A whole lot of killer wrestling highlights. A whole lot of Ric Flair razzle dazzle. A tiny bit of revisionist wrestling history and some controversy. That's what fans were treated to as the WWE announced their choices for the "Top Ten WrestleMania Matches Of All Time" last night on Spike TV.
Supposedly chosen by the WWE wrestlers themselves, the praiseworthy list spanned 19 years of WrestleMania history and took into consideration everything that could make a match truly memorable. Some were selected for the superb technical wrestling on display. Some were chosen for the awe-inspiring hype surrounding them. Curiously missing on the list were Steve Austin's matches with The Rock and Kurt Angle versus Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 19. Curiously included on the list was the dreadful main event of the very first WrestleMania which pitted Mr. T and Hulk Hogan against Roddy Piper and Paul 'Mr. Wonderful' Orndorff.
The list itself was...
10. Chris Benoit versus Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 17)
9. The Ultimate Warrior versus Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania 6)
8. Shawn Michaels versus Steve Austin (WrestleMania 14)
7. Hulk Hogan, Mr. T versus Paul Ordorff, Roddy Piper (WrestleMania)
6. Bret Hart versus Steve Austin (WrestleMania 13)
5. Hollywood Hogan versus The Rock (WrestleMania X-8)
4. Randy Savage versus Ricky Steamboat (WrestleMania 3)
3. Shawn Michaels versus Razor Ramon (WrestleMania 10)
2. Edge, Christian versus Dudley Boys versus Hardy Boys (TLC - WrestleMania 16)
1. Shawn Michaels versus Bret Hart (WrestleMania 12)
Mimicking the format made famous by VH1, the special was given instant credibility when the WWE wisely decided to have wrestling legend Ric Flair host it rather than "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as was previously announced. As the "master of ceremonies", Flair styled, profiled and entertained as only he can.
Flair, who picked Bret Hart versus Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 as his personal favourite of the bunch, even took some time out of the show to hype some WrestleMania XX matches by bashing Chris Benoit as a choker who can’t win the big bouts and mocked Evolution's opponents: The Rock and Mick Foley.
"Rock, I hope you enjoyed that moment because at WrestleMania 20 - you, Foley and The Sock - are gonna have enough of Evolution to last you a lifetime. Wooo!," said Flair following footage of the Rock and Hollywood Hogan match at WrestleMania X-8.
The only real flaws of the broadcast were the WWE blurring out their old logo (probably due to their trademark loss to the World Wildlife Fund in court) and another attempt by the WWE to rewrite the wrestling history books. In chatting about his infamous Ladder Match with Razor Ramon at WrestleMania 10, Shawn Michaels not only claimed the bout changed the direction of the wrestling business but that he was the first wrestler to ever be in a such a confrontation.
"The most gratifying thing about things like the Ladder Match is being the first guy to be involved in those matches. Being the guy that's labeled as the innovator," said Michaels.
Of course, there were Ladder Matches before the Michaels - Ramon tussle at WrestleMania 10. One of the most famous being a battle between Dusty Rhodes and Tully Blanchard in the NWA during the "Great American Bash" tour in 1987 when the WWE was "kid sensitive" and refrained from booking such matches. Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling in Calgary was also the site of Ladder Matches long before the WWE ever gave thought to the idea.
The first ladder match in WWE history was between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in 1992. The match is featured on the "Smack 'Em - Whack 'Em" tape which was released by the WWE on Coliseum Home Video on April 21, 1993. The tape also features Bret Hart's first ever WWE World Heavyweight Title win when he defeated then champion Ric Flair.
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