WrestleMania is the biggest wrestling event of the year. From its inception, it has been the crossover link from the wrestling world to the mainstream. Incorporating celebrities, musical acts, and grand spectacle, it aims to showcase the WWE and bring in new fans. At its best, WrestleMania offers timeless moments that mark important parts of the WWE history. At its worst it fails to execute its lofty ambitions, feeling dragged out and bloated.
Wrestling is very cyclical, stars come and go, and styles evolve. Each WrestleMania provided a great time capsule of the WWE product at that time. From the birth of Hulkamania and Rock ‘n Wrestling all the way to the current PG and Reality Eras. Interesting to note, the PG era, in its “safer” programming has ironically caused a ton of controversy among the adult wrestling fans who grew up on the blood and sex of the Attitude years.
So what gets a WrestleMania on this list? This list focuses on overall entertainment value, rather than historical significance. It is a testament to the evolution of the sport that the more recent years generally ranked better than the first generation. The first years were trailblazers, but upon rewatch, many of the vintage matches did not hold up as well over time.
Honourable mention: WrestleMania 2000. The 16th WrestleMania had a great roster but was booked horribly. In a regrettable decision, the only singles match was a “cat-fight” between Terri Runnels and The Kat. Every other match was either a battle royal, tag, triangle, triple threat, six-person intergender tag, or a four-way elimination match. Rather than multiple narratives of action taking place simultaneously, fans were more often treated to just one interesting moment at a time, while the other wrestlers used stalling tactics, lying prone for far too long or brawling meaninglessly. Also the crowd in Anaheim was dead. It's weird that while WWE may have had its best calendar year in 2000, the year's WrestleMania was a huge letdown.
All of the ‘Mania’s on this list have watchable matches, and a few are considered the best of all time. But for pure entertainment, here are the top 10 worst WrestleManias of all time.
6 WrestleMania 13
On the cusp of the Attitude era, came this clunky card. The Hart-Austin match is of course a classic, as some call it the greatest ‘Mania match ever. Austin’s blood-covered face, refusing to submit to the sharpshooter launched him and the WWE into an extremely successful period. The rest of the night however, drags this card down the drain.
Rocky in his Maivia days against Rikishi in his Sultan days was a dud of an Intercontinental title match. A boring Chicago Streetfight with the Road Warriors and Nation of Domination set the tone for a lackluster Undertaker/Sid main event.
It’s a testament to the truly legendary Austin/Hart match that this one isn’t closer to the bottom.
5 WrestleMania XXIX
This one aimed high and fell flat. The Hurricane Sandy promo, meant to inspire, felt forced and cheesy. Musical guest P.Diddy’s performance couldn’t get off the ground and was far too long. Ryback and Mark Henry was the worst kind of big-man match, consisting of punches, clotheslines and bear hugs. The biggest pop came from Ryback lifting Henry up on his back, only to have Henry fall on him for the win. A confusing end to a match that never really get going.
Did anyone really want to see a second Brock Lesnar/Triple H match? CM Punk and Undertaker was a quality tilt, in Undertaker’s last win at a WrestleMania. The main event was the same as the previous year's "once in a lifetime" and the appetite wasn't really there for a rematch from fans. This really should've been CM Punk's WrestleMania to headline, possibly alongside Cena, Rock, or both in a triple threat. There just wasn’t enough buildup to their match, it felt thrown together, as if the WWE had no other options.
Not an awful event, just not good enough to get off this list.
4 WrestleMania XV
Another one-hit wonder. The Rock/Austin main event was the first of three classic bouts the pair would have on the grandest stage. The rest of the entertainment was average at best. The Hell in a Cell match was the worst of its kind, ending distastefully with the Bossman appearing dead, hanging from the cage. The Diva match was extremely weak as Sable and Tori were never known for their ringwork. Shane McMahon and X-Pac had a below average tilt as Shane had not yet developed the skills he would wow fans with years later. Big Show was also undeveloped as a wrestler, struggling against Mankind. Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett’s talents were wasted in a tag match against Test and D’Lo Brown. Butterbean’s knockout of Bart Gunn was an entertaining WrestleMania celebrity athlete moment, but the match lasted less than a minute. This one felt like a lot of work.
The event felt like a throwback to the early, weaker WrestleManias. Loaded with a battle royal, celebrity boxing, a lumbering cage match, and many other throwaways, before being redeemed by two icons in the main event.
Rock and Austin aside, this ‘Mania did not deliver. The WWE could've just put The Rock/Austin match on PPV and had the same result. The rest of the card just did nothing to add to what is supposed to be the best show of the year.
7. WrestleMania VI
One of the greatest ‘Mania moments, face versus face, title vs title, Warrior vs Hogan, lived up to the hype and was a truly electrifying match. The Toronto crowd was fantastic as well, creating a rich atmosphere.
Besides this match however, there were far too many forgettable ones before it. A whopping 14 other tilts took place, and only one cracked the 10 minute mark. Without enough time to develop, the matches lacked excitement and felt rushed.
A card with good intentions, and Pro Wrestling Illustrated's 1990 “Match of the Year”.
6. WrestleMania XXVII
This one was all over the place. Daniel Bryan’s match not making it to the televised portion was a bad call. The Rock as host seemed like a good idea, but his opening spiel was far too long and unnecessary. The event felt further disjointed when the first televised match was for the World Heavyweight Championship, between Edge and Alberto Del Rio. CM Punk and Randy Orton gave a quality outing, but the fans were then forced to endure 15 minutes of Michael Cole versus Jerry Lawler.
The only one that truly felt WrestleMania worthy was the fantastic performances of The Undertaker and Triple H in their no-holds barred tilt.
The coup de gras was a horrible main event as Cena versus the Miz definitely lacked the cache to headline the biggest show in wrestling. Cena’s entrance began with a great choir performance mixed with an extremely cheesy “prayer” video featuring clips of a young John Cena. The prayer video seemed to send the fans over the edge and they began to unfairly boo the choir. The crowd continued to boo Cena 80/20 and cheered The Miz 60/40, as it was an uphill battle. The match never got going, even the announcing team seemed bored, sounding like they were calling a house show. And that was Jim Ross calling the match! Even he couldn't make it exciting.
This one just never seemed to click.
5. WrestleMania XI
In 1995 the WWE roster was weak. When a football player has one of the most exciting matches you know there was a problem. On Steve Austin’s podcast, Bret Hart stated this match with Backlund was a disaster, to which I would agree. Most of the night felt like that. Even the Diesel promo was a train wreck with audio difficulties and Big Daddy Cool temporarily forgetting he was the champion, as he started to say he’ll “regain” the belt. He and Michaels managed to have an entertaining match (it is Shawn Michaels after all) with Shawn selling big time and Diesel doing his impression of “hulking up”, but even Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy couldn’t save the night.
3 WrestleMania IV
After finally getting the formula right with a great WrestleMania III, the fourth iteration switched it up, making some interesting choices that ultimately didn’t pan out.
Like the first WrestleMania, this card had some exciting ideas that didn’t translate into a very entertaining product.
The battle royal is an idea that always sounds more exciting than it ever ends up being. This one was no exception. Although it resonated with the great ending of a disgruntled Bret Hart playing the part of a poor loser, smashing the trophy he failed to win.
The tournament for the vacated title was also an intriguing idea. It was the first time the main event would be unknown until it all played out. This would have been great with a little more talent and better booking. Don Muraco and One Man Gang both made it to the second round, while Ricky Steamboat did not. The tournament seemed to throw everything off as even talented pros like Jake Roberts and Rick Rude had a very uncharacteristically bad match.
It did feature some of the best announcing, as Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura were at their best, and the hilarious Bob Uecker called the battle royal and had a great comedic bit with the Giant.
Macho Man’s first WWE world title win was a great moment, but took far too long to get there (four hours). A potentially great card that lacked execution.
3. WrestleMania I
Based on historical significance alone, this would obviously be ranked more positively, but we’re looking at overall entertainment factor for the whole card.
This was obviously an incredibly important card for the wrestling business. The WWE put a lot on the line in their effort to gain mainstream attention with a highly publicized, crossover event. The idea of mixing wrestling with real celebrities was a genius move in order to ease the non-wrestling fans into the fantastical world of the WWE.
The spectacle was pulled off well enough to let the average person see what all the fuss was about, but in terms of actual wrestling, it was lacking. The main event especially was full of showboating and flailing about.
The best match of the night probably belonged to the Iron Sheik and Nik Volkoff taking on Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo (IRS).
A great piece of wrestling history and a major success for the WWE, but the entertainment had little to do with wrestling.
2 2.WrestleMania IX
This one gets a lot of hate, like the kid at school who wears a dorky costume. The Caesar’s Palace gimmick looked more hokey than regal, and coupled with the first outdoor daytime setting, it didn’t feel right. The WWE was entering a rough patch after gaining the wrong kind of mainstream attention due to the steroid scandal. They were transitioning away from the ‘roided-up 80’s into the cartoon look of the 90’s. Matching the cheesy decor were weak character gimmicks like Doink the Clown and the Hawaiian Crush, who together wrestled a very boring match to an even hokier double-doink finish.
This WrestleMania was so bad it even featured a just-average match involving legend Curt Hennig. Although you’d have to be more than perfect to have a great match with Lex Luger. The Undertaker and Giant Gonzalez followed that up with an achingly plodding sludge-match.
The main event was the first WrestleMania to not advertise Hulk Hogan as top-billing. With the steroid debacle and Hogan’s impending departure, the human-looking Bret Hart was the current face of the company. But Hulkamania would not be leaving quietly. After the dirty win by Yoko over Bret, Hogan stormed down to the ring. Mr. Fuji illogically challenged the fresh Hogan, who went on to win an even saltier match. A poor end to a poor card.
1 WrestleMania II
The WWE was a gutsy company in this era. After the first WrestleMania successfully entertained the mainstream they decided to triple the stakes, hosting three simultaneous events in three different cities, with three separate broadcast teams. This spread the product too thin and disrupted the feel of the show. In a very WrestleMania moment geared towards the mainstream audience, actual NFL players participated in a 20-man battle royal, and it wasn’t pretty. Several other meaningless matches also filled out the card (Corporal Kirchner vs Nikolai Volkoff, Adrian Adonis vs Uncle Elmer). Mr. T made his second ‘Mania appearance, this time in a boxing match against Piper, a poor main event for those who attended the New York portion of the show. Somehow a boxing match headlining a wrestling card doesn't sound like a good idea.
Hogan and Bundy ultimately main-evented with one of the first Hulkamania versus Monster bouts. Not a terrible match, but would be forgotten once the following WrestleMania took place, when Hogan would give Andre the “bodyslam heard ‘round the world”.
This WrestleMania was still finding its way, learning how to balance the spectacle with substance. It was another important step, but not one a wrestling fan is likely to re-watch anytime soon. It's like watching what turned out to be a great television hit in its first few episodes. It takes great things time to develop.