Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ranking the top ten matches of the first ten WrestleManias

So, we're a third of the way through the history of WrestleMania at this point. I can guarantee you i won't make it to WMXXX before WMXXXI comes along, but i still see getting through the first 10 as some sort of accomplishment, albeit one that doesn't come with any validation other than my own sense of accomplishment. Not a lot of people are reading these and that's ok, because i'm having a great time doing this. But for those who are following along, WrestleMania X seems like a great time to take stock and look back at the matches we've seen so far. Here's a list of my top 10 matches from the first 10 WrestleManias. Huzzah. (You'll notice by some of the bottom entries that overall, we've dealt with more bad matches than good. I have a feeling the top 10 for WMXI thru WMXX will be stronger overall.)

10. Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior, VI

Obviously not a great scientific wrestling match, but solid storytelling. Hogan's attempt to expand his moveset in order to throw off the Warrior earns it bonus points. Still, this match making the top 10 is an indication of how weak the actual wrestling was overall in WrestleMania's first ten years.

9. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage, VII

See above. Savage carries Warrior to a match long on drama, if short on skill.

8. British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team, II

A killer showcase for the Bulldogs, and the WrestleMania era's first legitimately good match. Greg Valentine sells like a maniac for Dynamite & Davey Boy, and Brutus Beefcake is mercifully on the apron watching for all but a few minutes.

7. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, X

The first ladder match on WWF pay-per-view. It gets a lot of points for being an innovative spotfest for its time, but i don't know that it's necessarily aged all that well.

6. Jake Roberts vs. Ted DiBiase, VI
A fun one as the main story involves Jake trying to psyche out DiBiase with the DDT early on. Two outstanding workers plying their trade and telling a great story, and the countout result actually works. Also, putting this match on the list is a great excuse for once again posting the greatest Jake Roberts promo ever:

5. Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage, VIII

I love this match for its intensity and its storyline more than for its skill. Flair's only world title defense at a WrestleMania. Savage and Flair bring some serious intensity to this one due to the Elizabeth-centric storyline. You get the sense that these two genuinely want to damage each other, and that Flair's psyche-out tactics, while inspired, ultimately backfired.

4. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper, VIII

The deliberate way this match slowly builds in intensity is a joy to behold. While Bret Hart ends up regaining his Intercontinental title, the story revolves around just how far the now-beloved Piper is willing to turn to his former rulebreaking ways in order to defend his belt against the noble Hitman.

3. The Brain Busters vs. Strike Force, V

It's only just under ten minutes, but this is a clinic of tag team storytelling. Jesse "The Body" Ventura on commentary keeps pointing out how rusty Strike Force are as a tag team, reuniting at Tito Santana's behest after a year of inactivity, while the Brain Busters' near-psychic tag team communication and flawless teamwork serve to emphasize just how far Strike Force has fallen since their time as tag team champions.

2. Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, III

After all these years, the first true classic of the WrestleMania era still holds up. Like Savage's match against Ric Flair, the intensity both men bring to this match, combines with the intricate choreography, elevates this to art. Much has been made of the high number of two-counts in this match, which only adds to the drama level.

1. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, X

Every single move in this match serves the tale of Owen emerging from his older brother's shadow (only to fall back into it by the end of the show after Bret defeats Yokozuna and regains the World Title). Like Bret's match against Piper, it starts comparatively slow but builds in intensity as tempers boil over and both men push each other to their limits. As a friend of mine pointed out, it'd be great to sit the entire Ring of Honor roster down and show them this match on repeat until they learn that piling on the strong-style spots and increasingly unbelievable near-falls aren't the only means to build drama in a wrestling match.

By all means--disagree with me in the comments.

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