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Ten ‘WrestleMania’ Matches You May Have Forgotten

From Ric Flair and the Undertaker’s bloody feud to the Steiner Brothers’ one and only ‘WrestleMania’ appearance, here are some hidden gems that took place on “The Grandest Stage of Them All”

WWE/Ringer illustration

When it comes to pro wrestling pay-per-views, WrestleMania is the granddaddy of them all. The Super Bowl for wrestling fans. Simply put, it’s the closest thing pro wrestling has to a “holiday.” Wrestling fans do not think of March and April as springtime; it’s WrestleMania season, and as the days start to get longer, all wrestling fans can think about is the buildup to the biggest event in all of sports entertainment. WrestleMania is the event when the biggest stories climax, new stories begin, past stars make unexpected returns, future stars debut, and some of today’s stars may turn heel. It is simply the day (or, in recent years, days) wrestling fans look forward to every year.

Every year during WrestleMania season, like fans across the globe, I go back and watch some of my favorite matches. Sometimes, I may even watch the entire show. At a certain point, I started to notice that there are some very quality matches that have slipped through the WrestleMania cracks, for many reasons (most of them having to do with something outstanding that’s overshadowed the rest of the card). As we get closer to the Showcase of the Immortals, I want to take time to share 10 hidden WrestleMania gems.

Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis

WrestleMania 3, March 1987

WrestleMania 3 will forever be remembered for the moment Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant. Everyone has their opinion on the actual match, but it was the slam heard round the world, and it led to the leg drop that allowed Hogan, the Irresistible Force, to take down Andre, the Immovable Object. In the semi-main event, Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat defeated “Macho Man” Randy Savage. For years Steamboat-Savage has been considered the greatest wrestling match at ’Mania ever. But if you decide there’s a match that’s out of the ordinary that you want to check out, I recommend watching “Rowdy” Roddy Piper taking on Adrian Adonis in a match in which the loser had to get their head shaved. This was also billed as Piper’s retirement match. If you are looking for a bunch of false finishes and high-flying action, then you already know to check out the semi–main event between Steamboat and Savage. But if you are looking for a fight that includes drama and weapons, then this is the one you’re looking for. The crowd went crazy when Adonis attempted to hit Piper with hedge clippers, only for them to bounce off the ropes and into Adonis’s face, allowing Piper to catch him with a sleeper hold for the win. Brutus Beefcake then assisted in cutting Adonis’s hair. (Fun fact: He would become Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake after this.) The post-match shenanigans were just as entertaining as the match. Even though this was billed as Piper’s retirement match, like every other major superstar, he would be in the ring again.

Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect

WrestleMania 6, April 1990

WrestleMania 6 was special. It was the first time WWE took its biggest event to Canada. It was also the first time we saw two babyfaces fight each other in the “Ultimate Challenge,” with WWE champion Hogan facing the Ultimate Warrior, the Intercontinental champion, in a title versus title match. I’m an admitted Beefcake mark, so you shouldn’t be surprised that he would have a match on this list, and this bout with Mr. Perfect is a hidden gem on that card. It was also during the era when the walkway to the ring was so long that the superstars had to enter the arena in ring carts (which also happened at ’Mania 3).

Going into this match, Perfect was undefeated, and Beefcake had promised to trim that perfect record by the end of the night. Pay close attention to Perfect’s facial expressions; he looked angry at the mere thought of Beefcake cutting his perfect blond hair. Beefcake, who was super over with the crowd, had the fans, including Mary Tyler Moore, who was in attendance that night, roaring loudly every time he signaled for his signature sleeper hold. Beefcake would go on to become the first person to defeat Mr. Perfect; however, he did not get to cut Perfect’s locks—although he did get a chance to do some cutting and strutting. Perfect was too smooth and was able to escape the ring, but the Genius wasn’t able to do the same, and he became the one who left Toronto with a trim from Tampa’s best barber.

The Rockers vs. the Barbarian and Haku

WrestleMania 7, March 1991

WrestleMania 7 is one of the most memorable ’Manias, for a few reasons. First, the show was originally supposed to take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but poor ticket sales and security concerns put a halt to that. Those security concerns? They were due to then–WWE champion Sgt. Slaughter’s recent heel turn, which saw his character supporting Iraq instead of the U.S. … in the middle of the Gulf War. The main event featured Hogan as the American hero defeating Slaughter to regain the WWE title. Fans may also remember this night for the epic career versus career match between Savage and the Ultimate Warrior. These two told an amazing story in the ring, and after Savage was defeated, he reunited with Miss Elizabeth in a moment that brought many to tears.

Although Savage and Hogan—two of the biggest stars in the world—were in prominent positions on this card, the show opened with what would be known as a banger that featured the Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) taking on the Barbarian and Haku. This bout not only set the tone for the entire show but also allowed the Rockers to showcase themselves as a top tag team and contenders for the tag titles. They were in the ring against two of their biggest competitors at the time but vowed to leave ’Mania with the victory.

Don’t just watch the action in the ring, though; keep your eyes peeled for Bobby Heenan on the outside. The Barbarian and Haku were both members of the Heenan Family at the time, so this put the Rockers at a disadvantage, even though they ultimately dispatched Heenan’s team in what many may call an upset. Sadly, their path to the top of WWE’s tag team division never manifested.

The Headshrinkers vs. the Steiner Brothers

WrestleMania 9, April 1993

You will never find me saying something bad about WrestleMania 9. We know that fans did not enjoy “the world’s largest toga party,” especially since Hogan “saved the day” by immediately avenging Bret Hart’s loss to Yokozuna and defeating Yokozuna in an impromptu challenge to earn his fifth WWE championship.

Now, if you want to watch WrestleMania 9 but don’t want to watch that match, you need to check out the Headshrinkers battling the Steiner Brothers. When you think about Scott Steiner in 2023, you think of the blond, jacked-up guy also known as “Big Poppa Pump,” math wizard. But in this match, you see an athletic guy with a black mullet whose finisher wasn’t the Steiner Recliner but the Frankeinsteiner. Scott and his brother, Rick, were one of the most accomplished tag teams of the ’90s, holding the WWE tag titles twice and the WCW World Tag Team titles six times. Their opponents at ’Mania, the Headshrinkers, are a part of wrestling royalty as members of the Anoa’i family. That bloodline currently sits atop wrestling today; the Headshrinkers’ first cousin, Roman Reigns, is the current Undisputed WWE Universal champion, and Headshrinker Fatu’s sons the Usos are the current Undisputed WWE tag team champions.

In this match, you’re treated to two hungry teams who have some of the best chemistry and are both trying to become the no. 1 contenders for the titles. Somehow, this was the Steiner Brothers’ only WrestleMania match.

Ric Flair vs. the Undertaker

WrestleMania 18, March 2002

It was easy for this match between the Undertaker and Ric Flair to slip under the radar at WrestleMania 18, a card that was headlined by the Rock taking on Hogan (“icon vs. icon”) and main-evented by Triple H and Chris Jericho for the Undisputed Championship. At the time, Undertaker was in his “American Badass” era, and he was one of the top heels on Raw. After Flair hit Undertaker with a lead pipe on an episode of SmackDown, Undertaker did everything he could to get his attention (and a match at ’Mania). He attacked Flair’s best friend Arn Anderson and his son David until he got the answer he wanted.

Flair, who was “co-owner of WWE” at the time, had to relinquish his duties and give full ownership to Vince McMahon for this match to happen, so McMahon made this a No DQ match. Both men were able to keep the Toronto crowd engaged, which is more than could be said about the main event. Flair, who was in the twilight of his career, looked good in the match. There’s a night and day difference between Flair in the final match on Nitro and this match. There was a lot of color in this match, which was filled with all the brutality the American Badass brought during this era. And if you want to have a bit of fun, keep count of the number of times Jim Ross called Undertaker “Booger Red.”

Chris Jericho vs. Christian

WrestleMania 20, March 2004

WrestleMania 20 in Madison Square Garden is a low-key classic. From a classic bout between Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero for the WWE championship to the Rock returning from Hollywood to team with Mick Foley, this ’Mania had a little bit of everything. However, one must-see match from this show is full of drama. In their own version of The Young and the Restless, Chris Jericho and his former tag partner Christian started feuding over matters of the heart. The story started off as a bet between Christian and Jericho about who could advance with their romantic interests (Lita and Trish Stratus, respectively) first. Over the course of the program, Jericho started to develop real feelings for Trish, even to the point that he started losing focus, leading Christian to become frustrated and eventually turn on both Jericho and Stratus.

The match itself was one of both men’s better WrestleMania singles matches. Not only was it fast paced, highlighting both of their styles, but they also kept the crowd engaged (and behind Jericho) the entire time. Christian emerged victorious when Stratus accidentally hit Jericho with an elbow, but after the match, the drama continued in what I call the “WrestleMania heel turn,” as Stratus aligned herself with Christian. Adding insult to injury, Christian and Stratus shared a kiss at the entrance, leaving Jericho heartbroken and betrayed.

John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Triple H

WrestleMania 24, March 2008

When you think about WrestleMania 24 in Orlando, the first thing that comes to mind is Ric Flair’s “retirement match” (which is not to be confused with his Last Match). The next thing that stands out? Floyd Mayweather facing Big Show in the semi-main event. With those two matches alone, it’s not surprising that a match featuring John Cena, Randy Orton, and Triple H ends up on this list. (Fun fact: This was the first WrestleMania that was available on Blu-ray!) Going into this match, both Triple H and Cena were returning from injuries. Triple H missed WrestleMania 23 and Cena missed most of 2007. Cena had his epic return at the 2008 Royal Rumble which shocked everyone, including his opponents in the ring. Again, this isn’t a match you’d picture when you think of any of these three men, or even this WrestleMania, but this match really shows how good Orton was just days away from his 28th birthday. Orton was on top of the world and was able to do what many haven’t: He walked into and out of WrestleMania as WWE champion.

Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio

WrestleMania 27, April 2011

WrestleMania 27 took place in Atlanta, and was headlined by the Miz, a reality star who was in the midst of his dream of being a WWE champion, taking on the biggest star in pro wrestling at the time, Cena. As if that wasn’t enough, the Rock, who made his return to WWE at that show, let it be known that he had issues with Cena due to some comments made about his lack of commitment to the industry. That night also saw two veterans—Triple H and the Undertaker—square off in a no-disqualification match that would not only end up being the match of the night, but also the match of the year. One of the matches on the undercard from that same card was Cody Rhodes facing Rey Mysterio. This feud began months earlier when Rhodes, who was in pure narcissist mode, had his nose broken after Rey Mysterio hit him with a 619. Confidence gone, Rhodes was forced to wear a protective mask, which he would use as a weapon.

This match took place very early in what many consider to be one of the weaker WrestleManias of the modern era, but these two were able to put on a crowd-pleasing performance. Spoiler alert: Rhodes won this match—one in which Michael Cole called him “the new Cody Rhodes”—but his true evolution wouldn’t come to fruition until 12 years later. Rhodes ended up doing in 2023 what his WrestleMania 27 opponent did in 2006: win the Royal Rumble and earn an opportunity to challenge for the world title.

Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles

WrestleMania 33, April 2017

WrestleMania 33 is one of those nights that you had to take in during the moment. Wrestling fans got two pump fakes that night: John Cena proposed to Nikki Bella (but they never got married), and the Undertaker fell against Roman Reigns in the main event and left his coat and hat in the ring, signaling a retirement (only to return one year later to face Cena). Fans were also treated to a surprise return of the Hardy Boyz, as well as the Goldberg and Brock Lesnar dream match. With all of that, why would Shane McMahon versus AJ Styles be a must-see?

A year prior, McMahon made his return to WWE after nearly seven years away to battle ’Taker in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania 32. The following year, Styles, who felt disrespected after losing his WWE Championship to Cena without getting a main event rematch at WrestleMania, attacked Shane, forcing Shane to book a match between the two of them.

Styles and McMahon shocked many fans with how good this match was. Like John Bradshaw Layfield said after the match, “what a hell of a fight.” Both men showcased their athleticism, hitting each other with every weapon and every move in their arsenal. We even saw McMahon hitting his signature Coast-to-Coast dropkick on Styles, but Styles was able to gain his first WrestleMania win, and retribution for being left out of the championship match.

Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali

WrestleMania 34, April 2018

WrestleMania 34 featured Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns pummeling each other for the Universal title, Charlotte Flair putting an end to Asuka’s undefeated streak, Kurt Angle and a debuting Ronda Rousey against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, and a returning Daniel Bryan teaming with Shane McMahon to face Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. But on this night, one of the highlights was two cruiserweights battling for the vacated WWE Cruiserweight title. After the title was vacated in January, a tournament was set up to decide a new champion. Mustafa Ali, who was the heart of 205 Live, faced Cedric Alexander, who was the soul, in a classic good guy versus good guy match, in which both competitors maintain respect for each other while also stopping at nothing to win.

RK-Bro vs. Alpha Academy vs. the Street Profits

WrestleMania 38, April 2022

When it comes to ’Mania memories, WrestleMania 38 is full of them, from Reigns-Lesnar in a unification match for the WWE Universal Championship and the WWE title to Kevin Owens and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin facing off during Night 1. One match you need to check out is the opener for Night 2 featuring RK-Bro (Orton and Matt Riddle) defending the WWE Raw tag titles against Alpha Academy and the Street Profits. Like WrestleMania 33, I was in the audience for this match, and I promise you AT&T Stadium was loud! This was the perfect match to set the tone for the second night, one that featured the biggest WrestleMania match ever.