We’ve done a lot of hard science over the last month to help you get ready for WrestleMania 30. So far we’ve ranked:
– The 29 WrestleMania main events, from worst (The Miz) to best
– The 29 worst celebrity guest appearances in WrestleMania history
– All 21 of The Undertaker’s matches in his WrestleMania undefeated streak
Today we take a look at the 29 best wrestlers to have only had one official match at a WrestleMania. They might’ve appeared during a Hall of Fame induction, as a manager on the outside, as a guest, as a commentator, but they are either officially 1-0 or 0-1 in the record books. Criteria for inclusion included
1. Was this person important outside of their one WrestleMania appearance?
2. How badly were they treated?
3. How BAD were they, because if we’re talking Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole that should be dead last
4. “The It Factor”
Of course, “The It Factor” means nothing, and means I just ranked them randomly. Knowing this, please consult my data regarding the 29 best wrestlers to have only wrestled at one WrestleMania and share your thoughts and further analyzation in the comments section below.
29. Jerry Lawler
Jerry Lawler is one of the most notable pro wrestlers of all time. He’s had at least 60,000 title runs in Tennessee, helped bring pro wrestling into the (niche) mainstream with his feud with Andy Kaufman and has been, for better or worse, one of the “voices” of WWE since 1992. It can’t be overstated how much he means to the wrestling world.
That all said, Lawler’s lone WrestleMania appearance as a wrestler just so happens to be the worst match in the history of the event. Enter: WrestleMania 27, wherein two announcers get into a feud that should’ve ended with Lawler repeatedly punching Michael Cole until his face turned to blood that ACTUALLY ended with 20 minutes of total horseshit and a Dusty finish via sassy anonymous laptop. Seriously, Jerry Lawler is a wrestling legend and Michael Cole couldn’t win a fight with Justin Roberts. It went TWENTY MINUTES. Worse than Giant Gonzalez smothering Undertaker with a dish towel, worse than Big Bossman being hung from Hell in a Cell, worse than Snooki. Worse than Snooki by a LOT. And that, thanks to Michael Cole and someone in the back’s horrid idea of what constitutes “funny,” is Jerry The King Lawler’s WrestleMania legacy.
28. Evan Bourne
Remember Evan Bourne? He’s back, in pog form!
So yeah, Evan Bourne was once a thing people liked. He was the former Matt Sydal, an independent wrestling standout with a gorgeous shooting star press and boyband-member-in-the-background-of-a-boyband-group-photo good looks who briefly took WWE by storm as a scrappy newcomer. He had a brief run with the tag titles and even won a Slammy Award for Best Finishing Maneuver. In 2008. Suddenly everything I type about Evan Bourne is in sepia tone.
Bourne’s big WrestleMania moment was during the WrestleMania 26 Money in the Bank ladder match. Everyone thought he was gonna shooting star press from the top of the ladder, so he shocked us by upping the ante and … shooting star pressing from a platform ladder about halfway up, meaning he was hitting the move from slightly lower than usual. Sure, okay! He followed that up with a hip toss off the top of the ladder from Matt Hardy that took three tries, then four years of injuries and wellness violations.
Lita has been at several WrestleManias (WrestlesMania?) and is getting inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame at WrestleMania 30. Here’s a secret: she was absolutely garbage in the ring, and that’s one of the big reasons why she only had one actual WrestleMania match. The other reason is that she couldn’t walk more than 20 steps without her body falling apart.
Lita fought Trish Stratus (in Canada underpants) and Jazz at WrestleMania 18, and if you harbor any illusions of Lita being a great, skilled trailblazer, I urge you to go back and watch it. She slowly slumps around the match trying to figure out what to do next as Trish does the same thing (albeit enthusiastically) and poor, downtrodden Jazz tries to keep it all together. There’s also a beautiful moment where Lita takes out both Trish and Jazz, tries to remove her shirt for emphasis, fails (complete with a “what was that??” “I thought she was gonna go topless!” exchange from the announce team) and then manages to miss TWO PEOPLE with a moonsault. Absolutely brutal.
Wrestling history is one part popularity, ten parts WWE telling you what to think.
From Lita to the guy who eventually brought her into WWE, it’s Mr. Águila, TAKA Michinoku’s opponent at WrestleMania 14. You may know him as a former CMLL World Tag Team and Trios champion and/or as Essa Rios. Maybe Papí Chulo?
WWE could never get the hang of internationally-flavored cruiserweight wrestling. WCW made it a huge thing in the mid-90s, bringing in Rey Misterio Jr. as a sort of lucha libre Hulk Hogan to take on a myriad of interesting, talented high-flyers. WWE’s attempt was noble, I guess, but always overpowered by their desire to turn ethnicities into hilarious stereotypes, so sure, you’d get a few talented Japanese wrestlers, and before long they’d be threatening to CHOPPY CHOPPY YOUR PEE PEE. You’d get luchadors from Mexico, and eventually they’d be riding to the ring on lawnmowers.
(White people didn’t have it much better … I think we peaked with Gregory Helms’ sunglasses TitanTron and Billy Kidman gaining 20 pounds and thinking he could still shooting star press.)
Akebono Tarō is a great example of WWE taking a culturally interesting thing and turning into the most base, childish thing you can imagine. Dude was a legit Yokozuna, spending almost eight years in the rank and winning the top division championship on eight additional occasions. What happens when he crosses over to WWE at WrestleMania 21? LOOK AT THE FUNNY FAT GUYS IN DIAPERS.
That’s it. WWE and its audience cannot get beyond “look at fat asses” to appreciate anything. Big Show probably could’ve wrestled in his caveman singlet and saved everyone a lot of trouble. Akebono gets the #25 spot on the list for his post-Mania accomplishments, though, which have seen him wrestle everywhere from HUSTLE to Dragon Gate to New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan, where he’s the current AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion. OF BIG OL’ FAT ASSES, AM I RIGHT FOLKS.
Ah, the WrestleMania 20 Cruiserweight Open. The great climax of WWE’s terrible cruiserweight division.
The Cruiserweight Open featured a few WrestleMania one-timers, but it might be one of the least prestigious matches in WrestleMania history. The idea was that a bunch of cruiserweights would surround the ring and two guys would start. Every time a wrestler lost a fall, he’d be instantly replaced. Instead of using that as an opportunity to tell stories or organize ridiculous, memorable spots, WWE played it like a Divas elimination tag. Everybody’d come in, do a thing or two, get hit with a transitional move and be eliminated. Some didn’t even get that much. Funaki just jumps once and is eliminated.
One of the most notable one-timers in the match is Yoshihiro Tajiri, the “Japanese Buzzsaw,” an ECW original who saw a ton of success in WWE, holding both versions of the cruiserweight/light heavyweight titles, both version of the tag titles and the United States Championship. Here, he accidentally blows mist in the eyes of Akio (aka Jimmy Wang Yang, another one-timer) and gets rolled up by Rey Mysterio. Shouldn’t “Tajiri vs. Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 20” be a thing we’re still talking about?
23. Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon
If you google “furnas lafon,” one of the top results is a feature from WWE.com called BORING WWE TAG TEAMS. The clip they use is edited to make Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon look “boring,” but it ends with a cobra clutch slam. A COBRA CLUTCH SLAM. What do you WANT?
These guys were former AJPW All Asia Tag Team Champions and were 1/2 of one of the greatest tag team matches in wrestling history. Check them out against Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi from May 25, 1992. That match will change your mind about a lot of stuff, including how active and emotional a Japanese wrestling crowd can be.
In comparison, WWE used Furnas and LaFon as a throwaway team in a four-team opener at WrestleMania 13 that every human being in the world has forgotten about. They faced the New Blackjacks, the Headbangers and the Godwinns. So … whose fault was the “boring” part?
22. 2 Cold Scorpio
That’s him on the far left on the floor, in the bodysuit.
If you don’t remember Scorp, he was an innovative high-flyer from WCW who was the first man I ever saw pull off a 450 splash. He also maintains one of the greatest promo videos in wrestling history, and if you’ve never seen this before, HOLD ON TO YOUR BUTTS:
Scorpio entered the fed as “Flash Funk” and sorta formed the mold for every non-fat, non-strong black guy in modern WWE. Dancing? Check. Pimp overtones? Check. Easily defeated? Check. He even had a pair of dancing girls called the “Funkettes,” which should sound super familiar to you. Imagine if Xavier Woods had 10 times the wrestling ability and 10% as much hair. That’s the Flasher. His only WrestleMania appearance (besides a pre-show “Free For All” appearance) was as part of a 15-team tag team battle royal to open WrestleMania 14.
The point of that match was Sunny in a fire bra. And maybe the Legion of Doom returning. Flash Funk is so unimportant to the match that he’s eliminated off-screen during a Barry Windham run-in. Like I said, forming the mold.
Raven had a pretty storied career with two WWE runs, an iconic position as a legendary 2-time ECW Champion and multiple title runs in WCW. It was, however, his credit as 27-time (yes, 27-time) Hardcore Champion that got him his only official WrestleMania appearance: battling Kane and The Big Show in the ultimate WALK TO THE PROPS match at WrestleMania X-7.
If you aren’t familiar with WWF hardcore wrestling from the early 2000s, they got it into their head that they should involve more and more ridiculous props, and that they could simply hold each other by the hair and walk there and it’d be fine. The WrestleMania match is a lot of fun in its absurdity, but it’s mostly “walk to the window, okay throw Raven through the window,” or “you’ve reached some golf carts, run over Raven in the golf carts.” Poor Raven looked like a soldier taking all the abuse he takes here, but as far as impactful WrestleMania debuts go, it was better than most.
For interested parties, Raven being run over by golf carts:
20. Michael PS Hayes
The WrestleMania gimmick battle royal was stocked with two types of guys:
1. people with ridiculous gimmicks like “wrestling garbage man” or “wrestling hockey player” or “dancing turkey monster,” and
2. people who didn’t really have “gimmicks,” but were wrestling legends they could use to pad things out
So you had weird situations like Jim Cornette suddenly trying to win a battle royal and a celebration of the bad gimmick of Michael P.S. Hayes, which I guess was “southern man.” Out of context and 15 years past its prime it played more like “dancing southern turkey monster,” but you still had legendary leader of the Fabulous Freebirds and TAG TEAM CHAMPION EVERYWHERE BUT WWF Michael Hayes strutting to the ring in a sparkling Confederate flag cape to square off with a repossession-obsessed man and a hooting tugboat captain.
Hayes was eliminated from the battle royal by the One Man Gang, who was wrestling as the One Man Gang instead of Akeem because he couldn’t fit into the costume, and also probably racism.
Another wrestling legend who only appeared at WrestleMania via the gimmick battle royal at WrestleMania X-7 is Kamala, The Ugandan Giant. Kamala’s one of those old school guys you just assume is synonymous with early WrestleManias, right? Like, in your head he’s had at least three of those throwaway matches somewhere in the middle against guys like Tito Santana or Hercules. Kamala once fought Uncle Elmer at WrestleMania IV! He lost to the Undertaker in a match nobody remembers at WrestleMania VI!
But nope, this is it for the big guy. He has a pretty good run, tossing out Doink the Clown, Kim Chee and the One Man Gang before getting dumped by Sgt. Slaughter. If you’re gonna get eliminated from a battle royal, get eliminated by a guy who was a shoot GI Joe, right?
I’m ranking him higher than Hayes because of his performance in the battle royal, and also probably racism.
18. Cowboy Bob Orton
That’s the unforgettable image of Cowboy Bob Orton you have from WrestleMania. The problem is that he wasn’t actually in that match, Paul Orndorff and Rowdy Roddy Piper were. Orton just lost it for them. You might also remember Orton has Piper’s cornerman at WrestleMania 2 for the boxing match against Mr. T. He wasn’t in that, either. He also wasn’t in that WrestleMania 21 match where he ran in, blasted the Undertaker with his cast and tried to help his pissy son break The Streak.
So what’s Orton’s one actual WrestleMania appearance? Why, teaming with The Magnificent Muraco under the tutelage of Mr. Fuji against the Can-Am Connection int he opener of WrestleMania 3, of course! Yep, despite his copious contributions to Mania history, the Cowboy’s only real effort in the ring was standing around doing jack shit while the Can-Ams table-topped Don Muraco. Gorilla calls it a “little schoolboy trip from behind.” And you wonder why Bob Orton’s family is full of sociopaths.
You can also consider this the ranking for Sabu’s teammates, Tommy Dreamer and the Sandman. And Matt Striker?
After some too-close-to-classic ECW shows didn’t go the way they’d planned, WWE worked diligently to homogenize and sanitize the ECW “brand.” The 8-man tag at WrestleMania 23 pit four ECW originals — Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman — against the “new breed” of ECW stars. WWE’s version of ECW brought in guys like Sheamus, CM Punk and Kofi Kingston, but these are … not those guys. Opposite the originals you’ve got Marcus Cor Von, Elijah Burke, Your Teacher Matt Striker and Kevin Thorn. THE NEW FACE OF WWE, YOU GUYS.
The originals triumphed via Rob Van Dam flogsplashing Striker out of his Steiner Brothers memorial underpants and getting the pin, but this was the only true Mania appearance for his pals. Plus there was a really weird “ECW’s finally DONE GROW’D UP” narrative they were pushing that made everything seem phony and uncomfortable. But yo, at one WrestleMania Sabu dives onto a guy on the outside and almost powerbombs himself to death, so E-SEE-DUB, E-SEE-DUB.
16. Pedro Morales
While modern audiences might not be familiar with his work, Pedro Morales accomplished a lot of firsts in the world of pro wrestling. He was the first Latino world champion. He was the first man to win a major company’s three primary championships: the WWWF Championship, the Intercontinental Championship and the WWF World Tag Team Championship. He held the WWWF United States Championship, too, making him a before-it-was-a-thing Grand Slam champion. He was the first Latin American and Hispanic inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Impressive, right? His first and only appearance at WrestleMania was in the WrestleMania 2 battle royal wherein he was eliminated with no fanfare whatsoever by Harvey Martin. Former NFL defensive end Harvey Martin. He wasn’t even eliminated by a WRESTLER. Thanks for your time, Pedro.
15. Alundra Blayze
One of the most fascinating times for me as a wrestling fan was the early-to-mid-90s, when WWE decided “Japanese-style women’s wrestling” was hot shit. The star of their division was Alundra Blayze, a lady I knew from WCW as valet Madusa, who threw a beautiful German suplex and seemed hellbent on reviving the women’s division in the joshi image. Joshi legends like Bull Nakano and Aja Kong would randomly show up on WWE TV, sometimes on RAW even, and have these killer, progressive matches that focused on the women being brutal bad-asses and technical warriors. It was … pretty amazing.
Of course, Alundra Blayze’s only WrestleMania appearance was a four-minute effort against Leilani Kai, a veteran wrestler who’d held the women’s championship, uh, ten years earlier. The match really isn’t that bad to be as short as it is, and Kai’s doing kind of an ersatz North American Bull Nakano thing, but it would’ve been something glorious to see Blayze and Kong trading backfists and suplexes on the grandest stage of them all. Maybe women’s wrestling would’ve went in another direction, and we would’ve skipped the 10 years or so of “woo hoo puppies” that led us to the muted-as-f*ck PG era of long tights and not a lot to offer.
It might’ve happened, too, but Blayze was released due to budgetary restrictions before the next year’s event. And then she threw the WWF Women’s Championship in the trashcan on an episode of Nitro. So, yeah, you’re welcome for Ashley Massaro wrestling at two WrestleManias.
14. Dean Malenko
The guy on the ground on the right is Dean Malenko. He was one of the best cruiserweights in WCW history and was ranked #1 in the 1997 PWI 500. He’s about to be 1/2 of a Double Worm.
More importantly, yo, anybody remember when Chyna pinned EDDIE GUERRERO at a WrestleMania? Welcome to WrestleMania 2000, where WWE celebrated the acquisition of four of WCW’s best wrestlers by teaming three of them up against Chyna and Too Cool, then having Eddie freaking Guerrero lose to a testicular claw, the worst powerbomb in human history and a sleeper drop. From Chyna.
And yes, Dean Malenko was the recipient of 0.5 Worm.
13. Ultimo Dragon
Ultimo Dragon always had two goals: wrestle in Madison Square Garden and compete at a WrestleMania.
After 15 years of winning title belts all around and generally being one of the best wrestlers in the world — and a botched arm surgery that gave him nerve damage and threatened to prematurely end his career — Dragon found himself with a WWE contract. They’d signed him hoping he’d be “the next Rey Mysterio,” assumedly having never seen him work and thinking every guy in a mask is a luchador. But screw it, he’d made it. WrestleMania XX was coming up, and he was going to get to wrestle on it in Madison Square Garden. Both of his dreams, coming true at once. The validation of an entire career.
He was thrown into the Cruiserweight Open, one of the most meaningless matches in Mania history. As he jogged out onto the stage, he slipped on his cape. When he got into the ring and tried to climb on the ropes to pose, he slipped on it again. When it’s his turn to wrestle, he gets put into a guillotine choke by Jamie Noble and doesn’t appear to submit, but the referee calls for the bell anyway. The announcers are confused, but they go with it. The referee yells GET HIM OUTTA HERE.
Ultimo Dragon, one of my favorite wrestlers ever, got to live the worst possible interpretation of his dream. They gave him Godzilla music because he’s from Japan and everything.
This is an entire page of weird WCW mistakes, huh?
One of the marquee match-ups at WrestleMania XX was set to be Brock Lesnar, WWE’s unstoppable Next Big Thing, vs. Goldberg, a man who’d had a huge hand in wrestling’s most recent boom period, taking an undefeated streak to crazy success and even crazier box office. By the time the match happened, though, it became public knowledge that Goldberg wasn’t sticking around. Oh, and Brock Lesnar had decided to quit the company to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. That was a thing.
So the match happens, and the crowd just SHITS on it. Curse word, capital letters. One of the worst crowd reactions you’ll ever hear. The match doesn’t do anything to win them over, either, and Goldberg beats Lesnar with a Jackhammer when he should’ve just small-packaged his ass 20 seconds in and called it a night. Thank goodness special guest referee Stone Cold Steve Austin was there to drink beers and arbitrarily beat up EVERYONE, because that was really they could do.
Goldberg would go on to defeat The Laughing Man Hugh Morrus and Jerry Flynn at the next six consecutive WrestleManias in my brain.
11. Kerry Von Erich
Kerry Von Erich once beat Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in front of over 45,000 fans at Texas Stadium. His only WrestleMania appearance is a forgettable match against Canada’s Strongest Man Dino Bravo at WrestleMania VII. He clawed the guy, then spun around before he punched him. Kerry Von Erich was like an action figure. You just wind him up and that spinning punch nobody does is DEVASTATING.
If you aren’t familiar with Von Erich (or his entire family), they’re one of the most fascinating and horrifying stories in the history of professional wrestling. Imagine The Virgin Suicides, but with beloved pro wrestlers. Looking back at Kerry’s contributions to pro wrestling sorta rely on ignoring that completely, but his WWE career was so short … he debuted on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1990, poetically eliminated by Ric Flair in the legendary 1992 Royal Rumble for the WWF Championship and was dead in 1993.
Dino Bravo died horribly, too. Maybe this was a bad list idea.
10. Sherri Martel
If you ask any female professional wrestler worth their salt who their favorite wrestler was growing up, they’re gonna say Sherri Martel. Sherri was IT.
It’s easy to forget how absolutely amazing she was, because her wrestling accomplishments were always kinda overshadowed by her managerial personalities. You might not remember her as the AWA or WWF Women’s Champion, but you remember her climbing around on a cage wall yelling YOU DON’T KNOWWWWW HULK HOGAN as Macho Man and Zeus scream. You might not remember her stint in Japan, but you remember her making the most amazing face when Booker T realizes he’s just accidentally called Hulk Hogan the N-word. The thing is that Sherri did all of it, and was great at it all.
Her one WrestleMania appearance is in a mixed tag team match that really, really should’ve been a one-on-one between Macho Man and Dusty Rhodes. In it, she gets rolled up and pinned by Sapphire. Sapphire was not a wrestler. Her career lasted from 1989 until 1990. And here she is, pinning the hell out of Sherri.
9. Rock n’ Roll Express
If you ask any male professional wrestling write worth their salt who their favorite tag team was growing up, Brandon’s going to say the Rock N’ Roll Express.
A lot of the spots on this list are just wrestlers who had lengthy careers elsewhere and peaked outside of the WWE system, leading to these weird throw-ins where they’d show up in a Royal Rumble or something and stick around for a few months. The Rock N’ Roll Express had a weird relationship with WWE, where they never seemed like they fit, but were always finding a reason to be around. They’re STILL going at it somewhere, having held every version of the NWA World Tag Team Championships you can hold and a thick f*cking Wikipedia column of tag titles elsewhere.
Their WWE run, though? Kinda fruitless. They were a part of the tag team battle royal at WrestleMania 14 and when they were thrown out, the announcers were just like, “Rock N’ Roll Express eliminated OH MAN LOOK AT SUNNY’S FIRE BRA THAT THING IS GREAT.” But hey, if you’re interested in wrestling outside the box you’ve got a metric ton of amazing tag team matches that developed, refined and perfected the art of southern tag team wrestling. Just not in this battle royal.
Or any battle royal WrestleMania’s ever had.
8. Dory Funk
Speaking of great tag teams who blossomed elsewhere and were just weird footnotes in WWE, here are the FUNK BROTHERS.
Modern WWE fans should know Terry Funk, whether it’s from his crazy old man period in ECW, his Attitude Era run as “Chainsaw Charlie” or for him rolling around in his underwear and placating Dennis Stamp in Beyond The Mat. Terry is a goddamn legend. Also a legend? The guy we’re calling “Hoss Funk” here. He’s Dory Funk Jr., the former heavyweight champion of everything everywhere whose late-60s trip to Japan to influence guys like Jumbo Tsuruta more or less created modern professional wrestling around the world.
Dory rules the world, and at WrestleMania 2 he teamed up with Terry to defeat Tito Santana and the Junkyard Dog, presumably to see who’d get to be Hulk Hogan’s buddies in season two of Hulk Hogan’s Rock n’ Wrestling. Terry left the company soon after, and Dory stuck around to team with “Jimmy Jack Funk,” who was neither a Jimmy Jack nor a Funk. Still though, in his prime (and long after it), Dory could seem and be more important wearing a sequined ring jacket than most a-holes can be kicking out of tombstones.
7. Diamond Dallas Page
This list was the most educational for me to put together. I remembered all the WrestleMania main events and bad celebrities and iffy Streak matches, but I’d forgotten a lot of these throwaway filler matches featuring important guys from other wrestling things. For example, do you remember former multiple-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion Diamond Dallas Page retaining his European Championship against Christian at WrestleMania X-8? I sure as hell didn’t.
Page gets a high ranking (higher than Dory Funk, even) for his post-wrestling contributions to the sport, healing wrestling’s lepers with yoga and positive affirmations. The guy sincerely deserves sainthood for fishing some of modern history’s best wrestling bodies and minds out of the dumpster and restoring them to their former glory. He also gets a pretty high ranking because his forgotten match isn’t bad, and is him cleanly trouncing Christian (the king of being cleanly trounced) with a Diamond Cutter in a championship match at a WrestleMania. That I forgot.
This was his last high profile match, too. He left WWE shortly after this (after strange runs as both a stalker of ladies and a motivational speaker), had a short (and bad) run in TNA and then a goodbye match in the Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo Championshit Wrestling. I don’t know. Self high-five?
6. Genichiro Tenryu
If you don’t remember this entry from the worst WrestleMania celebrities rankings:
Regis tries to interview Kōji Kitao and Genichiro Tenryu but can’t because they’re not from here! Regis has apparently never heard someone speak in a foreign language before and doesn’t, you know, try to find a translator … he just yells car manufacturers in their faces and speaks like Tarzan so they’ll understand. Here are actual quotes from his interview:
“Joining us straight from Japan, Connie Chung eat your heart out”
“YOU SPEAK ANY ENGLISO?”
“TOYOTA! Wait till you hear this, I’m on a roll now! ISUZU!”
“Big conference going on! WHAT’RE THEY SAYING?”
“Kathie Lee, at home! Regis here, WrestleMania. You Tenryu! You Kitao! Me Regis!”
If you aren’t familiar with the man known as “Mr. Puroresu,” he’s a 3-time AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, the recipient of 8 “Match of the Year” awards from Tokyo Sports and a participant in four of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s five-star matches. But no, yeah, me no speaky engrish, that’s the way we should be going.
5. Fabulous Moolah
The Fabulous Moolah is one of those people who should be on a ton of WrestleManias, right? She was the women’s champion for an interrupted 85 years straight. For 185 years straight. She’s gotta be all over at least the first five Manias.
Nope, her one appearance as an in-ring competitor is one of the quickest and worst matches ever. She’s defending at WrestleMania 2 in a “one-fall, 60-minute time limit” match against Velvet McIntyre that goes about a minute and a half when Velvet goes for a splash and her boobs pop out. Moolah simply lies on her parallel until the referee counts the three, and that’s it. The most storied champion in the history of women’s wrestling gets her one shot at the “showcase of the immortals” and it’s 80 seconds leading to errant tit. Is that WWE’s interpretation of women’s wrestling in a nutshell?
I wish WrestleMania had been around for ten extra years just to see what the cards would’ve looked like. Moolah and Bob Backlund would’ve OWNED those early shows.
4. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard
Ric Flair got a bunch of WrestleMania appearances, some of them as WWF Champion, and he got a tearful goodbye when he was done. The other members of the Four Horsemen? Not so much.
The one and only WrestleMania appearance for founding Horsepersons Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard was a tag team win via SPIKE PILEDRIVER~ over Strike Force at WrestleMania V. As a kid who grew up watching the NWA and WCW, I can’t overstate how good these guys were. Tully was the heel in my pick for the greatest wrestling match ever, the I Quit match against Magnum TA at Starrcade 85. Or as I liked to call it as a kid, “Actual WrestleMania.” Arn was a legend from the word go, better in the ring and on the microphone than pretty much anyone, especially anyone who looked as much like George Costanza. Arn got a big “WrestleMania moment” when he was summoned a la Marvel vs. Capcom to hit the Undertaker with the best spinebuster ever during Ric Flair’s attempt to break the streak, but Tully just has this.
That’s a sick piledriver, though. I’ll consider it a win.
3. The Steiner Brothers
Speaking of guys I loved in WCW, here’s THE BEST TAG TEAM OF ALL TIME. Hard period.
Rick and Scott Steiner in their pre-Crisis form (before Scotty became a hypermuscular math savant and Rick started wearing leather singlets and talking to fictional horror movie characters) were AMAZING. They were these quick, skilled, strong and BRUTAL brothers who could instant murder kill you in any way they wanted whenever they wanted, be it through top rope bulldog or tilt-a-whirl slam or Steiner Screwdriver, aka the most heinous move in the history of wrestling. The Steiners were PRO WRESTLING DEATH COME TO SPIN YOU AROUND UNTIL YOUR BODY FELL APART and I still get massive, massive joy out of watching them hilariously maul people who shouldn’t have been in the ring with them.
Their only WrestleMania appearance is at the worst WrestleMania of all — number 9 — in a winning effort against The Headshrinkers. It’s a fun match at times, but like a lot of the matches on WrestleMania 9 it sorta becomes a chore, and by the time Scott flips a guy over with a Frankensteiner you’re just kinda glad it’s over. The Steiners were never truly unleashed in WWE, and their run there diluted them so much they never recovered. They both went crazy in different directions.
2. Bruno Sammartino
Here he is. The man who represents the pre-Hulk Hogan WWE Championship. The man who represents champion in a lot of peoples’ eyes. The man held the belt for almost 3,000 days, lost it, then held it for another 1,200. That’s insane.
Bruno’s appearances at WrestleMania running thin make sense, because he was well past his prime when they started up. By “well past his prime” I mean “should not be wrestling anymore because it’s kind of embarrassing.” But he made an appearance at WrestleMania 1, and followed it up by throwing in for the battle royal at WrestleMania 2. Here he is, Bruno Sammartino, wrestling’s only living legend. The Italian Superman, the “strongest man in the world,” competing at WRESTLEMANIA. He eliminated the Iron Sheik, even!
And uh, then he messes with Big John Studd and gets dumped like a goober before William “The Refrigerator” Perry and Russ Francis. But he was here.
1. Dusty Rhodes
And at #1, the only person I could see putting ahead of Bruno Sammartino.
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes was a little past his prime when he stepped into the WWF ring for the first time, but he wasn’t 10 years past it like Bruno. He was still a draw, a marketable, beloved wrestling character who could make audiences smile and entertain them in a way nobody who looks like that and has that body should be able to. But he could do ANYTHING. For example, you could put him in yellow polka dots, have him do “the bump” during his matches and give him a tag team partner/valet who was a cross between Louise Jefferson and her maid Florence. He’d GET IT OVER.
His one WrestleMania appearance really could’ve been something special. As mentioned in the Sherri Martel write-up, Dusty was squaring off against The Macho Man Randy Savage. That is EPIC. Randy Savage vs. Dusty Rhodes at a WrestleMania. But also it’s a mixed tag team match. And Dusty and Macho have nothing to do with the finish, non-wrestler Sapphire rolls up Sherri. And also it’s all about Miss Elizabeth being there, because that makes Macho Man uncomfortable, and after the match everybody dances.
But guess what? It got over. Because he’s Dusty Rhodes. And that’s the American Dream.