Wrestlemania 33 is fast approaching and there looks to be some great matches lined up. However, if it is to be one of the best Wrestlemania events ever it has a very high standard to live up to. Here is a look back at five of the very best Wrestlemania events from the past 32 years. This was a very difficult task, and the choices were not easy. However, I believe these are the five best Wrestlemania events in history...
As soon as you see a top 5 list of anything Wrestlemania related ,it's a fair bet that the first spot will be taken up by Wrestlemania 17. This event is generally regarded as among the best Wrestlemania events, if not one the best events full stop that WWE have ever produced. The main event between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock was the defining point of the Attitude Era and the peak of wrestling's popularity in the late 90s/early 00s. The match itself is phenomenal, and stands up today. However, this is far from a one-match show. Further down the card there is a fun opener with Chris Jericho and William Regal, a memorable comedy hardcore match between Raven, Big Show and Kane, a cracking brawling-style bout between Triple H and The Undertaker, and a fantastic clinic between Kurt Angle and Lord Voldemort himself, Chris Benoit. That is all without talking about the TLC match which was easily one of the most death-defying stunt matches I've ever seen. This is a perfect snapshot of the period, set against the background of one of the most impressive-looking stadium sets they've ever used at a time when it was far from the norm that they used huge stadiums every year. This show was the template for the modern Wrestlemania, and it's ridiculously entertaining from top to bottom.
This might seem like a surprising choice, but hear me out. On paper, Wrestlemania 24 is not the most exciting card, but the flow of the show, mixed with some excellent matches and some truly emotional moments make this one of the most important Wrestlemania events, as well as s one of the most entertaining. The main event between The Undertaker and Edge seemed like a really big deal, and Edge seemed poised to end the streak, especially as he had his very own undefeated streak. Both men put in a great shift, and I really enjoyed the bout. Elsewhere JBL had a fun brawl with Finlay that was significantly better than it had any right to be, Randy Orton, John Cena, and Triple H had a well-structured, very enjoyable three-way dance, and CM Punk won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year running. However, the two big matches on this show featured Ric Flair having his final, heart wrenching moment before being retired by Shawn Michaels in one of the most emotional moments in WWE history; while in contrast Floyd Mayweather had one of the greatest celebrity appearances of all time against Big Show. Everything about this show felt like a big deal, and it stands up really well looking back.
Full disclosure, I have a soft spot for this show, as I was present at Levi's Stadium that day, in the beautiful California sun. Wrestlemania 31 may not have been the most spectacular Wrestlemania event, or it certainly wasn't in terms of the build. However, once the show got going, Wrestlemania 31 was a blinder form an in-ring perspective. The opening Ladder match was excellent and retrospectively gave Daniel Bryan his final hoorah in WWE (or certainly it looks like it, never say never and all that), Sting vs Triple H was a fun back and forth with some amazing nostalgia spots, Seth Rollins and Randy Orton was very good and had one of the most spectacular RKO spots of all time, John Cena vs Rusev was a cracking and very underrated bout (plus Rusev entered in a working tank!). Ok, so The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt and AJ Lee & Paige vs The Bella Twins were both passable and not spectacular, but neither were they awful. However, most importantly this show featured one of the great main event moments. Brock Lesner vs Roman Reigns was a hard-hitting brutal war of a match with Reigns taking all the punishment that the unstoppable Lesner could give out before he finally started to weaken the beast but to end up being pinned by Seth Rollins who cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to capitalise and win the match. It was a huge, unexpected moment and changed the landscape of WWE in just a few moments. With a stellar main event, a shock ending, and a very good undercard, this has to make the list.
While it may have lacked the big stadium treatment, there is something wonderful about Wrestlemania 4. The show itself is a bit of a mixed bag form an in-ring perspective, and it is very much of its time. However, it is also a wonderful example of slow burn storytelling across a whole event, as it is still the only Wrestlemania event to feature a tournament, and I love a good set of brackets. The differing roads taken between “Macho Man” Randy Savage who has to fight through tough match after tough match, and Ted Dibiase who got a buy into the latter stages is masterfully done, and the brackets effectively incorporated most of the big feuds at the time. The main event delivers big tie, and the crowning of Randy Savage as Hogan's successor is handled perfectly, even going so far as to plant a very subtle seed for their eventual confrontation, were simply a glance. A great and emblematic event of a whole era.
I agonised about this final spot, but eventually plumped for Wrestlemania 30 in the end. Wrestlemania 28 is a show I have fond memories of but it's let down by some of the undercard matches. Wrestlemania 21 has a cracking undercard but is let down by the in-ring quality of the top two matches. However, for me Wrestlemania 30 has a real sense of balance to the show, with some big moments and huge performances. Having Daniel Bryan open the show by beating Triple H in front of a white-hot crowd was a masterstroke (also Triple H's entrance was amazing) The Shield squashing The New Age Outlaws was the perfect way to get them over even further. It may not have gone anywhere particularly interesting in the long run, but Cesaro winning and eliminating The Big Show felt like a big moment for him. John Cena vs Bray Wyatt was excellent, and although it perhaps should have gone a slightly different way it made for an interesting story. Obviously Brock Lesner vs The Undertaker wasn’t the best match form an in-ring perspective, although on a recent re-watch it is far better than I remembered. However, the fact it wasn’t so dramatic and Lesner beat him cleanly, it made for all the more shocking of a moment. Whether it was the right call is something that can be debated forever, but it certainly resulted in an unforgettable moment. Luckily, the main event was excellent so the ending of the streak wasn’t the only memorable thing on this show. Bryan, Orton and Batista all put in a great shift in the match, and the involvement of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon only made it more dramatic. Daniel Bryan triumphing against all odds as the ultimate underdog made for a great visual and a fantastic moment all round. Easily one of the best Wrestlemania events ever, and a deserving inclusion in any top 5 list.