Wrestling

Published on March 27th, 2015 | by Gareth Davies

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The Ultimate WrestleMania Card

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With WrestleMania 31 just around the corner, welcome to Need To Consume’s special feature putting together the ultimate WrestleMania card, compiled out of matches from WrestleManias past. To stop this from becoming a love letter to Shawn Michaels, we’ve limited wrestlers to one match each and concentrated on traditional Mania contests (Title matches, special attractions, celebrities, etc). This has led to many slices of pizza, several loud arguments, and receding hairlines aplenty. Enjoy!

CM Punk Vs Rey Mysterio (WrestleMania XXVI)

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The Straight Edge Society had the potential to be one of the best acts the WWE had produced in years. Led by a motivated CM Punk and featuring the criminally underrated Luke Gallows and the drop dead gorgeous Serena, The SES had several metric tons of potential. Unfortunately thanks to some dubious booking, a lifeless feud with The Big Show, and Serena’s alleged backstage transgressions, the stable never really got the chance to reach the heights they should have.

That is, except for one glorious episode of Smackdown before WrestleMania XXVI, where Rey Mysterio’s family appeared before the crowd to celebrate his 9 year old daughter’s birthday. The party was gate crashed by Punk and his gang, leading to one of the greatest angles the WWE has ever produced. In fact there are probably still some people a bit wigged by Punk serenading little Aalyah with his haunting version of “Happy Birthday”.

The match itself is fast paced and fun, with some terrific aerial work from Mysterio and a series of vicious strikes from Punk. But really, it earns its place on the card for the tremendous build up and for Mysterio wrestling the match while cosplaying as one of James Cameron’s Na’vi. And despite not jerking the curtain on its own event, this is the perfect opener for our Ultimate WrestleMania.

‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage (C) Vs Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat (WrestleMania III)

Intercontinental Championship Match

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The general rule with a lot of “classic” matches is that they don’t often stand the test of time. Wrestling audiences are always evolving, and critically acclaimed contests which had crowds of yesteryear going bananas would likely be met with apathy today. Savage and Steamboat is an exception to that rule.

Yes, the action could be considered simple compared to modern standards. And yes, there aren’t any suicide dives or moonsaults from the top. But this ‘aint no finely choreographed ballet son. This is a fight.

Macho Man plays the villain here perfectly. Rather than allow this to become a fair contest between two athletes, Savage desperately grounds The Dragon at every opportunity by either driving Steamboat’s face in to the mat or flinging him over the top rope. On the other hand Steamboat keeps getting back up with the fire of a thousand suns, and scrapping and clawing away as if winning the intercontinental title is the most important thing in the entire world. A superb clash in every sense, this one lives up to its reputation.

The Dudley Boyz (C) Vs Edge & Christian Vs The Hardy Boyz (WrestleMania X-Seven)

World Tag Team Championship match (TLC rules)

WM17TLC

Only the second ever TLC match, and already it had become the calling card of all three of these teams. While purists will insist this type of wrestling is more like stunt work than actual grappling, it’s still absorbing and  sets the pulse racing in a way few other contests can manage.

Having survived the initial match at SummerSlam 2000, here the stakes were raised even higher. Once again the tag titles were on the line, but this time there were taller ladders, more tables, and an entire boat load of chaos.

With run ins from Lita, Rhyno, and Spike Dudley, and enough carnage to put a Destruction Derby to shame, this is a thrill ride of big falls, dangerous dives, and sheer insanity. And with Christian taking a lethal looking tumble over the top rope, Spike Dudley throwing himself around like a nutter, and Jeff Hardy’s apparent determination to end up in the hospital, it’s no surprise that this match climaxes with broken bodies everywhere. Yes it is a car crash, but it’s a gripping and exhilarating car crash all the same.

Big Show Vs Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather (WrestleMania XXIV)

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Celebrities and WrestleMania go together like apples and pork. Unfortunately when it comes to good matches directly involving VIPs at WrestleMania, we’re on very shaky ground. Whether it’s poor Bam Bam Bigelow struggling to carry Lawrence Taylor to a passable main event, or Roddy Piper’s boxing match with Mr. T that was so horrible it could make a baby panda cry, usually a famous face between those ropes spells disaster.

So the Floyd Mayweather/Big Show contest automatically gets the nod just because it’s not completely horrible. It may be overbooked, full of outside interference, and as basic as a One Direction lyric, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Seriously, that in itself is pretty much a miracle.

As a side note when the WWE agreed a deal with Mayweather, they expected him to come in as a huge hero. No really, they honestly thought the most hated man in mainstream sports would be the good guy. Thankfully they came to their senses by the time Mania rolled around, but still, mind boggling.

Mickie James Vs Trish Stratus (C) (WrestleMania 22)

Women’s Championship Match

Wwe_wrestlemania_22_mickie_james_vs_trish_stratus

It’s easy to forget now, but Trish Stratus was initially hired by the WWE to be just another buxom model whose job was to stand around wearing very little. But thanks to years of dedicated hard work she became one of the greatest women wrestlers to ever grace a WWE ring, ushering in an era where female performers became more than just window dressing, at least for a short while.

Another key part of this mini revolution was Mickie James, an independent star that had been receiving rave reviews for her work in Ring Of Honor. Talented and with the right kind of look, James debuted as Trish’s Single White Female inspired stalker who became increasingly unstable, eventually kidnapping Ashley Massaro and forcing Stratus to agree to a Mania match.

In the ring these two let it all go. Weak forearms and tentative bumps so often associated with WWE Divas are replaced with hard knife edge chops, stiff kicks, and ferocious closed fists. Mickie and Trish go hold for hold and move for move, displaying a passion and gusto that would put many of their male colleagues to shame. With a homoerotic subtext bubbling away under the surface throughout (including the notorious “finger lick” that caused Vince McMahon to legitimately blow his stack backstage, and has subsequently been edited off all commercial releases of this match), and a hot Chicago crowd, this is easily qualifies as the best women’s match at WrestleMania.

Hulk Hogan Vs Mr. McMahon (WrestleMania XIX)

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When it comes to special attractions, no one is bigger than the Hulkster. The icon who epitomises pro wrestling for an entire generation is almost synonymous with the word WrestleMania. So what better place for Hogan to put his career on the line in a good ol’ fashioned street fight?

The problem is that it took place in 2003, probably a good 15 years removed from Hulk’s prime. Secondly his opponent was Vince McMahon, a non wrestler about as graceful as Madonna climbing a set of stairs. Even with gimmicks and shortcuts, by all rights this should be an A-class clunker.

But it isn’t. In fact somehow it’s really, really good. A bloody and brutal battle with liberal amounts of chair shots, ref bumps, and a surprise cameo from one of Hogan’s most notorious rivals, this doesn’t so much exceed expectations as leave them in its dust. In short it’s a belter. Brother. 

Kurt Angle Vs Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 21)

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Mr. WrestleMania against The Best Athlete in WWE History. Two of the greatest of all time for the first time ever. If ever a match had “five star clinic” written all over it, this one did.

And of course it’s fantastic. How could it not be? The most naturally gifted pro wrestler in North America going one on one with the man rightfully hailed as ‘The Showstopper’, with an in-his-prime Jim Ross at the announce desk. It’s a match that literally has something for everyone. Technical mat grappling? Check. Explosive brawling? Check. Heart stopping tension? Triple check.

WWE legend Bobby “The Brain” Heenan calls this his favourite match of all time, and considering the source that is very high praise indeed. It’s thoroughly deserved however, as by the time the final bell rings both men have pulled out all the stops to produce an absolute classic.

The Undertaker Vs Triple H (WrestleMania XXVII)

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The Undertaker and Triple H had previously met at WrestleMania X-Seven, under vastly different circumstances. For a start the undefeated Mania streak, while ongoing, hadn’t become an integral part of Taker’s character. Also X-Seven was a stacked card, with Angle and Benoit, Rock and Austin, and TLC all threatening to steal show. As such their first WrestleMania match was practically a throw away, nestled in to the semi-main position but not really given any serious thought.

WrestleMania 27 was different. Knowing full well that – even with The Rock’s involvement – a main event built around The Miz was likely to tank, the streak match was given more prestige this time around. And from the moment Triple H makes his “gladiator” entrance this has a big fight feel, which is only heightened when an anarchic start results in an announce booth being destroyed.

But the reason why this bout is so special is that it dares to be different. Streak matches, even the great ones with Shawn Michaels, follow a surprisingly simple pattern. The opponent and The Phenom have an all out war, with the other competitor almost winning, until Taker makes a comeback and claims a decisive victory in the end. Here though those rules are thrown out of the window, with The Demon of Death Valley having to be carried out after the final bell as a result of the tremendous beating inflicted by The Game. An engrossing and emotional roller coaster, it subverts the streak’s establish formula to superb effect.  

Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart Vs ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (WrestleMania 13)

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OK. Let’s call it right now. This is the greatest match in WrestleMania history. Sure, there are a handful of matches with better in ring action than this one. But for pure drama nothing can hold a candle to this.

Everything about this match fits like a finely tailored suit. For example, take the way that Austin and Hart are natural adversaries, the former a chaotic bruiser, the latter a methodical technician. Or the storyline coming in, with The Hitman’s disenchantment with the fans contrasting sharply with Stone Cold’s rise in popularity. Or even the action itself, with the intensity of one man battling as hard as he can to stay in the fight, and the frustration of the other unable to put his nemesis away. Its a prime example of why wrestling when done right can equal any form of storytelling in the world.

This is a match were everything is allowed to breath, where every action has a reason, and where there is no wasted movement. It tells not only the tale of one man becoming so obsessed with seemingly noble goals that they corrupt him entirely, but also that there is something to admire in those that refuse to change just because society says they should. It is something other than just another pro wrestling bout. It is transcendent, and by kick-starting the WWE’s Attitude Era this match would end up changing the wrestling landscape for good. An incredible legacy that Hart and Austin should be extremely proud of. Truly sensational.

Randy Orton (C) Vs Batista Vs Daniel Bryan (WrestleMania XXX)

WWE World Heavyweight Championship

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WrestleMania is the endgame. The pay-off. The season finale. The bit where evil gets vanquished and the hero stands triumphant. And nothing typifies that better than Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania.

Of course you could argue that there have been better wrestled main events. You’d be right. You could argue that the match itself is OK, good even, but nothing special. You’d be right about that as well. You could even argue that Batista and Orton were treated like after thoughts. And yes, you’d be bang on the money once again.

But the truth is none of that matters. Because wrestling – and by extension WrestleMania – is all about putting smiles on people’s faces. And the story of the man who was loved so much by the fans that they refused to give up on him, forcing those in charge to recognise him as a headliner, is inspiring enough to negate all that. What makes it better is that, unlike a well crafted movie or a Hollywood produced TV show, this was real. A humble, likeable fellow considered too small to ever be anything special instead stands proudly on top of the world, thanks to the support and the belief of the people. It was a wonderful, brilliant thing. A once in a lifetime event. And it does exactly what a WrestleMania main event should do. It makes you smile. 

All these matches and this Sunday’s WrestleMania can be viewed on the WWE Network, available in the UK for £9.99 per month. Visit www.wwe.com for more details.

Gareth Davies
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Gareth Davies

Wrestling bore. Nerd without a cause. Gentle giant. Smiling assassin.
Gareth Davies
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