Over the past 30 years, the annual WrestleMania pay-per-view has given wrestling fans numerous reasons to enjoy being fans. From memorable matches to surprise returns to celebrity guests, WrestleMania has something for everyone. Even more incredible is the fact that the great moments heavily outweigh the bad ones, allowing fans to just sit back, enjoy the show, and remember why they started watching wrestling in the first place. It is a four hour escape from reality as we watch our favorite wrestler try to gain victory over a bitter rival or capture the title that has been eluding him for his entire careers, it is ticket for us to forget about the rest of the world and mark out.
With that in mind I have decided to rank the top 20 Wrestlemania moments over the past 30 years. These moments are a mixture of goofy, entertaining, shocking, and just great matches. Things I considered when making the list include how important the moment was in WWE history, its overall impact on the event as a whole, and how memorable it was to the wrestling public. There are no cringe-worthy moments on the list, though some of these moments have been known to bring out anger in fans when mentioned, though that does not make them any less important to the overall history of the event. Overall, these are moments that elicit strong emotions in fans when they think of them or they are discussed by fans in concern to the Wrestlemania event and its importance within WWE history.
So please read, enjoy, and let us know what you think down in the comments section. How would you have ranked these differently? Are there other moments or matches that you felt should have made the list or that one of the entries should be ranked differently?
21 Bonus: Roddy Piper vs. Goldust, Backlot Brawl
At Wrestlemania XII, Roddy Piper and Goldust were scheduled for a street fight titled the “Hollywood Backlot Brawl.” While it started out as that with the two fighting in the backlot, it soon turned into a car chase that was filmed in a similar fashion to the famous O.J. Simpson car chase and other sensationalist news stories with Piper chasing Goldust all the way back to the arena in Anaheim. The two eventually got their fight to the ring where Goldust would be disrobed, revealing that he was wearing women’s lingerie. The match itself was kind of abysmal, but the way it was shot and the reveal of how kinky Goldust was made for a very memorable WrestleMania moment.
20 Gimmick Battle Royal
At Wrestlemania X-Seven it was decided to give the fans a bit of nostalgia by having a 19-man gimmick battle royal featuring famous WWE alumni Sgt. Slaughter, the Iron Sheik, Hillbilly Jim, the Bushwhackers, and others. Even the commentary team was retro as “Mean” Gene Okerlund and Bobby “the Brain” Heenan were brought in to provide play-by-play. In the end, the Iron Sheik would pick up the win by last eliminating Hillbilly Jim, only to be put into the Cobra Clutch by Sgt. Slaughter, to the delight of the crowd. While short at just over three minutes long, the match was a nice palette cleanser that gave fans a look back at some of the various gimmicks (good and bad) that have stepped foot into the squared circle of the WWE.
19 The Boyhood Dream Comes True
You can't classify 60 minutes as a moment, so we'll just take the ending from the iconic Iron Man match between the two greatest performers of their generation. After putting on a clinic for 60-plus minutes, Shawn Michaels delivered Sweet Chin Music to Bret Hart to get the three-count and fulfill his lifelong dream of being champion.
It's always a special moment when a top star wins his first title at WrestleMania, especially when it's perhaps the greatest of them all. Vince McMahon delivered some of his best commentary work, uttering the words, "The boyhood dream, has come true, for Shawn Michaels."
18 Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth Reunite
The most adored couple in WWE history emotionally reunited following Randy Savage's loss in his "retirement match" to the Ultimate Warrior. After Sensational Sherri had lost her meal ticket, she attacked a fallen Savage. Miss Elizabeth, sitting at ringside, couldn't bear to watch the man she still loved being kicked while he was down and chased Sherri out of the ring.
Following a minute of reflection, the Macho Man embraced his old love and brought the L.A. crowd to tears. Gorilla Monsoon proclaimed, "he lost the match, but he got something much more valuable, his woman." Now, who can't relate to that?
17 Kane Attacks Pete Rose
In what became one of the oddest feuds in WWE history, Kane would decide to dish out some pain to former Cincinnati Reds player and manager Pete Rose. Rose would come out to talk to the WrestleMania XIV audience and begin to insult their city and baseball team, bragging about his Reds defeating the Boston Red Sox back in the 1975 World Series, only to be stopped and attacked by Kane moments later. Rose would attempt to get the better of Kane on two more occasions at the following two WrestleManias. The second meeting between the two was also notable as it would show Rose disguising himself as the San Diego Chicken as he tried to attack Kane from behind, only to receive a Tombstone Piledriver for his troubles. Because of the incidents, Rose would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, by Kane.
16 Ultimate Warrior Holds both WWE and Intercontinental Championship
At WrestleMania VI the fans witnessed a rare main event title fight between two beloved faces, in this case Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Both men looked unstoppable leading up to their clash and both of their titles were on the line in the match. In the end, the Ultimate Warrior would pick up the victory and become a dual champion with both the WWE and Intercontinental Championships around his waist. Either way the fans were going to leave happy at the end of this match, though it was a nice change of pace to see someone other than Hogan come out on top in a WrestleMania main event at that time.
15 Owen upsets his brother; Bret Stands Tall
What a way to open up the 10th WrestleMania. Tension had been building between brothers Bret and Owen Hart to where they finally agreed to fight each other at WrestleMania. Unfortunately for Bret he was also scheduled to face off against the winner of the Yokozuna versus Lex Luger WWE Championship match in the evening’s main event, so it was decided the Hart brothers would fight in the opening match to give Bret a chance to recover slightly before his second match. The match was a back and forth technical classic with Owen ultimately getting the better of his older brother.
Bret would end the night on a high though, as he would beat Yokozuna for the WWE Championship last later in the night. The real moment was the entire locker room hoisting Bret on their shoulders. This was the WWE's way of saying they had entered their new generation and guys like Bret Hart would lead the business. And to top it off, you had a Madison Square Garden crowd showering the Hitman with love.
14 The Deadman Returns
There's just something about Madison Square Garden that enhances moments. The Undertaker's reincarnation of his Deadman character is another example of that. After Kane had buried his brother alive five months earlier, we had seen cryptic signs that the American Badass version of 'Taker was gone, and that we'd once again see the Phenom we had grown up with.
The return of Paul Bearer, combined with the bone-chilling entrance of The Undertaker is an unforgettable moment and we wondered how we ever lived without it.
13 Shawn Michaels Ascends the Ladder
Through a bunch of different issues there were two Intercontinental Champions going into Wrestlemania X, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, to be fair Shawn’s title was a fake belt as he felt he was the true champion since he was never beaten for the title. The two were set to face off with both of their belts hanging above the ring, set to determine who the undisputed champion would be. The match was a back and forth affair which featured both competitors falling off the ladder, leaping onto one another from the ladder, and slamming each other into the unforgiving metal.
Ultimately, Razor would grab the belts, but the lasting images include Michael being launched into the ladder and ascending it to deliver a splash to Razor.
12 Edge Spears Hardy off the Ladder
In continuance of their heated rivalry, the teams of the Dudley Boyz, Hardy Boyz, and Edge & Christian had a classic of a match at Wrestlemania X-Seven. With the Tag Team Titles hanging above the ring, the trio of teams were once again facing off against one another in the second TLC match, so fans were amped to see what would happen. With interference on all sides for each team, it was Jeff Hardy getting speared midair by Edge that remains the lasting image of this match, as it's possibly one of the greatest spots in wrestling history.
11 The Rock Cements himself as The Great One versus John Cena
After a over a year of buildup towards their first match, expectations were very high going into the main event of Wrestlemania XXVIII featuring John Cena and the Rock. With animosity between the two coming off as legitimate, fans were wondering how good the match would be between the two, especially after such a long buildup. Both would trade signature moves with one another but ultimately it was the Rock who would pick up the victory, leaving a stunned Cena sitting on the entrance ramp wondering how he could have gotten beaten by a part timer.
It was a great thrill for the pro-Rock crowd in Miami and Michael Cole actually delivered a memorable line, proclaiming "He solidifies himself, as The Great One!" Think about it this way; The Rock has beaten Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and John Cena at WrestleMania, the faces of three separate generations.
10 Hulkamania Runs Wild in Toronto
Although fans were unable to see Stone Cold Steve Austin take on Hollywood Hulk Hogan, they got the next best thing when it would be The Rock to battle the former face of the WWE. The match was truly electric as it was just two icons of wrestling battling it out in a dream match for fans. Oddly enough, it would be the heel Hogan getting the loudest cheers from fans during the match, with nostalgia consuming the Toronto crowd. This may have accelerated the idea to have Hogan leave the nWo after the match was over and The Rock ended up victorious.
Seeing the rebirth of Hulkamania at a WrestleMania is just about the most poetic thing the WWE could have done.
9 End of an Era
A year after their last hard fought battle, Triple H and the Undertaker would battle one more time at WrestleMania, this time inside Hell in a Cell and with Shawn Michaels as the guest referee. The match exceeded expectations in all aspects. The psychology used by all three men in the match should be used as an example to all wrestlers wanting to reach that next level in the industry and the tension built by numerous near falls and the eventual interference from Shawn Michaels only made the match better. The final show of respect of the Undertaker and Michaels helping Triple H to the back acted as the cherry on top of a truly great match for any event. The hot Miami crowd poured every ounce of respect they had out for the three icons that stood before them.
8 Daniel Bryan Completes His Journey
The only thing that could have brought the New Orleans crowd back to life when the streak ended last year was seeing Daniel Bryan FINALLY get his recognition as the best in the business. After a thrilling opener with Triple H, Bryan earned his way into the main event against Orton and Batista.
Bryan's eight-month feud with the Authority, coupled with his 15-year journey in the wrestling business all culminated by winning the richest prize in the business, on the grandest stage of them all. With Bryan's current status going into this year's WrestleMania, fans will sure have to savor this one.
7 Stone Cold Sells His Soul to Mr. McMahon
Some say it was the end of the Attitude Era. What's certain is that perhaps the greatest main event in the history of WrestleMania was followed by perhaps the most shocking moment in WrestleMania history up to that point.
After accepting the help of Mr. McMahon to defeat The Rock and win the WWE title, Austin shook hands with "by God, Satan himself!" turning his back on the fans and ending the greatest WrestleMania in history with the ultimate shocker.
6 Ric Flair Retires
At Wrestlemania XXIV Ric Flair was scheduled to face Shawn Michaels with the stipulation that if Flair lost he would be forced to retire. It seemed like the perfect place for it to happen for one of the greatest wrestlers ever to retire, but the emotion in the match was so potent that there did not seem to be a dry eye in the stadium, as Michaels could be seen saying “I'm sorry, I love you,” before hitting Flair with the Sweet Chin Music and pinning him. Flair would be brought to tears as he received a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance as he made his way to the back one last time, at least for a few months until he started wrestling in TNA and Hulk Hogan’s Hulkamania tour.
5 Shawn Michaels Retires
It would be only two years later that Shawn Michaels would be in a similar predicament as he would challenge the Undertaker to another match at WrestleMania after he had lost the previous year to the Deadman. In what was billed as a “Streak vs. Career” match, both men gave each other everything that they had. Eventually the Undertaker could been seen telling Shawn to stay down and to stop taking abuse, but the always rebellious Michaels would slap the Undertaker, prompting him to hit him with a third Tombstone Piledriver, allowing the Undertaker to get the pin and the victory. The two would shake hands after the match and the Undertaker would leave Michaels in the ring so that he could give one final farewell to the crowd in attendance.
4 The Streak is Broken
In maybe the most shocking moment in WWE history, the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak was broken at last year’s event by Brock Lesnar. The main reason for it being so shocking was that no one really thought that the WWE would have a part timer like Lesnar break the streak, especially when he did not need the push he would get from breaking it. Still, it happened anyway and you could hear a pin drop in the Superdome as the bell rang it was announced that Lesnar was now the one in 21-1. There has been some question as to whether that was the Undertaker’s final match, but that no longer appears to be the case, further baffling us as to why his streak was ended.
3 The Austin Era Begins
In the midst of the Monday Night Wars between the WWE and WCW, Stone Cold Steve Austin was slowly making his way towards his first WWE Championship reign. Unfortunately, standing in his way was long reigning WWE Champion Shawn Michaels and the newest member of DX, Mike Tyson, who was also the special enforcer for the match. Austin and Michaels would go back and forth for most of the match before Austin would hit Michaels with the Stone Cold Stunner and Tyson would count the pin, giving Austin the title and ushering the WWE into a new level of success. The cherry on top was Mike Tyson knocking Michaels out. This span of a few minutes also includes some classic J.R. commentary.
The WWE would soon see a boost in the ratings that would eventually help them beat WCW in the Monday Night ratings war.
2 Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant
It was the slam heard around the world as Hulk Hogan met Andre the Giant in the main event of Wrestlemania III. The lead up to the match involved Andre getting upset over Hogan getting more attention for being WWE Champion for three years and getting a giant trophy while Andre had been undefeated for 15 years and gotten a much smaller trophy, leading to Andre adding Bobby Heenan as his manager and stating his claim to wanting to fight Hogan.
While the match itself was abysmal and has been called one of the worst matches ever, the moment at which Hogan was finally able to lift the over 500 pound Andre and bodyslam him, before hitting his finishing leg drop, is a moment forever etched in the minds of wrestling fans around the world. This was when WrestleMania truly became known as the showcase of the immortals, the grandaddy of them all, etc...
1 Steve Austin Passes Out to the Sharpshooter
This was the moment that led to the WWE ushering in the next generation of superstar for its Attitude Era. After months of back and forth between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart, the two were scheduled to clash in a submission match at Wrestlemania 13 with special guest referee Ken Shamrock. The match was brutal and saw Austin’s face covered in blood, but despite that and being locked in the Sharpshooter, he never quit, eventually passing out from the pain and giving the win to Hart.
Yet Hart would not let go of the hold which led to a rare double turn that saw Bret become a heel while Austin became an incredible babyface for defying the odds and showing such toughness against Hart. They would feud for a couple more months before Bret would leave the WWE after the Montreal Screwjob and Austin would go on to win the WWE Championship and become one of the biggest stars in WWE history.