WrestleMania has been the home of some legendary main event matches and at the same time has had its share of stinkers over the years. Bad match ups happen throughout professional sports and unfortunately on their biggest stages as well. The Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals, and NBA Finals have all had their share of unpopular and anticlimatic match ups. UFC and pro boxing are also not immune to big fights not delivering. However, pro sports and sports entertainment are entirely different animals. WWE has complete control over which matches will headline WrestleMania.
With that said, WWE fans can become rabid with anger when WWE doesn’t deliver a quality WrestleMania main event. They will spew their venom during the show and will take their displeasure to social media. On the flip side, fans have been treated to some the greatest main events in pro wrestling history at WrestleMania. Some matches have become iconic symbols of a pro wrestling era or even pro wrestling itself. Some of these great main events featured great wrestling while others told a great story. And a few had the perfect blend of both. Let’s take a look at the 10 best and 10 worst WrestleMania main events of all time.
20 20. Worst: Chris Jericho vs Triple H
WWE Champion Chris Jericho vs Triple H at WrestleMania X8 was a well wrestled, quality championship match that could have been the main event on any other show that year. Unfortunately, Jericho vs HHH had no business closing the show with The Rock vs Hulk Hogan on the same card. The WWE Championship match has taken a back seat at other WrestleManias so why not this one? Anyone in WWE that thought this WWE Championship match had any chance of following Rock vs Hogan in that building (SkyDome where Hogan had his epic encounter with The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI) was completely out of their mind. There are theories about why this happened and perhaps it was ego driven. Whatever the reason was, the decision was a huge blunder and as a result WWE missed a unique opportunity to blow the roof off the SkyDome to end a WrestleMania for the second time.
19 19. Best: Kurt Angle vs Brock Lesnar
WWE Champion Kurt Angle vs Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XIX was a main event involving two legitimate world class amateur wrestlers turned pro. Kurt Angle was a 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the freestyle wrestling heavyweight class. Brock Lesnar was the 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Champion in collegiate wrestling. This was a shooter’s dream match and for that reason the match marketed itself. Angle vs Lesnar started off with a simple formula that saw Lesnar become the number one contender to Angle’s title by winning the 2003 Royal Rumble match. The match build up could have done without the nonsensical and infamous “Eric Angle angle”. And despite Lesnar’s botched shooting star press during the match, Angle vs Lesnar still stands the test of time as one of the great WrestleMania main events of an overall great WrestleMania card that also included The Rock vs Steve Austin III and Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho.
18 18. Worst: Sgt. Slaughter vs Hulk Hogan
WWE Champion Sgt. Slaughter vs Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VII was one of the worst main events in WrestleMania history at arguably one of the worst WrestleManias in history. This was a strong middle of the card grudge match at best but certainly not a great enough story or match to anchor a WrestleMania. The premise for Slaughter vs Hogan was American traitor vs American hero. WrestleMania VII was originally set to take place at the Los Angeles Coliseum but was moved to the Los Angeles Sports Arena reportedly due to poor ticket sales. The main event has to take some of the blame. The American hero vs the foreign heel or traitor story had been done to death throughout the 1980s and this feud was very cookie cutter. Fans wanted something different and their response (in ticket sales) to this main event spoke volumes.
17 17. Best: John Cena vs Shawn Michaels
WWE Champion John Cena vs Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 23 was one of the all time great WrestleMania main events that almost wasn’t. The Battle of the Billionaires was the lead angle going into WrestleMania and could have easily been placed in the main event slot over Cena vs Michaels. The angle was a feud between WWE Owner Vince McMahon and business tycoon Donald Trump. McMahon and Trump both put their hair on the line in a match between Umaga representing McMahon and Bobby Lashley representing Trump. Stone Cold Steve Austin was assigned as the special referee for the Battle of the Billionaires. It is surprising that it wasn’t the main event because WrestleMania had become known to sometimes favor spectacle over wrestling. Thankfully Cena vs Michaels was the main event as it more than deserved to be. The match was a well-wrestled generational clash, which is a story that never gets old in the world of professional wrestling.
16 16. Worst: Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice
Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice at WrestleMania VIII wasn’t a complete failure as a main event but was pretty close to it. This match was really put behind the eight-ball due to some compelling and well wrestled matches earlier in the event. Hogan vs Justice could not hold a candle to Ric Flair vs Randy Savage or Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart. Both those match ups had superior wrestling and story telling while Hogan vs Justice lacked in both categories. The combination of fans becoming tired of the Hulkamania formula and Justice using his tired stretcher gimmick from WCW was enough to doom this main event before it hit the ring. Hogan and Justice didn’t appear to have much chemistry in the ring and as a result couldn’t come close to matching Flair vs Savage or Piper vs Hart. Hogan vs Justice is also known for a classic botched finish. When Papa Shango miss timed his run in, it caused Justice to have to kick out of Hogan’s leg drop. The only thing that saved this match from being a total disaster was the return of The Ultimate Warrior.
15 15. Best: Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit
World Heavyweight Champion Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit at WrestleMania XX has been heralded by some as the greatest triple threat match in pro wrestling history. Ironically, for years WWE shied away from the multi-man match at WrestleMania. WrestleMania XV was the first to prominently feature them with both a triple threat match for the Hardcore Championship and a four corners elimination match for the Intercontinental Championship. One year later, WrestleMania 2000 featured the first multi-man main event, which was a fatal four way for the WWE Championship. HHH vs HBK vs Benoit was still able stand out and keep fans on the edge of their seats despite being the fourth multi-man match of the WrestleMania XX card. The match was a technical wrestling masterpiece and extremely compelling. WWE’s decision to book these three great wrestlers in a triple threat to close WrestleMania XX was nothing short of brilliant.
14 14. Worst: Sycho Sid vs The Undertaker
WWE Champion Sycho Sid vs The Undertaker at WrestleMania 13 was a lackluster main event that looked even worse due to an iconic match that took place earlier in the event. Sid vs Taker was completely over shadowed by Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin in a submission match with Ken Shamrock as special referee. Hart vs Austin featured a dramatic double turn that many point to as the beginning of the Attitude Era. Sid unfortunately found himself in yet another stale WrestleMania main event due in large part to not being able to follow up the undercard. For whatever reason, Sid also just never looked right in a WWE ring and was never able to duplicate his WCW success in WWE. In Sid’s defense, it takes two to tango so The Undertaker has to shoulder some of the blame. Taker was a star but at this point in his career was unable to work the WrestleMania magic he would later become famous for.
13 13. Best: Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels
WWE Champion Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels in a 60 minute ironman match at WrestleMania XII was a struggle for supremacy of WWE’s “New Generation” post Hulkamania era. It was a match between WWE’s two greatest ring technicians at that time and symbolic of WWE’s willingness to move away from the “super heavyweights” that dominated WrestleMania main events for the previous decade. Despite both being known as great wrestlers, their styles were very different. Hart was a more methodical mat technician while Michaels was an up-tempo, aerial specialist. However, their different styles were a perfect compliment to one another. It is hard to believe that these two great WWE Superstars had the amount of great matches against one another now knowing that they hated each other behind the scenes during the time their matches took place. The 60 minute iron man match that went into overtime may have been the greatest match in the storied rivalry of Hart vs Michaels and without a doubt one of the all time great WrestleMania main events.
12 12. Worst: Triple H vs Randy Orton
WWE Champion Triple H vs Randy Orton at WrestleMania XXV should have been one of the greatest WrestleMania main events of all time and not one of the worst but it is. For all the criticism he receives, Triple H is still a great wrestler and with the right opponent is more than deserving of headlining WrestleMania. Randy Orton was the perfect opponent. However, there were two major problems with HHH vs Orton. How in the world could they follow The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels? They would have had to literally tear the house down and they could have if not for the second major problem with their match. Per match stipulation, Triple H could lose the title if he was disqualified or counted out. How could HHH get revenge on the heel Orton if he had to be careful not to get disqualified or counted out? After Orton delivered an RKO to HHH’s wife, Stephanie McMahon, this match should have been a no holds barred street fight. If that was the match stipulation then maybe we are talking about this match in a completely different light today.
11 11. Best: The Rock vs John Cena
The Rock vs John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII was generational clash of two of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. The match was marketed brilliantly by WWE with the tagline “Once in a Lifetime.” Fan anticipation for the big match was fuelled by a verbal war between the combatants on WWE programming as well as social media.At times the verbal jousting appeared to cross the line from WWE storyline over into true professional jealousy between the two. Cena was looking to defeat yet another Attitude Era star at WrestleMania while The Rock was back and not willing to be just another one of Cena’s WrestleMania victims. Some WrestleMania main events are easy to predict but this wasn’t one of them. Conventional wisdom dictated that Cena would emerge victorious in what was billed to be a one off match. However, would The Rock really go down in defeat in his adopted backyard of Miami, Florida.? Rock vs Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII delivered because it had star power, bad blood, and unpredictability.
10 10. Worst: Bret Hart vs Yokozuna
WWE Champion Bret Hart vs Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX was one of the worst main events in WrestleMania history but it didn’t have to be. Yokozuna became the number one contender by winning the 1993 Royal Rumble match, which was the first to automatically qualify the winner for a title shot at WrestleMania. Hart vs Yokozuna lacked star power but showed WWE’s willingness to give fans something new after years of Hulk Hogan dominated WrestleManias. Hart had only been WWE Champion for about six months while Yokozuna had only been with WWE for about six months. However, WWE called a Hulkamania audible rather than allow the new champion and the company’s new monster heel to blaze a new WrestleMania trail. Hulk Hogan’s inclusion in the main event of WrestleMania IX was ill conceived and embarrassing. Hogan’s title win capped off an overall dreadful WrestleMania IX.
9 9. Best: Randy Savage vs Hulk Hogan
WWE Champion Macho Man Randy Savage vs Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania V was the culmination of a classic storyline that began about a year and half earlier. Hulk Hogan, at the request of Randy Savage’s valet Miss Elizabeth, came to the aide of the Macho Man against a beat down by The Honky Tonk Man and the Hart Foundation on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event in the fall of 1987. Their alliance would soon become known as the Mega Powers. Savage would capture the WWE Championship by winning a tournament for the belt at WrestleMania IV. The Mega Powers then feuded with the Mega Bucks (Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant) and the Twin Towers( Akeem and The Big Bossman) before professional and personal jealousy led to the team’s “explosion”. Their main event at WrestleMania V was dubbed “The Mega Powers Explode.” Hogan wrestled his most technically sound WrestleMania opponent in Savage and the story being told was simple but great. The result was one of the great WrestleMania main events of all time.
8 8. Worst: WWE Championship Fatal Four Way
WWE Champion Triple H vs The Rock vs Mick Foley vs The Big Show at WrestleMania 2000 is a strong contender for worst WrestleMania main event of all time. In theory, this fatal four way should have been a can’t miss main event. WWE probably thought so too but they whiffed miserably. The failure of WrestleMania 2000’s main event can be chalked up to a couple of old sayings which are “less is more” and “too many cooks spoil the broth.” The McMahon Family also took their inclusion in storylines to a new level but unfortunately it did more to hurt the match than help it. By this time, the McMahon’s were over exposed on WWE programming and their inclusion seemed to be a stretch and forced just so they could all be in the main event together. The match itself was a snooze-fest but in defense of the participants, quality fatal four ways are difficult to pull off for even the best wrestlers. Also Triple H retaining was a worst-case scenario to end WrestleMania 2000. A title change was the only thing that could have saved it.
7 7. Best: The Rock vs Steve Austin
WWE Champion The Rock vs Stone Cold Steve Austin in a no disqualification match headlined arguably the greatest WrestleMania of all time, WrestleMania X-Seven. The Rock vs Steve Austin was to The Attitude Era what Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage and Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels had been to previous WWE eras.The Rock and Steve Austin locked horns in a total of three WrestleManias ( XV, X-Seven, and XIX) with this one being by far their best and most entertaining of their three encounters. It was a back and forth contest with many entertaining spots that was ultimately decided by an epic heel turn by Austin. The Texas Rattle Snake walked out of WrestleMania X-Seven as WWE Champion due to forming an unthinkable alliance with his arch nemesis, Vince McMahon. Rock vs Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven was a great match capped off by one of the most shocking WrestleMania moments in history.
6 6. Worst: The Miz vs John Cena
WWE Champion The Miz vs John Cena at WrestleMania XXVII is another strong contender for worst WrestleMania main event of all time and for several reasons. The Miz has come a long way both in the ring and on the mic but his WWE Championship run in 2010 was terrible. The only thing positive about the reign was fans became anxious in anticipation for it to end. It should have ended at WrestleMania XXVII at the hands of John Cena. Instead, WWE robbed fans of a title change to set up a dream match at WrestleMania XXVIII between The Rock and John Cena. The dream match could have been set up the next night on Raw. The Undertaker and Triple H also did this match no favors by having a main event worthy no hold barred match earlier in the card. The Undertaker vs Triple H could have easily headlined this WrestleMania because it had a compelling story and ended up being a great match. However, Miz vs Cena could have been salvaged if Cena simply won the match and the title.
5 5. Best: Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior
WWE Champion Hulk Hogan vs Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI was a great example of less is more style booking. “The Ultimate Challenge” was simple booking that brought together the two greatest WWE Superstars and champions of that time to find out who was the best. WWE did a great job marketing this match as “The Ultimate Challenge” while repeatedly using the phrase, “Champion vs Champion; title vs title.” The 1990 Royal Rumble match was used to set the wheels in motion for a WrestleMania showdown between Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Their confrontation in the Rumble led to the match being signed. There was no heel turn or convoluted story to sell this great match. WWE went back to the basics of letting the match sell itself for the most part. Hogan vs Warrior made WrestleMania VI remembered as one of the great WrestleManias despite the rest of the card being mediocre at best. Ironically Hogan vs Warrior II at WCW Halloween Havoc 1998 is regarded as one of the worst main events in pro wrestling history. The rematch lacked the simplicity and magic of the first meeting that blew the roof off Toronto’s SkyDome.
4 4. Worst: Triple H vs Roman Reigns
WWE Champion Triple H vs Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32 was boring, anticlimactic, and showed once again that Roman Reigns is not ready to be the man. Reigns has been force fed to fans as the next face of WWE since The Shield broke up in 2014. The plan for this WrestleMania main event was for the villainous Triple H to help get Reigns over as the super baby face champion. It didn’t work for a few reasons. Reigns had been victimized by poor booking for far too long for fans to buy into this latest attempt to get him over. The argument could also be made that Triple H just wasn’t the right villain to get the job done. However, in The Game’s defense, fans were so dead set against Reigns that maybe there was no heel opponent that could have got the job done at WrestleMania 32. The result was an extremely unpopular main event that was hijacked by angry fans chanting for other wrestlers throughout the match and booing Reigns out of the building to end WrestleMania 32.
3 3. Best: Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant
WWE Champion Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III will never be accused of being a technical wrestling masterpiece but it was a masterpiece none the less. The story that was told both inside the ring and out was a simple but compelling one that captured the imagination of fans. Hulk Hogan was the dominant WWE Champion and Andre the Giant was the greatest attraction in pro wrestling. WWE brilliantly told the story of the disgruntled giant that betrayed his best buddy to get a shot at the gold. The match itself became an iconic symbol of not only 1980s WWE, but 80s pro wrestling as a whole. Hogan’s bodyslam of Andre is often referred to as the slam heard around the world. The match headlined one of the most successful WrestleManias of all time and was the perfect match to close out WrestleMania III. Few main events have matched its big time feel. The match truly was,as Gorilla Monsoon famously used to say, “The irresistible force meets the immovable object.”
2 2. Worst: Bam Bam Bigelow vs Lawrence Taylor
Bam Bam Bigelow vs Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI might just be the worst main event in WrestleMania history. In defense of the match, it would have been a respectable middle of the card special attraction but had no business being in the main event slot over the WWE Championship match between Diesel aka Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels. This was definitely a case in which WWE chose spectacle over wrestling for its WrestleMania main event. Bigelow vs Taylor was a spectacle but main event worthy it was not. Former NFL linebacker Lawrence Taylor was actually not bad in the ring and Bam Bam Bigelow was a one of the best big men in the business. With that said, they still didn’t put on a compelling main event quality match.
1 1. Best: The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels
The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXVI was one of the great WrestleMania main events due to being one of the most complete. This match had just about everything a fan could ask for out of a WrestleMania main event with the exception of a title being on the line. This classic main event didn’t need it. It had two of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time in a well-told story with very high stakes. The Undertaker was defending his now iconic WrestleMania winning streak while Shawn Michaels had put his career on the line for the right to end that streak. The match itself was solid but not as good as their classic from a year ago at WrestleMania XXV. However, Taker winning and ending Michaels career might just be the most dramatic moment in WrestleMania history.
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