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April 2018: 10 Forgotten WrestleMania Matches



“The Showcase of the Immortals” is just around the corner, pro wrestling’s biggest annual show, WrestleMania 34. The event goes down this Sunday April 8th in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA and is expected to produce a plethora of what is now commonly known as “WrestleMania Moments”.

Who could ever forget Shawn Michaels mouthing “I’m sorry. I love you” before delivering the superkick that would end Ric Flair’s career at WrestleMania 24? It’s forever etched in our memories of Hulk Hogan bodyslamming Andre the Giant at WrestleMania 3 in front of 93,000 fans and I’m sure no one will soon forget the jaw-dropping look of shock on that one dude’s face after Brock Lesnar broke The Streak.


But because it’s such a big event, not every match can be the one that steals the show. Not every performance creates a WrestleMania moment. Not every wrestler has that career defining match. Over the years there have been some stinkers, which is not what this article is about. This article is about the matches that have been lost to history. Recently I got stuck in a Wikipedia / Youtube-hole of forgotten WrestleMania matches. Here are my top ten.

The Executioner vs. Tito Santana - WrestleMania I


It was the very first match on the card at the very first WrestleMania in 1985. As the story goes, Vince McMahon bet the farm on the first WrestleMania. If it wasn’t a success, the company was going under. If he could pull it off, he just might take “sports entertainment” to a whole new level. Huge mainstream celebrities like Muhammad Ali, Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T were all involved, but the match that slips everyone’s mind just might be the match that started it all - The Executioner and Tito Santana.

Quick story - when I first started training pro wrestling in 2001 the guy who was training me was trying to pass himself off as THIS Executioner. He showed me pictures of “him” backstage with Tito at Madison Square Garden, he had the same exact mask as this Executioner, he would sell 8 x 10s of the Executioner at events and he even called Tito Santana on the phone when I was at his house. Anyway, it wasn’t until 2004 when I was doing an independent show that someone finally smartened me up and told me that THIS Executioner was “Playboy” Buddy Rose and not Tom Rumsby, the guy who trained me. If there is a hell, I’m sure Tom Rumsby is there as we speak.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. George Wells - WrestleMania II


WrestleMania 2 was a weird WrestleMania. The show was divided into three different events all happening at the same time in three different cities - New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. What really sticks out to me about WM2 is the big blue steel cage that WWE used to use and the match between Hogan and Bundy. I always wondered what might have happened with King Kong Bundy and why he went from hero to zero in the WWE. I mean, here he is on “The Grandest Stage of them All” working with none other than Hogan in the main event and the very next year at WM3 he’s in a six man tag match with Hillbilly Jim and some midgets??

Anyway, the match no one remembers is a 30-year-old Jake Roberts taking on George Wells. Before the match there’s some banter between Vince McMahon and an 80’s celebrity I don’t recall and it’s all about Jake’s snake, of course. Jake had just been hired by the WWE earlier that year and before WM2 had only been working squash matches till that point and hadn’t even made many appearances on TV yet. So, this was kind of like Jake’s coming out party. This match was also a squash, which is why it’s such an overlooked match in Jake’s career. Normally you don’t see squash matches on WM either.

Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant - WrestleMania IV


No, not their match at WrestleMania 3 - that one EVERYONE remembers. That match put 93,000 people in the Pontiac Silverdome and it’s the match where Hogan bodyslammed Andre. THIS is the match they had a year later that a lot of people tend to forget about. Bruce Prichard explained on his podcast that it was always the idea to do a series of three Hogan vs. Andre matches. The first happened at WM3, the second happened on TV on The Main Event (the match with two Hebner referees) and the third was this one.

This match was a fail because Andre wasn’t in any kind of physical shape to put on a decent match at this point in his life and he wasn’t the monster he had been before. Also, Hogan had already beaten him, so it took a lot of luster off of the match. Another reason people forget about it is because of the finish. Boy, did it suck. Hogan hits Andre with a chair and does not get disqualified for it. The referee only warns him. Then Andre hits Hogan with the chair and gets warned. Then the referee disqualifies BOTH guys a moment later. Yep, that’s what happened. Don’t believe me? Watch the match again.

Shawn Michaels vs. El Matador - WrestleMania VIII


There’s a reason why they call Shawn Michaels “Mr. WrestleMania”. He’s been in some of the most memorable matches in Mania history. Not many people remember this one, though. It's not a bad match, but it just seems a bit out of place in both space and time. At this point Michaels still hasn’t hit his stride yet and Tito (who has made the list for the second time now) is winding down his career and is saddled with a ridiculous matador gimmick. Oh, and one thing’s for sure - Tito knows how to work a side headlock for everything it’s worth!

Ric Flair’s Post WrestleMania VIII Promo


When you think WM8, how can you NOT remember Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage? But don’t forget about the Ric Flair promo after the match. It’s one of the greatest promos of all time in my opinion and definitely worth another watch if you haven’t seen it in a while. I’m not actually sure which I like watching more, the match or the promo!

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor - WrestleMania XI


This was the main event of what could be the most bizarre WrestleMania of all time. The “real” main event, I guess you could say, was Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel for the WWF Championship. This match was just some kind of added attraction. Vince McMahon has always had this vision of American football and pro wrestling co-existing, going back to WrestleMania 2 and the fabled “football players vs. wrestlers” battle royal, not to mention the XFL, which looks like it’s going to be making a comeback.

Taking into account that Taylor has zero wrestling experience, the match actually wasn’t that bad. The main thing I remember about this match is that LT only had one offensive move - a forearm smash and boy was he ever potato-ing the living hell out of Bigelow the ENTIRE match with it! It’s amazing how tolerant and patient Bam Bam was when working with him.

The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley - WrestleMania XII


Warrior had been gone from WWE for a while at this point. His last WM appearance had been at WM7, five years earlier when he beat Randy Savage. This was his first match back during his short run in 1996. Of course we all know Triple H now as the heir apparent to the WWE throne, alongside his wife Stephanie McMahon, but back in 1996 he was still a struggling undercard talent looking for a break. While his buddy “The Heartbreak Kid” was busy making Mania history in his epic iron man match with Bret Hart, HHH was still portraying some kind of aristocrat from Connecticut. Oh, and his valet was Sable. That’s kind of weird.

Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan - WrestleMania XIII


So this match is really The Rock vs. Rikishi. Rikishi is now a WWE Hall of Famer and The Rock is a future HOFer and one of Hollywood’s most well-known leading men. Back in 1997 though, they were just two jabronies. Also keep in mind - they're cousins in real life.

Big Show vs. Akebono - WrestleMania XXI (sumo match)


Big Show has been overlooked almost every year at WrestleMania. In fact, he’s been overlooked / underestimated / taken for granted, whatever you want to call it, for his entire career. He’s been in so many forgotten WrestleMania matches over the years, I could have probably made a whole list of forgotten Big Show matches if I’d wanted to.

I’ll give WWE credit here, though. The commentators took the match seriously for the most part and it was presented in a serious kind of way. They didn’t try to embarrass or mock the sport of sumo or Akebono, who was the first ever foreign-born sumo wrestler to make the highest rank of “yokozuna” (yes, that’s where Yokozuna, former WWE Champion, got his name) and went on to have a decent career in pro wrestling, especially in AJPW.

This was some sort of gimmick match for WrestleMania, but the crowd didn’t really care about it and it was a flop. They haven’t done another sumo match since then and I don’t expect them to any time soon.

The Undertaker vs. Mark Henry - WrestleMania XXII (casket match)


For years at WrestleMania, The Streak was kind of a story within a story, if you know what I mean. If I had to choose three wrestlers who really “made” WrestleMania, it would be Hogan, Michaels and Undertaker. The Dead Man has had some of the most memorable matches in WrestleMania history against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk and Kane. This match is not one of those matches, though.

Aside from the grand entrance, which we have come to expect, there was nothing really memorable or special about this match. It just kind of came off to me as any other match you might see on Raw or Smackdown. Taker got all of his shit in like the “old school”, the last ride, the dive over the top rope etc. But it just didn’t register with me as being one of his more memorable WrestleMania matches.

What about this year? Which matches at WrestleMania 34 do you foresee as show-stealers and which do you think will become lost to history? Honestly, there are more than a few multi-person matches on the card that I think I’ll plan my potty breaks for, but as far as the match of the night, I might pick Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka. Asuka has so much charisma despite not being able to speak English that well and she’s one of the only females from NXT that has really found a connection with the audience. Charlotte is as good as it gets in the women’s division, so I’m expecting these two to hit a homerun. I might also pick AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, but I’ve heard that AJ is not feeling 100% physically before this match, so I’m already preparing myself to forgive them if they don’t have a match for the ages.

At any rate, those are my picks for the top 10 forgotten WrestleMania matches. I really enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane and looking back at all of the previous WM cards and watching a lot of the matches too. It’s crazy to see how much pro wrestling, the WWE and the WrestleMania show itself has evolved since 1985. But in a weird kind of way the Angle / Rousey vs. Triple H / Stephanie match oddly reminds me of the WrestleMania 1 main event.


- Daniel Austin (Don Roid) (blog) (podcast)





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