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Just Business presents Half Luck, Half Skul: March Madness - The Greatest WrestleMania Match (R1, Pt.1)
By Samuel 'Plan
Mar 2, 2018 - 7:28:08 PM

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Half Luck, Half Skul: March Madness - The Greatest WrestleMania Match (R1, Pt.1)

The following is the first instalment of a series running down in the LOP Columns Forum, hosted by one of my favourite writers throughout both parts of Lords of Pain: Skulduggery. The idea is simple. Skulduggery, me and a number of other famous LOP names are provided a bracket of ‘Mania matches, as seeded by our host Skulduggery himself, and we vote to pick the best of each pairing; the match with the most votes wins and proceeds to the next round, until we are ultimately left with a single consensus match worthy of being called the Greatest WrestleMania Match of All Time.

While this is a CF series, I had such a blast taking part that I decided to present the columns to you here as well, albeit on a little time delay. If you enjoy it enough that you don’t want to wait for part two, head on over to the Columns Forum itself for more instalments – and more awesome columns by awesome writers too! And why not try having a go yourself?! Just click here!

For now, this is part one of Round One of Half Luck, Half Skul’s March Madness – The Greatest WrestleMania Match. Enjoy!


Smell that? WrestleMania season is in the air. Sure, we’ve got a Chamber and a Lane to get to, but it’s the Grand Daddy of ‘em all that’s on the lips of many fans. And, since we’re entering said days, I thought it was a suitable time to contribute my own reason to the season, and organize another quest to collectively pluck the greatest match from a historically deep event. March Madness is here, and we’re bound to determine the greatest WrestleMania match ever.

For those that may not have caught 2017’s May and November Madness editions, I was joined by a group of columnists to vote on a series of match-ups to find the greatest Backlash and Survivor Series matches, respectively. Riffing from the NCAA basketball classic, I put a series of matches in a bracket and whichever match won the vote advanced until we were down to a Final 2. In May Madness, Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack (’04) defeated Tajiri vs. Billy Kidman (’02) in the finals to be named the top Backlash bout, and November Madness saw Team Bischoff vs. Team Austin (’03) topple Team Cena vs. Team Authority (’14) in the finals to take the crown for Series. Funnily, in both cases, a Randy Orton match emerged victorious. Can the Viper three-peat?

For this year’s Mania tourney, we are starting with 64, and throughout pre-March, March, and post-March (or late February, March, and early April for you normal folk), we will whittle it down until we are left with a majority-determined greatest WrestleMania match ever.

Who is this “we” I keep referring to? Well, I could hardly do this on my own, so I am fortunate to be joined by an elite group of six columnists – Hall of Famer and 10-Time Columnist of the Month mizfan, 2-Time CF Tournament Winner Oliver, Hall of Famer and 7-Time Columnist of the Month Steve, 2-Time Columnist of the Month and newly promoted MPer SirSam, Hall of Famer and 4-Time Columnist of the Month Mazza, and Hall of Famer, 6-Time Columnist of the Month, and published author ‘Plan.

Enough fellating, though, let’s plunge right into this!

I have (with the effort of being as objective as possible) seeded each of the 64 matches I selected, 1 through 16, randomized which matches would appear in each bracket, and a combination of history, selection, and chance produced [a beautiful bracket]. (An overall bracket image will be coming soon, promise ~ ‘Plan.)

Today tackles the left hand side. Voting is on. March Madness, take us away!

Bracket A


(1) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels ('09) vs. (16) Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy ('09)

‘Plan: This one seems easy enough. The former is remembered by many as being perhaps the greatest professional wrestling match of all time; it’s not a sentiment I share, but it’s certainly a far superior achievement to the Hardy fratricide. Dull, plain and charmless, Jeff and Matt’s Extreme Rules Match fails to strike an appropriately intense tone and would, even by television standards, be considered a middling effort at best. I have little to no time for it, and to call this one a squash match in favour of the legends would be an understatement. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels is clearly the superior affair.

SirSam: Wrestlemania 25 was my first ever Wrestlemania, I sat in a mildly interested friend’s lounge room drinking beers and trying to act like I was as equally detached from the product as he was. Underneath I was living and dying every second of both of these matches. Of course Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels was miles better in just about every way but that doesn’t mean the Hardys match wasn’t without its merits. As you would expect they hit the big spots best: the double table spot is suitably silly fun while the massive leg drop miss over the ladder and Twist of Fate in the chair was a particularly barbaric ending.

Skulduggery: With 2009’s Money in the Bank being a late cut from the final 64, the only two representatives from the Silver WrestleMania meet in the very first match-up! Though I think the Hardys’ spotfest is quite underrated, it really doesn’t stand too great a chance against Taker/HBK. The collision between light and darkness is a personal standout for its era and genre, due to its optimal utilization of false finishes – not so few that it fails to send shockwaves through the crowd, and not so many that it feels bloated and overused. Lots of love to Hardy/Hardy for the chair-assisted Twist of Fate and the rare use of a Shop-Vac, but the dice are weighted massively for Taker and Shawn on this one.

Oliver: Hardy vs Hardy. Because it doesn’t have Shawn Michaels in it.

mizfan: I generally like it when the Hardys fight, and this is no exception. It’s a reasonably good match and underrated in the grand scheme. But come on, this is a slaughter. Taker/HBK is my vote, and a contender to win the whole thing.

Mazza: Number one seeds get their spot for a reason. I mean I do have some hipster opinions that will become apparent throughout this shindig but this one is a slamdunk. Taker and HBK have some of the greatest matches in WWE history together and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if this came down to their two Mania battles. Sorry Matt and Jeff, you are outclassed in this thing by quite a long way.

Steve: (1) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels ('09)

(1) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels ('09) wins 6-1

(8) Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair ('92) vs. (9) CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho ('12)

Skulduggery: Tough choice here between two sides of a mirror split by twenty years – a pair of WWE Championship matches, neither were main events, and both were laced with personal issues brought about by a needling and antagonistic heel. With Punk and Jericho’s bout, the opening minutes dripped a little thickly with the illustration that Punk could relinquish the title from a DQ, but quite quickly became a smooth and hard-hitting Mania match. Flair and Savage was likewise a largely crisp, captivating match with one part providing perhaps a touch too much distraction – the absolute riot occurring ringside while half a dozen men tried to stop Miss Elizabeth. The post-match that included Savage’s wife was brilliant, though. I’ll opt for Punk and Jericho by a hair here, for a few more eye-popping inclusions in the match, but either would be worthy choices to advance.

Mazza: Now this is much better. A pair of undercard world titles matches that went out to show why they should have closed the show. Both proved a point, although one of the main events did manage to fight back. As much as I enjoyed Punk and Y2J on the night, I’ve got to give the nod to Randy and Naitch. They made so much out of so little time to build and the intensity of a last minute feud was just exceptionally done.

Steve: (8) Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair ('92)

Savage vs Flair is one of my favorite Mania bouts of all time. Flair vs Hogan would definitely have been the bigger, more iconic match to bring to the show, but nobody can argue the flat out quality that Flair and Savage produced.

‘Plan: The battle between Savage and Flair possesses neither the pointed discipline nor aimless charm of either man’s best work, but is nonetheless a complete riot, and as typically forward thinking as any Savage match is. Punk and Jericho’s own outing, meanwhile, is at its best when engaging with the simple but compelling concept of Best in the World vs. Best in the World; the passion of both men for the performance art bleeds through most when allowed to be about nothing more than competition. Unfortunately, while very good, it is prevented from being great because of the invasive imposition of the melodrama you can easily assume the company forced upon them – that being Punk’s family history of addiction, and his being robbed of the traditional championship advantage.

Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair wins out for me here. It’s a tough decision to be sure, but the 1992 effort has a great deal more breezy personality about it than the sometimes overwrought 2012 effort has.

Oliver: I think this is going to be a closer one than a lot of the others. The Punk/Jericho match has long been a sleeper favourite of mine, but I think I’ll give the edge here to the higher seeded Savage/Flair bout which was probably equally as good but just got me invested that little smidgen more.

mizfan: I suspect people will go back and forth on this one, but while both matches are great I have no trouble voting for Savage/Flair. Punk/Jericho was handicapped by an iffy (at best) stipulation and struggled to fully capture the grudge match feeling it was looking for, whereas Savage/Flair is a wild brawl that brings out the best in both guys.

SirSam: These two are very similar matches, the wrestling purist main event for the night, put under two bigger ‘names’ and wrestling to prove a point. I’ve gone with the older iteration because I think they did more with the characters throughout the action. Punk and Jericho started out very informed by the story leading up but by the end were largely wrestling a match that isn’t as grounded in that build (albeit wrestling it very, very well). Savage v Flair though is constantly having little story and character bits pop up, be it Perfect’s involvement, Miss Elizabeth coming out and even after the match with Macho’s animalistic aggression and Flair leaving bloodstained.

(8) Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair ('92) wins 6-1

(5) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H ('14) vs. (12) Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle ('04)

mizfan: Bryan/HHH is another possible contender to win the whole thing, and I say that as a guy who isn’t that high on Triple H. That match was close to perfect though. I didn’t care for Eddie/Angle that much on first watch, and while rewatching it for this series made me appreciate it more, this is still no contest.

‘Plan: Controversial as it may be, I have to vote for Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle. It’s a character driven sleeper classic that sadly goes forgotten, mixing canvas science, world class athleticism and explosive ill tempers to fashion something truly remarkable.

Conversely, when robbed of the magic of its moment, the ‘Mania XXX curtain jerker, though a momentous achievement in its own right, loses its emotional power for me. That’s not because of any inadequacy on the part of those involved; quite the opposite, in fact. As is often the case with Bryan matches, it’s so beautifully polished a performance that I find it emotionally inaccessible; cold and distant despite its heart, it might sing but does so with its eyes closed.

Oliver: Oh man, this is a much harder pick than it should be, and I’d like to write about each at length really. Bryan vs Triple H, whether the intention or otherwise, had months of buildup and really nailed the storyline it had going in terms of match delivery. It’s probably, in his whole career, Trips best non-gimmicked match, which says a hell of a lot. Dude brought his work boots on this one, for sure.

On the flipside, Eddie vs Kurt had a little storyline build but really is all about the technical excellence of both guys. It’s a real stormer of a match, and one I love watching even now. One of few Eddie matches I can return to without being overcome with the emotion of it all, to be honest. So I’m sort of torn on the vote, but I’m going say that Eddie vs Kurt just – narrowly – takes this one, but in an ideal world Skul wouldn’t be such a swine and put them together!

Mazza: Bryan’s road to New Orleans is my favourite story in WrestleMania history. Part one of the miracle on Bourbon Street was perfect in my eyes. Kurt and Eddie is probably underappreciated in the grand scheme of things but it is overmatched here.

Steve: (5) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H ('14)

SirSam: Wow two more fantastic matches, one thing though Skull HOW IN THE WORLD does Kurt Angle v Eddie Guerrero get seeded 12th? That is two of the best to ever tie up their laces and more to the point HOW IN THE WORLD are both of these seeded below the Money In The Bank match? Good God son. On to the action though and this is four of the best workers in the WWE’s history, so it is not an easy split to make. Both have huge stakes, have the audience buying in deeply for a beloved hero facing someone who has besmirched their character and thinks they represent an image that is ‘best for business’. Both are also dominated in the ring by a technician, cerebrally breaking down a limb and trying to slow down their opponent. In the end for me this comes down to my personal subjective experience and if I had been getting into wrestling in 2004 I may have gone for Eddie however it was Daniel Bryan and the Yes movement that got me back into wrestling in 2014 so that is the match that gets it.

Skulduggery: Begrudgingly, I select WrestleMania XXX’s curtain jerker – despite not really being a Bryan fan, I can’t deny what a great good vs. evil battle this one is. I hope people realize how much Triple H and Stephanie contributed to that, though – it’s damn difficult to pull off a seriously despised heel in this era. Eddie and Angle had some excellent moments, but they’re just nudged out here.

(5) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H ('14) wins 5-2

(4) Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho Man Randy Savage ('91) vs. (13) Money in the Bank Ladder Match (’08)

Oliver: The thing with MitB matches, and I think something that stands to saying now before we run through a few more of them, is that they all kind of blur into one in my head. Like, Swagger winning is interchangeable with Punk winning. I assume that Shelton Benjamin did some jumping in them all. I can’t say there are many which, over the years, have stuck in my memory to the point of me going ‘ooh, that was a really good Money in the Bank match’ and talking about it in retrospect.

So I think with that in mind I need to give the win here to Warrior vs Savage.

SirSam: The Ultimate Warrior’s best match ever and has actually made my wife enjoy wrestling, even if just for one match, against a match where the commentators wonder how Mark Henry will climb a ladder. Sure Punk got the win and used it to launch a fantastic heel run but this is where the Money In The Bank truly got silly. Shelton Benjamin nearly succeeded in his annual suicide attempt as he dived head first into the outside of the ring and Mark Henry actively threw a ladder out of the ring when he was the only one in it. This is easy and even without the amazing post-match Savage and Warrior take it by a significant margin.

mizfan: Even the Warrior’s supposedly good matches often don’t do much for me, but this is the exception. Savage/Warrior gets my vote, and holds a place as perhaps the pinnacle of the very particular over the top style of the first WWF boom era. Even the 5 elbow kickout and Warrior muttering to himself can’t take it down. I think the MITB at 24 was great, but it falls short here.

Mazza: I won’t be giving a whole lot of love to Money in the Bank matches in this thing. I appreciate its place on a card however I will take a great story over a fun clusterfuck every single time. When we are talking about the Mania 7 retirement match, it’s an even easier decision. Warrior’s greatest ever match and the most emotional post-match in Mania history.

Skulduggery: Ah, man. Wicked tough call. Pasting straight-up old school against new school. The oldies feature a dated but honestly treasured character-saturated shocker. Watching Savage deliver 5 unsuccessful elbows and Warrior deliver a single unsuccessful finisher, only for both to be reacted upon with similar disbelief really displays the ostensible power each side of good and evil possessed in the era. How on earth can you discount the post-match reunion between Macho Man and Elizabeth, though? Nothing today, in the same vein, I venture, could match it. Looking at Money in the Bank, the match itself has way more peaks, but also way more valleys. Some incredible sequences, such as Morrison’s ladder-aided Moonsault and Benjamin’s 3-person Sunset Flip-Powerbomb-Superplex (at ladder height!), give this match a true highlight reel. Matt Hardy’s intervention on MVP is an additional bonus and, though entirely uninfluenced by anybody in the match, the fact that the sky gradually darkens upon this match is a truly cool moment, virtually untouched in WWE lore. That said, the commentary as a whole is horrific (six announcers stumbling over one another; Styles in particular sounding inept, as his rare input is cringingly catalogue), and the overall structure of the match, while still impressive by its shoulder-raising spots, is not as captivating as its MitB predecessors. I think this one, stripped down though I may make it, comes down to old-school character against new-school spots, and in a rare instance, I have to pick, in a pretty slim decision, Savage and Warrior.

‘Plan: The inclusion of the WrestleMania XXIV Money in the Bank Ladders Match provides me with the first of many times when I severely disagree with some of the seeds included in this tournament. It is the match that really brought my wrath to bear against the ludicrousness you only ever see in matches of its kind. More concerned with ‘innovating’ than with telling a solid story, the match is home to some of the most ridiculous visuals I can remember enduring in a pro wrestling match. I check out as soon as I see John Morrison idiotically trying to do a moonsault while hugging a ladder. All stunts, no sense, it was my coming out as a hater of the Ladders Match. To pretend like it should even have a chance against a timeless masterpiece like The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage is a laughable proposition to me, snobby though that might sound.

Steve: (13) Money in the Bank Ladder Match (’08)

I absolutely hate the Warrior/Savage match. Not because it outright sucks or anything. It's easily one of Warrior's best showings, if not his outright best. I just always despised the ending. Nobody, NOBODY should kick out of that many consecutive Savage elbow drops. I don't care how much Destrucity you have. That's some bullshit.

(4) Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho Man Randy Savage ('91) wins 6-1

(3) Money in the Bank Ladder Match ('05) vs. (14) Floyd “Money” Mayweather vs. Big Show (’08)

Skulduggery: Money one way or the other, right? I’m taking the Ladder match in a landslide, though. Not due to any fault that the Mayweather/Big Show bout featured, but simply due to the immense success of the inaugural Money in the Bank. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a spotfest of such caliber that simultaneously outlined each performer’s character and role perfectly. Benjamin as the spontaneous, young, impulsive athlete. Kane as the bulldozing monster. Benoit as the gritty workhorse who’s trying to get back to the mountaintop a year after his career pinnacle. Christian as the slimy heel using Tomko as his extra ladder. Jericho as the crowd-favorite innovator. And of course, Edge as the sly, opportunistic, timely victor. Put this one in the freezer; I’m hoping MitB I goes deep in this tourney.

Steve: (3) Money in the Bank Ladder Match ('05)

I've got a soft spot for MITB matches. Though they obviously vary greatly in terms of quality, I don't think I've ever seen a single one that I didn't enjoy.

Oliver: Erm… Floyd vs Show. I think? Yeah, I’ll go with Floyd vs Show.

mizfan: I’m going against the seeding for the first time here and putting a strong vote towards Show/Mayweather here. I was expecting this would be a close one, but after rewatching the first MITB and watching Chris Benoit’s skull get rattled around mercilessly I’m not as high on it as I used to be. It’s still a great match, but an uncomfortable rewatch. But honestly, I might have voted for Show/Mayweather anyway. This is a match that should have sucked on paper, but they made it AWESOME by working one of the smartest matches in modern history, playing on the crowd’s expectations, carefully using every interaction to drive the narrative of the match, and overall just putting on an amazing performance in one of the most underrated ‘Mania matches ever. I hope Mayweather/Show goes deep in this thing.

Mazza: Remember what I said about the last match? The original MITB was always likely to be the exception that proves the rule. But then it came up against Money and Show. Unless there is a big upset, I won’t get a chance to talk about this again in this tournament. To me it was everything that was right with celebs in WWE. A guy who fully committed to his role. Big Show delivered a masterpiece in holding it all together and what we got was a fantastic David vs Goliath story but with some 21st century twists. Easy choice for me to go with the match from 24 here.

SirSam: The first and the best of the Money in the Bank matches. Had 6 genuine title contenders and it gave them all a reasonable amount of time to shine and get their kicks in. The flying headbutt off the ladder by Benoit does not watch back well at all however all praise to his commitment to selling his arm and how it becomes so integral to the ending when Edge attacks it causing him to fall from the ladder. If nothing else the Mayweather match has to be admired given it was his first ever time in a wrestling ring. He is a natural showman and his entourage plays it up so well. However there is no getting around that with the MITB Briefcase being on offer to six legitimate contenders, the celebrity spot just doesn't have the stakes or in-ring talent of its opposition.

‘Plan: On the one hand, the first ever Money in the Bank Ladders Match laid out a perfect blueprint for its sub-genre and a genesis of an idea now central to the promotion’s creative modus operandi. So too is it an outrageously good match in its own right, maximising the variety of the performers involved while anchoring itself to an emergent, subtly told but no less effective underdog story as Chris Benoit fights through mounting agony only to fall short of a win thanks to Edge’s cut-throat cunning.

But then there’s Show and Mayweather; what I referred to in my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, as the very embodiment of Vince McMahon’s vision for sports entertainment and, more specifically, WrestleMania itself. It is conceptual purity. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and a mastering of an idea first attempted years earlier at WrestleMania XI between Bam Bam Bigelow and Lawrence Taylor.

I’ll have to go with Money in the Bank; while both were tremendous successes worthy of progressing to the second round, the lasting influence of the first ever Money in the Bank Ladders Match gives it the edge; no pun intended!

(3) Money in the Bank Ladder Match ('05) wins 4-3

(6) Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho ('03) vs. (11) Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker ('14)

Skulduggery: I have a feeling that Lesnar/Taker is going to be the Survivor Series Goldberg/Lesnar of the WrestleMania tournament. As a match? Bleh. But I just couldn’t omit the most flooring WWE moment of the 21st Century from this kind of competition. The pure and collective shock felt throughout viewers is something nigh untouchable, and though controversial it may be, I felt it warranted a shot in this tournament. Not enough for me, however – Jericho/Michaels has my vote.

‘Plan: Well this is a no brainer if ever I’ve seen one. I can only assume the Lesnar / Undertaker match has made it into this tournament by virtue of its shocking, Streak shattering conclusion, because by no measure can it be called a good match. Accepting that the Dead Man ended up having to combat a concussion, it watches as lethargic, uncomfortable and absolutely void of any original creative thinking, instead coasting on the conceptual hits of the Phenom’s five preceding years of critical acclaim. Were it not for its historical note-worthiness, we would have long since justifiably consigned it to the book of the forgotten. It would be difficult to pick it over any match, quite honestly; that it finds itself paired opposite the spiritual successor to, and the only match I have ever seen that has come close to matching the quality of, the wrestling match of the 20th Century, being Savage vs. Steamboat at ‘Mania III, makes this decision all the easier. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho takes it by a country mile.

Steve: (6) Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho ('03)


Fuck Lesnar, fuck ending The Streak and fuck anyone who votes for that over the fantastic Jericho v Michaels bout.

Okay, not fuck 'em, but I am looking very disapprovingly in your direction and shaking my head sadly.

Oliver: Brock vs Undertaker, because it doesn’t have Shawn Michaels in it..

Mazza: Easy peasy. The streak ending was obviously huge but it was a horrible watch. Michaels and Jericho put on an absolute classic. Doesn’t even need a second thought.

SirSam: Two very famous endings, one because it was so well done, fit the characters so well and was earnt by what happened in the match, the other because Brock Lesnar dropped The Undertaker on his head and it sucked. Whether you think The Streak should have ended or not I don't think anyone will argue it deserved a far better ending that this. (6) Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (’03)

mizfan: Watching an old, concussed Undertaker get dumped on his head over and over again until the Streak suddenly ended was not a fun experience for me in any way, shape or form. It was shocking, I’ll grant you that, but not in a good way, and the match was far too long even if Taker hadn’t gotten his brain banged up early on. How many finisher kickouts can you do? Obviously HBK/Jericho is getting my vote here, a fantastic dream match full of great action, character, and story.

(6) Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (’03) wins 6-1

(7) Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match ('16) vs. (10) Evolution vs. The Rock n Sock Connection ('04)

Mazza: The IC title match at 32 certainly overachieved. There were some nice stories going on and even the shock result worked out. Plus it’s the night that seemed to light an insane fire under the Miz that turned him into the most entertaining performer in the company. The handicap tag was fun and all but when you consider the talent involved, it should have been even better. See. I am not totally against ladder matches.

‘Plan: This I found actually quite tough. Neither could be called one of the true classics; there’s a list of other ‘Mania matches as long as my arm I would rather see on this list, honestly. But they both are solidly enjoyable – yes, even the Intercontinental Championship Ladders Match.

The Handicap Tag Team Match is bolstered by its dream combinations fashioned from The Rock’s presence and a very strong story underpinning it. It has an unusual, rather quite rare set up but its swift pace, variable action and brimming personality craft a passing pleasure; even if it’s little more than solid undercard fare. Tempted as I am to pick the Ladders Match for it adhering to the blueprint laid out by the inaugural Money in the Bank – tethering itself to the story of Owens vs. Zayn - I can’t look past its woefully misguided conclusion that came to have no lasting relevance and upsets the obvious logic that should, instead, have been brought to fruition. I therefore have to side with Evolution vs. The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection.

mizfan: This was actually close in my mind, as I actually love both of these matches a lot. The XX tag is quite underrated and was a real blast to rewatch. I’ve got a special love for the 32 ladder match though, and I have to give it my vote. Between Sami and Owens killing it as always and Miz being brilliant, and the legitimately feel good ending, this was a clear choice for me in the end.

Oliver: Evolution vs Rock n Sock. No questions asked.

SirSam: At first I thought that Intercontinental Title match would take this one but upon rewatching I discovered there was a lot more to love about the handicap tag match. Whether it was the budding Foley and Orton rivalry where you can see the fear conflict with the ambition in Orton’s eyes, be it Flair and The Rock trying to one up each other in their imitations or even something as subtle as how Batista calls for help from his teammates when caught in the Mandible Claw. I've read Foley wasn't happy about this match but I think this is a really great piece of work, exactly how the vets should be used at Mania too.

Skulduggery: Really easily, actually, I’m taking the greatest Handicap match in WrestleMania history over an exciting match with a gag-worthy finish. Zack Ryder sucks. He had an ice cube in an oven for a story coming into this one, and I don’t give a fuck about his “WrestleMania moment”.

Steve: (10) Evolution vs. The Rock n Sock Connection ('04)

The IC match was probably better, but Flair cussing a blue streak in the Evolution match is a very fond memory of watching the match live.

(10) Evolution vs. The Rock n Sock Connection ('04) wins 5-2

(2) Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock ('01) vs. (15) Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan ('90)

SirSam: Steve Austin’s obsession with the WWF Championship really shines through in my watch of this match and the way the commentary and wrestlers plant seeds of the swerve ending is really something special. This match is one of the best examples of what the Attitude Era did best, strong characters bumping into each other with conflicting motivations, hot crowd, non-stop in ring action and emotionally engaging stories that inform the in ring work and manage to shock the audience. Hogan v Warrior may be a clash of two huge names but it doesn’t manage to touch the flag bearers of the Attitude Era.

Oliver: Austin vs Rock. That was a nice easy pair to end the round out.

Mazza: There are a handful of matches that I count as my favourites in Mania history and Rock-Austin II is one of them. It’s also the highest profile one that makes it the bout to beat for me. I will be interested to see if I will vote against at any point. As much as the Mania 6 main is a big part of my early fandom, it’s not going to be the one.

Steve: (15) Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (’90)

I think I may be one of the very few people who just straight up doesn't really care for any of the Rock/Austin WM matches. I dug the storylines behind each one, but the matches themselves don't do much for me. Probably because I don't really like The Rock as an in-ring performer all that much.

Warrior/Hogan, though? That's one of the matches that defined my childhood.

mizfan: Remember when I said Warrior’s supposedly good matches often fall flat for me? That’s definitely the case here. I completely respect the vibe of the match being out of this world, and the crowd reaction is legendary. However, the match itself is a damn snoozer, an endless test of strength with very little actual action to recommend or even recall. Rock/Austin II is not without it’s flaws and I think it’s actually rather overrated, but it’s still a great match at the end of the day and is the clear choice here.

Skulduggery: The first of five matches to show up from WrestleMania X-Seven, dubbed by many the greatest Mania yet, Austin and The Rock is an absolutely grueling, and far superior, evolution to Hogan/Warrior 11 years prior. Both feature the two most popular stars of the time in a showdown, but the Attitude Era shows such a grungy graduation from a 1990 stalwart that it has to take my vote. Honestly, it’s cheddar cheese against sizzled steak, and though I do love my cheese in certain instances (I will always love Full House, for instance), Austin and The Rock batter their way onto the second round on my ballot.

‘Plan: Austin vs. The Rock was the perfect brawl. Warrior vs. Hogan was the perfect big man match. Both present the pinnacle performers of their respective Eras meeting in the show closing main event on the Grandest Stage of Them All for the WWE Championship. Both boast an electrifying atmosphere in their favour, and both have action that largely remains one note. Both enjoy outright iconic reputations to this day too. Neither is unafraid to indulge in the inherent silliness of the performance art. The ‘Mania VI main event did prove that top babyface vs. top babyface could be a successful formula, so would we even have the ‘Mania X-Seven main event without it? I don’t know. What I do know is we do have the ‘Mania X-Seven main event, and its bad tempered, high octane, pulse pounding ferocity is unmatched as a viewing experience. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock it is.

(2) Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock ('01) wins 6-1



Bracket B


(1) TLC II ('01) vs. (16) John Cena vs. Triple H ('06)

mizfan: Cena/HHH is a match that is famous for having a very contrary crowd, and being notable moment in the movement that turned many fans against Cena for the rest of his career. However, outside of the reaction, I honestly don’t see what’s special about the match at all. If anything it comes off extremely basic, and the way it’s worked is rather annoying as WWE doesn’t seem to know if they want Cena to try to turn the crowd back into fans or push Triple H as the babyface of the night. WWE would later master this formula with Cena, but they weren’t there yet by any means. It also really annoys me that Triple H taps out while very obviously in grabbing distance of the ropes. The first ‘Mania TLC is, however, a complete triumph of mayhem and destruction, with tons of moving pieces that fit together flawlessly. It’s a spot fest, yes, but one of the best ever, and thus TLC is an easy vote for me.

SirSam: For me this is the absolute peak of the TLC matches and they should probably have stopped doing them as they couldn’t live up to this one either with the in-ring stunts performed and also for the logical reason for having them. I don’t quite get the number 1 ranking but there is no doubting that this thrill a minute brawl was an amazing crescendo for the three hall of fame tag teams involved.

Skulduggery: No disrespect to the WM22 closer, but it’s TLC in a wash-out. One of my favorite matches ever. Arrogant assumption, but this one’s going through, so I’ll have plenty to say in later rounds.

‘Plan: Trashy; gratuitous; practically voyeuristic; TLC II has a lot to answer for as far as I’m concerned, being the match that showed the world what to expect from matches involving ladders in the 21st Century. Usually, it would be easy for me to vote against Unfortunately for me, then, so too is it exciting, raucous and undeniably popular; all of which are traits enjoyed by the WrestleMania 22 main event as well.

The difference between the two is simple: originality. While TLC II went to pains to do new things and unfurl a fresh new approach to a still young genre, John Cena and Triple H coast their way through 22 minutes of the most unoriginal, lackadaisical wrestling I can ever remember being put to canvas, lifted only by a crowd invested for its own reasons. Everything about the show closer of WrestleMania 22, while made watchable by its audience, is odiously cliché. TLC II, perhaps shockingly, picks up my vote.

Steve: (1) TLC II ('01)

Oliver: Oh, TLC II in a heartbeat here.

Mazza: Interesting to see TLC II getting that number one seed. I get the feeling it could be the first top seed to fall in its bracket. No danger here though. Cena and Trips was okay but it’s not going to trouble the fantastic show put on by E&C, the Hardys and the Dudleys.

(1) TLC II (’01) wins 7-0

(8) Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit ('01) vs. (9) The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan ('02)

Oliver: Another one that I suspect will end up splitting the board pretty tightly across the votes. Personally, for me, I always thought that Rock vs Hogan was a good spectacle match but not much of a wrestling match. It’s that which gives Angle and Benoit an edge, but equally watching it now Angle vs Benoit can seems a little bit cold and clinical.

I’m going to give the win to the slightly more raggedy Rock/Hogan bout, which is something I never thought I’d do going in.

Mazza: Now this is a tough one. You have polar opposite bouts in terms of style. Angle and Benoit was an excellent midcard showing, however it gets lost on an insanely strong card and amongst a host of other classics between the two. Rock and Hogan was simply electrifying. The action wasn’t up to much but it didn’t need to be. They entertained they way only they can and it gets my vote here.

SirSam: This is a very clear case of the purist v popcorn wrestling and it is another very close decision. I will go with Rock v Hogan for the way they adapted and moulded the match to the crowd reaction they were getting and also for the unique nature of it. It is also what Wrestlemania main events should be, the absolute biggest stars facing each other, on the biggest stage in front of a hot, hot crowd. Unfortunately for Angle and Benoit their match doesn’t have the same clout and let’s be honest, as good as it is, they had better matches than this one.

‘Plan: Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, at 2001’s Showcase of the Immortals, created a real powerhouse of a mid card match. The action is informed exclusively by its preceding story in a way we see much too rarely these days, building relentlessly to a mighty crescendo that gets frustratingly undercut.

The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan on the other hand is cumbersome, flawed and the result of an unworkable storyline. It gets my vote all the same, though, thanks to those flaws being the very core of its appeal. It is lusciously old fashioned, but crackles with the modern edge of a delightfully rebellious crowd. The improvisations; the theatre; the tsunami of emotion; there’s so much to love, how can you pick anything else?

Skulduggery: This is almost a centrifuge of professional wrestling – Angle and Benoit represent the between-the-ropes action, while Rock and Hogan display the character, charisma, and crowd response. Little of what is strongly represented in the polar opposites leaks into it’s respective foe’s match. In this scenario, Rock and Hogan show greater vibrancy than Angle and Benoit do technique.

Steve: (9) The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan ('02)

Easily my favorite Rock WrestleMania match. This match is the absolute definition of a WrestleMania moment.

mizfan: On the one hand, you’ve got Benoit/Angle, which should have been great but for whatever reason was merely good. On the other hand, you’ve got a match that frankly sucks on paper, but thanks to some careful structuring and a molten hot crowd became one of the most beloved bouts in history. Rock/Hogan may run into trouble when it faces stiffer competition, but it takes my vote here!

(9) The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan ('02) wins 7-0

(5) The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin ('03) vs. (12) Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg ('17)

Steve: (12) Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg ('17)

I guess I may be the only one who votes this way, but fuck it. Lesnar v Goldberg was EXACTLY what it needed to be. In it's own way, judged based upon its own standards for what the storyline had laid out, it's an almost perfect match.

SirSam: It was a fun match but screw Brock Lesnar’s title reign and how it completely stuffed up 2017. This match can go the way of Goldberg and rack off. (5) The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin ('03)

mizfan: I’ve talked at length about how little I cared for Lesnar/Goldberg. I get why people liked it, I just didn’t. At all. And even at best, it’s what, 5 minutes long? Less? The final Austin/Rock match is a spectacular goodbye to both wrestlers as regular performers, and is in fact my favorite of all their matches together, doubly impressive for Austin wrestling after being hospitalized only the day before. Another easy pick, give me Rock/Austin any day of the week.

Oliver: Eh, Rock vs Austin again, I guess. Lesnar/Goldberg is good, but it’s not that good.

Skulduggery: I was buoyant going into my rewatch of Rock/Austin III, but the pace of the finish and its relative absence of much beyond finishers actually deflated my ride a little bit. It’s still a very good final chapter, but I’ll take its X-Seven counterpart all day. Meanwhile, Goldberg and Lesnar accomplished a very rare feat of using its history of two terrible matches and evolving into a downright explosive finale. By a hair, I’ll vote for Goldberg and Brock.

Mazza: Brock and Goldberg overachieved as a feud during 2016 and 2017 and was a lot of fun. It still bugs me that it had the title attached to it but hey ho. If it got a kind draw it was capable of a shock but I love the story of the final match in the Rock-Austin trilogy. Possibly The Great One’s finest character performance ever and it goes through here.

‘Plan: These are two powerfully character driven pieces of work, each the closing chapter in a legendary WWE feud. The clash of Brock Lesnar and Goldberg might have irked a lot of fans for having happened, quite ridiculously, in 2017, but there’s little denying it was an exercise in successful creative decision making. The popular phrase to describe it, of course, remains “it was everything it needed to be” and that rings true. Yet despite the bravery of its short explosive storytelling thrust, it possesses a funny, if not inexplicable sense of semantic emptiness thanks to the madness of its timing in WWE history. Compared to what I consider the best and darkest chapter of arguably the most financially successful feud in WWE history, it stands no chance. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin.

(5) The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin ('03) wins 5-2

(4) Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista ('14) vs. (13) Undertaker vs. Randy Orton ('05)

mizfan: Bryan finally winning the world title back was one of the greatest moments in ‘Mania history, but I have to admit the match itself is not up to the standard of the match with Triple H earlier in the night. There’s a distinct lack of energy whenever Batista and Orton are left to their own devices, and due to the way the match is structured that happens all too often. Bryan coming off the stretcher always struck me as a little overdramatic as well, it was more bells and whistles than the match really needed. Taker/Orton is a bit of a forgotten gem by comparison, a match with a great dynamic and very strong action. It’s not a big question for me, I’m going with Taker/Orton on this one.

Skulduggery: This time, I think I’ll snub Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania XXX. An exciting triple threat, to be sure, but it lacked the emotion that his curtain jerker with the Game possessed. Also, upon rewatch, the whole stretcher spot seemed a little too unctuous. I'm biased, admittedly. The Streak vs. The Legend Killer, however, was the unofficial start of the Streak in that it was the first Taker match at Mania to highly promote the Deadman’s clean record as a motivation. And what a storytelling roller-coaster it was – one that didn’t sacrifice quickness and excitement, either, which is often a small curse of storytelling epics.

‘Plan: I’m going all in with my votes against Daniel Bryan’s immortal story at WrestleMania XXX it seems, as I’m going to throw my hat in for The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton. While there’s plenty to like about the actually quite tame WrestleMania XXX Triple Threat Match, so too can the same be said about the most under-appreciated Streak Match of them all. So much so, I rather quite fell in love with when I re-watched it for this column.

It’s confident, well paced and expertly measured in its execution, with two very generous performances from those involved that serve only to benefit each character respectively. Its story benefits from its simplicity, is told fluidly and largely without pause, balancing drama and restraint in equal measure. I’m hard pressed to think of many better compiled 15 minute matches in all honesty, and I’ll champion it to the end of my days; even if, sadly, I can’t see it passing this first round.

Mazza: Part 2 of the Miracle on Bourbon Street is all about the culmination of an exhausting and emotional story. It’s not the greatest triple threat you will ever see but I still can’t separate it from how it makes me feel. It will run into trouble at some point I’d assume but a middle of the pack streak match isn’t going to be the one to do that.

Steve: (4) Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista ('14)

Yeah, I'm voting against Taker. That Bryan moment was one I'll carry for the rest of my lucid days.

Oliver: If I’m going against Bryan’s one night story elsewhere in the votes, I’m sure as hell not going against him again no matter how good Taker vs Orton is. Skul, you’re killing me man!

SirSam: As I said above, the road to Wrestlemania 30 was my return to wrestling and this match was the perfect ending to the perfect wrestling story. Even though the match is all about Daniel Bryan all three of the performers were immense throughout, with special mention to Orton who is the unsung hero of this one. Even the commentators are on point, Michael Cole’s call at the end feeds off the emotion of it so well. The only gripe I have about it is how Batista doesn’t grab one of them and try to take the win after the Batista Bomb, RKO combo through the table leaves Orton and Bryan down. Taker v Orton is a very fun match and includes a very slick RKO counter to a chokeslam but ultimately it doesn’t have the stakes or emotion to the culmination of the Yes Movement.

(4) Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista ('14) wins 4-3

(3) Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage ('87) vs. (14) Seth Rollins vs. Triple H ('17)

SirSam: Are you kidding? First round these two are paired up. ‘Plan is going to lose it. I was one of the fans ranking the Rollins and Triple H match as the best of last year and countless words have been written about how important Steamboat and Savage is to wrestling historically. I’ll let ‘Plan wax lyrics about the amazingness off the build to Rollins v Triple H but I thought I’d point out just the little things in each match I love: Rollins holding his knee as he hops up to the top turnbuckle, the way Rollins actually hits his knee as if he is trying to knock it back into place or shock it into working and I love how when Triple H gets the advantage he so single mindedly and intensely zones in on the way he thinks he can win. In the Savage v Steamboat match I love how Steamboat chokes Macho Man, showing how despite his normal respectable ways the gloves are off and he is willing to do anything to win, I love how Ventura seems to do nothing but point out how Steamboat is cheating and I love how the ending ultimately comes when Macho Man’s usage of the ring bell comes back to haunt him. So to the pick, historically Rollins v Triple H would not have happened without Steamboat v Savage creating their masterpiece, so that in itself points me in one direction. However, I plainly just think that Rollins v Triple H was a better match, the way that everything is so educated by their respective characters and the story that led in, the way the action escalates and ultimately the catharsis of the ending with not only Triple H taking the pin but Steph also ending up on the floor.

‘Plan: I can foresee there being no harder choice for me to make in this entire tournament than this one. Steamboat vs. Savage is a match my head tells me is the greatest ever wrestled, and wrote the book on WWE’s style still employed to this day. But no match has ever meant more to me emotionally than the Architect’s quest for redemption against the Cerebral Assassin just last year. Thus, it’s a choice between my head and my heart.

And I choose my heart. As much as I could gush about WrestleMania III’s slice of iconography, Seth Rollins vs. Triple H is a must for me. Phenomenal storytelling, three dimensional character, deeply immersive emotional heft and a great deal of personal meaning I won’t go into dictates that no other match in this entire tournament has my backing more than the best match of all of 2017. Even now, after more re-watches than I can count, this timeless fable of a man desperately seeking to redesign, rebuild and reclaim his own soul punches me in the gut, clutches me by the heart and just won’t let go. Though I can’t see it happening, I so desperately want it to progress to round two, and further still!

Oliver: Grass gonna grow, rain gonna fall, Triple H gonna kill a Mania crowd by working an Indian Deathlock. Steamboat vs Savage reinventing the wheel, please.

Steve: (3) Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage ('87)

Skulduggery: Crucify me if you will, but Steamboat and Savage doesn’t live up to its epic billing for yours truly. It’s damn good – but I’ll opt for the upset with the student vs. teacher clash. Rollins and HHH!

mizfan: For quite a while I avoided Rollins/HHH. Rollins is a hit or miss performer for me, and I’m far from the biggest Triple H fan. I did finally catch the match for the series, and a lot of the issues I anticipated did indeed pop up. It was far too long, the pacing was poor, the story was overdramatic, and of course the obligatory Stephanie bump was awkwardly shoe horned in. That said, I liked it more than I expected. The core of the story was not bad, playing on Rollins’ past knee injury. And… well, I still didn’t like it that much, but hopefully it’s a moot point, because it’s up against the fantastic classic that stands the test of time, the awesome Steamboat/Savage match that set the bar as far as having a classic ‘Mania match goes, which easily gets my vote.

Mazza: I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to have this kind of dilemma in the first round. I love Triple H vs Seth. It struggled initially in the build but caught fire at the right time and they burnt it down at Mania. But it’s up against a match I’ve probably watched more than any other in history. I’ve watched it that many times for a reason. The Game and The Kingslayer may overtake it at some point in the future, but we aren’t there yet. (3) Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage ('87)

(3) Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage ('87) wins 4-3

(6) Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns ('15) vs. (11) Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton ('06)

‘Plan: I grew up a Bret Hart fan, though saw very few Bret Hart matches. My admiration for him came mainly after the fact. As a result, I longed for many years to know what it felt like to see your favourite wrestler win his first World title as it happened. Well, as Seth Rollins went on to replace the Hitman as my all time favourite, the WrestleMania 31 main event gave me that. How can I not pick it?

The ‘Mania 22 World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match is short but packs a powerful punch, wrestled like those involved are out to prove a point in the most intense fashion. Its breathtaking set pieces are exhilarating, but it also all feels a bit pointless. Certainly when compared to the opus that closed WrestleMania 31 – which combined intensity, real raw emotion, compelling character and a dramatic history-making plot twist – ‘Mania 22’s three way dance should rightly stand no chance. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins.

Skulduggery: The WrestleMania 22 triple threat is not only one of my favorite matches ever, but it’s my official “gateway match”. A handful of times in the last 12 years, I’ve had the opportunity to show friends of mine who aren’t really wrestling fans one match in an attempt to lure them in – and it’s Mysterio/Angle/Orton. It’s short to keep people captivated, but maximizes its minutes brilliantly. It’s bullet-quick in a fashion that befits each individual competitor – Mysterio is speedy because that’s his bread and butter against larger opponents; Orton is quick in the sense of desperation; Angle’s speed can simply be described as machine-like efficiency. It features countless multi-man spots, crisply executed. It’s crafty in the referee distractions, which allow Angle to be portrayed as the dominant but unlucky champion. A casserole of excellence squeezed in under 10 minutes.

Mazza: The WHC title match from Mania 22 is a really fun, high paced encounter. It’s very very watchable but it’s not the epic that Brock vs Roman was. It was a fantastic hard hitting battle with the big shock at the end with Seth’s cash-in. A comfortable victory for the higher seed in this one.

Steve: (6) Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns ('15)

What a great swerve. Executed to perfection.

SirSam: Two quite fun triple threats for the championship however some parts of the 2006 match really harm it when compared to the Reigns and Lesnar fight that was eventually joined by Rollins. I do like how much they just throw Mysterio around with the massive double German Suplex that sends him flying across the ring the highlight, however there are far too many ref distractions for my liking, there are some really obvious set up points and I just don’t enjoy how the ending unfolds, it seems to rely too much on luck rather than skill or heart for my liking.

mizfan: To be honest, I don’t love either of these matches, but there’s a very obvious correct answer as far as I’m concerned. The ’06 triple threat falls soo far below where it should have been it’s embarrassing, thanks to a ridiculously short run time and some truly dumbfounding booking. How do you book Mysterio to tap out in a match where he’s fighting for the memory of his dead friend? WWE couldn’t have sabotaged Mysterio’s first title reign any more thoroughly. The ’15 triple threat has it’s issues but at least it’s exciting and features some not idiotic booking, that’s the clear vote here for me.

Oliver Erm…are we just judging the bit after Rollins cashed in or are we judging the Roman vs Brock one on one bit too? Because I actually like Roman vs Brock a lot, and the Rollins cash in is a bit of an icing topper but nothing really to write home about it. I’m going to assume you’re talking about the whole thing and give the sixth seed the win over Mysterio’s big brush with gold in the triple threat.

(6) Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns ('15) wins 6-1

(7) Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch ('16) vs. (10) Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels ('95)

Mazza: This may be the weakest match up in this tournament. Shawn and Big Kev did a decent job at a horrible WrestleMania but nothing more. The ladies did some fine work in the early days of the revolution and had a genuine match of the night contender. However it was a night where most matches were a let down. They get the nod from me here though.

mizfan: I was interested to revisit Diesel/HBK, but WOW did that match not hold up for me. The pacing is just glacial (thanks, Nash), and a lot of the spots don't make much sense. Diesel bumps the ringpost and then spends ages just sitting outside the ring. At one point Diesel does a back suplex to Michaels, then after lying around for ages Michaels pins Diesel for a nearfall? Diesel looked like he was doing a bad Hogan impression at times, and there are moments when the crowd barely seems to realize there’s a match going on. I find the ’16 women’s match a bit overrated, but it’s still quite good and runs absolute laps around the ’95 main event, so I’ll gladly take that one here.

SirSam: While Diesel and Shawn do everything they could to tear down the house, and do quite well, I have gone with the women’s match which has some historical clout, is comfortably the best ever Mania Women’s match and is also the match I like to watch as the Main Event of ‘Maina 32 and would have been a fantastic point for them to stop the show that night.

Skulduggery: Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky take this one comfortably. All three ladies had immense pressure to perform, and it turned out to be the optimal amount of pressure to create a diamond. Everything from the multi-person spots to the conniving heel character work from Charlotte really shone.

Oliver: Huh, I’m not really keen on either of these matches. I imagine the consensus will get behind the women’s triple threat, which is probably well deserved. I think I’ll go with that too, edging it over Diesel vs Shawn, but not really by much and certainly, by no means, an emphatic victory.

‘Plan: Everything about the Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania 32 screams “main event.” In fact, to me it is; I always stop watching after Charlotte lifts the red and white strap above her head. Its presentation, execution, historical importance and overall quality would stand up against a great many of the 33 matches that have closed out the Grand Daddy.

This is not to discount the civil war fought between Dudes with Attitude. WrestleMania XI – a show deserving of more representation in this tournament I would venture – boasts an excellent WWF Championship Match among its plethora of strong in-ring content that might watch as a little butter fingered and accident prone, sure, but, despite its frustrating imperfections, has a sense of movement, a physical aesthetic and stylistic contrasts that make for a magnetic watch.

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks quite simply dwarfs it in its influence though, so gets my vote.

Steve: (7) Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch ('16)

The WM 32 Women's match was a game changer for me. I was into the Revolution and all, but I wasn't completely invested until I saw these three women have the best match of the night with me live in attendance. Charlotte was my favorite wrestler within a few months afterwards.

(7) Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch ('16) wins 7-0

(2) Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels ('94) vs. (15) Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero ('05)

Skulduggery: It’s the ladder match, but not by nearly the gulf represented by the seeds. Rey and Eddie did a lot right – they did pretty much everything they needed to – but so did Razor and Shawn, and their bar was higher.

Steve: (2) Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels ('94)

I wore out Blockbuster's copy of WrestleMania X watching the ladder match over and over again. I rented it so often that they let me have the broken copy (after they taped it together) when they purchased a new one.

Mazza: I love the Eddie-Rey feud from ‘05 but the Mania match was probably the weakest of the lot. Rey’s constant fiddling with his mask didn’t help. On the flipside you have the first ladder match in Mania history. Look how many we’ve had since. I think that says it all. Shawn and Razor tore it down that night.

mizfan: Razor/HBK may or may not hold up as a “5 star” match to modern eyes, depending on your taste, but it’s still a fantastic bout and wrestled in a very smart way that sets it apart from some of the spotfests of later years. Mysterio/Eddie is good, but this is an easy choice, give me the ladder boys.

‘Plan: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels defined the Ladder Match in its original form and popularised the concept as introduced by Bret Hart a couple of years beforehand. Not only is it a classic of WrestleMania that regularly features on highlight reels, it solidified the Ladder Match as a stalwart part of WWE’s creative arsenal; so much so, it’s hard to imagine what WWE would look like today without the Ladder Match.

WrestleMania 21’s curtain jerker, though, remains an underrated hit. Guerrero and Mysterio work a highly watchable match to create a hot opener flashily executed. It strikes precisely the right tone to kick off a ‘Mania, in fact. Its story, however, is incredibly basic once you strip away its glitz, and perhaps, I dare say, slightly unbecoming of a WrestleMania match, regardless of its position on the card. It’s certainly nowhere near enough to compete with the gargantuan shadow and reputation of its opponent here.

SirSam: Another really historical match that laid out a fantastic template for how a ladder match can be done in a smart way and also suits the story that led up to it. Mysterio v Guerrero is as good as you would expect and led to a very cool story however I have to side with Ramon v Michaels for just how innovative it was at the time.

Oliver: Rey vs Eddie wins this, just by virtue of being probably the best Mania opener ever and also by not having Shawn Michaels in it.

(2) Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels ('94) wins 6-1


Half of the first round is in the books, with Brackets C and D to be broken into shortly! On par with the two previous tournaments, no real giants were taken down in the first half of Round 1, with Evolution and the Rock n Sock being the only double-digit, thus far, to sneak through. Will we see bigger upsets on the right hand side of things?

And, of course, the big disappointing elephant in the room to address - there's no Billy Kidman matches in this tournament! His match with Tajiri at Backlash '02 immediately became the Cinderella story, knocking off titans such as Edge/Cena '09 and Benoit/HBK/HHH '04, en route to the finals. In Survivor Series, Kidman's bout with Noble in '02 took a similar path, as it was an (11) seed cruising to the Elite Eight. Poor Billy never had a Mania moment akin to those two, though, so he's out. Are we bound to see a different Cinderella this tourney?

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, from the LOP Store today! Simply click here to find mine and a host of other books and merchandise on offer, all courtesy of LOP’s own!

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