Magic Memories & Mania – Valentino’s Five to Watch: WrestleMania Showstealers

By Shawn Valentino, PWTorch specialist



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WrestleMania Showstealers: Part 1

The Road to WrestleMania has officially begun. This year, I will be attending my 14th WrestleMania in-person, including 13 in a row. My goal is to beat The Undertaker’s streak!

When I first conceptualized this column, my intent was to highlight non-WrestleMania events. Now that we are all preparing for the Showcase of the Immortals, for the next few weeks, I will focus on showcasing five immortal undercard Mania matches to watch on the WWE Network. I will not reveal any winners in case you have not seen them. More often than not, the main event is not the best match on the show, and these are some examples of WrestleMania Showstealers.

(5) “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair – WrestleMania 8

For the first decade of WrestleManias, the Macho Man was Mr. WrestleMania. He stole the show nearly every year with his athleticism and intense feuds. This was a perfect example. Ric Flair had finally made his grand entrance to WWF and years of hype. He was promoted as the real World Champion, and it was the perfect example of an outsider coming in and instantly being perceived as a major star. They presented him as the best wrestler in the world, and his aura made even those of us who had never seen him feel like we were watching someone special. Why could they not do that with A.J. Styles?

Flair won the WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble, and most of us figured we would see the long-awaited match against Hulk Hogan. Instead, we were treated to a much more interesting matchup that led to a far greater battle. The storyline behind this match was a simple but excellent way to build a compelling conflict. Like many of Savage’s stories, it was built around Miss Elizabeth, and it was triggered by Flair’s claim that she was his woman before she was with Macho Man. It was marketed as She Was Mine Before She Was Yours, and I still remember the doctored photos of Flair and Liz in various romantic settings. Was this the first ever use of Photoshop? The Nature Boy promised to unveil a nude centerfold of the First Lady of Wrestling at WrestleMania.

It led to a classic match at WrestleMania between Savage and Flair that is extremely under-rated. It took place in the mid-card of a huge stadium show, but the crowd was red-hot and the athleticism and story being told in the ring was epic. Make sure to pay close attention to Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon on commentary because they were nearly as entertaining as the match. This is a perfect example of how an excellent face-heel commentary team can enhance the enjoyment of the show. Unfortunately, that has been lost after the Brain and Jesse Ventura left. This was before work-rate was a valued part of WWF matches, but two of the greatest workers in history gave us a classic that stands the test of time.

(4) “The Model” Rick Martel vs. Jake “the Snake” Roberts – WrestleMania 7

Of course, those of you who have had the misfortune of seeing this know it was an awful site to behold, but nobody can deny this was a show-stealer. I am a big fan of unintentional comedy, and everything about this wacky battle was howlingly hilarious. Let us start with the utter inanity of the storyline. Martel, one of the better workers of the eighties was now a male model who cheated by spraying his opponents with a canister of cologne. For those of you younger fans out there, I am not making this up. By the way, be sure to catch the Arrogance cologne vignettes on YouTube for comedy gold.

The Model had sprayed Arrogance in Jake the Snake’s eyes, blinding him and temporarily turning him into a zombie. By the way, I spray cologne in my eyes by mistake all the time. By WWF logic, I should be blind for life. It all led to the brilliant idea that Martel and Roberts would have a Blindfold Match at WrestleMania.

The execution of the match was as bad as its inception. It “showcased” the two combatants awkwardly stumbling around the ring and relying on the crowd to help them find each other. It was an embarrassingly awful “contest” that made us in the audience wish we were the ones with the blindfolds on.

(3) Vince McMahon vs. Shane McMahon – WrestleMania 17

Why did Shane O’Mac receive such a thunderous ovation at Raw? The question baffles me because I have never liked him as a character, but I cannot argue that he was a tremendous entertainer. This was a perfect example of two contestants who were not traditional wrestlers putting on a spectacular showcase through the strength of their personalities and the story being told in the ring. Some of the television leading up to this battle was pure camp classic.

The match itself was a car-crash in a good way. Both Vince and Shane show a remarkable disregard for their bodies for the sake of giving the crowd a spectacle. For those of you that want to see Shane versus Undertaker, watch this and you may be reassured that with the right bells and whistles, it can be a fascinating contest. This is evidence that the McMahons will do darn near anything to put on a show.

(2) Money in the Bank – WrestleMania 24

When Chris Jericho presented the idea of Money in the Bank in the build to WrestleMania 21, I was thrilled that some of the most athletic wrestlers in the company would be placed in a match that allows them to showcase their abilities. This was an annual tradition at Mania before it branched off to become its own show, and every year, it was a major crowd-pleaser. In the opinion of many fans, including myself, Wrestlemania has not been the same since they took this match away.

The best installment of this electrifying multi-man encounter took place at WrestleMania 24, where we saw some of the greatest athletes in wrestling show off their unique abilities. The highlight of the match was John Morrison, who I feel is the smoothest athlete I have ever seen in a wrestling ring. If he had a great manager or microphone skills, he would be one of the biggest stars of this generation because his look, entrance and skillset are nearly unparalleled.

This match contained some of the most spectacular spots in wrestling history, and it led to a logical winner who went on to become one of the biggest stars of his time. This is an excellent example of using a gimmick match to spark a show to a higher level as well as ignite a wrestler to superstardom.

(1) Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho – WrestleMania 19

I have watched every WrestleMania, and I believe that WrestleMania 19 was the best one of all time. It featured numerous battles that could be the main event of any card, including the epic Hogan versus Vince bloodbath and the final Rock versus Austin match. It was fitting, however, that the Showstopper stole the show. Michaels made his grand return to WrestleMania after being out with an injury for four years.

It was the classic story of the hungry, younger warrior wanting to upstage his hero. Y2J delivered some excellent promos about how he had wanted to be the next Shawn Michaels, but now he wanted to be the first Chris Jericho. The story beautifully built to an unforgettable pure wrestling extravaganza on the Grandest Stage of Them All. HBK showed he had not lost a step, and I still feel that this is the best match of Jericho’s career.

This match should be utilized as a template to younger wrestlers about how to develop your character and tell a story within the context of a match. This was the start of Michaels’ string of WrestleMania classics that would give him the moniker Mr. WrestleMania.

Make sure to watch these showstealing WrestleMania matches on the WWE Network or whatever way possible. If you have already seen them, revisit these classics as we all get ready for WrestleMania…because nothing on this year’s card looks quite as interesting. Next week, I will highlight five more WrestleMania showstealers.

Please send questions, comments and feedback to shawnvalentino@gmail.com  Please like my new fan page on Facebook, Facebook.com/showstoppershawnvalentino.

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