As we approach WrestleMania 34 this coming Sunday, we’re taking a look at the big event’s best moments from the last 33 years. Today’s installment looks at the show’s best undercard title matches!
Sometimes, it feels like WWE has too many titles. In the height of the WWF popularity in the 1980s, the company had three men’s championships – the World Title, the Intercontinental Title and the Tag Team Titles. The Intercontinental Title was a chance for guys who weren’t quite ready for the main event to shine and maybe even hone their skills for a run at the World Title. “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior both had great runs with the Intercontinental Title before they ascended to the next level. So did Shawn Michaels and Bret “Hitman” Hart.
As the business of pro wrestling changed, more titles were added, more titles were defended at WrestleMania. The United States Championship, the European Championship, the Hardcore Championship and the Light Heavyweight Championship have all been defended during WrestleMania. All of them were under consideration for this list.
** NOTE – The lists being published this week were compiled from the larger list of WrestleMania match rankings done for Scott’s Blog of Doom and Place To Be Nation. Check out those sites for more great WrestleMania content. All rankings are, of course, just my opinion and are not meant to be a definitive list**
10. Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show – Intercontinental Title match (WrestleMania XXVIII)
The build-up for this match saw champion Rhodes mocking the 7-foot behemoth for having a terrible record at WrestleMania, exclaiming that despite the size difference, Rhodes would have no problems beating Big Show. The challenger, of course, was looking to prove Rhodes wrong and get his WrestleMania moment by winning the Intercontinental Title. Show was able to keep up with the agile Rhodes, and the match they put together built perfectly to Big Show’s victory.
9. Chris Jericho vs. William Regal – Intercontinental Title Match (WrestleMania X-Seven)
We discussed this match in the DAY ONE list, so feel free to check back there.
8.“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig vs. Big Bossman – Intercontinental Title Match (WrestleMania VII)
When Big Bossman came to the WWF, he was a plodding super heavyweight. Over the course of two or three years, when he went from a big bad challenging Hulk Hogan to the good guy defending the honor of his mother against manager BOBBY “THE BRAIN” HEENAN and his stable of wrestlers, he became a quality worker who could put on a really fun match against the right opponent. The right opponent here was Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect. As the culmination of Bossman’s feud with Perfect’s manager, it didn’t have the most satisfying ending – Bossman winning by disqualification, thus not winning the title – the match was still energetic and a lot of fun.
7. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho – 2-Fall Triple Threat Euro-continetal Title Match (WrestleMania 2000)
Angle came into this match as both the European and Intercontinental Champion, and was forced to defend both titles in a two-fall match. In the first, the Intercontinental Title was on the line; in the second, the European Title. Whoever won either fall would win that championship. With three of the best wrestlers in the company in the ring, the 13-minute match never had a dull moment. Angle lost both of his titles without being pinned once, as Jericho and Benoit traded wins to take the titles away from the former Olympian.
6. Intercontinental Title Ladder Match (WrestleMania 32)
Here’s the second of three matches on this list that was discussed in our first list.
5. John Cena vs. Rusev – US Title match (WrestleMania 31)
U.S. Champion Rusev came down to the ring in this 2015 match in a tank! This match could have gone 35 seconds and ended in a roll-up and it would have still ended up on this list just for Rusev’s entrance. Thankfully, the match was still pretty good, as Rusev dominated Cena with power moves until it was time for Cena to make his comeback, which led to Cena winning the US Title. A good match, with the exception of Cena’s attempt at a springboard Stunner that looked horrible. But it can all be forgiven because of that tank.
4. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart – Intercontinental Title Match (WrestleMania VIII)
Piper was defending the title here, his first ever in the WWF, after winning it from The Mountie at the 1992 Royal Rumble. Hart was looking to regain the title he lost to The Mountie just days before the Rumble. Bobby Heenan, on commentary, spent the match wondering which man would snap and break the rules first, and the story played out in the ring as well. Piper, the more storied rulebreaker, mostly sided with his better angels in keeping the match clean against Hart, though he nearly gave in to temptation when the referee went down and Piper considered walloping Hart with the ring bell. Instead, he threw the bell down and went for a sleeperhold, which Hart countered into a pin to regain the title. Great storytelling in an engaging match.
3. Intercontinental Title Ladder Match (WrestleMania 31)
Here’s the third match that was on that first list. Hopefully, you keep checking back.
2. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – Intercontinental Title Ladder Match (WrestleMania X)
The first ladder match on a WWF telecast was a much different animal than the ladder matches we see today. Instead of using the ladders to catapult themselves around the ring in cringe-inducing dangerous spots, Michaels and Ramon had a one-on-one match where ladders were used to enhance the action in the ring. The ladder was used selectively, highlighting the importance of getting hit with a large object. When Ramon finally climbed the ladder to get the win, both men looked like they had been through hell. The WWF made its most important star of the 21st Century that night back in 1994 – though no one expected it to be the ladder.
1. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – Intercontinental Title Match (WrestleMania III)
For a decade, this was considered to be the greatest WrestleMania match of all time. Like everything else at the 1987 edition, it was supposed to be overshadowed by the Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant main event (which we discussed YESTERDAY). The next day, though, it was this match I was talking about with my friends at school. Steamboat was looking for revenge against Savage after the champ put him on the shelf for weeks with a damaged larynx. What better way than to take the man’s title? Savage and Steamboat put on a wrestling clinic, the match was like two accomplished skaters working in sync. Every move flowed into the next and into the next and built to a finale that saw Steamboat roll Savage up with a small package for the win.
That’s all for this edition. I’ll be back tomorrow with the Undertaker’s best WrestleMania matches!