WrestleMania is the most important day of the year to WWE. It’s when they do their biggest business, when they wrap up their biggest storylines and when everybody has to be on top of their game. Creative, marketing, video production, talent, crew, sales, everybody has to step it up. It’s the biggest money maker of the year. Many will say the event sells itself, but the fans shell out a ton of money come WrestleMania time and expect a show as close to perfect as possible. Sure, with the network these days, the average fan could just pay their $10 for April and will watch the event. Still, there are close to 80,000 (and this year over 100,000) paying premium prices for tickets and thousands of fans travel from all over the world to witness WrestleMania live. Looking at WWE’s travel packages, that’s a lot for a wrestling trip.
Vince McMahon is known to get more demanding around this time of the year and everybody backstage is walking on egg shells. They don’t want to do anything to upset the boss and they want to make sure any idea they pitch will bring a smile to the old man’s face. McMahon isn’t perfect either though. We all know he’s made many creative mistakes, whether they were his idea or putting his trust in the wrong people.
More WrestleManias have disappointed in recent years. Perhaps it’s the fault of WWE creative or it could possibly be that we’ve come to have very high expectations for the event. Fans should, because if WWE isn’t going to give you a great show at WrestleMania, when will they? Still there’s one thing about every WrestleMania that we’d like to go back and change. These changes could have either perfected the event or at least made them bearable. It’s time to be the ultimate fantasy armchair booker and point to every big booking mistake of the first 31 WrestleManias.
WrestleMania I – Ricky Steamboat getting only 4 Minutes
The inaugural WrestleMania may have been cutting edge for its time, but it’s extremely boring and tedious trying to watch it now. It can be excused, as WWE was just trying to figure out what exactly WrestleMania would be. While we would never want a celebrity main eventing a WrestleMania again, barring The Rock, Mr. T being in the main event is what helped put WrestleMania on the map.
One thing missing from this show was a true wrestling clinic. They may have been able to get one from Ricky Steamboat, but The Dragon only got four minutes, for a match with Matt Borne, the future Doink. Other matches could have easily been cut to give Steamboat a bigger opponent and more time to work with.
WrestleMania II – Three Venues
If WrestleMania I is hard to watch over again, WrestleMania II is almost impossible. The event was spread across three venues and the lighting seemed dim in all venues. This was another case of WWE trying to find the winning formula for a WrestleMania. Rather than trying to sell out three venues, the WWE should have just gone to a big stadium. The cards were headlined by: Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (Los Angeles), 20-Man Battle Royal (Chicago) and a boxing match between Mr. T and Roddy Piper (New York). Luckily, WWE finally got it all right the next year.
WrestleMania III – Mixed Tag Match
WrestleMania III was when the event truly found the meaning of what WrestleMania was supposed to be. You had a masterpiece in Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage, then you had a main event suitable for WrestleMania; Hogan vs. Andre The Giant. Still, you can’t really watch this event from beginning to end and enjoy the whole thing. One match you probably want to skip over is the mixed tag match between Hillbilly Jim and his team of little guys against King Kong Bundy and his team of little guys. A one-on-one match would have sufficed here.
WrestleMania IV – The Tournament
I have no problem with Randy Savage getting the win in the tournament. We all know how much he deserved it and looking back at the 80s, I’ll bet many of us are enjoying Macho Man more than Hogan looking back. WrestleMania IV dragged on for four hours though and the 16-man tournament was a little too much to squeeze into one show. There was a vacant title at stake, so booking a tournament wasn’t the big mistake. Instead, it could have been cut down to eight guys on the show. Had the tournament been cut in half and the show was an hour shorter, it would have been far more enjoyable.
WrestleMania V – No Demolition vs. Hart Foundation
WrestleMania V returned to Trump Plaza, where they had been the year before, but brought a much better show. The Mega Powers colliding remains one of the best main events in WrestleMania history and Warrior losing his first match to Rick Rude was also memorable. One thing missing was a great tag team bout. The WWE could have had one, had they pitted Demolition against The Hart Foundation, rather than The Powers of Pain. Hart Foundation took on Rhythm and Blues instead. Given the eventual classic 2 out of 3 Falls match Demolition and the Foundation would have, this could have rounded out WrestleMania V quite nicely.
WrestleMania VI – Too Many Matches
WrestleMania VI definitely had a worthy main event. It also marked the first time that two babyfaces faced off in a major main event. There wasn’t really one match that ruined the event, but there were far too many, as this card featured 15 matches. As a result many were rushed, with The Hart Foundation and The Bolsheviks getting a huge shaft, only going 19 seconds. You could understand Warrior winning the main event, as WWE had to find someone other than Hogan to carry the company. This correction is merely about trimming the fat.
WrestleMania VII – No Hogan/Warrior Rematch
Although the WWE’s reasons for WrestleMania VII being moved to a smaller venue was for security reasons, a popular theory is that the Hogan/Slaughter feud wasn’t selling tickets. The WWE could have stirred more interest had they gone with the original plan of Hogan vs. Warrior II. Granted, we may have never gotten the heartwarming Randy Savage/Miss Elizabeth reunion, but a Hogan/Warrior feud would have been a lot better than the U.S. vs. Iraq one we got.
WrestleMania VIII – No Hogan vs. Flair
This one remains a head scratcher. The WWE had the two biggest names in the wrestling business both in their company and had a WrestleMania main event lying in wait. Whether it was egos getting in the way or their house show matches not drawing well, this main event was scrapped for a ‘double main event’ with Randy Savage and Ric Flair battling for the WWE Championship midway through the card, while Hogan and Sid inexplicably got to close the show. It’s fair to say everybody would have paid more for Hogan/Flair.
WrestleMania IX – Hogan Stealing The Title
Many wrestling fans will agree that WrestleMania IX is the worst of them all. Whether it was the announcers dressed in togas, the weird daylight setting or the underwhelming card, nothing clicked on this show. The crappy event was capped off with Hogan taking the title in a 35-second impromptu match with Yokozuna after Yoko beat Hart for the title with salt being thrown in The Hitman’s eyes (did the salt paralyze his shoulders?). You could argue Hart should have just gotten another opponent altogether, or merely should have just retained the title, but one thing’s for sure; anything would have been better than this ending.
WrestleMania X – Two World Title Matches
It took Vince McMahon a while to realize Lex Luger wasn’t going to be the company’s next top star. Unfortunately, he couldn’t figure it out sooner than WrestleMania X and thus Yokozuna had to defend the title twice, facing the co-winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble. Asking Yokozuna to wrestle two matches in one night is not a good idea. This mistake stems back to the Royal Rumble. The WWE should have gone simple, with one title match, with the same ending of Bret Hart winning and being hoisted on the shoulders of his fellow wrestlers.
WrestleMania XI – Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Main Eventing
This event was so bad, that it was hard to decide which was the biggest mistake. The main event has to take it here though. Bam Bam Bigelow and Lawrence Taylor actually did better than anybody could have hoped, but it did not belong as a main event. A celebrity facing a mid-carder is not a main event. Re-shuffling the card and putting this halfway through the show, with the Diesel/HBK title match going last would have salvaged this WrestleMania (somewhat).
WrestleMania XII – Ultimate Warrior Squashing Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Bringing back The Ultimate Warrior in 1996 may have been a mistake overall. If the whole point of letting Hogan and Savage walk was that the WWE wanted to get younger and leaner, why bring back Warrior? Anyway, having Warrior squash Hunter Hearst Helmsley was a big mistake, as it took a lot of wind out of Hunter’s sails. While he had a bad gimmick, it was clear Hunter had the talent to become a big star. Having him job like that at WrestleMania to a nostalgia act could have seriously hampered his career.
WrestleMania 13 – The Undertaker and Sid Getting The Title Match
The Undertaker deserved to headline a WrestleMania, but how on earth did Sid get to main event another WrestleMania after the fiasco five years earlier? In fairness, the WWE had a much better main event planned, with Michaels set to have a re-match with Bret Hart from the previous year. A knee injury and/or a lost smile prevented that. Rather than Sid and Undertaker getting the title match though, the show would have flowed a lot better with Hart and Austin getting the title match and closing the show. At least the bad show would have ended on a high note.
WrestleMania XIV – Ken Shamrock not getting IC Title
It’s really hard to find any result that you would have done differently for WrestleMania XIV. There’s no doubt the main event had the right ending and you can’t really complain about the other results. Looking back though, the WWE probably should have let Ken Shamrock walk away with the Intercontinental Championship. Shamrock had a lot of momentum on his side but would never win a title as a face. True, they had to build The Rock, but they could have had Faarooq cost The Rock the title and done the same thing in setting up The Rock as The Nation’s leader. I know, I’m nitpicking here.
WrestleMania XV – Adding Hell in a Cell
It’s weird. I loved watching WrestleMania XV as a kid, but looking back at it in recent years, I don’t really enjoy it at all, other than the main event. The worst part was The Undertaker and The Big Boss Man getting a Hell in a Cell match late in the card. This is easily the worst HIAC match of all time and part of it was it wasn’t needed at all. Cell matches should be saved for hot feuds that need a big blowoff, but no one cared about this feud.
WrestleMania 2000 – The Main Event
Mick Foley deserved a chance to main event a WrestleMania before his career ended, but think of how much better this main event could have been with a one-on-one Triple H vs. Rock match. Their rematch at Backlash with Stone Cold returning had ‘WrestleMania’ written all over it. This Fatal-4-Way involving Rock, HHH, Foley and Big Show was overbooked, with a McMahon in each corner and dragged on too long. Triple H winning thanks to a Vince double cross on The Rock also didn’t provide a satisfying ending. Nothing was done right in this main event.
WrestleMania X-Seven – Turning Stone Cold Heel
Remember when I said no show could be perfect? Well, this show was the closest you could get. Every match clicked. The TLC match delivered. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit had the traditional wrestling classic. Undertaker and Triple H provided a good warm up to the main event and what a main event it was. Stone Cold and The Rock were the two biggest stars of the era and they capped it off on this night.
While the moment of Austin turning heel was intriguing and surreal, knowing how the next few months would go for Austin, the WWE would have been better served keeping Austin as a face. Even Austin himself says this was the second biggest mistake of his career, other than walking out in 2002.
WrestleMania X8 – Rock/Hogan Not Closing The Show
I think as a general rule, the world title match should close the show at WrestleMania. Sometimes though, matches are just too big to follow. Hogan/Rock was impossible to follow, as the Toronto crowd was left on the edge of their seat and screaming at the top of their lungs. The WWE should have anticipated nostalgia taking over for Hulkamania.
The title feud of Chris Jericho and Triple H was lackluster and had no chance following an epic clash like this. People would have cared more about the title match if it was earlier and the show would have closed on an enormous high.
WrestleMania XIX – Triple H beating Booker T
While there were moments in the Triple H/Booker T feud that made us uncomfortable, due to the racial undertones of the feud “people like you don’t get to be world champions”, it would have redeemed itself if Booker T had won. Booker was one of the few WCW stars who was able to get himself over all over again in WWE following WCW’s demise. He deserved his big moment at WrestleMania. This is perhaps the worst case of Triple H burying another talent when they really needed a win.
WrestleMania XX – Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg
Again, WrestleMania XX was a terrific event, so it’s hard to nitpick against booking decisions. With hindsight, knowing that Lesnar and Goldberg were both planning on leaving the company, the WWE should have booked them in separate matches to put some of their other stars over. This match left a huge black mark on an otherwise fantastic event. Remove this match and WrestleMania XX has an argument for being the best of all time.
WrestleMania 21 – Akebono vs. Big Show
Following the Kurt Angle/Shawn Michaels clinic, WrestleMania 21 limped to the finish line. Due to Angle/Michaels going long, the Cena/JBL title match had to be shortened. The WWE could have avoided that by omitting the Akebono/Big Show sumo match. I don’t know what wrestling fan wanted to see this and I doubt fans in Japan purchased this event solely to watch Akebono. More time could have been distributed to other matches all over the card.
WrestleMania 22 – Rey Mysterio not Closing The Show
While you can criticize the storyline leading into it, it was clear the fans were more invested in seeing if Mysterio could actually do the impossible and win the World Heavyweight Championship rather than seeing Cena defend the WWE Title against Triple H. The triple threat match between Mysterio, Angle and Orton was way too short. The Chicago crowd booed Cena out of the building to close the show. Ending it on a feel good moment for Mysterio would have been much more fitting.
WrestleMania 23 – Mr. Kennedy Winning MITB
This seemed like the right idea at the time, but knowing where Mr. Kennedy’s career would go from here, another star could have been made. Other options to win Money in the Bank that year included CM Punk, Randy Orton, Finlay, King Booker, Jeff Hardy and Edge. Jeff Hardy winning would have been a very nice surprise and Edge winning would have been a safe option.
WrestleMania XXIV – Triple Threat Match
Perhaps this was Triple H squeezing his way into a WrestleMania title match after missing ‘Mania the previous year. I saw no added value in the title match being a Triple Threat. Cena had made a surprising return at the Royal Rumble after suffering a torn pec in a match with Randy Orton, so them going at it at WrestleMania would have made perfect sense. Triple H could have been moved elsewhere on the card and elevated a younger star instead.
WrestleMania XXV – Bad Blood Feud with No Blood
While you could argue the mistake was that The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels should have closed the show, did you expect their match to be that good? For Triple H and Randy Orton to salvage their match, they needed something completely different from that masterpiece. Their feud involved Orton attacking Triple H’s family and HHH invading Orton’s home. That cried for a No Holds Barred match with ample blood. Instead we got the moronic stipulation of a DQ costing Triple H his title. Adding a No DQ stipulation would have given this feud the ending it warranted.
WrestleMania XXVI – Giving Hart/McMahon 11 Minutes
Knowing that Bret Hart couldn’t take any bumps, given his concussion problems and his stroke suffered in 2002, no one had high expectations for this match. I don’t take issue with it taking place. The problem was this match got 11 minutes, and the whole Hart family was involved. This was supposed to be about Bret’s redemption against Mr. McMahon and adding all this to the match only took away from it. Cut this match in half and take away the lumberjacks and you have yourself a passable match.
WrestleMania XXVII – Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler
Unlike the last match you just saw, there was no need for this match. If Jerry Lawler was going to get only one WrestleMania match in his career, he deserved better than Michael Cole. Oh and if it was Cole, he deserved to dominate and win. The match inexplicably got 14 minutes and Cole dominated most of it! Finally after Lawler got the submission, the decision was reversed by the Anonymous GM due to the biased refereeing of Austin. This feud and match was full of mistakes from start to finish.
WrestleMania XXVIII – 18 Seconds
Daniel Bryan was the hottest rising star going into WrestleMania XXVIII. The Yes Movement was in its infancy stages and the crowd was ready for a solid title match. Instead, Sheamus squashed Bryan in 18 seconds after Bryan was distracted by a kiss from AJ. It was a gross miscalculation of how popular Bryan was becoming and a slap in the face to fans for devaluing a world title match. It would take a long time for Bryan to recover from this debacle.
WrestleMania XXIX – Twice in a Lifetime
There was no appetite from fans to see The Rock and John Cena go at it again. It was billed as Once in a Lifetime and should have stayed that way. The feud going into WM 29 was lackluster and it was clear that it was only set up so that Cena could get his victory back after losing the previous year. The WWE should have given CM Punk his main event here, even if it was adding him to the mix and making this a Triple Threat match. Cena and The Rock needed something new. Instead they pretty much wrestled the same match as the previous year with a different result.
WrestleMania XXX – Ending The Streak
While Lesnar has become a big attraction due to ending the streak did he really need it? The Undertaker’s drawing power for years at WrestleMania stemmed from the streak and now that it’s over, there’s something huge missing from his WrestleMania contests. If there was going to be a series of Taker/Lesnar matches, Lesnar could have just won the last two, going over in the end. I don’t think you’ll meet many fans or pundits who agree with Lesnar being the one to end the greatest streak in wrestling history.
WrestleMania 31 – Triple H beating Sting
The WWE has probably missed their opportunity to do the one match wrestling fans wanted out of Sting. Everybody wanted Sting/Taker but instead he was paired with Triple H. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if Sting beat Triple H to build himself up to a match with Undertaker. Instead WWE made the match all about WWE vs. WCW and had to get one over on their old rivals, having Hunter pin Sting. It was baffling that the WWE would drop Sting’s stock so quickly. With Sting possibly having stenosis, his career may be over and this may prove to be his only WrestleMania match. What a wasted opportunity.
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