Every year, no matter what, WrestleMania is the real 'crown jewel' of WWE’s calendar year. Not all of them are great but it’s always meant to be a huge deal to open up the year for new feuds and storylines. If RAW and SmackDown are weekly episodic television shows, consider 'Mania the season finale (even though there's no offseason). WrestleMania has been home to some of the biggest moments in WWE history with amazing matches and a great show always makes fans happy. True, no 'Mania is perfect and a few have had some stinkers of matches and gimmicks but balanced by some great turns. So often, a top notch match or well-booked angle can elevate a so-so 'Mania to a must see. But the opposite is also true.
Yes, it takes a lot to hurt a 'Mania totally and make it horrible overall. But several times, WWE has done that. For every great 'Mania match and gimmick, there’s a booking choice that mars the entire show majorly. It dominates conversation so rather than look at the great aspects of the show, fans concentrate on what went wrong. Even great 'Manias can have moments that hurt it badly and if one happens at a bad 'Mania, it sinks it to an all-time low. It shows the risk as so often, a bad decision ruins what could have been a great match, just as some good booking and creative choices can make a match shine. Here are 12 times a booking choice hurt a WrestleMania but 12 times it also saved one, to show how much it changes the big show.
24 Hurt: No Falls In The Iron Man Match - WrestleMania XII
When Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were set to face off in a 60-minute Iron Man match, it was a huge move. That sort of bout wasn’t done at the time and there were concerns of fans remaining invested in it. Bret and Shawn actually got along well, working it all out all the way to the overtime finish. However, they also made the fateful choice of how neither man would score any falls until the end.
That completely marred the match as the point of an Iron Man is to excite fans with guys trading falls.
Had this been a standard match going an hour, it would be one thing but it made the Iron man stipulation meaningless. Shawn won in “sudden death” but the match could've been a lot better with more falls.
23 Saved: Mike Tyson Helping Stone Cold - WrestleMania XIV
Shawn Michaels is the first to admit he was a complete prima donna in his ‘90s prime. That included the build to WrestleMania XIV as everyone knew the only way to go was to have Steve Austin win the title and take WWE to new heights. Despite how his back was hurting up and he would need a long time off, Shawn actually made noise about not jobbing. In a famous moment, Undertaker just wrapped up his fists to tell Shawn otherwise.
The match was a good considering HBK's limitations; well plotted and the ending was terrific. After hinting he was with DX, Mike Tyson instead helped Austin and was the one to make the three count for him to win the belt. It helped kick off the Attitude Era and it was a good booking move that got WWE back on top.
22 Hurt Bret vs. Vince - WrestleMania XXVII
For years, the hate between Vince and Bret was famous. After all, Vince had made Bret the victim of the biggest double-cross in wrestling history. Even after they mended fences in 2005, there was still major tension. When Bret returned in 2010, the decision was made to have him and Vince go at it at WrestleMania, to finally have it out and let Bret gain his revenge. Sadly, the bout was a total mess.
Vince has never been a good worker while Bret was slowed by age and his past health issues. Having the Harts at ringside was a distraction rather than adding to the match and it even made Vince look like a more sympathetic figure, which wasn’t the intention. Bret won but rather than paying off years of fan dreams, it dragged the whole show down.
21 Saved: Bret Hart, Not Lex Luger, Wins Title - WrestleMania X
Throughout 1993, Vince McMahon had been trying to turn Lex Luger into the new Hogan-like hero of the company. He was given a patriotic gimmick and even a nationwide bus tour. But Luger never clicked that way and it wasn’t helped by WWE deciding to not have him win the belt at SummerSlam. That discredited Luger for fans although it seemed Vince wanted him to get the win at 'Mania X.
By this point, fans were swinging back to Bret Hart who was being set up for his feud with Owen.
Vince decided to put out the idea of Bret and Owen facing off in the first match of Mania (which Owen won cleanly) while Luger challenged Yokozuna and Bret faced the winner in the main event. The MSG crowd was clearly behind Bret.
Luger lost by DQ. Bret then regained the title to a huge pop to solidify he was the true choice of the people and ended the show on a high note.
20 Hurt: Miz Beating Cena - WrestleMania XXVII
Building up things slowly is one thing. Using the main event of WrestleMania just to set up the main event of the NEXT WrestleMania is something else. First off, Miz as WWE champion never worked out as the guy wasn't ready for it, much less to headline a WrestleMania. He and Cena went at it in an okay match but hardly what one would call a classic by any means. It came down to both of them getting counted out and The Rock decided to restart the match.
Cena went for an AA only for Rock to Rock Bottom him and let the Miz retain the title. Rock then nailed Miz and stood tall over both. Having a guy who’d spent years in Hollywood being the one standing at the end just to set up the next year's main event soured many to this 'Mania.
19 Saved: Randy Savage vs Ric Flair - WrestleMania VIII
WrestleMania VIII was going to be Hogan vs Flair. It was the dream match fans had wanted for years and WWE knew WrestleMania was the perfect setting. However, with various theories as to why, WWE changed their plans. So Hogan was booked in the main event against Sid. Meanwhile, Flair would defend the belt against Randy Savage. Savage did boost it with the idea of Flair claiming to have been with Elizabeth, including doctored photos of them together. This made Savage wilder than ever and resulted in a terrific match.
Savage always made sure that huge matches were booked right and thus he and Flair had a terrific battle. Savage won to highlight the show and for a back-up plan, it worked out great.
18 Hurt: Hogan Wins (Again) - WrestleMania IX
WrestleMania IX is considered one of the worst ever. The Caesar's Palace theme was cheesy. The matches were also pretty bad overall. Yet it’s the main event that most cite as the worst part of it all.
Bret Hart defended the title against Yokozuna in what looked to be a story of Bret overcoming a monster opponent. Instead, thanks to some salt to his eyes, Bret lost the belt. Hulk Hogan, who had no connection to Bret, came out to check on him as Mr. Fuji threw out a challenge.
Hogan went in and in 30 seconds, had pinned Yoko to win the title.
In other words, Hogan, who had lost a bad tag match earlier in the night, was now the champion out of nowhere. Maybe it got a pop at the time but since then, it’s just made this 'Mania a terrible one for fans to remember.
17 Saved: The Hardy Boyz Return - WrestleMania 33
Overall, WrestleMania 33 was an okay show but not too great with too many filler matches. However, things sparked when Gallows and Anderson, Enzo and Cass and The Bar were set up in a three-way ladder match for the RAW tag titles. Just as it was about to start, New Day came out to announce a fourth team was to compete. Some expected it to be The New Day itself. Instead, in a huge moment, the Hardyz made their return to WWE to one of the most monster pops imaginable. The result was a fantastic match ending with the Hardyz winning the belts. It was a brilliantly booked surprise and easily made the entire show a must see.
16 Hurt: Triple H Going Over Booker T - WrestleMania XIX
Triple H has been accused a lot of hogging the spotlight and not giving other guys a shot. Some of that is overblown but there are clearly a few times where Hunter should have lost but didn’t. A major case is WrestleMania XIX as Hunter was defending the World title against Booker T. The set-up had been rough already with Hunter doing a promo on how “people like Booker T" shouldn’t be champion. Adding in racial undertones was just cheap heat, but it should've at least meant Booker winning the belt. Instead, after a so-so match, Triple H got the win and retained the title. To cut the legs out of Booker after that harsh treatment just made this decision even worse. It was a bad move by Hunter that just made him look worse to many fans.
15 Saved: Hogan vs. Warrior - WrestleMania VI
When WWE finally decided to pull the trigger on The Ultimate Warrior as champion, they knew they had to do it right. Instead of going heel, Warrior was still the face, set up against Hogan in a title vs title match. Knowing the limitations of each man, Vince had Pat Patterson work with Hogan and Warrior for weeks to make sure their match was laid out perfectly.
The result was a terrific match with both men giving their all and the fans loving it, conflicted over which face to cheer for.
It was booked great with the tempo going back and forth and even using a ref bump well. The ending was smart, Hogan doing his usual comeback only to miss the leg drop, allowing Warrior to win. It was a great match and while Warrior never really worked as a champion, at least Patterson’s booking made it a classic main event.
14 Hurt: Goldberg vs. Lesnar - WrestleMania XX
On paper, this should have been a major deal. Goldberg and Brock had been set up for a major collision course between two irresistible forces. Lesnar cost Goldberg the Royal Rumble and Goldberg caused Lesnar to lose the WWE title. Thus, having them go at it should have been huge.
However, when word hit of both men leaving the company, the Madison Square Garden reacted with sheer derision.
They booed literally every move each man made and it was clear they weren’t sure how to handle it. It ended with Goldberg winning, but the smart NYC crowd had already turned on the match. They only cheered when Stone Cold stunned both guys to end one of the more bizarre moments in 'Mania history.
13 Saved: HBK vs. Undertaker - WrestleMania XXV
Despite a few battles in 1997, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker hadn’t interacted that much in WWE. When they were set up for WrestleMania XXV, it was meant to be a clash of legends and some worried both men might be slowed down by age. Instead, the duo provided one of the greatest Mania battles of all time.
The booking was just genius with how each shrugged off whatever the other threw at him and kept coming back for more. The Undertaker’s expression when Shawn kicked out of a Tombstone was priceless as was Shawn's when Taker got up from Sweet Chin Music. The fans were enthralled by the ebb and flow of the match and each doing their best to tear down the house. It ended with Taker winning and capping off a great battle. It was a saving grace for an otherwise underwhelming show.
12 Hurt: Triple H vs. Randy Orton (DQ Rule) - WrestleMania XXV
Triple H and Randy Orton have acknowledged how their Mania XXV main event wasn’t what they hoped for. They were already doomed having to follow the HBK/Undertaker battle as they knew there was no chance of topping that classic. The two did have a major feud going with Orton having attacked Stephanie and it Triple H was out for blood. But then came the stipulation that if Hunter was disqualified, he’d lose the WWE title. Both men have admitted that was a huge mistake.
They should've had an all-out, no-DQ brawl but that stipulation handcuffed them, slowing the match down and not allowing a proper payoff for a great feud.
The match wasn’t terrible but nowhere near what each man could have brought and they’ve said dropping that stipulation would have made for a much better main event.
11 Saved: Seth Rollins Cashing In - WrestleMania 31
Fans were already dreading the Roman Reigns push in 2015. They wanted Daniel Bryan to get his shot at regaining the gold and resented how Vince was set on Brock getting the belt back. Despite the backlash being obvious, WWE went ahead as the main event had Roman and Brock Lesnar going at it for the title. The fans made it clear they didn’t want this but it kept going for a brutal battle.
With both men down, Seth Rollins's music hit as he charged down to the ring to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and make it a triple threat match. In a few moments, Rollins had won the belt to a monster pop. It was a great move to salvage the show and give Rollins a huge push. He would hold the belt for most of the year. It still stands as a fantastic moment to save an otherwise bad main event.
10 Hurt: Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus In 18 Seconds - WrestleMania XXVIII
On his DVD, Daniel Bryan details how he and Sheamus went into Mania XXVIII with major hopes of stealing the show. They were going to go at it in a great battle for the World title and both wanted to put on their best. They were thrown to be told that rather than the mid-card, they were going to be the opening match. They shrugged it off, thinking they could at least make sure things got hot. Right before bell time, they were informed they were given just 30 seconds total. Both were outraged but had to go through with it. Thus, after a distraction from AJ Lee, Bryan ate a Brogue Kick and was pinned in 18 seconds. It was a terrible move that was the worst possible way to kick off the show for fans. It also fueled Bryan’s later drive in the company although at the time, a major let-down for fans.
9 Saved: Booking Ronda Rousey In A Mixed Tag - WrestleMania 34
When looking at the card of WrestleMania 34 it screams of a show that should've been one of the all time classics. However, while the card itself was stacked, the show was brought down by questionable booking. One part of the show that was booked brilliantly, was having Ronda Rousey's in-ring debut come in a mixed tag match, rather than being in singles action. Rousey teamed up with Kurt Angle, to take on Triple H and Stephanie.
With Angle and Triple H being the seasoned veterans they are, it ensured that the match highlighted Rousey's strengths, while hiding her inexperience as a wrestler.
Rousey did her part, but everything about this match was executed perfectly. If only the rest of the show had been booked as carefully.
8 Hurt: Ending The Streak - WrestleMania XXX
It’s been argued a lot but there’s no denying how ending the Streak shattered much of The Undertaker’s mystique with fans. They were used to how the Taker always won at WrestleMania and handled himself against all challengers. It always made his 'Mania matches a huge deal.
Having Brock Lesnar be the one to break it was an issue. If anyone was to beat Taker, it should have been someone who needed the rub to become a big star.
It really cost the Undertaker something, with his following Mania appearances being nowhere near as special as they used to be. It sucked a lot of life out of that show and still stands as a big mistake.
7 Saved: Macho/Elizabeth Reunion - WrestleMania VII
When it came to big matches, Randy Savage always made sure to plan things out well. That was needed for his Mania VII bout with The Ultimate Warrior, hardly a good worker. The result was Warrior’s best match with the genius idea that his rage against Savage transformed the Warrior into a smart and methodical worker.
The match was a terrific affair with Warrior shrugging off five flying elbows and then making a big comeback before finally getting the win.
The true genius came with Sherri attacking Savage only for Elizabeth to run in and chase her off.
That led to the great reunion between the duo that overjoyed the fans. It was the highlight of the card and a testament to Savage’s great booking skills to put this fantastic series of events together.
6 Hurt: Michael Cole Over Jerry Lawler - WrestleMania XXVII
It’s a true shame that Jerry Lawler’s only WrestleMania match had to be this mess. For some time, Lawler had been feuding with Michael Cole with the heel announcer costing Lawler matches and other messes. It was set up for a big battle with Steve Austin being the special referee. Instead of the logical outcome of Lawler just dominating Cole from pillar to post, Cole was booked to actually get in some offense. Lawler wasn’t even able to use his patented piledriver for the win.
Following the match, the worst part came as the RAW GM laptop chimed in that it was reversing the decision to name Cole the victor. Thus, Lawler’s moment in the sun at Mania instead turned into a total mess.
5 Saved: Bret Hart vs Stone Cold - WrestleMania 13
The booking of this remains utter genius. Bret Hart came in as the face with Steve Austin still presented as a heel. The two proceeded to tear down the house for an incredible brawl through the crowd and major hard-hitting action in the ring. Bret’s frustrations grew while Austin won over the Chicago crowd with his toughness. Both men were amazing making it work and selling how each was slowly shifting their personas.
It ended with Austin in the Sharpshooter, his face a crimson mask but refusing to give up. He passed out but never quit, making him a total hero for the crowd. Bret attacked him after the bell to cement the turn and left in boos. Austin walked out on his own, now a hero to complete a match that single-handedly made an otherwise bad Mania a classic.
4 Hurt: Triple H Over Sting - WrestleMania 31
It took years for Sting to finally accept a deal to join WWE. It was a major deal, the one true home-grown star of WCW who never jumped ship finally in WWE. The match with Triple H was a big one and the logic was Sting (as a legend just joining up) would get the win. Instead, fans were treated to an overbooked mess that included interference from DX and the nWo amid some poor action. It ended with Hunter winning which was totally the wrong move.
It was made out to be the “final shot” in the war between WCW and WWE…a war that had been over for a decade and a half.
This was just ego-stroking for Triple H and the start of a very bad WWE tenure that lowered Sting’s legacy for fans.
3 Saved: Daniel Bryan Finally Wins The Big One -WrestleMania XXX
The plan for WrestleMania was originally Randy Orton vs Batista for the title. That was rather obvious with the possibility of CM Punk being involved as well. However, Punk’s walk-out put an end to that. Then it became blatantly obvious how the audience wanted Daniel Bryan in the main event more than anything.
Supposedly, right up to the day of the show, Vince was pressuring Hunter to still find a way to get the win himself. But Triple H was smart enough to realize that any outcome other than Bryan winning the belt would lead to a full-scale fan riot. So Bryan beat Triple H, then beat Batista and Randy Orton in the main event to win the title and mark a terrific moment that ended the show on the highest note possible.
2 Hurt: Triple H Winning - WrestleMania 2000
The 2000 Mania was a big event marked by a lot of top matches. The main event was Triple H defending the WWE title against The Rock, Big Show and Mick Foley in an elimination match with “a McMahon in every corner.” Show and Foley were taken out, leading to Rock vs Hunter. Thanks to Vince turning on The Rock, Triple H retained the title.
This was a surprising move as by this point, fans had always accepted that the face went over in the main event of Mania.
Having Hunter retain the belt sucked the life out of the crowd and gave the entire show a bad aura. The next month at Backlash, Rock won the title in what most thought was a fantastic match, that would have worked far better as a Mania main event.
1 Saved: Batista vs Undertaker - WrestleMania 23
In 2007, The Undertaker made history by becoming the first man to enter the Royal Rumble last and win it. That set him against Batista at WrestleMania 23 with many fans groaning. After all, Batista was hardly a stellar worker so fans expected a slow and rather plodding bout. Instead, the two put on the best match of the show, a fantastic brawl that had some great high spots and amazing storytelling. Something about Taker brought out the best in Batista and they clicked perfectly.
The booking helped to let them bounce off each other but it was the two men who really made it work. Undertaker won the belt while giving Batista a huge rub for fans and brightened this 'Mania up nicely.