With the Royal Rumble in the rearview mirror, it’s the best time to be a WWE fan — it’s WrestleMania season.
The Showcase of the Immortals, the Grandaddy of Them All, Wrestling’s Super Bowl — these are all names synonymous with the biggest show of the year. In the event’s history, there have been a number of star making moments. Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant, the Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder match, Stone Cold Steve Austin bleeding until he passed out, Ric Flair’s retirement, and Seth Rollins cashing in his Money in the Bank are just a handful of amazing things to happen in WrestleMania history.
But just because it’s a spectacle doesn’t mean it’s without its faults. There have been plenty of times where the wrong wrestler has won; more importantly, there have been times when a match itself wasn’t the right away to go. These matches seemed to drag the entire event down, whether it was the quality of the match itself, or the fact that fans just didn’t have the appetite to see it in the first place.
But what were they? Let’s take a look at eight matches that didn’t belong on a WrestleMania card and eight that should’ve taken its place.
16. Didn’t Belong: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns, WrestleMania 32
There’s nothing worse than when a WrestleMania main event is easily predictable months in advance. Unfortunately for fans, that was the case just one year ago. With the WWE doing everything in their power to get Roman Reigns over as their top good guy — including him taking out Vince McMahon and overcoming every obstacle in his way — it was obvious that Triple H’s Royal Rumble win was set up just so Reigns could be coronated at the biggest show of the year.
But the fans didn’t buy it. Doing anything to boo Reigns, the WWE Universe was firmly behind Triple H in the weeks leading to the event. To make matters worse, it was the final match on a five-hour long show — not only were fans exhausted from the event but they had to sit through a lackluster main event with the outcome already known. As you can tell, Reigns is still struggling to get over, proving even further that this match was a waste of time.
15: Should’ve Been: Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose
Just two years prior, the WWE caved into the audience and changed their main event of WrestleMania, which saw Daniel Bryan rise to immortality on the road to the show. With upper management fixated on Reigns, everyone knew those plans weren’t going to change — but Dean Ambrose wasn’t going down without a fight.
In the weeks leading up to WrestleMania, Dean Ambrose fortified himself as a crowd favorite — and a mini-feud with the COO of the WWE added to his growth. The feud may have only lasted for a couple of weeks, but Ambrose and Triple H put on a great main event at WWE Roadblock, one that had many believing that the WWE could change the course of WrestleMania and add Ambrose to the main event. It’s clear that the one-on-one championship match elevated Ambrose in the eyes of the decision makers, but it came months after WrestleMania. If the creative team pulled the trigger on Ambrose, it would’ve made for a much better match.
14. Didn’t Belong: Christian vs. Chris Jericho, WrestleMania 20
When looking back at the WrestleMania XX card, there were mostly bright spots. The preliminary bout between Christian and Chris Jericho added to that narrative as the two Canadian superstars put on a strong matchup.
The duo formed a comedic yet formidable tag team that highlighted their strengths as both funny characters and strong in-ring competitors. But in the midst of their run, fellow Canadian Trish Stratus came into the picture, who piqued the love interest of Jericho. This led to a split between the two as Christian became jealous of Jericho and Stratus. Of course, a swerve occurred, as Stratus ended up turning on Jericho and siding with Christian, which included a devastating slap and a serious make-out session to add salt to Jericho’s wound.
13. Should’ve Been: Christian vs. Edge
The kibosh can immediately be put on this match, only because Edge was out with an injury for WrestleMania XX — but hear me out. Besides a brief feud during the Invasion angle in 2001, Christian and Edge never had a full-blown feud with one another. It’s a shame, not only because they’re best friends and probably would’ve loved to face one another on a grand stage but they could’ve put on a match that wouldn’t have been forgotten.
But even if Edge was healthy, the match would’ve been unlikely. According to a former creative team member: “As much as it seems Christian turns into the fan favorite choice to win Money in the Bank Match each year it’s not going to happen. Christian is seen as a good hand that can help some of the younger talent and does not have a lot of support from higher ups to be a Main Event guy. Edge vs. Christian as a main event program has been pitched to death and rejected every time.”
12. Didn’t Belong: Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show, WrestleMania 2000
The Royal Rumble match is always the starting point of the championship feud at WrestleMania — but in 2000, it wasn’t predetermined. The Rock was supposed to win the match, no harm, no foul. Unfortunately, however, his feet touched the ground as he dumped the Big Show out. The creative team let this play out on television and, with the help of Shane McMahon, added him to the main event.
But of course, all the McMahons had to get involved. With Stephanie representing Triple H, Shane representing the Big Show, and Vince representing The Rock, Linda, too, needed to back someone. In the end, she decided to choose the recently-retired Mick Foley, making the Championship match a four-way. Unfortunately, the main event of WrestleMania 2000 was more about the McMahons than the participants, which was the icing on the cake of an already subpar event.
11. Should’ve Been: Triple H vs. The Rock
As mentioned in the previous slide, the stage was set for The Rock vs. Triple H for months, and it would’ve been the best option as both men were at the top of their game at that point in time. Instead of forcing multiple wrestlers into the contest, they should’ve stuck with their original plan and kept the main event of WrestleMania 2000 as a one-on-one matchup.
After Triple H retained his championship, his singles feud with The Rock eventually took off. The duo put together a strong, albeit short, program which was highlighted by a bloody beatdown by Triple H, Vince McMahon, Big Bossman, and Bull Buchanan and a championship victory by The Rock at Backlash. It would’ve made the most sense to give The Rock his crowning moment at the biggest show of the year but the ego of the Chairman got in the way.
10. Didn’t Belong: The Rock vs. John Cena, WrestleMania XXIX
Leading into WrestleMania XXVIII, the WWE was able to set up a matchup that lived up to its “Once in a Lifetime” slogan. The Rock was the former face of the franchise who went on to become a world-renowned actor. John Cena took his place as the number one guy and let it be known that the WWE will always be his home. Real life tension and intense, entertaining promos elevated this feud and it was a treat for all fans involved.
But after seeing the money that was made, the WWE went back on their word (what else is new) and set up a rematch for the following WrestleMania. This match wasn’t nearly as positively received because The Rock ended CM Punk’s 434-day championship reign to add the title to the matchup and it was also set up for Cena to get his big rematch win — something no fans cared to see.
9. Should’ve Been: The Rock vs. John Cena vs. CM Punk
As mentioned before, The Rock ending CM Punk’s historic reign as WWE Champion wasn’t something that fans wanted to see. Additionally, Punk had been the WWE’s MVP in the year leading up to WrestleMania XXIX and he very much deserved a spot in the main event match. In his memorable post-WWE interview, he stated he wanted to be added to the match — and that’s exactly what the WWE should’ve done.
Would fans have been happy if the match was elimination style and Punk was out of the match first? Not at all. But it’s hard to deny that he should’ve been in the mix for the match. Now if he was, fans would’ve never seen the terrific match he had against The Undertaker, one that many consider ‘Taker’s last great match at WrestleMania. But it still would’ve been nice to see Punk compete for a championship in New Jersey.
8. Didn’t Belong: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice, WrestleMania VIII
As everyone knows by now, this wasn’t scheduled to be the main event of WrestleMania VIII — but we’ll get to that in a bit. During the Royal Rumble that January, Hogan was eliminated by Sid Justice to the surprise of many. Mad at what just happened, Hogan turned around and pulled Justice over the top rope, which assisted Ric Flair in winning the WWE Championship.
The match itself, of course, was underwhelming, as both men were far from in-ring technicians. One of the biggest shocks of the match was Justice kicking out of Hogan’s leg drop, a finisher that was extremely protected at the time. The reason for the mishap was because Papa Shango — who was going to set up a feud with Hogan — was supposed to come out and break up the pinfall but he was late for his cue. The disappointing match closed WrestleMania, which was surrounded by much confusion with the finish.
7. Should’ve Been: Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair
The dream match that never was — in the WWE, that is. When Ric Flair jumped ship from WCW to the WWE, it was a near-certainty that the top stars from each company would meet at the biggest wrestling show in the world. There was even a faux press conference that declared the championship match set for WrestleMania VIII.
For one reason or another, the match never came to be. Some have speculated that advertised house shows with the main event of Flair vs. Hogan didn’t sell well, while others have stated that it just wasn’t the plan all along. Either way, the WWE missed a massive opportunity by putting Flair against Hogan, something fans across the United States wanted to witness. While the match happened a number of times down the road, it was never what it could have been at WrestleMania.
6. Didn’t Belong: Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka, WrestleMania IX
By the time 1993 rolled around, Shawn Michaels was really starting to hit his groove as a singles star. Not only was he the Intercontinental Champion heading into WrestleMania IX, but he was also working with the Sensational Sherri, a manager who had only been associated with top level talent.
At the event, The Heartbreak Kid stood toe-to-toe with Tatanka, a warrior-like Native American who was sporting an undefeated streak. The duo was embroiled in a feud because Tatanka pinned Michaels twice leading up to the show. Michaels continued his heel like tendencies and lost via count out, just so he could hang onto the championship. While the match was solid and got the fans going, the up-and-coming star could’ve done more at WrestleMania IX.
5. Should’ve Been: Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Savage
This rumored matchup has become one of the juiciest stories in wrestling folklore, one that came to light when the “Macho Man” Randy Savage was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015. At the time of WrestleMania IX, Savage was forced into commentary duties — but it was then when he got his itch to get back into the ring.
The main reason because he saw the young upstart Shawn Michaels and knew he was going to be something special. According to his brother Lanny Poffo, Savage pitched an idea to Vince McMahon that would’ve seen Savage and Michaels involved in a long-term feud. Part of the idea was to have Savage beat Michaels at WrestleMania IX only to return the favor the following year. If this was the case, we would’ve never gotten the iconic Michael/Scott Hall ladder match — but there would have been nothing better than seeing Savage and Michaels share the ring on the biggest stage in wrestling.
4. Didn’t Belong: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna, WrestleMania X
With the WWE product shifting away from wrestlers full of muscle, Bret Hart was chosen as the man to lead the charge into the next generation. That decision was even more apparent when the fans turned their back on Lex Luger — who was acting in the Hulk Hogan role — and supported Hart.
WrestleMania X was his crowning moment, as Hart had all of his talents on display. He began the show putting on a tremendous match which his brother Owen, a contest that could be argued to be the best on the card. Pulling double duty, Hart went on to face Yokozuna and captured the WWE Championship. His victory celebration that showed wrestlers placing Hart on their shoulders as the crowd went wild is still celebrated to this day.
3. Should’ve Been: Bret Hart vs. Hulk Hogan
As stated above, WrestleMania X couldn’t have been much better for Bret Hart. He put on a fantastic wrestling clinic with his brother and walked away as the company’s top star by the end of the show. But if the WWE wanted to put an emphasis on Hart’s standing with the company, they could’ve had him defeat Hulk Hogan in a passing of the torch moment.
On one hand, Hogan went on a hiatus soon after defeating Yokozuna for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania IX. In addition, he also refused to wrestle Bret Hart at SummerSlam later that year. Even though Hogan had a ton of creative control, money always talks, if Vince McMahon was able to get Hart and Hogan against one another at WrestleMania X, it would probably be regarded as one of the best matches in ‘Mania history. Fortunately for The Hitman, things worked out just fine.
2. Didn’t Belong: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania 19
For the final selection, we’re simply nitpicking. The feud between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin was a focal point during the esteemed Attitude Era and is considered among the best programs of all time. While no one knew outside of The Rock, WrestleMania XIX was going to be Austin’s last — Austin wanted to go out against a man he accomplished so much with.
The lead-up to the match was special as The Rock was bitter about losing to Austin at WrestleMania XV and WrestleMania X-Seven. The match itself was also a joy to watch, as the fans at Safeco Field saw two living, breathing legends go up against one another for the final time. It’s a contest that both The Rock and Austin hang their hats on to this day.
1. Should’ve Been: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan
One year prior at WrestleMania X-8, the WWE put on one of the biggest dream matches in history as they were able to pit The Rock against Hulk Hogan. While fans were obviously excited for the match, some found it odd that Stone Cold Steve Austin — the company’s top star during the Monday Night War — wasn’t chosen for the match. According to Austin himself, he refused to do the match because he didn’t think it would’ve been all that good.
Either way, it would’ve been a sight to see. Fast forward one year later and Austin and Hogan shared a place on the card, but once again, failed to share the ring together. Since Austin was retiring, it made sense to take on The Rock; but if he did wrestle Hogan at WrestleMania XIX, it would’ve been more remembered than Hogan’s encounter with The Rock.