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Just Business presents Half Luck, Half Skul: March Madness - The Greatest WrestleMania Match (R1, Pt.2)
By Samuel 'Plan
Mar 9, 2018 - 6:46:38 PM

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Half Luck, Half Skul: March Madness - The Greatest WrestleMania Match (R1, Pt.2)

Following on from last week’s opening instalment of this LOP Columns Forum series, being run by one of the Forums’ best writers Skulduggery, this week Just Business is once again proud to present Half Luck, Half Skul: March Madness – The Greatest WrestleMania Match.

Last time, we looked at Brackets A and B in our search for a consensus greatest ever, and this week we turn to Brackets C and D.



The search for the greatest WrestleMania match rolls on! With the first half of Round 1 notched recently, today we continue our mission to determine the greatest WrestleMania match in history by moving to the right half of the bracket. 16 more matches will advance to the second round, judged by our voting panel - mizfan, Oliver, Steve, SirSam, Mazza, ‘Plan, and myself.

Our current bracket breakdown looks as follows:


Straight into business, then!

Bracket C


(1) Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels ('05) vs. (16) Tatanka vs. Shawn Michaels ('93)

Mazza: I’ve had a little look down this bracket and there are gonna be some shocks and heartbreaking choices to be made. However you’d have to be mental to choose Tatanka over Angle. You’d have to be some sick kind of New Gen freakazoid. Like have proper issues and need to be taken away by people in white coats.

‘Plan: I might find myself pelted with rotten vegetables for doing this, but I have to pick Tatanka vs. Shawn Michaels! It’s a massively underappreciated match, performed with a great deal more composure than the often times unoriginal Kurt Angle match. It’s incredibly smart and demonstrates all the youthful vision that Michaels had in his first career. He moves with the energy of Steamboat and bumps with the relish of Flair. It might not get heralded as a classic, but it succeeds as a robust, perennially engaging mid card championship bout.

Besides, I’ve seen more Shawn Michaels matches too similar to the WrestleMania 21 match to really still care for it all that much.

Steve: (1) Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels ('05)

I need to watch this one again. Even without having seen it in over a decade, though, I know it's better than the boring as hell HBK vs Tatanka bout. It's depressing that that was probably the best match on the WM 9 card.

SirSam: Tatanka v Shawn Michaels is an interesting time capsule to watch but it doesn't come up close to the masterpiece that is Angle v Michaels.

Oliver: Vs. because it doesn’t have Shawn Michaels in it.

Fine, you got me, if I’m going to have to pick a Shawn match I’m dragging Kurt Angle through too, kicking and screaming.

mizfan: Tatanka/HBK kind of sucks. Angle/HBK is another one that I find to be a little overrated, but it’s the only real choice here.

Skulduggery: It’ll take a titanic effort for me to believe that any edition other than WM21 had the greatest Mania undercard of all time. Angle/Michaels is the captain of that. A stunning contrast between styles that holds steadfast in the currents of time. HBK’s opener with Tatanka 12 years prior is a nice strong hand as well, but it’s beaten by the straight flush of ’05.

(1) Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels ('05) wins 6-1

(8) Money in the Bank Ladder Match ('06) vs. (9) Undertaker vs. Batista ('07)

Skulduggery: April, 2006. Shelton Benjamin’s To-Do List: Top last year’s WrestleMania performance. Well, he ran up a ladder balanced against another ladder and threw a clothesline. To top that? How about running up a ladder balanced against the top rope and throwing a Hilo to the outside! April, 2007. Undertaker and Batista’s To-Do List: Steal the show in a mid-evening match that maybe should have been a main event match, and shouldn’t have had to be in a position to steal the show. Mission accomplished there as well. …Gimme MitB II in the end. Some really breathtaking spots that kept its head above the slight unnaturalness to which some of its successors fell.

Mazza: MITB rule in full effect here. Dave and The Deadman stole the show at 23. Lashley being scared of heights doesn’t even come close.

Oliver: I feel like I’ve said it on one of these things before, but I really loved the Taker/Batista feud. Would probably say it was the best feud either man was involved in during that period of their careers. So I’m going with Taker/Bats.

mizfan: I actually quite like both of these matches, and they’re very different so they’re tough to compare. I will narrowly go with Taker and Bats, though I’d be happy either way.

‘Plan: I have more time for the second Money in the Bank Ladders Match than many might otherwise think. It admirably attempts to recreate what succeeded with the first, marrying wrestlers of different styles with a central story, this time being Ric Flair’s injury. Despite its effort, though, there’s little denying fact: it’s just a less good, watered down take on the same match 12 months prior. Opposing it is another Streak favourite of mine that crackles with motivation and energy on its way to unadulterated success. The Undertaker vs. Batista.

SirSam: Eh, another MITB match. Batista and Taker wrestled with massive chips on their shoulder that night having been pushed down to the mid card and for me pulled off the match of the night even beating the self proclaimed Mr Wrestlemania.

Steve: (9) Undertaker vs. Batista ('07)

Taker vs Batista changed my perception of big Dave. I liked him alright before, but I was a full on fan from that match forward.

(9) Undertaker vs. Batista ('07) wins 6-1

(5) Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle ('03) vs. (12) Hardy Boys vs. Enzo & Cass vs. The Club vs. The Bar ('17)

SirSam: How is this tag match even in consideration? The Hardy Boyz return was an amazing surprise but it did absolutely nothing to set itself apart from the oodles of other stunt brawl ladder matches out there. Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle take this one as easily as they would take down an untrained wrestler.

‘Plan: The Monday Night Raw (MNR) Tag Team Championship Ladders Match has absolutely no business being in this tournament as far as I’m concerned. It’s the absolute worst of its kind; worse even than the abhorrence of WrestleMania XXVI’s Money in the Bank effort. The nauseating nostalgia, the pointless stipulation, the fanboying on commentary, the tepid pace, the breathtaking lack of original thinking - it’s essentially a cocktail that represents everything wrong with the WrestleManias of today: all sugar rushes and cheap pops at the expense of real substance. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar all day long, and if it gets kicked out here in favour of that travesty of a Ladders Match then someone’s going to have their computer blown up!

Steve: (12) Hardy Boys vs. Enzo & Cass vs. The Club vs. The Bar ('17)

The Hardys' return is one of the most exciting moments I've witnessed in almost 35 years as a fan. That alone makes this one instantly legendary in my mind.

mizfan: And I REALLY like both of these matches, so another tough choice. The Hardys coming back was an exciting moment but I think people gloss over just how much fun the actual match was. At the end of the day, I have to narrowly go with Lesnar/Angle. The botched SSP is what everyone remembers but it really does look brutal, and the entire match really holds up really well as a fantastic main event when viewed as a whole.

Oliver: Angle vs Brock, I think. The 2017 ladder match is good, no doubt, but so much of that rests on the return of the Hardys. I think Brock vs Angle could go much deeper than it’s seeding suggests.

Skulduggery: My idea of “the veteran Hardy Boys return to put on another vintage, excellent ladder match” is Armageddon 2006. A decade-younger Matt and Jeff. Alright, I’m being a little harsh on the WM33 tilt-a-whirl; it’s fun, but it’s got nothing on the crisper, cleaner main event from XIX.

Mazza: Remember when I said there were some tough choices in this bracket? Well they all come after this one. To be honest, the botched shooting star alone was enough to give Brock and Kurt victory. I appreciate the moment of the Hardys returning and winning, however it’s not in the league of the fantastic main event from 19.

(5) Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle ('03) wins 6-1

(4) Undertaker vs. CM Punk ('13) vs. (13) Christian vs. Chris Jericho ('04)

Oliver: Umm…Punk vs Taker. I’m going to go for it because I loved the story they told around it. Christian vs Jericho was very, very good, though.

SirSam: I have a real soft spot for the Christian and Jericho work in 2004 but I love how Punk so clearly went out to prove a point in 2013 and gave The Undertaker yet another amazing Mania match to add to his resume. It was also the perfect match to have after the epic four-match series against Michaels and Triple H, it could never have matched the sheer stakes of that match but instead went a different way and completely succeed without the verbosity of the previous four matches (not that I don’t love them).

‘Plan: This one is real damn hard. On the one hand, the WrestleMania 29 Streak match is everything I would class a performance art classic to be. A tale of CM Punk’s crazed quest for omnipotence clashing against the Dead Man’s march to peace after the hell of the preceding four years’ Tetralogy in such a high octane but brooding and poignant match is hard to pick against. The Christian / Y2J effort from ‘Mania XX is no slouch of a match either, though; the kind of featured story-driven mid card match WrestleMania needs more of now. The back and forth is tense, the story is heavily character driven and the twist ending, at the time, was a genuine shocker. It remains, even now, a delight to see.

By a whisker, I have to plump for The Undertaker vs. CM Punk, if only because of its more grandiloquent artistry.

mizfan: There’s no way I’ll get my way on this one, but I honestly thought it was an easy choice to vote for Christian/Jericho here. That match very quietly tells an excellent story and is chock full of character work, and the action is top notch. Punk/Taker has a lot of good elements too, but the most amazing thing is that they used smoke and mirrors to allow Taker to have one last great match despite being pretty obviously shot to hell physically. A great match against a great carry job isn’t a hard choice for me to make, and the lousy Paul Bearer stuff they work into Punk/Taker doesn’t exactly hold up well. If someone has to actually die to get your interest in a match, you may have some issues as a fan.

Mazza: And now things get interesting. On one hand you have Punk’s booby prize match. One that looked doomed for a while but in such a wrestling way, got hot due to Paul Bearer’s untimely death. Then it delivered on the night in a way that made you forget their horrible feud a few years previously. I guess it will get through here but I won’t be helping it. I loved every second of the Christian vs Jericho team/rivalry and the turn here was magnificent. Midcard Mania at its best for my money and I will try and help it pull off the upset.

Steve: (13) Christian vs. Chris Jericho ('04)

Fuck. Two of my low key all time favorite Mania bouts. I really loved Taker vs Punk, as it was my two favorite guys going head up. But man, Christian vs Jericho is one of the most underrated Mania matches ever, at least to this fan. It doesn't hurt that I was way, way, WAY into the storyline. And I bit HARD on the Trish turn.

Skulduggery: This is another cruelly difficult choice. Every time I watch Christian and Jericho, it seems to become increasingly brilliant. They manage to wrestle both a Mania-worthy match full of heightened maneuvers and a believable fight between two friends whose relationship has turned corrosive. It’s rare to see both efforts simultaneously delivered so flawlessly. The moment where their heads crack is such a subtle but brilliant snapshot of their rivalry – it’s almost like anger has blinded each of them in their attempt to hurt the other. Meanwhile, Punk and Undertaker deliver magic in what is probably the latter’s final great match. It’s fast for an Undertaker match at this stage without sacrificing any story. Punk’s disrespectful approach is a refreshing take to the last 4 Taker matches at Mania, and the near untouchable imagery of the Deadman strikes again in this one, with a sit-up mid-Anaconda Vise. The finish, like HBK/Taker from 2009, has enough kickouts to keep people on their toes without feeling oversaturated. Christ, this is tough. You know, at the end of the day, I think I have to give the due to Christian and Chris Jericho for scoring a slam dunk as a midcard match in a 50-person WrestleMania. Either way, an excellent match will advance here.

(13) Christian vs. Chris Jericho ('04) wins 4-3

(3) Edge vs. Mick Foley ('06) vs. (14) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('01)

‘Plan: In my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, I described Randy Orton’s match with Cactus Jack at Backlash 2004 as the first true Hardcore Match, incepting a genre that otherwise felt too similar to others with different names to really stand apart. Accepting that train of thought, the Edge / Foley tussle in contention here is really only the second; and is even more visceral than the first.

I have always been a fan of ‘Taker and Trips’ first WrestleMania clash, even if my love for it was diluted the more I’ve re-watched it over the years. It’s as fine a brawl as you could hope to see, playing well to the My Yard vs. My World theme; but its story hinges on a ref bump that, frankly, feels incongruous. Edge vs. Mick Foley wins this one.

Steve: (3) Edge vs. Mick Foley ('06)

Damn you, Skul, for making me pick against the Deadman so often. Taker/H is a great bout, but Foley vs Edge is perhaps the best hardcore match ever fought in a WWE ring. Edge was brilliant at that point in his career. Just brilliant.

Mazza: I just put a 13 seed over a 4. Can I one up it here? I am still not sure. Edge and Mick had a fantastic hardcore match. It really did solidify Edge’s status as a main eventer in my eyes. The first round of Trips and Taker was such a fantastic Attitude Era style brawl that lives in the shadow of the quality of the one Hunter had the month before and the one that closed the same show. I guess I have to live by the “if in doubt, go with your boy” rule here so the Mania 17 bout nicks it.

Skulduggery: Few, if any, warlike bloodbaths feature the psychology of Edge vs. Mick Foley. I’ve watched it dozens and dozens of times and, upon many of the spots, I still feel the internal battle of bloodthirsty excitement and the horror of finding something that carnal to be that enjoyable. It’s so fucking good.

Oliver: Foley made Edge a star on that one night. A well-deserved victory.

SirSam: For a while when I first became a wrestling fan this match was potentially my favourite match and it is still one I love to come back to. I love how Edge’s intensity and desire matches with Foley’s steady head and the way he is so at home amongst the chaos. The ending is bloody amazing and also features one of the most harrowing shots of all time as Edge writhes on the floor having gone through absolute hell to get the win.

mizfan: This is the best Taker/HHH bout at ‘Mania, a point which many disagree with but I very strongly believe. It’s far from perfect, a lot of it is just walking through the crowd, but at least it doesn’t have the painfully self-concious forced-epic feel that we would suffer through a decade down the line. It hasn’t got a prayer against the phenomenal Edge/Foley match though, which is a dark horse in my book to go all the way to the end. Amazing bout, that one!

(3) Edge vs. Mick Foley ('06) wins 6-1

(6) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('11) vs. (11) Chris Jericho vs. Edge ('10)

SirSam: This one is a tale of mixed expectations affecting my overall opinion of the match. When Jericho and Edge was announced I was absolutely over the moon as they were probably my two favourite wrestlers at the time however when Undertaker v Triple H came about I was very underwhelmed, in my cynical mind I thought ‘of course Triple H has to have a go after Shawn’. On the actual night of each though my opinion completely swapped, I was underwhelmed by Jericho v Edge and even though it was the last Mania I watched until Wrestlemania 30 I thought incredibly highly of Triple H v Undertaker.

Skulduggery: The pendulum of decision is swinging on this one. Damn difficult choice. Taker/Trips is the kind of match where I’d vote it in a second after watching it for the very first time, at initial airing. Then, after the suspense is revealed on rewatches and a bit of the magic evaporates, I might vote against it. Then, I’ll read a ‘Plan 101 entry that provides a completely different lens through which to watch the match, and I’ll discover something else tremendous about it. Then, my mind effervesces and I wonder if I can appreciate something as a storytelling masterpiece and yet have my level of enjoyment at a bit of a lower level (a la Taker/Reigns from 33). Compare that with Jericho/Edge, which I’ve always maintained is a very good but not elite World Heavyweight Championship WrestleMania match. Well, ask me again in six months and my mind might be changed, but I’ll narrowly choose Taker and Trips.

mizfan: Ugh, what a lousy choice to have to make. I’m a fan of Jericho and Edge, but their feud in 2010 was terrible, and they never seemed to have any kind of chemistry together in the ring, leading to a very basic and substandard bout. But man, Taker/HHH for “the first time” at 27… yeesh, this is one of my least favorite matches ever in all honesty. The amount of time they spend lying around on their backs is just astonishing. There’s selling and there’s napping, and we’ve crossed a line here. It also features the most over the top, most maudlin, most eye rolling kick-out reaction of all time [when The Undertaker kicks out of Triple H’s own Tombstone Piledriver].

Triple H reacts like Undertaker just grew a second head and that head started vomiting spiders all over the ring. He crawls away in abject terror, for some reason. It’s one of the most ridiculous things ever and when I look at it my eyes roll so hard they almost fall out of my head. And that’s not even mentioning the disgusting decision to bring back unprotected chair shots for one match only, or the absolutely moronic logic behind Taker winning the match but still following Triple H around like a puppy to get a rematch. This match is a CHORE to watch, so I’ll have to go with the incredibly lackluster Jericho/Edge on this one.

Steve: (6) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('11)

Oliver: I’m going to give the edge here to Jericho vs Edge. I think it’s a match that deserves revisiting and reevaluating, to be honest with you – it does exactly what it needed to do with it’s runtime, isn’t overly bloated or difficult to get through at any point. It’s a breezy, if slightly light, watch, but compared to Taker vs Trips it’s so much easier to just sit and watch it deserves to take the win here.

Mazza: Edge gets to take on The Game vs The Phenom once more. This one is not so tough. Edge just seemed a bit off on his 2010 return and the match with Jericho never really clicked. In fact I’d say it was a huge disappointment. The WM27 edition of Trips and Taker was in-match storytelling at its very best so this is a no brainer for me.

‘Plan: The Undertaker vs. Triple H is one of my all-time favourite matches ever, because, like the CM Punk match at WrestleMania 29, it’s a performance art classic. Its thematic heft is incredible, and its character development remains strikingly chilling even now. I adore it for its wealth of subtext and creative thought. While Chris Jericho and Edge far from failed the year prior, their pace felt lethargic, perhaps indicating the Rated R Superstar returned a little too soon. The feud heading in was miserly undercooked and though the story they tell in the ring is as well constructed as you would expect from two master craftsmen, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it concludes inappropriately. It just can’t contend with the tale of hubris and mortality spun by the Phenom and The Game.

(6) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('11) wins 5-2

(7) Money in the Bank Ladder Match ('07) vs. (10) Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match ('15)

Skulduggery: MitB III is a good match. Whatever else I’ll say about it, don’t forget that it is a good match. What’s keeping it from “great”, though? The formulaic happenings within the match are offputtingly inorganic. Everyone getting a spree of consecutive moves on their opponents is just...a wet towel. That said, it has maybe the most notorious MitB moment ever in that Jeff/Edge spot. Little bit of payback from that TLC II spear, hey Jeff? Incredible. Meanwhile, the WM31 ladder match suffers from a poor ending – the back-and-forth headbutts probably hurt far worse than it looked, the exact opposite effect you want in wrestling – but put forth an overall exciting and pulsating effort. I’ll take the 2015 ladder match.

‘Plan: The introduction of 8 participants; the commentary track from all three announce booths; a tiny ladder that cannot be explained creatively; this was just the start of the entire concept of the Ladders Match getting so beyond stupid that they now often make you feel stupider the longer you watch them. I don’t care much for the Intercontinental Championship Ladders Match at WrestleMania 31 either to be quite honest; but it does open my favourite WrestleMania ever, provides neat and commented upon symmetry with the conclusion of WrestleMania XXX and focuses largely on the right man, being Dean Ambrose. The Intercontinental Championship Ladders Match it is, then.

SirSam: Daniel Bryan wins. (10) Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match ('15)

Mazza: I despise the IC ladder match from 31. Not because it was a bad match (although it certainly didn’t equal the sum of the talent involved, as is often the case with these matches) but because of how much of a waste of Daniel Bryan it was. Sure he got his moment. Sure he continued a run of wrestling for a different title at every one of his Manias, but it was so frustrating he wasn’t in a featured feud. I am obviously even more bitter about that now we know it was his last chance. That said, the WM23 MITB was just as big a waste of Orton and Edge. Screw both these matches but if I have to, the higher seed is my choice.

mizfan: The 2015 IC ladder match, or the “nobody hit Daniel Bryan invitational”, is pretty awkward as far as ladder matches go. It’s not bad, exactly, but it doesn’t do a lot for me. The ’07 version was way more fun, and is the obvious choice here.

Steve: (7) Money in the Bank Ladder Match ('07)

Oliver: I mean, neither of these is super appealing if I’m honest. I’m going to lean slightly to the 2015 ladder match here, just by virtue of preferring the guys in it as much as anything. I don’t think either of these gets past the next round.

(10) Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match ('15) wins 4-3

(2) Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart ('94) vs. (15) Shane McMahon vs. Mr. McMahon ('01)

mizfan: I kind of enjoy McMahon drama, more than a lot do anyway, but I have to say the father/son bout is kind of ridiculous in retrospect. I had some fun elements, for sure, but it also verges from silly to stupid at times. Owen/Bret, however, is another contender to win the whole thing, so there’s really no other choice here. Wonderful match.

Mazza: I LOVE LOVE LOVE Shane vs Vince. It’s soap opera wrestling at its finest. It’s cheesy as hell but when Linda gets up out that wheelchair it gives me goosebumps every damn time. But it’s not going to beat the first match I ever reviewed to a perfect rating. I have this love hate-relationship with Bret but when I do love a Hitman match, I will defend it to the death and it will take something special for me to vote it down.

Skulduggery: Confession time. Owen/Bret from SummerSlam ’94 was dubbed a five-star match, and I don’t particularly like it. Owen/Bret from Mania ’94, though? Absolutely love it. What does the SummerSlam match have to do with anything? I don’t know, I thought I’d be a hipster and indicate my hesitancy with the love for one of those matches. I decidedly won’t go against the flow with their WrestleMania curtain jerker, though. Proficient and pure. If not for such a tough opponent, the McMahons’ battle that just bleeds Attitude Era would stand a good shot with me. It’s a blast, with one of the biggest pops all night going to Linda for standing up. Really well-crafted, but it’s against one of the best sibling rivalries ever.

SirSam: Of course Hart v Hart wins on every front. Screw McMahon family drama, give me Hart family drama any day of the week.

Oliver: Owen vs Bret. Easy.

‘Plan: It’s pretty inexcusable, if we were to be really serious about it, that McMahon vs. McMahon was allowed to take up a whole half hour (if not more) of the biggest show of the WWF calendar year in 2001. Granted, it’s a half-fun bit of trashy popcorn that does little harm, but so too is it best left confined as a tolerable distant memory. That it’s on this list at the expense of a raft of better matches is upsetting to me, and certainly compared to Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart it gets blown out of the water. That toxic tale of two brothers overwhelmed physically and emotionally by their inability to forgive one another is compelling, and justifiably regarded as one of the all-time greats at the Grand Daddy.

Steve: (2) Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart ('94)

Owen vs Bret set the standard that every opening bout since has been trying to match. I'm not entirely sure that anyone has yet achieved it. It also stands as a personal favorite beause I always favored the King of Harts over his no good, selfish brother, Bret. I'll stand proud and argue that Owen was completely justified in his actions in that feud until the day I'm gone.

(2) Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart ('94) wins 7-0



Bracket D


(1) Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin ('97) vs. (16) Bret Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper ('92)

‘Plan: I have a lot of appreciation for the Intercontinental Championship Match between Bret Hart and Roddy Piper. Watching the Hitman’s tenacity drag out the worst of Piper’s grimier instincts makes for terrific viewing, as the action gradually escalates from a precariously tense clash of friends into a blood-stained battle of wits and will. But Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin is my absolute favourite match of all-time; a haunting fall from grace for the champion of the New Generation made old, it’s a masterpiece of blood, guts and gall that ushered in the madness of the Attitude Era in all its violent glory. Not only is it my favourite ever, it might just legitimately be the greatest ever too.

Oliver: I’m going to say it early – I’ll be stunned if anything other than Hart vs Austin wins this. The last couple of rounds will be interesting with respects to that, because we might see people revisit and reevaluate it, but my kneejerk reaction is it’s a clear winner in the end. It certainly beats off Hart vs Piper here, even though I like the ending of that one a lot.

Steve: (1) Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin ('97)

Piper vs Bret is another of my low key all-time favorite WrestleMania matches. Sucks it had to come up against something like Austin/Hart so quickly, especially since I figure this match has to be considered the odds on favorite to win this entire thing.

SirSam: I decided to give Hart v Piper a watch because I haven’t seen enough of either Piper or Hart. Even though I was correct to think it would not stand up to Austin v Hart I can say that I am very glad I watched this one. It is everything you want in a 10 minute match, smart psychology of the younger Hart coming out hard and fast and the dastardly Piper seizing advantage only after he gets inside Brett’s head and pulls a cheapshot, great character work when Piper makes the decision to not use the ring bell when the ref is down. It is capped off by an ending that is earned but not telegraphed and really does come as a surprise. Some modern day wrestlers could learn a thing or two watching this match.

Mazza: I am a huge fan on the WMVIII IC title match. That pre-match interview was a constant quotable as a youngster for me. I think it is seeded way too low. However, it’s never going to beat the submission match. I may have more time for the match in 92 but the show stealer from 13 was so important to the business.

Skulduggery: Sorry, Hot Rod. Never stood a chance against the phenomenal Submission Match.

mizfan: I like Bret/Piper a lot, but I LOVE Bret/Austin. It’s an obvious contender to win the whole thing, an outcome I’d be completely satsified with. Certainly one of the greatest matches of all time.

(1) Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin ('97) wins 7-0

(8) Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins ('15) vs. (9) British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team ('86)

Skulduggery: Seth Rollins wasn’t even born when the Bulldogs and the Dream Team set the table for stellar WrestleMania bouts. Doesn’t matter. He and Orton battled in an underrated and, other than the finish, largely forgotten battle between the usurped and the usurper. Two clean, crisp shades of the same hue put on a great sunlit affair that clips the tag team match.

mizfan: I’m guessing I won’t get my way on this, but I want to cast an extremely vehement vote for Bulldogs/Dream Team here. The first truly great ‘Mania match, it stands the test of time as a classic tag team affair, and it gets to that level on only three wheels, with Beefcake pretty clearly just being along for the ride. Orton/Rollins has a cool spot at the end, but frankly there’s not much else there.

Oliver: Orton vs Rollins, just for that popup RKO.

‘Plan: Oh, how I love the fact that the WrestleMania 2 Tag Team Championship Match made it into this tournament! It’s fast paced, dramatic, engaging, heavy hitting and a deeply satisfying match to watch even by modern standards. That its age means its focus remains on little more than mastery of the basics serves only to reinforce what simple mastery of the basics can achieve; that, in turn, makes it necessary viewing in this age of the superlative.

As much as I do love it, though, it cannot stand against Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins in my estimation, for obvious reasons. The subtle subtext of the Viper vs. the Architect is one of familiarity, both demonstrating their literacy of the other that developed during their shared time in the ranks of the Authority in a counter-heavy match of classical design. It watches as smooth as velvet and is capped off with an iconic RKO for the ages, and a feel good win to boot.

SirSam: (8) Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins ('15)

Steve: (8) Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins ('15)

Mazza: The Bulldogs taking home the tag straps is pretty much the only watchable thing from the second ever WrestleMania. It’s a decent little bout, however the evolution of the business wins out here. Seth and Randy delivered an excellent midcard outing at 31 and they get through this round.

(8) Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins ('15) wins 6-1

(5) Triangle Ladder Match ('00) vs. (12) AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon ('17)

mizfan: I’m a fan of AJ Styles, so I tried to go into his match with Shane with an open mind. Unfortunately, outside the epic wind blowing in AJ’s hair, I didn’t think there was a whole lot there. I really don’t need to see Shane McMahon’s sweaty, middle aged ass out-wrestling one of the best wrestlers in the world. Shane matches really only work for me when he’s on the backfoot constantly unless he does something crazy. When he is overpowering and out-wrestling top guys I find it nauseating, to say nothing of his all time pathetic strikes. It’s not the worst match ever or anything, but I literally cannot imagine voting for it over the ladder boys of 2000, which isn’t quite as good as it’s cousin the year later but is still tremendously fun.

Steve: (5) Triangle Ladder Match ('00)

Props where props are due. AJ vs Shane is probably a Top 5 great opener for the event. If not, it's damn close. That triangle ladder match was pretty damn incredible, though, especially watching live.

Oliver: First off, fuck Shane McMahon forever. Second off, fuck Shane McMahon forever. And third off, triangle ladder match for the win.

Skulduggery: Pretty solid tilt between Shane-O and Styles that pleasantly surprised quite a few, but the Zeroth Law of TLC, by rocking the foundation of traditional wrestling matches, helped set its own foundation in stunt artistry.

SirSam: (5) Triangle Ladder Match ('00)

Mazza: Shane and AJ got a lot of hype last year. It was great for what it was however it wasn’t something to get overly excited about. It was a long way removed from the two greatest Mania curtain jerks and, quite frankly, we all deserved a better opponent for Styles. On the other side we have the first unofficial TLC, which quite frankly changed the game. No brainer here for WM2000 tag cluster.

‘Plan: Not entirely unlike the MNR Tag Team Championship Ladders Match from the same show, I have absolutely no time for the curtain jerker wrestled like a main event between AJ Styles and an overproduced Shane McMahon. Its indulgent run time; its demonstrations of McMahon being as good as, at times better than the former WWE Champion widely considered to be one of, if not the the best in the world today; the same old Shane O’Mac spots being horribly forced into proceedings despite how poorly they fit the story being told; I find it cravenly predictable, a waste of time and blindly over-rated. The Triangle Ladders Match is my pick by default.

(5) Triangle Ladder Match ('00) wins 7-0

(4) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('12) vs. (13) John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels ('07)

Mazza: Shawn and Taker have a lot of matches that can go a long way in this thing. This round goes to the Deadman however. The Cena match was okay, but nothing to write home about, particularly if you are nicknamed Mr WrestleMania. I didn’t actually want Taker-Trips III at the time but they of course won me over by the end.

mizfan: Remember that absolutely ridiculous bit of Taker/HHH from 27? Well, this match features what is probably the only reaction which is somehow even more ridiculous [when The Undertaker kicks out of the Sweet Chin Music / Pedigree combination].

Is Shawn have a fit? He looks like my dog when he needs to take a wicked piss, or maybe like his wife was just shot in the face or something. I don’t know, I can’t come up with a situation ridiculous enough to match that reaction. I actually like this verson of Taker/HHH better than the 27 match, because the lengthy naps are a little more broken up by things actually happening, but it’s still largely a bore once you look past the smoke and mirrors of nostalgia. Rather comical that this was booked as the “end of an era” match, considering the next several ‘Manias would continue to be dominated by the same bunch. Cena/HBK is not a perfect match but has a lot going for it, and it strongly gets my vote on this one.

‘Plan: There’s little contest here for me, as I immediately declare for The Undertaker vs. Triple H once again. I don’t hold their Hell in a Cell Match in quite the same esteem as their confrontation the year before it, but it is a great example of how to use the Cell sub-genre effectively in a PG environment – create a sense of claustrophobia and physicality to substitute for the lack of more visceral visuals. The result is an overwhelming atmosphere of emotional distress.

On the other hand, the main event of WrestleMania 23 is one of those intolerably self-aware pieces of work that is so desperate to feel epic it simply doesn’t seem to want to focus on just telling a great story. Some might claim it does just that, playing on notions of Cena’s big match inexperience (at the time!) against The Main Event himself. It’s all a little insistent for my liking, though, and at thirty minutes in length it’s far too long for me to enjoy it; Cena watches as incapable of sustaining that long of a standard match at that stage in his career too, I’d warrant.

Skulduggery: The roll of the dice had this bracket coming up as the Taker/Shawn Michaels bracket, apparently, with a combined 9 wrestling appearances in the 16 matches. And I’ll vote for Taker’s match with the Game over Michaels’ war with Cena in this instance. The Ford Field main event starts out niftily, with Mr. WrestleMania carving out a game plan that’s a little out of his normal repertoire in order to confuse and truncate the capabilities of the Champ. However, I’m somewhat taken out of it when HBK starts playing a familiar role a little too quickly. He goes from dominating John Cena to crimson mask rag doll in the snap of the fingers. Meanwhile, the Cell, while it suffers a bit on a rewatch, was an absolute roller coaster at its initial showing.

Steve: (4) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('12)

SirSam: (4) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('12)

Oliver: Undertaker vs Triple H. Because it doesn’t have Shawn Michaels in it.

(4) Undertaker vs. Triple H ('12) wins 6-1

(3) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels ('10) vs. (14) Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair ('08)

Oliver: Dude, you’ve done it again! Michaels vs Flair just to give you, Skul, the proverbial finger. If it drops out at this stage I’ll write a column about how great it is.

Skulduggery: One wrestling career ended with an incendiary jumping Tombstone Piledriver. One wrestling career ended with an apology. Oh wait. No it didn’t. Wheelin’, dealin’, loophole findin’ son of a gun. Shawn Michaels’ farewell it is, then. (In seriousness, it is a better match).

Mazza: I didn’t actually want Taker-HBK II at the the time but they of course won me over by the end. I am sure ‘Plan has mentioned the tetralogy by this point and I really look at those matches as a wider story rather than the fantastic individual achievements they all were. There was a great deal of emotion with the Flair match, however this is a no contest in terms of match quality.

mizfan: These matches are a bit similar on paper, but honestly I go directly in the face of the seeding here and would claim Flair/HBK tells the same story in a much more natural and believable fashion. There is something about the fighting spirit of Flair in ’08 that HBK just can’t recapture a few years later. I think it’s because Flair really wasn’t ready to go, and was honestly fighting tooth and nail to give his best performance to somehow keep the dream alive. HBK was pretty clearly ready to be in 2010 by comparison, and was so focused on creating a last “epic performance” that it ends up ringing just a bit hollow for me. It’s still a very good match, but there’s something so contrived about some of it. It doesn’t help that Taker is far more shot physically than he was in ’09, and thought they try to cover it up by adding some stipulations that give them leeway to take hardcore short cuts, it stands out to me. Flair/HBK gives me a sense of real emotion, a bit melodramatic but authentic nonetheless. Taker/HBK doesn’t quite get there on the storytelling level.

Steve: (3) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels ('10)

Michaels/Flair is an all-time great moment and it sucks that it comes up against this one in the first round. That said, it loses easily, in my book.

‘Plan: I much prefer the WrestleMania XXVI main event to its forbearer; though I appreciate I am in a minority there. I find it to be another example of a superlative performance art achievement from the Dead Man, being the second chapter of his WrestleMania Tetralogy against the two former halves of D-Generation X. The stakes are more endearing, its narrative is much more focussed and its final image, quite obviously, is more memorable.

While it would be a lie to say I dislike Ric Flair’s Retirement Match, I certainly like it considerably less. There’s no denying how impressive its over-achievement is all things considered, and how memorable its closing sequence has become. The whole thing just feels off-putting in how self-aware it is, watching as nothing if not unnatural. It is fun, yes, but not a classic. I vote for The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels.

SirSam: Oh damn, the matchup of the two retirement matches. This is super tough. To start off the emotion in each match is off the charts, the mixture of sadness and joy that is Ric Flair going out with one final classic against the defiance of Shawn Michaels, refusing to ever acknowledge the Undertaker’s position of superiority in his final match. Both of them work the emotional character moments so well, be it Michael’s saying he is sorry or Michaels defiant final slit of the throat as he looks up at The Undertaker saying ‘you will beat me but you will never kill me’. They also both give the retiring wrestler a chance to get their signature licks in without it feeling too forced. For the decision I will go with Taker v Michael’s 2 because after their amazing match at Mania 25 the chance for this to fall flat was pretty high, however instead they were able to go out and put on something different and in my opinion equally as interesting to watch.

(3) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels ('10) wins 5-2

(6) Undertaker vs. Edge ('08) vs. (11) Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio (’11)

Skulduggery: Taker and Edge might be the one Edge match I underrate compared to most. I think it’s a great bout that showcases cerebral counter wrestling, exciting back-and-forth action, and a snug finish. I don’t quite see it at the elite level that a lot of people do, though. Compare that with most other Edge matches, which I adore more than the average guy – his retirement match with Del Rio being one of those! Redundant though it may sound, this match is just so WrestleMania. Moves are busted out that are plausibly within each combatant’s arsenal, but they’re amplified for the big stage – Del Rio’s corner enziguri, for instance, was nailed off of the top rope rather than his standard second rope. (Without plumbing the history books, that might’ve been the first top rope one for him in WWE.) Edge responds with a top-rope hilo – a maneuver all but erased from his repertoire since his very early days. What a poetic touchback, given that this was his au revoir. So, although you’re not getting a bad victor from this match-up, and part of it may be my sappiness seeping through, I have to go with my all-time favorite wrestler’s final match ever. Edge vs. Del Rio.

Mazza: Edge vs Taker is one of those matches that I don’t seem to rate as highly as a lot of my peers. I mean I think it’s decent but I can’t put it up there with the Deadman’s greatest Mania hits. I look forward to watching it again when it comes up against a tougher opponent. No need to just yet however, as it beats out Edge’s final match pretty comfortably. I know we didn’t know at the time it was his last hurrah, however it still just isn’t particularly memorable.

Oliver: I mean, if you had to ask me if there’s one wrestler that Shawn Michaels could definitely win over, it’s Alberto Del Rio. I know Michaels isn’t even in this one, but I’m making a point that you could put the Playboy Pillow Fight up against something with ADR in it and I’d vote for the pillow fight to progress. (6) Undertaker vs. Edge ('08)

SirSam: This bracket is turning into a battle of the final matches. However even though it is his swansong I think even Edge would agree that his 08 main event with The Undertaker easily edges out the 2011 curtain jerker.

mizfan: One of the best ‘Mania main events ever, against… that other match. Obviously I’m voting Taker/Edge here as they had a bonafide classic in ’08. Edge was knocking loudly on retirement’s door in 2011 whether he knew it or not, and he doesn’t have a lot to offer Del Rio here. Del Rio simply doesn’t have much to offer, period, so the match is a whole lot of nothing. This was around the time the WHC died a painful death too, and boy does it show.

Steve: (6) Undertaker vs. Edge ('08)

What a great underrated match.

‘Plan: There are a number of matches in this tournament that I have completely fallen in love with upon re-watching. The Undertaker vs. Edge is one such match. Its storytelling reaches almost Hitman-like heights. It’s a glorious demonstration of match construction that creates robust subtext – the best Undertaker game plan perhaps ever devised on the part of Edge (being to injure and to counter, then cheat if all else fails) going against the insurmountable double-tap of the Dead Man’s signature offence and the Streak’s physical augmentation. It really is brain vs. brawn.

Edge’s final ‘Mania match against Alberto Del Rio is a fine outing for him to end his career on, certainly, with a lot of fresh creativity on show that allows it to exceed expectations. It’s just not on the same level as the gargantuan achievement of WrestleMania XXIV’s main event.

(6) Undertaker vs. Edge ('08) wins 6-1

(7) Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart ('96) vs. (10) Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. McMahon (’06)

SirSam: The first time I watched the Iron Man match I had only been a fan for a few months and I was certainly not ready for the cerebral nature of it and had this choice been then I most certainly would have said OVERRATED and gone with the brawl with McMahon. Like red wine though while this hour long effort takes some seasoning of the pallet to properly appreciate it is well worth the watch. The courage to go with a 0-0 score and not rely on cheap pinfalls is crazy and is not something I think the WWE would have the guts to go with today.

‘Plan: I’m dreading the outcome of this...

There’s no denying WrestleMania XII’s main event Iron Man Match is divisive among modern fans, with many calling it ‘boring’. Further, second career Shawn Michaels has attained saintly status, to such a degree it’s almost heretical to claim anything the man did, especially at WrestleMania, was anything less than excellent. Nonetheless, in my eyes, the match between Heartbreak and the Chairman has zero business succeeding over the opus compiled by the two infamous nemeses in 1996.

Michaels vs. McMahon knows its role: to be gloriously shameful in its self-indulgent fun. It’s therefore hard not to enjoy. A great match, though, it is not; not really. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, however, is one of the greatest examples of professional wrestling ever put to canvas, on every level, in every sense. If there’s any justice in the world, this should be a squash.

Mazza: The ironman match is one of those matches that I don’t seem to rate as highly as a lot of my peers. In fact I hate it. It’s boring as hell. It’s an hour (and change) of my life I couldn’t get back as a 16 year old and a couple more as an adult when I braved it out in the name of wrestling journalism. No more. I have no love for Vince vs Shawn but at least it didn’t bore me for quite so long.

Skulduggery: Michaels/Hart is wrestling chess. Michaels/McMahon is wrestling catharsis. I’m opting for the guttural, emotional HBK/Vince over its more logical and athletic opponent. Jim Ross’ visceral call of the No Holds Barred match contributes mightily.

Steve: (7) Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart ('96)

mizfan: Another case where McMahon drama didn’t really entertain me as much as I hoped, as the ridiculousness of HBK/Vince got to be too much for me at times. HBK/Bret was one I was a bit afraid to rewatch, but actually had a total blast with it. I would honestly rate it as my favorite Bret/HBK match after rewatching it, amazing how they filled the hour with a strong story and honest to god great action. I know some people scoff at the Iron Man match, but it definitely gets my vote here.

Oliver: Again?!? Now you’re just tricking me into it, Skul! *shakes fist* Errrm…I guess it would be remiss of me to not vote for Michaels vs Bret here. I like it. It’s a good match..

(7) Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart ('96) wins 5-2

(2) Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H ('04) vs. (15) Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles ('16)

Steve: (2) Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H ('04)

I need to watch the triple threat again. It's been years. If you can somehow push aside the obvious shitty part, it ranks as one of the most memorable moments in WM history. It sucks that it's now horribly, horribly tainted.

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

Skulduggery: Based on how its rematch, the Final Encounter, fared in the Backlash tournament, I wonder about the legs on Benoit/Michaels/HHH in a bigger arena. For my money, though, it’s not even close to running out of energy against a mediocre Y2AJ clash. Triple threat all the way!

SirSam: When I first got into wrestling, this triple threat was my favourite match of all time. As excited as I was to see AJ in the WWE in 2016 and was excited to see him get a singles program heading into Mania this just doesn't come close to the action of a match that pretty much created a template on how to do a triple threat match. That said I still do enjoy the back and forth of the Styles and Jericho and I love the Codebreaker counter to the Phenomenal Forearm to end it too.

Mazza: The WMXX triple threat is one of those matches that I don’t seem to rate as highly as a lot of my peers. Don’t get me wrong, I like the match just fine, it’s just I don’t see it as the 5 star classic many others do. That may be in part to the fact that I am not overly attached to the Benoit journey as a lot of the IWC is. It still beats out Jericho vs Styles however. This was a year too soon really. Jericho was still in that treading water phase where his work was just okay. If this happened post JeriKO it could have been something special.

mizfan: The Jericho/AJ matches are the reason I was skeptical about Jericho facing off with Omega earlier this year. Fortunately Jericho avoided the pitfalls in that match, but he fell directly into them here, trying to keep up athletically with AJ instead of telling any kind of story. At this point Jericho just didn’t have it in him to do the pure athlete match he seemed to be going for, and the result is pretty substandard. But my god, the XX triple threat… this is my pick to go all the way to the end. It is absolutely one of the greatest matches ever wrestled, tells a phenomenal story from start to finish, and is a masterclass in how to wrestle a triple threat match so that it absolutely fucking rocks. The only reason I can see people going against it is if they’re uncomfortable voting for Benoit, which I get, but this is seriously such a masterpiece. Give me the XX triple threat all the way down the line.

‘Plan: Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H is the iconic Triple Threat Match. Its ending remains one of my favourite WrestleMania Moments, despite what has happened since, and its action absolutely redefined its genre with an influence that lasted as far as Royal Rumble 2015’s epic subversion. It might even be called a definitive WrestleMania main event too. While Chris Jericho and AJ Styles put on a fun mid card effort that effectively introduced the Phenomenal One on a big WWE stage for the first time, being a slice of pure modern day sports entertainment, it does overplay its hand with the false finish somewhat; and its achievement simply isn’t on the same level.

(2) Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H ('04) wins 6-1


So! A couple more upsets today, particularly in the C section. Christian and Jericho cut their way through a Taker/Punk match that was though to have some real legs. Can the Canadians continue a run, or is Angle and Lesnar's mat classic too much of a titan?

Plenty more enticing match-ups are coming up in Round 2, now that we've halved our field to 32. After last year's Survivor Series tournament, I had thought there was no bigger gulf in opinions on a match than that between my thoughts and mizfan's thoughts on Team Cena/Team Authority, but mizfan's and ‘Plan's differing opinions on the Taker/HHH ('11) might challenge that! And what of Oliver? He still has to face at least one more vote between two Shawn Michaels matches, with the Iron Man match squaring off against the triple threat in Bracket D.

So much more Madness on the way!

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