30 years, 30 main events. WrestleMania main events have been focused as the biggest match at the biggest show of the year since the event started in 1985 at Madison Square Garden.
From the encounter featuring TV star Mr.T and Hulk Hogan taking on the hated combination of Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper at the first Mania, to other encounters featuring the likes of Andre the Giant, Steve Austin, The Undertaker, The Rock and John Cena, WrestleMania main events have been some of the most memorable in wrestling history.
This isn’t to say that every main event of WrestleMania has been a five-star match. In many cases, the match itself never lives up to the hype that it is given, but that’s usually the case when trying to make something bigger than it is.
Then there are those cases where the match does deliver. From the surprise endings to the competitors themselves pulling out all the stops and doing a move that they probably have no business trying, the stars that have been involved in the main events of WrestleMania seem to know what’s on the line going in.
In 25 of the 30 main events at WrestleMania, one of the two major titles for the company have been on the line. It’s usually a place where a star is made, and a spot where a young star may get his opportunity for the first time to shine with the company.
Today we will break down all 30 WrestleMania main events, looking at each one and ranking them from the worst to the best. You may not agree with every ranking, but there’s no denying these matches are remembered as some of the most memorable in wrestling history.
30. Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow – WrestleMania XI
WWE and wrestling as a whole was in a down period in 1995, and the main event for the biggest show of the year showed just how the company tried to deal with it – by putting a non-wrestler in the biggest match of the year. Give Taylor, the Hall of Fame linebacker from the New York Giants, a lot of credit. He played ball and did his part, and actually looked passable in his match against Bigelow. It remains a match that the company rarely speaks about, knowing that you should never have to rely on a non-wrestler to carry the biggest show of the year.
29. Bret Hart vs Yokozuna for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania IX
This wasn’t a bad match for what it was, but instead of letting these two give a proper match, they decided to go in a weird direction. Something strange took place behind the scenes on the day of the event, and after Yokozuna beat Bret Hart for the belt, they right away gave the strap over to Hulk Hogan, who came out to ‘help’ his friend in Hart. The ‘Hitman’ did what he could to work with the giant during the match, but it’s the goofy political end of the show that everyone recalls, with Hogan ‘taking’ the belt in a bad ending to the first outdoor Mania.
28. The Miz vs John Cena for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania XXVII
The WWE tried everything they could to make The Miz a champion people believed in as a heel, but it flopped. Many think that The Miz’s spot at the time should have gone to the much more polished CM Punk, and those that felt that are dead on. For this Mania in Atlanta, they put John Cena in the main event to carry The Miz, and in the end, the match became nothing more than waiting for the The Rock to come down and get involved. That’s what happened, as both men were counted out, but The Rock didn’t allow it, and forced the match to re-start. Rock then took out Cena, allowing The Miz to get the pin and keep the belt. All in all, a mess of a main event that never got over with the over 71,000 at the Georgia Dome.
27. Chris Jericho vs Triple H for the Undisputed WWE Championship – WrestleMania X8
The company blew it with this main event, as they should have saved the epic encounter between The Rock and Hulk Hogan for the last spot on the card. Instead, they forced Vince McMahon’s son-in-law into the main event spot, and after a match that seemed rather sloppy for the most part, Triple H was able to get his finisher and beat Jericho to win the title. He would hold it for just a month before the company gave it to Hulk Hogan in a nostalgic move at the ‘Backlash’ PPV.
26. Sycho Sid vs The Undertaker for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania 13
The 13th Mania was really built around two matches, the submission match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin and the main event between Sid and Undertaker for the WWE Championship. The company was missing Shawn Michaels badly, which is why Sid was in the position to have the belt. Sid always had a great look, but was terrible on the mic and seemed to get lazy during his matches. Taker did what he could to carry him, and in the end, got the win to take home the title at a WrestleMania that many say was one of the worst.
25. Yokozuna vs Bret Hart for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania X
This return match from the year before saw Hart finally win back the WWE Championship, but it took him having to fight an even better match at the start of the show against his brother Owen to get there. The premise was due to a ‘tie’ at the Royal Rumble between Hart and Lex Luger, the two contenders had to fight twice on the card. Luger lost in a screw-job finish early in the card to Yokozuna, which set up Hart vs Yokozuna in the final match of the night. Roddy Piper was the guest official, and he did his job in this bout, which ended oddly enough with Yoko simply losing his balance and falling off the top rope, allowing Hart to get the pin. It was good to see Hart have the belt again, but the flat finish left a bad taste in the fan’s mouths.
24. Triple H vs Randy Orton for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania XXV
Triple H and Orton were in a tough spot for this main event of the 25th WrestleMania, as they had to follow the ‘match of the year’ between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, which totally took the steam out of the fans in Houston. The feud between HHH and Orton was well done, and there was a solid amount of heat between the pair, but the match fell short of expectations and the blown out crowd after the Michaels and Taker match didn’t help.
23. Hulk Hogan vs Sycho Sid – WrestleMania VIII
Billed as the possible ‘Farewell match’ for Hogan (who was back to take the WWE title at Mania the next year), he took on Sid, who turned on the ‘Real American’ in a televised match to set up this encounter. This was also the second half of the billed ‘double’ main event, as Ric Flair and Randy Savage went at it earlier in the night for the WWE Championship in a solid match. This encounter for Hogan and Sid was controlled for the most part by Sid, but a botched finish saw the big beast get disqualified, and then Hogan get double teamed by Sid and Papa Shango, before being saved by the return of The Ultimate Warrior.
22. Sgt. Slaughter vs Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania VII
Credit Slaughter for basically putting his well-being on the line and turning heel as an Iraqi sympathizer, which wasn’t easy on him or his family during a time of war. In the main event of Mania VII, he took on the All-American in Hogan in a match that was never in doubt in terms of Hogan going over. The commentary on the match on the PPV was odd, with Regis Philbin sitting in with Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon. A bloody Hogan prevailed and took the belt, which he held for a good portion of the year.
21. Randy Savage vs Ted DiBiase for the Vacant WWE Championship – WrestleMania IV
WrestleMania IV was a marathon, with 12 wrestlers involved in a tournament for the vacant WWE Title. With Hulk Hogan going off to make ‘No Holds Barred,’ the company went with Savage as the person to carry the company in his absence. DiBiase was a great heel that fans loved to hate, and he was a good opponent for Savage, who took the ball with Hogan gone and ran with it as the WWE champion for a full year, until Hogan took the belt back at Mania V.
20. Triple H vs Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship – WrestleMania 21
After a solid three-way match at Mania 20, this Mania offered somewhat of a passing of the torch, with John Cena winning his first Heavyweight title from John Bradshaw Layfield, and in the main event, Batista took out former ‘Evolution’ teammate Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Title. The match wasn’t awful, but just seemed to plod along as you could see the flaws in Batista as a main event star. In the end, Batista won the strap and ran with the belt until he was forced to give it up in January of the following year due to injury.
19. Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania 2
A lot of people criticize the second Mania for the awkward booking which put WWE stars in three different cities, and the massive amount of celebrities involved in the event. The final bout was a steel cage match between King Kong Bundy and then-champion Hulk Hogan. The new blue cage that was used in the match added a different touch, and it was believable that Bundy was a legit challenger for Hogan’s title. In the end, Hogan got ‘hulked up,’ slammed Bundy and escaped the cage to retain the championship.
18. The Rock vs John Cena for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania 29
This rematch of their ‘Once in a Lifetime’ WrestleMania XXVIII encounter fell well below the standards the two had set the year before in Miami. The bout seemed to be affected early from The Rock suffering torn muscles and tendons around his pelvis. All in all, the bout was basically the same from the year before, with nothing new to leave the crowd wanting more. Cena walked away with the belt as expected, but in the end, this match which could have been special was very middle of the road.
17. Edge vs The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship – WrestleMania XXIV
Many were surprised at the main event choice for Mania 24 in Orlando, and it was thought the final bout would either be Ric Flair’s final match (he lost that night to Shawn Michaels) or the three-way between Randy Orton, John Cena and Triple H for the WWE Title in a match won by ‘The Viper.’ Instead they went with the feud between Edge and Taker, and sent the crowd home happy as Taker got Edge to submit to the ‘Hell’s Gate’ to capture the belt and continue his WM streak.
16. Triple H vs The Rock vs The Big Show vs Mick Foley, Fatal Four-Way for the WWE Championship WrestleMania 2000
The WWE was possibly as hot as it had ever been in 2000, and in a rather bizarre move, they ditched the traditional one-on-one main event for the WWE Title and went with a clunky fatal-four way. The premise was that each wrestler was represented by a McMahon, which only added more unnecessary people into this match. As expected, Big Show and Foley were dispatched somewhat early, leaving Triple H and THe Rock to go at it for a large portion of the match. The end came when Vince McMahon turned on The Rock, allowing his son-in-law to get the win and retain the title. There was too many people and a match that was hard to follow.
15. Randy Orton vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan for the WWE Heavyweight Title – WrestleMania XXX
The WWE had to modify their original Mania main event, which was scheduled to be a one-on-one between Batista and Randy Orton. The WWE Universe clearly wanted Bryan to be part of the main event, and after a few weeks of tinkering, he was put in a spot where if he beat Triple H to kickoff Mania (which of course he did) he would be added to the main event. Bryan’s great in-ring work brought this match up from being a clunker to a solid bout, and in the end, the fans got what they wanted and Bryan won the title.
14. Randy Savage vs Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania V
The build to this match was one for the ages, with Savage, the champion, turning on Hogan due to his belief that Hogan ‘had eyes’ for Savage’s manager and wife, Miss Elizabeth. The company also pushed this event more than any Mania before it, leading to a lot of eyes being on Atlantic City for the April 2nd, 1989 event. Hogan called Savage his favorite opponent of all-time, and the two told a solid story together. In the end, Hogan won, leading to a summer of rematches between the pair of legendary Hall of Famers.
13. Triple H vs Chris Benoit vs Shawn Michaels for the World Heavyweight Championship – WrestleMania XX
It’s the match the WWE would like to make you forget, as it featured a World Title win for Benoit, who was gone just three years later under horrifying circumstances. Three-way matches are always tough to book, and while you had two people in the ring in Triple H and Michaels who knew each other inside and out from there many matches over the years, Benoit was the wild card of the match. The match itself came across fine, with Benoit eventually gaining the title by making Triple H submit. The post-match in-ring celebration with Benoit and WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero is still memorable, sadly for a lot of wrong reasons.
12. The Rock vs John Cena – WrestleMania XXVIII
Billed as ‘Once in a Lifetime,’ these two future Hall of Famers went at in Miami, The Rock’s hometown. The crowd react was strong during the bout, and the two told a very good story throughout. In the end, the first of two matches between these stars went to The Rock, who caught Cena with a ‘rock bottom’ after Cena spent too much time showboating. The pair were given just over 30 minutes in the ring to tell their story, and of the two bouts at Mania featuring them, this bout was head and shoulders better than the rematch the following year.
11. Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels, 60 Minute Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania XII
This match gets a lot of praise from those in the company, but 60 minute matches from a fans perspective tend to drag, and that was the case with this matchup. Both Hart and Michaels came in prepared and did a good job going the distance, plus an extra few minutes, as the bout went into ‘sudden death’ until Michaels landed the win with his ‘sweet chin music.’ In the end, while fans popped for the finish, the 61:52 match was just too long to keep fans (including a number of young fans) interested, although it’s classic that they should be commended for.
10. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff – WrestleMania I
The first main event from the first WrestleMania still holds a special place in the heart of many wrestling fans, as it’s basically the ‘one that started it all.’ Vince McMahon rolled the dice with his company, using a mix of wrestlers and celebrities to create a wrestling super card in the city that never sleeps. What he got for his first main event was a memorable encounter with four WWE Hall of Fame talents doing battle in a match that was well booked and well played out. The heat between Roddy Piper and Mr.T could be felt in the arena, with each delivering slaps to start the match, and it seemed that tension among the four stars made this match even more believable. It was no shock when Hogan and T got the win. as Piper and Orndorff’s corner man, Bob Orton, accidentally hit Orndorff to cause the pin. The first Mania main event got the company off and running, and it hasn’t stopped since.
9. The Rock vs ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania XV
At the time, fans might not have been aware of how special it was to see these two legends in their prime, but that’s exactly what we got when The Rock and Steve Austin went at it for the first of three times at WrestleMania. This encounter had plenty of emotion and a real ‘main event’ feel, as these two studs were both pushing themselves to get to the top. The match saw a great back and forth with plenty of near falls, and in the end Austin got the pin. The bout remains somewhat underrated for a Mania main event, but there’s no question both men were on their game that night in Philadelphia.
8. Kurt Angle vs Brock Lesnar for the World Heavyweight Championship – WrestleMania XIX
On paper, this was as a dream match for many, as two of the best pure mat wrestlers took to the ring to conclude the 19th Mania in Seattle. One element that many forget was Angle was working with a severely damaged neck, one that would require surgery just days after the event. Neither star held back, going all out for 21 minutes. Lesnar nearly ended his own career by missing a shooting star press and for a moment even knocked himself out. Both men were totally exhausted once Lesnar gained the pin with an F-5, before the two men embraced after this classic match.
7. John Cena vs Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania 23
This was supposed to be a rematch from the year before, with Triple H getting another shot at John Cena for the championship, but the WWE had to go in another direction after HHH tore his quad just three months before the event. They went with a great, and more than capable, replacement in Shawn Michaels, who rightfully earned the nickname “Mr.WrestleMania.” Cena was at the top of his game as champion, and the two had a classic encounter with a number of near falls and submissions for a bout that was just short of 30 minutes. Cena got the win in the end with a submission, but take nothing away from Michaels, who did a great job as a replacement, making this a memorable Mania main event.
6. Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior for the WWE Championship and WWE Intercontinental Championship – WrestleMania VI
This was a dream match between two of the most popular stars in WWE history. At the time, it was the ‘power of Hulkamania’ against the ‘legion of Warriors’ at Toronto’s SkyDome. It was the first time the WWE ever gambled on two babyfaces going at it in a Mania main event, and it paid off in a big way. Not only did the match produce a new champion with the Warrior going over in a great finish, it also was the ‘1990 Match of the Year’ by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Both men were motivated and it showed in the 22-plus minute classic.
5. The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels, Career vs Streak Match – WrestleMania XXVI
There was really no way these two legends were going to be able to match their ‘match of the year’ from the year before at WrestleMania XXV, but the added stipulation of Michaels’ career being on the line made this a great Mania main event. Fans were invested in the 23:59 match, most realizing that it was going to be the last time they would see Michaels in active competition. There were lot of the classic moves between the two in this battle, and the end was well booked, with a classic tombstone coming after a slap from Michaels.
4. John Cena vs Triple H for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania 22
Not many gave John Cena a shot to keep his WWE Title, as he took on the heavily favored Triple H in this main event, but not only did Cena win, he gained a lot of respect for the war the two waged in Rosemont, IL. These two left it all in the ring in this perfectly booked match and both veterans had the fan’s attention the entire time. The last few minutes belonged to Cena, as he was finally able to get the submission on Triple H to keep the strap.
3. The Rock vs ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania X-Seven
Going back to the old days of WrestleMania VI, it was two faces doing battle for the WWE Title. For the second time in three years, these two appeared in a main event at the biggest show of the year. It was a bloody, physical battle that saw the over 67,000 fans in Houston on the edge of their seats for the entire match. In the end, the finish was a little flat, with Austin doing the unthinkable and joining up with Vince McMahon to get the pin. However, just the sheer back and forth, combined with the amount of blood spilled between these two legends, put this match near the top of this list.
2. Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant for the WWE Championship – WrestleMania III
It’s only fitting that the biggest WrestleMania of all-time’s main event deserves to be near the top of this list, and with good reason. The build, as well as the drama, around the main event of Mania III in the Silverdome was off the charts. You had a 520-pound undefeated and motivated Andre the Giant going up against everyone’s hero in Hulk Hogan with the biggest prize in the industry on the line. The match itself was surely not a work of art, but it was booked exactly as it should have been, with Hogan selling everything Andre did as if he was being tortured. For most of the 12 minutes, it appeared as though Andre was going to leave with the WWE Championship, but after one of the greatest moments in Mania history, the body slam of Andre followed by a leg drop, Hogan got the win. It was a passing of the torch from one industry legend to another that will never be forgotten.
1. Shawn Michaels vs ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin for the WWE Championship with Mike Tyson as Special Guest Enforcer – WrestleMania XIV
The greatest main event in WrestleMania history didn’t go unnoticed by the national media, as there was plenty of intrigue around the WWE when they had Mike Tyson involved in their biggest event of the year. Tyson took the event to a new level, blending well with two Hall of Fame wrestlers as an ‘outside enforcer’ and appearing to be on the side of Michaels, who was wrestling with a serious back injury that cost him a few years of wrestling. Austin and HBK went at it with everything they had for 20 minutes, with the end coming after a classic block of the ‘sweet chin music’ and a ‘Stone Cold stunner.’ Tyson jumped in the ring and made the count, turning on Michaels and giving the championship to Austin. It would go down as a company changing event that took the WWE to new levels thanks to the gutsy move to involve Tyson.
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