/Hebner twins screw job that took place on the 5th February edition of The Main Event (normally Saturday Night‘s Main Event, but this aired on a Friday), the most watched wrestling show in the history of television with an audience of 33million viewers (15.2 rating).

The tournament obviously was the focal point of the show, but there were other matches outside of it, including the ‘Mania debut of The Ultimate Warrior as he took on Hercules in a poor match, Beefcake v Honky Tonk Man for the IC belt and a 20-man battle royal that was the catalyst for the Hart Foundation face turn.

There was one other match on the card outside of the tournament, and that was the WWE Tag Title match between Demolition and Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel); and it’s this match that takes the honours from this event.

The team of Strike Force were the Hardy Boyz of their day; young, good-looking and with some nice moves inside the ring to keep the crowd excited.

By contrast, Demolition were a revelation; not the prettiest, they were dressed in studded leather chaps, gloves and masks for their entrance to one of the greatest themes ever. Once in the ring, the leather is removed to reveal scarily painted faces and a clubbing style that stood them out from the pack.

Strike Force had won the belts from The Hart Foundation and gave a good accounting of themselves here, but Demolition had Mr. Fuji in their corner, and it was the Oddjob Mini-Me who made all the difference as his can was smashed (no pun intended) across the back of Martel as he had Smash in the Boston Crab.

The match was great and is another indication of how Vince does know how to run a successful tag division when he wants to.

Wrestlemania V – April 2nd 1989

For the second year in a row we’re back in Trumps Plaza, and the main story going into the show is the breakdown between the Mega Powers of Hulk Hogan and the WWE Champion, Randy Savage. Savage was having a great run as champion, but was becoming jealous of the relationship between his manager (and off-screen wife) Elizabeth and Hogan. This boiled over when an enraged Macho Man attacked Hogan backstage as Liz lay on a gurney (she’d been taken out by Savage during a match against The Twin Towers).

The title match dominated the show, as it should, but there was some decent outings in the undercard. The Rockers took on The Twin Towers, Demolition v Powers of Pain & Mr. Fuji, Brain Busters v Strike Force and Mr. Perfect v The Blue Blazer. There was also some dross as well (I’m looking at you Bobby Heenan v Red Rooster and the Jim Duggan/Bad News Brown double-DQ). But above all of those, there was the Intercontinental Title match between Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior,

Both men had contested a pose-down at the Royal Rumble (“won” by Warrior) and now found themselves facing off at the biggest show of the year for the company’s second title. Rude performed miracles and managed to get a pretty good match out of the muscle-bound champion, actually managing to inflict the first pinfall loss of Warrior’s WWE career when he reversed a suplex attempt into a body-press and Rick’s manager, Bobby Heenan, held the champ’s feet out of sight of the referee.

“Ravishing” Rick Rude, as revered a talent as he is, deserved more credit than he gets in my opinion, and this match is proof of that. When you look at the people who got good matches out of The Ultimate Warrior, the list is damn short (Savage, Hogan, Rude), so with that alone, he showed how good he was.

Wrestlemania VI – April 1st 1990

If ever there was a one-match card, it was this one. Wrestlemania VI is Hogan v Warrior, Champion v Champion, and nothing else. Sure, there were other matches to watch, but none of them were given any time and served more as an excuse to get people on the show rather than to have enthralling contests.

Also at the event were Shane McMahon (referee for the Paul Roma/Brooklyn Brawler dark match) and Diamond Dallas Page (who drove the pink Cadillac, which actually belonged to Page, for Rhythm & Blues); two men who went on to bigger things in WWE and actually got to perform at the event years later.

But enough about the plebeians, this is about which match makes it onto our DVD, and for that, there can only be one winner… Hulk Hogan being pinned cleanly, for the first time since his return from the AWA, by The Ultimate Warrior.

The match wasn’t a technical masterpiece (and anyone expecting it to be shouldn’t be watching wrestling), but the two men (Hogan in particular) showed the world that you don’t need to do flips and chain-wrestle for twenty-five minutes straight to captivate a crowd.

Want an example? Hogan and Warrior did the test-of-strength spot for around five or six minutes and had the fans on the edge of their seats throughout. How many wrestlers do you know could get away with that?

The match is the second-best Warrior match of all time, and Hogan was unselfish throughout the bout, including having his finish countered for the first time. Hulk passed the torch to Warrior (even though some people claimed he tried to steal it back straight away), but the man who was supposed to lead the WWE into its next phase simply wasn’t up to the job.

But that doesn’t matter, because on this night, with this match, Warrior had reached the pinnacle of his profession in a thrilling manner.

On another note, Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon deserve a massive amount of credit for their commentary during this match. Ventura, much like JBL during his run as an announcer, was awesome at putting both heels and faces over without betraying his own heel roots, and in this match he excelled himself.

Wrestlemania VII – March 31st 1991

Supposed to emanate from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where Vince McMahon had hoped to draw in excess of 100,000 fans for the event. Now, depending on who you believe, the show was switched to the much smaller Memorial Sports Arena (drawing a relatively paltry 16,000) because of either poor ticket sales or because of the very real threat of harm coming to Sgt. Slaughter, who had suddenly abandoned his patriotic ways and become an Iraqi sympathiser. Whichever way you want to go with your reason, there was one thing that happened between Slaughter’s turn and Wrestlemania VII; the end of the first Gulf War.

Vince used the Gulf War as Slaughter’s main weapon to get heat from the crowd, but even the great God of wrestling himself can’t control the world outside his company’s grasp, so he was powerless to do anything as Kuwait was liberated and the war with Iraq came to an end a few months before the biggest show of the year.

Unperturbed, Vince went ahead with the storyline anyway (which he should be credited for, as nowadays stories are dropped with no explanation on a regular basis) and had Sarge win the WWE title from The Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble… and it’s the situation surrounding that match that leads us into 1991’s entry on our compilation.

Warrior had won the title from Hogan at Wrestlemania VI and had defended it against all challengers (including a barn-burner in a cage against Rick Rude). Things were going smoothly until he defended the belt against the veteran drill-sergeant in a match that Warrior was expected to win with ease… only thing is, no-one told the Macho King about this turn of events. One sceptre to the head later and we had a new champion the fans could despise… and more importantly, someone who could drop to Hogan in what was supposed to be the first showing of America overcoming the Iraqi nation.

Warrior v Randy Savage was added to the Wrestlemania card, with the added provision of it being a retirement match. Whoever lost the fall would also have their career terminated on the spot.

To add to the emotion on show, Miss Elizabeth was in the crowd to watch her former client do battle, allowing Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan to milk the relationship for all it’s worth. Sherri Martel was Savage’s new queen, but the whole world wanted him to get back with Elizabeth, so the scene was set.

From the opening bell, the fans were on their feet. With the tension in the air and the habit of stipulations being ignored yet to become the norm, there was the real feel that one of these guys would be hanging up the boots for good.

For just over 20mins, the two men stole the show and had Warrior’s greatest ever match. Warrior, at one point, almost walked out (while talking to his hands) when Savage kicked out of his Gorilla Press Drop/Splash combo. Not to be outdone though, Warrior followed that by taking FIVE top-rope elbows from Randy (expertly sold by both Warrior and the commentators) and then kicking out of the cover, causing the fans to erupt for the final exchange.

Warrior landed some hard shots and then smashed into his opponent with a series of charging shoulder blocks and a one-foot cover. It wasn’t all bad news for the Macho King though, as Elizabeth ran-in to save him from a Sherri Martel beat-down. Following that, the couple reunited and ended up having an on-screen wedding at that year’s Summerslam.

This match is still my favourite Wrestlemania match of all time, with Wrestlemania VII still being my favourite Wrestlemania too. This card had some great matches, with The Hart Foundation (in their last match as a team for many, many years) losing the tag belts to The Nasty Boys being a highlight. Add in The Big Bossman v Mr. Perfect, the ‘Mania debut of The Undertaker, Power & Glory being crushed by the debuting L.O.D. (which, as a fan of P&G, annoyed me, but with L.O.D. in the fold, things should have picked up) and a nice little power match between The British Bulldog and The Warlord and you have yourself a damn good undercard. Demolition were embarrassed, but we did get the only decent blindfold match in the history of the sport.

Wrestlemania VIII – April 5th 1992

Let’s not beat around the bush; this card sucked. Of the nine matches on the card, only three of them are worth watching; Piper v Bret, HBK v Santana and the WWE title match between Savage and Flair.

In the opener, Shawn Michaels had his first real test as a singles star and lived up to expectation. With the WWE title match, expectation was through the roof, and again, the two men didn’t disappoint… but both matches were overshadowed by the Intercontinental Title match between Roddy Piper and Bret Hart.

Both men cut an awesome promo earlier in the night where they talked about their (legit) family friendship and how that would be put aside for tonight. They then went out and had an incredibly heated match. Bret, busted up and bleeding badly, looked to be down and out. Piper had retrieved the ring bell and was going to smack his opponent. This was something the Piper of old would have done without blinking, but this was a new, fan-friendly, Roddy Piper, so he abandoned the bell and slapped on his patented sleeper hold instead… and sealed his own fate. Bret clambered the buckles and kicked back, rolled over and planted his feet (neck bent at an awful angle) and became the first person to ever pin Hotrod in a WWE ring (the move would be repeated at the 1996 Survivor Series against Steve Austin and the Million Dollar Dream).

After the contest was over, a visibly knackered Hart was at the mercy of the former champion, but he had nothing to worry about; Piper handed the IC belt to Bret and helped the man who cost him his title to the back to a great ovation.

You can’t polish a turd, but you can sometimes find something nice encased in all the crap.

Wrestlemania IX April 4th 1993

Wrestlemania IX, the show that is usually voted as the worst ‘Mania in the history of the event. It’s hard to argue, what with the togas and Giant Gonzales, but there were some decent outings on show. Steiners v Headshrinkers was ok, as was Tatanka v HBK, but the rest of the card was either boring or just outright pathetic, especially considering the names that were on the show (Hogan, Beefcake, DiBiase, IRS, Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon, etc).

The best match on the card by a mile was the opener; an 18min Intercontinental title defence with the undefeated Tatanka taking on the cocky Shawn Michaels. They had a great match that (not unlike the recent December to Dismember debacle) only led to the expectations of the fans to go unmet.

That the best match on the card was an intentional count-out tells you a lot about the show itself, but also how good Tatanka and Shawn (and their respective valets, Sherri and Luna Vachon) did with the time they had.

Wrestlemania X – March 20th 1994

For the tenth instalment, we return to Madison Square Garden, and the good news is that, after to really shambolic Wrestlemanias, things get back on track.

With only nine matches on the card (and the fact that the lesser matches were all given little time), the higher-profile contests were allowed to tell a story slowly.

Bret v Owen was a technical stunner that lasted 20mins and is easily the crowning moment of the now deceased Owen’s career. Savage and Crush had the first ever “Falls Count Anywhere” (with the added stip of the man pinned having to get back to the ring within sixty seconds or lose) match in WWE history and had a blast with the time (just under 10mins) they were given. Oh, and Mr. Perfect showed the younger guys how to execute a subtle heel turn when he disqualified Lex Luger in his attempt to wrest the WWE title from Yokozuna.

My pick of the show though, predictable as it is, was the ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon.

Both men were claiming to be the rightful Intercontinental champion (it’s amazing how many of these matches, so far anyway, have been about the IC title), with HBK never having actually lost the belt (he was stripped for no-showing defences) and Razor winning the vacant title by lasting to the final two in a battle royal and then defeating Rick Martel (the other battle royal winner) in a singles match for the gold.

Both men claimed to be the champ and both men had title belts, so Jack Tunney did the only thing he could, he arranged a match between the two, hung both belts above the ring and decreed that the first person to climb a ladder and grab both titles would be the undisputed Intercontinental champion.

Contrary to opinion, this is not the first ladder match WWE put on (although it was the first televised ladder match in WWE), but it kick-started a new era (although the next ladder match wouldn’t take place for until June 1995, where Jeff Jarrett successfully retained the IC title against Razor).

Both men gave their all, although the action would be considered tame by today’s standards, especially after Kevin Nash (as Diesel) was ejected from ringside. The ref’s decision to remove Shawn’s hired-help was a great one in hindsight because it allowed everyone to focus on the in-ring action with no diversions.

The match was thrilling, with the fans on the edge of their seats, and the finish was well worked. Shawn is trapped in the ropes by his leg and is struggling to free himself. Razor is climbing the ladder to get the belts before that can happen. As Ramon is two or three rungs from success, Shawn finally gets his leg out… but the action of his leg releasing the pressure on the ropes traps his arm instead. Razor then takes the last few steps and grabs both belts to a thunderous reception.

A tame ladder match to today’s fans as I said, but without the success of this, there would have been no TLC, no Joey Mercury having his face caved in and definitely no Money in the Bank match. Think about that when you’re watching Shelton Benjamin do something stupid tonight.

Wrestlemania XI – April 2nd 1995

Oh dear. The recovery made by Wrestlemania X was for nothing, because this show is my pick for the worst Wrestlemania of all time.

Ramon v Jarrett was ok, as was the surprising return of Yokozuna as the partner of Owen Hart (who was quite the tag specialist from this point on), but the rest of the card stunk to high heaven. Not even Bret v Bob Backlund could do anything to prevent apathy creeping through.

You know you’re in trouble when the best match on the card is the celebrity/real sports star v wrestler match, but full credit to Lawrence Taylor (as well as Bam Bam and Pat Patterson) for doing a great job in his only wrestling match.

The story of this match begins at the 1995 Royal Rumble. Bam Bam Bigelow was teaming with Tatanka (as part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation) against Bob (Hardcore) Holly and The 1-2-3 Kid in the finals of a tag tournament to crown new champions.

DiBiase’s team were expected to run over the smaller rookies, but it didn’t happen, and LT (who was in the crowd) thought it was funny. Bam Bam didn’t think it was funny, so shoved the American Footballer onto his behind. All of which leads us to this point.

The commentary team of Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon drilled it into us that Lawrence had been training with Diesel, the current WWE Champion, in preparation for the bout. He was also accompanied by a cadre of football players (one of whom, Steve McMichael, actually became a pro-wrestler and, among other things, became a Horseman and won the WCW US title) to combat the presence of Bam Bam’s stablemates at ringside.

The match was pretty basic, and LT was helped a great deal, but it came of sweetly, with Taylor absorbing both Bigelow’s diving headbutt and moonsault. The finish was a series of brutal looking surging forearms to the chin of Bam Bam followed by a diving forearm from the second rope that kept “The Beast from the East” down for the three-count.

Taylor, Mongo and the rest wouldn’t be seen in WWE again, while Bigelow was swiftly ejected from DiBiase’s camp and turned face. A run as Diesel’s friend/tag partner was pretty good, but eventually Bigelow would go to ECW and the best run of his career.

Wrestlemania XII – March 31st 1996

This was another ‘Mania that wasn’t all that good. The main-event was a really poor match due to the fact they went an hour without any falls. I’ve heard people say that if it had to go to overtime, why not have them score two or three falls each and still go with the planned finish? It would have at least woken the fans up a bit (although, to be fair, the final 10-15mins were exciting).

Add in a confusing mess between Goldust and Piper, Triple H being massacred by The Warrior (if anyone questions why Hunter is so protective of his spot, I recommend they watch this and read up on the aftermath of the “Curtain Call” incident), and you have a PPV of two halves.

Six matches on the card, and only three of them are worth watching. Diesel v Undertaker, Camp Cornette (Vader, Bulldog and Owen) v Jake Roberts, Ahmed Johnson and Yokozuna and the Wrestlemania debuts of Savio Vega and Steve Austin.

Savio Vega was a wrestler who was ok, and Steve Austin had yet to hit his stride, but when they were placed together, it just worked. This match was an intense 10mins, and showed that Steve Austin can handle the big shows. The finish was a great example of that as “The Ringmaster” (Austin hadn’t cooled enough to be Stone Cold yet) smashed the Million Dollar Belt into Savio’s head with a ferociousness absent from this era of WWE television. The fact he applied the Million Dollar Dream wrong at the end wasn’t a big deal; Steve Austin had won his Wrestlemania debut and was on the way up (although it would take another few months for that to happen).

Steve and Savio continued to feud (with the Puerto Rican apparently being the first to taste the Stone Cold Stunner) until they had a strap-match at IYH8, with the proviso that should Austin lose, DiBiase had to leave the company. It was adios Ted and hello the single biggest superstar in the history if the business.

Wrestlemania 13 – March 23rd 1997

The first Wrestlemania to ditch the Roman numerals since Wrestlemania 2 is spoken of with the same ire as numbers IX and XI, but there is still some good stuff hiding away in here.

Owen Hart & The Bulldog (who were a fantastic team) had a blistering heel-on-heel tag title defence against Vader & Mankind, L.O.D. teamed with Ahmed Johnson to take on the Nation of Domination (Crush, Faarooq and Savio Vega) in a heated streetfight, and Undertaker won the WWE title from Sid in a decent big-man bout that, while no par to his match last year, was one of Undi’s better Wrestlemania contests.

But even if every other match on this card was comprised of ultimate stinkers, the show would still be worth buying for one reason, Steve Austin v Bret Hart in a submission match, refereed by UFC and shoot fighting legend, Ken Shamrock.

If this list was ever actually made into a DVD, I would have this match featured as prominently as possible. It had the perfect blend of storytelling, compelling action with two believable wrestlers and a referee who was considered the best fighter on the planet at that time.

The enduring image of the bout is Steve Austin, head split after colliding with the guardrail, trapped in the sharpshooter and trying to fight his way out. Stone Cold’s face clenched with pain and determination as blood pours down and drips to the floor until he finally powers Bret away and escapes the hold… only for Hart to keep the legs locked, roll back and reapply the hold. This time, Austin can’t escape and passes out from the pain.

Shamrock gets down and asks Steve if he wants to quit, but gets no answer. He asks again, adding that if Austin doesn’t respond, he’s stopping the fight. He doesn’t respond, so after 22mins of heart-stopping action, Shamrock taps Bret to let him know and then calls for the bell.

The match has been a belter, but the drama isn’t over. The fans are applauding the effort of both men, but Bret, still inflamed at the comments and actions of Steve Austin in the lead-up to the match, and still being cheered by the fans in attendance, starts to kick at the legs of his defeated opponent some more. Shamrock orders Hart to desist, but as the fans boo loudly, the Canadian ignores the referee’s instructions.

Shamrock finally snaps, waistlocks Bret Hart, throws him to the ground and then takes up his fighting stance. Hart, wisely, rolls to the floor and walks out of the arena to a chorus of boos, his heel turn well on its way. Austin, the heel, struggles to his feet, stuns a second referee and limps up the aisle, limping and bleeding, to a respectful round of applause and a huge chant of “Austin”, his face turn well on its way.

The success of the Attitude Era can be traced to this exact moment.

Wrestlemania XIV – March 29th 1998

This event was a step up from the previous years and heralded a run of good form that (apart from XV) has lasted until this day. Highlights of the fourteenth Wrestlemania include the crowning of Steve Austin as the WWE Champion when he pinned Shawn Michaels in HBK’s last match for over four years, Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie in a fun “Dumpster Match” (although the following night’s cage match was better) and the first in-ring confrontation between Undertaker and his brother (we hadn’t discovered the half-brother story yet). Some of the other matches on the card (Rock v Shamrock and TAKA Michinoku v Aguila) would have been better if they were given more time than they were (5mins and 6mins respectively).

Most people will say that I should pick Austin v Michaels for this year’s slot on the DVD, mainly because it was a changing of the guard that heralded in the most lucrative era the business has ever seen… but I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I think that it’s about time The Undertaker was featured, and as this is his first truly worthy match in his streak, Undertaker v Kane (part 1) it is.

The background to this goes back a long way. You see, Undertaker had a brother, Kane, who died when the funeral home they lived in burned to the ground. Except, he didn’t die. Paul Bearer saved him from the flames and kept him locked away because of the mental and physical scars inflicted on the poor boy. Bearer then became ‘Taker’s manager and had great success.

The portly manager then betrayed his charge to join up with Mankind in the hope of destroying the “Deadman”, but we all know how that turned out. Desperation set in, so Bearer blurts out that Kane’s alive, much to Undertaker’s disbelief. The entire story is told for the world to hear and the monster himself debuts at IYH18: Badd Blood and costs Undertaker a shot at the WWE title.

Looking at Kane, it’s obvious that Bearer allowed him to work out, obviously trained him to wrestle (which was a lucky coincidence) and taught him the same magic tricks as The Phenom.

The Big Red Machine would cost his brother another opportunity to win the WWE title when he interferes in his casket match against HBK by chokeslamming Undertaker into the coffin and closing the lid. DX leave the area as Bearer and Kane set fire to the casket WITH UNDERTAKER STILL INSIDE (this was the first time it had been done, so the effect was awesome).

After that (and the desecration of their parents’ graves), Undertaker, who had promised to never fight his “flesh and blood” broke his oath and accepted the challenge to fight Kane (walking through a wall of fire in the process), and he would do it at Wrestlemania, where he had amassed a staggering 7-0 win/loss record.

The match was a phenomenal big-man brawl, fought at a methodical pace. Both men hit big moves, including the Tombstone piledriver finish they both shared, and they both kicked out of the move. In fact, Undertaker took the move first and kicked out, Kane went for it again, only for ‘Taker to reverse it into one of his own and dropped his younger brother. The crowd reaction when Kane kicked out of the Tombstone was fantastic, and when he kicked out of a second one, they were on their feet in disbelief.

A third one did keep Kane down long enough for Undertaker to win the match (he kicked out a split-second after the three), but the last laugh went to the man in red, for not only did he start of his Pete Rose tradition before the match began, he also spiked Undertaker with a Tombstone onto a steel chair after the match was over.

‘Taker won the battle, but Kane was letting the world know that this was only the beginning.

Wrestlemania XV – March 28th 1999

1999’s effort was bland for the most part. None of it was offensive, but by the same token, very little of it was memorable either. Bart Gunn being punched into next week by Butterbean was pretty sweet, and nothing need be said about the quality of Austin v Rock, but the card itself lacked punch overall.

I’m not picking Austin v Rock (for reasons you’ll understand later), and as much as I want to pick Butterbean v Bart Gunn, I feel that the “contest” could be added as a DVD extra, so I’m going with X-Pac v Shane McMahon for the European Title.

DX had been feuding with Vince McMahon’s Corporation (with The Rock being the top wrestler of the faction). Chyna had turned on DX and joined the dark side on the first RAW after the 1999 Royal Rumble and had teamed with Kane to face (and beat) the team of X-Pac & HHH.

Shane v X-Pac was the latest in a long line of matches pitting DX against Corporation members, and earlier in the night, DX had scored a great victory when HHH defeated Kane thanks to Chyna turning on the masked man and, to the delight of the fans, rejoining Degeneration X, so when X-Pac came out for his match against the “boy wonder”, the fans were feeling upbeat.

The match took place when X-Pac could still be bothered to put in the effort, and Shane McMahon is one of the best non-workers I’ve seen, so this short bout (just under 9mins) had some nice action. That all pales when it comes to the finish itself though.

Just as it seemed X-Pac was going to win the European Title from Vince’s son, Triple H came into the ring and Pedigreed his stablemate and placed the champion on top.

It was a great double-turn that was played out slowly over the course of two matches and was the genesis for what would eventually become the McMahon-Helmsley era.

Wrestlemania 2000 – April 2nd 2000

Also known as Wrestlemania XVI, this was the second ‘Mania that Undertaker missed with injury (the other being Wrestlemania X) and the only one to have no standard singles matches (the only one-on-one on the card was a sub-three minute catfight between Terri Runnels and The Kat). The card was main-evented by a Four-Way match for the WWE title that was held by Triple H. The Rock and Big Show were in the match due to a convoluted turn of events stemming from the Royal Rumble (Rock won the match, but Show procured footage that showed he had actually won the match. Rock then put his ‘Mania shot on the line and lost it to Big Show because of interference by Shane. Vince got involved and eventually the match was made a three-way).

Mick Foley rounded out the contest, even though he lost a thrilling Hell in a Cell match at February’s No Way Out PPV. Linda McMahon added Mick to the match so he could fulfil his last dream of main-eventing Wrestlemania.

Other good matches on the card include a six-person tag match as Chyna teamed with Too Cool (when they were one of the most over acts in the company) to take on The Radicalz (Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko), Edge & Christian v The Dudleyz v The Hardyz in a the first Triangle Ladder Match (and precursor to the TLC bouts), T&A v Head Cheese (only because of the sight of Al Snow and Steve Blackman wearing massive cheese wedges and the after match assault on Chester McCheeserton), a fun thirteen-man 15 minute match for the Hardcore title (it was called a battle royal, but shared no stipulations with that match) that included the site of Pete Gas winning a title and Tazz managing to win and lose the belt twice. You also had Pete Rose getting beat up by Kane for the third (and final?) time as well as Ice-T looking sharp as he sang The Godfather & D-Lo to the ring.

My pick for the DVD is a two-falls three-way match for both the European and Intercontinental titles. The champion, Kurt Angle, was forced into this match by listening to Bob Backlund, and had to defend against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. The first Euro-Continental Champion (“D-Lo Brown doesn’t count”) put up the IC belt first and lost it when Benoit landed the flying headbutt onto Jericho and pinned him. Kurt then lost the European title when Y2J landed a lionsault and got the 1-2-3 on his fellow Canadian.

The exchanges throughout the contest were awesome, with everything looking like it hurt (which is the point) and the desire to hold a title being the main focus of all three wrestlers. Sometimes bookers seem to forget that to compel the audience, it can be the simplest thing.

The match itself was a great indicator on where the three men in the ring where heading career-wise, with the two winners getting titles, (although Jericho lost the Euro belt to Eddie Guerrero (after Chyna finally succumbed to “the heat”) the next night on RAW) and Angle being kept strong due to not losing either belt directly.

Wrestlemania X-Seven – April 2nd 2001

67,925 were on hand at the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, Texas to witness what many claim to be the best Wrestlemania ever. In their defence, this show does have more than a few good matches.

The main-event match between Rock and Austin was an awesome match with an unexpected heel turn to boot and one of the best pre-match hype videos ever committed to film. Underneath that was a slew of good matches (Benoit v Angle, Undertaker v Triple H (with Hunter being played to the ring by Motorhead), TLC II featuring interference by Rhyno, Spike Dudley and Lita, Shane taking on his father in a compelling streetfight and a crazy Gimmick Battle Royal that was won by The Iron Sheik only because he couldn’t go over the ropes)… and one or two bad ones (Eddie Guerrero v Test that had Test legitimately get his foot caught in the ropes for close to five minutes and Chyna v Ivory for the Women’s Title).

Jericho v Regal and the six-man featuring the APA & Tazz v Right to Censor (Goodfather, Val Venis and Bull Buchanan) were ok, but my pick for the DVD from this show is the hardcore three-way (oo-er) between Raven, Kane & Big Show for the Hardcore Title.

This match had everything a good WWE hardcore match needed; plenty of meaty weapons shots, brawls around ringside and a high-impact finish. But the highlight of the match was when all three went backstage. Firstly, the wrestlers beat each other up a bit with things they could pick up, then Big Show rammed Raven into a (plasterboard) wall and tried to pin him as he held the former ECW champion up.

From there, things went from funny to downright hilarious. All three men jumped into golf carts (don’t ask) and raced their way back to the arena. They were meant to travel to the entranceway, but Raven tipped his cart and then got run over (for real) by Kane coming up behind them. We then had the sight of all three men having to walk the considerable distance back to the stage, where the finish took place. Big Show ended up hurled off the stage, as did Raven, so Kane did what can only be described as a retarded legdrop and got the pin.

The Hardcore Title started out as a great idea, but after the Crash Holly 24/7 crap, it became a laughing stock. Raven at least tried to lift it from these depths (especially in a stormer against Rhyno), but it was to no avail… at least he tried.

Wrestlemania X8 – March 17th 2002

The last ‘Mania to be under the WWF banner was also held quite early in the year. The undercard was particularly strong, with Rob Van Dam winning the IC title from William Regal in a short but hard-hitting (check out the Brit’s Regalplex) match that was the last time the Intercontinental belt was contested for at the event. Also on the card was a Edge v Booker T, ’Taker going 10-0 against Ric Flair in great no-DQ match, Steve Austin v Scott Hall in a match that was beneath Austin at the time, the Hardcore title being fought for throughout the event, Kurt Angle v Kane and one of the best Women’s Title match the WWE has had when Jazz retained against Lita and Trish Stratus thanks to a top-rope Fisherman’s Buster.

The main event was listed as being Triple H v Chris Jericho, it even went on last, but the match that sold the PPV was obvious: The Rock versus Hollywood Hulk Hogan (back in black and causing havoc). Nothing should have went on after the cross-generation match-up, and in hindsight, even HHH will admit that.

Things were set in motion for this contest when Vince brought back the original nWo (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall & Hogan) to destroy the WWE rather than have him share it with 50/50 partner, Ric Flair. At the previous month’s No Way Out, the nWo helped Chris Jericho retain his WWE Undisputed Title against Steve Austin (hence Austin v Hall earlier in the night), but they had also insulted The Rock backstage at the event too.

From there, there were backstage beatdowns and verbal smackdowns as The Rock challenged Hogan to a match at Wrestlemania. One Rock Bottom later and we were on our way. We even had a six-man tag where Hulk actually pinned The Rock cleanly after hitting his legdrop.

An interesting fact surrounding this whole situation is that about one year prior to this all happening WWE Magazine ran Hogan v Rock as their Fantasy Warfare (matches they’d love to see, but will never happen for whatever reason)/

The tension in Toronto was unbelievable as Hogan made his way to the ring, ripped his shirt and flexed the muscles. He was followed by The Rock soon after and the bell was rung.

Both men stood staring at each other for well over a minute (and the crowd watched on with baited breath) before they started circling the ring. A lock-up follows and Hogan throws Rock off with ease… and the crowd roars its approval. Hogan, the uber-heel, is being cheered like it’s 1988, meanwhile The Rock (when he gets the upper hand), top babyface of the company, is being booed like he just mugged a blind kid with no arms, legs and ears that has fallen down a well two days after he became an orphan; the Canadian crowd, at least for tonight, hate The Rock. Fair play to both men though, as the two wrestlers played along and didn’t try to fight the fan reaction.

Hogan was “on” this night, and The Rock was having good matches with just about everyone, so this was (and is) a joy to view, especially as both men had good portions of the match and worked with each other to give everyone who was watching a bout to remember.

This wasn’t the best match in history, but much like Hogan v Warrior twelve years earlier, the atmosphere more than made up for it. Hogan lost, Rock won, but no-one cared. We got to see a dream-match and Hogan returned with the Hulkamania Nostalgia Tour.

This type of situation, this atmosphere is when it’s the most fun to be a wrestling fan.

Wrestlemania XIX – March 30th 2003

Held exactly five years before this year’s event, Wrestlemania XIX was the very definition of a mixed-bag of matches. The opener featuring Matt Hardy defending his Cruiserweight Title (back when it meant something) against Rey Mysterio was good, but could’ve been great if allowed to run longer than the 5:39 it was given. The Undertaker took on A-Train & Big Show in the second worst match of his streak (Giant Gonzales will always have that honour), Team Angle (Haas & Bemjamin) v Los Guerreros (Eddie & Chavo) v Rhyno & Benoit (who, had they stayed a team for longer, were like a new version of the Bret/Anvil incarnation of The Hart Foundation) was good, Hogan/McMahon was great, as was Brock v Angle and (especially) Jericho v Shawn Michaels.

In my opinion, however, this show will always be remembered as Steve Austin’s last actual match, and he would face his long-time nemesis (and someone he had beaten in their two previous Wrestlemania matches); The Rock.

This time though, Rock was an out-and-out heel, a movie star who was better than the fans and better than pro-wrestling… but there was this one monkey on his back; he had never defeated Stone Cold at the biggest show of the all. That had to change.

The Rock v Austin III is my favourite of all their ‘Mania contests because of everything involved with it. The bout as a stand-alone match is excellent, and the finish was one the did no harm to either man (Rock had to hit a third Rock Bottom (two in succession) to pin Steve Austin), and it was good that it was a clean decision too.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Austin retired from active wrestling after this match, but before he did that, he felt he owed Rock one last dance and was happy to go out the way he did.

Next night on RAW, Rocky was ready to hang up the boots as well, seeing as he had done everything there was to do, but that came to a crashing halt when Goldberg made his WWE debut, told The Rock “you’re next” and speared The People’s Champion. The two of them had a match at Backlash were it was Rock’s turn to do the favour (in this case, putting the new guy over) and, for the most part, leave the business behind him.

WWE Films made ‘The Mania of Wrestlemania’, a documentary about the day of Wrestlemania XIX and released it with the following year’s event. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to check it out because it is bloody brilliant and a great insight into what actually goes on during the day of this mammoth event.

Wrestlemania XX – March 14th 2004

The 20th edition of the event returned, once again, to Madison Square Garden and was tagged as “Where it all begins… again” by the company.

In notable events from the show, John Cena made his Wrestlemania debut and won the US Title from The Big Show (Cena, incidentally, is also undefeated at Wrestlemania with a 4-0 record going into Wrestlemania 24), we had the same tag title match twice as both the WWE and World Tag Team Champions retained their belts in Fatal Four-Ways, The Rock & Sock Connection reunited in a losing effort against Evolution (Randy Orton, Ric Flair & Batista) in a poor match, Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar in match that isn’t as bad as you remember and Eddie Guerrero retained the WWE Title against Kurt Angle.

This year though, the main-event stole the show. A Triple Threat for the World Heavyweight Championship contested between Chris Benoit, Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

Benoit’s journey to this spot was brilliantly executed. First he had to enter (and win) the Royal Rumble from the #1 position due to the shenanigans of Smackdown General Manager, Paul Heyman. Not only did Benoit do this, he lastly eliminated The Big Show all by himself in a tense finish to the match (the fans were literally willing Big Show to go over the ropes when Benoit was pulling on a front facelock).

From there, Chris exploited a loophole and jumped to RAW, challenging World Champion Triple H rather than stay on Smackdown and have Paul Heyman interfere with his plans.

The jump upset HBK though, as he wanted another shot at Hunter (they fought to a draw at The Rumble), but Steve Austin (Co-General Manager-slash-Sheriff of RAW) announced that Benoit had jumped ship and would challenge HHH at Wrestlemania.

Shawn took matters into his own hands at the contract signing. The champ had already signed his name on the document, but when Benoit went to sign his name, HBK came out and asked Benoit to reconsider so he could finish his business with his former partner. Chris refused, so Shawn superkicked him and signed his own name on the deal.

Further double-crossing ensued until Austin came out and made the match into a Triple Threat where the winner (and champion) would be the person to score the pinfall or submission.

The match was unbelievable, with the crowd willing Benoit on to victory (it’s a shame that we’ll probably never see this match on any official DVDs that are released in future), with all three men having chances to win the title.

What everyone remembers though, is the finish. Triple H trapped in the Crippler Crossface, HBK out of it on the floor, Hunter is almost at the ropes, but is unable to reach them, so rolls backwards to escape the hold. Benoit follows suit though and ensnares the champ once more. With the entire crowd willing him on (as well as the majority of the TV audience), Benoit cranks on the hold until HHH can take no more and taps out. The fans don’t believe it; Triple H has tapped out at Wrestlemania and we have a new World Champion. Triple H hasn’t won a ‘Mania match since.

Eddie Guerrero comes out as Benoit cradles the title and congratulates his friend. Although the spot was worked, you can tell that it was a genuine emotion and that Guerrero was truly happy for the man he’s been friends with for over a decade. In a moment that was touching (but is a little creepy now), Nancy and Daniel Benoit come into the ring to share in Chris’ joy as confetti reigns down.

The image of Eddie and Chris embracing in the middle of the ring as World Champions is one that will live on forever. Both of them were told they would never make it to the top in this business, but there they were, top of the world and at the peak of their abilities. Less than four years later, both of them would be dead.

Wrestlemania 21 – April 3rd 2005

WWE goes Hollywood, with the lead up to the event littered with hilarious spots of the WWE wrestlers own take on some of the biggest movies of all time. Personal favourites include Eddie & Booker T doing Pulp Fiction, the Basic Instinct skit, Triple H in Brave heart (mainly for Flair) and the Taxi Driver skits (especially Batista’s). On the night itself, a Gladiator one aired with Steve Austin in the title role to set up his appearance on Piper’s Pit.

The matches were, on the whole, above average, with Rey v Eddie being a decent opener (even with Rey’s mask causing all kinds of problems), Kurt Angle defeating HBK in a stunning match, Undertaker continuing his streak against Randy Orton (even though, in my opinion, he should have lost and given the Legend Killer gimmick its biggest victim), the first ever Money in the Bank match (won by Edge), Big Show having fun as he walked towards the ring for his sumo match with Akebono and John Cena winning the WWE Title for the first time when he pinned JBL in a disappointing match.

The big story of the event centred on Wrestlemania 21’s contribution to our list, Triple H defending his World Title against his former Evolution team-mate, Batista.

The face turn of Batista was perfectly executed and went back months. It started with Batista staring at the title belt just a little too long, Triple H telling Dave of his place in the pecking order and his reason for being in the WWE (keeping the belt around HHH’s waist). Things started to unravel at New Year’s Revolution when Batista was eliminating people for fun in the Elimination Chamber until he got punched in the nads by Randy Orton and pinned. The thing was, HHH could have saved his friend, but didn’t.

Next up was the Royal Rumble, which Batista won by throwing John Cena over the top rope (at the second attempt) to cinch his spot in the main-event at Wrestlemania.

Hunter tried to convince Dave to jump to Smackdown so that Evolution could own both World belts, but Batista wasn’t having any of it, so Triple H concocted a plan and had a limo (similar to JBL’s white one) try and run Dave down. Batista then wanted to confront Bradshaw about it personally, but HHH talked him out of it by saying Evolution would do it for him.

Batista overheard a chat between Hunter and Flair that proved his suspicions; Hunter was screwing with him… so it was time to show his hand.

In the ring, Dave had a contract for the World Championship and a contract for the WWE Title. He pretended to sign the shot at JBL, but when Trips started to smile, he copied his “thumbs down” gesture (a taunt Batista now does to this day), threw the WWE Title contract to the floor and powerbombed HHH through the table. The match was officially on.

At over 20mins in length, Batista’s limitations were exposed, but Hunter did a good job of covering them for the most part. The crowd were solidly behind “Big Dave” (which was the plan) and were elated when he countered a Pedigree with a Kryptonite Krunch and followed it up with the match-winning Batista-bomb.

The new champion had made it to the top, and more importantly, the fans accepted him there. HHH did his part in cementing Batista’s status in losing efforts at the next two PPVs. For someone as selfish as Triple H is made out to be, he doesn’t half lose a lot of big matches.

Wrestlemania 22 – April 2nd 2006

Airing from Chicago, Illinois, this completed the cycle, started at Wrestlemania XX, of holding the show in the three cities that Wrestlemania 2 emanated from (XX from New York and 21 from Los Angeles).

We’re nearing the end of our DVD collection now, and this event has a few good matches to choose from. First off, there is the surreal WWE Championship match between HHH and John Cena with the debut (as far as I can remember) of the single-person duelling chant (Let’s go Cena v F*ck you Cena). This match was good, but the crowd reaction pushed it into awesome territory.

Also on the card, Mickie James and Trish Stratus hooked up in their gripping feud as the psychotic Miss James picked up the win and the Women’s Title, we had the second MitB match (won by RVD, which set up the more straightforward reaction at One Night Stand 2006 when he challenged John Cena for the WWE Championship), Kane & Big Show (a team I liked) retained the World Tag Titles against Carlito & Chris Masters (but lost them the next night to The Spirit Squad), HBK took on Vince in a No Holds Barred match, Rey Mysterio won the World Title by defeating Randy Orton in a match that also featured Kurt Angle as the defending champion, Undertaker beat Mark Henry in an ok Casket Match to go 14-0 at Wrestlemania and the less said about Boogeyman v Booker T & Sharmell and Torrie Wilson v Candice Michelle, the better.

That only leaves one match, and it’s the hardcore war between Edge and Mick Foley. Mick wanted his “Wrestlemania moment” and Edge wanted to show the world that he was the real deal.

The contest featured many weapons shots, Edge spearing Foley and ending up slashing his arm and shoulder because Mick had wrapper razor wire around his torso, a wire-assisted Mr. Socko on both Edge and Lita, lighter fluid and thumbtacks throughout.

The finish came after almost 15mins of non-stop brutality when Edge caught Mick on the apron, Lita lit a table on fire and Edge speared Foley through the ropes causing both men to crash through the flaming wood. With both men hurt, Edge managed to crawl over and pin the “Hardcore Legend” for all to see.

Edge, even though he’d won, looked like he had went into shock (the selling here was fantastic), and right there, Foley had his moment.

Just like he had done before with Randy Orton at Backlash 2004, Foley went all out to make someone look like a star. When Edge steps into the arena at Wrestlemania 24 to defend his World Title, he should say a little thank you to Mick Foley, because without him, all of this may never have happened.

Wrestlemania 23 – April 1st 2007

Detroit, Michigan is the setting for our last trip down memory lane, as we look at the matches from last year’s event that drew (as far as official figures are concerned) 80,103 fans to the event (the largest WWE crowd since Summerslam 1992).

On the card we had the third Money in the Bank (won by Mr. Kennedy, who lost it to Edge on a later episode of RAW. Edge then cashed it in to win the World Championship from Undertaker), Khali beat Kane in a very poor match, Benoit defeated MVP in a match that gave credibility to the Smackdown newcomer, The ECW Originals (Tommy Dreamer, RVD, Sandman and Sabu) vanquished The New Blood (Elijah “no push left” Burke, Kevin Thorne, Matt Striker and Marcus Cor Von) in a match that made me happy because Tommy Dreamer, Sandman and Sabu joined Raven in being (old) ECW Champions I never thought I’d see on a Wrestlemania card in this day and age. Joining them were Bobby Lashley pinning Umaga in a match refereed by Steve Austin and with the stipulation that either Donald Trump or Vince McMahon would be shaved bald if their man lost. Lashley won, and as he was Trump’s rep, Vince lost all his hair on live PPV.

The Women’s Title was defending in a match too short to really cause offence, John Cena made HBK tap to the STFU to retain the WWE Championship, while Undertaker took his streak to 15-0 by taking down Batista in a shockingly good match for the World Title… and it’s this match that will be rounding out the collection.

The storyline behind this match was so simple it was genius. Undertaker wins the Rumble (in the greatest “last two” exchange in the match’s history) by lastly eliminating Shawn Michaels. He then elects to challenge Batista, who gets the message by being chokeslammed on RAW. Batista then tries to get back at his challenger and we have this run for a few weeks until it’s announced that the main-events for ‘Mania will collide at Backlash in brand v brand tag match.

The fans are wondering if this will be the time that HBK turns on Cena or vice-versa, but it’s actually Batista who turns on Undertaker by smashing him with a spinebuster. One Sweet Chin Music/FU combo later and RAW wins the match (Shawn would eventually turn on Cena at a later date).

With all the rumpus out of the way, it’s down to business at the big dance. Some people feel that this match should have went on last, but without the benefit of hindsight, the potential for this bout to suck was huge. The fact that it didn’t was probably the biggest shock of all.

This was Batista’s best match to date (it’s arguable that his matches with Undertaker and MVP since then have been better) and the two big men had a stunning 16min brawl. Highlights include Batista powerslamming Undertaker through the announce table, Undertaker kicking out of the Batista-bomb, Dave kicking out of a chokeslam and a Last Ride, ‘Taker diving over the top to the floor without touching the ropes, Dave spinebustering Undertaker out of an “Old School” attempt and another spinebuster and Batista-bomb not being enough to finish the contest.

The finish came when Undertaker landed the Tombstone for the win and the title. The good news was that this was not the end of the feud, but people wondered if this was a fluke that they did so well. It wasn’t; a Last Man Standing match at Backlash was just as good, as was a cage match on Smackdown. Had Undertaker not been injured, they may have had many other great battles like the Hell in a Cell match they competed in at the last Survivor Series.

Thank you very much for sticking with me through this rather long piece, and here’s hoping there’s going to be a match at Wrestlemania XXIV that will make us proud to be wrestling fans.

Draven Cage


1) Hulk Hogan & Mr. T v Paul Orndorff & Roddy Piper
2) The British Bulldogs v The Dream Team (WWF Tag Team Title match)
3) Hulk Hogan v Andre the Giant (WWF World Title match)
4) Demolition v Strike Force (WWF Tag Team Title match)
5) The Ultimate Warrior v “Ravishing” Rick Rude (WWF Intercontinental Title match)
6) Hulk Hogan v The Ultimate Warrior (WWF World Title match)
7) “Macho King” Randy Savage v The Ultimate Warrior (Retirement match)
8) Bret Hart v Roddy Piper (WWF Intercontinental Title match)
9) Tatanka v Shawn Michaels (WWF Intercontinental Title match)
10) Razor Ramon v Shawn Michaels (WWF Intercontinental Title match)
11) “Bam Bam” Bigelow v Lawrence Taylor
12) Savio Vega v Steve Austin
13) “Stone Cold” Steve Austin v Bret Hart (Submission match)
14) The Undertaker v Kane
15) Shane McMahon v X-Pac (WWF European Title match)
16) Kurt Angle v Chris Benoit v Chris Jericho (Two-falls match for WWF IC & Euro Titles)
17) Raven v Kane v Big Show (WWF Hardcore Title match)
18) The Rock v Hollywood Hulk Hogan (Icon v Icon)
19) The Rock v “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
20) Chris Benoit v Shawn Michaels v Triple H (WWE World Title match)
21) Triple H v Batista (WWE World Title match)
22) Edge v Mick Foley (No-DQ, Falls Count Anywhere match)
23) The Undertaker v Batista (WWE World Title match)