Top Five Best and Worst Final Matches in Wrestlemania History

With Wrestlemania four days away, there is still debate over which match will close the show.  Will it be Brock Lesnar against Bill Goldberg?  Roman Reigns versus The Undertaker in potentially his last match?  Another match that no one is suspecting?  The final match is not always the lasting image of the overall show or even considered “the main event” at times, but typically it is either the most anticipated or most meaningful of the card, at least from the company’s standpoint.  The following is a list of the matches that are the worst and best to close the biggest event on the WWE calendar.

Top Five Worst Final Matches in Wrestlemania History

5. The Miz (c) vs. John Cena – Wrestlemania XVII (2011)

This is one of those matches that when you watch it, there’s not much technically wrong with it.  The work rate is there.  The moves aren’t botched or sloppy.  The characters are playing their roles.  But it’s almost as if everything is being playacted too well.  “Nothing matters” is the aura about it.  Everyone is doing the bare minimum, and the crowd can feel it.  Or perhaps the bare minimum is done because the crowd wasn’t into it.  The crowd has turned on Cena by this point, but they hate Miz because he’s actually an effective heel, so nobody wants to cheer either man, which causes the match to feel awkward on top of everything else, especially for the final match.  This match was a head-scratcher in every way, and that’s even before The Miz retains the title over Cena at a Wrestlemania.  This was an odd year capped off appropriately with an odd match atop the card.

4. Bret Hart (c) vs. Yokozuna/Yokozuna (c) vs. Hulk Hogan – Wrestlemania IX (1993)

The match itself between Bret Hart and Yokozuna was a solid enough match on its own merit.  It was a standard technician versus behemoth back-and-forth.  Instead, why this is one of the worst final matches in ‘Mania history is because after Bret Hart lost, a returning Hulk Hogan came out and, with no real explanation, had an impromptu bout against Yokozuna with the World Title on-the-line and won in no time.  This was the egomaniac Hogan at his worst: returning to the company and needed to be back on top immediately and burying others at the same time.  It was a definitive low point as WWE struggled to enter the New Generation.

3. Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant – Wrestlemania III

This is one of those iconic matches that is known for one or two unbelievable moments, but, in hindsight, is a terrible match.  Everyone remembers the story: Hogan tries to bodyslam Andre, fails, and spends the rest of the match getting beaten before “Hulking up” and finally slamming the giant.  Particularly, everyone remembers the failed slam and the actual slam.  Looking beyond those two moments, however, shows a match that is plodding, poorly-executed, and lazy.  Andre was, unfortunately, so worn down by this point by his disease that he could barely move, which contributes to some of this problem.  Hulk’s uncertainty about whether Andre was going to allow him to go over was probably another.  Then, there is the simple fact that neither was ever known for their in-ring work.  The history and stories surrounding this match are fascinating, but the actual match, not so much.

2. Psycho Sid (c) vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XIII (1997)

This bout was the definition of dull.  This was Sid’s first time main eventing Wrestlemania in five years.  He wasn’t a good worker or seller then, and he somehow managed to get worse in those five years.  Every move he executes on The Undertaker looks awful.  His chokeslam isn’t high enough.  His powerbomb looks like he’s lying the opponent on the mat.  One time, he sidewalk slams ‘Taker, and almost turns him sideways dropping him down.  The match itself consisted of many rest holds and spurts of two-to-three moves, then more rest holds.  The Undertaker wins, thankfully, but only after Bret Hart interferes in the match against Sid even though before the match, Bret complained about both men.  This card, including this match, was a reshuffle because in the build to ‘Mania, Shawn Michaels “lost [his] smile” and relinquished the World title (yet still winds up on commentary for the match), but something better than this could have went on last, especially when this show had Bret vs. Austin, one of most renowned Wrestlemania matches of all-time, on the undercard.

1. Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice – Wrestlemania XIII (1992)

This is simply the worst.  The structure of the match makes no sense.  Hogan comes out to his music, and he and Sid begin fighting right away.  Hogan punches Sid out of the ring all the while Hogan’s music is still playing, then Hogan rips his shirt and poses.  The match proper starts, and Hogan gets the upper hand again.  Eventually, Sid turns the tables in a test of strength and starts performing actual offensive maneuvers.  Hogan “Hulks up” from Sid’s finisher, then big boot, bodyslam, Leg Drop.  But Harvey Whippleman distracts the ref.  Hogan puts his hands on Whippleman and, for some reason, Sid gets disqualified.  Papa Shango comes down to the ring where he double-teams Hogan with Sid until The Ultimate Warrior comes out for the save.  So the structure of this match is mega shine, prolonged shine, heat, comeback, disqualification victory, double-team heat, save, and comeback.  This match is the most Hogan of Hogan matches.  Beyond all that, Sid can’t sell, and he awkwardly talks to the camera like he’s wrestling a jobber on Saturday morning.  This was a surreal, awkward beginning followed by a sloppy, low work-rate match with two competitors who can’t or won’t sell with a disqualification finish in the final match of Wrestlemania.

Top Five Best Final Matches in Wrestlemania History

5. HHH (c) vs. Shawn Michaels. vs. Chris Benoit – Wrestlemania XX (2004)

This is a match many do not like to mention for obvious reasons.  The Benoit family murders have stained this time period in wrestling, whether it should or not.  Regardless of the tragedy that took place and WWE’s whitewashing of their own history, this match is one of the best main event triple threat matches ever executed and set the pace for most others after it.  No competitor rested too long throughout the match as it was sharply booked and logical when one of the men wasn’t involved.  The crowd support for Benoit grows throughout the match as he tries over and over to lock in the Crippler Crossface, at the time the most protected submission finisher in the sport.  When Benoit finally made HHH tap to it in the finish, it felt earned not only in the story of the match but also for the story of his amazing nineteen year career.  At the time, he and Eddie Guerrero, who had won the other World Championship earlier in the evening, crying and hugging after the match was a moment that capped their careers, celebrated how far the two men at come.  Now, it is a saddening and haunting reminder of the tragedies surrounding both men that would come in just couple years’ time.

4. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins – Wrestlemania 31 (2015)

Some might consider this an odd pick, but if you haven’t watched the match since it happened, give it another chance.  This is the start of the anti-Reigns sentiment that is still going on today. Brock looks like a monster throughout almost the entire match giving a variety of suplexes, knees, and multiple F5s, but Reigns keeps kicking out and showing tremendous resilience and heart.  If Roman hadn’t been rejected by fans, this would have really put major heat on Brock.  When Roman does get the upper hand during the comeback, it’s logical and realistic by pushing Brock into the corner post, busting him open, something just enough to stun “The Beast.”  The match is well-executed with both men selling well and telling a good story.  Just as it looks like Roman is going to win, much to the crowd’s chagrin, Seth Rollins’s music hits and the place erupts.  Seth runs down the long aisle to the ring and cashes in his Money in the Bank contract and picks up the victory by pinning Roman after a Curb Stomp.  This created the iconic image of the first cash-in in Wrestlemania main event history, an image that will be used for years to come.  The booking of this was all-well crafted, making both main competitors look strong and starting Seth Rollins’s chickenshit heel run.

3. Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan – Wrestlemania XXX (2014)

The build to this match is just as important as the match itself.  Daniel Bryan is the last true babyface of the modern era.  He had slowly been building more and more fan support throughout the year, and it was reaching a fever pitch as ‘Mania XXX approached.  Batista’s return as a face didn’t work as they had expected, so they forced Daniel Bryan into the match.  In the first match of the evening, Daniel Bryan, already with a hurt shoulder, faced HHH.  If he won, he would be entered into the final match against Orton and Batista for the World Championship.  Bryan won, and afterwards, HHH took a chair to Bryan’s shoulder against the ring post.  The three-way consisted of several great high spots, including the vicious Batista Bomb into RKO combo performed on Bryan through a table.  After almost being carted off by medical staff, Bryan reenters and eventually takes out both men before making Batista tap out to The Yes Lock.  This was the most fantastic, yet realistic comebacks and stories of perseverance WWE has told in a long time. The story line culminated into one of the most satisfying moments for the WWE audience in recent history with close to 75,000 fans chanting “YES” and pointing in the air.

2. The Rock (c) vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – Wrestlemania XVII (2001)

This match, the third in which the men met at ‘Mania and second in which they closed the show, was one of the definitive main event matches in Wrestlemania history and the best of their trilogy.  The match was consistently back-and-forth with no man gaining the upper hand for long. Both men near the top of their game in terms of storytelling and selling.  It had submission spots, brawling galore, hard bumps, high spots outside the ring, crimson masks, stolen finishers, and The Rock kicking out of everything to keep him looking strong.  A steaming hot Texas crowd and great work on commentary by JR and Paul Heyman sold the match even more. The Austin heel turn at the end has been criticized by some, but even that was a shocker at the time as Vince McMahon helped his sworn enemy win the match in vicious fashion with multiple chair shots to the body and head.

1. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Career vs. Streak) – Wrestlemania XVI (2010)

The match is a rematch from the previous year’s incredible match between the two men.  Michaels puts his career on the line in order to beat ‘Taker’s streak, a streak he almost beat the previous year.  This match is the ultimate in terms of wrestlers putting “everything on the line.”   Each man takes multiple finishers and super finishers.  Each man kicks out of moves they should never kick out of.  There are ridiculous spots, such as Michaels moonsaulting from the top to the outside through a table.  But the storytelling is what matters here.  The match is both men not being able to get the better of the other and establishing respect for one another.  When The Undertaker Tombstones Michaels, and he kicks out, he’s flabbergasted.  He goes to do his traditional pose, the thumb across the throat to signify another Tombstone, but he stops himself out of respect.  Michaels crawls to his feet slowly, using ‘Taker’s pants to pull himself up. The Undertaker yells, “Stay down.”  Michaels makes the throat cutting motion, a signal he wants ‘Taker to end him and his career, and slaps ‘Taker defiantly to force him into another Tombstone, which ends the match.  Michaels lies in the ring motionless after the pin as an exhausted Undertaker collapses on him after the pin.  ‘Taker eventually picks Michaels up, shakes his head, and hugs him.  Michaels then receives the accolades of the crowd now that his career is over. Not every main event of ‘Mania can have these back-and-forth, finisher spamming matches, but out of the ones that exist, this is the absolute top.  It draws a strong conclusion to one legend and continues another.

 

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