UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

Running down WrestleMania history

ORLANDO -- As WWE champion Randy Orton sits backstage at the House of Blues with his pregnant wife, Samantha, who is due to give birth to their first child this summer, he doesn't have to think too long about his favorite WrestleMania matches.

"Well, my dad was in the first 'Mania at Madison Square Garden, and my first 'Mania match was 20 years later in the same building, and he was in the back watching so that's pretty cool," said Orton Thursday while at the THQ Superstar Challenge, an annual video game tournament before WrestleMania. "Being a part of the legacy that my father and grandfather started is a big deal to me and my family."

Before Randy can start thinking about raising the next-generation Orton to main event status at WrestleMania, he seems intent on making his mark on "the Super Bowl of professional wrestling" on Sunday when he closes out the sold-out show at the Citrus Bowl.

"I know how it's going to be at the end of the night when I'm in the ring," said Orton. "I have a good idea and that amps me up. It's going to be the best match I've ever had."

While Orton's best match might not equate to a WrestleMania classic, he would admit that simply being in the same class as some of the memorable matches that have taken place over the past 23 years of the event would surpass his wildest expectations.

"I know I got three moves, but that's OK," said Orton. "For some reason I can have a 30-minute match and make it interesting with those three moves. That's why I think I'm the champion."

In preparation for Sunday's WrestleMania XXIV, let's look back at some matches that featured more than a couple moves and run down the 24 best matches in WrestleMania history. (Click the match to re-live each one in all its YouTube glory.)

24. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. "Rowdy Roddy Piper & "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorf (WrestleMania I): Certainly not one of the greatest wrestling matches ever, but it was the first WrestleMania main event and attracted enough attention for the WWE to hold a second one and then a third one and well, you know the story.

23. Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXI): The first Money in the Bank match set the standard for every one that followed as all six competitors attempted some type of finisher off the top of the ladder before Edge finally nabbed the hanging briefcase and his title shot.

22. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (WrestleMania XIX): The two best amateur wrestlers in WWE history came together to put on one of the best professional wrestling matches in recent memory that was as scary as it was good. At one point in the match Lesnar falls from the top rope directly onto his head in a botched move that he was lucky to walk away from.

21. Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase (WrestleMania IV): No one rose to the occasion for WrestleMania more than Savage, who only competed in eight of them but appears on this list five times, his first being the culmination of his four-match night in Atlantic City when he captured his first world title.

20. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XIX): Two of the greatest talkers in the business proved that they were just as engaging in the ring as they were on the microphone as they went back and forth in a match that we can only hope gets revisited in the near future.

19. Ric Flair vs. Randy "Macho Man" Savage (WrestleMania VIII): This match was initially supposed to be between Flair and Hulk Hogan, but thankfully the wrestling gods smiled upon the Hoosier Dome and we got this match instead. Flair shined in his sole WrestleMania performance before the demise of WCW and Savage delivered his best 'Mania match since facing Steamboat five years earlier.

18. Mick Foley vs. Edge (WrestleMania XXII): Diving onto fire engulfed tables, falling onto thumbtacks and doing it all again for good measure is commonplace for Foley, but Edge's performance in this hardcore match proves that some guys will do just about anything for a "Mania Moment."

17. Shawn Michaels vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIV): The match will forever be remembered for Mike Tyson's involvement as a special guest referee, but for wrestling fans it will go down as the beginning of Austin's reign as WWE champion, and the last time Michaels would compete in a WrestleMania for five years after a serious back injury.

16. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (WrestleMania XVII): It's difficult to watch any match with Benoit now, but he and Angle were two of the most technically sound wrestlers to ever step into a ring and their back and forth battle in Houston was, in the words of longtime manager and announcer Paul Heyman, "The greatest display of hold and counter-hold I have ever seen."

15. Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage (WrestleMania V): You just knew "The Mega Powers" had to explode at WrestleMania and that Hogan would no doubt walk away as the new champion after Savage had held the belt for an entire year. The only question was who Miss Elizabeth would leave with after staying in a neutral corner during the match. In true Jesse "The Body" Ventura fashion he said, "What a gold digger she is, she's going to leave with whoever wins." He was right, she did.

14. Bret Hart vs. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (WrestleMania VIII): The greatest match Piper ever wrestled in will also go down as one of the most underrated in 'Mania history. Oh, how we long for the days when an Intercontinental Championship match actually meant something.

13. The Rock vs. Steve Austin (WrestleMania XVII): The two wrestlers that helped the WWE rise to unparalleled popularity during the "attitude" era, offer up one final stellar match before the era officially jumps the shark when Vince McMahon aligns himself with Austin.

12. Randy "Macho King" Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania VII): Savage may have lost this "career-ending" match, but he came out the big winner after he re-united with his long lost love, Miss Elizabeth. It was professional-wrestling soap opera at its cheesiest best.

11. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania XII): Any wrestling match that goes on longer an hour has to either be the most amazing or boring match ever, there is no in between in a marathon like this. Luckily for the crowd in Anaheim, this fell under the former.

10. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania XXI): Pound-for-pound, probably the best pure wrestling match ever at WrestleMania will also go down as one of the most underrated. Nevertheless, a list of the best matches in wrestling history would be incomplete without this classic.

9. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (WrestleMania X): Easily the greatest match to ever open up a WrestleMania. While Bret would win the world title later that night, it was Owen that would go home with the bragging rights after winning this classic wrestling clinic.

8. Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock (WrestleMania XVIII): The two biggest icons in wrestling history squared off in an unpredictable match that will be remembered for having the hottest crowd of any match in 'Mania history and catapulting Hogan back to the yellow and red "Real American" that most remember him as.

7. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XX): The stellar three-way main event will forever be overshadowed by the show's eerie final image of longtime friends Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, embracing each other while holding their respective championship belts.

6. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz (WrestleMania XVII): The tag-team trio that revolutionized the tables, ladders and chairs (TLC) match nearly ended each others careers in one of the most dangerous 'Mania fights ever.

5. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania VI): Champion vs. champion, title for title, good guy vs. good guy. What was a young wrestling fan to do? It may not go down as the most technically sound match but for a generation of wrestling fans, this will be remembered as the high watermark of a simpler time when wrestling shows lived on Saturday afternoons and Vince McMahon was nothing more than a clichéd announcer.

4. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Randy "Macho Man" Savage (WrestleMania III): Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant may have sold out the Pontiac Silverdome, but Steamboat and Savage stole the show in a match still considered one of the best in wrestling history.

3. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (WrestleMania X): The first ladder match quite literally set the bar for the future of wrestling and the daredevil stunts that are quite common today. Still, few ladder matches have come close to topping the groundbreaking first one at Madison Square Garden.

2. Bret Hart vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIII): One of the most influential matches in wrestling history and one of the few times you'll ever see two wrestlers switch roles (good guy/ bad guy) in mid-action. It was the match and the moment that ushered in the WWE's "attitude" era, which would change the landscape of wrestling forever.

1. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (WrestleMania III): Another match that will not win any technical awards, but then again it didn't have to. The simple fact that Hogan and Andre sold out a 90,000-seat football stadium in an era when wrestling cards took place in arenas and convention centers, makes this the most important match in wrestling history. Period.

Promoted Stories
Comments
SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.