Features

The Best Match From Every WrestleMania

The Undertaker Shawn Michaels

Debuting in March 1985 in front of nineteen-thousand-plus fans in the iconic Madison Square Garden, WrestleMania is the be-all and end-all for WWE, often referred to as their season finale.

Over the last thirty-seven years, WrestleMania has played host to some of the most legendary matches and moments in the history of not only Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment giant, but the entire spectrum of professional wrestling. Getting on the ‘Mania card in a prolific encounter can make or break a wrestler’s career. This doesn’t necessarily need to be the main event so to speak either, as previous WrestleMania events have shown that more often than not, the event will peak well before the closing feature.

The question today is, what is the single greatest match from every WrestleMania? Between World Championship clashes, The Undertaker’s famed Streak, barbaric brawls, technical masterclasses, and everything in between, there is an abundance of possibilities, but ultimately, there is always going to be one match that defines a WrestleMania.

Using Cagematch ratings, today will take a deep dive into the history of WrestleMania’s greatest attractions, a handful of which may come as a surprise.

WrestleMania I – The US Express (Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo) (c) vs. The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff – WWF Tag Team Championships

Iron Sheik Nikolai Volkoff WrestleMania 1

Cagematch rating: 5.66

Perhaps the biggest shock of all is that the favourite match from the inaugural WrestleMania broadcast was the WWF Tag Team Championships encounter, which saw The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff capture the belts from The US Express pairing of Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo. Receiving a rating of 5.66, the bout just surpasses the star-studded main event between Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, and Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, which was rated 5.27.

There is, however, a hidden record in this match. With their win, which came when the future Colonel Mustafa blasted Windham in the head with ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie’s cane, Sheik and Volkoff became the first to capture gold at a WrestleMania event, paving the way for future championship victors at ‘The Showcase of The Immortals’.

WrestleMania II – The Dream Team (Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake) (c) vs. The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & The Dynamite Kid) – WWF Tag Team Championships

The British Bulldogs with WWF Tag Team Championships

Cagematch rating: 6.92

The second WrestleMania, infamous for taking place from three venues, also featured a Tag Team Championships defence as its most popular outing, this time pitting The British Bulldogs as the challengers against defending champions, The Dream Team. Emanating from Rosemont Illinois’ Rosemont Horizon, Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid would become the new champions after a thirteen-minute encounter.

The main event of the entire broadcast – Hulk Hogan defending the WWF World Heavyweight Championship against King Kong Bundy inside a steel cage – only garnered a 4.45 rating from Cagematch users. 411 Mania’s Rob McNew commented that the Hogan vs. Bundy collision felt more like a Saturday Night’s Main Event headliner, rather than a marquee WrestleMania showdown. The Tag Team Championships match, however, received an impressive four-star rating from the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.

WrestleMania III – Randy Savage (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat – WWF Intercontinental Championship

Randy Savage Ricky Steamboat

Cagematch rating: 9.08

Regarded as one of WrestleMania’s – and indeed professional wrestling’s – greatest matches ever, Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat’s iconic Intercontinental Championship clash from the third annual ‘Mania easily takes the cake here, with a near-perfect Cagematch rating of 9.08. Both Pro Wrestling Illustrated and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter named it the Match of the Year for 1987, the latter of whom also gave it a four-and-a-half-star rating.

‘The Dragon’ scored the win and the championship when reversing a scoop slam attempt with a small package rollup, becoming the first new Intercontinental Champion to be crowned at WrestleMania. Although Steamboat didn’t necessarily enjoy a lengthy run with WWE’s workhorse championship, his outing with ‘The Macho Man’ is nonetheless etched into the history books as the earliest WrestleMania classic that remains talked about today.

WrestleMania IV – Greg Valentine vs. Ricky Steamboat – WWF World Heavyweight Championship Tournament First Round

Ricky Steamboat Breathing Fire

Cagematch rating: 6.18

Running through an entire, fourteen-man tournament on a single show, let alone WrestleMania, maybe wasn’t the greatest idea Vince McMahon has ever had, as this meant there was a total of sixteen matches contested on the card; only five of those were non-tournament clashes. The highest-rated match on the entire card was a first-round tournament match between Greg Valentine and Ricky Steamboat, which saw Valentine advance to the quarterfinals in an otherwise meaningless five-minute bout.

Many pro wrestling journalists have noted that the fourth WrestleMania easily could have been a grander affair had there not been such an abundance of tedious matches. Valentine vs. Steamboat, despite being a clash of two Golden Era greats, was one of those. Had the entire first round been either removed or played out ahead of WrestleMania IV, then perhaps this event would’ve been worth the watch.

WrestleMania V – Randy Savage (c) vs. Hulk Hogan – WWF World Heavyweight Championship

WM5 Randy Savage Hulk Hogan

Cagematch rating: 7.27

Though it’s not nearly as infamously long a WrestleMania card with fourteen matches to its name, the fifth instalment of ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’ is noteworthy for having just two of those fourteen contests going past the ten-minute mark. Brutus Beefcake and Ted DiBiase wrestled to a ten-minute and one-second double count out, while the evening’s main event, which saw Hulk Hogan challenge for Randy Savage’s WWF World Heavyweight Championship, went just under eighteen minutes.

‘The Immortal’ vs. ‘The Macho Man’ also has a 7.27 rating from Cagematch users, just ahead of Mr. Perfect and The Blue Blazer’s 6.45 rated clash. Hulk Hogan would win the title from his former Mega Powers teammate thanks to his patented Atomic Legdrop finish, with Hogan’s second run as the WWF’s top champion lasting just one day shy of a full calendar year, as he would be dethroned at the following year’s WrestleMania. Speaking of which…

WrestleMania VI – Hulk Hogan (WHW) vs. The Ultimate Warrior (IC) – WWF World Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships

Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior

Cagematch rating: 7.68

Really, Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior from 1990’s WrestleMania VI symbolises everything that the World Wrestling Federation stood for during this late-1980s to early-1990s period. A sea of larger-than-life characters, bright, vibrant colour schemes, and a sea of rabid fans – a record 67-plus thousand inside the SkyDome in Toronto – chomping at the bit to see Hulk Hogan. The perennial face of professional wrestling throughout the entire era. This would, however, act almost as a passing of the torch.

Hogan would, of course, regain the WWF World Heavyweight Championship further down the line, but as fate would have it, WrestleMania VI was The Ultimate Warrior’s night. He left not only with the top title, but with the Intercontinental Championship that he defended, too, all while having a 7.68-rated match on Cagematch. Warrior became a proven main event draw during his run as the World Heavyweight Champion, his main rival being ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude.

WrestleMania VII – Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior – Retirement Match

Randy Savage The Ultimate Warrior

Cagematch rating: 8.39

Admittedly, going from the over 67-thousand fans in Toronto’s SkyDome to the 16-thousand inside the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena wasn’t the greatest look, particularly with a disappointing and basic Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter clash (of the eligible matches for voting, that was Cagematch’s lowest-rated for this card). The rest of the card, however, was well-received, with the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awarding two other matches three-and-a-half stars apiece.

They would also award a four-and-a-quarter star rating to Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior’s famed Retirement match, which also has an 8.39 rating from Cagematch users. The match, although a sensational affair, is often overlooked in favour of its aftermath, which saw Miss Elizabeth emerge from the audience to save ‘The Macho Man’ from Queen Sherri. This, of course, led to their beloved wedding ceremony at the SummerSlam pay-per-view later that summer.

WrestleMania VIII – Ric Flair (c) vs. Randy Savage – WWF World Heavyweight Championship

Ric Flair WWE Champion

Cagematch rating: 8.58

WrestleMania VIII was one of the few WrestleManias to not be main evented by a World Championship outing, as 1992’s ‘Super Bowl of Sports Entertainment’ saw Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice headline the event to a subpar 2.48 Cagematch rating. Like the previous year, the main event was, therefore, the lowest-ranked outing on the entire card, with the night’s second-highest-rated match being a 2.53 rating for The Natural Disasters vs. defending champions Money, Inc. for the WWF World Tag Team Championships.

In this case, the World Heavyweight Championship defence by Ric Flair against Randy Savage came fifth on a nine-match card, ultimately being the longest on the entire evening, too, clocking in at just over eighteen minutes while garnering an 8.58 rating. Widely regarded as a tremendous babyface vs. heel encounter with ‘The Nature Boy’ proving excellent at drawing heat by assaulting the knee of Savage, the match also received four-and-a-half stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

WrestleMania IX – The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner)

The Steiner Brothers WWE

Cagematch rating: 6.72

Commonly referred to as one of the worst WrestleManias in history, WrestleMania IX doesn’t have much going for it in hindsight. The dire Caesars Palace getup didn’t make for a convincing ‘Mania backdrop, while a card that featured The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez, Razor Ramon vs. a past-his-prime Bob Backlund, and Money, Inc. vs. Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake – which went a needless eighteen minutes! – doesn’t hold up well compared to today’s standards.

Boasting an overall 4.13 rating on Cagematch, the card’s most notable highlight is a tag team bout, pitting The Headshrinkers against 2022 WWE Hall of Fame inductees, The Steiner Brothers. Cagematch users rated this 6.72, almost an entire 2.0 improvement on the main event WWF World Heavyweight Championship bout between Bret Hart and that year’s Royal Rumble winner, Yokozuna. Hulk Hogan, however, would infamously be the one departing as the champion that evening.

WrestleMania X – Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart

Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, WrestleMania 10

Cagematch rating: 9.54

WrestleMania X was a drastic improvement on the prior year’s instalment of the landmark event, as Vince McMahon and co. moved into a new era without Hulk Hogan at the helm of the promotion. With no Hogan in sight, a new generation of talent was able to be showcased to great extent on the tenth ‘Mania, with the evening’s opening match encapsulating this brilliantly.

Neither Bret nor Owen Hart was exactly newer talent per se, having both been with the company since the 1980s, but they’re both fondly remembered as greater New Generation Era talent than they are Golden Era stars. Their family feud had reached such a boiling point that a singles match on ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’ was the only viable option for them, a match that Owen Hart would surprisingly win over his brother. It boasts a 9.54 rating on Cagematch, while also achieving a four-and-three-quarter star rating from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

WrestleMania XI – Diesel (c) vs. Shawn Michaels – WWF World Heavyweight Championship

Pamela Anderson

Cagematch rating: 6.81

Garnering a 6.81 rating on Cagematch, Diesel’s defence of the WWF World Heavyweight Championship against former ally Shawn Michaels has divided opinion over the years, with various pro wrestling journalists debating whether the match – as well as the entirety of WrestleMania XI – was actually good, other than just simply passable. The outcome remains the same, as ‘Big Daddy Cool’ prohibited Michaels’ WrestleMania dreams from coming true thanks to a Jackknife Powerbomb, albeit a botched attempt at it.

Pro Wrestling Illustrated columnist Dave Rosenbaum has previously put Diesel and Michaels’ clash up for contention as 1995’s Match of the Year, which it would become in that year’s PWI Awards, while also noting that the event itself was responsible for saving Vince McMahon’s company during its feud with World Championship Wrestling. That’s maybe a bold claim, but Diesel and Michaels nonetheless had a mostly positively-received match here.

WrestleMania XII – Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels – WWF Championship 60-Minute Iron Man Match

Bret Hart Shawn Michaels

Cagematch rating: 8.08

When WrestleMania XII springs to mind, you’ll struggle to think of anything other than the main event one-hour Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels for the former’s WWF Championship. Although their infamous Survivor Series 1997 clash is often the more talked-about clash for rather obvious reasons, this match still lives up to standards today, given that both ‘The Hitman’ and ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ are two generational performers who always guarantee a killer match together.

411 Mania’s Rob McNew has perhaps given the match its most flattering review. Understanding that the match stipulation isn’t for everyone, particularly when there aren’t any falls taking place within the hour, he deemed that “It’s about a three-star match for the first 40 minutes, the last 20+ are an easy five stars”. Shawn Michaels would capture his first WWF Championship in overtime as he famously Superkicked Hart to achieve his legendary boyhood dream.

WrestleMania 13 – Bret Hart vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – No Holds Barred Submissions Match

Bret Hart Steve Austin

Cagematch rating: 9.67

Because of the success that was Bret Hart and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin‘s iconic WrestleMania 13 outing, the remainder of the card being a stinker often goes unnoticed. Cagematch rated Hart vs. Austin a superb 9.67, but for other clashes, they weren’t quite as complimentary; Rocky Maivia and The Sultan’s Intercontinental Championship clash got a 2.89 rating, while Sycho Sid and The Undertaker’s main event match got 3.59.

Bret Hart and Steve Austin would indeed make history at the thirteenth WrestleMania, with their No Holds Barred Submissions match – refereed by Ken Shamrock – called one of the greatest matches in wrestling history. The visual of Hart keeping Austin trapped in a Sharpshooter as blood poured down his face is a famous image in wrestling history, and ultimately served as the finish to this transcendent match.

WrestleMania XIV – Kane vs. The Undertaker

Undertaker and Kane

Cagematch rating: 7.48

The debut of Kane during the inaugural Hell In A Cell match the prior October gave birth to a character that put fear into many children of the late ’90s, as ‘The Big Red Machine’ came to the World Wrestling Federation to target his half-brother, The Undertaker. Their clash at WrestleMania XIV, with ‘Taker’s ‘Mania streak being defended in the process, is an often-forgotten, yet sensational chapter of ‘The Deadman’s’ WrestleMania undefeated streak.

Taking the cake on a fairly well-received WrestleMania with a 7.48 Cagematch rating, the future Brothers of Destruction worked a superlative match for the appreciative FleetCenter audience that saw Kane suffer a total of three Tombstone Piledrivers to be put down. In defeating the 2021 Hall of Fame inductee, The Undertaker’s streak went up to seven consecutive wins, with ‘The Phenom’ having previously defeated Jimmy Snuka, Jake Roberts, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, and Sycho Sid at the event.

WrestleMania XV – The Rock (c) vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – WWF Championship No Disqualifications Match

WrestleMania 15 The Rock Stone Cold

Cagematch rating: 7.43

WrestleMania XV was another mediocre ‘Mania overall, with a 4.27 rating on Cagematch, and just two matches other than The Rock vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin on the entire event reaching a rating of over 4.0; Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac, and The Road Dogg vs. Goldust vs. Ken Shamrock vs. Val Venis. Hardcore Holly, Al Snow, and Billy Gunn’s passable Hardcore Championship show-opener was a close-fourth, though.

The Rock and Steve Austin, who main evented the card for the former’s WWF Championship while Mankind served as the guest referee, delivered an easy show-stealing performance deserving of its 7.43 rating. Pinning ‘The Brahma Bull’ following a Stone Cold Stunner, ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ captured his third World Championship in Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment giant, embarking on a 56-day reign as the Attitude Era reached a peak milestone.

WrestleMania 2000 – The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley) (c) vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (Jeff Hardy & Matt Hardy) – WWF Tag Team Championships Triangle Ladder Match

Christian and Edge

Cagematch rating: 9.08

Unquestionably one of the defining examples of how to perfectly book a three-team match, The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian’s Triangle Ladder match at WrestleMania 2000 was received so positively that tag team wrestling was exemplified in this one match as a key factor of the Attitude Era. All six men delivered a match worthy of the 9.08 rating it earned on Cagematch, as well as its four-star rating from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

The match is notable for marking Edge and Christian’s ascension to the top of the World Wrestling Federation doubles division, having captured their first set of Tag Team Championships over both The Dudleys and The Hardyz. They achieved this feat upon knocking Matt Hardy off a homemade structure with two ladders and a table, causing the now-All Elite Wrestling star to crash through another table below.

WrestleMania X-Seven – The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley) (c) vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz (Jeff Hardy & Matt Hardy) – WWF Tag Team Championships Triple Threat TLC Match

Matt Hardy Bubba Ray Dudley

Cagematch rating: 9.57

For the second year in a row, The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian did battle on ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’, this time under official Tables, Ladders, and Chairs rules, a rematch from the inaugural TLC outing at the prior year’s SummerSlam pay-per-view. This match – and this entire WrestleMania – still stands up today as a key piece of pro wrestling history, to be looked back upon with such fondness as, really, it set the bar for The Young Bucks and The Lucha Bros of the present.

The match quite legitimately wouldn’t have looked out of place on a modern-day show, with its high spots, weapon usage, and outside involvement from Spike Dudley, Lita, and Rhyno, all of whom suffered their fair share of brutality, too. Ultimately, though, Edge’s Spear from atop a ladder to Jeff Hardy as he clung on to the Tag Team Championships high above the ring is the moment you take away from this 9.57 Cagematch-rated clash, which the Wrestling Observer Newsletter deemed worthy of four-and-a-quarter stars.

WrestleMania X8 – Hollywood Hogan vs. The Rock

The Rock Hollywood Hogan

Cagematch rating: 8.46

There were three official taglines for the eighteenth WrestleMania instalment, all of which related to the event’s main attraction and subsequent highest-rated Cagematch encounter of The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan; ‘The One And Only’, ‘The Absolute Best Ever’, and the main byline for promoting the event, ‘Icon vs. Icon’. It was a true battle of icons from both the Golden Era and the Attitude Era as the company moved swiftly into the Ruthless Aggression Era.

The Toronto faithful were extremely vocal throughout this entire match, as they loudly cheered Hogan – the perceived heel of the encounter – while booing and jeering ‘The Great One’, with The Rock intended to be the babyface. This, as a result, caused both former WWE Champions to change the trajectory of their match based solely on how the crowd responded. Hogan ultimately ditched The nWo post-match, as he was attacked by Kevin Nash and the late Scott Hall, becoming a babyface again for the first time since 1999.

WrestleMania XIX – Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels Chris Jericho

Cagematch rating: 9.17

An often-forgotten about gem of a WrestleMania, ‘Mania XIX is perhaps best remembered for the final in-ring appearance of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, as he lost to The Rock in the pair’s third WrestleMania outing following the fifteenth and seventeenth ‘Manias. Cagematch users, however, haven’t rated that the highest, instead showing preference to the technical clinic that was Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels.

They gave the match a respectable 9.17 rating, while the Wrestling Observer Newsletter gave it four-and-a-quarter stars. Aside from this, Jericho and Michaels’ encounter was generally well-received by fans and critics alike, with ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ walking away as the victor in his first WrestleMania outing since WrestleMania XIV five years beforehand. Like the case of The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian at WrestleMania X-Seven, Michaels and Jericho’s in-ring masterpiece would arguably still stand up today.

WrestleMania XX – Triple H (c) vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels – World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match

Chris Benoit WrestleMania XX

Cagematch rating: 9.58

WrestleMania has only ever had three main events that were a Triple Threat (not including ‘Mania 31), and each of them had a reason to be special. In the case of WrestleMania XX, it was the crowning of Chris Benoit, who’d always been viewed as a perennial mid-card figure everywhere he went, as the new face of the company, dethroning the tyrant World Heavyweight Champion Triple H in a match that also included Shawn Michaels. It was a moment made all the heartwarming as he celebrated with best friend and WWE Champion, Eddie Guerrero.

The match itself was, however, more than just this moment, as Cagematch users have rated it a 9.58. Perhaps a testament to the work rate ability of all three during this period is that critics have previously deemed the twentieth WrestleMania one of the longer events, although all of the main event attractions delivered in some capacity. 411 Mania’s Robert Leighty Jr. summed it up perfectly, calling it the greatest three-way match in history, but owing to the future actions of Chris Benoit, it can never be mentioned in such a light.

WrestleMania 21 – Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels

Kurt Angle Thumb

Cagematch rating: 9.45

There’s a firm reason why Shawn Michaels is referred to as ‘Mr. WrestleMania’, and it’s his ability to put on timeless ‘Mania classics year after year. Near enough every HBK WrestleMania match is worth a rewatch ahead of this year’s ‘Showcase of the Immortals’, with his WrestleMania 21 clash opposite Kurt Angle being no different. Similar to Michaels’ match with Chris Jericho from two WrestleManias before, this was a technically sublime match that benefitted the WrestleMania atmosphere.

Earning a four-and-three-quarter-stars rating from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter on top of its 9.45 rating from Cagematch, Michaels and Angle delivered an all-time WrestleMania classic, taking the ‘WrestleMania Goes Hollywood’ mantra quite literally. Although it would be Kurt Angle who earned the submission win over the future WWE Hall of Famer, Shawn still received a standing ovation following the bout, his continued excellence at ‘Mania being appreciated by the Los Angeles crowd.

WrestleMania 22 – Edge vs. Mick Foley – Hardcore Match

Edge Mick Foley

Cagematch rating: 9.22

There was a lot to love about WrestleMania 22, between Rey Mysterio’s capture of the World Heavyweight Championship from Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon’s epic No Holds Barred match, and the hectic 2006 Money In The Bank ladder match, but at the top of the pile was the famed Hardcore Rules contest between Edge and Mick Foley. The duo wrestled a barbaric brawl that concluded when ‘The Rated R Superstar’ Speared Foley – a genuine hardcore legend – through a flaming table at ringside.

In the 2006 arc of WWE, it wasn’t a common sight to see such a brutal fight that also involved thumbtacks and barbed wire on top of the fire (not literally). WWE wasn’t quite a PG product yet, but they were certainly getting close to the point, so this was a welcome surprise that certainly made WrestleMania 22 a memorable card. Other notable highlights of the bout included a Cactus Clothesline while Foley had Lita on his back, and Foley’s barbed wire-assisted Mandible Claw that was both innovative and nasty.

WrestleMania 23 – Batista (c) vs. The Undertaker – World Heavyweight Championship

Batista The Undertaker

Cagematch rating: 8.61

Batista, the defending World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 23, and The Undertaker, challenging for the title upon winning the 2007 Royal Rumble match, had a number of matches together throughout 2007, including a brutal Last Man Standing match a few weeks following ‘Mania 23 at the Backlash event. This, however, was one of their better clashes, befitting the mantra of a WrestleMania headline attraction to great effect, though it didn’t officially close out the show.

Rated an 8.61 from Cagematch and four stars by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the two hosses left it all in the ring, including a Spear that ‘The Animal’ executed at the start of the encounter. In the end, a Tombstone Piledriver spiked Batista into the mat and left The Undertaker crowned the new World Heavyweight Champion, as he became the first wrestler to capture both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships at a WrestleMania, while also achieving a 15-0 streak at the event.

WrestleMania XXIV – Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels – Career Threatening Match

Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair

Cagematch rating: 9.12

“I’m sorry, I love you.”

That’s the famous line uttered by Shawn Michaels prior to a Sweet Chin Music ending the legendary career of Ric Flair at WrestleMania XXIV after a twenty-minute epic. Cagematch users have given it a 9.12 rating, honouring the match as one of the greatest in WrestleMania history, and a fitting end to the iconic 35-year career of ‘The Nature Boy’, his future stints in IMPACT Wrestling aside. Michaels, as has been a common theme throughout this feature, was the perfect opponent for the occasion.

Although the outcome was inevitable, it took nothing away from the gravitas of the match. Ric Flair was 59-years-old on the day of WrestleMania XXIV, but he still gave it his all. It was never going to be anything like his famed trilogy with Ricky Steamboat, nor was it going to live up to the magnitude of his World Heavyweight Champion days, but Flair – who was inducted into the Hall of Fame that weekend, the first, and so far only, time an active performer has done so – wrestled as if his life depended on it.

WrestleMania 25 – Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

The Undertaker Shawn Michaels

Cagematch rating: 9.64

Spoiler alert; there is no match named in this feature that ranks higher than The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels’ untouchable bout from WrestleMania 25. It’s regarded as one of, if not the greatest match in not only WrestleMania history, but of all of professional wrestling. Considering ‘Mania turned 25-years-old in 2009, there was arguably no better match to be contested at the event other than The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, which, although it didn’t headline the show, remains the most talked-about match of the night.

Awarded a 9.64 Cagematch rating, four-and-three-quarter stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and the 2009 Slammy Award for Match of the Year, ‘Taker and ‘HBK’ delivered the epitome of a modern WrestleMania classic that went half an hour, but felt like it only went ten minutes. There wasn’t a moment to breathe throughout this for all the right reasons. An impeccable Tombstone Piledriver execution saw Undertaker catch Shawn Michaels mid-flight as he reversed a top-rope Moonsault attempt, spiking Michaels’ head into the unforgiving mat below.

WrestleMania XXVI – Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker – Career vs. Streak No Disqualifications Match

Tombstone Piledriver Tumb

Cagematch rating: 9.54

Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker nearly achieved the same feat at WrestleMania XXVI in 2010, delivering another show-stealing match that served as a testament to both iconic Superstars. The added stipulation of Michaels’ in-ring career being on the line, as well as ‘Taker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak, merely added to the excitement of the match, which headlined this particular ‘Mania as the career of Shawn Michaels came to a close following a needlessly brutal leaping Tombstone Piledriver.

Although their WrestleMania 25 is always the more fondly-remembered outing, this match is at least regarded as one of the greatest ‘Mania headliners in history, earning a reputable 9.54 Cagematch rating and another four-and-three-quarter stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. That this served as the final in-ring match for ‘The Showstopper’, bar an embarrassing return to the ring alongside Triple H against ‘Taker and Kane eight years later, marked a fitting way for Michaels to go out.

WrestleMania XXVII – Triple H vs. The Undertaker – No Holds Barred Match

Triple H The Undertaker

Cagematch rating: 8.50

There’s something about The Undertaker’s early-2010s run of WrestleMania appearances that stands out from the rest of his legendary streak lineup, as this feature entails. Cagematch users continued ranking his match as the best on the card at ‘Mania XXVII, where he battled Triple H in one of the greatest No Holds Barred matches ever. The match type isn’t a staple for either performer, but they still maintained an overwhelmingly excellent match on a ‘Mania that desperately needed it.

Despite the match being a barnburner, it’s perhaps best remembered for ‘Taker having to be wheeled out of the ringside area, unable to leave under his own willpower. Both he and ‘The Game’ had been legitimately fined for violating WWE’s concussion policy with a steel chair shot to the head from Trips to the soon-to-be 2022 WWE Hall of Famer, which drastically altered his performance for the remainder of the bout. Nonetheless, a Hell’s Gate saw ‘Taker’s WrestleMania streak extended to 19-0.

WrestleMania XXVIII – Triple H vs. The Undertaker – Hell In A Cell Match

Triple H The Undertaker

Cagematch rating: 9.17

Like his old D-Generation X stablemate Shawn Michaels, Triple H also battled The Undertaker at two WrestleManias in a row (as well as ‘Mania X-Seven), again attempting to break ‘Taker’s at the twenty-eighth instalment of the event as the pair entered the Hell in a Cell structure. Rated as a vast improvement on their WrestleMania XXVII clash with a 9.17 Cagematch rating – up from their 8.50 rating the prior year – the match was dubbed ‘The End Of An Era’, with Michaels serving as the referee for the occasion.

Winning both the 2012 Slammy Award and being voted by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the Match of the Year category, the pair of wrestling legends were praised for wrestling such a physical clash that marked one of the closest times the streak had come close to ending before it actually did two years thereafter, owing to interference from Shawn Michaels as he again tried to be responsible for ending The Undertaker’s remarkable WrestleMania run. Instead, ‘Taker stood tall, his streak intact, and in an embrace with the DX duo.

WrestleMania 29 – CM Punk vs. The Undertaker

CM Punk The Undertaker

Cagematch rating: 9.08

The Undertaker’s superb streak of outstanding WrestleMania clashes, as voted by Cagematch users, ended with his WrestleMania 29 victory vs. CM Punk. It received a rating of 9.08 – alongside four-and-a-half stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter – as Punk’s final WrestleMania match saw him as The Undertaker’s final ‘Mania victim before he suffered his first loss at the event. ‘The Best In The World’ succumbed to a Tombstone Piledriver, ending an immensely personal Paul Bearer-centred feud.

What was so amazing about this is that Punk did actually come close to defeating ‘Taker. In hindsight, he was presumably never in the running to be the first to defeat ‘The Phenom’ at the event, given WWE’s perception of him that led to his departure the following January, but that the now-All Elite Wrestling star was given the ‘Taker match for WrestleMania 29 remains an exceptional footnote on the career of the former WWE Champion.

WrestleMania XXX – Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – WWE World Heavyweight Championship Qualifier

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 30

Cagematch rating: 9.04

WrestleMania XXX’s coronation of Daniel Bryan as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion arguably would have gone down with a deeper impact had ‘The American Dragon’ not already captured the company’s top prize twice before his so-called miracle allowed him to capture the title here, but alas, Bryan’s ‘Mania XXX journey is impeccable. Starting the night by defeating Triple H, then-WWE’s onscreen Chief Operating Officer, was certainly a great way to kick off proceedings.

As a heel, Triple H was one of the easiest faces to genuinely loathe. You hated everything he and the rest of The Authority put the beloved Daniel Bryan through en-route to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in April 2014, which simply made you appreciate the result even more. Its 9.04 Cagematch rating is wholeheartedly deserved, as is the 8.83 rating Bryan, Randy Orton, and Batista got for the main event. Both worked extremely well as the top and tail of the thirtieth WrestleMania to celebrate in style with a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

WrestleMania 31 – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins – WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match

WrestleMania 31 Roman Reigns Brock Lesnar

Cagematch rating: 8.72

Of the matches they’ve had together, one of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns‘ best came at WrestleMania 31, as the former defended the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a much-anticipated clash during the early stages of Reigns’ unwanted ascension to the top of Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment empire. ‘The Big Dog’ worked to Lesnar’s advantage, wrestling a far more physical style than he had ever shown previously.

The moment that you remember, though, is, of course, Seth Rollins’ emphatic Money in the Bank cash-in, as ‘The Architect’ stormed the ring following a sensational match earlier in the evening vs. Randy Orton to capture his first singles championship on the main roster. Rollins’ cash-in remains one of the more favourable Money in the Bank cash-ins from the briefcase’s nearly two-decade history, leaving Seth as an iconic figure within both Money in the Bank and WrestleMania main event lore.

WrestleMania 32 – Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks – WWE Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match

Charlotte Becky Lynch Sasha Banks

Cagematch rating: 8.50

WrestleMania 32 isn’t too fondly remembered, thanks to Triple H and Roman Reigns’ abysmal and predictable headliner, but its inaugural Women’s Championship bout between Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks, three of WWE’s Four Horsewomen, more than made up for this. The three-way served as a reminder that the Women’s Evolution was very much in full effect in WWE, with the atrocious Divas Championship finally retired in favour of a modernised Women’s Championship design.

Although the outcome of Charlotte walking away as champion has been ridiculed over the years, the match as a whole certainly delivered. The trio – alongside their Four Horsewomen comrade Bayley – had been responsible for turning around the perception of women in WWE, with their ‘Mania 32 clash acting as a celebration of that. All three worked a match that, previously, hadn’t been thought of by women in WWE, a corkscrew Moonsault plancha from Charlotte exemplifying this best. There was still work to be done with the Women’s Evolution, but this was a considerable step forward.

WrestleMania 33 – AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon

Shane McMahon AJ Styles

Cagematch rating: 7.68

When WWE booked AJ Styles to face then-SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon as just Styles’ second WrestleMania match in April 2017, no-one could have foreseen the instant classic that was to follow. Styles is a reputable and trustworthy name to deliver on big stages, but against the disliked McMahon son, his second WrestleMania outing was automatically assumed a failure. So, when ‘The Phenomenal One’ and ‘The Best In The World’ locked horns to open ‘Mania 33, jaws were dropped as they delivered something truly special.

It wasn’t your usual WrestleMania classic ala The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, but together, AJ Styles and Shane McMahon put together the best match of the night, earning a respectable 7.68 rating on Cagematch, alongside four stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Styles won, naturally, executing a gorgeous Phenomenal Forearm for the three count, with the win sending him off into the United States Championship scene, where he enjoyed mass success throughout the summer.

WrestleMania 34 – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka – WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

Charlotte Flair Asuka

Cagematch rating: 8.11

The outcome of a professional wrestling match, although predetermined, can seriously make or break the future of a wrestler’s career within a certain promotion. For Asuka at WrestleMania 34, losing wasn’t the right option for her, submitting to Charlotte Flair’s Figure 8 hold to lose her first match since joining WWE in late-2015. Despite this, the former Kana still maintained an impressive WrestleMania debut, as she and ‘The Queen’ went all out on ‘The Show of Shows’ over the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

By this stage, both Asuka and Charlotte had become two of the top stars in WWE, irrelevant of gender identity, with their match taking an 8.11 Cagematch rating and four stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The bout was unlike anything WWE had ever allowed its female Superstars to produce in the past, with Spanish Flys, suplexes off the ring apron, and Moonsaults transitioned into triangle chokes among the match’s highlights. Similar to the matches between The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian, this would have fit perfectly on any top independent promotion.

WrestleMania 35 – Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston – WWE Championship

Daniel Bryan Kofi Kingston

Cagematch rating: 9.06

There is no better feeling in professional wrestling than when WWE does the right thing. They did just that at WrestleMania 35 for a multitude of reasons, between Seth Rollins dethroning Brock Lesnar of the Universal Championship, and Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey being the first women’s ‘Mania headliner. Above those, though, Kofi Kingston, after an eleven-year battle, finally captured the WWE Championship as he toppled Daniel Bryan in an emotional rollercoaster of a match.

Bryan did a spectacular job in elevating the New Day member ahead of his momentous WrestleMania moment, having been in a similar predicament to Kofi just five years prior at WrestleMania XXX. When Kofi executed the Trouble In Paradise to become the new champion, the feeling was felt worldwide that this was a genuine historic moment, a moment that came at the conclusion of a true WrestleMania classic. It stands with a 9.06 rating on Cagematch, as well as its four-and-a-half stars courtesy of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

WrestleMania 36 – The Fiend vs. John Cena – Firefly Fun House Match

John Cena The Fiend

Cagematch rating: 8.35

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, WrestleMania 36 didn’t feel like a WrestleMania. It was pre-taped, full of non-‘Mania clashes such as Bobby Lashley vs. Aleister Black, and took place from an eerily empty Performance Center rather than the planned Raymond James Stadium. WWE took advantage of this where they could, though, producing two cinematic matches, one of which was an epic Firefly Fun House match between John Cena and The Fiend.

Cena and The Fiend unquestionably stole the entire weekend with their escapades that saw the pair travel through time, including an exceptional take on a heel John Cena as an nWo member, where he portrayed Hollywood Hulk Hogan. The Fiend was ultimately successful in the “match”, which in this case, was more of a series of moments than an actual match. Both this, and AJ Styles and The Undertaker’s Boneyard match are credited with making this particular WrestleMania memorable for all the right reasons, despite the dire circumstances.

WrestleMania 37 – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Edge – WWE Universal Championship Triple Threat Match

Daniel Bryan Roman Reigns Edge

Cagematch rating: 8.92

The mere concept of Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, and Edge main eventing any event, let alone a WrestleMania, in the year 2021 makes it deserving of its 8.92 Cagematch rating. All three had battled through their own physical issues to reach the main event of WrestleMania 37’s second night; both of Reigns’ challengers came back from retirement in 2018 and 2020, respectively, in order to challenge him for the Universal Championship on WWE’s first show back with a live audience in over a year. It was heartwarming.

Three-way contests that include the winner of a Royal Rumble match are often questioned for the necessity of having a third party added, but here, it was justified. Bryan was equally as deserving as Rumble winner Edge of a title bout vs. ‘The Tribal Chief’, thus creating this superlative mix of talent to close ‘Mania 37. All three contributed to this excellent match, with Reigns successfully defending the championship he still holds today in what turned out to be Daniel Bryan’s final WWE pay-per-view appearance.

You can find out the full card for WWE WrestleMania 38 and how you can watch it here.