Call it The Grandest Stage of Them All, The Showcase of the Immortals, or quite simply the Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment; WrestleMania has been known throughout the entire world as the biggest professional wrestling show of the year since 1985. Always setting the standard for what it means to be a wrestling “supercard,” WrestleMania is regularly loaded from top to bottom with highly anticipated matches, the most important and hotly anticipated of all typically presented as the main event…at least in theory. When you look at the history of WrestleMania, it seems like WWE has only given fans exactly what they wanted for the main event at best about half of the time.
While the alternative wasn’t always clear, there have been more than a few WrestleManias where the final match was a far cry from the best contest on the card. In some cases, it might have even been the worst. Being entirely realistic, sometimes the company had a decent enough reason for not giving the fans what they wanted. More times than not, though, it was a case of Vince McMahon’s notorious stubbornness, made all the more apparent by how easy it would have been to put on a much better show. Keep reading to learn 15 times WWE picked the wrong main event to WrestleMania.
15 WrestleMania II
The main event should have been… Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper
Despite being the hottest feud in WWE of the entire 1980s, Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper wouldn’t face one another on Pay-Per-View in a one on one match until they both found their way to WCW in late 1996. The two were on opposite sides of the tag team main event of the first WrestleMania, and easily could have headlined the next, but were wasted in separate feuds with significant lesser talents. Piper’s boxing match with Mr. T would have been fine for a Saturday Night’s Main Event, but didn’t have enough of a connection to wrestling to headline part of Mania. Hogan and Bundy was another solid main event for a smaller show, but the Hulkster needed a more serious challenge at biggest program of the year. Blowing off the Piper feud once and for all would have killed all these birds with one stone, and aside from Vince wanting to give a celebrity something to do, it’s hard to see how he missed the obvious money with this one.
14 WrestleMania VII
The main event should have been… Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior
The second Mania notwithstanding, we gotta give WWE credit for their batting average in the early years. Unfortunately, the misstep of WrestleMania VII was staggering enough to take away a lot of that good will, the main event of Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter serving a particularly offensive reminder of Vince’s worst tendencies. Relying far too heavily on patriotism and xenophobia, Slaughter became an Iraqi sympathizer so Hulk Hogan could take him down and avenge America. Rather than come out in droves, fans hated the idea so much WWE had to move from a huge arena to a relatively small one, unable to sell nearly enough tickets. An easily solution would’ve been keeping the belt on Warrior and treating his feud with Savage as a bigger deal. The match rightly earned its status as a classic, and their personalities were more than strong enough to cover the silliness of Hogan trying to end the Gulf War, which could have been somewhere in the midcard to pop the crowd, if it had to happen at all.
13 WrestleMania VIII
The main event should have been… Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair OR Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair
The very second Ric Flair jumped from WCW to WWE while reigning as the REAL World’s Champion, it seemed like a no-brainer that he would headline WrestleMania VIII against Hulk Hogan in a unification match for both belts. Litigation from WCW lawyers took the belt away from Flair before that could fully happen, but a match between him and Hogan still looked like the biggest main event in wrestling history. In a strange twist, however, when they tried out the match on house shows, it didn’t sell enough to main event the biggest show of the year, so Vince decided to split the two into different feuds with Sid and Randy Savage, respectively. Plenty of insiders agree Hogan-Flair should’ve been the main event anyway, and they’d eventually get dozens of WCW Pay-Per-Views that proved it was a viable option. Even if WWE stuck with the decision to split them, we think Flair-Savage should’ve gone on last, preventing Hogan from stealing the spotlight from Savage yet again (another thing WCW fans would see ad nauseum).
12 WrestleMania IX
The main event should have been… Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart
Generally considered the worst WrestleMania in history, there were oh so many things wrong with number IX that simply fixing the main event wouldn’t help. That said, it’s worth noting that WWE was extremely close to getting it right, with Yokozuna conquering Bret Hart and leaving Caesar’s Palace as a monster the original plan going into the show. Unfortunately, Hulk Hogan’s ego reared its ugly head, and he demanded a second, unannounced main event, challenging Yoko for the title. All it took was the trademark leg drop, and Hogan ruined the one part of the show that if nothing else made perfect sense and could have lead to something interesting. Instead, Hogan needed yet another moment in the spotlight, stalling things and forcing fans to wait until the King of the Ring for the New Generation to truly begin.
11 WrestleMania XI
The main event should have been… Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
The eleventh WrestleMania was yet another middling offering, although unlike the ninth, one that had several options available to easily fix things and create a much better show. The most glaring problem was that after a 1994 driven entirely by the feud between Bret and Owen Hart, the brothers were given especially relatively small roles on the show, which was instead headlined by Bam Bam Bigelow and football player Lawrence Taylor. Also on the program was a WWE Championship match between Shawn Michaels and Diesel, which traditionalists believed should have gone above the celebrity match out of respect to the title. We believe that the real main event happened a week earlier, though, when Bret and Owen had their final battle on Raw. Either way, the prevailing feeling is that wrestlers should be in the main event except for special occasions, and LT-Bigelow wasn’t special enough to beat long lasting popular feuds.
10 WrestleMania 13
The main event should have been… Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
WrestleMania 13 was one of the weaker Showcases of Immortals when viewed as a whole, and yet it also contained one of the greatest matches in wrestling history smack dab in the middle of the otherwise pedestrian affair. Kick starting his rise to becoming the most popular superstar in the business, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had been calling out Bret Hart for months, and finally got him to agree to a submission match at the Showcase of Immortals. There’s nothing we can add to how classic the match is, except to note that the only improvement would have been making it the main event. Hart was the WWE Champion only one month earlier, and having him keep the belt until this match would have added extra significance to everything that happened at the end. It also would save fans the slog that was Sid-Undertaker, and could have allowed the Dead Man to instead start his reign of darkness against a distracted Bret Hart at the next In Your House.
9 WrestleMania 2000
The main event should have been… Triple H vs. The Rock
The year 2000 marked a number of firsts for the WrestleMania main event, which featured The Rock, Mick Foley, and The Big Show challenging for Triple H’s WWE Championship. It was the first time the World title was defended in a multi-person match at the show, and it was the first time a heel left the building with the championship belt. Quite frankly, neither of these things should have happened, with the much better option having been to take Mick Foley and The Big Show out of the match in favor of a singles match between The Rock and Triple H. If absolutely necessary, Mick could also be involved to give him a hero’s goodbye, but The Big Show’s overbearing presence hurt things more than he helped. The Rock finally got his moment the next month at Backlash and blew the roof off the joint, and making it a WrestleMania moment would have been the icing on the cake.
8 WrestleMania X8
The main event should have been… Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock
The 18th WrestleMania marked another year when WWE came extremely close to getting it right, and this time it was ironically the ego of another main who halted Hulk Hogan’s last chance at headlining tie Grandest Stage of Them All. Triple H wanted his shot at the WWE Championship to go last, and though fans often agree the World title match deserves to finish the show, Rock-Hogan was a special case where it clearly overshadowed anything else the company could possibly offer. In fairness to WWE, no one could have quite anticipated how strongly the Toronto crowd reacted to Hulk Hogan returning to the WWE flagship event, but the significance of him passing the torch to The Rock was more than enough to outweigh the World Championship or any other belt.
7 WrestleMania 22
The main event should have been… Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle
The 22nd WrestleMania broke a tradition that had existed for nearly 13 years at that point. since 1993, the winner of the Royal Rumble earned a main event WWE Championship shot at the Showcase of Immortals, but this time, Rey Mysterio’s chance at taking the gold from Kurt Angle was booked beneath Triple H trying his hand against John Cena. It also became the second time a third entrant was slotted into the Rumble winner’s title match, with Randy Orton thrown into the fray due to his ongoing feud with Mysterio. Not only did the Cena-HHH feel tossed on in comparison, but there was also the issue that the Illinois crowd absolutely despised Cena, providing one of the earliest examples of the alleged top babyface in WWE meeting an extremely hostile crowd. Mysterio was at least accepted by the audience, and removing Orton from the affair would save fans the tasteless comments he made about Eddie Guerrero.
6 WrestleMania XXIV
The main event should have been… John Cena vs. Randy Orton
Though it would eventually become one of the most overdone matches in WWE history, believe it or not, there was actually a point in time where John Cena vs. Randy Orton would have been a better idea than what we actually got. Unsurprisingly, WWE pigeonholed Triple H into the affair when he didn’t have anything else to do on the card, and on top of that it wasn’t even the main event, eclipsed by Edge-Undertaker. Credit where it’s due, Edge-Undertaker was a deserving headliner, but knowing that Cena and Orton would become the two biggest stars of the company for the next decade, it would have made more sense to give them the spotlight. The Undertaker had more gas left in the tank than anyone could have anticipated, while Cena’s win solidified him as the top star, which is usually the sort of thing that happens at the end of the show.
5 WrestleMania XXV
The main event should have been… The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Time has proven the concept of a “sure thing” doesn’t really exist in wrestling, and yet The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels is the closest WWE has ever gotten to finding a perfect match, feud, and main event. In many ways, it had roots dating back as far as 1997, but the part everyone remembers started in 2009 in their first WrestleMania encounter. Though somewhat of a last minute affair booked less than a month in advance, Michaels and Undertaker stole the show so summarily that the crowd had nothing left for either of the World Championship matches that followed. The main event between Randy Orton and Triple H especially suffered, with even HHH later giving a rare admission of guilt and acknowledging Michaels-Undertaker should have closed the show. That John Cena won the World Championship in between the two matches certainly didn’t help, either. In fact, that match also would have made a better headliner than what fans got.
4 WrestleMania XXVII
The main event should have been… Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio OR The Undertaker vs. Triple H
The incredible financial success of the show notwithstanding, the 27th WrestleMania, hosted by The Rock, was nonetheless yet another huge misfire almost from top to bottom. Outside from a decent opening match between Edge and Alberto Del Rio that easily could have headlined, the only other standout match was between The Undertaker and Triple H. Though not for a championship, it was definitely the most highly promoted match on the card, and their respective legacies alone sold the match as more important than anything involving The Miz. On the other hand, Edge-Del Rio deserved serious contention for the spot as well, especially with the later knowledge that would be Edge’s last match before retiring the next week. Realistically speaking, it made sense that John Cena had to be in the actual main event to set up his later program with The Rock, but Miz wasn’t a good enough worker at the time to justify their contest coming after the two aforementioned classics.
3 WrestleMania 29
The main event should have been… John Cena vs. The Rock vs. CM Punk
In all fairness to WWE, it made totally sense for them to turn the Once in a Lifetime affair between The Rock and John Cena into something that actually happened Twice in a Lifetime. The two made millions together the year prior, and if The Rock was going to be involved in another WrestleMania, he had to be in the main event again. Cena remained the biggest star in his wake and thus made sense as his opponent again, but we still think there’s a significant argument to adding Punk to the proceedings. Logical or not, redoing something advertised as “Once in a Lifetime” defeats the purpose. Also, Punk was on a roll the previous year as WWE Champion, and yet he felt left out of main events, leading to his acrimonious exit the next year. Making it a triple threat would have given the fans something new, and possibly assuaged Punk into sticking with WWE a little bit longer.
2 WrestleMania 31
The main event should have been… Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
Given what became of Daniel Bryan’s career shortly after WrestleMania 31, we’ll go ahead and admit WWE may have been vindicated in deciding Daniel Bryan shouldn’t main event the Grandest Stage of Them All two years in a row. However, ignoring hindsight for a little bit, the idea of the most popular superstar in the company making a triumphant return from injury and challenging the destructive monster WWE Champion is a story that practically writes itself. And yet, for whatever reason, Vince McMahon was so hell bent on making Roman Reigns his top star that The Big Dog took the spot that everyone knew should have been Bryan’s all along. Credit where it’s due, having Seth Rollins crash the match and steal the WWE Championship at the last second was a brilliant move, but it would have been even better had he hurt someone the fans actually liked in Bryan, giving everyone what they want and letting Daniel calmly retire a few months later knowing he went out at the top of the game.
1 WrestleMania 32
The main event should have been… Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose
The most recent Showcase of Immortals is also the latest example of WWE blowing the big one, with WrestleMania 32 sitting firmly aside the 9th and 11th versions as one of the worst alleged supercards in sports entertainment history. Absolutely nothing on the show felt worthy of a main event outside of the WWE Women’s Championship match, which historically stood no chance of headlining, even with all the great work competitors Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks have since done at enhancing the perception of their division. The best we can offer as an alternative would have been letting Dean Ambrose take Roman Reign’s place against Triple H in the WWE Championship match. Ambrose was clearly the more popular superstar of the two, and the one thing that was clear about WrestleMania 32 is that the live crowd despised Roman Reigns. Giving them almost anything else might have worked, and Hunter’s ego in mind, this was probably their best bet.