The WrestleMania pay-per-view WWE wrestling event is undoubtedly the highlight in any wrestler’s calendar. Wrestlers wait with baited breath each year to see whether they’ve made it onto the roster. If they have, it guarantees them a place in the limelight on the biggest stage and at the most watched event in wrestling. It’s what draws in the big crowds and makes WWE the commercial success that it is. WrestleMania also attract celebs from all walks of life; the likes of Mike Tyson, Aretha Franklin, Cyndi Lauper, Muhammad Ali and Mr. T, Alice Cooper have all graced the event with their presence in the past, adding to the spectacle and utter fan frenzy that ensues on a yearly basis.
Undoubtedly, many people attend WrestleMania or tune in and pay with their own hard-earned cash to watch the event in order to see the guys at the top of their game compete against each other in the main matches. The undercards are often just a prelude, appetizers, if you will, often thought of as insignificant by many people. But over the years, there have been some memorable undercard matches - epic matchups, some of which have even upstaged the main event. Here’s a list of the top 15 matches that surprisingly stole the show.
15 WrestleMania XX: Evolution vs. The Rock 'n' Sock Connection
The star-studded line up at WrestleMania XX also saw a Handicap match take place between Evolution -Randy Orton, Batista and Ric Flair - and The Rock 'n' Sock Connection, featuring The Rock Dwayne Johnson and Mick Foley, aka Mankind. This match is memorable and features in this top 15 list for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was Randy Orton’s and Batista’s debut match at WrestleMania- the start of many great matches they would enjoy at WrestleMania. Secondly it was the last time one of the most high profile tag teams – The Rock and Mankind – would enter the ring together, a historic occasion that just added to the spectacle.
The match itself was terrifically scripted and executed, unsurprising with the calibre of wrestlers on show, and resulted in Evolution winning after Orton pinned Foley. The only surprise about this match was that it was fourth on the card. It was definitely a great viewing experience.
14 WrestleMania II: The Dream Team vs. The British Bulldogs
The second WrestleMania event produced one of the best matches of all time between The British Bulldogs - Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid – and The Dream Team - Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake. It was the second event of the night for the WWF Tag Team Championship and it was a rip-roaring occasion.
This WrestleMania was in all honesty a failure, an utter flop and regarded by many to be one of the worst in history. The fans got ripped off, but those who tuned in to see this fight would have felt somewhat better about things. It stood out for many reasons and outshone every other match on the roster that night.
The Bulldogs emerged victorious and certainly proved their worth in WWF, while Dynamite also showed a great deal of quality. Although the Bulldogs later split, Davey carried on their legacy, but their time together as a tag team would forever be remembered for this night.
13 WrestleMania XXVII: Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
If you’re a wrestling fan you’ll appreciate why this match was truly awesome.
At the time – and today, in terms of history – Randy Orton and CM Punk were two of the most coveted wrestlers fighting for the WWE. They had both won titles, and seven months later, Punk would go on to begin his 434-day record-breaking championship run, apt preparation – although Punk lost – for this astonishing feat.
When they fought on the undercard to The Miz vs. John Cena, there wasn’t a title on the line, but they still gave it their all and entered the ring determined to put on a good show and give the fans their money’s worth.
12 WrestleMania X -Seven: Edge and Christian vs. the Hardy Boyz vs. the Dudley Boyz
On a card that featured The Rock and Stone Cold, there was no way people thought any other match stood a chance to compare.
This was a terrific match-up, notable for the utter mayhem that ensued. Put six men in the ring with the calibre of these guys, and you’re going to have lift off.
Ladder matches are always entertaining in their own right, but these tag teams took the concept of a TLC match to a whole new level – something that hadn’t really been seen before.
Pretty much everyone contributed to make the match a success, including a number of their respective associates; Spike Dudley for the Dudley Boyz, Rhyno for Edge and Christian, and Lita for the Hardy Boyz all took part and interfered at some stage and the match was all the better for it.
It culminated with Christian sitting on Rhyno’s shoulders and unhooking the belts for the Tag Team Championship – a memorable occasion that set the bar high for future TLC PPV matches.
11 WrestleMania XXVIII: The Undertaker vs. Triple H
After The Undertaker and Triple H had already battled at WrestleMania XXVII (and WrestleMania X-Seven) there was no appetite from fans to see another encounter between the two. Pretty much everything that could have been done had already been done and fans felt both guys would have been better off facing new opponents.
Nevertheless, WWE went with another Undertaker/HHH match at WrestleMania XXVIII. They were given the sweet spot halfway through the show and a few wrenches were thrown into the match. First, they made it a Hell in a Cell match, which was something that hadn't been done at WrestleMania since WM XV, after 'Taker and Big Bossman stunk the joint out. They also added a huge dimension to the match by placing Shawn Michaels as the special referee. Michaels' inclusion proved to be huge in the storytelling of the match.
10 WrestleMania 21: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels
This was a highly entertaining match that went back and forth – unpredictable from the get-go. But what would you expect from two of the greatest superstars in the history of professional wrestling?
It wasn’t a title fight as there was no championship belt at stake, but nevertheless, the two treated the fans and contributed to an awe-inspiring night of wrestling PPV entertainment. When you get two athletes and respected professionals such as Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle, there’s always going to be pride at stake, bragging rights and a desire to show the other who’s boss.
Kurt Angle talent and wrestling prowess was already evident to the wrestling fraternity, and this match helped him onto bigger and better things.
9 WrestleMania XIX: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho
Put these two together on paper at the time in 2003 and you’d think you were looking at duplicate résumés. Both wrestlers had already accomplished a great deal by that stage in their careers, although Michaels entered the contest on a bit of a downer, having recently lost his World Heavyweight Championship to Triple H. There was a new boss in town, but Michaels was determined to show everyone that he was still a force to be reckoned with.
This was a feud from the Raw brand and started at the 2003 Royal Rumble match earlier in the year when they agreed to the WrestleMania match.
8 WrestleMania X: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
The tenth annual event included the famous ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, the ninth match on the roster in 1994.
The Intercontinental belts were on the line, which resulted in one of the best Ladder matches of all time – they certainly brought the Ladder match to the forefront of WWE. Nobody knew what a ladder match even looked like at the time, so many were skeptical of how this match would play out.
The feud began in 1993, but when Michaels relinquished the Intercontinental title, the WWE decided to crown a new Champion, and Razor Ramon made for an excellent choice. Michaels still believed that he was the rightful champion, which meant that there was plenty of bad blood and a whole load of animosity between the two. So naturally, they got in the ring to sort out their differences.
7 WrestleMania X: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
This match kicked off the 1994 event in style. Both Bret Hart and Owen Hart played the roles of brothers terrifically well during their careers. Bret Hart portrayed the successful older brother, and Owen the younger jealous brother seeking comeuppance and looking for vengeance. But at the time of the event, a rift had already been developing between the two brothers for quite some time.
Sibling rivalry always makes for a terrific story and this one was no exception – just one of the numerous classic matches the two enjoyed over the years.
Bret was due to wrestle later that same night against the winner of the Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna fight for the title, but first he had to face Owen.
The younger of the Harts had something to prove that night and came into the ring all guns blazing, ready to inflict some damage on his sibling. He did just that when he blocked a victory roll and pinned Bret to emerge victorious.
6 WrestleMania III: Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat
This was a title match, regarded by many to be one of the greatest matches in wrestling history – not just WrestleMania history.
The reigning WWE Intercontinental Champion, Randy Savage, and Ricky Steamboat, a WWE Hall of Famer, were in action – an awesome action-packed 15 minutes was on the cards.
Things got underway and the two began to put on a wrestling clinic. Fifteen minutes later, Savage attempted a scoop slam, which was reversed, and Steamboat grabbed the title, becoming the new WWE Intercontinental Champion.
It’s been dubbed as one of the all-time classics, a match that lived long in the memory for anyone who witnessed it and a firm favorite in the eyes of many wrestling fans.
5 WrestleMania X-8: The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan
Somehow this match was bumped down the card, even though it was the match everybody was anticipating. With all due respect to Triple H's return from a torn quad going into the WrestleMania, nobody in their right mind doubted the outcome of his match with Chris Jericho. This is why today, the WWE does not set a rule in stone that the title match has to go on last.
This match cannot be watched on mute, nor can it be used to show aspiring wrestlers how to become great technicians. The allure of this match is all in the crowd noise, as 68,000 were on their feet, as two legends had them in the palms of their hands. The Rock and Hulk Hogan were clashing as two icons of their respective generations.
4 WrestleMania 22: Edge vs. Mick Foley
This was the fourth match of the night, and it was between Edge and Mick Foley. It was a Hardcore match in every sense of the word, a brutal matchup and one of the most memorable bouts in WrestleMania history.
3 WrestleMania XXIV - Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair
Ric Flair really should have never set foot in a wrestling ring for a match ever again. Shawn Michaels really gave him the true sendoff his career deserved. In late 2007, Vince McMahon laid the ultimatum on Ric Flair that the next match he lost would be his last. Flair managed to ride a winning streak going into WrestleMania XXIV when he drew Shawn Michaels as his opponent. It was the clash of two legends, with Michaels tormenting with the idea that he'd have to end the career of his idol.
The match told a great story, with HBK looking hesitant at times to put Flair away. Flair kept insisting to Michaels to give him all he had. Eventually, a touching moment happened when Michaels was setting up Flair for Sweet Chin Music and whispered "I'm sorry, I love you." and proceeded to deliver a super kick, ending Flair's in-ring WWE career.
With an ending that perfect, you can understand why WWE didn't want Flair returning to the ring.
2 WrestleMania XXV - The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
It's a good thing The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were pitted against each other, otherwise the 25th edition of WrestleMania would have been seen as an incredible flop. The main event of the night proved to be a dud between Triple H and Randy Orton and several undercard matches had disappointed. The saving grace of the night was the all-time classic put forth by two legends of the business.
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, two native Texans, put on a match in Houston that has attempted to be duplicated to this very day. Every time you see countless false finishes in a match, it means it was likely inspired by this encounter. Nobody's ever going to come close to duplicating it though, as the storytelling ability of HBK and 'Taker cannot be matched.
The WWE learned from their mistake of not making this anticipated classic a main event, and gave the two the last match the following year at WrestleMania XXVI.
1 WrestleMania 13: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
These two legends of the sport faced each other many times during their careers and shared some memorable encounters. Perhaps their most memorable match took place in 1997 at WrestleMania 13 – a match that, despite being an undercard encounter, helped launch an era. While people had high expectations for a Hart/Austin match, nobody ever thought the match could be great, considering Austin wasn't a submission wrestler.
The Submission match will be remembered as the night that saw the changing of the guard, the night Hart turned heel and Austin turned face – for so long, Austin had been the heel.
It was a fantastic angle that really got the crowd involved. The two were hitting each other with all sorts of objects before Austin eventually passed out from the pain and loss of blood. But even after he had been declared the victor, Hart continued hitting Austin, causing the fans to turn on him and provoking Ken Shamrock to get involved and suplex Hart.
This match would’ve certainly been on many fan’s lists of dream matches – the dream certainly came true that night in 1997.
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