< PART 1
Location: Skydome, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: April 1st, 1990
The Winning Match: WWF Intercontinental & WWF Championship Match – Hulk Hogan v The Ultimate Warrior – 11 votes
As you will see on this countdown, some WrestleManias were promoted on the strength of one match and one match only and rarely has this been more evident that WrestleMania VI from Toronto. A young Adam Copeland, later to wrestle at the event in the same building 12yrs later, was in attendance as Hulk Hogan, who had been WWF Champion since dethroning Randy Savage at the previous show, was slated to face off against a guy many people saw as his natural successor; The Ultimate Warrior.
Unlike today’s product, where good guys face good guys and bad guys go against other villains, prior to the ‘Mania match, Hogan and Warrior hadn’t interacted much. A beautifully orchestrated collision during the 1990 Royal Rumble gave the fans a taste of what a clash between the two would be like and, by the time WrestleMania rolled around, the wrestling fans were fired up beyond comprehension. The match itself is a basic affair, but, with these two guys and their ability to draw an audience into their act, it didn’t need to be anything else. The psychology was fantastic; Warrior and Hogan (along with Ventura and Monsoon on commentary) had the fans gripped from bell to bell. This is a great example of the “less is more” philosophy. You have indy guys creaming themselves with more and more flips to more and more apathy, yet here, in the middle of the ring, you have two musclebound wrestlers having an entire arena in the palm of their hands when simply performing a basic Greco-Roman Knucklelock. After going almost 23mins, Warrior shocked the world by avoiding a Hogan legdrop and, capitalising on the downed champion, landed a splash to be the first man to cleanly pin Hulk Hogan since his return to the WWF.
Of course, there is the constant talk of Hogan sabotaging Warrior’s celebration, but, in all honesty, the guy had just pinned Hulk Hogan and became the WWF Champion, all the while being the Intercontinental Champion. There was very little anyone could have done to take the spotlight away from The Ultimate Warrior.
2nd Place: Million Dollar Championship – Jake Roberts v Ted DiBiase (w/ Virgil) – 3 votes
3rd Place: The Orient Express v The Rockers – 1 vote
Location: Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California
Date: March 24th, 1991
The Winning Match: Retirement Match – Randy Savage (w/ Sensational Queen Sherri) v The Ultimate Warrior – 11 votes
With Randy Savage being in two “Greatest Matches” in a row, followed by Hulk Hogan being in two sequentially as well, it’s interesting to see that The Ultimate Warrior follows suit by claiming his second match in a row also. I guess that goes to show you how great all three men were in the period of time that covers WrestleManias IV-VII and how awesome a talent Randy Savage was to be in the chosen match three of those four events. This match is probably the most heated of the three Savage wrestled in, arguably even more so that his ‘Mania V bout with Hogan. It’s also my favourite WrestleMania match of all time, so I’m glad it was chosen by so many of you.
The story leading up to the bout was a simple one; Warrior had lost the WWF Championship to Sgt. Slaughter courtesy of interference by Randy Savage. They continued to antagonise each other until a “Retirement Match” was signed between the two and it would be the semi-main event just below the Hogan/Slaughter match. As has been mentioned elsewhere in the newsletter, the fact that The Ultimate Warrior walked to the ring tells you all you need to know about how important this match was being pushed as and that the retirement stipulation was being treated deadly seriously. Randy Savage, now known as The Macho King and with Sensational Queen Sherri by his side (the two had been together for a while, having also teamed up against Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire in a comedy mixed-tag match at WrestleMania VI) and the “King” looked ready for business in a dazzling blue and silver wrestling outfit. Not unlike the Warrior’s match from the previous year, this was a psychological masterclass from the moment the wrestlers appeared through the curtain. Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon were on fire during their commentary and really added to the spectacle.
The battle went one way and then the other, with Warrior surviving a sequence of top-rope elbows (beautifully sold by Heenan) and Savage returning the favour by kicking out of Warrior’s Gorilla Press & Splash combo. These sequences should be used as lessons on to how to get across kicking out of a finish and making it mean the world (which, by rights, it should). The actual end sequence is perfectly played out and having the match end with Warrior standing triumphant, one foot of Macho King’s chest, as the referee counts to three is a stunning visual… only to be topped by what happens after the bell.
Miss Elizabeth, who has been in the crowd for the event (the camera pans to her every now and again), watches on as Sherri, livid that her meal-ticket has been stamped out, attacks a brutalised and beaten Savage until the First Lady of the WWF can take no more. With the fans screaming their support, Elizabeth charges the ring, tosses Sherri over the top to the floor and, after the obligatory confusion as Savage thinks Liz was the one attacking him, they embrace in the middle of the ring to a huge ovation. On a final note to signify Randy’s startling face turn, he holds the ropes open for Elizabeth so she can exit the ring. This was huge because he had never done this and always demanded she do it for him. He may have lost in the best match Warrior has ever been in and, perhaps, the most emotional he had ever competed, but he won back the woman he loved and the adoration of the fans. Even in defeat, Randy Savage came out a winner.
2nd Place: Tie – Virgil/DiBiase, Rockers/Barbarian & Haku, Hart Foundation/Nasty Boys & Jake Roberts/Rick Martel – 1 vote
3rd Place: n/a
Location: Hoosier Dome, Indianapolis, Indiana
Date: April 5th, 1992
The Winning Match: WWF Intercontinental Championship Match – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper v Bret “Hitman” Hart – 7 votes
From over 16,000 attending WrestleMania VII to over 60,000 the following year, the closest vote so far has Randy Savage missing out on a staggering five-from-eight record in “Greatest WrestleMania” matches. As it is, his and Ric Flair’s magnificent tussle over the WWF Championship came second with one less vote than the Intercontinental Championship Match between “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Bret “Hitman” Hart. In the months leading up to this encounter, Hart had been the IC Champ, but dropped the belt to The Mountie (and wanting to protect his aura – and his ego – Bret ran an angle where he had a fever going into that contest). The Mountie (an underrated performer with the best entrance theme in existence) then went on to lose the IC strap to Roddy Piper (and his infamous “SHOCK PROOF!!!” t-shirt) at the 1992 Royal Rumble before both men entered the Rumble itself to try and claim the vacant WWF Championship (which Ric Flair managed in what many consider the greatest and most star-studded match in the event’s history). With Roddy enjoying the first title run in his WWF career and Bret wanting a shot at reclaiming the championship, the ball was rolling towards Indianapolis and WrestleMania VIII.
During the event, both men cut a great promo backstage with “Mean” Gene Okerlund that chronicled Piper’s history with the Hart family and that he would do anything to keep his title (including brandishing a leather belt hidden behind said championship during the promo). Bret Hart’s biggest singles match to date also saw Piper in the best shape of his career. Both men wrestled a stunning brawl that ended up with a bleeding “Hitman” on his knees as Roddy stood above him, ringbell in hand and referee out of it, as the fans waiting with baited breath to see if the Scot would follow through on his earlier promise. Ultimately, Piper decided to take the straight route and slapped on a sleeper instead of clanging Hart with the bell. It was a decision he would live to regret as, in a stunning counter that he would repeat at the 1996 Survivor Series against Steve Austin, Bret scaled the ropes, threw himself backwards and, almost breaking his neck, managed to pin Piper to the mat (allegedly the first time Roddy had ever been pinned in a WWF ring).
With the Hart Foundation theme blaring out, Piper, in a show of excellent sportsmanship, put the title belt around the waist of his opponent and helped him to the back. Some say this was an attempt to steal thunder in the same manner Hogan did at WrestleMania IV and VI, but I personally don’t see it that way. Piper would never have as good a match throughout the rest of his career, while, for Bret, this was the launchpad for him to reach the main-event and stay there for the rest of his wrestling career.
2nd Place: WWF Championship – Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth) v Ric Flair (w/ Mr. Perfect) – 6 votes
3rd Place: Jake Roberts v The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) – 2 votes
Location: Ceasers Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: April 4th, 1993
The Winning Match: WWF Intercontinental Championship Match – Shawn Michaels (w/ Luna Vachon) v Tatanka (w/ Sherri) – 6 votes
The Intercontinental Title crops up for the fourth time as Shawn Michaels debuts in our countdown. His 18min+ match against Tatanka (who, if you’ve only seen him during his second run with WWE, was a good, and over, worker during this time) is the highlight of a poor WrestleMania. Michaels was in his stride as the IC Champion and was having good-to-great matches with a variety of opponents (his series against Marty Jannetty, his former partner, in January/February of this year were outstanding), so the prospect of a good match between the two was appetising. Adding to the match were Luna Vachon and Sensational Sherri who accompanied the champion and challenger respectively. Sherri had been HBK’s “gal” until she got waffled with a mirror and turned to the light. Luna was brought in to be her replacement.
Tatanka and Michaels had a heated match, seeming to herald that this event would be worth watching. Unfortunately, not unlike The Hardyz v MNM from WWECW’s disaster that was ‘December to Dismember’, the opener gave false hope and would ultimately be the high-point of the entire event. WrestleMania IX is an event best left to the mists of time, but this match deserves to be seen.
2nd Place: The Steiner Brothers v The Headshrinkers (w/ Afa) – 3 votes
3rd Place: Tie – Yokozuna/Bret & Yokozuna/Hogan – 2 votes
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Date: March 20th, 1994
The Winning Match: Bret Hart v Owen Hart – 11 votes
For the second WrestleMania in a row, the opening match is the choice of the people… and what an opener this is. Brother versus brother in a battle for respect and, in Owen’s case, to prove he can step out of his elder sibling’s shadow. There had been tension brewing between the two most famous Hart brothers for a while and this almost came to a head at the 1993 Survivor Series when Owen was the only brother to be eliminated in the traditional Survivor Series elimination match. Bret, in a sign of solidarity (Owen would later claim arrogance), put his singles career on hold to try and win the WWF Tag Team Titles with his younger brother. They would get their shot at the 1994 Royal Rumble as they faced off against The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre). Unfortunately for the Harts, Bret would suffer a knee injury at the hands of the Canadian title-holders and, rather than tag out, would try to apply the Sharpshooter for the win. Unable to stand, Bret fell to the floor and the referee called the match in favour of the champions. Incensed at his brother “hogging the spotlight” once again, Owen screamed a tirade at Bret as he used the ropes to pull himself upright… only for the younger Hart to “kick Bret’s leg from out of his leg” and become a fully-fledged bad guy.
After these events (and Bret co-winning the Rumble with Lex Luger later in the evening), Owen wanted to show the world that he was the better Hart and that he had invented the Sharpshooter and not Bret (in reality, neither invented it and Bret credits Konnan with showing him the hold). The elder Hart refused to fight his brother (as both Undertaker and Jeff Hardy would do in later years), but continual out-of-the-ring shenanigans would force his hand and they had a date set at WrestleMania (again, as both Undertaker and Jeff Hardy would do in later years). Bret and Luger were both granted title shots against Yokozuna at the big show and a coin toss was used to see who would get the first crack. If Luger won, he would face the champ and Bret would fight his brother. If Lex lost the toss, then he would face Adam Bomb and Yoko would challenge the man he won the title from at the previous year’s event. As it transpired, thankfully, Luger won the toss and was screwed out of the title by the returning Mr. Perfect. Nobody cared.
Bret and Owen opened the show and tore the house down. A wrestling clinic from start to finish, the Hart brothers traded moves and holds for over 20mins before Owen turned a victory roll into a pinning cradle and pinned his brother, cleanly, for the 1-2-3. Easily the biggest night of Owen’s career (even eclipsing his later KotR victory), the youngest Hart would never attain another decisive win against his brother. Bret, on the other hand, would go on to win the WWF Title later in the night and defend it against Owen all across the world, culminating in a belter of a blue-barred steel cage match that headlined Summerslam the same year. Knowing the legacy and the revere that the WrestleMania X ladder match is held, it gives you an idea of how fantastic this match is to be able to eclipse that aura.
2nd Place: WWF Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match – Shawn Michaels v Razor Ramon – 10 votes
3rd Place: WWF Championship (Roddy Piper as referee) – Yokozuna (w/ Fuji/Cornette) v Bret Hart – 2 votes
> PART 3