Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle highlight the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time
WrestleMania. The "Showcase of the Immortals." The "Grandest Stage of Them All." However you want to nickname it, the biggest wrestling event of the year often sees WWE wrestlers elevate their talents to levels that were previously unseen, or not thought of.
The special tights, the elaborate entrances, the light and sound shows, it all comes together for the biggest night in professional wrestling.
But the spectacle of WrestleMania wouldn't mean a thing if the wrestlers of WWE didn't step up their game and put on the best performances of their careers.
It's no surprise an all-time great like "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels is represented in 40 percent of the matches of this list, or a WrestleMania stalwart like The Undertaker has more than one match represented here.
With so many great main events — let alone matches — that happen at WrestleMania, it's hard to pin it down to just 10.
Here's the list:
1 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. The Rock
WrestleMania: X-Seven — Or 17, if you prefer (2001)
What made it great: What didn't make it great? Let's list off what did:
— Two of the most iconic wrestlers in wrestling history.
— No disqualification stipulation announced just before the match.
— Excellent build up toward the match.
— Arguably the greatest heel turn of all time.
Sure, Austin's heel turn confused everyone for a long time — and to be fair, it was widely rejected — but it still was a genuine shock for everyone watching. Add to that the fact that the match exemplified everything the "Attitude Era" was about and represented. It was one of the biggest spectacles in WrestleMania history.
Who won: Austin via pinfall
2 Bret Hart vs. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
WrestleMania: 13 (1997)
What made it great: It was an incredibly brutal, physical match. Austin spent a decent part of the match with a proverbial crimson mask. Austin brought out a side of Bret that many thought didn't exist — beyond the technical aspects of what Bret did, it brought out just a genuinely mean, nasty streak.
Who won: Bret Hart via TKO
3 Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat vs. 'The Macho Man' Randy Savage
WrestleMania: 3 (1987)
What made it great: The match is heralded as one of the greatest, cleanest and most technically sound matches in WrestleMania history. Randy Savage, who spent months threatening to end Ricky Steamboat's career, ended up losing the Intercontinental Championship.
With some help in his corner by way of George "The Animal" Steele, Steamboat picked up the win over Savage, capturing his first — and only — championship in the WWF.
Who won: Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat via pinfall
4 Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan
WrestleMania: 3 (1987)
What made it great: It wasn't the technical masterpiece that we saw in Steamboat vs. Savage, but it perfectly captured the '80s at the time.
Hulk Hogan was battered,bruised and broken down by Andre for the majority of the match, until he did his signature "Hulk Up" and slammed the 7-4, 500-pound giant.
It's one of the most enduring images of professional wrestling today, and one of the most recognizable in WWF/E history.
Who won: Hulk Hogan via pinfall
5 Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle
WrestleMania: 21 (2004)
What made it great: It was the first time both of these men met in the ring, but you could sense the hatred of one another building through the months before the match. The in-ring chemistry was certainly there, and the match quality was excellent. Sometimes it takes wrestlers years to develop in-ring chemistry, and most never develop it at all. The chemistry between Angle and Michaels — two of the greatest in-ring performers of all time — was instantaneous.
The match itself had a bit of everything — some technical prowess, some big spots, trading finishers. Even blood. Yes, blood!
Who won: Angle via submission (Ankle lock)
6 The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge and Christian
WrestleMania: X-7 — or 17 if you prefer (2001)
What made it great: The second ever TLC — Tabbles, Ladders and Chairs — match in WWF/E was even better than the first.
The ongoing, two-and-a-half year feud among three of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history came to head at TLC 2, and it was a beautiful trainwreck to watch.
Everyone from Rhyno, Lita and Spike Dudley interfered in the match, with Lita eating a 3D like a tasty sandwich.
Who could forget the epic spot with Edge spearing a dangling Jeff Hardy off the tag-team titles that hung high above the ring?
It was an absolute classic by any measure of the word.
Who won: Edge and Christian
7 Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
WrestleMania: 19 (2003)
What made it great: Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle were two of the finest athletes to ever grace a WWE ring. Both had extensive amateur wrestling backgrounds, both in top physical condition.
It's important to note that prior to Lesnar's current WWE standing, he was an extremely talented wrestler. Whether his moveset is currently limited by his gimmick to better resemble an MMA fighter or not, this was Lesnar in his WWE prime.
The match is highlighted by the 270-plus pound Lesnar trying to execute a Shooting Star Press on a suppine Kurt Angle, but Angle rolled out of the way and Lesnar ended up landing on his head. Lesnar nearly broke his neck on the spot.
Who won: Lesnar via pinfall
8 Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair
WrestleMania: 24 (2008)
What made it great: Ric Flair was a few steps too slow. The crowd was a essentially a library. Everyone knew this was more than likely the last WWE match for the 59-year-old Ric Flair.
The match was slightly surreal to watch — it was clear that Flair was past his prime, maybe he was a bit taken by the moment and the potential end of his career. His defeat was followed by genuine tears with his family at ringside.
Sometimes wrestling goes beyond strictly entertainment. For Flair, wrestling for more than 40 years, in places from empty gyms to sold-out stadiums, the emotion he exhibited during the match was real and raw.
Michaels ending the match with the iconic "I'm sorry. I love you" moment just before hitting a Sweet Chin Music for the exclamation point was one of the most spine-tingling moments in wrestling history.
Who won: Shawn Michaels via pinfall
9 Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
WrestleMania: 12 (1996)
What made it great: Sixty-minute Iron Man match between two of the greatest in-ring competitors ever, with actual hatred that was brewing as well. That's really all you need to know.
The match went to overtime with Michaels eventually scoring a Sweet Chin Music on his long-time rival.
Who won: Shawn Michaels
10 Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
WrestleMania: 25 (2009)
What made it great: The match was built as a battle of dark vs. light. Michaels made one of the best entrances in WrestleMania history.
There was a decent amount of animosity that bled into the match, and it was no surprise. Two of the greatest ever really made this feud, though built in a matter of months, feel as though they were at it for years.
The match featured one of the worst and most brutal blown spots. The Undertaker dove over the top rope for his signature dive, but landed on his head outside the ring. It was a miracle that he didn't fracture his skull.Who won: Undertaker