From Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat at WrestleMania III and Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania XIII to The Rock vs. Hogan in Toronto and Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair stealing the show in 2016.
Away from the highlight reels though, WrestleMania has a plethora of underrated bouts that could be considered the forgotten gems of the event. GiveMeSport looks at ten of the best…
The Rockers vs Barbarian and Haku
Tag team openers were a staple of the time for WWE’s big shows, and this is one the best examples and a classic contrast in styles. Pitting the high-octane, fast paced arsenal of Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels against the brute strength and power of Bobby Heenan’s team of Barbarian and Haku, in a classic little vs. big tag bout. Two years’ prior The Rockers were on the receiving end of a similar makeup, in a defeat to The Twin Towers, but the popular team take the win in this one thanks to Michaels flying crossbody. Notable for HBK’s first-ever win on the grandest stage them, and a perfect opener that set the tone for the rest of an entertaining night.
Bret Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper
Fans of a certain vintage may raise their eyebrows as the notion that this match is underrated or forgotten, but it’s a bout that doesn’t get nearly enough of the recognition it deserves. In an era where it was rare to see babyface vs. babyface matches – especially in such a high-profile spot – Hart and Piper deliver the dynamic with a match rich in story. Like most Bret matches you can take the in-ring credibility as a given, and Roddy lives up to his end of the dance in this too, in one of his best outings of the era. However, it’s the story throughout the bout that makes this so good, with Piper toying with stepping over the line, but ultimately ignoring his ‘heel’ tendencies and going on to be the gallant loser in this Intercontinental Title classic.
Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Beniot
Intercontinental and European Championship Two-fall Triple-threat
Three guys, who at the time were seen as the future of WWE, competing in a two-falls match for both the European and Intercontinental Championships. The unique stipulation and talent involved gave fans a real treat in seeing these three men put on ‘two’ matches, where the pace never seemed to dip. It was Benoit who won the first fall after hitting Jericho with a diving head-butt, before Y2J would then secure the European Championship by returning the favour on Benoit and pinning him after a Lionsault. The result meant that Angle, who went into the match with both belts, left the night empty handed despite never being pinned for a title.
The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair
No Disqualification Match
WrestleMania X8 didn’t just see the return of Hulk Hogan to a WWE ring, there was a WrestleMania comeback for The Nature Boy, too, in a match somewhat overlooked by the two massive main events. This was Taker in ‘Big Evil’ guise and had been at his most sinister best in the lead-up to this match by attacking members of Flair’s family to goad the then co-owner into a match. Once the pair were in between the ropes, and under the no disqualification stipulation, they delivered a hard-hitting hardcore match that would have everything you’d expect. Figure four? Check! Flair’s hair covered in claret. Check! Arn Anderson spinebuster? Check! And as the natural finish, a Tombstone Piledriver. Check. Notching-up win number ten in Taker’s famous WrestleMania streak.
Chris Jericho vs. Christian
Three Canadians involved in a story and a love triangle that produced a match that outshone some it’s bigger hitters on the night, and a turn that no one saw coming. Trish had melted the heart of Y2J in the build to this meeting and he was defending her honour against his slimeball of a former friend Christian. The pair cleverly counted each other’s moves throughout the match, until a mix-up where Stratus ‘accidently’ caught Jericho with an elbow allowed Captain Charisma to score the win via a roll-up. However, after the match Trish revealed her true colours by slapping Jericho and playing tonsil tennis with Christian, much to the shock of everyone in Madison Square Garden.
The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton
At the height of Orton’s Legend Killer gimmick, and with The Undertaker’s undefeated steak starting to be a referenced part of the annual extravaganza, the pair battled in a Legend vs. Legend killer match that is one of Taker’s best Mania outings. It’s a feud and match that arguably moved Randy – who had already been WWE’s youngest world champion – onto that next level, as WWE teased The Staples Center with near falls and the appearance of Cowboy Bob Orton and his arm cast to convince the fans that Orton could get the win. However, as became the norm, Taker eventually took down the young upstart to move his streak up to 13-0.
Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James
Not just an underrated match, but an underrated feud that is on almost on a par with Stratus’ more celebrated rivalry with Lita. James had debuted in WWE as Stratus’ biggest fan, repeatedly coming to the aid of the Women’s Champion, and led to her eventually being taken under the whing of Trish. It all turned sour – and close to the knuckle – when Mickie confessed real love for her mentor and then turned on her to set-up this clash at WrestleMania 22. On the night, James was audibly more over than the champion and it saw her defeat Trish with the Mick Kick, to win her first Women’s Championship in WWE.
Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio
When it comes to Rey Mysterio you could easily add the outings with Matt Hardy, Eddie Guerrero, and CM Punk to this list, but we’ve given the nod to this little gem against the all-so relevant Cody. The set-up to the bout had all been about Rhodes dissension from ‘Dashing’ into a darker persona following his accidental nose break from Mysterio during the SmackDown match that sparked the feud. With Rey donning his Captain America attire, he seeked his own retribution on Rhodes by removing Cody’s own protective mask he’d been wearing since his gimmick change. However, Rhodes counted and used Rey’s knee brace to hit Mysterio and execute the Cross Rhodes for a big WrestleMania win.
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
When you think of Shane McMahon matches at WrestleMania, you immediately think of spot-fests that usually involve McMahon falling off something rather high. Yet, this opener to WrestleMania 33 against AJ Styles is the complete opposite to that train of thought and quite possibly Shane O’Mac’s best wrestling match. Ironic, considering the build to the match saw Styles unnecessarily throw McMahon through the glass of a car window. Given that spot, many expected the match to follow suit, but instead got a pleasant surprise as McMahon went toe-to-toe inside the ring with The Phenomenal One – with only a hint of trash cans and table collapses. AJ quite righty got the win, but it was Shane was earned some temporary plaudits for the outing.
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz
Given the talent that was involved in this match, it’s no real shock the trio put on a barnburner of a match to open WrestleMania 34. Three former world champions, with the only story being them all wanting the Intercontinental Championship, giving the belt the proper profile, it often doesn’t get at WrestleMania. The exciting opener had fans constantly on their feet and culminated in Seth Rollins performing the Stomp on Balor – who was in the process of pinning Miz – and then The A-Lister to win his first IC crown and became the lastest member of WWE’s grand slam club.