The most important and protected entity in WWE is WrestleMania. Wrestling’s biggest yearly event has turned into a huge spectacle on par with the Super Bowl and other annual attractions that will cause fans to travel to different cities to experience it. WrestleMania has evolved from being just a big wrestling show to an event that can get tens of thousands of people to fill up a giant stadium for four hours of WWE’s best content. 2016 is seeing the company try to set a new attendance record by getting over 100,000 fans to attend WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
WrestleMania is meant to showcase the best of the best and the main event spot is highly coveted by everyone entering the business. The ultimate goal of every wrestler is to one day main event a WrestleMania because it means they are the best at what they do. Part of the reason CM Punk was highly frustrated with his position in WWE and felt he wasn’t being respected was due to never getting the honor of being in a WrestleMania main event. Punk was in high profile matches opposing The Undertaker’s streak or defending the WWE Championship against Chris Jericho but he knew it was still below the true main even that the show is built around.
Not all WrestleMania main events are created equal and some live on better than others. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart and Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton all showcased how the main event should culminate a great story with the right man winning to give the fan base what they desire. It doesn’t always work out that way and we’ve seen various times the wrong man has left the grandest show of the year with the big win. We’ll look in depth at those occasions and break down the top twelve times the wrong person won the WrestleMania main event.
12 The Rock vs. Steve Austin – WrestleMania X-Seven
The legendary WrestleMania X-Seven main event featured arguably the two biggest stars in WWE history facing off during the company’s hottest time period. Steve Austin and The Rock were both red hot faces trying to prove who the top star in the industry was. The finish saw Austin shockingly turning heel by aligning with Vince McMahon. While the moment surely provided a memorable finish, the decision was the wrong one due to Austin becoming an ally of his former enemy. Austin has even admitted that he regrets the decision to turn heel at that [pont. A better route would have been The Rock winning and setting Austin off to become a more intimidating villain.
11 Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor – WrestleMania XI
The use of a celebrity in a wrestling match has its strengths and flaws. A big name will attract mainstream attention to the wrestling show and promotion, but it can also hurt the wrestler in the match, who is usually taking the loss. Lawrence Taylor helped the WWE get some extra eyes on the product by defeating Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event but he wasn’t as popular as most other celebrities to enter the wrestling ring. Bigelow could have been a future world champion and main event player for years, but he was pushed further down the card following his loss to Taylor. A win for Bigelow followed by a huge brawl to make Taylor look strong to end the show would have worked a lot better.
10 Triple H vs. Batista – WrestleMania 21
Evolution turned out to be one of the most successful factions in WWE history. Triple H was made even more credible as a top heel, Ric Flair was utilized effectively as a legend and new stars were made by the ascensions of Randy Orton and Batista. WrestleMania 21 featured Batista defeating Triple H to capture the World Championship and end the reign of The Game. The problem was Batista wasn’t the right guy to win a WrestleMania main event at that stage. John Cena was clearly better and the next face of the company, not Batista. Triple H taking the loss didn’t mean as much as it should have and Batista could have gotten to where he eventually did without the win.
9 Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania V
The early precedent set for WrestleMania was the babyface having to win the main event. WrestleMania was the culmination of all stories and WWE’s version of a movie, so a happy ending was a must. That should have went out of the window given how predictable Hulk Hogan winning every big match would become. Hogan once again defeated Randy Savage in the main event of WrestleMania V in an ending everyone expected. They should have went with the swerve to remind us anything can happen in WWE by having the credible Savage get his big moment of defeating Hogan. Business would have been set up for a huge rematch down the road and Savage would have been more valuable in WWE.
8 Triple H vs. John Cena – WrestleMania 22
The visual of John Cena looking confused after going through a battle to defeat Triple H while the crowd booed him with vitriol was the lasting story of WrestleMania 22. Fans started to boo Cena in revolt of his huge push as the top face in WWE and that led to the usually hated Triple H getting cheered by the diehard fans. Sound familiar? WWE stayed the course by having Cena win the match despite the Chicago crowd being adamantly against him. It may have helped Cena if he lost a couple of big matches rather than getting the Hulk Hogan treatment and Triple H winning at ‘Mania in front of the red hot crowd would have made the main event a better memory.
7 Chris Jericho vs. Triple H – WrestleMania X8
WrestleMania X8 featured Hulk Hogan and The Rock having a legendary Wrestlemania match in the middle of the show and completely outshining the main event. Triple H returning as a face after injury to win the title from Chris Jericho closed the show in an extremely forgettable match. Aside from his first few shows back, fans didn’t buy into Triple H as a face and he was distantly behind The Rock and Steve Austin in the pecking order. The best course would have been for Jericho to retain the title and let him continue his reign against the other top faces. Triple H would lose the title to Hulk Hogan at the next PPV and turned heel just a few months later.
6 Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar – WrestleMania XIX
The story of the WrestleMania main event typically features the face in the main event winning with the support of the fans, but as seen on this list, the hero doesn’t always have the support or momentum. Brock Lesnar is undoubtedly one of the top stars in the history of the WWE given his success but his face run in 2003 was lackluster. The beast just didn’t have the ability to gain sympathy at the time due to his massive physical strength and inability to come off vulnerable. Kurt Angle was arguably the best performer in the business at WrestleMania XIX and should have retained the title. Lesnar clearly wasn’t connecting as a face and having him win the main event on one of the most stacked cards of all time was a poor move.
5 The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley – WrestleMania 2000
2000 was the year of the McMahon family as the WrestleMania 2000 main event featured a fatal-four-way match with each wrestler being represented by a different McMahon. The big swerve was Triple H winning due to Vince McMahon turning heel on The Rock to align with Triple H, Stephanie and Shane. While a heel should win the main event once in a while, this wasn’t an instance where it was an entertaining result. The Rock or Mick Foley would have been the better choice. A win for the retiring Foley would have led to the title being vacated the next night and could have resulted in an exciting way to reset the product rather than more McMahon family drama being the main focus.
4 Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena – WrestleMania 23
John Cena’s second consecutive WrestleMania main event against a popular member of D-Generation X led to a win over Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 23. Michaels was getting a title program as a top face for the first time in a while and fans badly wanted to see the legend win the biggest match of the year. Cena was still getting mixed reactions and WWE wanted to put the machine behind him to set the tone that crowd reactions wouldn’t cause them to quit on him. This story would have played out far better if Michaels won the WWE Championship one more time and continued the feud with Cena before dropping it back to him after a couple of months.
3 Randy Orton vs. Triple H – WrestleMania XXV
Many would argue that WrestleMania XXV gave us the worst WrestleMania main event of all time. Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker had one of the greatest matches in the history of the industry earlier and it made the main event of Randy Orton vs. Triple H look worse by the time it came around. The personal feud between Triple H and Orton gave us great television for months but the match laid an egg. Orton was finally mastering his craft as an elite heel with actions such as punting Vince McMahon or attacking Stephanie McMahon to get to Triple H. With his momentum rising, Orton badly needed the win here, but it went to Triple H yet again in a painfully dull experience.
2 John Cena vs. The Miz – WrestleMania XXVII
WrestleMania XXVII felt like a rare wasted show with the yearly spectacle being used to set up John Cena vs. The Rock for the following year. Cena main evented against The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII and the match was a complete disaster. The two showed zero chemistry and the only excitement was wondering when The Rock would come out. Of course, The Rock did cost Cena the match by hitting him with The Rock Bottom but it was all a horrible mess. Miz has fallen into complete obscurity over the years and it’s laughable to think he once defeated Cena in a WrestleMania main event. Time has shown us it was obviously the wrong decision.
1 Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna – WrestleMania IX
Hulk Hogan has used his political power in WWE to main event many shows and win many more matches than he should have. Yes, Hogan was indeed the biggest star for quite a few years but there were a few times where his title wins made no sense and WrestleMania IX is the best example of that. Bret Hart was the new top face in WWE and suffered a loss to Yokozuna in the official main event. Hogan would come down to the ring and somehow convince everyone that he deserved an impromptu title shot vs. Yokozuna that he would win. It made both Hart and Yokozuna look like absolute fools in one of the worst booking decisions in wrestling history.