We’re less than three weeks away from “Wrestlemania XXXII” and that makes a wrestling fan think back to years gone by. I’m sure you can remember classics like Savage vs. Steamboat, Michaels vs. Ramon, Austin vs. Rock (pick one), Undertaker vs. Michaels (pick one) and Rock vs. Cena (there’s only one worth picking there). However, over the years there have been nearly 300 matches at Wrestlemania and there’s a good chance that some of them have slipped past your radar. Today we’re going to take a quick look at one match from every Wrestlemania that I find to be a bit underrated and worth a look.
These are in chronological order only.
Wrestlemania I: Nikolai Volkoff/Iron Sheik vs. US Express
Wrestlemania II: Terry Funk/Hoss Funk vs. Junkyard Dog/Tito Santana
We’ll stick with the tag matches for now as this is another show that really doesn’t have the strongest lineup. However, that’s something you can cover up with talent, which people like the Funk Brothers and Santana had in spades (maybe even in hearts, diamonds and clubs). The Dog may not have been the best worker in the world but he had a ridiculous level of charisma to carry the fans along. The match got some time (twelve minutes for the third longest on the show) and the crowd was hot enough to make it work. After everything else the fans had to sit through, this wasn’t too bad.
Wrestlemania III: Can-Am Connection vs. Magnificent Muraco/Bob Orton
I’ve called this the perfect choice for an opening match before and I still stand by that theory. It’s certainly not a classic or anything but it’s a quick, fast paced and fun match with a good midcard face team against a good midcard heel team. The key thing here though was they didn’t burn the crowd out. An opening match is designed to get you ready for the rest of the show and that’s what you got here with a simple story and the good guys winning. That’s how you open a show and this did it very well.
Wrestlemania IV: Greg Valentine vs. Ricky Steamboat
You would think that a show with sixteen matches would have a nice selection of good matches but this is one of the only good (and it’s not that good) matches all night. However, there’s almost no way that Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine couldn’t be good given how talented the two of them really are. Steamboat was leaving the company after this night so thankfully we got a nice performance before he got out.
Wrestlemania V: Twin Towers vs. Rockers
This would be the speed of the Rockers vs. the power of the Twin Towers (Akeem and the Big Boss Man), which is a formula that is almost never going to fail. Above all else though, there’s a moment in here where Akeem gives Shawn Michaels one of the hardest clotheslines I’ve ever seen. On top of that though, Jesse Ventura makes it even better with the line of “He must have irritated Akeem!” to explain why Michaels got hit so hard. This was another short but fun match and that’s all you need a lot of the time.
Wrestlemania VI: Rockers vs. Orient Express
Their rematch at “Royal Rumble 1991” is much better remembered but you can really see Michaels’ skills shining through by this point. These midcard tag matches are always worth taking a look at and the Orient Express are another forgotten team with a lot of talent. The Rockers were really starting to click at this point and this was one of their showcases on the big stage.
Wrestlemania VII: Rockers vs. Haku/Barbarian
This is straight out of the same playbook as the Can-Am Connection vs. Orton/Muraco with power vs. speed all over again in the opening match. The Rockers were really peaking as a team at this point and it’s a shame that they split later in the year. This is still one of my favorite Wrestlemania matches ever and again it lit the crowd on fire, even though the rest of the card let them down badly.
Wrestlemania VIII: Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart
I might be stretching a bit to call this underrated but I always think of the double main event before this one. Piper winning a title was long overdue and it was great to see him having an awesome wrestling match instead of doing all of his character and comedy stuff. This was also a great showcase for Hart who was rapidly climbing the card and becoming the future of the company. The ending still works and Piper teasing the heel turn but throwing the bell down instead would wind up coming back for Hart in a few years. It still works and still tells a great story for a classic match.
Wrestlemania IX: Headshrinkers vs. Steiner Brothers
The Steiner Brothers were one of the best teams of all time and they had only made their debut in the WWF a few months before this. While they were excellent amateur wrestlers, they could also beat the tar out of another team and the Headshrinkers were right there with them in the brawling style. The spot of the match is easily Rick Steiner being put on Samu’s shoulders so Fatu can dive at him, only to powerslam Fatu out of the air with a belly to belly suplex. The timing is outstanding and still gets my attention every time. It’s no technical masterpiece but it’s four strong guys beating the tar out of each other for nearly fifteen minutes. What else can you need?
Wrestlemania X: Randy Savage vs. Crush
This was Savage’s swan song in the WWF and it was also a rare gimmick for its day with a last man standing match. Well kind of at least as you had to pin someone on the floor and then keep them from making it back to the ring in sixty seconds. There’s a great story here with Crush turning mega heel on Savage due to Savage not visiting him when he was injured. Savage lost his mind (what little of it he had left) and went on one last warpath after Crush for months with this as the final blowoff. The gimmick didn’t quite work but at least it was a nice idea.
Wrestlemania XI: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Yeah it’s the main event but that doesn’t mean it’s not underrated. When you ask people about this show, the main thing they’ll say is “That show sucked but Diesel vs. Michaels was good.” Well yeah but the main event was actually good too. Keeping in mind that it was nothing more than a way to show off a football player who had never gotten in the ring before, Taylor did a great job and actually made the thing look believable. Again the match is no classic and really doesn’t work on its own, but if you consider the circumstances it’s certainly worthy of a chance.
Wrestlemania XII: Savio Vega vs. Steve Austin
This is a very forgotten feud and that’s quite the shame because these two could burn up a mat. The show is remembered for the Iron Man match and Diesel vs. Undertaker but this was the best match on the limited midcard. Vega is a very underrated worker as he could go out there all night long if he was needed to and you know Austin could wrestle all night long so these two had some very solid matches along the way. Check out their feud if you get the chance as it showed a lot of Austin’s potential.
Wrestlemania XIII: Legion of Doom/Ahmed Johnson vs. Nation of Domination
Now keep in mind that this came after one of the greatest matches of all time in what is normally considered the death spot for a Wrestlemania. Instead of just doing a standard street fight/weapons match, these guys beat the fire out of each other with one of the wildest brawls you’ll see in the WWF. The key thing here though is they don’t overstay their welcome as they’re done in less than eleven minutes. So often a hardcore match can go on too long but this keeps going at just the right pace the whole time with everyone out there beating each other all over the place. It’s a very fun match and a rare good followup to a masterpiece.
Wrestlemania XIV: Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila
One thing the WWF wasn’t remembered for was its light heavyweight division but Michinoku and Aguila (later known as Essa Rios) were some of the best the company had to offer at the time. This was actually a really fun match in the WCW Cruiserweight Title mold with two guys flying all over the place for a few minutes to keep the crowd going. There aren’t a lot to pick from in this division but this was one of the best high profile matches they had.
Wrestlemania XV: Kane vs. Triple H
This one is far more than the least bad than anything else. “Wrestlemania XV” is one of the weakest entries in the series and there is barely anything worth seeing on the whole thing. Therefore I’ll go with this one as it at least has two of the best workers on the roster involved. This one was based on a flamethrower (like so many stories are) so there was only so much they could do in the ring to make it work and it did…..kind of. Not a great match here but you take what you can get.
Wrestlemania XVI: Hardcore Battle Royal
This isn’t exactly the Legion of Doom vs. Nation of Domination fight as the Hardcore Title was just a joke that went on way too long. However, this was embracing the goofy as you had people running all over the place trading the title with the last man holding the belt getting to leave with it. If you just forget about everything else and go with the fun here, you’ll have a good time.
Wrestlemania XVII: Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
Now “Wrestlemania XVII” is a difficult one as you have classic after classic up and down the card. Therefore, we’ll go with the opening match for Jericho’s Intercontinental Title. While the match didn’t go anywhere special and was much more about the buildup (consisting of handicap matches, a clown and a teapot), these two beat the heck out of each other and had a great time doing so. Check this one out and stick around for the rest of the show because it might be the best of all time.
Wrestlemania XVIII: Edge vs. Booker T.
“THEY’RE FIGHTING OVER SHAMPOO!” The match itself isn’t great but I’ve always been a fan of the story. Sure it’s stupid but here’s the thing: would you rather have two guys fighting over a Japanese shampoo commercial or over the same handful of stories that they rotate over and over for months, wondering why it has less and less of an impact every time? Edge was really coming into his own here and a match with someone as naturally talented as Booker was only going to help that.
Wrestlemania XIX: Trish Stratus vs. Victoria vs. Jazz
You have to pick something off the top of the card here as the bottom half is as stacked as anything the WWE has ever done. In this case you have a similar match to the previous year’s but with Victoria in Lita’s place. This was one of the better times for the division as the talent pool was getting deeper with Stratus leading the way and the other two more than capable of keeping up with her (and often surpassing her).
Wrestlemania XX: Victoria vs. Molly Holly
This is much more about the aftermath than anything in the ring. The stipulation coming into this one was Victoria’s title vs. Holly’s hair, which you would think would be an obvious ending. Then Victoria pinned Holly to retain and every bit of the hair was shaved off. It was such a surprise back when this aired and it still works to this day. I’ll give Holly a lot of credit for going through with it as she didn’t have much else of a chance to make it to the big show, so well done for giving up something like that to get there.
Wrestlemania XXI: Undertaker vs. Randy Orton
It’s another stretch here as any part of the Streak is always remembered but this was back when Orton was a glorified punk kid. This is the match I remember the most about this show with it easily eclipsing the two World Title changes that came later. Orton was on a roll at this point and you could easily see him breaking the Streak, especially after that amazing RKO to counter the chokeslam. Undertaker won of course but the chance of an upset made it worth seeing.
Wrestlemania XXII: Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus
This show is remembered for its two World Title matches and changes but instead we’ll look at one of the best Divas matches of all times. James was still the crazy stalker in love with Stratus at this point and used that to her advantage in various ways here. Unfortunately there’s a bad botch near the end of the match but thankfully it’s not bad enough to derail what is an otherwise great match.
Wrestlemania XXIII: Lashley vs. Umaga
This is a tricky one as it’s the biggest match on the show, but the thing is that people remember all of the buildup instead of the match. Lashley vs. Umaga was a strong enough power match to work in this spot, even though it’s about everything other than the two of them. If you can get past all the insanity here, there’s a pretty good match to be found.
Wrestlemania XXIV: John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Finlay
Instead of a match with a bunch of big names involved, this was about taking two tough guys and having them beat on each other for a few minutes. Oh and a leprechaun who might be Finlay’s son getting beaten up in a cage for reasons that still aren’t entirely clear. People remember this show for “I’m sorry. I love you.” and a great Undertaker vs. Edge match but this was a really fun opener that’s worth a look.
Wrestlemania XXV: John Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show
Hey guys, go out there with your WAY too complicated storyline centered around Vickie Guerrero and follow Undertaker vs. Michaels tearing the house down for half an hour. The amazing thing is they almost pulled it off with a pretty solid match, including one heck of a power display as Cena gave both of them an Attitude Adjustment at the same time. It’s impressive enough when Cena puts Big Show on his shoulders and flips him over but to have another full grown man on top of that makes it even more amazing.
Wrestlemania XXVI: Sheamus vs. Triple H
Take two guys and let them beat each other up for a long time. Sheamus is a guy who is very simple: a big, strong man who can hit you really hard. Triple H can easily hang with someone like that and it’s exactly what we got here. They would have a better match a month later at Extreme Rules but at least this was an entertaining brawl for Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania XXVII: Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio
Oh for the days of the masked Rhodes. This was the culmination of Mysterio injuring Rhodes’ face a few months back and ruining his Dashing gimmick by sending Rhodes into a psychological tailspin. Rhodes believed that he had scars all over his face and wore a mask, causing him to want to destroy Mysterio as a result. It was a great character and a really well told story for the match, though you’d be better off checking out the buildup first.
Wrestlemania XXVIII: Kane vs. Randy Orton
This is more of a personal one as I’m a fan of both guys. Sometimes you just need a strong upper midcard match between two veterans who can work well together. Kane may be someone who has been around forever but he can still have a good enough match under the right circumstances. This worked well enough for an early match on the show and helped set the stage for the show’s double main event later on.
Wrestlemania XXIX: Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio
A lot of people forget how good Swagger really can be when he’s motivated and not clearly going to lose. On top of that, I really liked Del Rio’s face run. Yeah he’s a bit dull as a heel but his face run saw him flying around with hurricanranas and those kicks of his to make quite a good Smackdown Champion. There’s a great story here of both guys trying to get in their submission stuff and turning it into a great series of counters back and forth. Unfortunately the ending was given away a bit as Swagger had been arrested a few weeks before, basically crippling his run.
Wrestlemania XXX: Shield vs. New Age Outlaws/Kane
It might be a bit of a stretch to call a squash match underrated but this did something important. This was the match where it was clear that Shield was going to be one of the hottest things in years. They dismantled the veterans and blew the roof off the Super Dome (yes Super Dome Hulk) while doing so, proving that their face turn (which you knew would be soon) was going to be a big deal. This was such dominance that there was no way the team wasn’t going to be cheered as a result.
Wrestlemania XXXI: Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
We’ll wrap it up with more of a relief than anything else. The previous year’s Undertaker match, while much more historic than anything else, was a disaster from an in ring perspective due to a severe concussion. This match showed that he still had it and was really just injured instead of losing his touch. The visual of Bray doing his spider walk and Undertaker staring him down is great stuff, though Bray losing here was another blemish on his heavily tarnished record.
Some of those might have been a stretch and you’re probably familiar with a lot of them but I’m sure there’s something in there that you haven’t seen in a long time. While the Wrestlemania main events and featured matches get all the attention (and rightfully deserved), sometimes it’s nice to look at something a little different. Luckily there are a lot of options to pick from over the years and I just scratched the surface here.
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