Friday, April 28, 2023

Top Ten Things: Metallica Songs (30-21)

We're at the halfway point of our big Metallica Top 50 countdown with the middle ten songs!

Here we go....

30. No Leaf Clover

One of two new songs introduced for the S&M live album, "No Leaf Clover" is by far the standout, an ominous midtempo dirge with a killer chorus melody.  Lyrically the song seems to be about taking shortcuts to success and paying the price for it later - ("Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel/Was just a freight train coming your way").  The orchestra heightens both the splendor and emotion of this tune, giving it an epic, apocalyptic feel.  This was the last great song of the Jason Newsted era.

29. King Nothing

Probably the most Black Album-ish song on Load is this straightforward midtempo track, also about the dangers of seeking success at all costs.  "King Nothing" has one of the strongest chorus hooks on the entire album, with huge open power chords and lots of attitude in James' vocal - "Then it all crashes down/And you break your crown/And you point your finger but there's no one around" - and a super-infectious 4/4 groove.  Love the sense of schadenfreude in this song.

28. The Call of Ktulu

Metallica's first great instrumental track was largely written by ex-guitarist Dave Mustaine, who later repurposed parts of it for the classic Megadeth song "Hangar 18."  But "The Call of Ktulu" is an eight-minute opus with delicate ascending guitar arpeggios in the intro/outro and a huge tritone-based main riff that gives Cliff Burton space to show off his distorted wah bass fills.  There's an atmosphere of desolation that fits right in with the HP Lovecraft-inspired title, and this is a monumental way to close out Ride the Lightning.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Top Ten Things: Metallica Songs (40-31)

Welcome to Part 2 of our Top 50 countdown of Metallica songs!  In this segment we cover #40-31....  

Click for Part 1

Let's dive right in!

40. Bad Seed

Back to the Reload album, this midtempo chugger features a main riff that the band may or may not have inadvertently lifted from an old Soundgarden song called "Get On the Snake," which Chris Cornell's other band Audioslave then lifted for their tune "Your Time Has Come."  From there the guitars settle into a syncopated wah-enhanced groove over which James sings about the perils of greed, using the metaphor of a carnival barker preying on the gullible - "You bit more than you need/Now you're choking on the bad seed."  An overlooked deep cut from Metallica's experimental phase.

39. Until it Sleeps

The band pulled no punches when it announced the June 1996 release of their sixth album Load, leading off with a single very much out of left field.  Rather than going the safe and easy route with say "King Nothing," Metallica chose the moody, Chris Isaak-esque "Until it Sleeps" as the first single, informing the fans in no uncertain terms that their next album would not be what we were expecting to hear.  It was a ballsy move to say the least, but "Until it Sleeps" is a helluva piece of music, beginning with a fretless bass line and clean guitar with a rotary speaker effect, and featuring one of James' most sorrowful vocals.  Steeped in the abstract, the lyrics could be about trying to conquer addiction ("You feed it once and now it stays"), confronting one's destructive impulses ("So tear me open but beware/There's things inside without a care"), or simply falling on hard times ("So tell me why you've chosen me/Don't want your grip, don't want your greed").  Whatever your interpretation, "Until it Sleeps" is one of the band's most evocative songs, accompanied by one of their most visually striking videos, released during a time of unapologetic reinvention.

38. Carpe Diem Baby

Cheesy title aside, "Carpe Diem Baby" is one of my favorites on Reload, a slow, grungy song simply about seizing one's chance and throwing caution to the wind ("Bleed the day and break the rule").  Nothing thematically complex going on here, but this song boasts an infectious chorus hook and a fat, chunky guitar tone.  Loved it right away.

Top Ten Things: Metallica Songs (50-41)

Welcome to another special Metallica-related Top Ten Things, here at!

Yup, I still have Metallica on the brain so I decided to expand and update my old Top 10 list of Metallica songs from 2015 or so, and since the band just dropped another 12 tunes courtesy of their new album 72 Seasons it's as good a time as any.  This list is very subjective and tough to pin down, and would probably change somewhat on a daily basis, but hell, let's give it a go.  

Side note: I'm only including original Metallica tunes and not the numerous covers they've done.  Why?  Just wanted to have more space for the originals I guess.  Maybe I'll write up a separate covers list.

Anyway, here's Part 1, covering songs 50-41.....

50. Too Far Gone?

Right out of the gate we have one of the new tracks, "Too Far Gone?" which is a short, fast-paced banger with a memorable, hooky chorus.  The vocal harmonies remind me a bit of Misfits tunes like "Last Caress," while the lyrics more or less convey a desperate cry for help.  The middle section features some of those gorgeous, signature Metallica guitar harmonies that help make this song an 11th album highlight.


49. Hate Train

The Death Magnetic sessions yielded ten album tracks but also four leftovers, which the band released three years later as the Beyond Magnetic EP.  This roughly mixed quartet of tunes featured some very overlooked material, the best of which in my opinion is "Hate Train," another experiment in dynamics where the verse sections are heavy and the first two choruses bring it down with clean guitars and melodic vocals.  Then following the solo section the band explodes with a double-time, chugging chorus variation.  I actually find this song superior to a few of the DM album tracks and it's a shame it didn't make the cut.

48. Sweet Amber

St. Anger is pretty universally considered Metallica's weakest album, but that doesn't mean there aren't good songs on it.  One of the best for me is this addiction-themed piece that features a memorable galloping guitar riff and cleverly introspective lyrics like "She holds the pen that spells the end/She traces me and draws me in."  "Sweet Amber" is one of several later Metallica songs that resonates more as I get older.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Top Ten Things: Metallica Albums, RANKED

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!  Today I look at the catalog of the biggest metal band in history, the mighty Metallica!

Anyone who knows me at all knows I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Metallica aficionado, and if you've read for any length of time you've probably gotten that sense as well.  For me the summit of Music Mountain is twofold - there's The Beatles and there's Metallica.  Everyone else is just trying to reach the top.

With the release of the band's eleventh album 72 Seasons, it's time to update the album ranking.  Enough yakkin', let's get to it!

11. St. Anger

Metallica's much-maligned "therapy" record and its accompanying film Some Kind of Monster were essentially a document of a band coming apart at the seams and ultimately stitching themselves back together.  Recording began in 2001 when internal relations within the group were at an all-time low, and departed bassist Jason Newsted had been temporarily replaced by producer Bob Rock.  The album's tone was ugly, messy and raw, reflecting many of the previously unspoken feelings floating around between the remaining band members.  St. Anger was met with much scorn from diehard Metallica fans at the time of its release, and in 2003 I considered it a pretty big disappointment.  But over the years I've come to appreciate it from a visceral, emotional standpoint.  It was the album the band needed to make in order to come back together and trudge forward.  The muddy lack of production, de-tuned guitars, and that awful pinging snare drum helped put to music the state of mind the band was in, illustrating what a bloated monster Metallica had become.  With St. Anger out of their system Metallica would now be free to find themselves again.

Key Tracks: Frantic, My World, Sweet Amber

10. ReLoad

The second half of Metallica's late-90s two-parter, this 76-minute collection featured some of the band's most experimental material.  A continuation of the alt-metal sound established with Load, this album took things a step further, somewhat eschewing Metallica's riff-driven roots for more textural guitar work and unusual instrumentation.  Songs like the country-tinged "Unforgiven II" and the Tom Waits-influenced "Low Man's Lyric" (featuring a hurdy-gurdy) pushed the boundaries of what constituted the Metallica sound.  ReLoad definitely includes some B-material ("Better Than You," "Attitude") and a few songs too reminiscent of those on Load ("Fixxer" is essentially "Outlaw Torn 2"), but it's got a few classics as well, like the driving opener "Fuel," still one of my all-time Metallica favorites.

Key Tracks: Fuel, Carpe Diem Baby, Bad Seed

9. Kill 'Em All

The album that kicked off one of the greatest musical careers of all-time, Kill 'Em All essentially invented the speed/thrash metal genre, boasting razor-sharp twin rhythm guitars and machine-gun drum blasts.  It was the prototype for modern metal records and introduced the world to Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and Burton.  In my estimation it's still one of the greatest-ever debut albums and certainly one of the most influential.  Despite its efficacy however this record hasn't aged as well for me as some of the others.  It often feels like Speed Metal 101, as it lacks some of the depth and sophistication Metallica would discover only a few years later.  Still there's no denying what a metal milestone Kill 'Em All proved to be.

Key Tracks: Hit the Lights, The Four Horsemen, Jump in the Fire

Monday, April 24, 2023

Music Review: Metallica - 72 Seasons

Welcome to a special album review piece here at!  Now that the long-awaited 11th Metallica album 72 Seasons has dropped and my esteemed colleague Mike Drinan and I have had ten days to fully digest it, we thought we'd give it the same discussion treatment we gave Hardwired all those years ago!  Get ready for a deep dive...

JB: Michael, before we dig into the individual tracks, what are your high-level thoughts on 72 Seasons?

MD: It's a good, solid Metallica album that should satisfy fans of all eras of the band, whether you prefer their thrash style or the blues based rock of the Load era, it's all on this album. The production is really polished on this, James's vocals sound incredible and his lyrics seem to be more evocative and introspective, which I kind of felt was lacking on Hardwired. Rob's presence on this album is really at the forefront and I love what his playing brings to these songs. 

My biggest issue with this album that kept coming up was how they struggled with transitions and outros. There was a lot of starts and stops when going into a new section of the song, almost as if they didn't have any other ideas on how to bridge the sections together. The ending of the songs were even worse for me, especially on "Shadows Follow" where the song was over and they kept doing the same thing over and over and over until they finally ended the song. Those were my two biggest nitpicks. 

Other than that, I really enjoyed the album overall and felt it was exactly what I expected of the band at this stage of their career.

JB: I think this album is a big step up from Hardwired.  It continues that direction stylistically, bringing together elements from every era (minus St. Anger, though lyrically it harkens back to the early aughts as James worked through a recent bout with his personal demons).  But everything just sounds more confident on this album and it feels much more like a collaboration between all four members.  Kirk thankfully gets some songwriting credits again (the main riff of "72 Seasons" is probably his most front-and-center contribution, and it's a great one), and his soloing is the strongest it's been in probably 30 years.  His lead work is much more surefooted this time around and it's great to hear him playing to his strengths again after years of him just sorta being there.  Also like you said, Rob Trujillo's bass is very present on this one, featured more than anything they've released since Load/Reload and the songs are so much stronger for it.

Lars once again defies his age with laser-precision drumming and machine-gun double-kick parts on the fast stuff, and four-on-the-floor solid grooves on the Black Album-esque tunes.  He sure does love those snare fills.

As always James is the backbone of the band, supplying even more evidence why he's maybe the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time, while also pouring his heart out lyrically and making the songs much more relatable than on Hardwired, where they often felt at arm's length.  There's some really nice vocal production on here too that reminded me of the Bob Rock era.

The transition stuff you mentioned didn't bother me; I actually like some of the stop and start touches they added (the outro of "72 Seasons" for example - Lars' fingerprints are all over those bits I think.

Overall I consider 72 Seasons their strongest work in many years - it could've used maybe a bit more variety but they were obviously going for an exhausting, relentless metal journey and on those terms this is a really successful effort from where I sit.  There's a real maturity on display here, from a group of guys hitting their 60s (that just seems wrong to me), combined with early-era exuberance on some of the tunes.  It's an album that definitely rewards multiple listens, which is generally my favorite type of album.

What are the standout songs for you?

Friday, April 14, 2023

Top Ten Things: Shawn Michaels WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  And welcome to yet another episode of my barely coherent ramblings about the phenomenon known as WrestleMania.  Today I'm talking about the ten greatest 'Mania appearances by my all-time favorite wrestler, The Heartbreak Kid himself, Shawn Michaels.

Many years ago people started referring to Shawn Michaels as "Mr. WrestleMania," and one doesn't need to look very hard to see why.  In terms of consistently delivering show stealing performances on the WWE's biggest stage, Shawn has no equal.  From 1994-1998, and again from 2003-2010, Michaels' WrestleMania match was generally considered either the best or second-best match on the show, and during those same years his 'Mania match won Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Match of the Year a staggering NINE times (plus he had two non-WrestleMania winners).

Look, I don't need to prattle on about what an incredible pro wrestler Michaels was, so let's just get to the list.  Here now are my ten picks for Shawn's greatest WrestleMania matches.

10. Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XI

What should have been main event of 'Mania 11 was also the only worthy match on the card, as former friends Diesel and Shawn Michaels battled for the WWF Title.  Diesel's abrupt main event push was the WWF's attempt to recreate the success of Hulk Hogan.  Sadly Kevin Nash had nowhere near the overwhelming fan support Hogan did, and the Hartford crowd actually ended up cheering the breathtaking athletic abilities of Shawn Michaels, despite his being the heel.  Even in losing the match, Shawn positioned himself as the next main event babyface and the most popular guy in the company.

9. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair - WrestleMania XXIV

Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair was one of the most emotional matches I've ever seen.  Michaels obviously deserves a lot of the credit for making this match great, as he bumped around like crazy, per usual.  But Flair's storytelling was also off the charts and he emoted wonderfully, making the audience really care about his career-ending journey.  The final seconds of the match when Flair tearfully begged Shawn to hit the superkick, followed by the sorrow on Shawn's face, made for one of the most memorable of all 'Mania moments.  I given Flair's age at this point I had low expectations going into this, but two of the all-time greats stole the show with this memorable bit of storytelling.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  Today we're talking about The Phenom, The Deadman, The Conscience of WWE, and his greatest bouts at WWE's biggest PPV of the year, WrestleMania!

Probably the greatest streak in fake sports was the one held by The Undertaker, a winning streak at WrestleMania that lasted over two decades and led to one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history when it was broken.  What started as an organic bit of booking happenstance evolved into possibly the biggest perennial feature on The Showcase of the Immortals.  Suddenly there was a built-in long-term storyline for one of the top WrestleMania matches every year, and for quite a while Taker's match either stole the show or came damn close.  Even after The Streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, Taker's match would continue to be one of the top featured attractions.

But which of his 'Mania showings stand atop the others?  Here now are, in my estimation, The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania bouts....

10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV

Taker's first great 'Mania bout didn't occur until he'd already established a six-match winning streak (Yes, his 1996 match with Diesel was solid, but aside from that his 'Mania outings up until this point were forgettable at best).  In 1997 Taker was involved in a long storyline arc wherein his former manager Paul Bearer revealed he had a long-lost half-brother named Kane (Ironically Kane was actually Taker's first name when he debuted).  The company built up Kane's first appearance for several months before he attacked Taker during the first Hell in a Cell match, and from then on he was established as an unstoppable monster.  Also to the company's credit, they held off giving away too much physical interaction between the Brothers of Destruction, so by the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary.  The match itself didn't disappoint; the two behemoths delivered a very physical fight that Taker was only able to win via three consecutive Tombstone piledrivers.  Even in a loss, Kane was set up as a major star.

9. Undertaker vs. Ric Flair - WrestleMania X8

The most unexpected hit from the 2002 'Mania was this amazingly brutal Street Fight.  Taker, then a heel, had assaulted Flair's son David and his best friend Arn Anderson, in an effort to goad the aging former Champion into a fight.  In Flair's first truly good match since his WWF return, he bumped and bled all over the place to make Taker look like a sadistic, unstoppable bully.  The highlight of this match for me was a top-rope superplex that looked as punishing as any I've ever seen.  Flair fought valiantly but eventually fell to BikerTaker, giving the latter his tenth WrestleMania win.

8. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21

After a serious in-ring slump in 2003-04, Taker was able to return to form in this underrated match with the Legend Killer.  Orton had just finished a horribly failed babyface run in late 2004 and the company wisely turned him heel again, leading to Orton challenging Taker to a Legend vs. Legend Killer match.  These two worked extremely well together, delivering one of the better matches on the card that ended with Taker reversing an Orton Tombstone into his own for the win.  Taker and Orton would go on to have a series of strong matches throughout 2005, in a feud that helped re-elevate Orton.

7. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII

In 2011 both The Undertaker and Triple H returned from a long hiatus.  Taker's return was teased ahead of time, but just as he was about to cut a promo the familiar strains of Motorhead filled the arena, announcing The Game.  The two veterans stared each other down before Hunter wordlessly made a challenge by turning his gaze to the WrestleMania 27 sign.  The match itself, while full of typical No-DQ frills, was a fairly epic, very dramatic WWE-style main event with some great gasp-inducing nearfalls.  Taker finally won with Hell's Gate but was so exhausted he had to be stretchered to the back on a forklift.  But these two would outdo each other one year later, both in terms of storytelling and action.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 4 (#10-1)

Alright, now it's time for the really good shit.  The all-time great shit.  Such good shit.  

Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

10. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) - WrestleMania 31

Maybe the most unexpectedly great WrestleMania main event took place at the 2015 edition, as the reviled babyface Roman Reigns challenged the unstoppable Mayor of Suplex City (a phrase he coined during this match), Brock Lesnar.  Brock had decimated John Cena for the WWE Championship at the previous SummerSlam, allowing almost no offense during their 16-minute squash, and then all but disappeared with the title for most of the next six months.  At the 2015 Royal Rumble Brock, Cena and Seth Rollins had a spectacular Triple Threat match, where Brock turned back both challengers in dominant fashion.  Enter Reigns, the company's handpicked "it" guy, with whom the fans wanted nothing to do.  Reigns won the Rumble match that night to earn his WrestleMania spot, but was booed unmercifully, and this main event had all the markings of a dud; an absentee heel champion vs. an unliked babyface challenger.  But the match ended up being an exercise in brutality as these two monsters beat the piss out of each other.  Brock took a legit headbutt to the ring post which opened a huge gash on his forehead, while Reigns got suplexed into oblivion and kept getting up.  But the most memorable thing about the match was the unique finish, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-match, curb stomping Brock, attempting a second stomp that was countered into an F5 attempt that was thwarted by a Reigns spear, and then curb stomping Reigns to win the match and the WWE Title.  The Santa Clara crowd exploded at the surprise finish and Rollins stood tall, swinging the strap over his head as Michael Cole dubbed the title change "The Heist of the Century."  Thus began Seth Rollins' excellent run as the company's top heel.

9. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XII

The longest match in WrestleMania history, and thus far the only Iron Man match at this event, pitted the company's top two babyfaces against each other in an unprecedented athletic display.  Bret Hart was the veteran technician, while Shawn Michaels was the charismatic upstart.  Planned as the first part of a trilogy of bouts designed as a torch passing, this match played out as an old-school grappling contest for much of the first half.  Shawn stymied the champion with an expected ground game, while Bret grew increasingly frustrated and employed some heelish tactics.  The second half picked up, with much more high-risk offense, but neither man could gain a pinfall.  In the closing moments Shawn went for a dropkick but Bret countered into a Sharpshooter.  Shawn withstood the pain for nearly a full minute as the clock ran down to zero, leaving the match a time limit draw.  But WWF President Gorilla Monsoon ordered the match restarted under sudden death rules, much to Bret's chagrin.  The angry champion attacked Shawn's weakened legs, but Shawn answered with a pair of superkicks to win the title and start off his main event run.  Given its slow pace and frequent lack of crowd heat, this bout hasn't aged as well as one would think, but it does stand as a singular achievement in WWE lore - a mostly pure scientific marathon between two of the company's all-time best.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 3 (#20-11)

Moving on to round 3 of our countdown, here's where we get to the pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good stuff....

Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.

20. John Cena vs. Triple H - WrestleMania 22

Here's a match about which I had no interest going in, but it turned out a pretty interesting main event.  John Cena was riding high as WWE's poster boy, but there was one problem - the fans had turned on him big time by late 2005.  During his feuds with Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, Cena was roundly booed while his heel opponents were treated like heroes by the WWE faithful.  Literally the only bad guy who managed to get a proper heel reaction while feuding with Cena was The Rated R Superstar Edge, who shocked everyone by cashing in the first Money in the Bank briefcase after Cena had survived an Elimination Chamber.  Nowadays everyone's accustomed to the stupid briefcase gimmick and it's been done to death, but in 2006 no one expected Edge to exploit the "anytime, anywhere" loophole, and it was a big deal.  Edge drew good ratings as the champion but since Vince had his mind made up that Cena vs. Hunter was the 'Mania main event, Mr. Copeland's first WWE Title reign only lasted a paltry three weeks.  A cleverer promoter would've saved Edge's cash-in for the end of WrestleMania, just inside the one-year deadline.  Regardless, Cena vs. Triple H, while a pretty dull match on paper, turned out to be a very well-worked match that began the process of silencing Cena's "You Can't Wrestle" critics.  Hunter obviously led the dance, but Cena kept right up with him, and the 22-minute war ended with Hunter once again tapping out to the babyface.  What really made this match interesting though was the crowd, who booed Cena umercifully and cheered the crap out of Triple H; not long after, Hunter turned babyface and reunited with Shawn Michaels as DX.  Edge really got the last laugh in this situation, as he and Mick Foley easily stole the show with their Hardcore Match; Mrs. Foley's baby boy finally got his proper WrestleMania moment.

19. The Rock vs. Steve Austin - WrestleMania XV

The Attitude Era was in full self-indulgent, decadent swing in March of 1999, with Vince Russo overbooking the living shit out of every show.  His crash TV writing style was all over this PPV and the weekly television leading up to it (Imagine giving away a huge match like Austin vs. Big Show on free TV only a month after the latter's debut).  The Rock had been rivaling Steve Austin's popularity in the fall of 1998, and at Survivor Series the company held a tournament to crown a new WWF Champion.  Once Austin was unfairly eliminated The Rock became the fans' clear choice to win, a la Randy Savage a decade earlier.  But then came the big swerve - The Rock was in cahoots with the McMahons the whole time, and his tournament win made him their new Corporate Champion.  Austin was duly pissed and eventually targeted the young titleholder, becoming the #1 contender on a technicality (Vince won the 1999 Royal Rumble but since he forfeited his title shot, runner-up Austin would get it instead).  With that, the two biggest stars in the company faced off at 'Mania.  The match was typical Attitude Era chaos - loads of outside the ring brawling, smashed tables, run-ins from McMahons, substitute referees, etc.  As Vince Russo clusterfucks go, this was a hoot, but it doesn't exactly hold up as an in-ring classic.  Still, the crowd was electric and Austin's third WWF Title win sent them home happy.  It was the one good match on a pretty terrible WrestleMania card.

18. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania V

The MegaPowers EXPLODE!  One of the greatest long-term angles in WWE history culminated in this WrestleMania V main event.  Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, the two biggest wrestling babyfaces in late 1987, joined forces on Saturday Night's Main Event to form the MegaPowers, an unstoppable force for good.  Hogan helped Savage win the WWF Title at 'Mania 4, the pair teamed up at SummerSlam and Survivor Series, and all seemed well.  But Savage had slowly grown jealous over Hogan's bond with Elizabeth, and the situation came to a head at the second Main Event special in February of '89.  Savage was thrown out of the ring during the MegaPowers-Twin Towers match, accidentally knocking out Elizabeth, and Hogan left him to fend for himself while he brought her to the back for medical attention.  Savage took a beating for several minutes, realized his partner was nowhere to be found, and got duly pissed when Hogan returned.  The Macho Man walked out on Hogan and the match, and the two men got into a heated altercation in the locker room, where Savage pummeled Hogan with the WWF Title and left him laying.  The most emotionally charged WrestleMania main event in history was now on the marquee.  The match was classic Macho Man, a hotly contested, somewhat unruly main event where Savage dominated much of the action.  It was a pretty great match until the ending, when Hogan did his usual Hulk-up comeback in unintentionally comical fashion, puffing his cheeks and bulging his eyes as he no-sold everything.  Hogan kicked out of the Macho Man elbow and hit his big boot-legdrop combination to regain the WWF Title, and Savage was gradually moved down the card on his way to becoming a King.  At the time this was easily the best WrestleMania main event, and it would maintain that status for me until seven years later.  Great stuff until the usual unimaginative Hogan finish.

17. Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin - WrestleMania XIV

The Stone Cold Era began officially on March 29, 1998 (in my hometown of Boston), with a grueling WWF Title win over Shawn Michaels.  I went into this match super-hyped, as Austin and Michaels were my two favorite wrestlers at the time, and the company had brought in Mike Tyson to be the ringside enforcer and bring lots of mainstream attention to the show.  This was a dream main event for me, and while it was a damn fine match it didn't quite live up to my expectations.  The problem was Shawn's back, injured in a casket match with The Undertaker two months earlier.  Shawn began this match in expected high-energy form, but a botched whip into the turnbuckle seemed to aggravate his herniated disc, and he spent the rest of the bout barely gutting it out.  Still the agony on Shawn's face during every move added to the drama, and these two pros managed to put together a pretty great piece of gritty wrestling business.  The finish especially was perfectly executed - Shawn went for Sween Chin Music, Austin ducked and went for the Stunner, Shawn blocked it, shoved him into the ropes and went for another kick, Austin caught his foot, spun him around, kicked him in the gut and stunned him, as Tyson counted the pinfall.  The Boston crowd went apeshit as the Texas Rattlesnake held the title over his head, cementing his place as the unlikely new face of the company.  Shawn took a Tyson knockout punch to put an exclamation point on the night, and it would be his last match in over four years.  As good as this bout was, I always wonder how much better it would've been had Shawn been at 100%.

16. Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair - WrestleMania 35

The historic main event of WrestleMania 35 marked the first time a women's match would headline the show.  The white-hot Becky Lynch won the 2019 Royal Rumble to punch her ticket to 'Mania, but her animosity with RAW Women's Champion Ronda Rousey went back further than that.  Their paths were supposed to cross at the 2018 Survivor Series, but a real-life broken nose/concussion handed to Becky by Nia Jax derailed plans (and also made Becky an even bigger star), and Charlotte Flair took Becky's place.  Thus anticipation for the Becky-Ronda showdown built for months.  Sadly the company felt Charlotte should be added to make the bout a triple threat; Charlotte vs. Ronda at Survivor Series turned out to be a violent, fiery encounter where Charlotte got herself disqualified and beat the tar out of Ronda with a kendo stick.  So there were unresolved issues between Ronda and both of her challengers, but the addition of Charlotte served to muddy the waters a bit too much, particularly since she was also hastily booked to defeat Smackdown Women's Champion Asuka so as to make this main event a double championship match.  The build became very confusing as the company didn't seem to know who should be sympathetic and who should be antagonistic.  Ronda had been a fan favorite upon her WrestleMania 34 debut but by the end of the year was greeted with increasing crowd hostility, while Charlotte was viewed as being overexposed and overpushed.  But hopes were still high that these three accomplished athletes would deliver in the clutch.  And for their part, they put together a very good main event with a ton of atmosphere.  The company sadly didn't set them up to succeed however, overloading the WrestleMania card with so many matches it was after midnight by the time the main event kicked off.  An exhausted, overspent crowd couldn't be asked to respond with much enthusiasm, and the main event they legitimately wanted to see unfortunately suffered a bit as a result.  Also working against the women was the finish, which saw Becky defeat Ronda not with her Disarm-Her finisher or even a decisive impact move, but with a botched crucifix pin where Ronda's shoulder was visibly off the mat for part of the three-count.  For a groundbreaking WrestleMania main event with so much at stake, this was a mild disappointment, but it still delivered big from a mechanical and character standpoint. 

15. The Rock vs. John Cena - WrestleMania XXVIII

The Once in a Lifetime....Until Next Year dream match between John Cena and The Rock took place in Rocky's hometown of Miami, in front of a vehemently partisan crowd, and was a major financial success for the company.  The bout was set up a year earlier when The Rock returned from a seven-year absence to host WrestleMania and left that show's two main eventers laying in the ring at the end while he celebrated.  A terrible ending to WrestleMania 27, but WWE's long-term planning was to be applauded at least.  The company had an opportunity to build interest for this match at the following Survivor Series as Rock and Cena teamed up to face The Miz and R-Truth, but unfortunately that main event was a glorified 20-minute squash and the two babyfaces co-existed just fine, leading people like me to question the point of it all.  The proper build began shortly before 'Mania 28, as Cena cut one of the most impassioned promos of his career, pointing out that while he was busting his ass week after week, The Rock had abandoned the WWE fans for Hollywood, and Cena needed to win this for the full-time WWE wrestlers.  I couldn't have agreed more; this was one of the few times where I was fully in Cena's corner in terms of the story being told.  But as they were in Miami, such an outcome wasn't in the cards.  For just over thirty minutes the two megastars expertly worked the audience and put together a very good, epic sports-entertainment main event.  I thought this went overly long; surely 25 minutes would've been enough.  But this had a big-fight feel in spades, The Rock looked to be in the best shape of his life, and they told a good story.  Cena kicked out of the first Rock Bottom of the night but fell to a second, to send the pro-Rock crowd home happy.  Their rematch a year later would fall significantly short of this bout.

14. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns - WrestleMania 34

Perhaps the most underrated WrestleMania main event was this rematch from WrestleMania 31.  The year was 2018, and the Roman Reigns Top Babyface experiment was still chugging along, with no change in the results from three years earlier.  The fans still didn't like Roman in this spot, they still booed him out of the building every night, and the company still refused to turn him heel, using the dipshit excuse that "Any reaction is a good reaction."  Yeah, not when the reaction is precisely the opposite of what you intended.  Regardless, Vince once again stubbornly refused to change his plan, and booked Brock vs. Roman II as the main event of WrestleMania 34.  After a very good undercard featuring Rollins-Balor-Miz, Charlotte-Asuka, Ronda/Angle-Triple H/Steph, the return of Daniel Bryan, and AJ-Nakamura, the New Orleans crowd simply didn't want to see this match, and they let WWE know it.  Chants of "You both suck," "CM Punk," and "This is awful" rang out throughout this match, and Vince hedged his bets in the booking, changing the result the weekend of the show.  Brock shockingly retained the title, Vince holding out hope that by SummerSlam the fans would magically come around to Roman's side (The tone deafness on display was staggering).  So the company gave fans a lot of reasons to hate this match.  It was two guys everyone was thoroughly sick of, it came at the end of a five-hour show, and the finish of the match made the whole thing kinda pointless.  But really sit down and watch this match; it's a helluva fight.  These two monsters beat the absolute shit out of each other, each guy kicked out of numerous finishers, Roman took an elbow shot that split his forehead in two, and it stands as one of the most purely violent spectacles to ever headline a WrestleMania.  Was it as good as their first match?  No.  But was it light years better than the third and fourth?  Absolutely.  I don't care what anyone says, I liked this main event a lot.  As far as I'm concerned it was Roman's second-best WrestleMania main event by far up to that point.  That would change three years later...

13. Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes - WrestleMania 39, Night 2

Man, this match was on its way to a well-deserved Top 10 spot on this list.  Really, just an epic, drama-filled, twisty and turny WWE Universal Title match between two consummate pros.  The story was there, the build was there, the moment was there.  And then the last thirty seconds happened.  After an action-packed, story-driven 35 minutes that featured Solo Sikoa being ejected for interference and Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens running off the Usos, Cody hit Roman with a CrossRhodes, held on, hit another one, held on, and then Paul Heyman jumped on the apron to distract the official while the previously ejected Sikoa thumbed Cody in the throat, setting up Cody for a match-ending Spear.  Roman retained the title, again, in the exact same fashion he'd retained against Drew, Kevin, Sami, etc.  One of the least imaginative and most tone-deaf endings to a truly great match I've seen in years.  Time will tell if WWE really fumbled the ball on this one, but I'm not alone in thinking they absolutely did.  Cody was a white-hot babyface with massive crossover appeal, something WWE has been searching for since John Cena was phased out.  And instead of pulling the trigger on his title run they chose to drag out the story even longer, for either a SummerSlam win (which won't be as meaningful) or a win at NEXT year's WrestleMania (which is way too long to keep people's emotional investment).  This was the equivalent of Batista coming up short at WrestleMania 21 or Steve Austin losing at 'Mania 14.  WWE snatched a stalemate from the jaws of total victory.

12. Roman Reigns vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan - WrestleMania 37, Night 2

The final match of WrestleMania 37's two-night spectacular, this Triple Threat match pitted Universal Champion Roman Reigns, finally a monster heel at long last, against returning legend Edge, ten years removed from his untimely retirement, against perennial fan favorite Daniel Bryan.  Edge had won the 2021 Royal Rumble, entering at #1 and running the table, to challenge Roman at the Show of Shows.  But there was a problem; WWE forgot long ago how to book a likable babyface, and thus painted themselves into a corner by writing Edge as kind of a jerk.  And without someone to root for, an Edge vs. Roman main event would certainly fall flat.  Enter Daniel Bryan, the one man on the roster seemingly immune to inept booking.  No matter how many times they had Bryan lose, he could still get a strong babyface reaction from the crowd.  So Bryan was added to the match after Edge screwed up the Roman-Bryan bout at Fastlane, and suddenly it became much more intriguing.  These three worked a fantastic, chaotic Triple Threat, complete with Jey Uso run-ins, bumps on the ring steps, a broken table spot, a great moment where Bryan and Edge locked in simultaneous crossfaces on Roman and traded headbutts to knock the other guy out, and a controversial but decisive finish where Roman brutalized both men with chairs and stacked them on top of each other before pinning both.  Just an excellent, memorable way to close out the 2021 edition of WrestleMania.

11. Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair - WrestleMania 37, Night 1

The historic WrestleMania 37 Night 1 main event was one of the most satisfying in recent memory.  For the first time ever two women of color main evented a WrestleMania card, delivering an athletically marvelous, emotionally resonant near-classic that created a brand new top star in the division.  Smackdown Women's Champion Sasha Banks turned in a Bret Hart-like performance as she steered the bout with a veteran's confidence and made her relatively inexperienced challenger look like a megastar.  Bianca Belair played the self-assured, prodigious, eminently likable babyface to the hilt, keeping up with Banks and displaying incredible athletic feats, not the least of which was a spot where she caught Banks on an outside-the-ring dive, rolled through, pressed her over her head, and walked up the ring steps to toss her back in.  After a clever tug of war with Bianca's hair braid that ended with Bianca using it like a whip on Sasha (complete with a sickening crack and a nine-inch welt across Sasha's ribs), the challenger landed a 450 splash and a Kiss of Death finisher to win her first WWE gold.  Off-camera Sasha smiled with satisfaction, watching her opponent bask in the glory of the moment she helped engineer.  Both women shined here; Bianca earned her spot as the new face of the division, while Sasha cemented her place as one of the best women wrestlers in WWE history.

We're almost to the cream of the crop - click HERE for the Top Ten!

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Monday, April 10, 2023

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 2 (#30-21)

Continuing with our WrestleMania main event rankings, let's get into #30-21!  

Check out Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4

30. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior - WrestleMania VI

Time for me to take some more abuse...  I know Hogan vs. Warrior is one of the most beloved old-school matches of all time, but I think it's maybe the most overrated match ever.  The spectacle was there, don't get me wrong.  Two larger-than-life personalities, the babyface superhero champion vs. the babyface cosmic weirdo challenger, vying for the top spot in the company.  This was the first major babyface vs. babyface match since Bruno Sammartino vs. Pedro Morales, and the intent was for Hogan to pass the torch to the Warrior heading into the 1990s.  All the ingredients were there for this to be the biggest match in decades.  And then the match happened, and it was, well, pretty goddamn boring.  Yes, the Toronto crowd was red-hot, and yes, both men knew how to work them, but the pressure was on to make this match the most epic thing of all time, and so the company overindulged itself by booking this to go 22 minutes when neither guy was equipped to keep a match interesting for that long.  Such is the drawback of primarily pushing wrestlers based on musculature and not athleticism.  Hogan and Warrior bumbled awkwardly through basic offense, going for bearhugs and other rest holds only minutes into the bout.  Things eventually picked up toward the end, when Hogan missed his legdrop (for the first time to my knowledge), and Warrior hit his rather feeble-looking splash for the historic title win.  The crowd was super into this, and I get why it's remembered so fondly by my generation who grew up with it, but even as a 14-year-old I remember finding the match underwhelming and lethargic, a real chore to sit through.  Cut seven or eight minutes out and you'd have a Hulk vs. Thor smashing bonanza, but the company's mistake was attempting to pass these guys off as actual wrestlers.  Randy Savage could get a classic 20-minute match out of either guy, they could not get one out of each other.  I'm sorry, I know you all loved this, but I can't give it a thumbs up.

29. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant - WrestleMania III

This here might be the most star rating-proof main event in wrestling history.  A horribly injured 500-pound man against a two-move musclehead.  This match should be the worst thing ever.  And yet the 12 minutes during which Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant feebly pretended to beat each other up is still a supreme guilty pleasure.  You all know how this match came about; Andre was tired of being underappreciated and of Hogan getting all the attention, so he turned heel and aligned himself with Hogan's mortal enemy Bobby Heenan.  Andre tore Hogan's shirt, his crucifix, the skin on his chest, and the hearts out of kids everywhere, challenging Hogan to a WWF Title match at the biggest show of the year.  The company pretended they'd never wrestled each other before (even though they did numerous times in 1980), and that Andre had never been bodyslammed (he had been numerous times over the years, albeit at a substantially lighter weight).  The hype worked in spades, as 80,000 WWF fans packed the Pontiac Silverdome, creating one of the grandest visuals in wrestling lore - a colossal stadium interior, bathed in daylight from the translucent roof above.  The match was as basic as can be; Andre was in serious pain and could barely move, and Hogan simply worked around his limitations, bouncing off the ropes, selling punches and boots to the face as though they were sledgehammers, and finally after 12 minutes came the Bodyslam Heard 'Round the World.  One legdrop later and Hogan had vanquished the unbeatable ogre, to the thunderous cheers of legions of fans.  So why's the match only ranked 26th?  Well from a mechanical standpoint it's pretty awful.  Like, borderline incompetent.  But damn, is it still a fun watch for my inner eleven-year-old.  

28. Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens - WrestleMania 38, Night 1

19 years after his untimely retirement at age 38, Stone Cold Steve Austin finally came home for one last hurrah, facing a man who idolized him growing up, Kevin Owens.  While the company's build to this match was pretty wretched - Owens was left to hype the match all by himself a la Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan in 2005, and no official match was announced until WrestleMania itself, during a KO Show segment - the match made for a feelgood finale in front of a nuclear hometown crowd.  At age 57, Austin was of course very limited in what he could do, but Owens worked hard to hide said limitations and the two brawled all around the stadium, up the ramp, down the ramp, and back into the ring, where they traded Stunners before Austin got the win.  This was no in-ring classic by any means, but it was an enjoyable romp and allowed one of the industry's biggest stars to have one final moment in the spotlight.

27. The Rock vs. John Cena II - WrestleMania XXIX

Hey, remember that Once in a Lifetime tagline we used when The Rock and John Cena wrestled a year ago?  Yeah, forget about that.  What a sleazy promotional tactic; Vince had to know there would be a rematch sooner rather than later.  And in spite of numerous better options for a main event, for example adding Punk to make it a Triple Threat, or even doing Punk vs. Cena (a match that took place about a month prior to this one and blew it out of the water), Vince would have his planned Rock-Cena II match.  And it was.....a match.  Their first meeting was historic and felt huge.  This one was less historic and felt less huge.  And was messy in spots.  And The Rock got injured, delaying his scheduled film shoot and basically ensuring he'd likely never wrestle again since he couldn't afford to risk another filming delay.  Way to go, Vince.  This match was fine, but nothing more.  It was the main event of one of the more boring WrestleMania cards, a show propped up only by the excellent Undertaker-CM Punk match.  In that regard, this middling, forgettable encounter was a perfect choice to headline a middling, forgettable show.

26. Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart - WrestleMania X

Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart II was historic as the first time the same match main evented two consecutive WrestleManias.  The story going into this sequel was better than its predecessor - Bret had just lost to his brother Owen in a grueling match earlier in the night, while Yokozuna narrowly escaped Lex Luger - but the action for me wasn't as crisp.  Yokozuna dominated the vast majority of the bout, his limited mobility often slowing the match to a crawl.  Guest referee Roddy Piper provided some energy and levity, but this match was all about Bret overcoming impossible odds and exhaustion to regain the title.  And regain it he did, in one of the sillier WrestleMania finishes - Yokozuna had worn Bret down to the nub and prepared to hit his patented Bonzai Drop from the second rope, but slipped for no particular reason and crashed to the canvas, allowing Bret to cover him for the pin.  Pretty lame, Milhouse.  The aftermath was a feelgood moment however, as every major babyface in the locker room swarmed the ring to congratulate Bret and hoist him into the air in celebration.  The storytelling was solid here, the action was just ok.

25. Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna - WrestleMania IX

I liked the wrestling better in this first encounter, as Bret was forced to get creative in battling a very unwieldy opponent in a clash of styles.  Bret stayed on offense for much of this bout, lending it a nice level of urgency.  His storytelling and ring generalship were so good in fact that it really looked like he might do the impossible and defeat a man over twice his size.  After felling the massive challenger with a clothesline, Bret wrapped Yokozuna's enormous legs around his own and pulled him up into a Sharpshooter, but then came Mr. Fuji on the outside with a handful of salt to Bret's eyes.  Yokozuna covered him to become the first heel to win the WWF Title at WrestleMania, and then of course the night totally went to shit, as referenced in Part 1 of this countdown.  Fuck Terry, Terry sucks.  So yeah, I wasn't about to ignore WrestleMania IX's actual main event just because of what happened immediately afterward.  This match was a solid piece of business except for the weak finish - come on, Yoko, at least finish him off with a legdrop or something.

24. Triple H vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 25

If ever a WrestleMania main event didn't tonally live up to the build, it's this one.  Triple H and Randy Orton had one of the most personal feuds ever to lead to a 'Mania headliner, with Orton punting both Vince and Shane McMahon, and even more dastardly, hitting Stephanie with a DDT while a handcuffed Triple H watched helplessly (Nevermind that for years the McMahons had all been presented as Grade-A assholes so it was basically impossible to sympathize with them here, but the angle was effective).  In retaliation Hunter broke into Orton's house and beat a raincheck into him, eventually tossing him out his front window onto the lawn as concerned neighbors looked on.  You'd think a feud with such rapid-fire escalation would culminate in a No Holds Barred match, a Hell in a Cell, a TLC match, hell, maybe a Chain match, why not?  Nope.  They just had a regular wrestling match to settle their differences.  A slow, methodical, Triple H-style main event wrestling match, where if Hunter got himself disqualified he'd lose the title.  Ya know, just to make sure the bout REALLY stayed orderly.  The pace and style of match didn't jibe at all with what fans wanted or expected, and trying to follow the epic, all-time classic Undertaker-Shawn Michaels masterwork two bouts earlier with a civilized Triple H-special grappling contest was an exercise in futility.  It's not that the match was bad by any means, on the contrary, it was a well-worked, fundamentally rock-solid wrestling match.  But it was 100% wrong for this particular feud.  What the company was thinking I'll never know.  But the crowd here was deader even than Hunter's WrestleMania 18 bout with Jericho.  It proved to me once and for all that Triple H doesn't make an effective babyface; his style is thoroughly steeped in deliberate, slow-paced wear-down holds that don't get the audience energized.  Couple that with Randy Orton's equally methodical cadence, and you have a recipe for sleepiness.

23. Triple H vs. Batista - WrestleMania 21

2005 was The Year of The Animal.  Big Dave Batista had emerged seemingly overnight as everyone's favorite rising star in the company.  After totally clusterfucking Randy Orton's babyface turn in 2004 by taking the smug, patronizing 24-year-old, putting the title on him, and expecting people to cheer him 24 hours later just because his asshole friends beat him up, the company took the slow-burn approach with his former teammate Batista.  Dave quietly waited in the wings as Evolution's muscle, having a mini-feud with Orton in which the fans overwhelmingly favored The Animal.  The planned WrestleMania 21 headliner of Triple vs. Orton (see WrestleMania 25 to see how well that would've gone) was scrapped, and Big Dave was on his way to the top.  Batista and John Cena were elevated simultaneously in the Royal Rumble, Dave just barely eking out a win, and after weeks of Triple H and Ric Flair urging him to challenge WWE Champion JBL, Batista turned babyface in earnest, announcing that he'd be coming after his former mentor.  The build was handled effectively, with Dave presented as a monster babyface who could believably plow through anyone he wanted.  That he'd decisively beat Triple H at the Show of Shows was one of those welcome foregone conclusions in wrestling (sometimes predictability is a good thing), and it led to big fan interest in the show.  The match itself was just okay, as Batista was still very inexperienced in a big match setting.  But it got the job done and cemented Dave as a brand new made man.  Hunter and Batista would have their feud-defining match a few months later inside a Cell, but this was an okay start.

22. Chris Jericho vs. Triple H - WrestleMania X8

This might be the one WrestleMania main event that suffered the most from a bad build.  Chris Jericho famously defeated The Rock and Steve Austin in one night to become the Undisputed Champion, which surely should've boosted his credibility big time, right?  Well, no.  Upon winning the unified titles, Jericho was booked as a joke champion, often opening RAW and Smackdown in matches against guys like Maven and Tazz, whom he struggled to defeat.  Making things worse was Triple H's Royal Rumble win establishing him as the #1 contender at WrestleMania, because Hunter was much more concerned with his estranged wife Stephanie than with the task of defeating the Undisputed Champ.  Thus Jericho was portrayed as Steph's lackey, bringing her hand cream, watching her dog, ya know, stuff a World Champion does...  Y2J was made to look like such a lowly chumpstain it totally killed any interest in this main event, and on the night of the PPV the two headlined in front of a dead crowd (It didn't help of course that The Rock and Hulk Hogan had torn the house down and the crowd was just done after that).  These two worked a good match but everything fell flat, and thus Triple H's big moment was more of a whimper than a bang.  Imagine sabotaging your own main event program just to make yourself appear out of the other guy's league....

21. Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. The Big Show - WrestleMania 2000

WrestleMania 2000 has to be the strangest edition of all time (except for maybe the COVID one).  There wasn't a single solitary one-on-one match under standard rules (Terri vs. The Kat had an over-the-top-rope stip), and the main event was a Fatal 4-Way elimination match, just so they could shove the entire McMahon family into the proceedings.  Jesus H. Christ, if I never see any of these people on my TV again it'll be too soon.  So instead of the expected Rock vs. Triple H headliner they added The Big Show (who technically won the Royal Rumble due to The Rock's feet accidentally hitting the floor first) and then just to give Mick Foley a WrestleMania moment they unretired him to complete the square.  The match was fine, rather overlong, and in the end anticlimactic.  The Big Show got triple-teamed early and was ousted from the match in under five minutes, Mick Foley turned in a less-than-stellar performance, not having gotten back into ring shape in time, and Rocky and Hunter carried the bulk of the bout.  It seemed a foregone conclusion that The Rock would defy the odds and regain the WWF Title, but in the interest of swerving everyone, Rock's cornerman Vince screwed him, delivering two chair shots to allow Hunter to retain the belt.  The Rock flipped out after the match, hitting Stephanie with a Rock Bottom/People's Elbow combination.  A month later at Backlash The Rock would win the title back anyway, so in hindsight it seems silly not to just have him win at the biggest show of the year.  Then again Triple H's victory here was historic as the first time a heel left WrestleMania as WWF Champion.  This was a so-so main event. 

And that concludes Part 2 of our countdown - click HERE for part 3.....

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Friday, April 7, 2023

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 1 (#44-31)

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, or should I say, Top FORTY-TWO Things, here at!  I decided to put every WrestleMania main event in order from worst to best, and split it into four parts so as to make it a little more digestible for you folks.  "But Justin," you're probably saying, "How can there be a Top 42 when there have only been 41 WrestleMania shows?"  Well, I'll explain that one in a bit.

WrestleMania is of course the biggest PPV of the year, a time when athleticism and spectacle intermingle on the biggest possible scale for one night a year (or two nights nowadays).  The results over the last near-four decades have been mixed, but when WWE is on their game, they're capable of transcending the art form.  When they aren't, it ranges from uninspired to the drizzling dumpster farts.  This list has a little of everything, as the WrestleMania main event has historically been overshadowed by another match on the card more often than not (roughly two out of every three times by my calculation).  But whether or not the participants deliver in the final match of the evening, the WrestleMania main event is the ultimate goal for just about everyone who throws their hat into the wrasslin' ring.  It's an honor bestowed only on a select few, and even fewer truly make their moment count.  Let's peruse the WWE archives and see which 'Mania main events have measured up and which ones belong on history's scrap heap.....

Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

44. Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania IX

Alright, so I said earlier I'd explain why there are 42 entries on this list, and here's the reason.  WrestleMania IX's main event as officially announced was Bret Hart defending the WWF Championship against newly minted monster heel Yokozuna, who earned his title shot at the 1993 Royal Rumble.  That match took place as planned, but immediately afterwards Hulk Hogan showed up to protest the result (Yokozuna beat Bret after Mr. Fuji threw salt in the champ's eyes), and Yokozuna challenged him to a match on the spot.  Nevermind that it made zero sense for the brand new *heel* WWF Champion, who'd just endured a grueling nine-minute match, to challenge a fresh babyface for an impromptu title defense.  Hogan accepted with Bret's blessing (which also made no sense as Bret and Hogan had never really interacted before), dodged an errant salt throw from Fuji that landed in Yoko's eyes (Apparently salt is the deadliest weapon ever, as it was responsible for two title changes in one night), and dropped his big stupid leg to win the WWF Title only two minutes removed from the PPV's official main event finish.  A guy who wasn't even booked to headline the show walked away with the gold (an occurrence which would repeat 22 years later under much better circumstances) while the two new main event guys were made to look like chumps.  This was goddamn disgraceful and entirely counterproductive at a time when the WWF desperately needed to move on from the Hogan Era, and worse, Hogan would take the belt home for two months, reneging on his backstage promise to put Bret over at SummerSlam.  To paraphrase George Carlin, fuck Terry, Terry sucks.  This "match" is the worst main event in WrestleMania history, but I'll be goddamned if I'm not also going to acknowledge that show's true main event on this list.  Hence Bret vs. Yokozuna will appear as well, bringing the total number of entries to 42.

43. Sgt. Slaughter vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania VII

Speaking of Terry and sucking, the main event of WrestleMania VII was centered around the recently returned Sgt. Slaughter, who instead of being the heroic American soldier we all knew and tolerated, announced himself as an Iraqi sympathizer, complete with a Saddam Hussein lookalike manager and a flag burning.  He defeated The Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble, thus robbing fans of a Hogan-Warrior rematch which would've done ENORMOUS business, and setting up this stinker of a main event instead.  Fans were so unimpressed with this bout headlining the show in fact, WrestleMania VII had to be moved from its original 100,000-seat location at the LA Coliseum to the much smaller 16,000-seat LA Sports Arena.  The match in practice was about as good as it looked on paper, which is to say it wasn't good.  At all.  Hogan and Slaughter plodded around the ring for a pretty excruciating 21 minutes before Hogan put a merciful end to Slaughter's title reign, and this match.  Ridiculously their feud would continue until SummerSlam, a full six months after our real-life skirmish in Iraq had ended.