Over the last couple of weeks, I sat down and compiled a 30 match card to celebrate 30 years of WrestleMania. This is not the top 30 matches in WrestleMania history. This is a 30th Anniversary Card, and because it’s a card and not a list, no person appears more than once. That is the challenge of compiling such a card.
And here it is, our quintuple main event. It’s time for the top 5 matches on our card. Let’s get to it!
5. Edge vs. Mick Foley (XXII) (14:36)
This is the greatest hardcore match in WWE history. I know, bold statement, but I stand behind it. The storyline coming into this match was awesome, with Edge basically telling Mick he was irrelevant and Mick saying he never got his WrestleMania moment. If you’ve heard Mick explain it or read his Hardcore Diaries book, you’ll know this was his real feelings toward his career and Mania. He got his moment here. The action was brutal, yet told a story. The finish is one of the most iconic moments in Mania history.
This is the main reason the TLC match didn’t make the card. Edge had to make his appearance here, because I feel like his spear through the flaming table is in many ways his WrestleMania moment. Make no mistake about it, this match is as brutal as can be without being garbage. It’s actually a work of art when you consider how hard it is to walk that line between being physical and being garbage. These two walk that line brilliantly.
4. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage (III) (14:35)
This match in many ways made Mania what it is today. Every year we wonder who will come out and steal the show. This mentality stems from this match. For the first time in the shows short history, two undercard guys came out and blew the roof off the place. They stole the show and kept possession of it all these years later. This is the quintessential “leave it all in the ring” match and so many other show stealing matches have used that same mentality. The match holds up pretty well all of these years later. One could say (and in fact I will say) that this match was definitely ahead of its time. This was a no brainer for the top 5.
3. John Cena vs. Triple H (XXII) (22:02)
This is, in my opinion, the match that made Cena. Going into this match, Cena was a year removed from winning the title for the first time. Outside of a brief title change via Edge and the Money in the Bank briefcase, he’d been champion for a year. It was around the time of the Edge title change that the crowd began what is now commonplace. “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” began to emerge and WWE had a problem on their hands. Their top guy was being rejected by half the crowd. Going into this match, if Cena had under performed, it’s easy to imagine WWE pulling the plug on Cena.
He was yet to be the face of WWE, instead just a young guy WWE was pushing to the top so to think they might reverse course wasn’t out of the question. What happened instead was Cena and Triple H putting on an amazing match. The match itself would be worthy of a spot on the card, but when you factor in the importance of the match and the ramifications it had in Cena being the face of the company for the decade to follow, it had to be in the top 3.
2. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (XXIV) (20:34)
In my opinion, this is the most emotional match in Mania history. I like to pretend that Ric’s run in TNA never happened, so in my mind this was Ric’s final match. I still cannot understand why this match was stuck in the middle of the card, before a throwaway “divas” match. This was a main event caliber match. Oddly enough, this is the only real decent Mania match Ric had.
Despite this, it was everything you’d ever want in a match. Ric turned back the hands of time for one last match. Shawn was as amazing as always and it’s hard to believe he would retire two years later seeing how great he still was. From the retirement storyline, to Ric’s Hall of Fame induction the night before, to the in ring action, to the post match reaction everything about this match was perfect. It would be the undisputed main event on any card in history… if it wasn’t for the work of two other men…
And now, it’s time for the main event of the WrestleMania 30th Anniversary Card:
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (X-Seven) (28:07)
This match put a period (or maybe an exclamation point) at the end of the infamous Attitude Era. The era that led to the biggest explosion in viewership ever culminated with what many consider the greatest WrestleMania ever, WrestleMania X-Seven and it’s main event featured unquestionably the two biggest stars of that era. I considered adding their match from Mania XIX, just because Austin’s final match was a major moment in the history of the business. I went with this one instead, for a few reasons.
First off, the in ring action was better than XIX (or the XV match for that matter). These two had a ton of pressure on them heading into this match and they lived up to it and more. Secondly, the Attitude Era ending via the McMahon/Austin handshake was one of the most important moments in the history of the business. It ushered in a new era for wrestling.
Now, the heel turn turned out to be a flop and the new era lead to the Invasion angle, which was terrible, but if you look at this match on its own and think about how the McMahon/Austin feud started the Attitude Era and his heel turn ended it, there may not be any better drama, any more of a poetic match, than this one right here. And that’s what Mania is about. It’s about turning wrestling into an art form in the grandest of ways. It’s about transcending the actual concept of wrestling and making a connection with the audience that moves them in such a way that the moment lives on forever. That’s what Mania is about and that’s what this match represents. This is the main event to end all main events because it is the living breathing definition of WrestleMania.
I could go on and on about the process and about who I wish could’ve been on the card like Dolph Ziggler (who has never been in a singles match at Mania!) but I’ll just leave it at this: WrestleMania is the representation of everything that is awesome about professional wrestling. Sure, it might not always live up to its name and yes, Vince wants to erase the word pro wrestling from our vocabulary, but you cannot change the idea of WrestleMania. It will always be the one night out of the year where guys go out in order to make a moment that will live forever. WrestleMania, in a lot of ways, is like a religious experience. You can live forever via WrestleMania and the moments it creates, both as a participant and as a fan.